The past month I've been solely focused on finishing one line in the Charleston cave. I set myself a goal of sending before my birthday and made it with just a few days to spare. Before I dive in to this post I just want to let you know that I don't have any photos or video of the line. This project became so personal that I phased out my usual need to record everything. All I have are my thoughts any experiences working toward this goal.
At the beginning of this season I began to look at the cave in a new way. Similar to how you might look at a stale wall of holds at the gym. You've sent all the taped problems, now what? This being my third season I was looking at how to climb through the cave in the hardest way possible without eliminating holds.
A fun collaborative effort with friends yielded not only new starts, finishes and independent lines, but it also opened the door to a wide array of link-ups. As I began to pick off some of these lines I noticed that there was a possible path connecting one of the hardest starts with the rest of the cave. This particular link up paired a powerful V12 roof problem to an obvious break, where you could choose to continue into 20+ more moves under the roof.
As someone that loves steep climbing more than anything this line you would think that I would jump on it immediately, right? Well, not exactly.
Coming to Terms
Link-ups suck. They are inferior. Off brand. Less pure. In the past six years I had come to believe, through climbers I looked up to and admired that there was something less awesome about climbing a boulder that links one problem into another.
Spending time in world class places like Bishop, Hueco, and Joe's I found myself adding the condescending, "it's pretty good for a link-up," after talking about a boulder problem just to make myself feel cooler or more badass than whomever I was talking to. It makes me sick to write that but it happened.
I remember nodding and chipping in when people traded purity stories around the campfire in Hueco and shaking my head at all those shameful drop-off climbers (me) and link-up punters (me) out there. With obvious exception to people working Esperanza because, you know, it's hard.
After the road trip ended and when I started trying to think creatively about developing a boulder or look at something like the cave in a new way I began to realize what I loved most about bouldering: the movement.
The mantra of Movement Over Everything began repeating itself on the 30 minute hike up the mountain to the cave. I have always cherished fun and engaging movement in bouldering, but had I really been so blind to my thoughts? There is plenty of room in the bouldering community for purists and lowballers alike so why should I feel ashamed of climbing lines that motivate me? What makes the purist and their singular lines superior?
With this epiphany washing over me I thought of how unique the movement would be on this super project in the cave and set to work.
The first step was dialing in the opening V12 and figuring out the connecting moves. The boulder has everything in terms of movement. Bicycles, heel toe cams, feet first front lever drop downs, a hand flip in a completely horizontal roof, a three finger pinch, hand heel matches and one of the hardest shoulder typewriters I've been able to pull off. I list all this not to spray, but just to explain the amount of muscle memory I was going to have to learn.
Once out of the opening boulder it's on to the rest of the roof. This next section has three exits of different difficulties, but it's safe to say they all range from V10- to V10+.
If you know me or have read this blog long enough you know I am not a sport climber. This project weighed in at 33 hand movements with even more foot trickery so by the time I put everything together and got into redpoint days it was very overwhelming.
By the time I was ready to start attempting redpoints it was already a week into September, and in Vegas when the months start ending in "ember" climbers are typically so burnt out on the few alpine spots that the whole mood of the community begins to shift toward sandstone. This coupled with the fact that Mt Charleston is an hour away with a 30 minute uphill approach made each day and each attempt feel like the last one.
Once I was falling at the end, and there was a lot of that, I needed nearly 40 minutes to relax, recharge and depump. This ended up giving me one real shot at sending per session with a second fitness attempt. 3 hours round trip for one solid attempt.
And the most agonizing part wasn't just before I was pulling on or right after falling. It was the slow hike up where the moves and the doubt and the nervous thoughts bounced around in my head like a pinball. I had dreams both sleeping and waking, anxiety, and fear of injuring myself.
The hardest part of attempting a problem you have been thinking of every second of every day is convincing yourself that you haven't even thought about it until you pull on.
You've read things like this before. More importantly if you are a climber you have felt this before. That elating relief, the warm rush of excitement, the incessant chatter post send. Now you can see the nature surrounding you, drink in the setting, and relax.
I sent this line on my 11th day of redpoint attempts, after spending multiple days working out the opening problem and the connecting moves. I like to think it was the entire summer in the making because before I tried one move I had to change, or rather realize my personal climbing paradigm.
I named the line Road to Nowhere and suggested a grade of V13. I have no idea how hard a number like that should be, but it's a big step up from anything I have previously finished, both mentally and physically.