A couple weeks ago, I managed to free up a few hours. Just enough time to drive to the local crag, hike to the rock, set up one top-rope line, and run two laps each with a partner. It left me, shall I say, unfulfilled. To hell with it, I said. I’m taking a day off to climb and I’m going to get the most out of it.
Most climbing days, there isn’t much of a game plan. But since this would be my first day in a while, and maybe only day for some time, I put some thought into it. Knowing how I get with heights, I set a strict limit on single pitch climbing. I also decided to break with my usual 5.5 or less pattern and focus on climbing a few grades harder. For some reason, I’ve always held back in terms of difficulty.
The day started with Something Interesting, a 5.7+. I spied this route while on Three Pines and thought the line looked beautiful. The climbing was rather sustained at a moderate degree of difficulty, until the crux. If I remember correctly, it was bad feet, and overhang, and a long reach to a somewhat sloping opening of rock that kinda resembled a crack. Or, maybe I’m wrong? Next, I climbed Snooky’s Return, 5.8. Named for Oscar “Snooky” Dorfman, not the reality TV star. This route was made up of more delicate face-climbing movements than Something Interesting which was more “grabby”. I’m not sure which style I prefer more, but after sending two routes above my normal difficulty level, I was feeling really good about myself.
Which brings me now to Middle Earth, 5.6. I took one look at this route and decided I was going to lead it. I haven’t lead rock in a very long time, but was feeling confident in my ability to not only climb a 5.6 onsight, but to be able to protect it. The route started easy enough before I encountered my first crux, a long vertical crack. I tried placing a stopper but it was a little too shallow and for a brief moment, I felt like I could take a fall. I immediately dismissed the thought and made a move, instantly finding solid feet and took the time to place the stopper. Shortly thereafter I found myself a second crux, a thin face that would require me to climb a few feet more than I’d rather above my last piece of gear. I susssed out the first moves rather gingerly before committing and eventually got in a stance to place a large cam and rested. The remaining route was good gear between steady movements. I wore a Go Pro for this climb and looking back at the footage, I’m impressed with my ability to remain focused and commit. The holds and feet were adequate but this was no gimme. It took a tremendous amount of focus to calm my nerves as I climbed higher above the deck. Once I topped-out, I was exhausted and thrilled. This was the medicine I needed - to focus, single-minded, and be in the moment and allow the best version of myself to take over. I’m very proud of this climb.
Next, I climbed Absurdland, 5.8. Getting off the ground is the crux of this climb and I sent it rather quickly along with the boulder follow-up moves before resting on the rope. The top section is fantastic climbing. Claiming this route here was yet another confidence boost.
The day wrapped up with Jackie, 5.5. A few years ago, I got stuck on this route…call it fear of commitment. This time around, I was able to send it but to my surprise this route was a lot more difficult than I would expect a 5.5 to be. Still, I found it to be a fantastic route but would probably grade it more like 5.7.
After Jackie, I decided to call it a day. I was spent from the effort, adrenaline, and heat. Hands down, my best day on rock in years. Onsighting Middle Earth was probably my biggest rock climbing accomplishment and I’m looking forward to leading more routes and trying harder lines. I have a birthday trip coming up in September to the Adirondacks, something I’ll post about once I return. I’ve been preparing myself physically for some challenging hiking that will occur on this trip, but as far as climbing goes I’m hoping to get at least one more day out and continue on this path of success.
|Catching up on Something Interesting, 5.7+|