Cleaning the crimp for clip one / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
I began cleaning and working moves on a possible 5.14 in LCC on the first day I’ve had off in months when it wasn’t snowing or raining. I spent a solid hour scrubbing the route with my trusty barbecue brush and a sharp lapis on all the crimps. As I cleaned it, I studied the sequences with a strong hope of finding some new foot or a better hold I wasn’t seeing. The rock is in terrible condition. Calling it chossy might just be an understatement because holds would crumble under my weight every time I put my foot on them. The route is very steep, and all the holds are sharp and thin. At that steep of an angle, even good holds feel like hell.
The clouds started to get heavy. I knew I wouldn’t have another chance to project it for a while so I turned my psyche on high and started the long process of projecting an insanely challenging and terrifying route.
No feet rail / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
I thought my skin was going to rip off my fingers the moment I pulled on it. Blood blisters formed on my fingertips, and each move triggered a screaming pain throughout my tendons. The crux seemed to move farther away from me burn after burn. Fearful thoughts of decking on the boulder behind me, smashing my face on the rock in front of me, breaking my legs, or cracking my skull began creeping in.
Thinking over my beta on crux number one / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
I sat back on the adjacent boulder to rethink the beta. My sequence to the first bolt is clean, but the thin rail I have to fight up to the next bolt is incredibly nerve-wrecking, mainly because the feet are just not there. Smearing on granite this steep is a challenge I’m not used to. The amount of agony it takes for me to pull these moves and clip the second bold makes this one of the most frightening sequences I have ever attempted.
Moving up to crux number two / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
Thunder rang in the background like a gunshot, indicating my last burn until next week (if the weather works in my favor). I made the most of my final go even though I felt horrible because I couldn’t send. I remembered a quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters: “Find what scares you, and live there.” I tied in, chalked up, and replayed the moves in my mind.
I thought, “Feel confident. Be strong. Be honored. Now move.” Calmness came over me. I tapped into the soloing mindset, put pain and fear behind me, and simply climbed. After I got through the first sequence, I thought, “time for the crux: crossover to a tiny undercling, backstep, lock-off, throw to the first miserable crimp”. At that point, pain rocked my body into shock. “Focus! Keep moving to the next crimp. Breathe. Scream through to the last hold and clip!” As I pulled a bight, agony and pain took over once again and I fell.
It will go / Photo: Eric Scott Russell
I sat there dangling in space for a moment. I felt angry and defeated, but gratefulness ultimately cleared away all my frustrations; gratefulness that I can move through such an epic challenge, greatful that Victor and Shane had a vision to bolt this line and clean it so well. Apreciation for all the amazing support of friends and sponsors, and stoke to take on the impossible once again. I reminded myself that this year is all about fear, and I’m definitely pushing it farther than I ever had before I saw this project.