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Projects and Heartaches - Alex Johnson

Projects and Heartaches - Alex Johnson
February 20, 2012 - 

I'd never climbed in Red Rocks before, so I didn't really know what to expect. My first day in town I was solo and guideless out at the boulders, and it was an interesting experience. I don't often climb alone; I gain a lot of motivation from the motivation of others and usually find it hard to get psyched by myself. Plus it's always nice to be spotted. But this time was different, it was strangely rejuvenating. I've found myself climbing solely for the pureness of climbing this fall/winter, and it was heightened even more going out alone. Like I wasn't climbing for anyone but myself, which is how it always should be anyway. It was just different. I don't know how to explain it. Maybe I was just excited to be in a new area.


The climbing in Red Rocks is loads of fun. I found the style a mixture of Joe's Valley and Hueco... both areas I'm fond of.

I had my sights set on one beautiful problem. Book of Nightmares (V12) is back in Gateway Canyon. It’s a stunning, squeezy thugfest arête on the same giant boulder as Lethal Design. The crux is linking the second and third moves, but the problem is sustained, and refuses to let up the whole way through. It’s a little committing at the top, because the flat landing suddenly disappears and you find yourself over a pile of boulders. Nightmares was one of the hardest, but most inspiring problems I’ve tried.

Lately I’ve been in the no-project mindset, where if I can’t do something quickly that’s that and I move on. I think it’s because I was climbing in new areas and there was so much to try it didn’t feel right to have to spend two or more days on one problem when I knew I had a limited time. But Nightmares was different. Maybe there is something tantalizing about projecting a climb. My entire time in Vegas was spent eyeing it, staring at it, thinking about it, waiting for the right conditions, the perfect day. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that it would be awesome. It was intimidating me, just sitting there, and I was almost afraid to try it because I knew how difficult it would be.

When we finally got on it, it turned out to be everything I was expecting. Powerful but complex, and so much fun. I saved it all up for that last day in Vegas, my last chance at doing Book of Nightmares. I felt strong and I came close, so close. In the end night fell, I was exhausted and nursing a split tip.
It very nearly broke my heart walking away from it, leaving something unfinished. I hate when I can’t do things, because in my mind I can do anything. But finally having a project, and having to leave it behind, has been good for me.
Although I do feel like The Book of Nightmares was the one that got away, I can't say I walked away from Red Rocks empty handed. I did so many amazing boulder problems, including Stake Your Claim (V10), Americana Exotica (V10), Scare Tactics (V10), and making the first female ascents of Lethal Design (V12) and Stand and Deliver (V11).
The next day Fritz and I took off for Hueco, where we’ll be until ABS Nationals. I’m getting only a little tired of making these long hauls solo, Fritz is completely worthless as a driving companion.


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