Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pre-Finals Meditation- a confidence inspiring rainy week in Yosemite Valley

We bailed off the Salathe, 22 pitches up. Two full days of stellar climbing, not using my aiders for nearly both my blocks, leading the infamous hollow flake! It felt good, much less tired than the Nose. After watching a lightning storm across the Valley, a morning drizzle, and onimous clouds, we decided to bail. The next day it rained. After I bailed for the first time on Lurking Fear in February, I left Yosemite with a sour taste in my mouth, annoyed. Damn you, Captain!

This time, I was pretty content with the bail. I'm really excited to get back up there and finish the Salathe, hopefully this season if I can rally a partner! After bailing, Daniel and I rolled into Camp 4 where we were greeted by homies, Alan, Jim, and Nate. I was home.

The rest of the week had spotty weather. The day after the bail, Jim, Alan, and I went to the chapel wall to "project" Drive By Shooting, 12a, a very classic Yosemite sport climb, one of the few! Last year, I top-roped it clean, and that was by far the hardest thing I had sent on top rope. After almost NO sport climbing for a year, maybe two days over the past year have I sport climbed, I figured I was going to flail. To my surprise, I fell twice on TR for the warm-up attempt, once on the second, and repeated that pattern again for four total attempts on top rope. Every single move is hard for me and I feel like I could fall at any moment. Since I haven't been sport climbing for the past year, my falls have been pretty small for the most part cause when I'm scared, I place a lot of pro.

When I was top roping it, I was thinking about how it would feel to lead it, and I was just plain scared. The bolts are about ~6 feet apart which is well-protected, especially by Yosemite standards, but for a trad climber that pro's the shit of things, that's pretty dang far! That day, Jim sent it on lead, second go, his first 5.12! It was really inspiring to watch. Jim is the kind of person that is ALWAYS smiling making you feel at ease, and ALWAYS psyched to climb, making you want to climb, too! The rain came and went through the day, but the climbing is overhung enough that it doesn't get wet with the brief spirts of rain.

Alan, a 58-year-old quirky crusher, who puts me into fits of laughter 90% of the time we hang out, didn't get the send that day, but did get the TR send. After my fourth go, we bailed, psyched as ever to get our first 12a! 

It rained most of the evening making the following day a rest day for Alan thus a day off from our Chapel Wall project. I convinced Jim to go climb so we got on Demon's Delight, 11a, traversing a bunch of thin hands cracks to a sweet fingery traverse. We swapped leads and both sent. It started raining after the third pitch so we bailed, have to go back for that fourth pitch 11a mantle! Another great day in Yosemite. Later that day, it started to pour, and by pour water, I mean, flooding Camp 4, the Lodge reception area, employ housing laundry areas, and other parts of the Valley. At one point, my chacos were ankle deep in water as I ran to get on the bus. It was pretty wild.

The next day, Alan and I decided we were going to head back to the project. On Alan's second attempt, he sent! It was amazing to watch. The dude is 58 years old and sending harder than he ever has before! I have a lot to aspire to when I hit that age. He hooted once he sent, and started dancing when he came to the ground. It was a beautiful experience to be a part of, Alan's first Yosemite 12a.

Now, it was my turn. I haven't really thought about climbing 12a since I started trad climbing last year. Grades are so variable depending on style, sport vs. trad, and since I've focused so much time on crack climbing, and 12a is WAY out of range right now, I haven't really thought about hard sport climbing. On the warm-up attempt on TR, I felt REALLY tired. The moves weren't flowing well, and everything felt like a struggle. I fell twice after the crux in the hard-11 section above. As I was getting lowered, I thought to myself, "Wow, this thing is never going to go down, and I'm on top-rope. Leading it would be a disaster."

After watching Alan's inspiring send, I decided to lead it. Draws were up, and whipper therapy would be good for my lead head. I was really scared. I certainly surprised myself. I felt good, cruised through the 12a crux, and fell off in the 11+ section where I totally messed my beta. After getting back on it, I got to the top without too much effort. It was a bittersweet feeling. I was so happy with myself because it was by far the hardest thing I've ever tried on lead, haven't attempted to lead any sport climbing above an 11b before, and nothing above 11 for trad either. But at the same time, I botched the sequence above, so I was annoyed with myself for blowing it.

I have been really trying to not focus on chasing grades because for me, personally, it takes the fun out of climbing. I like climbing, weird body positions, stemming, placing gear, pushing myself mentally, knowing when to rest or keep going, and just the beauty of problem solving that goes into it. Drive By Shooting has such beautiful movements on it, I could climb it all day. Everything is hard for me, and it's very technical. The footwork has to be precise. On this next attempt and probably my last since my finger tips were shredded (it's a finger-tip climb), I told myself, as Alan would say, "I'm just going to enjoy the movements of the climb and have fun. No expectations."

Again, with more effort exerted than the previous, I still got through the crux section and whipped in the same spot, and this time, from just being too tired after hesitating in a semi-ok rest. And like before, it was bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter.

I was really happy with my effort, and more than anything else, stoked that I was on the sharp end. Getting over the fear of falling is something that has taken time for me, and it's a continual process. Lately, I've noticed that I'm not sewing things up as much, becoming more confident on easier terrain, and moving more efficiently.

Yosemite 11a is starting to feel less intimidating. Yesterday, I got on Hardd at the Cookie, a climb I tried on  TR last summer when I was just starting to crack climb. Oh man, I was cursing my way up that thing and falling all over the place (there is a notorious off width section in it).  I decided I'd try it thinking that I was probably going to flail. I fell once before the crux when my foot slipped off a hold unexpectedly. Other than that, I felt really solid, got through the offwidth with some grunting, and did the 11a finger section without too much difficulty. It felt good.

Climbing is feeling fun again and the psyche is high. Although this winter was monumental for me, climbing felt more like a task than being fun, most of this due to being highly critical of myself and too competitive with others, constantly comparing myself. I have been very mindful over the past month and a half to get rid of all the negativity associated jealousy and the ego, and I have noticed that 1) I'm having way more fun. 2) I'm climbing harder than I was before. 3) My confidence is up. And most importantly, 4) I'm just much happier overall.

Swinging Bridge- Photo Credit: Richietown

This week in Yosemite has been pretty dang inspiring watching two of my good friends get their first 12 sends, talking to people getting on the Nose for the first time, hearing other people's psyche on walls, looking up at Half Dome as I cross the swinging bridge every morning, gawking at the Captain when I pass it, and just the overwhelming beauty of a soggy Yosemite Valley.

Ah.....hanging out in Camp 4, talking to people about their adventures and where they're from, discussing and getting people psyched on climbing, getting lost heading back to the lair, sitting by the fire, being in Yosemite.

It felt like home, because it is home.

Here's to another summer of endless laughter, adventure, and climbing! Love and Light.

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