Progress And Regress – Ups and Downs

Oh the joys of projecting a climbing route. The emotional highs, lows and of course uncertainty. It’s now been almost three months of climbing out at the Virgin River Gorge (VRG), trying to get out there two days per week, dealing with the fickle conditions, skin and getting beat up. I’m actually pretty happy with the progress I’ve made but I don’t feel that close to accomplishing my goal of redpointing ‘Necessary Evil’.

The Blasphemy Wall at the VRG

The conditions this winter have been amazing. It’s been unseasonably warm and honestly I thought I would be unable to climb out there most of December and January but the conditions have been almost perfect. I’ve been able to find climbing partners on almost every day I want to get out and even a few other crazy people trying ‘Necessary Evil’.

‘Necessary Evil’ consists of hard climbing and then links into ‘Route of all Evil’ right before the ‘Route’ crux. A few years ago I did ‘Route of all Evil’ but getting back on it I am still amazed at how hard that crux sequence is. Not only is it hard but the sequence I used when I redpointed ‘Route’ just doesn’t seem feasible when I link into it from ‘NE’. Although ‘Route’ was rated 14a by Boone Speed I think it is an insult to the route and Boone to leave it as 14a. Every other 14a at the crag, and the surrounding areas, pales in comparison to the difficulty of this route. Personally I think most of the routes should be downgraded but since that isn’t going to happen let’s start calling route as it deserves to be rated; ‘Route’ is 14b. So basically ‘NE’ is a vicious boulder problem (V10-12) off the ground to a small ledge where you can shake quickly, to another V8/9 to a really bad rest at the start of the ‘Route’ crux and then you have to do the V9/10 ‘Route of all Evil’ crux. From the ‘Route’ crux to the top is probably 13a/b but you get a really good rest and hopefully won’t fall above that.

Pulling the crux move of 'Route of all Evil' - Photo Rich Wheater

I’ve tried counting the moves on ‘NE’ and I came up with 86 hand moves and 127 foot moves for the whole thing. Although really the only important part is getting through the ‘Route’ crux. That is 29 or 30 moves with the hardest redpoint move being the 25th hand move. If I was to rate that move individually I would give it a V9/10 grade. I can barely do it even after hanging on a rope there! I have now climbed up to that move 6 times from the ground and I am truly happy to have done that. On most routes I would feel pretty good about making sustained links of hard moves but that last move is so daunting (and without a rest leading up to it) that ‘one hanging’ the route seems like an almost pointless accomplishment.

Even before I started the process of working ‘NE’ I told myself I would probably fall at that move 20+ times so I am trying not to get frustrated or discouraged. I’ve also been trying to train after days out at the crag or on off days back in Vegas. I’m definitely feeling a little run down and haven’t made it back to my high point in a few days but I’m not quite ready to take the break required to recover and get my strength back.  I’ll be heading to Hueco for the rock rodeo and I think that should be a good mental break, maybe not a physical one but I can recover when I get back.

The good thing is I am still excited to climb at the VRG. I really, really enjoy the climbing there. The routes are long, complex and sustained. My warm up consists of climbing Mentor (one of the best 5.12s in North America), then Joe Six Pack (one of the best 13a routes in NA), trying my project and then cooling down on one of the multitude of amazing mid-5.13s out there. Not too shabby.

Hopefully the weather doesn’t get too warm, too quickly. While I know that failure is a real possibility, I definitely want to continue trying to redpoint and put in some good efforts. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and stick that hard move from the ground. Even if I don’t redpoint I’m still happy with the decisions I have made to allow me the possibility of success.

3 Responses to “Progress And Regress – Ups and Downs”

  1. dude. keep it up man! you’re so strong Mike. You will crush. have the faith!

  2. This is what athletes do — they come back to polish imperfection in a face of a hefty goal. Your goal sounds impressive and very attractive and it seem tot require a change of several skins. I value bits of insight into your athlete’s mind throughout this article sprinkled with perseverance, optimism, gratitude and self-efacive humor. I wish that taking a break will put a space between the route and your thinking to allow a breakthrough to happen. Also wishing that inner and outer conditions will continue to support you to exit this season triumphantly.

  3. Thanks Jonathan. I’m going to keep training, roping up and trying hard but I can’t get too wrapped up in it. I’m still enjoying being out there and that’s enough, for now.

    Anatoly, I appreciate your perspective and positive thoughts!

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