Falling, failing, missing the goal, shot, net, hole, hold, catch. Losing, tripping, crashing, hitting the ground, all of these things happen and all of these things are part of the process.
This last weekend was my first real trad climbing trip to Index, that’s all we did, place gear and climb cracks. Our first climb was called Aries. It’s a 3 pitch 5.8 with a wide start, a flared chimney, and a bit of a roof. All things I’m not super stoked on or good at. So I was a bit stunned by Mike’s reply when I asked him who was leading what pitches. “You’re leading all of them” he said. Shit… I’m getting more comfortable with placing gear and climbing cracks, but a lot of it still feels foreign and up until now I had never taken a fall on gear before.
I racked my gear, started up the wide section, placed a blue number 3 cam and tried to get my fists to fit in the crack. None of this was graceful by the way. I was cursing under my breath, huffing, pissed and staring at that cam thinking “I’m totally about to take a fall on this… Fuck it! Here we go…” I groveled my way up a few moves past my piece, was smearing with my left foot and trying to find something substantial for my right, but it was awkward. I was almost there, fingers touching the hold that would secure my passage on to the ledge in front of me, and my foot popped. Falling is part of the process.
I gave a bit of a frustrated cry as my gear and Mike caught me. I sat there in my harness out of breath, frustrated, panting, and a bit excited honestly. YES! It totally holds! I mean I knew logically that cams are supposed to work, but it’s another thing entirely to have the experience of one working. I looked down and had a very nice three tiered rope burn from my ankle half way up my calf with a definite bruise and bloody knee pending. Mike was stoked, I was stoked, we laughed, I caught my breath and got to the ledge my second go. The rest of the climb was great too, I had fun in the try-hard frustrating sense, but ultimately I felt really good about my performance and my efforts.
Climbing cracks still feels like another language in many ways, but I’ve got the falling figured out so it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the equation is translated.