Moment of Doubt

Miss the gap

don’t make a move

hesitate, frozen

possibility calls and inevitability beckons

 

blinded by what’s past

frightened of what’s coming

an instant, a moment

choices dissolve and complexity confounds

 

I fall

none of it matters

not past, nor future

opportunity is lost and the moment has passed.

Believe in the Fun

It has been a beautiful thing to get back to the heart of climbing. Moving toward enjoying climbing and wanting to climb for movement’s sake and feeling a bit of ‘zen’ out in nature rather than struggling with myself over my lack of desire to try difficult lines.  There are two concepts that have been resonating with me lately that have allowed me to ease my way, both up the wall and through a number of other transitions.

One is from my dear friend Julia Wakeling who reminded me once to “do it because it is fun”. On a sunny day in Boven a few years ago she told me to tie in on an 18 because I couldn’t climb the route I had been slogging away at all day. We hauled our asses up easy routes for the rest of the day, giggled a fair bit and had a ball. I have never forgotten this day and often use this strategy during a frustrating road trip.  This is what I have been trying to capture lately. Close to home, one can feel limited to repeating old lines or trying very difficult personal projects. Some days, capturing the fun is about pushing myself and climbing hard and other days it is about not being indoors. If I am not enjoying myself on a route or at the gym I try to switch to something that is more enjoyable. Without the second concept though, fun can feel like you are wasting time.

The second concept is believing in what you are doing. In our recent National competition I had to ask myself why I was competing. As the only adult female competitor it was pointed out to me that I would be better off spending the travelling money on a trip to Rocklands or Boven. The answer was simple. I love competing. I wanted to compete. I only really need the route to get to the top of and another competitor would have been wonderful but the quality of route setting made up for it.  I realised that during the competition period I believed entirely that getting to the top of that wall was important, I not only did well but I loved every minute of it. It was this belief that kept me going.

Maintaining this sense of belief can be challenging. Sometimes when I don’t have a project that is really captivating me or a climbing partner that is pushing me it can be frustrating to potter about on easy lines. They are beautiful but without the physical push I am often bored unless they are led out on poor protection. I enjoy scary, led out routes, to a point, but they are not my strong point. Recently, I have found it satisfying to accept that there will be a project that captivates me at some point and instead I enjoy the day at the crag, or not at the crag at all. Training days used to be about me beating myself up for not training hard enough and ending the session upset that I was never going to accomplish my goals with this inability to be motivated. Now ‘training’ has become about absorbing what I can through a concerted effort to make the experience ethereal. Mostly, once I am calm enough to accept things as contributing to my greater being and as positive, I am flowing toward my goals rather than fighting for them. Skipping a weekend out has the benefit that it makes me itchy to climb again. Replacing rusty chains on easy sport lines is good for the development of the sport and will hopefully prevent tragic accidents.  Other days, scoping out new crags and tying in on top rope has been rewarding.

So far this new approach has seen me training more. I am yet to find a project line that really excites me but there is some hidden potential out there. My eyes are on new lines, and routes that I don’t have pre-conceived ideas about.

Psyched

Wow, what a whirlwind few months. I have not paused to blog. It is about time I did. South African climbing keeps throwing projects at me. No matter my fitness level there is something to keep me entertained.

A week in Boven and a send of Monster (28/7c) got me psyched to maintain my fitness and get strong enough to send more routes of this calibre. This bout of psyche coincided with Paige Claasen’s visit to South Africa. It was great to see another female athlete excited to push herself and take her climbing to the next level. This inspiring woman hopped on some well known local test pieces in Durban and Boven as opened a project at the picturesque Wow Prow. I joined Brian Weaver, Paige and Jon Glassberg where I got to taste the life of a fully professional climber. Jon is just as inspiring as Paige. His photography is most impressive and he really throws himself at routes of all styles. It was cool to see a self proclaimed boulderer trying endurance routes. It reminded me how good it is to work on one’s weaknesses. I take my hat off to Jon for coming all the way to South Africa without visiting Rocklands. This country has a lot more to offer and it is great to see him and Paige showing these other places to the world.

A further surprise was catching up with Sasha Digiulian and Arjan De Kock who were in Boven at the same time as us. Sasha’s new line Rolihlahla (bolted by Andrew Pedley) follows a crimp fest across the most gorgeous face I have ever seen. It has been a while since everyone at the crag is able to warm up on my projects. The tiny fingerlock Sasha used on the crux of Bovenator to aboid the large throw move is ridiculous! I can barely smear on that thing! Nice one Sasha. I will be back Bovenator!

Resting just below the headwall of Bovenator 28/7c.

Climbing with Brian Weaver is always great. He is sickeningly close on Rodan. Brian and I marvelled at just how strong these two ladies were while watching them shake out on holds that he can barely stay on. Paige and Sasha, thanks for bringing some feminine climbing psyche to Africa.

A week later I travelled to Gauteng to get my dose of competition. There are no adult events in my province despite the growing youth leagues. So off to Gauteng I went to gain some further competition experience. The guys at the Climbing Barn and Gauteng Climbing did a sterling job in organising this event. It was a pity to go from being surrounded by strong climbing women to being the only open female competitor. Where are the other lady competitive climbers in South Africa? Luckily the routes were of a good quality which made the trek worthwhile. I topped out on both of my routes, the first was a sequency jug-haul while the second one had a slightly trickier sequence through the roof. I enjoyed the forced “you will perform now” feeling that comes with comps. It is even more intense than a serious onsight attempt on rock. Comp climbing is a great deal of fun and need not be intimidating, it is just about climbing and meeting new people and learning about your strengths and weaknesses in terms of performance and route style.

Ladies round two of the Gauteng Lead Event. Where are the other female competitors?

Next on my agenda are some old favourites and new projects closer to home…

Mad Rock Sharks Review

It was a few months ago that I dusted the cobwebs off my climbing shoes for the first trip I had taken in months. I probably should have left the spiders to their webs for a few more days as the dusting did not do much good.

“Thanks for the ride to the airport. Can you check the boot of your car for my climbing shoes?” read my text just as the air hostess asked me to fasten my seat belt and turn off my cellphone.

“Yip they’re here,” came the reply. “Don’t worry. I am sure you won’t need them for the first ten pitches.”

Well, that is not exactly the conversation but it is the amended version, suitable for public consumption.

It turns out that smearing in borrowed, four sizes larger than usual shoes with peeling rubber is not really optimal, especially not in a featureless chimney crack on pitch one of eleven. Nevertheless I had flown across the country, driven another few hours and traipsed up a mountain for this route. I was going to climb it with or without my shoes.

 Andrew Porter valiantly came to my rescue many times that day as I built stances where I could no longer route find (or find the courage). Wipke, who was climbing on a route nearby lent me her shoes that were considerably smaller than the ones I had originally borrowed. This was a saving grace.

Andrew and I summited in the dark and wound our way back through The Maze to The Cave where I had one of the best night’s sleep I have had all year.It was in The Cave that I started reflecting on how much I have come to trust and rely on my climbing shoes. It struck me how important fit has always been for me. I have a particularly narrow foot and tend to wear my shoes very small for the length of my foot to gain a tighter fit. This means I usually sacrifice comfort in a toe curling foot binding ritual. This is not possible on longer routes. Putting on Wipke’s shoes, which were on the tight side for an eleven pitch route, had given me a great deal more confidence and security in my foot placements. I could ignore the pain to gain some technical advantage. I was able to enjoy Blouberg for what it is; an amazing piece of rock. It is a long way from anywhere and the features I encountered on that wall will be etched into my memory as long as it remains upright.

The next trip I took was a little less adventurous. I spent a few days walking between the best camp site in the country and the God No! Wall, three months after my trip to Blouberg. In between I had not really climbed anything significant.  I had one sole mission in Boven; a thirty five meter endurance piece that I had been on a year prior to the trip; Monster.

Click to view full size image

My friend Greg on one of the lower cruxes on Monster (29/7c+)

 This time I did not have to dust cobwebs off of my shoes though. I had a shiny new pair, tested only a few times in the gym and on familiar routes. It was an ambitious project off of the couch but I had no desire to climb any of the other routes on the kilometers of sandstone in the area. So I hopped on the route, all odds against me and fell off of it more times than I care to reveal.

On the final day of the trip, the car was packed and I was working out how I could get back to Boven to send. I stubbornly tied in again. My new Sharks felt so good on my feet. They are tough to get on as they are a slipper fit. Once they are on though, the fit is amazing. They are tight fitting but they are incredibly comfortable for such a tight fitting shoe. This is what amazes me about them. There are no uncomfortable pressure points. Their flexibility in the midsole allowed me to smear on the most polished rock in the country countless times, only to fall off higher up because my arms gave in.

This time was different. I moved through each crux as if it were the crack of the headmaster’s cane, punishing me for every time I had fallen off. I berated myself through every sequence, telling myself that I WILL clip the chains. The downturn in my Sharks was perfect for the steep rock up above. I understood then that it was my familiarity with the Mad Rock rubber that allowed me to trust any foot placement. Just before the last 10 meters of climbing I noticed some blood on the rock. When I realised the source was my own hand I chalked up to stem the flow and pulled through the last three places I had fallen to clip the chains.

The Sharks were ideal for this longer route. They are great for overhanging walls and have excellent smearing ability. They have enough rigidity without sacrificing too much sensitivity, being much softer than the Demons. I am not saying that they are by any means suitable for an eleven pitch route but my experience of shoes that do not fit properly or are too uncomfortable assures me that their comfort level surpasses what you would expect from any tight climbing shoe, let alone from such a down turned and technically capable shoe.