When we first arrived in Maple, I was a tiny bit apprehensive and indecisive when it came to choosing a project. I had a plan, but it was rooted in the assumption that I’d be coming off of a hard send in the Hurricave. Lacking that, I found myself questioning the viability of my pre-set goals, evaluating and re-evaluating my strength and fitness levels, both physical and mental. Did I aim too high, or did I just run out of time? Do I have the mental wherewithal to try my hardest again, and possibly fail again?
A Wyoming Sheep Shagger (13d) has been called “a boulderer’s dream”, and the route is commonly referred to as one of the most powerful in the cave. Normally that description would be cause enough to cross it off my list of options, but thanks to the route I’d previously been working, I showed up at the Pipedream the “bouldest” I’ve ever been. I figured, if not now, maybe never…
Shagger (for short) has two defined boulder problems, the second of which I don’t think I’d be able to do if it were on an actual boulder. The standard beta through this section isn’t realistic for me…it’s all biceps and holding on. It involves a thrutchy, precise right-hand stab to a cobble pinch from strange holds, with awkward options for feet. I’d been inspired watching Ellen Powick send Shagger in 2011, along with Pipedream (the route, a 14a extensions of Shagger) and a 13c thrown in just for fun, all in one send-a-thon weekend. Her beta, going to the pinch as a left backhand (gaston), using more shoulders, triceps and body tension, seemed more feasible. With this sequence, the second move of this crux became the single hardest move on the route for me. Once I get the left hand, I have to bring my feet up high and fall right hand into an intermediate undercling pinch, pick them up again and bump the right hand to gaston another cobble. I can barely reach this one and have to immediately pop my left foot up again to push into it well enough to make the next move. The rest before this second crux is marginal at best, but I found a stacked knee scum that I was able to train well enough to at least have a chance at reeling my heart rate back in. Still, it was powerful. I couldn’t climb on it more than two days a week, and maxxed out at two goes per day. I had to pay attention, being careful not to overtrain the moves and meet with diminishing returns.
“Fitness Fridays” became part of our process, days spent on longer, less bouldery side projects. My first Fitness Friday project was Don’t Mess With Texas (13c), a route I one-hung five years ago and hadn’t been back on until now. It begins on La Confianza and ends with the top of The Great Feast. It’s l-o-n-g, and I was falling way up high on it back then. Technically, it’s my longest running project to date, even though I stepped away from it for a few years. Redpointing it with five days of focused work this time around, along with a quick send of The Diggler, a 13a that seemed impossible to me all those years ago, gave me some confidence. It was a crucial component I’d been missing.
This past Monday I sent A Wyoming Sheep Shagger. It’s not by any means an earth-shattering, ground-breaking ascent in the climbing world, but in my tiny me-bubble, it’s kind of a big deal. After failing to send in the Hurricave, I felt like I’d made a bad investment. I had put in a lot of time and work, and had nothing to show for it. But in the long run, my investment matured and enabled me to climb a route I never thought I’d be able to. And now I’m back in that realm of uncertainty, roping up to try to climb Shagger again and keep going out the Pipedream extension. I may be successful. I may fail. Either way, I’m still rock climbing.
This process is a steady continuum of affect and effect. The gains we make pushing our physical limits, whether they bring us to the original object of our intention or not, are real. Failure and success are the words we use, but in the bigger picture one feeds into the other and they become indistinguishable. There are successes hiding within our failures. Trying hard is never a waste of time.
Photo at top of page: 📷 Carlos Romania Flores (www.carlosromania.com)
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