It's been a long time since I wrote for Climbing... I think it was last July. If I close my eyes and think back over the last few months, and how very much there would be to catch up on, it's kinda dizzying. I've moved to Seattle, started a new job in the outdoor biz, kept blogging and writing, have snuck in some fun climbing trips and am still climbing every chance I get (although, with the day job, that's way less than I'd grown accustomed to) and... what else? Oh yeah, I spent a month last fall on an expedition in Nepal with a team of unbelievably wonderful climbers and trekkers (and friends), and now I can't wait to get back to altitude, although my next trip will be to a little bit more moderate elevation.
I guess that about does it... you're now all caught up.
My climbing has changed... I'm not out four days a week anymore. I'm not managing long trips, given my current schedule, but I am getting into the gym when possible, and cajoling partners into taking time off to climb with me on weekdays since (1) the crags are so much less crowded and (2) I work weekends now. I assumed that my climbing would suffer... that I'd get frustrated, because of my declining performance and the lack of time I have to train.
In reality, climbing less has actually helped me love climbing more.
My endurance is crap. But my technical difficulty is just about where it was at my strongest... I'm just a little bit weaker. I've been trying hard-for-me routes, and have been spending more time on projects than my usual of sticking with climbs I can onsight. I've never been much of a project climber, but I first became inspired by scenes of women climbers in the movies starting on routes that they could only put together a couple of moves on, and ultimately, crushing (I'm looking at you, Beth Rodden).
While I was in Vegas for the 2010 Red Rock Rendezvous, I sent my several-trip-long bouldering project, during a kick-butt sesh with new friends. It felt good. Seriously good.
Last week, I went out to one of my favorite sport crags in Washington with the idea that I'd work on (or maybe send) my project there... a route that most Exit 32 climbers consider a warm-up, but which has given me trouble for the last couple of seasons. It's mostly very easy climbing, with a crux about a third of the way up to a solid rest. I've been pulling the crux for some time, then messing up the sequence up higher, with failure being the result each time.
Pretty much off the couch, I went out last week with two new-ish to me but super fun climbing partners, and after a few warm-up climbs, I got on my project on toprope. I messed up the crux sequence but still finished the route, remembering the sequence up higher so that I didn't get suckered off route like usual. After a few more belays for my partners, at the end of the day, I had just enough time to try (I mean, send) my project.
I had been visualizing success the whole day... I'd reminded myself that the route felt doable and smooth on toprope, and tried to push out the voices that reminded me that I'm totally out of climbing shape and it would be one of the hardest routes I've ever lead (if not the hardest – I can't actually remember). When I got on, I climbed up to the crux calmly, then pulled the crux. I joked with my climbing partners from the ledge above the crux, then tried to focus on staying calm for the part of the finish I usually blow. Breathing deep, pacing myself, using stems, and resting (to compensate for my lack of endurance), I worked my way up the route. As I got nearer the top, the thought, "It's all over but the shouting," popped into my head, but I knew better. It was still time for focus, for calm, and for staying relaxed and having fun.
When I clipped the top anchors, it was with a hoot of joy, but not the usual, "Now I never have to do THAT again," that I usually feel when I tick a project. This time, I was just plain happy. I'll be glad to do the route again; I'll be glad to pick my next project; and maybe even something a little bit harder. Even if I'm off the couch. Climbing has always been fun, but it's become so much more so now that I don't get to do it whenever there's a sunny day. I appreciate my time out more, now that it's less frequent. And, I appreciate the challenge and success of a project... and the learning that comes with projecting.
What's on your ticklist this summer? Add your thoughts in the comments, below!