I’ve been on the road for a long time now. I’ve climbed a lot of great routes and had a lot of fun doing it. Most of the time I go out looking to climb 5.fun. The Yosemite decimal system is the method used to grade climbs in the USA. In a very short explanation, all rock climbs start with a 5, and the second number designates the difficulty. These range from 5.0 to 5.15. It’s a little relative because depending upon a climber’s height, hand size, and preferred style routes can seem easier or harder. I’m sharing this because most of the time I’m out solely for the pleasure of the climb, but I also have a goal of sending a 5.12. Sending is a climbing term meaning that I complete the route on lead, start to finish, without weighting the rope for any reason. When I started climbing 5.12’s always seemed impossible, but now, I’m actually pretty close.
Recently, I spent a week climbing with a friend who tends toward “projecting” routes. This means figuring out specific moves in order to climb more efficiently and in turn, “send” harder routes. I visited a variety of her projects and attempted more 12’s than I had in the rest of my climbing career combined. One particular route grabbed my like no route has ever grabbed me, Wildfire, 5.12a. This route is just beautiful. To a climber I describe it with three words; short, steep, and pocketed. There are just so many things that draw me to this route. It’s at this beautiful little crag that nearly no one visits, with the sound of a small waterfall nearby. The route is only 50ft high, but is kicked back at about 30 degrees, with no really great holds after the first third. It’s consistently difficult moves, but no show stoppers, that I just can’t do. It forces fun movements, it’s not straight forward, and feet positioning is absolutely critical. On top of all this, it has lots of bolts and is completely safe to fall from any point on the route.
I became borderline obsessed with sending Wildfire. I visited and revisited it. I memorized the moves. I went for a hike on a rest day and found myself going through the moves as I walked the trail. I could feel the pockets on my fingers as I imagined myself sending. Initially on each visit I got a little closer. One day I climbed the whole route with 1 fall, overlapping the hardest moves when I started again. The next day out I fell above the last bolt. It was essentially the last difficult move on the route. I knew I could do it, but also knew that I had to be perfect for it to happen. I wish that I could finish this blog with a send, but it remains an open project.
Since leaving the Red River Gorge I’ve found myself thinking about Wildfire less frequently, but it will always have a special place in my heart as my first project, and maybe someday it will successfully send. Even though I have not succeeded yet I am still glad to have climbed this amazing route and learned how to project.
I’ve been thinking about the mentality of projecting and how it relates to life. In general I’ve always thought that the on-sight mentality was more of how we live. This is my normal climbing, where I’m seeing and feeling the holds for the first time as I climb it. This becomes all about reading the route effectively, and being able to work with whatever holds I happen to find. As a roaming climber this probably more closely characterizes my current life. But there is also a lot to be said for preparation, persistence, and confidence in what’s ahead. I recently read “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken. This book discussed how faith survives and even thrives in countries where the church was persecuted. They didn’t have the luxury of 4 different versions of the Bible and a pastor with theology training to explain scripture. I was hit by how much scripture they had memorized. One lesson was that if the base didn’t exist when someone became imprisoned there was nothing to grow. Learning scripture and building my relationship with Christ is the most important “project” in my life.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4: 1-5
“Do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8a