Rewind to November 19th, 2017. I sat in a hammock on Pilot Mountain watching Hiroshi working the moves on a project he’d started years ago, but had never come back to finish: Any Major Dude. I had spent the previous few months trying to get back into my peak climbing form after spending five months away from the sport. I was struggling. Struggling on climbs I previously wouldn’t have had problems with, struggling to find motivation, struggling to decide if I still enjoyed climbing.
After Hiroshi was back on solid ground, he, Justin, and Keisei urged me to get out of the hammock and to tie in. To hop on Any Major Dude and give it a try on Top Rope. I tried to explain that it was pointless, that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere, but the two were relentless. So I gave in and hopped on the wall. Thanks to their support, and some advice on beta- I eventually managed to hangdog my way to the top of the wall. It was definitely hard, but it did not feel impossible.
After watching Hiroshi redpoint climb, I had motivation to try again. So I hopped on it one more time. This time, remembering the beta I managed to get through the climb, only falling once where I had forgotten the location of a key handhold that is hard to find. I decided to not try again, because I wanted to come back and lead it from the bottom when I was fresh. On the entire hike out I could feel the excitement I felt on Any Major D revitalizing my sense of enjoyment in climbing. I had found my motivation.
The months that followed we had conversations where we questioned whether we had ever really pushed ourselves and our climbing, after watching the short film Stumped, part of Reel Rock 12. (At least when it came to sport climbing.) We talked about when we used to set at UNCG’s rock wall and the grade cap the wall had seen because none of the setters had ever really been on a 5.12 - so the notion that any of us could set a 5.12 was somewhat silly. We started talking about what we wanted to do with our climbing. I didn’t really get the chance to climb with them during this time, but managed to send my first couple V5s, and when January rolled around I pulled back on Any Major Dude, once on Top Rope to relearn the sequence, then once on lead - to claim the redpoint. Stoke was high when I got down, remembering how only a few months ago I was dealing with an internal struggle over whether or not I still enjoyed climbing. I looked up at the line on the side of Pilot Mountain, realizing it had saved my hobby.
|The view from the summit on the hike out.
To keep the story short, and to not rehash my previous post here, Keisei invited me to head out to Crowders this past weekend. The weather forecast wasn’t ideal, but we were both hopeful. He wanted to get a few routes in before his Single Pitch Instructor course next weekend, and I think he knew I was itching to hop back on Welcome to Crowders, the unfinished business I had from the weekend before. After warming up, we made our way to the base of the climb. I was confident, and was ready to start making way up the climb. There was one move in particular I told Keisei to watch out for. As I pulled my body up to the second bolt, I place my left foot on a somewhat existent foot placement, while I hold my body weight close to the wall with a thing left hand undercling. Once my right foot moves to its high placement, the clipping position is solid, but just as my right foot crept its way into position, the left foot popped unexpectedly and I was off the wall.
I took a short break, to calm my nerves and regain my strength. Even though I hadn’t gotten very high, the route is pretty consistent from start to finish and wanted to make sure I had the energy to make it to the anchors. I pulled onto the wall, and stood on the bottom foot holds to get a good breathing cadence going until I could feel I was ready to climb. I made it back to the point I had fallen on the previous attempt, and managed to get the right foot into place. For the rest of the climb I struggled to do pretty much anything the way I wanted to. I placed my quickdraws on the bolts facing the wrong way, fumbled one of the clips, changed my clipping stance at the third bolt, and made huge changes to my foot beta for getting above the third clip. But I continued to push onward, until my hand reached the hold I knew meant easy climbing to the anchors. I wanted to yell out in excitement, but knew there was still climbing left to be done. And by the time I clipped the last quickdraw, the notion that I had just redpointed my first 5.12 had already set in- so I remained quiet. Only asking to sit at the top of the climb for a minute to turn around and look at the view.
Climbing Welcome to Crowders is probably one of the most important milestones I’ve had in my climbing career. It is the route where I took my first real fall on lead (and my second), it made me remember the fun of pulling onto something that I know will test my limits, and it let me push into and experience a grade I wasn’t sure I’d ever actually experience. A lot of climbers helped me along the way to this point, and if any of them read this (whether they know they fall into this category or not) I hope they know how thankful I am.
Unfortunately, I need to set new goals for 2018, because it would be pretty lame if the one goal I had for myself, for the year, was knocked out by March. So it’s time to start brainstorming where to go next.