Sucking and Success

“Climbing is what it should be, the other side of your life. Climbing should never be all your life, it should be the good part of your life, a rest from the kind of mundane stuff.” –Stevie Haston

Listening to Episode #75 of the Enormocast I came upon this wonderful quote from Stevie Haston. Haston is a badass, bold Brit who is pretty candid about his life traversing many types of climbing and accompanying lifestyles. As someone who has had climbing as the focal point of life, distant past, and romanticized future it can be really hard to put the sport and accompanying lifestyle into perspective. 2020 gave me just that, a lot of fresh perspective on not only climbing but life in general. The revelatory nature of a traumatic year is not unique to me but I’ve got one good lens to examine the past twelve months.

Jeff’s 2020 Climbing Reflection:

Jeff, one of my closest friends and faithful climbing partner is terrific at this sort of reflection and goal setting thing. He posed a series of questions that helped me look at the past year in climbing and siphon out some deeper conclusions.

1. Favorite multi pitch–Birdland, Trad 5.7+, Red Rocks, NV, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trad leads.

2. Favorite single pitch–Wrath of Khan, Sport, 2 pitches 11b, Owens River Gorge, CA and Vllejo Amigo Sport, 7b, Cuervo de Poem de Roca, El Chorro, Spain.

3. Most Memorable Route–Moondance, Sport, 11b, Smith Rock, OR and Felicity, Sport P1 11d, Lime Kiln Canyon, AZ.

4. Overall Most Memorable Moment–Month long trip to Spain with Meagan Masten Jan 2020-Feb 2020.

5. Improvements in 2020–Technical climbing and finger/crimp strength plus increased knowledge of multi-pitch and trad climbing.

6. Goals for 2021–Increase core strength and power via bouldering goal of V7 and implement a strategy to give back to the climbing community via clinic/coaching. 

The bridge between 2020 and 2021 has been a glorious seesaw between sending and sucking. With a heavy emphasis on really enjoying the sucking. For the past two months, I have navigated around California and the Southwest in the Silver Toaster searching for incredible rock and accompanying communities. Not bad There have been more than a few gratifying sends but predominantly I have been trying to work on all of my weaknesses–bouldering, slab and crack climbing, and learning how to stand a little more suffering. Well-rounded climbers are extremely attractive to me so it was about time to see that inspiration within myself. The most notable moments of sucking included crying on a 5.4 crack in Joshua Tree, climbing a 10- slab in Cochise Stronghold aiding on only one bolt, and subsequently completing 2/3rds of said route then rapping to the end of our rope, thus shenanigans ensued.

These experiences taught me immensely about bravery and preparedness by revealing more weaknesses to work on. A 5.12 sport climber does not make a 5.12 slab or crack climber. You have to be patient and humble. With the above two disciplines when you get it, you really get it and you are flowing and grooving and it’s oh so good. When you don’t get it, you don’t get it and you are grunting, laybacking everything imaginable because it is the only thing you know, or avoiding using the crack at all costs. Similarly, with slab climbing, you try to crimp and pinch every micro ripple in view before eventually singing the ‘slab song’ and smearing your way to the top. Ahem, “Heels down, butt out, that’s the way we slab it out.”

So the ultimate goal for 2021 is to keep embracing being bad. There is success in sucking because you have a lot to learn and there is nowhere to go but up.

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