Failing. Learning, Believing, and KnowingThere are times when you climb when you have one of those moments that you go from believing you can to knowing you can. Those are the moments that are magical. For me, I’m a “weekend” gumbie with no special talents. My breakthroughs are made easier since I often have great climbing partners that will push me. Often I stand on the “shoulders of giants” which are those that have gone before. Even so to go from believing to knowing often takes those special moments. Sometimes its on routes that "should" be easy but are just not my style. Below is one such a time. I've done things harder but this one I had built up in my head from stories I've heard from others.
I find that when I will go through this process irregardless of it being a 1 pitch rock climb or a Himalayan giant. And for me failing is NOT, not being able to do something (sorry for the double negative), but not seeing the possibilities.
Part 1 (Failing)
Mike and I hike up to the Oakcreek Waterfall. On the plate today is the “Terminator” for me and Mike wants a little “Kindness”. I start out by racking up for the “Terminator”. The lower section is broken an a grovel. I place a red BD camalot and about five feet further I find myself cursing at the looseness. How could this be one of Arizona’s top climbs. A few feet further I reach an alcove place a green and red BD C3 with extension, and do a beautiful hand traverse right about 10ft. I reach a stance at the base of a beautiful finger crack. Placing gear I plug and chug up the finger crack until the foot holds run out, a few seconds later I find myself airborne. I jug back up the line to my last piece. I quickly find a foothold I missed. I climb about 10ft further and yet again find myself airborne. I quickly find my mistake and soon I’m on a small six inch ledge. That wasn’t bad I think. A few feet further of easy climbing I soon find that I’m totally shut down. Hanging on my last piece I look around, and find NOTHING. I try to aid A0 through the climb and even this I find strenuous. If I can’t even A0 through the thing how do I expect to lead it.
Part 2 (Learning):
Later that day I find myself on the small ledge, Below I took a fall but it was really stupid. a moment of wondering concentration. I place a couple of grey BD (0.4) C4’s and start up the crux section. Tiny footholds seem to magically appear on the right, as my mind seems to be clear. Into the crux I miss a key gear placement and I’m shutdown. I look around but now I begin to see what I need to do. A green BD C3 hear and there, tiny sidepull’s here and there. It’s coming together. We walk over to “Kindness” and Mike pulls through on his second go.
I try it, and although the crux is hard it seems like it could go sometime in the near future, but definately not today.
Part 3: (Knowing and Believing)
Today its cold. Crossing the river I slipped on the frozen rocks, falling in. My watch on my pack says its 28F out. What am I doing? I start out again on the Terminator. Its too cold to dink around. By the time I get to the traverse my fingers are numb. I jam wooden sticks I used to call fingers into a crack, and can never tell if they are there. I scream as I try to put my fingers into cracks that only pain of wooden fingers tell me they are in the crack. Ten feet further up I fall. A couple hours later after Matt suffered so on his route also, I try again. This time I get to the ledge before my hands go wooden. I fall when I can’t even feel the six inch ledge that my fingers were on. Roxanna, Matt and I shoot the breeze and Matt and Roxanna try 11/11. On his third try he cruises 11/11 making it look all so easy.
Later it has warmed up a bit. Its up to 40F. I get to the ledge just fine. Starting up the crux section, I feel confident. Into the crux I misplace the green BD C3 and pump out trying to correct it. I take, replace it and finish the route easily. Lowering off Matt wants to know if I want to try it again. I know I’ll get it no problem, it actually felt easy, but I’ll wait until a warm December day when its say 45 or maybe even 50C outside in Sedona