I’m falling through the air, again, taking a massive whipper right next to the Pacific Ocean.
“Ugh ugh ugh,” I mutter to myself as a bang my helmeted head against the taut rope in front of me.
Pull up, climb, flail, fall, repeat. Over and over again.
“Alan, this just isn’t happening. I’m gonna bail. Go ahead and dirt me…”
I’ve never had to bail on a climb – well, at least not until this past Saturday. I’ve always been able to fight, claw, scratch my way through to the anchors, always avoiding leaving gear. But “This Is Your Brain On Drugs”, a 5.12c on the Egg at Mickey’s Beach, really shut me down. There were moves I couldn’t do, sequences I couldn’t figure out, and bolts I couldn’t clip. I was beyond frustrated, and after giving my friend’s rope a little too much of a workout, I admitted defeat, clipped into a bail biner, and lowered.
It never feels good to get totally shut down like I did on “Brain” – but I must admit, it was definitely a healthy and much-needed dose of reality. We all deal with egos that can inflate a little too much sometimes – both in climbing and in the rest of our lives – and mine was getting a little too big for my liking. Confidence is good, cockiness is most certainly not, and I was beginning to step over that line.
I’ve improved a lot over this summer, and I feel strong – but I keep forgetting that I really haven’t logged very much time outside at all. I can count the number of 5.12 or harder climbs I’ve even attempted outside on two hands. Not exactly a large sample size.
I thought I would be able to go to Mickey’s a make quick work of “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” or “Shell Shock”, but I was horribly mistaken. I didn’t even try “Shell Shock” because I couldn’t sequence the opening boulder problem from the ground. So I tried “Brain”, and though the moves looked reasonable from the ground, it was a different story when I actually made my way onto the wall.
It was a poignant reminder that I’m still pretty green around the ears when it comes to outdoor climbing, and if I want to achieve the goals I have set in my mind for this year and beyond, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more training and discipline. It was important for me to get stomped on a climb that was within my perceived ability level, and now I know what I need to do moving forward.
Climbing has a funny way of humbling you right when you start feeling good – your lowest lows always follow your highest highs (at least for me). It’s part of what keeps me coming back to this crazy sport of ours. I love the challenge, and I look forward to the next high – and even the ensuing low.