The re-entry into trad climbing was a little rugged. Right off the belay on the second pitch, I was thrutching up a squeeze chimney with no gear for a ways. The climbing wasn’t hard, but I’ve never loved chimneys, some think they feel secure but I often feel like I could slip out at any time. Above the slot, it wasn’t clear from the topo where to go. I was looking for a runout face, and I had two options, neither of which had any chalk on them. One had better looking holds, but they also looked fragile and dirty. I made some moves to investigate, and then came down to try the other way, which was more committing and exposed, but proved to be the right path.
My next lead went up another funky chimney/slot with full body stemming. After I got to the belay, I realized I had been on edge the first two pitches because I wasn’t very confident in my route finding. I wasn’t positive I was on route, and I hadn’t been trad climbing recently, so while I had been climbing plenty, I hadn’t been in that “trad” headspace since June. And as with so many things in life, confidence is everything.
I’d also had a funky week as an old back injury had flared up several days prior, and I wasn’t sure how it would feel on route. I knew the climbing wasn’t going to be difficult, but there’s enough uncertainty climbing in the Black, adding something else to the mix wasn’t helping. As we climbed higher, however, it all started to come back. I was more comfortable with my skills, my ability to stay cool 20-30 feet above my last piece. By pitch eight, I was in the groove, having a great time.
The other day I came across a video about folks breaking bricks with their hands. A physicist was explaining how it’s possible, and a key component was confidence. If you hesitate, you’ll probably break your hand. After many years of climbing, I know well the power of confidence on the rock, but still have a hard time channelling it when coming off those times when I feel weak, haven’t been climbing much, etc. Even if I’m climbing strong in the gym, the confidence outdoors takes some time to come back.
And I’ve always struggled with onsight climbing. On redpoint, I feel like a superhero, but onsighting has consistently been difficult for me. My friend Chris says I think too much, which is probably true, as I have an analytical mind, amazing for remembering beta, but can really get in the way on the onsight. Is that the right way? Maybe it’s over there? Is that a jug? Could be a sloper… Stop thinking and just keep moving!!
I suppose that’s part of what keeps me coming back for more. Being confident is a state of mind I constantly have to work to achieve, but those moments when it all comes together make the struggle worthwhile. Knowing I’ll find a way through the crux, knowing I’m strong enough to do the moves, knowing I have the energy for one more pitch.
And then to take that mindset and apply it to other areas of life is incredibly empowering. And so the game goes on…