Monday, January 23


Pachamama. I've completely lost count, but I bet I've tried this route 35 days. My progress for the first month was very slow but tangible on almost every climbing day. In retrospect I did not at all arrive prepared - I built the necessary resistance and power on the route. Day after day. It would be late December when I finally one hung the route from a low point. Days after that I was regularly climbing into the red point crux from the ground. Albeit desperate, I felt confident that with my remaining two weeks I could send. Just a day or two into the new year I tore open my finger on an all out one hang effort - again from low on the route. I took nearly a week off from climbing for skin and something different. While my skin healed my body weakened. I returned to the route with a significant loss of progress and stoke. After beating my head against the wall again and again over the next week or so I finally began to crack. Last Monday in freezing cold, windy conditions I finally accepted failure, and in a desperate need to enjoy climbing again I (for the first time since Nov 28) climbed on something different. I did T1 Full Equip 8b+/c, which was outstanding, and so fun. Last Tuesday morning I decided that it would be my final day of attempts on Pachamama.

So much of my life pivots around climbing. I am full-heartedly passionate about it. I am so driven by goals that at times I genuinely feel as though I can't move forward in my life until I succeed. Usually this is a strength that pushes me to my very best, but in times like this it can be downright maddening. This is the longest period in my climbing - ever - that I have gone without accomplishing a goal (since September) and it's certainly not for lack of trying.

I am not (one of) the best, I am not (one of) the strongest, I am not (one of) the most talented. My strength is mostly in the fight. This route has pulled me to the bitter edge. How long am I willing to hold on? When do I throw in the towel? At what point is it just.. simply too much? I have never tried a route so many times before in my life. This is not at all about the grade any more, it's not about the victory or about the high fives or about the accolades. In some ways it doesn't even feel like a climb, it just feels like a challenge. This is purely about my passion and to what extent can I endure all of the doubt, all of the tension, all of the emotion.

Remember when I wrote last Tuesday would be my final day? On my first try I fell on the last move of the 'first half' - an enormous move that's incredibly hard for me. I've likely fallen here 40 or 50 times. On my second try, I climbed through this move and well into the red point crux, falling a couple moves from a likely send. Dru (my good buddy and climbing partner) laughed as he lowered me, 'Well, fuck' I said, 'suppose I'm not giving up quite yet'. This was the first time I had reached this part of the route since I tore my skin open. Each of the next two climbing days I fell in the lower section again, but proceeded to do the huge move, rest on route, and climb to the summit. Saturday I climbed twice into the final moves of the red point crux, with my first try being my best, essentially 1.5 moves away from the route's best rest and a very likely send. Today I somehow bested that effort, but fell just a breath away.

I love this. As maddening as it is, as stressful and expensive and altogether pointless in most respects -- climbing somehow uniquely elicits such powerful emotion and introspection. I feel thoroughly tested, delirious from desire and uncertainty. When I climb Pachamama it will be unquestionably my hardest (mentally if not physically) route and furthermore one of the greatest achievements of my life thus far. I move into my final few days here, after extending my ticket twice. I never quite knew if I had the strength to hold on for this long, through so much doubt and through so many utterly exhausting ups and downs. Now I know. I do.