Coming off my extended trip to Asia where I got to compete in the Youth World Championships in Singapore and try my hand on the ocean front limestone in Thailand, I found myself with some spare endurance and some motivation to pull on hard sport routes. Naturally, I was drawn to Acephale. After humming and hawing over what to get on I was told by a close friend, and go-to climbing partner, to “push the boat out” and take a chance. After 8 or 9 tries spread out over 3 days I sent my hardest red-point to date, Army Ants, which is a really fun, really powerful, 5.13c and it went down on what turned out to be the last time I tied in at Acephale for the season. The gamble paid off. And while the grade was a first for me, the thing I will take away most from this climb is a fresh perspective and mentality about what’s possible. I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people, myself included, are very intimidated by numbers. Why are we so afraid of numbers? (Hint: it’s not because, “seven-ate-nine…”). I think part of it is that we’re not exposed to as many ‘hard’ sends as our European and even American counterparts. When you don’t have lots of world class climbers putting up, and sending hard routes, practically in your backyard, then those high end numbers seem much more intimidating then they really are. This lack of exposure makes it way too easy for people to simply shy away from a route and claim it’s simply out of their league. I was guilty, and still am to an extent, of not believing in my ability to climb something purely based on its grade. Army Ants, and the advice to, “push the boat out,” helped me see that even though I didn’t have much time, (school was starting and the season was rapidly coming to a close), that there’s nothing to lose by trying something that you might not be able to do. Sure, I could’ve done something easier, something I would’ve had a really good chance of sending but then I would’ve missed out on this wicked fun route just because of the number that sits beside it.
Another thing I noticed is that depending on what grading system people use, they put different emphasis on different grades. For instance, a lot of people find 5.13 to be a really big deal, which it is, but it’s not as scary a number as people think. On the other hand the French system views the 8a grade to be a big step up. The thing is we are intimidated by going from 5.12d to 5.13a but in the French system that’s only 7c to 7c+ so they don’t see it as such. In the French system going from 7c+ to 8a is big but that’s only 5.13a to 5.13b which isn’t huge in our eyes. Bottom line is nobody seems to worry about going up a letter grade, ex. 13b-13c, but as soon as that letter means a number change, ex. 12d-13a then all of a sudden it’s a big deal. I think if we can set aside these preconceived notions we have then we would be a lot more adventurous and out-going when it comes to trying new climbs.
In short, Army Ants taught me to set aside feelings of doubt, worry, and any other preconceived thoughts and just approach my upcoming projects, and even competitions, with an open mind. I learned to judge my ability to climb something based on actually trying it not just by its grade and I feel as though this discovery kicked down a mental wall that was holding me back for a long time. I’m psyched!