Last Sunday I went climbing with Derek and Sam at Steele, determined to hone my mental skills on the rock face. I have been reading The Rock Warrior's Way by Arno Ilgner (that might not be how to spell his name. whatever.) to learn some mental skills and improve my climbing.
The weekend before I had gone to Sandrock with the hopes of sending my mental 'project' Thin in the Middle, a 5.10 sport route. Unfortunately, I was not on my mental A-game and after make excuses about the cold weather and excessive crowds and being hungry and being sore from working out, I didn't even attempt the route. I led another sport route, so at least I did something. But basically I punked out.
So this Sunday was my opportunity to do-over. We hiked in with beautiful weather - blue skies, warm sun, cool breeze. After puttering around and checking out a few routes (it was my first time at Steele) we ended up in front of a 5.6 trad line. Sam was in need of a few moments to eat his breakfast, so Derek asked me if I wanted to take the lead. I decided to go for it - after all it was only a 5.6
I racked up and scoped out the route. The start of the climb was a scramble up onto a block at the base of a crack - I figured I could make the scramble without a problem, and place gear in the crack. The ledge I would be standing on was about 15 feet off the ground.
This was a perfect way to start my climb because it was easy enough I was confident I wouldn't get hurt, but high enough to make me uncomfortable. It would have been a lot nice though if there had been a place to get gear in the crack when I got there!
So there I was, standing on a block with no gear. I fiddled around, sat down on the block and got a cam in a horizontal by my feet. Fat lotta good that would do me. (translation for non-climbing friends: gear below you is gear you have to fall past to catch you... this close the the ground, gear at my feet is pretty not helpful.)
Derek offered that there was a horizontal up left I could use... I tried to reach for it, but I was too short. I was going to have climb up to protect the route.
At this point, I remember Derek telling me about a sketchy almost run-out 5.6 route that had epic like tales from previous ascents.
I called down to him, "Is this that route you wanted me to do that would freak me out??? Is this gonna be runnout???"
He called back, "The protection is all there. Look around."
I decided that surely he would have warned me if this was the "epic" route. This couldn't be that route. Besides. It's 5.6 and I can climb 5.6 and even if I fall I will be okay. That became my mantra - I can climb 5.6 I can climb 5.6
So up I went. Sam and Derek did a great job of calling out encouragement. They reminded me to breath, reminded me that I had huge holds (so it didn't matter that the route WAS a bit run out and the gear that was there was in kinda crappy rock that would probably break if I fell on it). When I got to a spider web nest and came close to loosing it (I'm not a fan of spiders) Sam reminded me that spiders are scared of me.
And so it went. It took probably an hour for a 100ft route (waaaaay slow), but my ropes were in a beautiful straight line (led doubles so Derek and Sam could follow quickly), I never weighted my gear, and I never lost control of myself. I even placed a nut that I would have been confident falling on. I made it to the top and it was a beautiful day.
I did find out later that it was definitely the "epic" route.