The Zen Art of Climbing Projects

Let’s get this one out of the way: I don’t know much about long term projects. The most sessions I spent on a boulder problem is six*, both on ‘Papa Jango’ (7B/C), which I managed to top out, and on ‘The Green Traverse’ (7A), which still eludes me (I even managed to fall from the easy finishing mantle).

But what I know very well is the intense, internal battle that happens when you can’t make it happen despite feeling like it all should fall into place.

I get anxious, I get angry, I cry with frustration, laugh hysterically, doubt myself, hate myself, hate climbing… all sorts of madness happens when I’m faced with an obstacle that I can’t overcome.

All this is obviously massively counterproductive, and I know that despite being quite obvious with my internal struggle, I’m not the only one to experience it. Many of you might know the feeling, and despite looking perfectly composed, you’re all fuming/despairing on the inside.

The two months of life mess planned for after Magic Wood are coming to an end. Eight flights, 3,000 miles in a car, and hours of work later, I'm ready to kick in with a proper training regime. There might still be one work trip to be taken, but comes October I will be on track with 'Operation Font'! Since I never had the chance to enjoy Fontainebleau in cold weather (I only went there for holiday in summer, before I committed to training for climbing), I want to pour all my energy into getting ready for March in the forest. It won't be easy, as gym training hardly translates to technical sandstone, but I will focus on slopers strength, compression, triceps for those rounded top outs, balance and body awareness. Let's see if it's possible to get prepare for Font on plastic! I'm ready for new challenges. The picture is from my favourite bloc ever, 'Papa Jango' 7B+(C?). Taken by @sandralailasdotter, who hopefully will be able to join me in Font. If I manage to get @alicehafer there too, I'll have my two best climbing partners in one trip!! #climbing #bouldering #magicwood #fontainebleau #climber #outdoorwomen #life #nature #outdoors #adventure #sport #gameface #climbing_pictures_of_instAgram #climbing_is_my_passion #earth #strongwomen #climberhands #chalkmatters #passion #trying #travel #extreme #travelgram #girlswhoclimb #thisgirlcan #thisgirlcanclimb #polishgirl #womenrockclimbing

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This past season I devised some hippy mumbo jumbo to help me deal with the battle, and, well, it works. Part of the inspiration came from seeing the Swiss strongman, Martin Keller, trying to take off the ground on an extension of ‘Hageltrauma’.

He was sat in the pit under the low roof for what seemed like hours, and from what he said it wasn’t the first time. Trying to compress the horizontally overhanging fridge, he was getting nowhere. (And given that he’s bouldered 8C, the moves must have been pretty damn hard.) Yet he was unfazed, just kept lifting his butt off the dirt, hanging there for a moment, and falling off, all the while merry as a cricket. When finally he made the move happen, he was simply delighted. No anger, frustration, zero bad feelings there. Just pure joy of trying the complicated and powerful movement.

A few days later I was fighting with putting together the 20 moves that make ‘Papa Jango’, incidentally a line put up years earlier by Martin. I was cursing my lack of balance, horrible footwork, and zero ape. Despite being with friends, and trying to climb a beautiful rock, I was miserable, and I needed it to change.

What completely altered my experience was shifting my focus from completing the climb, to making every move perfect. With the help of Sandra and Linus, I figured out all the micro beta, and the movement had to be very precise to keep my body on the overhanging, oddly technical rock.

Cliche as it may be, suddenly I saw the beauty of the puzzle, and instead of thinking about the last hold, I was focused purely on the very split second I was in. Finally, the world stop speeding around me, and I didn’t feel like I was constantly one step behind. I hit the ‘slo-mo’ button, and the reality of the climb became surreally beautiful.

I now feel self-conscious of sounding like a new-age hippie, but that’s what it was, I promise! And then I arrived at the last hold, and it wasn’t the last hold, just a hold that I had to hang off perfectly. The joy of success flushed in a few moments later, when I stood on the mats fist-bumping my patient spotters who had both finished the climb days earlier.

With moments of ‘success’ in climbing being few and far between compared to time and effort necessary to get there, I now know I seek new projects not for the feeling of conquering them, but for the elusive feeling of perfect flow that happens on the way. Ambition and goals are still part of the equation, but one that’s less and less important.

The moral of the story is again, a simple one: Let go and enjoy! It’s an advice I’ve heard so many times, but it’s only when I managed to put it in practice that I understood its true value. I’m sure it won’t be easy to summon this mindset at will, but I can try.

Head to my crusher friend Alice Hafer’s blog for her take on projecting.

* Actually, it’s a lie, but I realised after writing this and couldn’t figure out how to edit it sensibly. I had eight sessions on ‘Intermezzo’ 7C, and it would bloody happen on the 8th, if not for a snapped tendon… next time!

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