Yesterday I went out climbing with a few buds (Elliott, Kyle, Al, and others) at the Concave in the Little River Canyon, AL. I've really wanted to push my physical limits on roped climbing for a long time, but I've always had a hard time getting over the head game of difficult lead climbing.
Most people start climbing by pushing their limits in gyms or outdoors with friends who want to crush hard things. However, I got into climbing by first being a ropes course instructor and then climbing with friends who were all about just getting out and having fun and honestly I'm glad I did. I really dislike the stigma attached to climbers who get too into climbing hard and forget that we're supposed to be having fun. That said, after I'd successfully climbed some hard boulders, I realized I needed to get past the 5.12 barrier.
I'm by no means a super strong climber, but last season I was able to tick off my first v10 which was an incredible feeling. Then this season I got my first v9 (I skipped it before). So I recently started to think about how dumb it was that I'd never sent anything over 5.11d.
To be fair, most of my outdoor sport trips are usually centered around me teaching friends or clients about route climbing and never really depend on me climbing anything harder than 5.10 (I've only touched three 5.12s). As a result, I'd developed a fear of falling that really limited me from pushing my limits at all. Yesterday I finally broke through.
The concave is a giant overhanging roof (completely my style) which showcases some of the coolest hard roof climbs I've ever seen. There isn't a single climb in the actual concave under 5.13a!!
I was incredibly intimidated by the grades, but decided to hop on silverback (5.12d/5.13a) anyways. On my first go I hung on every draw just trying to figure out the moves, and also trying to conquer my fear of hard overhung climbs. I got the crux move (and all the others) on my first go.
So then after an hour of waiting for my forearms to remember that they weren't made of jello, I hopped on the route and sent!!
Just before climbing, Al gave me the advice to try and climb in rhythm and focus on my breathing. May sound simplistic, but that was exactly what I needed to hear. Instead of thinking about lead falls I thought about the movement and the way I was breathing. I even managed a rest halfway up (I've never been able to really rest on routes before!). I honestly can't explain how psyched I am about route climbing now. I've always wanted to try it and now I have the motivation. It also feels pretty good to skip 5.12.
Here's a video of Al climbing some sweet routes at the Concave (silverback is the first one he's on)
Not trying to brag, just incredibly happy.
What about you? What kind of head game issues do you have!?