I Am Still SUCH a Beginner

After the cold misfire of a start to the day of climbing I described yesterday, I rewarmed up on the warm-up, which was in the sun by the time I rewarmed up; it was way more fun! And, I finally figured out something really cool about this climb that’s been bugging me. There’s this one move on it that’s always felt thrutchy and awkward, ruining the perfect flow of the climb. No matter what way I’d tried to do it, after 25 or 30 ascents (at least) on this route, I simply hadn’t found a way to do it that felt good and fluid.

This time, I’d hung there to take a look at this move – again – on my first (cold) time up it, and I’d thought, “How would I do this move if I were a taller person?” The answer was obvious; I’d use this big right foothold that was too low for me, at 5’6”, to keep my foot on. But instead of dismissing it and looking to the vast array of higher, but really awkward, footholds available to me, I thought, “Perhaps I should just use that foothold and dyno for the hold.” And holy sh#$ if this didn’t work…and when I did it in sequence, it flowed beautifully on my second go up the route.

This is still so counterintuitive to me, to choose a dyno and cut my feet instead of using higher footholds and keeping them on. I don’t even LOOK for these options instinctively yet.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s such a strange experience to be continuously revising and changing my climbing technique at this point in my climbing career. It’s about 10 days until my 20th anniversary of the first day I ever went rock climbing, and yet I often still feel like a total beginner out there, particularly when I’m on steep rock climbs with powerful moves. Understanding what my stronger body is capable of and changing my climbing style to allow this newly built strength to shine and function takes time and a totally open mind, a beginner’s mind, willing always to try new things instead of to summarily dismiss them as impossible, as I did for so long in the past (because they DID used to be impossible).

I had yet another awakening like this when we went over to the sunnier, less-steep wall to climb this one-move (actually, five-move) wonder of a climb that’s something like 13a or 12-plus; I really couldn’t tell you. Last winter, I seriously and honestly couldn’t do these five moves. They felt disgusting, as power-dependent moves almost always do when they’re well above your power level. I’ve had this happen before; I’ve thought a move or series of moves was nasty and ugly, only to discover after gaining some strength and power that it was simply my weakness that made those moves feel terrible.

I was tired yesterday (still fatigued from traveling, I’m sure), so I approached this climb with an open mind and no expectations. Perhaps it would still feel impossible. If so, okay. I climbed up to the crux area, took, and asked Kevin for beta. He told me his beta, and I dubiously tried it – and found out that it worked! What a total surprise this was, seeing as a) last year it most definitely did NOT work and b) I wouldn’t have thought of trying the moves the way he does them on my own without a ton of trial-and-error; I don’t look for giant high steps and really hard one-arm pulls on crappy slopers followed by foot-cutting dynos as my go-to solution to powerful cruxes, generally speaking. My default-mode is to look for ways around the one-arm pulls and slopers and dynos…

Because this crux involves dynoing over a roof, once I’d clipped the anchors of this route, I couldn’t very easily get back on and work out the exact foot beta I’d used, so I figured I’d just give it another go and see what happened. I climbed up into the crux and actually picked the right foot out, but I spent a little too much time doing it and didn’t quite hit the dyno on my first try – oh well. I did the sequence correctly next try and clipped the anchors again. And honestly, I’m not too sorry that I didn’t send it, because it’s a fun climb in the sun, and I’ll be happy to try it again on the next day it’s too cold to climb in the shade.

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