17 Aug Progress!

Sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to see any forward progress.  Working towards your goals can feel like being on a steep mountain, surrounded by swirling fog.  You’re trudging along, constantly moving forward and struggling upwards, every so often catching a glimpse of what might lay before you, but never able to see the top of the mountain. That’s how I feel about many things in life right now. Climbing; as I struggle my way towards a 13. Flying; as I slowly build my confidence and work towards flying XC.  Writing; as I dive into this blog, send out dozens of queries, and make countless edits to my manuscript.  I’m putting in the hours, trudging day in and day out, yet the top of the mountain is still nowhere in sight.  It can certainly be frustrating and, at times, makes it difficult to stay motivated and keep pushing myself.

Yesterday, my friends and I went climbing at one of our local spots, Malibu Creek State Park.  The 100 degree heat drove us to seek shelter in the shade. One of the only routes that was fully shaded for both climber and belayer was Drifter, 5.12a, which just so happens to be the first 12 I ever sent outdoors!  It took months to accomplish the feat; months of struggling on the steep, overhanging roof with it’s nearly unreachable crosses and dicey footwork, months of getting pumped out on the traversing face with its shallow pockets, and months to get over my fear of moving up onto the thin crimps and run out bolts of the head wall. After plenty of scared and frustrated tears, and countless attempts on top rope and lead, one breezy afternoon I finally sent the route! I remember resting at the anchors afterwards, the wind in my hair, feeling absolutely incredible.  It was one of those rare moment when you can fully appreciate the reward of hard work.

It’s been over a year since then, and I’ve added numerous 12’s to my ticklist, but I’ve definitely been having some trouble progressing past that point.  I really want to send a 13, but it feels so out of reach.  As I continue to hover in the low to mid 12 range, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve simply plateaued.  Am I even moving up the mountain anymore? Or am I just walking in circles, incapable of getting any better or stronger?

For this reason, I was pretty nervous about jumping on Drifter again. I was so scared of failing. What if I couldn’t send it? What if I couldn’t even finish? It would just prove my fears once and for all – that I wasn’t making any progress despite how hard I’d been working since originally climbing this route.

At the same time, I wasn’t about to not climb the route, and so full of trepidation, I gave it a go.  As I moved past the first three bolts, I noticed that the beginning pockets felt so much more positive than I remembered.  And there were feet for days, how strange. Had somebody chipped the route? And that cross move I could barely reach before, was now right there within grasp. Those run outs were certainly closer together now too. Had somebody re-bolted the route? I couldn’t remember all the beta and as I climbed there were several times when I worried I would tire out searching for my next moves, as had so often happened before. But I reached the anchors with no takes, no falls, and the strength to lap the route two more times. I was floored!  I knew the Drifter was still the same – the route had not been chipped or re-bolted – I was simply a different climber.

Perhaps I’m not where I want to be yet, but sitting there at the anchors, for a beautiful moment, I felt like the fog around me cleared.  I still couldn’t see the top of the mountain, but it was pretty awesome to look down and appreciate just how far I’d really come.