Fair warning: This post is a monster. tl;dr–just read ‘Lessons Learned’
1st Project: Magic Light, 5.11a, Smith Rock
Magic Light is a Smith classic, located on the Overboard wall. I first tried the route on top-rope. At the time, I had just redpointed my first 5.10c, and I was beginning to consider the possibility of climbing harder. I fell head over heels in love with Magic Light. The bottom crux involves technical moves on some small crimps to a good hold, and the upper crux is sustained, involving movement on rails and slopers.
The first time I tried Magic Light on lead, I got totally shut down. I went basically bolt-to-bolt, and didn’t make it to the chains. The next time was not much better, although I did make the chains. At the suggestion of one of my climbing partners, I tried the upper crux a few times before I lowered off, discovering an intermediate hold that made a reachy move easier. Before the second time I climbed, the route had seemed possible, do-able, and I still got totally shut down.
After a rest day, I tried the route first thing in the morning. My climbing partner took one for the team and warmed up on the route, pre-hanging the draws for me. I warmed up quickly, then, as the shade receded, hopped on the route. The intermediate crux hold turned out to be crucial, and I sent my first try! I was completely pumped out of my mind by the time I clipped the chains, but I managed to pull it off and send.
- Pre-hung draws can make a big difference, especially when there are tough clips on the route
- Test out beta on top-rope on the way down. Check for useful holds you might have missed, and try out a few different ways to climb challenging sections.
- Don’t stress about falling, or stress about clipping. Let go of all your nerves and fears before you pull on.
- Set impossible-seeming goals. You might surprise yourself.
Sunset after another perfect day climbing at Smith, June, 2012
2nd Project: Vomit Launch, 5.11b, Smith Rock
Vomit Launch is a great climb in a terrible location. To get to it, you have to shimmy up a chimney in between some boulders, using a fixed rope for assistance. It’s a major pain in the butt to get up to the gully. In my last week at Smith, I went up there five times in a row.
Unlike Magic Light, I never top-roped Vomit Launch. The first time I tried the climb, I cruised through the bottom section to a jug to clip the fifth bolt, then went bolt-to-bolt in the top section, getting totally pumped silly. There is a decent rest at the 6th bolt, and there are a couple places in the upper, pumpy section where you can grab a shake.
Unlike my first project, I never sent Vomit Launch. On my best go, I made it to the 6th bolt rest pumped, but not too pumped. I was able to recover fairly well before attempting to finish the climb. Unfortunately, on the sloper-jug right before the crack, I matched instead of crossing, and popped right off. I tried the climb one last time on my final day at Smith, but didn’t manage to put it together. Comparing my last attempt with my best attempt, I realized that on my best attempt, I used efficient beta in the lower crux, arriving at the rest much less pumped, which allowed me to recover better.
- Beyond a certain level of pump, I can’t recover very well with weight on my arms. Beyond this level, resting just maintains the pump, making it neither better nor worse.
- How you climb the non-crux parts of the climb can be important too.
- Sometimes you just need to rest. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You can learn even from failures though–every climb is an opportunity to get better.
Rain at the end of the day in Ten Sleep Canyon.
3rd Project: The Dope Shinto, 5.12a, Ten Sleep
The Dope Shinto is a 12a in the FCR area at Ten Sleep with two distinct cruxes. The first four bolts consist of long(ish) moves on thin holds: crimps and 2-finger or fewer pockets. The moves get steadily harder off the ground to the 4th bolt, then ease up for 2-4 bolts of mellow, 11- climbing, followed by an upper crux. The upper crux involves a move from a mediocre crimp to a 3 finger pocket on delicate feet, then pulling over a bulge onto slab on decent handholds and marginal feet.
I tried the climb twice, sussed out all the crux beta, rested, and then came back and sent it. It went down surprisingly easily for the grade, but the climb was very much my style. I was surprisingly stressed during the hike up to the climb–I had been obsessing about the climb for the entirety of the rest day. I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I joked around with my belayer before starting the climb, and managed to release some of the tension, which helped a lot. By the time I pulled on, I was relaxed, focused, and ready to go for it.
- Visualization is good, stress is bad.
- Harder routes that are ‘your style’ might be done more easily, but might not feel as satisfying. I still feel like I ‘cheated’ by projecting a route that was my style.
- Hold on. It matters.
- Confidence in your belayer is a must.
Anyone have good posts about your projects? Hit me up with links in the comments! :)