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My first 5.13!

My husband and I are currently on an 8 month climbing trip throughout the US. My main sport climbing goal was to climb a 5.13 and I am so excited that I accomplished that goal on Canada day! Where do I begin? Well, for me to accomplish my goal, I knew I had to: 1) Get on a 5.13 (something I’ve only done once); 2) Keep getting on it and working it (more than my usual few days); and 3) Stay mentally focused and psyched to be working it. After 4 months of just bouldering, our first sport climbing stop was in Maple Canyon, Utah. In Maple, endurance is the name of the game and we had none, so our first week was spent climbing as much as possible to gain it. I was a bit disappointed that I had not accomplished my bouldering goal so I was set and determined to get my sport climbing goal. I would give it my all, take the falls, lead everything and more importantly, I would have a positive attitude while doing it, damn it.

Endurance climbing was completely new, conglomerate was new but on the first day I told myself that the falls were safe and it was going to be fun. This really helped me to relax and have fun climbing, which in turn, allowed me to push myself to climb more and harder than before. As a result, my climbing improved dramatically and at a much faster rate. Before the first week was up I was sending 5.12’s in one to two sessions.

On our second week in Maple, with some endurance and confidence built up, we hiked up to the infamous Pipe Dream Cave. Ben and I each had potential projects to check out there. I read the description of Sprout in Dave Pegg’s guidebook and thought it would be a good one to try, but when I saw it for the first time, I knew it was the one. Sprout starts off with a slightly overhanging 5.11 section to the roof; a no-hands double knee bar rest just before the roof section and a pumpy headwall. The roof was the business for me. It is ~ 50 feet with 6 clips. The route consists of a couple of jugs, 2-3 finger pockets 1-2 pads deep, a big move to an incut pocket, pumpy moves to a good sidepull slot and finally an okay kneebar to shake out in just before the headwall. The headwall has one good rest before a series of crimps and slopers. Never have I been so psyched to project a route. My first few days on it consisted of me hang-dogging it. Then I began trying to link the moves and take the falls. On my third day I tried to start making some links and I figured out the upside down, no hands double knee bar before the roof and worked on relaxing in that which was… different (I actually blew out of it once). I worked sprout 2-3 times a day. The double knee bar bruised my thighs so much that I had to start adding extra padding under the pads. My calves got super pumped as well, so trying to hang in there as long as I could to build some endurance was a big thing.

A couple weeks into it I got to the point where I had the bottom dialed and could get through it less pumped, which meant a little less time resting in the double knee bar. Every time I fell I would try to stay positive, which was still pretty easy to do because I was just so stoked to make any progress. I could always find a small success in every attempt…either a new high point, taking a new whipper, having an easier time resting in the double knee bar, or better beta. I was seeing small progress almost every day. As a way to build more fitness, I also made it a goal to send a new route every day in the 11 or 12 range. I found this helped me stay motivated because at the end of the day I could see that I did something and check it off in the book.

Once I began trying to make bigger links things began getting a little frustrating. I had made it through the roof a couple times so I began to think “any go now”. I would have one hanged it had it not been for a foot slip. Following new high points, I would fall at a low point. I found myself cursing the wall or giving up for the day. On the hike down (and with Ben’s help) I would be able to calm down and refocus, but I was starting to get tired of working it. One day, on an attempt that I thought could be the one, I actually broke a key hold at one of the cruxes. It just crumbled in my hands and I fell. Not going to lie, I broke down and almost gave up. Here I was working so hard and for so long only to have that hold break on me. Ben went up and checked it out. He cleaned it up and though it was a bit sharper and smaller, it was still decent and wouldn’t make the move much harder. Later that night we decided that a little time away would be good for me mentally so off to watch the Vail world cup and then to Rifle for a couple weeks of new climbing.

When we returned to Maple I was worried that I had gotten weaker and nervous that Sprout would feel harder. I got on it with no expectations but just the goal of having fun and seeing how it felt and it went okay. I began focusing only on Sprout, so I would warm up on the usual, then go right up to Sprout and try to send. I was excited to be on it again so the positive energy was there. Before I got on it I would do my best to clear my mind and just climb as relaxed as I could and it only took a few days to get to a new high point. I had one bad day where everything felt horrible. I screamed as I fell and got a little angry for falling so low but I shook it off, decided to stop for the day and give it a good go the following day. The next day my first attempt went poorly, I fell early, again, but still felt really good. So I rested…quite a while. I actually fell asleep waiting to get back on as there were 3 others working it. After about an hour or so my turn was up. I was drowsy but decided to give it a go to see how far I could make it. I got up the 5.11part easy, little to no pump. I rested comfortably in the double knee bar. I hit every hold perfectly and flowed through the roof section and made it to the second knee bar rest. I rested just enough to make it to the headwall where my last really good rest was. I got there (new high point) was able to slow down my breathing and relax. I was shocked when I actually felt fully recovered. I went through the last few moves in my head before going for it. Just under the anchors on a good hold I was grinning from ear to ear. I rested a sec then went to the anchors with only a little pump. I was so stoked, I screamed. In all it took 18 days of working it and 41 attempts but it felt like so much more. I don’t know what was different about that day, I guess I just didn’t have any expectations so my mind and body were calm. I ended up skipping every other clip in the roof and headwall which really helped decrease the pump, and of course it didn’t hurt that I had the beta wired and hit every hold perfectly.

On this project I took some big falls, had some major ups and downs, but in the end the positive attitude and support from Ben kept me motivated. My hard work and dedication paid off. Clipping the anchors felt amazing. Now on to the next project!