In my tick list for 2016 I stated that one of my main goals was to “focus more on the process than crossing something off the list.” And by that I meant that I wanted to be more picky in the routes that I invest extra time on, choosing quality over quantity. At the end of 2015 I found myself easily frustrated at the amount of routes I had “unfinished business” on. Our family’s climb time is at a premium, and the logistics of getting back to certain climbs with an extra partner often ends up being a crux. So this year I made a point of giving myself a free pass to walk away from routes I didn’t necessarily feel called back to – just because I believe I CAN send it doesn’t mean I HAVE to. In other words, if it’s fun and feels worth my while, give it another go, train for it, etc. If not, leave it undone for now…or forever!
Practically speaking, this meant spending MORE time on LESS routes, often choosing to try something harder that I knew I probably wouldn’t send rather than logging more mileage at a more comfortable grade/style. The result was that I wound up with far fewer ticks on my sending belt than the previous year…but the ones I did get are a lot more meaningful.
It’s also no surprise that many of my year end highlights did not result in an updated 8a card. But the following are my top ten climbing moments of 2016.
10. “TRY HARD” BOULDERING: This summer the CragDaddy challenged me to step up my bouldering game at the gym. Power tends to always crop up as a weakness of mine, and I’ve decided that it’s actually just as much a movement/coordination issue as it is strength/power; ie, I default to static movement that often times doesn’t allow me to “tap in” to any power that I might already have. Anyway, I surprised myself and actually had a LOT of fun throwing myself around the boulder problems at the gym, and I’ve seen some really good gains. Who knows, maybe next year’s tick list will include some boulder problems?
9. LEGALIZE IT 12a and WAKE AND BAKE 11d (Red River Gorge) – After blowing the flash right at the end of the 12, I redeemed myself with a pretty casual second go send, and an onsight of it’s slightly easier next door neighbor. Not my hardest onsight ever, but hardest one in at least a year, probably since Ten Sleep last summer.
8. GALUNLATI 12b (Red River Gorge): This is the route that made me fall in love with the Solarium, which is now my favorite crag at the Red. Not only is it awesome, but it was my first (and so far only) 12b at the Red.
7. BLACKHAPPY 12b (New River Gorge) – I knew I wasn’t going to send this one on my 2nd go. But it went a lot better than I expected, and I was happy that I gave it another effort rather than finding something easier to end the day on. It’s a long hike in for the kids, but I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to work on this one some more next spring.
6. ORANGE JUICE 12c (Red River Gorge) – I’ve been dying to touch this route ever since I first laid eyes on it in 2012. I knew I didn’t have the guns for it then (and I’m not sure I do now…). But I sure was psyched to give it a couple of tries this past November, and after feeling how hard those upper cruxes were, I’m even more psyched I was able to execute all the moves on point. No send, and no plans to come back any time soon, as neither the hike nor the cliff base are great for the kids. But experiencing this 5 star classic that I’d wondered about for so many years was amazing!
5. CRAGKIDDO’s 1st MULTI-PITCH – I wasn’t the only one that came to terms with walking away with unfinished business this year. Big C experienced this when we had to bail just one pitch below the summit on his very first multi-pitch endeavor at Stone Mountain back in February. Despite not making it to the top, I was so proud of how brave he was (and he was too, once he got down and saw where our high point was on the mountain!)
4. MIRAGE 12c (Red River Gorge): Did I mention that I love the Solarium? This one was a completely unexpected send at the end of a fabulous spring weekend at the RRG.
3. TIPS AHOY 12d (Hawksbill Mountain): First ever 12d! Sharp microcrimps on an ever so slightly overhanging face…if only I could find a zillion more like this.
2. LINE OF FIRE 12c (Hawksbill Mountain): Even though grade-wise this one is easier than the previous one, I think I’m more proud of this send. In the same breath everyone told me I’d like Tips, they also told me that I probably wouldn’t like Line of Fire, due to the dynamic, bouldery moves. My first time up, I agreed with everyone else, and I only got on it again because the CragDaddy was still working Tips. It took a while to find beta that worked for me, but the 7th try was the charm, and when it went I had it so dialed in it almost felt easy.
1. JESUS AND TEQUILA 12b (New River Gorge) – Last year I said that if I sent only one route the entire year, I wanted this one to be it, and if that truly was the only one, I’d count the year as a success. I’ve got a lot of emotion wrapped up in this one, and I know that it’s one of those that I’ll still remember vividly when I’m old, gray, and can’t even toprope my kids’ warm-ups. After multiple heartbreaker attempts, crushing this one in unexpectedly fine style this past November was by far the highlight of the year!
And that’s that! Please don’t let me spray by myself…I’d love to hear about your favorite achievements this past year (climbing related or not!) So comment below so we can cyber clink our glasses to 2016.