Over the past few weeks, I’ve been piecing together my hardest sport climb to date—Jedi Mind Tricks, a bouldery 5.12b in Rumney, NH. I’ve linked the moves, made peace with sharp crimps and unforgiving slopers, dialed in my beta, clipped the chains. All that’s left is to send it clean. And it’ll go. It’s just a matter of time.
So there I was one day, feeling pretty damn badass after putting in some time on my project. Feeling like the sequence was starting to flow; like I was less desperate making my clips. Feeling high on climbing, buzzing with the hope of a future redpoint…
…when we ran into Alex Megos floating up some 5.14d at Waimea.
Suddenly, my 5.12b felt soft. Very soft. I felt soft. Very soft. What had only moments ago felt like an accomplishment of immeasurable magnitude, now felt insignificant, underwhelming, weak, and sad.
Not a week later, a friend and I were spraying beta. He mentioned that he had just onsighted a 5.11d on gear. He then followed with, “I should be climbing harder, I guess I’m just getting soft.” I’m pretty sure the laws of physics and climbing state that you cannot follow “I just onsighted 5.11d on gear” with “I’m getting soft.” And yet, the universe did not implode upon itself.
Just this week, my partner flashed a 5.12c. But he said it was a soft 5.12c, so, like, no big deal, you know? My goal for this season was to send 5.12a, but when I succeeded, I said, ‘Well, sure, put me on a bouldery, overhanging jug haul and of course I’m gonna crush it. It barely even counts as a 12a…”
And this is what we do to ourselves. We minimize our accomplishments, we compare ourselves to others, we set unrealistic expectations. And while there’s something to be said about wanting to push ourselves harder, harder, harder…at what point can we just stop and graciously accept our achievements? And not just accept our achievements, but also find gratitude for the amazing things our bodies, as climbers, are capable of?
I remember when I couldn’t send 5.8+ clean. I remember relentlessly projecting my first 5.10a, spending days upon days working beta, the shameful taste of the word ‘take’ bitter on my tongue after yet another failed redpoint attempt. I remember the sheer joy I felt after flashing my first 5.11b. I remember watching some girl work Jedi Mind Tricks, thinking that she was the most amazingly talented climber in the history of amazingly talented climbers. That I would never climb 5.12. That crack climbing wasn’t my thing. And, okay, so I still have a long way to go with the whole crack climbing thing, but look at all of these things that I never thought I could accomplish that I have, in fact, accomplished!
Flowers don’t compare themselves to other flowers. They just bloom. So, as climbers, can we all just agree to bloom? To be proud of our performance not because of how it compares to the performance of other climbers, but because it was our best personal effort? Can we stop downgrading our accomplishments and accept the fact that, unless we’re Alex Megos, there’s always going to be someone climbing harder than us and that’s okay?
I’m going to send Jedi Mind Tricks. And when I do, I’m going to feel like the most amazingly talented climber in the history of amazingly talented climbers. And I’m going to chase that feeling all the way to my first 5.12c (Giant Man, I’m looking at you…). And then maybe all the way to my first 5.12d. And even though there are hundreds of people crushing so much harder, my 5.12s will still mean something, you know?
I really doubt I’ll ever be a 5.13 climber. But, then again…
Photo credit: Andrew Frongillo