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The Game V15 - 3rd Ascent - Jon Cardwell

The Game V15 - 3rd Ascent - Jon Cardwell
January 15, 2013 - 

Last Monday I drove up to Boulder, Canyon with Matty Hong and Scott Clark. It was feeling warm in Boulder but we decided a long awaited recon mission to check out "The Game" would be worth the 10 minute drive. I have tried the boulder on and off since I witnessed Carlo Traversi make the 2nd ascent in March, 2011. I tried it numerous days that season, and while I was recovering from a ruptured A2 pulley at the time I managed to make great progress until my attempts were shut down by warm summer weather.  I let the problem rest but it didn't leave my mind.


In the late fall of that year I returned to Boulder Canyon. I spent a few days rearranging my beta and quickly started trying it from the beginning. To my surprise, one afternoon I was climbing on the problem by myself and managed to nearly climb it, only to fall at the last move because of a foot slip...I fell into the rocks and snow. I was pretty shaken up but not injured. I tried to continue climbing but it was useless, I needed partners to feel confident. I recorded the attempt on my iphone and posted it on the Island website, which a lot of my friends made fun of.  Bummer. In a lot of ways I laid the problem to rest that day and my motivation to return suffered. I had worked on the problem for numerous days and the moves were becoming boring, especially coming as close as I did. I decided I would spend some time focusing on other projects that motivated me and return when everything felt right.

The break was longer than I expected, over a year. I had a productive competition season, visited Rifle again, and had a extended trip to the Red River Gorge. It was a great year for climbing but "The Game" always lingered. I knew I had to return to move forward.  

Fast forward to 2013, I found myself back in Colorado, The Game looming overhead.  Normally, I begin to get nervous with thoughts like 'its prefect weather, you're going to do it' or 'now is your chance'. This time was different, I thought nothing of the cold weather except I couldn't feel my toes and I was excited to start warming up. Two kids from the Movement youth team joined us. I coached at Movement Climbing and Fitness for over a year. I let their mother know that everything was going to be ok, even though the freezing weather was less than ideal.  

Matty and I started warming up by trying the moves while Jack and Ivar anxiously watched. It's funny to think that years ago, I was no different, watching climbers like Chris Sharma or Dave Graham climb amazing things, the only difference here was that they are able to witness it first hand. I think it has a lot to do with how climbing has evolved, how its so much more accessible than when I was their age, 10 years ago.  

Once we were warmed up, which was not easy, I started trying some links. The first test is always to check out the crux, a short 3 move sequence with high feet in an extremely odd position  I managed to stick them with not much trouble so I figured it wouldn't hurt to begin from the start. I rested and gave one attempt but I fell on the 2nd move in the crux sequence. Initially I thought, this is the same thing that always happens but for some reason I let it go quickly. Minutes later I pulled on again, and it was the moment I was waiting for, the sequence was unlocking perfectly, the moves felt right, my skin was sticking and it was the feeling of being weightless. I finished The Game, my longest and most challenging battle yet. I was lost for words when I got down. 

While it's great to finish a long term project it's surprising sometimes how little the actual ascent effects you. The real satisfaction comes from the process it took to arrive there. That is what climbing is all about in a lot of ways, the process, and while we may have success here and there, we will never be finished. One to the next one!


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