Over the last little while, I've been mulling an idea over and over in my head. It's about the goals and expectations we set for ourselves as climbers. Particularly, when I think about it, it's the goals that female climbers set (or rather don't set) for themselves. I hope this little blurb doesn't come across as me tooting my own horn, because that is not the intention. (You can visit my blog for that..wink!). Rather, I'm hoping that this will inspire girls to step outside their comfort zone of what they think is achievable and realize that they are capable of so much more.
I grew up climbing with some amazing gals. My best buds in climbing were girls, and they were amazing. However, when I began to climb outside, I found that I was climbing more and more with the boys. My personal mentors back in the day, Simon Villeneuve, Knut Rokne, Peter Woods, Walson Tai..they were all (and still are believe it or not) dudes. They were the individuals who pushed me to pursue my goals, to set my limit high and not low. These were the ones who took me climbing outside. Interestingly enough, besides my sister who was a star, I had very few strong female climbing role models as a youth. Simon was the one who inspired me to try my first 5.13a, when I had only just sent my first 5.12 that summer. I was 14, and I believed that I could do it because I had so many positive people around me saying that I could.
I was so inspired by all of these individuals setting goals for themselves that took alot of work and effort, and eventually achieving them. I remember watching Sonnie Trotter working Existence Mundane. I couldn't fathom what 5.14 meant back then, but I remember being so impressed with Sonnie. Not only could he do the entire hike up to Acephale without taking a break (while the 13 year old version of me would take every pit stop available), he would push himself so hard on Existence. He pushed and pushed until he sent. This was the example I was given as a youth. You set a goal, and you push and push until you do it. You set that goal higher and you have to push harder, but you still do it.
All of my role models were stoked on the outdoors, and they all had projects. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted a project. That first real project I had, Dark Half (5.13a) at the lower wall of Acephale, was my first taste of true rock climbing passion. I remember being consumed by that route. It's all I thought about. It's all I wanted to do. My most happiest memory in climbing is sitting beneath the route before the send. I'm sitting in a rare spot of sunshine on a backpack, tying up my laces, and I'm at peace with the world. It's just Simon and myself at the crag, bright and early in the morning. I'm warm and happy. It was the perfect feeling before the send. That's what I live for in the sport of climbing. To find the next project that drives me to push, to obsess, to fail and to succeed. I love it.
Now what does this have to do with girls and goals? It's something I've noticed over the years. Although I have noticed it in guys, I find it extremely prominent in the gals of climbing. It's the lack of willingness to set the limit higher. We all have limits, as we are human. Yet we never really know what that limit is until we test it out. What I've noticed, is that all too often, many girls are all too comfortable in the small box of limits they have set for themselves. So many times I have watched confused as girls with immense potential do not attempt something that appears difficult. To watch a girl on a road trip who had an entire 6 weeks to break the 5.13 barrier that she was so capable of breaking work solely on 5.12s was incredibly frustrating for me. To see a climber who is intense and strong in competitions come to the crag and only hop on a 5.11 for the day just boggles my mind. Why aren't these girls trying something hard? Why aren't they pushing themselves on routes that are out of their reach? Why aren't young girls coming to the crag and hoping on the next grade up just to see what they can do?
It's how you approach the sport that will dictate the outcome. If you approach climbing timidly, and do not allow your mind to expand and explore the potential within yourself, you will forever be setting yourself a limit that is far too low. However, if you approach climbing head on, with a passionate eye and an open mind, just imagine the possibilities.
This spring, I moved back to Canmore, AB for a few months to work and to climb. I've made myself some big goals for the summer. I want to climb a 5.14a, and I want to do a hard multipitch (A certain route named Blue Jeans on Yamnuska in particular). These are long term goals I've had, but I recently made them short term. I want to accomplish at least one of these goals, if not both before the season is over. In order to do this, I realized that I needed to start off the season strong. Most often I will approach a summer project with that mentality that I need to work my way up the grade ladder. If I have a goal that's at mid-high range 5.13 let's say, then I'll start the summer off with 5.12s, working a few low end 5.13s and then jumping on the project. But that approach won't work this summer, because it'll be snowing in the Bow Valley before I hop on my true projects. So I needed to start off strong. I chose to try a route called Fudge Packer (5.13d) at Planet X in Canmore. It's a beauty of a route. Long and powerful.
I had only tried the Packer a handful of times last season, and I got worked on it. It seems like such a daunting route. It doesn't let up until you hit the anchors, and you can't even see the top from the ground. I could barely do all the moves at the beginning. I would need to take a nap after each attempt I was so worked. I would think to myself, well...this might just end up being the summer project..
But each day I was motivated to try it, to get a couple moves higher, to push a little bit harder. In the end, I pushed hard enough, and I succeeded. Reflecting on my accomplishment, I realized that I never would have succeeded if I hadn't just thought to myself, why not? Why not try something really hard? Why not just go for it, and see what happens?
It's such a cool feeling, to realize that I have been able to accomplish so much, simply because I opened myself up to the possibility of it. I get that excited tingly feeling all over when I think about the future and all that I am opening myself up to.
Girls, my message to you is to open yourself up to the potential that lies within. Do not be afraid of failure, rather embrace it as a tool that will lead you to success. You are all capable of so much! Get out there and set the bar high. You'll be tickled pink with the result.
See you at the crag.