SCS Open Nationals vs. Era Vella

The thrill for me in climbing, is constantly pushing myself a little outside of my comfort zone and then fighting to rise to the challenge.

At the beginning of the year I planned to travel to SCS open nationals and then fly to Spain the following day in order to film my attempts on my first 9a route. I had researched routes in Spain and ultimately selected a specific route, Era Vella (that had grabbed my attention years before) in order to carry out this challenge.

Photo by: Mike Barron  

Photo by: Mike Barron

At Open Nationals, the pressure was high, the routes were very hard, and I was the youngest competitor in a field of really strong men. For many people that scenario might sound a little intimidating, however for me I felt at home. I have trained for competitions since the age of 7. I’ve competed in over 70 competitions (including 16 national and 5 international competitions). I am used to competing. I have learned to focus on doing my best, understanding that when you only have a short time period to send a problem/route, anything can happen. I try to do my best, but I’m not too hard on myself when mistakes happen, or I don’t perform my best on that day. Needless to say, I was really proud of myself to do so well competing in my first SCS Open National championship.

Flying off to Spain the next day, under the pressure of having a camera document the process of me attempting my first 9a ascent on a specific route, was MUCH more intimidating to me. I had seen pictures of the route Era Vella, bolted by Chris Sharma in 2010, and the view was amazing. Although I had watched videos and talked to people that had climbed the route, I couldn’t help but worry whether I had selected a route that was doable for me. Outdoor climbing is a completely different beast for me compared to competitions. In competitions you have to try hard for a short period, then it’s over. As a competition climber, I don’t project routes much. I focus on onsight climbing. But outside, if the route is hard enough, you have to figure out how to fail, time after time, and still find the motivation to keep trying. I realize that if I plan to start pushing my limits more outside, I will have to work on improving my mental strength in this area.

When I first saw Era Vella, the route was even more incredible than the pictures. It was huge and a little intimidating. When I began to climb it, I realized that the individual moves were not hard for me, but I knew it would be a beast to link the moves together. This was the first time that I had projected a route not knowing if I was capable of sending it. For my past ascents, 1 or 2 moves on the route were difficult, but the routes overall were not bad for me. Era Vella was different. For 140 feet of climbing you have to stay 100% focused the whole time. The route is so sustained that I could only do 1 or 2 good attempts a day. My strength diminished with each attempt. There were times when I made it past the crux moves on the route, only to fall close to the top, on a jug, because my foot popped! I’m used to cameras at competitions, but having someone there to document my disappointment, frustration, and failures, was incredibly difficult.

Photo by: Camaeron Maier (Bearcam Media)  

Photo by: Camaeron Maier (Bearcam Media)

Climbing with Chris Sharma gave me renewed determination. He is amazing. After getting frustrated on the route for a few days, I needed a rest day to clear my mind and recharge, so that I could go back to Era Vella and give it everything I had. Paddle boarding at Chris’ home did the trick! The camera guy, Cameron Maier fell in the water (without his equipment of course) and it was hilarious! The funniest part was the fact that it was him that fell in and not me. I am usually the clumsy one! I had soooo much fun hanging out with the guys, away from the rock, and just enjoying other aspects of Spain.

On my sixth climbing day, I had dialed in all of the moves on the route and I was hoping that I could maintain complete focus through to the chains. I was beyond excited when I made that happen, first go of the day!!!!! All of my frustration, the pain of my bloody fingers, and the doubt of accomplishing this goal, all went away the instant I clipped the anchors! Mission accomplished!!

I love the thrill of a challenge. Although accepting defeat is sometimes hard, the few times that I am able to persevere and succeed make it worth taking the risk of pushing myself beyond my limits.

NEXT STOP..........Canadian SCS Open Nationals