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Always learning by Natasha Barnes

Always learning by Natasha Barnes
May 10, 2010 -  Natasha Barnes    

More news from Yosemite Valley as the bouldering season begins and just as quickly is coming to an end.


After spending a successful Winter and Spring season sport climbing I have made the transition to bouldering again. Unfortunately as fast as the Spring bouldering season came this year it's already going. Camp IV and the North side of the Valley are already too warm to climb and the South side is starting to warm up too. My Valley season (consisting of three consecutive weekends) hasn't been a bad one in terms of climbing. Thanks to the gym I haven't lost too much bouldering strength. Although it was too hot for sending my project (Drive On V10/11 which is on the North side), I did manage to send a few new things and repeat other great climbs that I've already done before. Some of the new sends include; The Pugilist V9, Silly Roof V7/8, No Holds Bard V7 (first female ascent of an old Yosemite classic!!!!) Atlantis V6, Chocolate Bunny V6, and Picasso V4 among others.

Sending The Pugilist was a great experience. I had worked on it the weekend before and gotten really close. When I went back to make the send the following weekend it was slightly damp because of rain during the week but I still managed to come close. That same day we went over to The Force and I came close to repeating it, falling on the last move. My friend who I had driven up with had to get home and hitched a ride back to the Bay with some friends. Suddenly, and for the first time in my life, I was by myself on a climbing trip, free to do as I pleased. What an odd feeling.

Alone in the Camp IV parking lot with my pads and super motivated by the near repeat of one of the hardest climbs I've done (after climbing routes all season!!). I decided to give The Pugilist one more try before it got dark and since it has a great flat landing and isn't too tall I knew it would be fine to try it alone. It felt weird to drive over by myself and carry all my pads to the climb and set up all alone. I started to lose a little psych because I've never climbed alone before. There was no group energy and that is something I normally thrive off of.  I brushed the holds and as I chalked up I thought "well...let's just see what happens," I pulled on with no expectations.

The climb had had all day to dry off a little bit more and the added friction coupled with the muscle memory of trying the climb previously made every move feel easy. I executed perfectly, I grabbed each hold just right and before I knew it I was topping out. When I got to the top I looked down to where my spotters would normally be and no one was there. I looked around from the top of the boulder and saw no one. I was all alone and no one had seen me climb. At first it felt a little lonely, no cheers, no excitement, no one to high-five, but then I felt elated and also exhilarated and free. I climbed for no one but myself. I wasn't performing, I had no distraction and as a result I was very present  during the climb (a mentality that I think is very rare in bouldering).

I've never climbed something difficult by myself before. Bouldering is inherently social and done in groups, there are almost always other people around. Most people like this aspect of it and I think that is why bouldering has gained so much popularity in the last 10 years.  Although on the other hand I have friends who actually enjoy bouldering alone or in very small groups. I enjoy small group bouldering but I was never able to relate to bouldering alone. When you boulder you have to motivate and rally some "try hard"  and having initially developed as a competition climber I thrive on group energy for this. I explained in an interview on Dead Point Magazine how as a result of an injury my motivation and inspiration for climbing has changed over the last four years, this along with my most recent experience with The Pugilist has finally helped me understand and relate to the pleasure and gratification of bouldering alone.

I met my friends Courtney and Will at The Mountain Room in Yosemite Village and told them about the send. Will bought me a beer in celebration. The Sharks game was on and Courtney is a MAJOR fan. I sat there and watched the game with them having a limited knowledge of hockey but it didn't matter, I felt very content with my day.


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