John R. Gribbin, a British astrophysicist, once penned the following: “There was a fundamental law of nature which said that, left to their own devices, things move in circles.” I bring this quote up because exhaustion can lead to mistakes. Mistakes lead to frustration. And frustration leads to more mistakes (and then more exhaustion). You get the idea.
When you’re projecting at your limit, you will become exhausted, and you will make mistakes.
The reality is, as soon as you decide to project something, you’ve decided to fail many times before dispatching those chains. You might have unknowingly begun something that will take years to finish. You might never finish at all.
But projecting is an incredibly rewarding process. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding, and as such, it allows you to grow and develop in each of those facets.
To help things go a little smoother, here are five mistakes I’ve personally made (repeatedly) while projecting. Do as I say and not as I do.
Thinking I Was “Close”
The problem with being “super close” is two-fold: You’ll feel doubly discouraged when you continue to fall. And two: this mindset can limit your willingness to play with new beta. If you’re repeatedly falling in a section, then chances are you need to search for a new sequence. Rather than pretending you’re “super close” to sticking the move and then you’ll magically send, stop and recognize that a section is hard for you. It’s important to remain a student throughout the process: trust me when I say you’ll ultimately send faster and enjoy working the route more.
Under Warming Up
Some days I want at least three warm-up pitches. Other days I only want one. The key for me has been gauging how I feel, both physically and mentally. I know I’m ready when my muscles feel like they are firing and working fluidly—if I pull on and my movements are shaky or jerky, it’s likely because I’m not warm enough. And I check in with how psyched I am. If I’m not ready to show up for myself and try my best, then I’m simply not ready. If that’s the case, I’ve found waiting and cheering for friends to be the best remedy. Psych condies are more important than the real ones.
Only Going for High Points
Going for high points means trying to reach as far as you can on the route from the bottom. A low point, on the other hand, means trying to reach the chains from a specific point mid-route.
I’ve always had a hard time going for low points; I hate pulling past lower sections. I start doubting myself, thinking if I can’t do a low crux and also try hard in the upper section, then I’m not strong enough for the route. Plus, skipping a bottom section can feel like missing an opportunity to learn something about those beginning moves.
The reality is only going for high points is the real missed opportunity. I’ve found that I learn the most about sections when I’ve climbed them repeatedly and when I feel the strongest prior to pulling on. When you always arrive at the top of the climb tired, it’s easy to miss alternative sequences. Plus, there have been times when I’ve fallen at the beginning of a climb, arrived at the top tired and defeated, and then just lowered. That scenario is not helpful and a reflection of how only going for high-points can beat down your motivation.
Only Climbing On The Proj
It’s easy to get hyper-focused on a proj, and if it really is at your limit, it will take all your energy anyways. That’s O.K., to some extent, but if you just climb the same route for a whole season, you will likely lose motivation and strength.
Two years ago, I was working Solid Gold (5.14c), in the Cathedral, Saint George, Utah. I was driving nearly eight hours every weekend to get to the crag, and, while I started off “super close,” my high points got lower and lower as the season progressed. I was tired and stressed from moving to Colorado and starting a new job. After a moment of reconciliation, I decided to take a break from the climb, which lasted for over a year. When I finally returned to the crag, I sent after a few days of touching up beta.
Training on other things will help refresh your mind and sharpen your technical and physical skills. Sometimes you just need to walk away.
Taking the Whole Thing Too Seriously
Climbing is a meaningless sport. You do it because you enjoy it—never forget that.
A year ago, I was working Living in Fear (5.13d), in Rifle, Colorado. After breaking up with my boyfriend of several years and not sleeping for 48 hours, I sent the route. Climbing was my escape, and when the pressure was completely off, performing was the easy part.
When things get tough, we tend to push harder, and that’s exactly when we need to pull back. Being harder on yourself is not going to help, so let the process play out.