Project-ing: Attaining The Unattainable
I like to think it's all in the attitude when it comes to projecting. Attitude can enhance your experience and motivate you through the difficulties or it can crush your spirit like an empty Coke can bound for the recycling center. Attitude is made up of so many different influences though and for me, the right attitude when working a project has come about largely due to lots of experience.
The first part is selecting the project. Grades have taken somewhat of a backseat in my selection process. For some time now I've been selecting projects more on the aesthetics of the line and the challenges it presents regardless of the grade. For example, I'm a fanatic of mastering control over my emotions and there are plenty of R rated routes at Smith that don't go into the teens (Spank The Monkey or Dreamin') in order for them to test my mental fortitude.
That's not to say that the grade is completely ignored, it's just not at the top of things I use in the selection process. When I consider the grade, I try to look for lines that are considered benchmark for the grade and see how they line up with other criteria in the selection process. In this way I feel like I've raised the limits of my abilities and greatly enjoyed the entire process of completing my projects. This method of selecting projects has also helped me to avoid the pitfall of number chasing. I also feel like it's helped me to keep climbing in perspective and to show respect for these beautifully created masterpieces provided by mother nature. I may adopt a confident attitude on something at my limit that is steep with bomber holds because I'm comfortable in that terrain but I need only to get on 11a friction slab on granite for a friendly reminder that the number is only a small part of the challenge.
Darkness At Noon is one of those "dream lines" for me that has all the right elements for the next push in my boundaries. To me, the line itself is both visually inspiring and terrifying at the same time. With few variations in sequences, the line is stunningly and clearly outlined in chalk from bottom to top on one of the most popular walls in the park; easily identifiable from as far as the parking lot. It commands full attention even with both feet on the ground.
I tried the route a handful of times during some weekend trips the year before. Even though I couldn't fathom putting all 100' feet together in a single push, I was hooked on the movement, its naturally artistic design, and the challenge of getting the former to complement the latter.
If you've had a chance to look through other sections of the AntiGravity Equipment Blog, you may have come across 12 weeks of entries dedicated to training for this project. This Labor Day weekend was to be the first time I tried the project since the training began in June.
On Saturday, the first time I tried the route, I literally couldn't get off the ground. Barely holding on to what I thought might pass for start holds I tried desperately to claw my way up just a few feet off the ground; gravity had something very different to say about it. I felt like a cat desperately trying to climb a pane of glass. After a few futile attempts I jugged the line a couple of feet past the start and tried the route from there. I managed to desperately clip 3 bolts and lowered off after a handful of falls. This is where attitude came heavily into play. I could have very easily adopted a disappointed attitude. I could have come down after clipping those three bolts feeling completely disheartened. 12 weeks of sacrifice and commitment just so I could desperately pedal my way up on painful mono and two finger pockets and seemingly non existent feet one bolt at a time? Those thoughts never had a chance to cultivate. Instead I distinctly remember thinking that this felt very hard but I was just going to have to dig my heels in and practice. Next I remember thinking that it felt appropriate for the grade and that I didn't select it because it was going to be a "gimme". I remember thinking that even though the movement felt impossible, it wasn't because I'd made upward progress. Soon a waterfall of uplifting thoughts followed like maybe trying again when the route was in the shade, and making sure to break the route down into as small a goals as necessary to see progress. If that meant dialing in the moves to perfection on just the first bolt, so be it; it would be progress. Lastly I remember thinking how hard previous projects had felt in the beginning. How impossible they felt early on in my attempts and how as time went on, I got better at making each movement, using just the right amount of energy and soon after putting bigger and bigger chunks together until finally redpoint attempts were so close I could see the send in my dreams.
Sure enough, I gave the route a second attempt that Saturday afternoon once it had gone in the shade. I had a decent amount of energy having climbed only a few routes throughout the day. With the first bolt clipped and some reference points from the attempts earlier in the day, I felt better prepared. The moves were still incredibly difficult but I was able to get off the ground much much easier this time and made quite a few moves in sequence before having to take. My friend Cameron helped me rehearse hold choices and so began the process of committing sequences to memory. I walked away feeling super encouraged and eager to try again over the weekend.
Sunday was an active rest day. I only climbed about 4 routes, mostly to get a good vantage point for photos of Team SW/AG on their various project routes. Cameron, Meghan, and Missy had all trained along side me and were in full send mode that day ticking routes off their list and spying other projects to try over the course of the month. Steven and Veronica, who are about a third of the way through their first training cycle were doing amazing with their newlye acquired skills. This also served as motivation for trying my project on the following day. Clipping bolts, placing gear, or pushing past their fears, the team's commitment to their training was in full display that day.
Monday was my final day at Smith before returning back to work at AntiGravity Equipment. With a new game plan in mind, I decided to wait until the afternoon to try Darkness At Noon, once it had gone into the shade. I climbed just enough routes that morning to stay warm without exerting too much energy, saving the majority of it for the project. The vibe was incredible that morning as I took photos of Meghan and Steven onsighting routes on their list. Later, through the lens I watched Cameron complete one of the harder lines on his list in the Shipwreck Gully.
At about 1:30pm, when the team was starting to feel a decrease in energy and The Dihedrals had gone into the shade, we headed over so I could give my project a few final goes before heading home. My goal was to do my best to link the first 3 bolts together as smoothly as possible and commit the sequences to memory. As I tied in, I felt confident in the temperature and the breeze that was cooling off the rock. With the first bolt clipped, I strapped my shoes on, did my safety checks, grabbed the start holds and went for it. Magic! I fluidly deadpointed the first pocket, easily completed a hand/foot match on the start hold and I was off like a stealth ninja slowly (but still painfully) picking my way through micro-crimps and 1, 2, and 3-finger pockets. The falls began at my high point. I had already completed what I'd set out to do for that day so everything now was just recon for next weekend. My skin was sore and the holds felt miserable but I knew I was building muscle memory and it would be worth it. With morale finally starting to wane and fatigue setting in, I rested for about 5 minutes after my last fall and called down for just one last try.
It was on this try that I stuck some mico-crimps just right and my feet magically fused with the rock and got me close enough to clip that 4th bolt. New high point!! Standing on the ledge in disbelief I called down that I was going to continue up. I clipped an additional two bolts before a new crux brought me to a halt. Ecstatic with the unforeseen progress, I called down to be lowered. For someone that still had much work to put in on the project I was still feeling 10 feet tall!
We packed our dusty asses into our vehicles and headed to Terrebonne for a celebration of sends and progress over food and drinks. All the while in between fits of laughter and discussions of the weekend I kept thinking about the real progress for that weekend. The ability to adopt the right attitude towards a seemingly impossible task. To look at something that seems unattainable and have the skills to break it down into smaller manageable pieces that allow me to see the growth in both my mental and physical progress. This attitude almost makes clipping the chains inconsequential; a byproduct. The real reward is in the progress, everything that happens in between the ground and the anchors.
Thanks for reading the AntiGravity Equipment blog. I'll be posting weekly updates on redpointing my first 5.13 at Smith Rock. If you're in the Portland area, drop by the shop and say hi and stick around for a session at Stoneworks.