After failing on the last move of my project–twice–last week I opted out of the 50 mile race in Fruita in order to give my project one more go. On one hand, it meant that I didn’t have to suffer for hours on end in a race I wasn’t prepared for. On the other, I had the mental anguish of dealing with another project. If I failed, it had the potential of becoming a major epic for my psyche. And it’s not like I was failing because I was letting go; it’s a route right at my current physical limit. But Bob pretty much summed it up for me when he said, “If you go to Colorado, you’re an idiot. This is a first ascent. At the Tor!” Ben echoed this, telling me that my priorities were clearly in the right place.
“Sure, for an FA at the Tor, I guess,” I said.
“Or ANY ascent at the Tor,” he countered. “When you have the fitness to finish a route at the Tor, you’ve got to try. Because you never know when you’ll be at the level again.
He has a point. As a climber who relies on experience and footwork, the Tor isn’t exactly a place where I pad my resume. It’s brutally physical. Every route requires a maximal physical effort. In short, it’s a place where I usually get killed.
My friend Paul Dusatko summed this up pretty well when he did the second ascent of Hell Of The Upside Down Sinners. Rated a pedestrian 12b, Paul’s comment upon clipping the chains (after weeks of work) was “now I’m climbing the same grade I was 10 years ago.”
When you have a project, the difference between success and failure is miniscule. One mistake and you’re off. At the Tor, it’s so physical that you’re limited–very much so–as to how many decent attempts you’ll get in a day. I was pretty nervous on Saturday because I knew if it didn’t go quickly, my window of opportunity would quickly slam shut. And I just couldn’t extend my stay in California any longer.
Now it was really beginning to become mental. My only solace was that it had rained the day before and the holds I’d fallen from had been dirty. Also, my tick mark for a key foothold that you can’t see had washed away (notice my failing with my feet prior to the fall). So I felt I had a chance. But I very much felt that if I didn’t get it second go or I was in trouble. This added to the pressure as I tied in for round two. If I failed, it was going to be a long arduous drive home…