Just Do It
I remember the first time I ever tried hard. Like really really hard. Hard as in you know that in one single moment, every molecule of your body has aligned to give you superhero abilities. It was 2010 during a day of rock scrambling at the Monastery with Jonathan Siegrist, who I actually credit for teaching me to try hard (he just sent his first 5.15a by the way, Realization, no big deal). I didn’t consider that I needed to engage every muscle in one grand concerto, I just really wanted to grab that next crimp. This was the first time I ever made a noise while climbing, even just a tiny mouse squeak. And I stuck that crimp.Since that day, I’ve worked on convincing myself to try hard every time I go out climbing - to engage not only muscles, but also coordination and a desire to stay on the wall, all at once. Those who know me can attest to my lack of coordination, so this is pretty much a daily struggle.Just Do It was the culmination of all those years of practice. No more half committed efforts. No more wobbling. No fear, no doubts, no second guessing. I had to climb confidently and I had to try harder than I’d ever tried in my life.I arrived at Smith with Just Do It in the back of my mind, but first I needed to reacclimatize. After a year of climbing overseas, I’d taken a month off to eat, lounge, and stroll along the beach with my family. The time off left me feeling oddly powerful, yet sloppy. And my fingers needed a wakeup call to bare down. A few days spent projecting Badman (5.14a), a Smith classic with a long powerful undercling move that bouted my efforts in years past, left me energized for the Monkey. So we headed back.
Ian and Kristin Yurdin are somewhat of my second family. They house and feed me (no small chore), give me my very own puppy to play with, ensure the fridge is stocked with just enough Terrebonne Depot chocolate banana bread pudding to keep me happy but not enough to prevent me from leaving the ground, and they ever so generously make the trek to whatever route I’m itching to sit under for a few weeks. This time, we spent quite a few afternoons trekking up Misery Ridge in the blazing sun to reach Just Do It, which ascends the perfectly sculpted east face of the iconic Monkey.J.B. Tribout first climbed Just Do It in 1992. It was the first 5.14c in the US, and stands as perhaps one of the more beautiful to this day. The lineplows through 25 meters of vertical, technical face climbing on white rock up to a midway anchor. The meat of the route begins in the deceivingly steep upper red band of rock. For a 40 meter line, Just Do It requires surprisingly little endurance. In fact, the face is covered in monster jugs. But the bits in between bite.The crux of the route presents a series of long, powerful pulls on small edges. A nice pod offers relief before a few shallow pockets and desperate throws that guard the chains. I sorted all the moves quickly, as the beta is fairly straightforward – there aren’t many options up there. The problem would be linking so many powerful movements on steep rock with obscure body positions. So I started trying hard.Each day I made decent progress, linking up into the crux, one hanging, and slowly adding in moves. On Memorial Day I linked through the upper crux, falling just two moves before the 'safe zone'. The next day I hopped on a plane to California to spend the week at Marmot’s headquarters. After that, the weather looked disturbingly hot. I knew I was capable of finishing the line, I just needed an opportunity before summer set in.On Saturday, Ian and I trekked back to the Monkey. Misery Ridge lived up to its name, and I almost had to rest during the hike (which would have been a devastating blow to the confidence). We persevered through snakes and sun and found ourselves on the now familiar ledge with just a hint of warm breeze gracing the air. Ideal conditions on Just Do It mean the wind is whipping so hard that the draws blow perpendicular to the wall, your chalkbag blows upside down and releases all your chalk, and your hair is in your eyes. In that glorious moment when you can’t see, can’t find any chalk, and can’t hear your belayer, you know the time is right.
The time wasn’t right on Saturday. I left the ground during a moment of warm breeze and found myself entering the crux fifteen minutes later amidst perfectly still air. Perturbed, I kept climbing into the big leftward span to a poor two finger edge. The instant my fingers hit the hold, I considered giving up. But then I remembered to try hard. Somehow I stayed on. I grunted my way to the pod, through the drop knee to a poor gaston. When I stuck the proper crystal on the blind move that took me out a few days prior, I knew there was no way I was letting go.A flood of relief, blah blah blah, we all know how the story ends once we clip the chains. But staring at a week’s worth of 80 degree temps makes me happy I didn’t draw out the process. I spent about 10-12 days on Just Do It over a period of three weeks. From the get go, I tried the hardest I’ve ever tried. And for once, I didn’t epic. I made progress each day, and I never reached that tipping point of hating climbing and the route and myself. This was Type I fun all the way. And a huge check off the lifetime tick list.
So, what did I learn from all of this? Go on more family vacations. Take time off. Let my mind and muscles rejuvenate. And then get back to it and fight.