Some stockpile of motivation deep inside me activates. I crank down. I try. I try really really hard.
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I’m staring down the barrel of the long sideways move out left, the intro to the crux. I guess I’ll take a moment to assess the conditions, even though my training barks “focus only on the task at hand.” The air is warm – too warm. Where was that unnerving wind, the one that twisted all my quickdraws around the bolts, blew my hair in my eyes, and made that distracting noise as it whipped around the arête to my right, yet kept me on the wall. Now, not even a hint of breeze graces the warm red rock. No one is cheering anymore. I’m all alone up here.
Smith Rock has drawn me back once more. Another spring spent splitting tips and sharing smiles with my favorite community in the world. But this time is different. I’m working on something that will likely take years to achieve. To me, "Just Do It" is one of the most iconic sport lines in the world. When Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Tribout first completed "Just Do It" in 1992, it was the hardest route in America at 5.14c (8c+). Today, it stands as a technical test of mental stamina, finger strength, and power.
I snatch the two finger edge out left. It feels terrible, as expected. For an inkling of a moment, I almost let go. Then I remember all those presentations I’ve been giving, where I drill the importance of trying hard, giving your all, and not making excuses. I can’t fall, lower, and complain about the conditions. That’s not me. Some stockpile of motivation deep inside me activates. I crank down on that index finger crimp. I try. I try really really hard.
Over the last few weeks I’ve made consistent progress on "Just Do It." I did each individual move on day two. On day four I linked the entire section of white rock, the “first pitch”. Soon after, I one-hung the route from the middle of the crux. Next I strung the entire crux together, climbing from the final rest to the anchor. Four days ago I fell just two moves from the “safe zone”. I was basically out of the crux when I fell on the final difficult exit moves. The only progress that remains is to clip the chains.
This next move is long, I’m extended from toes to fingertips. I’m cranking on and aiming for the two worst holds on the route. Sharp teeth bite into my soft tips, but this time I’m unwilling to let go. I lunge out left to the positive pod, earning a moment to collect myself.
As I hiked over Misery Ridge today, I felt sluggish. The sun zapped my energy and my legs felt heavy. I almost had to stop and rest on the 30-minute hike. I knew that decision would destroy my confidence for the day, even though I’ve always been better at climbing than walking. I didn’t rest, but I wanted to. I must conquer this bit of personal humiliation.
The ambient noises return. I’m pulled out of my head and back into my environment. The voice of my friend and climbing partner, Ian Yurdin, drifts up the wall; “You’ve done this before”. He’s right. I’ve linked to the anchor from far below this point. I have only to do it once more.
The next eight moves are hard. Unlike other features at Smith, this headwall is steep, and each move further fatigues my core. My fingers demand precise and efficient footwork, there’s no time for mistakes. As on nearly every project I’ve completed over the last four years, the WOMEN’S MIURA VS is my weapon of choice, the Hattori Hanzo sword of climbing shoes. The pair I don now aren’t fresh out of the box as I like them, but they were 3 weeks ago when they guided me up "Badman" (14a), a personal nemesis from years past. I carry that small piece of confidence with me.
I’ve done this before. So I start plowing. Unlike the first part of the crux, this section feels more tame than usual, despite the devastatingly still air. I’m confident in my movements. I will not fall off the top.
Trying hard means engaging every fiber in my body. It’s an action I’ve learned only recently, after fourteen years of incessant practice. I have to fight every time I go out climbing, whether I’m redpointing, working moves, or repeating routes I’ve done many times before. Make every day count.
I’m clipping the chains and the wind roars around the arête. But I don’t care. I Just Did It!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paige Claassen has been a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team for 8 years.
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