WHAT: Climb 5.12 before I got too old and decrepit. That timeline got expedited when friends decided to film the process and wanted a happy ending for a piece that had a finite due date.
WHERE: Damned if I knew where to start. Fortunately, I have a good friend who has climbed too many routes in the area and knows my style. He picked out Reefer Madness for me (11a, my first ever real 'project' that I bagged in April 2016), so when Days of Future Past was on his list of ticks for me, I figured that would be as good as any to start with. A first TR burn had me thinking 'You know, this doesn't feel any harder, or more impossible, than the first time I got on Reefer. I think this could go...'
WHY: The answer should be to see how far I could push myself, to find a challenge that would get me to be the best I could be - but that would be bullshit. When I step back and think about why, it's because of my own insecurities and the constant nagging feeling of needed to prove myself to the world. Especially as I've been getting more attention for my climbing in the recent years, I want to feel like I've actually earned that attention and all of the cool opportunities that come with it (free shoes!). I have a complex where I imagine strangers talking about me, and saying 'Yeah, she's ok...but it's only because she has one hand that anyone even cares.' Somehow, I thought that getting myself on a climb that had a benchmark grade of 5.12 would make me a 'real' climber - one handed or not. Is this a healthy approach? Probably not, but it worked out. I also think it's cool to change the conversation from 'Wow, I couldn't do that with one hand!' to 'Wow, I couldn't do that with TWO hands!'
HOW: Siege tactics, single pitch style. I knew my best chance was to get on something that had a more technical, less burly crux, because that meant sending was more about solving the puzzle than being stupid strong. That said, I had no idea how long it would take. In the end, it was about 4 months of problem solving followed by a month of execution. I was there after dark, til near midnight, on multiple occasions. There were stretches where I was up there after work, three days a week. I believe the final 'days - on -route' count is in the mid 20's. The bottom and the top of the route was pretty simple and straight forward, so I essentially spent 5 months working a 12' section of rock.
THE RESULT: By now it's obvious that I'm only writing this because I got the send. Clipping those chains I was hit with a wave of relief, then...nothing. Completely anti climatic. My friend John summed up the overall feeling: 'Finishing a long term project is an interesting feeling. It isn't the pure elation and joy of just barely hanging onto something, or fighting through and sending something you probably shouldn't have. It's more like the completion of an eventuality, satisfaction that your practice paid off, but ultimately an empty feeling.'
I don't feel like I conquered 5.12 - in fact, at the end of this process the grade became irrelevant. It was more about the climb itself. My general take aways?
- Why the eff did it take so long? Once I found my beta, it went after only a few days of effort of linking everything together.
- It didn't feel that hard, in the end. My RP burn on DOFP felt no harder - maybe even easier - than my RP on Reefer. Crazy, right?
- Clipping the chains, this first thing I felt (after relief) was a nagging voice - 'What's Next?'
SO, WHAT'S NEXT? When I started this process, I was under the impression that bagging a 12 would be the peak of my career. I'd know I could do it, then I could peace the hell out and become a 5.8 climber who eats a lot of cup cakes for the rest of my life. In fact, the opposite is true - I'm now more motivated than ever to become a stronger climber, because I know I can be stronger. I can be better than DOFP. This is only the beginning.
Special shout out to James, Eamon, Ashley, Lane, Chad, Tommy, Nellie, and everyone else who had to catch my sorry ass on the same move over...and over...and over again. It takes a village.