In climbing, there is only one successful outcome… sending. Anything short of that is technically a failure. This an unfortunate reality when working on something that is at your physical limit, because unless everything goes perfectly and you are able to flawlessly execute a send, then you walk away feeling like a failure.
I arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon, after driving from Scottdale, Arizona with my husband after my sister’s wedding. I came here with a goal. I had two projects picked out that I had worked on previously, for which I had done all of the individual moves, and I was hoping to send one or both of them. We only had 5 days in Vegas, so I knew that I would pretty quickly need to pick one climb or the other and give it all of my attention if I was going to have a chance. The weather was not ideal, Saturday afternoon we headed out to the Kraft Boulders in Red Rocks and I knew immediately that getting on Scare Tactics would be a waste of time… It was around 80 degrees out and all the holds were basking in the sun. I made a decision to forgo climbing that day and head to Moe’s Valley early the next morning to give Dead Rabbit a try.
Dead Rabbit is a V10 that consists of powerful moves on small crimps, just my style. I had done all of the moves except for the topout on a previous trip, but a lot of the moves had been pretty low percentage. One move in particular (a bump from a slopey crimp to a better one) I had only been able to stick one time. I assumed that if I could figure out a better way to do this move, or at least get some confidence after sticking it a few times, then I would be able to send the climb. This move is actually not the crux for most people (I blame my short limbs), but just precedes the crux sequence of the climb: a really powerful lock-off to another small crimp, then match your other hand in a small crimp next to this, and do a dyno to a jug. This was my first day of climbing on this trip, so I was trying to go into it with low expectations and just have fun, after all, there were other days I could finish it.
After spending about an hour trying to stick my personal “crux” move, I decided to move on to other moves and give my mind and body a break. I decided to try the climb starting at the actual crux (which is 3 moves into the climb), with a goal of doing the crux sequence and the topout in one go. Success! I was able to do this sequence with relative ease, which was definitely an improvement from the last trip I was out here. This “stand start” version I consider to have a grade of around V8, so I was pretty proud of myself that I was able to do this very quickly and with confidence. I then went back to trying to stick that earlier move, to no avail. It started getting pretty hot and greasy out, so I decided to call it a day after about 4 hours total of projecting. I walked away feeling pretty hopeful that I would be able to make it happen on this trip and amazed at how much stronger I felt on the moves since last time (training works, FYI). We headed back to Vegas and the plan was to get an early start and try Scare Tactics, my other project, early the next morning.
After a very restful afternoon and a good night of sleep, we woke up early and headed out to the Kraft Boulders. We got out there around 7:30 AM, and to our dismay, is was already hot! I warmed up quickly and headed over to Scare Tactics. I immediately saw some progress (I was able to keep my feet on the wall on moves that I previously wasn’t, thank you, Kris Peters!), but the crux move is a throw off of a slopey pinch over a less-than-ideal landing, and with the hot weather, it was just not feeling very possible. After a few frustrating attempts, and the realization that this climb was just not feeling fun to work on, I decided to call it a day and just focus all of my energy on Dead Rabbit.
The rest of that day and the next, I let my husband drag me to different canyons so he could try some problems that he had picked out, and I was happy to go along and give my body some rest before heading back to Moe’s and giving all I had to Dead Rabbit. We headed to Black Velvet Canyon where I watched Josh get to the scary topout of Fountainhead (V9) and then the next day we went to Mustang Canyon, which the guidebook calls a “55 minute hike”, but actually took us almost 3 hours to find… wandering through the densely vegetated desert, trying to avoid cactuses and spikey bushes, hauling our crash pads and gear, until we finally found the giant boulder which was the home to Diamond Jigsaw, a really beautiful V10 that Josh was able to take down once figuring out the sequencey beta and sticking the large deadpoint.
It became apparent the next morning (after our 4 AM wake-up time so we could pack up, check out of our AirB&B, and drive to Moe’s early enough to beat some of the heat), that hiking through the desert with a large crash pad for almost 5 hours total (mostly in the blazing sun), may not have given my body the rest it was hoping for. After warming up, I could tell pretty quickly that I wasn’t feeling as strong on Dead Rabbit as I did the first day of the trip that I tried it. Still, we were here and I had to make the best of it. I decided to focus my attention on my “crux” move, and try to figure out a way to get it to be doable on a regular basis. This turned out to be much harder than it sounds (especially considering that the move involves bumping my right hand from a slopey crimp literally 8 inches to a better crimp). Most people get this move with a knee bar, so I tried every orientation (of both knees) to try and figure out a configuration that would allow me to reach this hold while in a knee bar position. At one point I even was trying beta where I would go to this hold with my left hand and completely change the beta of the entire crux sequence of the climb. Each time I thought I found something that might work, I felt a temporary feeling of euphoria, which was then almost immediately followed by a pit of depression (and the occasional tear), when I then realized that I couldn’t piece my magic beta into the rest of the climb. Finally (after about 4 hours of projecting) I inadvertently found a foothold (6 inches higher than the foot I was using originally) that allowed me to do the move in a way that I knew would be repeatable. This gave me hope, maybe I could still salvage this session (and this trip) and send my climb!
After this I decided to start giving some actual attempts from the start. All of the moves on the rest of the climb I had dialed, including the topout which I had now done about 5 different times. Time to send, or so I thought… It turns out that trying as hard as you can on a single powerful move for 4 hours doesn’t necessarily leave your body feeling as pepped and energized as one might hope. I had a couple lackluster attempts followed by literally losing the ability to pull off the ground for the first move. It became very readily apparent that this was not going to happen for me today. We packed up, hiked out, and drove the 2 hour drive back to Vegas…
As I am sitting here in a coffee shop (Sambalatte, best coffee in Las Vegas) waiting to head to the airport for my return flight back to Seattle, I am fighting the urge to feel like a complete failure. I picked out a project, I had a couple of sessions working out the moves last fall, I trained specifically for it, and I told everyone about it, then I came back to it, stronger from training, and still didn’t send.
Looking at it objectively, there are actually many successes I can find, even under the umbrella of failing to send. First, I was able to string together the majority of the moves in a single attempt. Second, I was able to find beta for my crux move that I believe will be the key for me. Third, I was able to try really hard and put all my effort into a climb that I really enjoyed (for the most part). But still, no dice. It is very hard to look at these small wins and feel excited and encouraged, despite the one gleaming loss. I am trying though. I am trying to take it as a positive and use it as motivation to keep trying and keep training. In this moment though, this seems like a daunting task.
The thing about climbing is that some things are within your control, and some things just aren’t. I feel confident that I did the very best I could with the things that were in my control: I trained properly, I gave myself rest before our trip, I focused on my nutrition the days I worked on my project to ensure I had enough energy, I gave myself rest days in between sessions, and I tried really f*$@ing hard. Things that weren’t in my control: the weather in St. George was a muggy 80 degrees (not sending temps), and the “rest days” prior to our trip was consumed by my sister’s wedding activities (not exactly restful).
So what’s the lesson in all of this? Well, projecting is hard, both physically and mentally. When you are pushing yourself toward your actual physical limits, there are so many factors that have to go right in order for the outcome to be a success. This is why people (including myself) spout on about “enjoying the process”, because if you can’t, then projecting is going to be a miserable endeavor. So remember to enjoy the small victories, because on the day that all of those “little things” go right, it will be so much more satisfying to be at the top of that boulder. At least this is what I keep telling myself so that I don’t throw my climbing shoes in the dumpster and take up a new hobby, like knitting.