New River Gorge: The (Almost) Day of Reckoning
If you follow our family on instagram (@cragmama1), you may have noticed a family photo taken along the Endless Wall Trail on Saturday morning, with a caption entitled -“Today is a day of reckoning out the NRG…let’s do this!” It was my first (and potentially only) chance this spring to send Jesus and Tequila 12b, the mega classic sandbag that I’d came heartbreakingly close to ticking off last November as the fall season closed out. After some annihilating circuit work in the gym, along with recent success at both the New and the Red in recent weeks, I was feeling reasonably strong and my mental game was in a great space. I was ready to tackle this monster again.
The first crux of the weekend was finding willing partners to drag down to Endless Wall with me, with a forecast of 70 and sunny. With no leaves on the trees yet and a wall that bakes in the sun, it was a hard sell. The CragDaddy was more than willing, but unless I wanted to find Baby Zu rafting down the river after looking away for 10 minutes, we needed someone else as well. Fortunately for me though, I have some pretty awesome friends who were willing to suffer in the sun with me. (And actually, they had sunny projects in mind as well, and their alpine start + twilight climbing schedule meshed reasonably well with my midday brawl.)
UNfortunately for myself and everyone else, however, no one’s efforts on Saturday resulted in a send. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be…yet. Except for the obvious fact that I didn’t send it, I feel really good about how the day went. I gave it 4 tries – one was a bolt to bolt warm-up to re-familiarize myself with the moves. I was really psyched to figure out a completely different sequence of moves for the upper roof crux…the same move that spit me off last fall on my epic un-send. The new beta is MUCH more secure and higher percentage, and I am certain that when the time comes to do that move on point, I won’t be falling there again.
My second go of the day was a one-hang – I fell at the crux after fiddling with my foot placement too much (the rope management is a little weird there.) I pulled right back up and finished the route strong, and felt really good about my next attempt. My third go I made it through the crux! I was pleased at how much I was able to get back at the rest stances, and was thinking it was my time…then I fell at the big deadpoint move. Ugh. That move has always been hard for me, but I had never struggled on it until that day.
By this point I was running out of time, but I owed it to myself to give it one more go. The days will only be getting hotter from here on out, so it was probably my last shot before fall. Predictably, however, I was pretty gassed, and fell at the crux, again. Ironically, the deadpoint move felt the most solid as it had all day, and of course, with the new beta, I cruised right through the roof.
I’d be lying if I didn’t feel just a little disappointed, but like my friend Caleb said, “It’s all part of the process.” The real story here is about an amazing piece of rock that so many people have on their bucket list. I would consider myself blessed to be able to experience it even once, let alone have a chance to invest so much of myself in it. This all probably sounds a little silly to a non-climber, but there is a very personal, almost relational, connection, between a climber and a project. Whether the route is personified as a nemesis that you want to exact revenge upon, or an old friend that you keep coming back to for a friendly duel, the emotional investment can be pretty intense. For me, I think finding the right balance is key – training hard for a goal and leaving everything out there on the rock is good, and necessary for the send. But at the end of the day, I hike out with my family with a smile on my face, knowing deep down it’s really just a hunk of rock.
Sure I wish I would have sent, but this trip was by far not a waste. The next day I tried hard for a 2nd go send of All the Right Moves 11d, a 100 foot journey with a funky roof crux that had previously seemed really intimidating. I also came super close on Control 12a, and am confident that those power moves will go down fairly easily when I’m fresh. Not to mention the new roof beta I have for Jesus and Tequila.
Some weekends everything falls together and you send. Other times you work your ass off and walk away empty-handed. But those “work” weekends are what makes the “sending” weekends so magical. I’m not sure when, but one of these days I will pull the crux on Jesus and Tequila and not take the swinging whipper. I’ll stay clean through the dihedral and nail the deadpoint move. I’ll teeter out across the roof and plant my foot exactly where it needs to be, and execute the final sequence. I’ll stand at the top and savor the magnificent view of the river below, feeling that mix of pure exhilaration and exhaustion that I so wish I could bottle up and sell. We’ll go out for dinner and I’ll celebrate with a round of margaritas for anyone that wants to join me. Then I’ll walk the cliff again and wait for inspiration to strike, and the cycle will start all over again. Ah, thank you God for creating rocks to climb on. 🙂
4 Responses to “New River Gorge: The (Almost) Day of Reckoning”
That might be one of the near posts I’ve seen on this blog. You did a great job of capturing the inner experience of the projecting climber and what it means to give yourself so fully to an endeavor. Thanks for the Tuesday entertainment!
*best, not near…
I think you were there the day I made it through the crux and fell above it. I cussed like a sailor and walked away from it for several months I was so distraught. Good work getting after it, that’s an amazing rock climb, but I’m sure you know that.
Thanks Sam, and yes, I remeber that day well.