One of my climbing goals for myself for 2011 is to work on projecting climbs. I have a strong tendency to idolize my dream climbs and save them for an onsight go. Sometimes, this works out great (as with Sunshine Dihedral). Other times, it does not. Although onsighting is a great skill to have, I know there is also a lot to be learned from taking the time to work through a route that is initially above my head (as with Swedin-Ringle, which, at 9 tries including successful redpoint, was my longest-worked-on trad project). Trying to onsight every “project” means (1) I’m setting myself up for disappointment, because the route might have unexpected difficulties that I’m not prepared for and (2) I have a harder time switching that route to a redpoint “project” because I put so emotional and physical energy into the thought/effort of onsighting it, that don’t want to get on it again. So, for good reason, I’m trying to make 2011 The Year of the Redpoint Project.
The awesome weather recently has meant that south-facing crags in the western part of Yosemite Valley (e.g. Cookie Cliff, Arch Rock, etc.) are perfect for climbing, even in February. This opportunity to start climbing in Yosemite unusually early in the year is perfect for my goal of projecting, because it means I have lots of time to try out routes and come back to them many times during the rest of this year. This past weekend, we did just that: go find routes a little off the beaten path (i.e. not in the SuperTopo book, gasp), get on them, and gather information for projecting.
On Friday morning, we pulled up to the Cascade Falls parking lot on Hwy 140 (just east of the Pat & Jack parking) and gazed through the trees towards Fish Crack and Crimson Cringe, two ultra-classic Yosemite cracks. We scrambled towards them and gazed at their awesomeness. We also gazed at the torrent of water separating us from the base of the climbs and the water draining from the base of Crimson Cringe. At least now we know where they are, and we can come back when the water level is lower – step 1 for projecting (find route). Plan B for the day was Tales of Power, which doesn’t have a nearby warm-up, so we went and top-roped Roadside Attraction.
We then drove back up to Hwy 120 and parked just east of the longest tunnel. We geared up and carefully worked our way down (starting at the eastern end of the tunnel) until Luke found the rappel trees above Separate Reality (yes, THE Separate Reality). We set fixed Luke’s 80m rope (I’m sure a 70m would be long enough, not sure about a 60m) and rappelled down past Separate Reality (which was wet in places) to the base of Tales of Power, which is basically directly below Separate. The entire rappel after the Tales of Power top anchor was freehanging – the route is STEEP.
I had been prepared and psyched for the “crux” steep thin hands, but when I made it to the sloping ledge at the base, I was terrified. The route starts with a leaning, overhanging squeeze chimney/slot, and finishes with another squeeze chimney. I am not very good at squeeze chimneys, because I’ve spent hardly any time learning how to climb them properly. I don’t think I’ve been so terrified of a route in a long time. Luke convinced me to rack up and try the squeeze, so I put cams on my gear loops and pulled on my Miuras in between sobs of terror. I stood in the base of the squeeze chimney and took deep breaths. I thrutched up and placed two cams, then took and lowered. I struggled up slightly past my highpoint, but couldn’t figure out how to transition from chimneying to climbing the flare (i.e. both hands and feet in the crack), and lowered again. I gave Luke the cams.
With a number of takes, Luke made it to the top. He agreed that the bottom squeeze/flare was hard and awkward, and he found the hand crack to be surprisingly painful. I put my shoes back on (to follow the pitch) and stood in the squeeze chimney again. I took more deep breaths. I thrutched up and took out cams. I slipped and squirmed some more and was able to transition into the flare (which felt really steep). I made it to a no-hands rest below the hand crack without falling. The hand crack was AMAZING. The jams were perfect for me the whole way and it didn’t feel as steep as it looked. The squeeze chimney at the end was another story. I sobbed and thrutched and hung on the rope. I eventually made it to the top.
I haven’t had a real climbing project since Thanksgiving 2009. I tried, but I just couldn’t seem to find any route that inspired me like my 2009 projects had. Despite all the sobbing and thrutching (or maybe because of it?) I have found a project again. I found a route that is truly inspiring (really, the hand crack is INCREDIBLE), that pushes me both physically (endurance fest) and mentally (steepness, exposure, fear of squeeze chimneys), and challenges me to become a better climber by learning new techniques (squeeze chimneying…) that I’ve previously avoided like the plague. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m wondering when I can get in the gym and thrutch in the squeeze chimney next.
It’s amazing what a little humble pie and the right attitude (redpoint project, not onsight) can do. Instead of frustration, I’m filled with motivation. I want to work on my weaknesses. I want to go back and sit beneath the steepness and be afraid. I’d say this is a good start to The Year of the Redpoint Project.
On Saturday, we did a little more exploring, climbing Cramming and Tips (which Luke really enjoyed) at the This and That Crag. I totally tore up my right hand through the combination of Tales of Power and Cramming. It was awesome. Luke still had some energy, so he also did Lunatic Fringe and Stone Groove at Reed’s Pinnacle. I had to go home on Sunday morning for some school-related stuff, so I dropped off Luke with Matt for a day at Jailhouse and I drove the truck home by myself. I felt awesome. I was floating. I still am, really. I have a project. It is not an onsight project. It is difficult for me in many ways. It will require a lot of effort to get ready for it, and to actually climb it. I couldn’t be happier.
Do you want to join me in making 2011 The Year of the Redpoint Project? Do you already have some projects lined up for the year? Let me know in the comments and let’s share the psych!