Goals Not Met: Freedom and Transworld Depravity.

Photo by Taylor Frohmiller

I was through the middle crux for the first time from the ground.  The hardest moves were behind me, with only a V5ish mantle and a 12+ish headwall guarding the chains.  And it was wet.  Not damp wet.  Soaked wet.  Dripping wet.

I'm still not sure how it got that way.  It was dry the day before, and I'd decided to hedge my bets on the better temps and better sleep that I could get.  It hadn't rained.  But there it was, dripping from the mantle onto my face, mocking me.

50 feet prior, at the big rest before the business, I'd had a conversation with a new friend on a neighboring route.  She had read my "Don't Squash The Banana" post, and it resonated with her. I hung out there talking to Katy Dannenberg, shaking out, laughing, and generally relaxing, all the while discussing commitment.  And then I was climbing, her reassuring voice just beside me as I stuck the move for the first time.

Drip.  Drip.  I was this far, my first real chance at sending, and I had to commit.  The entire Motherlode had congregated in the cave, anticipating the battle.  The wet V5 above me had gotten into my nerves, and I desperately needed a plan.  My next shake, The Basketball, had water streaming from it.  The terrible Tooth hold above it was smack dab in the middle of the waterfall.  However, I could see that the line of holds out right was dry.  If I could just get out there, I could recover on the first two good edges before launching into the final terrible crimps.

The mantle never felt easier.  I didn't hesitate, just executed.  Instead of my normal knee scum/hand jam/layback rest on The Basketball, I kept moving, barely making the hard lateral reach off of The Tooth to the incut edges I intended to rest on.

Both incuts were filled with tiny, taunting puddles.

Photo by Taylor Frohmiller

I tried to recover, but my mind was spinning.  12 feet from victory, past the wet rock, and I was going to fail.  Many of my best friends were watching.  My fiance was on belay.  I had battled my heart out to get to this spot.  Knowing I would have no opportunity to dry my fingers before taking the worst of the grips, I committed once more.  I crimped hard, pasted my foot on the good smear, lunged, and I fell.

The moans of the gathered crowd echoed throughout the cave.  "Do over!", someone shouted.  "You were robbed", Dan Mirsky told me, "but at least now you know it's possible."

And then the weather turned toward summer, without so much as a glance over it's shoulder at me.

For weeks it was a mind fuck.  I was 2 moves away from a long time goal, and I had the experience of reaching it... I just didn't quite close the deal.  Did I want to get back on it?  Was there any reason to finish it?  Was it really the experience and the progression I was after, or does the number itself mean anything to me?

For nearly a month, I wasn't sure I'd go back.  However, while standing in the shower after a gym session, I came to a realization.  I really loved climbing on that route.  Sending it is essentially a formality, and I'd already had the send "experience", but I WANTED to go back and climb on it.

It had long been a goal to climb 5.14 by the age of 40.  As my 40th came and went, several people asked me if I was bummed not to make good on my goal.

Photo by Taylor Frohmiller

Goals aren't made to be met.  When I meet a goal, I celebrate by moving the bar higher.  It's become incredibly cliche to say that it's all about the journey, and I'm not so sure I completely agree.  It isn't only about the journey.  For me, it's about a chase.  It's about being eluded.  It's about some chunk of rock showing me who's boss until it decides to allow my passage.  It's about reaching past my own perceived limits, and realizing that I can change my own perceptions.  So no, I'm not bummed at all.  Quite the opposite.

21 days after my random deadline passed, I climbed 5.14.  After 8 years of sport climbing, with 65 5.13's under my belt, Transworld Depravity, a Bill Ramsey masterpiece in Red River Gorge's Madness Cave, decided that I'd grown up enough, and it allowed me to climb from bottom to top without falling off.

In the end, I never had to really fight.  While I'm usually vocal, this time, other than deliberate breathing, I didn't make a sound.  As is often reported, it felt eerily easy.  Like I could do it again, and maybe I will.  Maybe not.  There are cracks to be climbed.  Big walls to be freed.  Music to be made, and books to be written.  Another house to build.  Other climbers, still reaching for their ultimate goals, to help train.  So many other worthy opponents.

First, I'll set a few more ridiculous goals to fail at.

Lowering off after the send.  Photo by Lee Smith.