All Revealed: Session Notes on Projecting My First 8A

[Feature photo by: Lans Hansen. Shoes by Barrabes. Clothes by 3RD ROCK.]

The rumour mill of sending. Every time we hear that someone has sent something, the air is filled with questions. How long did it take, how many tries, how did they get that strong —- basically just how. If you are anything like me, you want to try and measure the success of others, well, to put it simply, in order to repeat it. But most sends are more often than not left to the climbing rumour mill rather than dotted with facts. So I decided to offer a breakdown of own experience at projecting thus far. Here I’ve written up my journal notes from each session. I found the process to be volatile extremely emotional. I’ve detailed each stage and mental and physical development throughout in case it’s of any interest. (If not skip to the video at the bottom).

PROJECT: first 8A/V11

TIME: 2.5 weeks

SESSIONS: 10 sessions – 1 crappy session where I had like 2 goes and it was raining anyway (this was verified by my ego) = 9 sessions

Session 1 – Can’t do a single move on the 8a section

The first day we were just messing around. Kind of. This particular boulder is made up of two parts a 6c+ finish and a 8a start with 8 moves. It took me multiple tries and the session to even do the 6c+. Needless to say, it wasn’t going to well. Needless to say, I’ve never returned to a problem that showed such little potential…But for some reason this time I did.

Session 2 – Still can’t do a single move

That reason is my friends. Psyche is contagious. If it wasn’t for the positivity of my friends, to be honest, I definitely wouldn’t have gone back to this boulder. No way. I’d never walked up to a problem and not been able to do a single move…and came back. I mean, how many of us do? Usually we turn away from failure, but sometimes trying to conquer it looks to unexpected things.

Session 3 – Did all the moves

It had been almost a week on the project and just as I was about to give up, Hope reared it’s ugly head. All of a sudden we had a break through. We were psyched. We did some moves. We did some more moves. Rumours were spreading around the campsite and a couple of other people were starting to try as well, beta was in a flurry. A few moves came together, and then all of the moves. Whoa. From no moves at all to all the moves in one session. It was an incredible moment. One that I haven’t had often in climbing. I felt like somehow I had gained the ability to speak to the rock. From not really understanding anything to my body making the shapes and movements separate of me.

Sessions 4 & 5 Struggling to repeat single moves, but improving technique

But as soon as I started expecting to do the problem, I started to get discouraged. The next few sessions we spent trying to unlock whatever microbeta we needed in order to make our bodies do these exact moves on command. My body understood what to do but my head didn’t. I couldn’t repeat moves I had done before. I was guessing with foot placements. Hope fades, frustration begins.

Session 6 – Best link, have it in two parts

I had that moment, that moment you say to yourself, I should have sent it then! I got through the crux, but pinged off a hold, from lack of skin or weakness, and couldn’t get back there again.

A friend commented, ‘Well, if you’ve done all the moves, you should just be red pointing.’ He had a valid point. If you constantly rehearse each move, you may never see the problem as a unit. Of course there are stages to this, but gaining confidence on links is essential.

But the problem with this boulder was the process was grueling. The start move was the hardest to execute. And then there were the split tips. I had had three by the time I sent, which I did with tape on my tips. The movements were dynamic until perfected, the rock like a gravel road, filing down skin on the hand, wrist, arm, fingers. So tiring, so exhausting. The boulder was really at my limit and I could feel it.

Session 7 – Worst session yet, split tip again

Reverse progress. Split tips. Confidence fading. Questioning building.Normally exhaustion isn’t a problem, you just rest. But when you invest so much time in a boulder problem, having a bad session can mentally wear on you. Also after 5 or 6 sessions on something, other aspects of projecting came into play that I never considered – like spending so long focused on one particular move that you actually forget the beta from a different section.

I got completely overworked. I was waking up earlier and earlier with the hopes of sending the project, but instead it was just making me more tired. All I could do is think about the moves. I felt like a schoolgirl with a crush on a boy that I desperately wanted to call, but I absolutely couldn’t according to my friend’s advice.

And now I was filled with the all encompassing fear that I’d picked the wrong project, that it was too hard for me.  I was nervous. The last time I went to the project, I was jittery, almost shaking, worrying about doing it right so much that I was completely unable to.

Although the body can adapt to things, we have to remember that it can only perform at it’s highest for a short amount of time. Our tactics at the start were to work the 8A in the morning, then have an afternoon session elsewhere. I became increasingly exhausted. In almost 2 weeks, I had sent one 7A (and that’s not for lack of trying). My body was completely shutting off. Although improving in some ways, like performing moves that originally I couldn’t do, practising hard moves for hours before climbing all day made a recipe for exhaustion.

So I took about 4 days off.

Session 8Trying to get to my high point, but conditions not great

Back on the project fresh, hoping for more, but only reaching my high point. The hardest thing to do is to stop and relax. I felt like this project became a learning experience about self-control and tactics, by learning how to truly listen to my body and give it the time for have maximum performance. Patience.

I took another day and a half off.

Session 9Rainy day. Totally doesn’t count 😛

Session 10Sending day! But it didn’t seem at first

Conditions were perfect. But my body wasn’t performing. After a few hours of trying to warm into the moves, my skin was quickly shredding. We were running out of time, the sun was slowly warming the holds. It was almost unclimbable. But I couldn’t walk away from the dry cool wind yet. I gave it one last burn after hours of trying, hands covered in tape. By no means did logic say it was time to send. But it happened. It did feel ‘easier’ than the other times, things just worked more perfectly somehow. Each move had to be executed just right. I had to try hard. And scream a little through the end – no way was I letting go. And I was certainly never trying that again!!

It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done and I can’t say that it was entirely enjoyable but I guess projecting is like comparing a one-night-stand versus a relationship. The more than you invest, the more worth that you receive in the end. At least that’s how it felt to me. I wish I had some secret to give away, but for me it really just came to, keep trying.

To read more about my emotional process, see my other blog, Why You Should Start Projecting and Stop Playing It Safe.
And as always thanks to Barrabes for their continued support.

electric copper 8a/v11 from alice hafer on Vimeo.