Everyone loves a happy ending. This is the part where we all hope that through perseverance and hard work our underdog comes out on top. We hope that the hardships they’ve endured, the training they’ve subjected their minds and bodies to, and all the pain they’ve had to suffer pays off.
I can’t guarantee you a happy ending. This is where the “Zen” in “Zen of Projecting” comes in. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and you have to walk away. I have heard countless stories of climbers pulling past the crux on the last try of the last day of the trip, only to blow the mantle, or pop off just before the anchor. And now they’re leaving a place that may haunt them for years to come. I have personally lived this adventure many times over, walked away from a great many “near sends.” Unfortunately, a “near send” doesn’t count for much. So we walk away with experience, the pain, the suffering, the sacrifice. Hoping to come back and take it down next time. I learned a long time ago that life doesn’t always go my way, sometimes all you can do is shrug your shoulders and move on.
Our little world of climbing consumes us, keeps us awake at night! The training, the traveling, the dreaming about sending the hardest climb in the most remote and beautiful places in the world! But what difference does it really make? There are times where climbing has been used to feed the hungry, teach the less fortunate how to rise above their birth rite. But these moments are sadly few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, I live the same life of humbly pursuing my own selfish climbing dreams, willing to sacrificing everything for the send. In truth I feel this way about all sports. Does breaking the home run record or rushing the most yards do anything to better the world? No. But they make millions doing it, while the pro climbers of the world live off of less than the last string athlete who is only used in practice and never even makes it to the big game.
So why do we do it? Why do we spend so much time obsessing, dreaming, training and bleeding for this sport?
I wish there was a one size fits all answer for that. In truth everyone climbs for their own reasons. The beauty of climbing is that it doesn’t matter why or how we all got into it, or why we keep doing it. The world has a never ending supply of routes and problems and cracks and walls to keep generation upon generation busy! Maybe that’s part of it. No matter how long you climb or what style you prefer, there is always the hope of finding something new.
That still doesn’t answer why we punish ourselves by going back to the same route over and over again, even when every trip out seems to feel worse than the one before.
When working a project you have to let go of all hope and expectation. You can’t think about the possibilities, good or bad. You have to find the peace to live solely in the moment. Executing one move at a time, calm your breathing, slow your heart rate, fight the pump. Looking up and your hands then down at your feet. When the route is so ingrained in your mind and your movement that you don’t even have to think about the moves, your body just naturally does everything it’s supposed to do.
This is the best feeling ever. When the once impossible has not only become the possible, but the fluid, and maybe even easy. Once you find this balance, the top seems to come so quickly!
I have to throw in one little kink in this vision. On one of my last hard redpoints, I felt perfect! The route just floated! Before I knew it I was at the last hard move. I set up for the deadpoint, locked off knowing that I had this thing done, it felt easier than I could ever remember! Only I was one inch to the left when I went for the crimp… Airborne. I did send later that same day. The sun came out, it was too hot, I was tired, every move felt harder than it should. But I did it anyway. And clipping the anchor never felt better!
As I said, we all work projects for different reasons. And everyones journey is different. All I can hope that you take away from this, is to remember the journey. Cherish the struggle. Find the peace in letting go. Take the impossible and make it yours. And most of all, do it for you.