My Evolving Relationship With Ten Sleep Canyon Climbing

I have mixed emotions about climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon this summer.

What used to make my heart sink in sport-climbing terrain now makes it sing, and even weirder, vice versa. When presented with a super-steep climbing area not so long in the past, I’d quake internally into my very soles, feeling very small and insecure, knowing full well what sort of failure lay in my imminent future. I had neither the skills nor the strength to climb severely overhanging sport climbs. Over the past two or three years, this has gradually shifted, until now I sit here, facing summer No. 12 in Ten Sleep Canyon, and I realize that I’ve undergone a complete 180 – I’ve fallen in love with super-steep sport climbing, and in doing so, I’ve unexpectedly lost the fired-up passion I once had for my local “slab” climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon.

It’s so weird, and I’m trying to be okay with it, but man, is it ever so odd, to sit here faced with the upcoming summer season, the season that used to be the culmination of every year, the part of the year where I felt the most in my element and stoked to perform, and I feel just blank in comparison – like all I want to do right now if I can’t climb steep stuff is train my butt off, not revert to focusing on performing in the technical realm at hand. I can’t even really find the right words to describe the emotions whirling inside me from this conversion, though – I feel a bit empty and sad on one level, and honestly some regret for what I’ve lost, but then, a far bigger part of me is so incredibly psyched and blown away to think that even two years ago, I was still totally out of my element on really steep sport climbs and therefore didn’t like them at all. I’m not sorry for my transformation, but I really never expected that becoming a steep-loving climber would so dramatically and permanently alter my relationship with Ten Sleep Canyon climbing.

Getting back on the projects I have left over from last summer, I feel like I’m supposed to care deeply about them or feel really driven to send and put them to rest, but instead, I feel this curious sense of detachment. I’m just not very invested at all, and perhaps that’s a good thing, really, because if I’m not attached to the outcome, I probably won’t place as much pressure on myself to perform.

But I honestly feel pretty deeply in my core being like, “Who cares if I send these routes?”

I feel that way for a few reasons. First of all, these days, I find myself caring way more about sending routes that showcase my longtime weaknesses rather than my strengths. I’m rebuilding my route pyramid on steep sport climbs, and I find this challenge more rewarding, even though I’m redpointing lesser grades to do so. Secondly, I had absolutely no business getting on either of the routes that I’m trying to climb this summer when I first got on them; they were way too hard for me. At this point, who-knows-how-many-tries-later, I do feel positive in the fact that they are now appropriate choices for my current ability level. I know this because I didn’t really struggle with the moves on either one on the first go up them this year, whereas at the start of last season, this was most certainly not the case – I couldn’t even do all the moves on one of them, and the other was a flail-fest for some time. I’m stronger, and that’s rewarding; it means my training is working, and that’s what I care most about these days in climbing – clear indications that I’m getting stronger, season by season. But, because I’ve tried these routes so many times in other seasons, I feel like I’m simply beating them into submission; so in my mind, that’s why it’s not really a big deal for me to send them at this point (or not, honestly).

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