The Eleventh Hour.

I rarely get frustrated about a rock climb.  I mean, it isn't going anywhere (unless it's in Rifle), so I can always come back and send when I'm strong enough.  On my final day climbing on "Ghost Dance", I grew far more upset than I ever thought I would regarding a 60 foot line of bolts.

The frustration began on the previous day.  I had cruised through the crux feeling better than I ever had.  Zero pump, relaxed, and pretty sure that I had enough to make the one remaining difficult throw to a hidden pocket (where I had already fallen once).  I set up for what should have been an easy toss over the lip to a good slot big enough for one hand, and the minute I pulled my body toward the hold, I was blinded.  The sun had peeked through a small gap in the roof of the alcove and directed all its strength directly onto my cornea.  The whole wall went white, and I stabbed for the slot, but hit solid wall.  Fuck.  I had it.  Fuck.  This is getting ridiculous.  Shit.  Fuck.

It was only noon, but we had no time for another attempt, as we had already rescheduled a prior commitment, and needed to make it there this time.  One day left.  Pressure.  Fuck.

We returned to the Sweatlodge and were the only 2 in the canyon.  After a good, slow warmup, and a bolt-to-bolt brush session up "Ghost Dance", I was ready for the attempt.  I had superglued tape onto a hole in my right middle finger where a small spike on the crux pocket had finally worn through.  Shoes were clean, shoulders and fingers felt strong and loose, and I was confident.  The crux went easily.  The sun had long passed it's peeking spot, and so I set up for the over-the-lip toss more sure than ever.  I hit the slot and set up to clip.  I couldn't let go with my right hand.  My left hand, in the slot, wouldn't close.   What the fuck!?  With nothing to do but let go, I hit the end of the rope completely dejected.

So many throws to the slot over the past week had finally worn a hole at the base of my left ring finger.  This time, the little point on the hold had dug into the hole in my finger, caught a chunk of flesh, and put pressure on my hand in just such a way that I couldn't physically close it.  I just might be done.  Fuck this.  I am done.  I'm over it.  It'll still be here next time.

While belaying Annalissa on her climb, I found myself angry.  I'm ok if I fail after giving my full effort.  In fact, I enjoy failing in that situation.  When on consecutive goes I get stopped by seemingly random roadblocks, I'm apparently not ok with it.

"You can try it again, can't you?", she asked me.

"I don't think so.  I'm done.  Lets just go."

"But I want you to try it again.  You can tape that up just like the other finger."

"I can't tape it... its in a bad spot, and the hold will hit it the same way next time.  I'm screwed.  I'm done.  Mentally, I'm done."

45 minutes later, and my mind had changed.

"I'll try it one more time.  Just for fun.  If I fall, I fall, but it'd be fun to see if I can do the crux this tired.  That, and I've got a week off after today, so the skin will heal."

I pulled into the roof without much hope.  I nearly fell out of the first hard cross move, but hung on.  Somehow, the crux move felt really easy.  I hit the hold perfectly.  Pushing out any doubts, I made the toss.  The hold hit me right where I thought it would.  I couldn't close my hand.  Mustering a second wave of try hard, I just let my elbow rise, held the left hand meathook steady, and pulled up rope to make the clip.

The big rightward throw.  The pocket is a few inches further, at the absolute limit of my reach. 

One more hard move.  I quickly set up for the big rightward throw, around a corner to a hidden 2 finger pocket.  I missed the pocket.  My hand slid down and stopped on a bad pinch on the aerie.  'Try hard' still engaged, I moved off the pinch, stopped briefly on the small crimp, realized I couldn't move my feet like I had every other time, and just jumped for the slopey jug.

Out of breath, mouth dry, and bleeding all over the jug from the now bigger hole in my hand, I knew it wasn't over.  I had fallen off of both of the next boulder problems before, and I was in the worst shape at this point that I had ever been.

And then my Red River training kicked in.  Relax.  Breathe.  Shake.  Get your heart rate down.  Get it all back.  Break the remaining climbing down into sections.  Aggressive V4ish boulder.   Good stance to clip.  V2 mantle.  No hands stance.  Clip.  V4ish, awkward, techy boulder.  Skip the clip.  Chains.  Ok.  Relax, Breathe, Shake.  Get it all back.

Leaving the first rest.  Relax.  Breathe.  Float. 

I had it.  The remaining climbing floated by.  Practiced skills overtook nerves in a confident dance, and then I was at the chains.  My first "not in my backyard" 13c was done.

The first of many to come.

***Note:   While all photos on this post are by Becca Skinner, she was nice enough to let me edit and use them as she was leaving for Indonesia.  Hopefully my poor, overblown editing skills don't ruin her entire career!  I get a little carried away when allowed to play with Photoshop.

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