It’s been a love-hate relationship lately.
I could say that the few days we climbed at The New were spent crushing climbs and sending everything, but it wasn’t. It was me getting stuck and scared on 5.7s and 5.8s. I could say that it was the best time ever, that the weather was perfect and the climbs were even better, but they weren’t.
Climbing used to be this thing I wasn’t scared of, it used to be this thing that I could just go out and do and wouldn’t freeze up on easy moves. I could get on any climbs within my grade and climb them. And have fun climbing them. Then I took a bad ground fall and pretty much climbing has completely changed for me.
Now lead climbing is this scary thing that I can’t seem to get past. As soon as I get inches above my last clipped bolt, all thoughts of how great the climbing is disappear and instead I think about everything that could go wrong. The gear might fail, the bolt might pull; the rock the bolt is in might break. The quick draw might snap, or the rope might break, or my belayer isn’t paying attention and I take a massive whip.
Very rarely now do I just enjoy the climb and the moves unless it is massively under my climbing grade. Mostly I think of falling and gear failing and all the terrible things that could happen.
That’s what happened to me at the New.
I bailed off a 5.8 and then bailed off another 5.8 and barely made it up a 5.7. The weather the first day was pretty miserable, my climbing was equally miserable. I’m pretty sure Dan got frostbite waiting for me to move past the second bolt. Which I eventually did after he clipped the third bolt.
We spent a lot of time watching other climbers crush and climb hard and sat on the sidelines wanting to climb, but fear getting in the way.
The next day was beautiful, sunny and warm and awesome. The climbing was hard and scary and miserable.
Dan patiently belayed me on yet another 5.8 that I failed on.
The whole time I was thinking I should find another sport. Maybe being a brave climber just isn’t in the cards anymore, maybe I should pick a less exciting sport like Scrabble (although I’m a terrible speller), or maybe I should just go home and get a pack of donuts and eat my sorrows away.
People don’t normally share their failures on social media, usually only posting highlights of their climbing successes. No one really shares the horrible failures that climbing gives, the thoughts of giving up, the frozen moments of fear where you cannot move. No one likes to say that they got scared on an easy 5.8 when that’s grades below what they used to be able to climb.
But it happens.
So the climbing in the New was a failure. Nothing was sent, it was scary and hard and I bailed off an easy climb.
The views were awesome; the New River Gorge is beautiful. The camping was great. I remember the failure and the fear.
I also remember the fun of a road trip and getting to see new places and try new things. Getting to meet new people and knowing that Dan will belay me no matter how long it takes even if he does get frostbitten fingers. I remember how good pizza tastes after a long cold day at the crag even if nothing was sent. Or how excited Benny is every time I came down off a climb.
I may never be able to climb harder than a 5.10, I may never be a brave climber again, but I’m also pretty sure that I don’t want to find a new sport.