Progress!
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Progress!

Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to see any forward progress.  Working towards your goals can feel like being on a steep mountain, surrounded by swirling fog.  You’re trudging along, constantly moving forward and struggling upwards, but never able to see the top of the mountain through the fog. That’s how I feel about many things in life right now. Climbing; as I struggle my way towards that illusive 13.  Paragliding; as I slowly build my confidence and work towards flying XC.  Writing; as I dive into this blog, send out dozens of queries, and make countless edits to my manuscript.  I’m putting in the hours, trudging day in and day out, yet the top of the mountain is still nowhere in sight.  It can certainly be frustrating, and, at times, makes it difficult to stay motivated and keep pushing myself forward.

Yesterday, my friends and I went climbing at one of our favorite local spots, Malibu Creek State Park.  By late morning the temperature was already approaching 100 degrees, so we were pretty desperate to find some shade. One of the only routes that was fully shaded for both climber and belayer was The Drifter, a 5.12a that just so happens to be the first 12 I ever sent outdoors!  It took weeks to accomplish the feat; weeks of struggling on the steep, overhanging roof with it’s nearly unreachable crosses, weeks of pumping out on the traversing face with its shallow pockets and tiny feet, and weeks of scared, frustrated tears as I stared down the thin crimps and long runouts at the end of the route.  After I finally sent it, I can remember resting at the anchors afterwards, the wind in my hair, feeling absolutely incredible.  It was one of those rare moments when you can fully appreciate the reward of hard work.

It’s been over a year since then and I’ve added numerous 12’s to my tick list, but I’ve definitely been having some trouble progressing past that point.  I really want to send a 13, but it feels so out of reach.  As I continue to hover in the low to mid 12 range, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve simply plateaued.  Am I even moving up the mountain anymore? Or am I just walking in circles in the fog, incapable of getting any better or stronger?

For this reason, I was pretty nervous about jumping on Drifter again. I was so scared of failing. What if I couldn’t send it? What if I couldn’t even finish? It would just prove my fears once and for all – that I wasn’t making any progress despite how hard I’d been working since originally climbing this route.

At the same time, I wasn’t about to not climb the route, and so full of trepidation, I gave it a go.  As I moved past the first three bolts, I noticed that the beginning pockets felt so much more positive than I remembered.  And there were feet for days, how strange. Had somebody chipped the route? And that cross move I could barely reach before, was now right there within grasp. Those run outs were certainly closer together now too. Had somebody re-bolted the route? I couldn’t remember all the beta and as I climbed there were several times when I worried I would tire out searching for my next moves, as had so often happened before. But I reached the anchors with no takes, no falls, and the strength to lap the route two more times. I was floored!  I knew the Drifter was still the same – the route had not been chipped or re-bolted – I was simply a different climber.

Perhaps I’m not where I want to be yet, but sitting there at the anchors, for a beautiful moment, I felt like the fog around me cleared.  I still hadn’t reached the top of the mountain, but it was pretty awesome to look down and appreciate just how far I’d really come.

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