29 Sep Humility

My friends and I spent another great few days camping and climbing in Holcomb this past weekend.  I was really excited about this trip because for awhile now, I have been wanting to get back on the 12d there that I had struggled with earlier this summer.

On Saturday I was able to jump on the route once and was happy to see that the moves from the 2nd to 3rd bolt felt much more doable this time.  After a few attempts I was actually able to clip the third bolt, something I couldn’t even come close to doing last time around. All in all my strength and my head space seemed better and I was really looking forward to projecting this route more on Sunday.  We were climbing in a group with about 20 people though and unfortunately coordinating with so many others made this an impossibility.  I couldn’t find a partner for this route and I won’t lie, I was kind of upset about this at the beginning of the day.  I really want to send a 5.13 by the end of the year and sometimes I get caught up in the desire to work on hard routes and keep pushing towards this goal.

This definitely got in my head on Sunday and I started the day off with a bad attitude, not really motivated to climb anything, and feeling like the day was going to be something of a waste.  We went first to a crag right next to our camp site, Wilbur’s Tombstone, which was convenient and according to the guidebook, should have some nice moderate routes.  In reality, this wall was fairly daunting, with high first bolts and long run out sections on most routes. There was a 5.8 slab that a few of my friends were interested in warming up on, but due to a first bolt 20 feet off the deck and a boulder right below the route that made the idea of a fall less than appealing, they preferred to climb it on top rope. I have been searching for opportunities to push myself on slab and runout since Snake Dike though, so I volunteered to lead the route and set up a top rope.

I felt really good until the bolt was about two feet out of my reach.  At this point, I had a solid stance with nice holds and was really wishing I could simply get my clip from where I was. Not being able to reach, meant moving up onto a more delicate slab section with a much more tenuous clipping stance.  Just thinking about it, I could feel myself growing panicky, my heart racing and my breath rate increasing.  I didn’t want to move, but at the same time, these are the exact moments that Snake Dike taught me I need to learn to move through, so after taking some deep breaths and communicating to my belayer that he should be ready to spot a fall, I finally smeared and stepped up…

In the end, I got the clip without an issue, but it was funny how those two feet put so much into perspective.  Here I was chasing 5.13’s and getting stopped in my tracks by a 5.8!  It was very humbling and a really great reminder of something that I had forgotten earlier that morning – that every climb has something to offer, no matter the grade!

This is something I was told when I first started climbing, by one of the best climbers I have ever met personally, a former world cup boulderer and 5.14 sport climber who trained at my gym every so often. One thing I always found remarkable about this guy, was that despite his amazing abilities, he was exceedingly humble in his approach to climbing and could always be found diligently climbing every route in the gym, including V0’s and 5.5’s.

I watched him in awe for months before one day finally getting up the nerve to talk to him. I asked him then if there was anything specific I should do to become a stronger climber and the point he really drove home was this – climb everything, and as much as possible!

He said that a big part of climbing difficult routes was not just physical strength, but the knowledge to tackle anything that route might throw your way – knowledge of movement, balance, technique, and how to efficiently climb on all variety of terrain, features, and types of holds.  Gaining this knowledge required not only projecting hard routes, but climbing everything you could get your hands on! He believed that no matter how strong you were, every route would still have something to offer; whether it was simply great holds for warming up and/or endurance training, introducing or reinforcing movement you could apply later, or pushing you out of your comfort zone on a different type of terrain. Every time you touched a rock it could teach you something and make you stronger.

I completely agree with this philosophy and on Sunday I definitely learned the lesson all over again! Lowering off the 5.8 I found my attitude changed for the better, and realized that there could still be a lot of progress made even if I didn’t get on my 12d.  The rest of the day I tried to approach each climb from this standpoint, focusing on what the route was forcing me to do; from runouts, to trusting my feet, to dealing with exposure.  I had a lot of fun climbing routes I wouldn’t have tried otherwise, and think I really made some good strides in my slab technique and head game.

It ended up being a great day and I was happy for the lesson in humility, as I think it’s a very important quality in general, and can only benefit me as I continue training and working towards my goal!