By Tracy Wilson
I was five feet from the chains on route that only a few months earlier had been very intimidating for me to climb. But this was my smoothest send yet. I felt at ease, and moves that once were hard flowed with little effort. Then something happened. I didn’t fall or give up, I stuttered. In that moment of hesitation, I heard my belayer (and loving husband) yell up from the ground, “Aren’t you proud that I’m not giving you beta?”
If you’ve ever climbed with me before, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is people yelling beta while I’m climbing. On the ground, you can tell me whatever you want, but when I get on route, I really do like to figure things out on my own. (A rarity in these parts, especially at the place that rhymes with “stifle.”) And if I want a little help, don’t worry, I’ll ask for it!
BJ, my primary climbing partner, knows that I’m not a fan of the spray. His analytical brain struggles with this, and it’s incredibly hard for him to navigate my opposition for beta, as he has one of those photographic memories that can recite the exact moves that he watched a random stranger do on his warm up two months ago. Plus, he has a genuine desire to see me succeed, so any hesitation on my part and he wants to unveil the deep secrets of the route to me.
My resistance to beta isn’t because I’m agro, don’t want to mess up my on-sight or don’t appreciate a little advice. Quite simply, other peoples’ beta generally just doesn’t work for me. I am short, and climb fairly statically. I also rarely remember beta, unless a route is really challenging for me. I will most likely climb a route that I’ve done before, even one I’ve done many times before, completely different each time.
But here’s the catch: I am a people pleaser. I want to make the people giving me beta feel included and show them that their suggestions are valued, so I will do whatever unnatural, crappy move for me to bring their beta to fruition.
So when BJ was feeling so elated that he hadn’t given me beta and yelled, “Aren’t you proud that I’m not giving you beta,” my mind translated that as, “BJ isn’t giving me beta, but if he was giving me beta he would tell me to go to the chalked hold out right. BJ and Lynn always go to the ticked hold up and right. Oh, no…how do I get my hand to the chalked hold out right, my hands are left and so are my feet. BJ would get to the chalked hold….shoot! I’m pumped! TAKE!”
Damn, and just like that, my perfect send was over. In a split second I went from completely focused to flustrated (a word my mother coined which combines both flustered and frustrated). As loud as I could I yelled a hefty, ”Take”. And as I sat in my harness, staring at the bolt in front of me, I started to understand that my frustration in that moment was simple. As a people pleaser, I was a slave to whatever beta was being yelled up at me, no matter how much it was wrong for my style of climbing. I didn’t un-send the route that day because I was weak or unfocused, I didn’t send the route because I’m a people pleaser.
How about you? Do you like getting beta, or would you prefer to figure it out yourself? Let us know in the comments!
Tracy Wilson is trying to reform her habits this season, but has a long way to go. If you happen to yell beta to her, don’t be surprised if does a figure four to try and reach the hold that is “right there”.