I feel your pain. It's easy to get discouraged by how quickly the pros seem to put down the hardest projects, when for 2 seasons you've worked on the same 12c, and still haven't been able to clip the chains. Maybe you're just in too far over your head? Maybe those guys and girls you read about just aren't trying things that are hard enough for them?
But probably not. I'll use myself as the example here.
In the spring of 2010 I took my first run up what was, at that time, the hardest route I'd been on, Swingline (13d). It was simply a "free feel" as I like to call it, as I had sent my project for the day. It was my one foray up it for the season, and I continued with the sending spree I was on, completing 10 new 13s, including some of the hardest 13b's in the Red.
The following season, autumn of 2010, I dedicated mostly to Swingline, to no avail. That season I sent only 2 new 13's, and in my mind, it bordered on wasted. An entire season of warm, but mostly good weather, and I just couldn't get it done. Skin issues, bad tactics, whatever. At this point, I had probably been up this damned route 35 times, 8 or 9 times to the final crux and what was now "the move". Fail.
Spring of 2011, I made the decision to not lose a season to one route. I dedicated the bulk of my time to other routes, completing a 13c, my first 13d, and a couple of 13a's, as well as doing my first "not in my backyard" 13c that July in Lander, Wyoming. I did visit Swingline a handful of times, raising the attempt tally to somewhere in the neighborhood of 40.
Autumn 2011, while mostly a wash for me due to remodeling a house, did provide a few more days to fall off of Swingline. Perhaps 10 more tries, and I'd officially been working on this route for a year.
Spring of 2012 came quickly, but I finally felt prepared for Swingline. Out of the gate I spent most of my time on the famed "Gold Coast" wall, working on a route that routinely get's destroyed by 10 year olds, God's Own Stone. When temperatures warmed, I managed quick ascents of "Dracula" and "Cat's Demise", two of the Reds best and hardest 13b's. In one of my best climbing days ever, I warmed up on "The Force" (13a), casually sending it twice, fell at the high crux of Swingline 4 times, and then finished the day with a suprise 2nd go send of "Second Nature" (13a). It seemed the fitness was there, but I just couldn't make it happen. As summer neared and my fitness dwindled, I discovered new beta that transformed "the move" from a desperate drive-by to a 1/4 pad 2 finger pocket, into a totally static, can't fall move. I didn't get there again that season.
Shit! Did I blow it? Did I let the chance pass me by? I finished the season with my first 13a flash, and by doing two 13a's and a 13b over the course of 4 days in Lander. My fitness was still good. What the hell happened?? At this point, I'm definitely pushing 60 on the attempt-o-meter and looking at 2 years of being thwarted by a single route.
Autumn, 2012. Knowing it would be too warm early in the season, I spent my time cleaning up a few routes I had tried but never finished. One 13a, one 13b, a 13c, and some work on a couple of 13d's, and the temps were getting good. On a particularly cold day in November, with the try tally hitting around 70, with only my small crew at the wall, I finally clipped the chains.
The media reported that Adam Ondra only took 9 weeks to send La Dura Dura, the hardest sport route on earth.
9 weeks...spread over 2 years, that is.
Adam Ondra is a full time professional climber. Arguably the best in the world. In his own words concerning the length of his La Dura Dura campaign:
"Seventy tries could be somewhere close to the truth."
Thanks Adam, for helping me keep it in perspective.