My introduction to trad climbing
My partner has been asking me to go to Frog with him since he first started climbing there, and most of these times I said I would, only to change my mind on the morning of. After many months of this pattern I finally kept my promise, and on one cold morning I got out of bed with him, put on my jacket and headed out to Frog with him- much to the surprise of his Trad climbing friends who, as they drove past us in the parking lot, quite literally pointed at me with a look of utter shock on their faces.
I’m not quite sure why I had kept procrastinating on the trad climbing experience. I think it just boiled down to being scared, and thinking I’m just not a strong enough climber physically and mentally to consider trad at this stage. My first time out there I tried to face climb everything- I used ridiculously small crimps rather than a perfectly suitable crack to awkwardly make my way up the climb, much to the amusement of my partner. My most recent trip out (my second venture out there) I swore to myself I would try to do things properly, and tied into the bottom of Shit Heap (14) with the intention of jamming my way up that beautiful short crack…. At least I had the best intentions at heart… I didn’t make it a foot of the ground. I would position my hand in the crack, thumb down and tucked in, hand twisted to really jam it in there, and I will awkwardly twist my ankle to position the tip of my foot in the crack, ready to pull up. I felt like I was doing things correctly, but it just wasn’t working for me. For one, it hurt! And I’m still under the mentality that if something hurts its wrong. But as I voiced that to my partner above (I was seconding up) he laughed, as did a random climber on the route next to me who cheerfully explained from a few metres above “if it hurts you’re doing it right”. Not only that though, I just couldn’t keep my hands in the jamming position, they would slide out as soon as I pulled myself up and went to jam with the other hand. And while I couldn’t get my hands to stay in place, I was having the exact opposite problem with my feet, which were stuck in the spot I squeezed them into. So after many failed attempts I resorted to the good ole’ lay back technique. Yes I’m a filthy cheat.
I also had a go on Iron Butterfly, a 28m grade 15, again just second up it collecting the gear. This scared the shit out of me towards the top. I was just a couple metres from the top but pumped after struggling to collect the gear (something else that I will need to get used to over time). I needed to sit, but was scared of doing so as I am used to lovely solid anchors/bolts, so the knowledge that I needed to trust a “solid tree belay” which was in fact a tiny twig pushed my mind into a state of panic (another thing I need to add to the “will get used to” list- natural belay stations). I was proud of myself though, as I recovered quickly from this mini panic. The last time I had a cry on the wall it was a full scale breakdown in which I hyperventilated through sobs and froze on the wall (it was a slightly different scenario then though, a lead climb, above my bolt, in which I was too scared to let go of the wall but not being able to climb up or down climb). Since that horrible incident though I have been perfecting my “calm your shit women” routine. It involves me breathing calmly and deeply, telling myself everything’s fine, and with a nod (I think its symbolic or something, like with the gesture I am certain I am over it) I go for the next move. It also helped me a lot having the reassuring face of my partner looking down at me from a couple metres above telling me I was doing awesome.
One day I will get my head space right, and I won’t get into a panic that brings on tears, but until then I can be happy with the knowledge that I’m getting better.
“Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will”
-W. Clement Stone