The End Draws Near, and a New Beginning Is Upon Us: Goals and Lessons Learned.

For many of us, the changing of autumn to winter marks the end of a climbing season.  For me, route climbing is on it's final lap, and bouldering is just about to take over the baton.   As I live 6 hours from the nearest good boulders, the transition to winter also means that I'll be spending alot more time in the comfy confines of the gym.  Good thing we finished The Anvil when we did.  

At the beginning of every cycle I set new goals.  I put them down on paper, and post them front and center on my refrigerator so I'll remember those goals everytime I reach for the vanilla bean ice cream.   I aim high, so inevitably, my goals are never completely met, and will have to carry over to the next season.  This isn't an accident.  It's by aiming for harder to hit targets that we learn the little lessons we need to improve ourselves.  If you always reach your dream, are you dreaming big enough?  For some, maybe.  Not for me.  It helps to motivate me when I know there are parts of my aspirations still dangling out there, waiting for me to put them to rest.  

Photo by Elodie Saracco.

As this route climbing season is winding up, I feel stronger than ever.  Several 13b's came together in a handful of tries, and for the first time I've felt comfortable warming up and cooling down on a 13a that I know well.  I came close to meeting many of my goals, but fell short repeatedly.  "Swingline" (13d), which I expected to go down easy after making fast progress, has proven to be a nemesis.  I've fallen off the final hard move 8 or 9 times, and finally decided to give it up until next season (maybe).  Much of the time spent working on "Swingline" could have gone toward meeting my smaller goals, but the fitness I've built is going to be an important future tool. 

My goal to onsight 13a also fell short by a move.  Onsight goals are slippery... you have one chance.  The important thing for me with these is that in every case, I went all out.  I wasn't intimidated, and I executed my plan perfectly, with the exception of clipping chains.  Success in failure.

Hidden behind this veil of failure have been several important lessons.  First off, I learned that I have to treat my spring season and fall season very differently.  Last spring I came out of the blocks fast, peaking and ready to go.  Temps were perfect and gravity seemed to be low.  As the days warmed, my harder goals had been reached, leaving only the "easier" goals for the final push into summer.  Autumn, it turns out, is the opposite.  Who knew?  I came out of my corner swinging again, only to find that summer still thought it was here, and temps didn't go below 80 until my peak fitness had withered away.  Next year I'll flip my plan accordingly, and plan my peak for mid October.                      

 Another big stopper for me this season was skin.  So many burns on "Swingline" in the humidity got my fitness up, but it also destroyed my skin in exactly the spots on my fingers that were key to being comfortable on the route.  The same happened on "Black Gold" (13c) and "Ultraperm" (13d).  Lesson learned:  When working on or "feeling out" routes in less than ideal conditions (weather or physically), tape and superglue are invaluable.  I've discovered that just a thin layer of superglue on the side of my finger where it wears from the sharp pockets is plenty to protect it for an attempt.  After watching Sam Elias taping and gluing his fingers, I built my own "kit".  Tape, glue, sandpaper, clippers, ibuprofen, etc... now are with me always, and are getting used regularly. 

Black Gold.  Photo by Taylor Frohmiller.

The final big lesson that I took from this autumn is that I can't always expect to have another phenomenal season.  My spring was my biggest ever, and I planned to continue that momentum.  Doesn't always work out that way, but that doesn't mean I won't be trying to have another spring just like it come March.

As I know alot of my readers are also on the final stretch of a particular season or cycle, I'd love to know how your expectations panned out, and what you learned from the successes and failures.  If you've got the time, leave us a note.  Knowing how many people are out there pushing to reach their limits keeps me psyched, so I look forward to reading your comments!  

-Kris