It was a rough morning climbing.
I woke up really excited to climb and we hiked down to a well know crag in Meir Valley at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to set up shop for the morning.
It was beautiful. You had to walk through an archway of a huge boulder which took us to our private oasis of climbing perched high on top of a hillside.
I started with a couple of easier climbs which turned out to be a blast. Both of them followed a great line to the top and were perfect warm-ups.
I then decided to attempt a couple of the tougher climbs.
The first one I tried was well within my range but I hit a sticking point which really frustrated me. I started blaming the rock (Crazy, I know). I then started blaming the people who put the bolts in that I needed to attach my rope to.
After much blaming, I finally had to come to the conclusion I just didn’t have it. I finally begrudgingly finished the route after a lot of struggle but I had some assistance so it didn’t feel like much of a victory.
I then decided to redeem myself on a slightly harder route on the same wall. I made it to the first bolt but could not figure out how to get to the second bolt so I had to bail and get lowered down without completing the route. It was the first route I have tried in the last couple of months that I couldn’t finish and gave up on.
That is either a testament to my willpower and tenacity in choosing to not give up or the fact that I am just not challenging myself enough. I’ll leave the judgment up to you.
Anyway, I was looking forward to getting out of that area and meeting friends of ours at a very sought after area of Meir Valley called Bruise Brothers.
It is a beautiful wall with some amazing lines.
I started on some easier routes and then decided to step up to some harder stuff. After the struggles I had on the previous wall earlier in the day I was resolved to just stick to the easier stuff but I saw a route I just couldn’t say no to.
It started out with some technical moves and then moved to an overhang with some big moves and had a great finish. I got up with no problem and started to build my confidence again.
The next one I wanted to do looked amazing but was at the peak of my ability. I’ll be honest I was scared to get on the wall. It was a huge climb with only a little crack to use about 40 feet off the ground.
Fortunately, another couple of climbers decided to do it before us. It was probably a bit of a false sense of confidence because he was a much better climber than I was and made it look way too easier.
Either way, I decided to give it a go.
Surprisingly, I made it without too much effort.
I was re-energized and wanted to test my limits for the last climb.
We shifted over to a really interesting climb.
The first part starts off as a fairly easy climb straight up the wall. At least it should have been easy but ended up feeling much harder than it should have been.
The next part is a giant overhanging roof about 30 feet off the ground that you have to climb horizontal to the ground below you and then over the top for the finish.
I resolved that I was going to have to take a couple of falls but there was no way I was going to give up on this.
What’s funny is a friend of mine completed the route just before me and still had his friend’s gear up there. His friend shouted at him to take his gear back down and put the rope directly through the anchors just in case I didn’t finish it.
Reflexively I shouted, “Leave it up there. I’m finishing it and I’ll bring it back down.” It was my little version of the “burning the boats” story where retreat and failure were not an option. I was going to finish this no matter what.
As I reached the top of the first part of the climb, I leaned back and peered over my head.
Doubts started to set in. It looked a lot harder up close than it did from the ground.
But there was no giving up. Remember, I told him to leave his gear at the top. I had to finish this climb now.
I decided to take it one bolt at a time; total presence.
There were 3 bolts and a finishing anchor.
I grabbed onto the first part of the roof, leaned back, and brought my feet a bit higher. A quick draw was within reach so I reached down, grabbed the rope, and clipped it in the carabiner.
One down, three to go.
I reached up to the next part of the roof, heel hooked the other part of the roof, and saw the next quick draw was within reach. I slowed my breath, relaxed my body, reached down, grabbed the rope, and slowly and methodically placed it in the next carabiner.
Two down and two to go.
The next one was a huge reach. I searched for a moment, found a decent hold, grabbed it, got my legs up and clipped in. I looked up and found the anchor just a short easy climb away.
I was so focused and so present that I was surprised the finish was right in front of me.
A wave of emotion and a tremendous sense of accomplishment came over me as I clipped into the final anchor.
It is easy to live life in the middle where there is no true sense of accomplishment but also no real risk of failure. It is easy to play it safe.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it is worth it to burn the boats and destroy the bridges so failure is not an option and there is a point of no return.
That is really when we are tested. That is where the sweetest juice of life can be found.
– Matt Westheimer