Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Levitation 29 part 2 - Dealing With Fear.

Climbing routes recently has been a mental push for me. I don’t know if it has to do with a low level of motivation or just being disconnected from the zone. I have been feeling a larger than normal amount of uncertainty with my climbing. Perhaps it has been all of the sport climbing and the disconnect from the do not fall mentality. Maybe climbing at my limit more often has given me more doubt. I don’t exactly know the cause but I hope to fight through it and figure out how to climb more confidently.

Doubting my ability comes into play when I climb because I am in the middle of a burn and I struggle to keep climbing, since I don’t feel I can do it. It has been a bit frustrating to have all of this doubt when there is no obvious cause. There seem to be a few different mind sets that I encounter when I am climbing. They range from a relaxing send, free from doubt, to a fearful onsight where I struggle to commit to every move. I think what is happening to me is that I am hesitating and unable to commit because I am afraid of failure. I am tied to the success related to sending the route and unable to fully commit my self because of fear.

My hardest trad onsight to date came on a tricky finger crack in Squamish called Crime of the Century. It was much harder than anything I had tried to onsight before. The lack of precedence allowed me to give everything. Even though it was very difficult I was less worried about failing to onsight the climb. This disconnect from having to send allowed me to be less hesitant and through a lot of grunting and hard work I got to the top.

This all relates to Levitation 29 because it is a route that has been in my mind for over a year now. The goal was to onsight the route and when the time came to go out and try the route this weekend there was a lot of intimidation. I was afraid that I would not be strong enough; I would be too tired after the long approach or that I would just fall/fail.

I had recently been training on longer sport routes but nothing would compare to a nine pitch route. Almost half of the pitches were 11a or harder and I would be leading all the hard pitches. While the crux fifth pitch would stand out as the technical crux of the route I would have to make sure to keep it together to the top.

The first hard pitch was the 2nd which I linked to the first. The climbing was fun and complex to a difficult crux. It seems height dependant as there are good holds but they were too far away for me to reach. This lead to some easier pitches which I followed and then the 5th pitch. The plan had been to skip bolts and link this to the next pitch for 150 feet of fun. As I started climbing up the climbing was harder than expected and I knew I would have to climb the pitches separately.

The crux of the 5th pitch started from a good 2 foot long hand jam sized pod. It moved from there up a few moves of laybacking into a fist pod with some bad face holds inside and a decent left hand crimp. You had good feet for the clip but had to move up to smears for the next move. This move, my crux, was a reach from either a bad fist jam(for my hands) or from the small but positive left crimp. I watched my right fist sliding out of the jam as I stabbed for the next finger lock. I got it and moved up to the next clip but I was physically and mentally fried.

I had spent so much time trying to find a better sequence through the crux that I was now really tired. The pitch did not ease up for many more clips so I really had to fight for the onsight. I wanted to send this route so bad and I knew that I could do it. This quote from this Steph Davis Blog was in the back of my mind as I kept refusing to let go.

“I’ve done all my groundwork. I am totally capable of doing this, and I know it for a fact, because I trained, practiced, meditated, and I am absolutely prepared to pull this off.”

I still climbed slowly and hesitantly through the pitch but I managed to make it to the anchors without falling. The next pitches were less difficult but I was still quite tired. I wonder if climbing the crux pitch faster would have been successful and saved me energy. I am still trying to figure out the best strategy for climbing onsight. I have to learn to work through my trust issues and climb with more certainty.

This climb was an amazing experience and I would be excited to go back and do it again. It pushed me both physically and mentally and I am still reflecting on the experience and learning lessons.

- Luke

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