Project 365 has been a struggle, climbing every day without a day off, but currently I have logged 27,200 vertical feet in 103 consecutive days climbing. Over the better part of April, we have been in Zion NP, getting reacquainted with the hardship of the desert, making big strides and learning humility.
Moonlight Buttress in a Day and Other Desert Foolery - Steve Richert
Our arrival in Zion was predictably anti-climactic. I did a run up the classic area moderate, Ashtar Command which left me feeling as though maybe I could hold my own in this austere environment. In a short couple of days, I got a large serving of humble-pie upon attempting some of the sandy and occasionally loose cracks and the punishing splitters that abound here. Having lived in Springdale a few years back I expected the skill I had amassed previously to translate. Not so.
I thrutched. Cursed. Threatened to vomit on my belayer, Rob, if he didn't put me down immediately--all to no avail. I felt disappointed, even angry with myself for daring to believe that I could really progress as a climber. I swore off false hope and questioned my sanity for bothering to climb in the first place.
I spent the next several days dealing with the discouragement and trying to find the lesson that always seems to be embedded in defeat. The harder I looked the less I found--and then it hit me. The lesson was the defeat. I needed to get knocked flat out--both to expose my weakness technically, but also to awaken the need to struggle, which is really the whole point of Project 365 in the first place. I decided to go out and simply crush myself and abandon all hopes of climbing success in favor of toughening up and getting the most out of this unforgiving locale.
This led to a plan to climb Moonlight Buttress--initially the intent was to climb it in two days, which would be my first overnight on a wall. Our first attempt got rained on, and after leading up the first pitch and packing 100lbs of gear across the Virgin River, we had to come down and drag it all back across. I decided that the best option would be to go light on our second attempt and fire the route in a day. This strategy proved to be effective and the technical aspect of my Moonlight Buttress ascent was relatively uneventful.
My greatest struggle came with dehydration and high blood sugar. Part of living with type 1 diabetes is knowing that your sugar may be up one day and down the next--sometimes these fluctuations occur on a much shorter basis. I had to give myself insulin injections while climbing and even this did not bring my sugar down right away. I usually try and avoid taking insulin on a climb because of the risk of low blood sugar but up on the flanks of Moonlight Buttress, I had to take that risk and responsibly deal with it.
Climbing Moonlight in a day was definitely challenging physically, but it was more of a psychological breakthrough for me, since I had to take my management of Diabetes with me on a new level--literally--and it really opened my eyes to a new world of possibility.
Additionally, I got on some sport routes that I had been working for a while back in 2010 and was able to finally send my 12a project, a short, nameless route that will not gain me any accolades besides my own personal satisfaction--but that is enough for me!
From here, we are on to Moab to climb some desert towers before working our way back to California and heading into Yosemite!