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Why do we climb? What is it about this past time that gets us hooked? Is it the great outdoors or the travel to new, exotic places? The buzz we get from reaching the top or the endorphin rush from pushing our body to the limit? Some may desire the ability to go into the unknown and succeed on their first attempt, while others prefer re-visiting the known on countless occasions until it succumbs to their dogged and relentless pursuit for evolution.

The answer, of course, is whatever you wish it to be. In fact it might be an accumulation of all of the above that keeps you climbing, but the area I want to explore is the last point in the above paragraph. That drive to improve and torment, to push yourself ever harder on that “project” you have been trying for two days, two weeks, two months or even two years. So, what is your timeline when talking about “projecting”? Some may feel that having to come back more than once to a climb is projecting, whilst others may try for years and even resort to building a replica for strength training and muscle memory. Again the answer is ambiguous; it’s at the owner’s discretion.

For me, as I think for most, projecting is a long-term attribute, which can range from a number of sessions to a number of years spent trying that elusive route or boulder. As with all areas of climbing, projecting is a skill and one that must be tinkered with constantly or it will poison our mind with the seed of self-doubt. Projecting is a skill that I do not possess in my repertoire, or at least I didn’t possess until quite recently. I would say I have never spent longer than six or seven sessions on a problem, to some this may seem ridiculous while to others it may be a mere drop in the ocean. However, the sessions have never been regular or successive; they have been sporadic, strung out and fitted in to suit my daily life and how I am feeling at the time. I tend to work better with quick ticks to build my confidence and sooth my ego but unfortunately this only works when you first visit an area. If you return time and again to an area then eventually you are going to have to dive head first into the “projecting” pool, and this is what I have just done!

El Corazon 2

El Corazon, 8B. Photo: Jeremy Huckins

I have been to Rocklands twice before and therefore have exhausted the place of what I could climb relatively quickly. This year I had a list of four climbs I really wanted to try. They weren’t any harder, in grade terms, than what I have climbed before but each climb had something about it, something that I found difficult, and something that meant hard work was in order if I were to achieve success.

They were-
1. Ray of Light 8B
2. The Power of One 8B
3. King of Limbs 8B+
4. El Corazon 8B

And how did they go-
1. I had a brief session at the start of the trip but never returned.
2. I managed it first go on my fifth session.
3. I had 4-5 sessions; managed all the moves and got very close on the link.
4. I managed it first go on my second session this year but had tried it briefly on a previous trip.

However what I climbed is not the important part, the important part is the progress I made when I had a number of sessions in close succession. This is where I hear you all say: “of course you make progress with successive sessions that are in close proximity to one another” and when I say it to myself it makes complete sense but I don’t think I had honestly thought about it before.

On my first sessions on both ‘The Power of One’ and ‘King of Limbs’ I couldn’t do all the moves and I left feeling that they were beyond me. However on returning a day or two later the moves were completed and it was onto linking them together. Both climbs had gone from feeling unlikely to totally in the realms of possibility. I hadn’t gotten any stronger, or fitter but my muscles had remembered what it was I was asking of them and they were nice enough to comply. After that a little progress was made each session until ‘The Power of One’ was complete and ‘King of Limbs’ was no longer possible due to my shoulder.

Power of One 2

The Power of One, 8B. Photo: Killko Caballero

Although I was over the moon with my sends, what really inspired me was what I had learnt and with this knowledge bottled it’s onto the next project….. and ‘King of Limbs’ will just have to wait till next year!

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