Moments of Reflection: It’s All in the Attitude When in Altitude!

When it comes to climbing, proficiency in physical components such as ability, skills, technique, flexibility, balance, aerobic shape, strength, and so forth is obviously quite important.  However, my attitude, my psyche, or better yet…the Inner Me is also a huge percentage of my game.

December of this year I will officially turn 3 years of age; that is as a climber.  I am so grateful that in the short time I have been climbing, I have accomplished quite a bit and climbed in numerous destinations all over.  That being said, rather than chasing numbers, I have recently been prioritizing on enhancing the Inner Me amongst a few other important things (e.g., continuously advance learning safety and rigging systems, improve technical skills, refine my toe work, move towards being a proficient, well rounded and consistent climber, etc.).

Awesome climbing partners help push through the good and bad days, making every journey worth the trip!

This week I visited Salt Lake City, Utah for work and so I fit in a quick climbing weekend with some really awesome friends.  We climbed at Parley’s Canyon and Cecret Lake.  I learned on this trip that it is not always about hard climbing, checking off the tick list, onsighting, red pointing, but sometimes it is the journey itself that teaches you even more important lessons along the way.

In looking back, here are valuable climbing affirmations I made that will help build a stronger, climbing Inner Me.

I will hear what my body has to say before my ego.  We visited a beautiful crag that was at ~10,000 feet above sea level.  I never thought twice about it because I climb everywhere and anywhere.  But in this instance, for the first time, the altitude affected me.  I was leading a tricky, but what I think is a fairly easy climb, yet I was short of breath and felt weak.  Normally, I gun it and take the chance, and push through it and do just fine.  However, I chose not to red-point that climb, took it easy on my leads, and enjoyed climbing with such a cool and fun-filled crew! In looking back I realized for once my body was talking to me and I listened to it, not something so easy for me to do having been an elite athlete growing up.

This right climbing attitude is just what the doctor ordered, a beautiful send followed!

I will learn to conquer and not be conquered! – My current climbing weapons: smearing, high stepping, slopers and gymnastic/cirque de soleil calculated moves. However, since climbing with Silvia Fitzpatrick from Spain, I have made it a point to become more efficient on all styles of climbing so that, (A) when I climb lines that are more along my comfort zones, I can push the challenge on grade and climb strong, and (B) I can broaden my climbing journey by opening up just that many more options by which I can lead myself.  Well I noticed that the rock and style of the crags we visited in Utah were so beautiful, but highlighted the least of my climbing strengths.  I realized that when I cannot use my weapons, I almost have a ‘duh, how do I climb moment’.  So my attitude helped me get conquered rather than to conquer. I need to have a stronger ‘I am going to do it attitude’ when I take on climbs out side of my comfort zones. Adopting this positive attitude will put me well more than ½ way to conquering that climb!

And this is part of why we take on the journey, for beautiful moments like this….

I will accept less than a ‘perfect 10’.   I was an elite gymnast, and well…by default I am a perfectionist and sometimes overanalyze so I can bank on the best moves through each sequence.  I do a mental salute to the judges, hit it hard, and I only see a literal perfect 10 at the end with a final salute to the judges!  Well…in this Utah trip I realized I am my own judge and need to start defining what is my perfect 10 for that day or climb.  Sometimes it will be an onsite or red point, sometimes its just making it to the top, sometimes its bailing and settling the score next time, or it could be learning a new technique, and so on and so on.  I realize it is important to achieve new heights and push through challenges most of the time, but sometimes I need to fall short (and be ok with it!) as part of becoming a stronger and efficient climber and more importantly, building a stronger climbing Inner Me.  I walked away with not my best climbing performance, but with a much more mature and stronger Inner Me.  Why?  I was able to walk away and accept and love everything I learned from this trip. This is truly a huge milestone for me, hooooooorrrrraaay!

Accept the Journey as it is handed to you and work with what you have.

I must accept the Journey as it is handed to me and work with what I have.  Laura and I visited a cool crag called Parley’s Canyon. En route to the crag I was consumed thinking about the sketchy approach at this crag.  We had already planned contingencies that were safe, but I still let those negative Nancy thoughts take stabs at my climbing Inner Me.  One contingency was finding a well-defined wrap station.  We found it, the hardware looked solid, and as I waited above for Laura to finish and get off rappel, the rope bounced back up and got stuck on a ledge not within reach for Laura.  A man climbing the line next to us graciously traversed over on top rope (TR) and fixed the rope so I could set up my rappel and safely wrap down. We then racked up for a warm up, and as I looked at the line, I kept telling Laura, this does not look like our warm up (later we found out it was an 11c difficult for its grade!).  As Laura made it to the first high bolt, got clipped in, she ran into crux issues, a few whippers later, the ugliest wind storm came in. So we bailed, and packed up.  Then we saw some clear skies way yonder in the horizon, so as quick as we packed up, we racked back up!  We were able to determine the warm up we wanted right next to the 11c. As soon as Laura clipped the first bolt, the windstorm came back for a visit, and raindrops started falling.  When Laura finished, we chose for me to TR (note, I don’t TR nearly as well as I lead, I avoid TR outdoors!) and maybe pull up the rope and walk off. With all my mental drainage, Mother Nature and inability to focus when on TR, I climbed so inefficiently and at the top, I assessed it would be safer to wrap down than walk off.  We packed up and found a gulley to hike out of the crag with, which I think was great because there were lots of small rocks and trees here and there you making it easy to scramble up.  At the end of that excursion, I realized before I left my car, my attitude was not in the right place, so when we ran into a glitch, I let it affect my psyche and climbing performance. I sometimes have to accept that not everything that comes my way is how I want it be, but in the moment, I need to accept what comes my way and work within what I have to help achieve good climbing performance. So in this case, we found a solid approach in and out of the crag and avoided that sketchy approach everyone was talking about, listened to Mother Nature and backed off a harder climb and accept to take a stab at it on a better day, and were able to get on a fun climb. I actually really had a fun time and most of all, had the coolest and sweetest partner to climb with, this element alone is something to be so grateful for!

Final Words of Wisdom  In reading this post, I am not in anyway indicating it is bad to chase numbers, or one should not strive to achieve climbing clean.  Pushing oneself, onsighting and red pointing brings on such amazing feelings of achievement and reward.  However, my goal is not to become a 5.15 sport climber (haha!), but rather be a stellar destination climber.  That is to be able to go anywhere in the world and have the mental and physical skill sets to take on that climbing journey, whether it be sport or trad, single or multiple pitches, steep or vertical lines, and so on.  Regardless of your climbing goal, let us all continue building a strong, happy and healthy Inner Me!

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