Living in a cloud isn’t ideal for rock climbing. Though once the rain stopped and the overwhelming grayness left our life, Ten Sleep Canyon morphed back into its magical summer state of cool, dry conditions. There was a little over a week left in the trip, and all I had managed to do was punt off the top slab of Esplanada 5.12d in a sleep-deprived mania. Taking this short trip to Ten Sleep was partly to observe an emerging personal tradition of making an annual pilgrimage to the glorious carbonate cliffs of Wyoming and partly to see how/if I had grown as a climber. I decided a good evaluation for this would be to attempt to send Sky Pilot 5.13d. Sky Pilot is one of the most sought-after lines in Ten Sleep. It ascends a narrow golden streak located in the middle of Sector D’or et Bleu, the highest quality blue-streaked wall of the canyon. Consensus seems like it is solid for the grade, and in an area where route “enchancement” is sometimes acceptable, Sky Pilot is completely natural. The route is engaging: two stacked cruxes on amazing pockets, a decent but not quite relaxing rest in the middle, some consistent face climbing to reach another okay rest below the anchor, and an exciting (heartbreaking) finish move to an epic jug lost in a sea of tiny pockets and crimps.
The first day on Sky Pilot solidified my confidence. I managed to do all the moves, and in typical boulderer fashion, half of them were twice as hard as they needed to be. Unfortunately, I wish I had known earlier that these sequences were too hard for me to execute together. I turned the opening V6/7 crux which uses mono pockets as intermediates into a solid V8 in which I locked off a sharp one pad mono pocket, and quite late in the game (the last day of the trip), I figured out that I didn’t have to dyno to the finish jug, which I had tried and missed four times from the ground. Fortunately, I eventually realized easier ways before the trip was over, and I was reminded of an important lesson: always find the most efficient and consistent way to climb.
I knew I could send Sky Pilot during this trip, and I was quite patient in the whole process. Even after a random rest day involving some freak stomach flu in which I couldn’t move for about 12 hours without vomiting, I remained positive, chugged some ginger kombucha, and was more than psyched to climb a route that I had always walked past with dreams of sinking my chalky digits into its snug pockets. On the last day of the trip, with a looming 16 hour drive back to the fiery inferno of the Eastern Sierra, coming off of the previous climbing day having fallen with my fingers tickling the finish jug three times, I knew I had to focus or be prepared to deal with excessive self-shaming and a validation of how much I suck. While not a healthy behavior that I sometimes engage in, I have accepted my negative reinforcement as inevitable when I fail in something that I care about. Simultaneously, I have learned that it is best to make it as brief as possible and to avoid bringing the amazing people around me into my temporary self-destruction.
First attempt of the day: fall on last move on a perfect burn…dynoing there is stupid…you are can figure out something better…yes, you can lock off a sinker two finger to statically reach the finish jug. Then, it starts to thunder, and my mind starts to race. I felt like the worst friend for being distracted, quiet, and completely worried about whether or not I would be able to give my project another attempt with the possibility of rain when I should have reciprocated the supportiveness of my best friends as they enjoyed their last hard-fought efforts. It doesn’t rain, and I proceed to give Sky Pilot the most anxious and sloppy attempts ever. Yeah, chill out for a while, eat some chocolate, drink some water, give it one last try, and APPRECIATE being with two of your best friends in one of the most awesome places in the world.
I had completed my only goal of the trip…in the final hour…on my last try (its always on the last try?). I felt bad in some ways that Charlie and Aaron had supported my efforts, and it might have to do with spending so much time bouldering by myself in the last year knowing that my projects were always a completely selfish endeavor. Or it might have been the self-imposed separation from the people around me? Or it might have been the feeling that someone I loved left my life? They shouldn’t have wasted their time on me. Is this what too much time by yourself does? You end up wanting to be around people, yet when you are with your friends, your inconsiderate habits emerge unintentionally after the tendencies have been repetitively reinforced? Some people have told me that I should use my time alone to better understand myself…I have dealt with too much of this time while my brain has started to melt in this high desert void. I want to be better at balancing my thoughts and avoiding the worried distractions of the ego. I want to consistently be a supportive partner who sincerely wants others to succeed. I don’t think I am a terrible person for dealing with egotistical thoughts, but I feel like I have recently become more aware of how I interact with my community. Let me practice something that I think I am starting to grasp. Navigating this newly realized individuality and loneliness of my life is a project that won’t ever be sent. One can only hope for some good days when you link a bunch of moves.