Went projecting with my friend Jeff today at a climbing area called Flagstone. We rarely do that (go work on projects), so we decided to take the time together.
We hiked in. Warmed up on a couple easy routes. Then went to the project wall.
And as soon as I got there, I was intimidated. I looked up at route X, how overhung it was, how bad the holds were, how there was no place to shake out, etc., and I got that little sick feeling in my stomach.
The excuses started walking around in my brain.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter what “hard” means to you. It could be 5.10a, 5.11.d, 5.13b, or 5.14c. It doesn’t matter. Hard is hard. It’s all relative. And at some point, a climber simply has to say, “Well I’m just gonna try. I’m gonna tie in and start, and climb as hard as I can. Because who cares if I fall? Who cares if I fail?”
But I wasn’t feeling it.
So Jeff got on his project first and he started climbing. And suffering. And being brave. Taking falls. Legs shaking while reaching for difficult clips. Sticking sloping holds then peeling off. Hucking and taking whippers.
And I got excited. Psyched. I thought, “If he can be that brave on his project, then I can be brave myself.”
And I tied in. Cleaned my shoes. Chalked my hands. Started up. Lunged for desperate holds. Went all out.
And then I didn’t do too well. At the third bolt, I got confused. Completely confused. Baffled. I took six falls right there. And I couldn’t get through it. I knew there was a sequence to be discovered, but my body couldn’t make it happen. Or my mind. And I was a little disappointed.
But afterwards, I realized that I still got on the route. I still projected something that scared me. Something that intimidated me. Something so crazy that I didn’t want to try it as soon as I laid eyes on it.
I got on.
I failed but I tried.
And that’s what’s good about climbing, and about climbing with good friends, friends who challenge us.
Sometimes we do something important up there. Push ourselves. Overcome fear. Try something difficult. And survive. And maybe even become better people.
Just a little bit.