I started my summer with three goals: send The Crew (5.14c) in Rifle, send Southern Comfort (5.14a) in Little River Canyon, and send Dream Catcher (5.14d) in Squamish. Each of these goals is ambitious as each route is very hard. I have tried all of them before. I have been working Southern Comfort for about three summers now and only in the hottest part of the year, which is poor strategizing on my part. I have tried The Crew a few times while I was in Rifle, but I have not seriously projected it. I have only gotten on Dream Catcher once, which involved lots of yarding on draws, pulling past moves, and flailing. Dream Catcher is the most ambitious of my summer goals. Only three people have sent it, one of which being Chris Sharma, who established the climb in 2005.
Projecting in Rifle - Nicholas Milburn
Goal number one was to go to Rifle and send The Crew. Tiffany Murphy and I set out for Rifle as soon as school let out. The plan was to stay in Rifle for about a month where I would session The Crew every day until I did it. Day One on The Crew was a terrible display of rock climbing. I hung at every bolt multiple times, grabbed almost every draw, and flailed my way to the top. I did do every move though. The sport climbing process is a delicate and ugly art that must be respected. Days went by in which I slowly progressed and figured out the best beta possible. One of the hardest parts about projecting The Crew, or projecting in general, is realizing how all the hard moves can be put together. The Crew has so many hard moves, and the cruxes are so hard that putting everything together would require the perfect moment.
One day, magic happened. I stuck the first crux move from the bottom, which is only two draws up. I was excited I did it, but then I fell two moves after. My next go, I got a little bit farther but fell pretty close to my last try. The next go however was much better. I was finally starting to get higher than the third draw. Getting to the first rest was a nice way point. It is only about a third or a fourth of the way up, but rests are a good place to mark progress. They separate the climb into little sections. The first time I got to the first rest, I nearly pulled the second crux and made it to the second rest. I was really surprised when I stuck the crux move of the second crux on my first try from the bottom. I fell only three moves from the second rest.
I really wanted to get to that second rest to help mark off another stage of progress. The next couple days, I kept trying and falling on the same move as before.
Another good way to judge progress is to do it in the least number of hangs possible. For me, getting a climb to as few hangs as possible gives me the confidence to do the climb from the bottom. I started being proud of the number of hangs when I got it down to five hangs. From there, I got it down to three hangs pretty quickly. I was really excited when I got it down to two hangs. Each time you eliminate a hang, it gets harder and harder to improve. The good ole’ one hang was quite hard to do. The top crux felt hard enough even from during the two hang. One glorious day I was going for the one hang and desperately managed to stick the finish jug.
My next go after the one hang, I had mad determination to stick the move I kept falling at from the beginning. When I got up there from the beginning, I squeezed extra hard and stuck the move. I was really tired by this time and fell touching the next move. This was one of the most frustrating falls because the next hold was the second rest. I was frustrated because I fell, but excited because I made progress. Acknowledging little victories is important.
I took a rest day and tried again. I felt good when I got on the wall. The pockets through the first crux felt good, and I felt good when I got to the first rest. I kept climbing and got through the second crux and made it to the second rest. I was excited but stayed calm. I felt surprisingly good when I was resting. I considered not resting at all I felt so good. I kept climbing thought the next section and got into the last crux. I threw a knee bar in the roof which breaks up the last crux into two pieces and relaxed a bit. Even this close to the top I felt very calm and surprising fresh. There is a move just before the finish jug that I always had a hard time with. It was a desperate throw to a bad scoop hold. This time though I just locked off and reached to it. It was the most static I ever did that move. When I jumped to the finish, my foot cut a little, but I stuck it back on, and I clipped the chains.
That try was the best try I have ever had on a sport climb. The only move that did not feel absolutely perfect was when my foot cut slightly on the last move. I felt very strong all the way through the climb. I did not feel pumped or tired when I was on the wall. However, when my feet touched the ground my arms started to burn.
Sending The Crew was the greatest moment in my sport climbing life thus far.