Every morning, after leaving my comfortable, warm, bed I get dressed, give my girls a good-morning hug ‘n kiss and then head over to the computer to see what’s happening in the world. Typically I don’t make it past sifting through facebook as my attention dwindles fast (I’m not very lively and or attentive “early” in the morning). However, this morning I came across a posting of Chris Sharma sending his long awaited project, “First Round, First Minute”–most likely his hardest climb to date. This is a big deal. Now, of course I’m totally stoked for him but the fact that he sent his route wasn’t what caught my attention in the posting, but more so the psychological battle he faced in the process. I was intrigued by the interview on “Planet Mountain” , so I pulled out a can of redbull, slammed it, and thwarted on to read the entirety of the interview. (The interview wasn’t that long, but my lack of energy in the morning needed a bit of a “kick start”…hence the redbull haha.)
Being caught in a psychological fight between yourself and a route can be physically and mentally demanding. In past, with various routes, I’ve found myself in such battles, however this winter a specific route “trapped” me in the mother of all battles. For me, it was the hardest route I’d faced to date. And what made it more intimate, and some what immediate, is that I set the route. For years I had stared at the potential line and finally, after training and gaining more experience the line I set was staged for its first ascent.
“It’s all about the difficult task of finding the right balance. When you climb a route at your maximum level you need to want it more than anything else in the world. But at the same time, this desire can keep you from succeeding. So you need to find the balance, let everything go, just climb for the pure joy of climbing, let things flow and try as hard as possible while not being concerned about the outcome. “
Chris’s words (above) hit home in a huge way. With my route, “El Matador”, I was beginning to think it was out of my reach. For several attempts I wasn’t progressing on the route, falling at or before my most successful “highpoint”. A feeling of failure was setting in, and just about took over. Reading through Chris’s interview, his perspective on his mental battle rang true with exactly what i went through.
“You were certain you could do it.
Yes, I knew back in 2009 I had the potential to climb it. But then a feeling crept in that perhaps I might not succeed after all. I was confronted with the feeling of failure, and in the process learnt that this wasn’t the most important thing after all.
Had you encountered this psychological block on other routes before?
I think I had it on Biographie. These experiences are interesting, you can learn a lot about yourself, about the psychological battle and although I’d already had this in the past, I found I had to relearn the lesson again.”
How far was I willing to go to send this route, dealing with things like weather, flooding (in my case)? Every minute that I wasn’t down there, in the canyon…attempting the route, it sometimes felt as though I was wasting time. And when the weather started to turn for the worse (temperatures rising to above zero), I became desperate…panicking to find anyone who could belay me. It was a weird place to be in, and some what of a reality check. Climbing is fun. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it can become serious, whether in competition and or sending a project, but even then…it still needs to be fun. I had lost myself in the route, in a sense-forgetting why I was climbing it in the first place. My mental state had forgotten all that I learned, knowing how to deal with various psychological battles.
Nearing the end of the season, coming to the realization that, “oh yeah…climbing is fun”, it was then, and then only that my mental state calmed down…soon after sending the route. I had to let go of the pressures of sending to actually focus my energy on climbing. I had to let go of all the “what if’s” to actually enjoy myself.
When facing a psychological battle, it’s no easy task to prevail. Just remember…climbing is fun…no matter what level or situation your at or in.