Paige Claassen writes about how "a swift shift of the mind" led to her unexpected send of Algorithm...
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In early September, I lowered off "Algorithm" on a busy Memorial Day weekend, surrounded by friends and strangers who congratulated me on the route’s second ascent, following Jonathan Siegrist’s first ascent in 2012. My smile could have only portrayed a mix of excitement and shock, having finished my fall goal in a quarter of the time I expected. Had I really done it? Are you guys sure I didn’t fall somewhere and forget? Is the anchor really clipped? Did I use an off hold? Oh wait, we’re not in the gym, everything is on. Okay, I guess it’s done then?
I felt proud of my accomplishment, but prouder about my attitude. I had managed a swift shift of the mind, and it had worked. A week before, I had settled comfortably into the projecting process, prepared for six weeks of giving it hell, and perhaps a return trip in the spring to finish it off if necessary. I would stick to the formula, whittling the route down to five hangs, then four, then three, then two, then one, with a few burns in each phase.
But then it hit me. I knew all the beta. If I just didn’t fall once, then twice, then three times through the cruxes, I would send. Obvious. Cliché. And true. Just don’t fall.
Suddenly I had confidence; this was possible. I felt no pressure; this was still the beginning of my trip. I was having fun and hadn’t yet slid down that slippery slope of self-doubt.
On my first burn of September 2nd, I left the ground and returned 45 minutes later having sent, what on paper would seem, my hardest grade: 5.14d.
We all want to climb at the next level, and I’ll admit part of what originally motivated me to try "Algorithm" was that I had never climbed 5.14d. But after sending, the grade became very convoluted. The route took me significantly less time and effort than many of the hardest routes I’ve done. It didn’t feel like I’d just taken my climbing to the next level. Instead, it just felt like I’d done a really amazing climb that suited my strengths, and I had a full month to enjoy all the other stunning lines at The Fins. Basically, it felt perfect.
I’m certain very few people will agree with me on this, but what I learned is that grades are irrelevant when you’re climbing at or near your limit. A 5.14d that suits my strengths (vertical, technical, small holds, hard boulders, big rests) could feel much easier than a 5.14a that challenges my weaknesses (steep, compression, endurance). We all have biases based on our relative skillsets and preferences. That variety is what makes climbing so special and stimulating.
Through "Algorithm" I also realized that it’s possible for me to adopt a laid-back attitude, although those who know me well might disagree. I’m fairly high strung, though I’ve been told I hide it well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet my own expectations, which are often unreasonable. But on this trip, I cut myself some slack, knowing that I might not finish the route in one season. I also knew that whether or not I sent, my life would be no different. My friends would still want to hang out with me, my husband would still love me, and my Grandma would still gasp every time she saw a photo of me climbing, no matter the grade. For the record, I showed her a photo of "Algorithm" and…she gasped.
I got to climb one of the most incredible routes in the country, and I had the time of my life. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me.
Preview Photo & Video: ©Tara Kerzhner
Photo 2: ©Arjan de Kock
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PAIGE CLAASSEN has been a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team for 9 years.
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