Things looked a little bleak when I learned that I would be taking classes for June and July, but this one has turned out to be one of the better summers of my life. Back in July, I started climbing outside again and managed to tick a few great problems at Mt. Evans (Clear Blue Skies and No More Greener Grasses). Last week, I completed The Automator V13 in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was one of my most significant sends thus far, and while it always feels good to complete a project, this success was a little sweeter than most.
I started working on the problem back in mid July. I can’t really take credit for taking the initiative to seek out a V13 that was likely to see a female ascent; Flannery Shay-Nemirow deserves the props for that. She had started climbing on it before I had, and invited me to come work on it. I had some hesitation about climbing on the problem at first, because I didn’t want to disrespect or offend a friend by joining her on a project that she had begun working on before me. We ended up having some great conversations about it and decided to try it together. This raised some interesting issues that I hadn’t been forced to think about before, and you can read all about the details soon in an upcoming UC piece (I can’t give away all the juicy stuff all at once….oh the suspense!).
There were a few days that I was able to climb on it in daylight, but hot temps and a busy school/work schedule forced me to hike up in the evenings and light the problem for the majority of the sessions. Flann and I climbed on it together more days that not, and she had some key beta that helped a lot. It was interesting to work on the problem with someone who has a very different style from my own. While I used the same beta as Flann on most of the moves, the crux went a little differently for both of us. The crux is at the end of the problem and is the ninth move. It involves crossing off a left hand flat edge to a right hand 2 finger crimp/mini pinch. The hold you cross to is one of the oddest holds I’ve ever grabbed. While I wanted to just hit it as a crimp, I was forced to grab it more like a very small pinch. The left hand that you move off of also caused some issues for me. It is basically a flat edge that sticks out from the wall on the right side, creating a blocky end that you can wrap your thumb around and pinch. I, however, hate pinching (probably because I’m very bad at it) and tried as hard as I could to just crimp the crap out of the flat edge. After many failed attempts, I gave in and admitted that pinching would be necessary. The move is a neat mix of power and technique. You get a good foot out right that is at about waist level. Flann had enough power on the left hand that she could just put her foot on and go. I did not find this to be so easy, and ended up having to toe in hard to the foot and get my hips close to the wall, pull up, then cross with my right hand. It took me quite a while to figure this move out, so I was very intimidated by the idea of having to do it after eight other moves. Once I was able to do the crux, I made some good links into it, and then started trying from the beginning.
For me, the length of the problem was definitely an issue, as power endurance is not my forte. The first few days that I climbed to the end, doing the last move felt impossible on link. On my fifth day, I finally started putting in attempts that felt progressively closer. The sixth day I tried the problem was one of the most frustrating, because I had a small hole in my tip that hadn’t healed from trying a few days before, so I hesitated horribly for fear of tearing the hole open. On the seventh day, I got up to lower Chaos while it was still light, and was able to warm up and put in my first attempt before the sun set. I climbed to the end. I did the crux, I got my foot up, moved my left hand, and was on the pad before I could even curse. Of course, cursing followed shortly thereafter. My foot had slipped, and I had fallen where I thought I wouldn’t fall. I was insanely frustrated and really angry with myself. Plus, I was exhausted. I figured that was my one good attempt for the day. I also knew that it was at that point that the boulder problem could become a serious mind game (or more so than it had been). I knew I had done the hardest link of the problem, but it wasn’t done yet. Luckily, I was able to rest for about twenty minutes and send the next go. Epic project experience averted!
It felt very satisfying to complete this problem, as is usually the case when I finish a project. The fact that it was the hardest thing I had ever climbed, and a progression in women’s bouldering (at least in the US) made the accomplishment extra sweet. Just like the delicious McFlurry I ate to celebrate success.
I owe a huge thanks to Flannery for beta, inspiration, seaweed pastries and an amazing brush. I also owe a great deal of thanks to my boyfriend John, who hiked up there with me nearly every day and put up with everything that projecting entails. And of course to Five Ten for the amazing Dragons that I wore to send and Organic for the pad that saved my tailbone many times.
Now on to the next one!