29 June 2014

Just Another Post About Fear

I know this isn't an original topic. It's actually a very popular one, having been written about before, numerous times. Emily Harrington and Shauna Coxsey have both tackled it, as did Steph Davis. Now I'm giving it a shot. Bear with me in the beginning here, I'm just making a comparison.

Every time Fritz moves in her bed in the middle of the night I bolt upright, heart racing, reaching for the baseball bat, or the pepper spray, recent purchases of course, thinking that someone has broken in--again.

It's gripping and controlling. As soon as the sun goes down the inside of my apartment is lit up like a Christmas tree, but still I don't sleep through the night. They did it once, they could do it again, so easily. All it takes is a fire extinguisher through the window and they can walk through my house as they please.

I can't move out; I signed a lease. But what happens if they come again? Would I hide? Where, under my bed? Please. Fritz barks like a damn rabid raccoon at the most subtle of sounds, she'd give us away in a heartbeat. Nope, I've decided to stay and defend my home. It's events like this that make you realize your fight or flight tendencies. In this circumstance it looks like fight.

Why is it not the same for sport climbing??

I'm up on my second climb of the day, still in the "warming up" process, and I'm getting a little pumped. Do I take? Or make another move, proverbial fingers crossed the next hold is good enough and my foot doesn't slip. What if the next hold sucks? What if my foot slips? I could fall weird, get my leg stuck behind the rope, twist around and hit my back or my head, or slam into the rock and break both my ankles. Nope, not gonna risk it--TAKE.

I'm so hesitant, overthinking every move that seems just a little "sketchy," moving slow and overly-cautious, clenching my eyes and waiting for the worst. Any move where I need to be even a little dynamic, or can't have my feet directly under me, my confidence vanishes without warning, thoughts of falling in the worst way possible uncontrollably flashing through my head. I'm climbing sloppily, over gripping, my feet are slipping, until complete panic sets in. I can't control my breathing, I'm too pumped to clip, and I have it in my head that falling just isn't an option. Quickdraws become my favorite clipping jugs. Relieved that I'm "no longer in danger" but frustrated with myself for letting fear hold me back, yet again. I've climbed V10 highball boulders for Pete's sake, why am I taking on 5.12a??

Not only did I 'take' in the middle of this route, I couldn't even finish it. I left my draws, got lowered and didn't climb for the rest of the day.

I'm afraid of falling. Obviously.

I'm not worried I'll hit the ground, that's not it. I hit the ground bouldering pretty often, actually 100% of the time. So what is it?? What is paralyzing me and holding me back so drastically?

I posed this question on my Facebook page and received some insightful and entertaining replies. I know I shouldn't be surprised, but it felt great to know that I was definitely not alone. A lot of the feedback stated that the fear comes and goes, there are good days and bad days, and a few practice whips will put me right back in the game. I decided to post some of my favorites below.

Mike I think it has something to do with gravity

Landen once a rope is attached to me, I look like I have Parkinson's.

Andrea DiGiulian I'm afraid of Sasha falling all the time!!

Claire Yes falling is SCARY!!!! Take a small amount of Xanax you'll be fine

Sean Everytime i tie in it's like Ive forgotten how to climb.

Alton I have MAJOR issues with as well. And yet we can highball comfortably in Bishop? Whats our deal?!

Michael dive into something that requires you to think more about the moves than anything else. that's where fall consequences take a back seat. get psyched on something and it'll dissipate.

John Yes. The fear can swell up and make your legs Elvis, make you hold your breath. That weakens your strength, turns out not just your lungs need oxygen. The mental struggle is what all climbers have. Whether it's a climber on a 5/8 to a climber on a 5/15, to help control your fear. You can train your body and make it stronger than you have ever been. The fear can still grab you and turn you mushy. Calmness in the face of adversity, is a great asset. Self confidence is a asset. You need to have a swagger. Eventually you can will yourself past it. Trust the skill of your belayer. Trust the gear. Try not to think about the bolts in the rock. My Coach John Myrick would say, do you need a straw? Why. So you can suck it up.

Brent I once hated falling!Pumped as shit and chicken winging like crazy just to hang on and not fall. Machine gun "takes" (take take take take take!!!) one foot above my last clip. Lol
Now days, mostly laughter with a huge sigh of relief follows. Oh yea, and a smile! It's only bc we lose sight of the moment and start think about the future. Which you have no control over. We "expect" something. The best and least scary ones come when an unexpected foot blows or a hold breaks. Nothing you can "control" there. Silly boulder-ers. Climb to the top, slap the chains, and "WHIP IT, WHIP IT GOOD"!
Oh and trust your knot before you leave the ground! Derrr.

Mary I was terrified for a really long time, but that's because I would stop and overthink a certain move and wouldn't continue if I thought I would fall. It got to a point where I wouldn't lead a 5.7 when I consistently could toprope 11+. It definitely is a mental issue that you can't let control you.

Justin It happened to me so much when I started sport climbing. Something that helped me was to get on stuff that was harder than I could really climb. You know you're gunna fall and you just work on when and how. If it's falling at the crux it just helps cause I'll fall over and over again and gradually you are a little more confident in falling. You got this, the hard part for you will be finding routes outside your grade. ;)

Jennifer It's not the fear of falling it's the mistrust between you and your equipment. Or plummeting to your death. I just experienced an Alex Honnold moment, as I like to call it, last weekend. My boyfriend told me to sing to myself. So I did! I started singing Miley Cyrus We can Do What We Want To because it was a running joke with my friends while we were all on Alaskan adventure. I was able to calm my nerves and climb my first 5.9 and come 6ft from completing my first 5.10b. It was amazing!

Colin Alex - This same thing is happening to me. The weird thing is that I used to be able push myself until I fell. It scared me to fall of course but it wasn't a huge deal. Now suddenly, for what reason I don't know, I've dropped two grades off my norm this year and have bailed off several climbs I normally would try and push through because I'm terrified that I'm going to fall. Please share any insight you come across. And thank you for sharing your fears for the rest of us to see we're not the only ones.

Savannah Yes. We are afraid of the consequences from falling, at least that's what I am afraid of. I often fear that something will happen like my leg getting stuck behind the rope or I slam into the wall, etc. I don't think I fear falling... I just fear what could happen if it were to go wrong. Fear of the unknown is such a bitch... It affects all aspects of my life! I guess it's one of those things you have to learn to just let go of... Know that whatever happens happens for a reason.

As you can see, I got some pretty funny ones, and am grateful for the helpful ones. So many people validated my fears and offered advice. I was also gaining more insights into my own head by reading the explanations of others. Honestly, I've been so lucky to have never taken a really bad fall. My fear was purely mental, and my hesitant climbing was making everything worse. Second guessing my capabilities could cause an even more dangerous fall.

I figured I'd try again. I went back up to the crag. I was so determined not to be afraid. My plan was to practice falling and feign confidence; which is usually my advice to pretty much everyone who asks: act like a badass. Even if you don't feel like one, fake it. Eventually if you fake it long enough you'll start to believe it.

I warmed up on a climb in the 5.11 range, got about six clips up, made a few more moves, and pressed away from the wall. I fell about a whopping four feet. Pulled back on, went a few moves higher this time, and same thing--another mellow, soft little fall. I did this four or five times, each time I climbed a little higher and fell a little further. I was starting to feel pretty good about it.

Then I got on that same 12a that I 'took' on. I feigned my confidence the entire way up that thing, punching through the moves, not even thinking twice about what might happen if I pitched off, and I soon found myself clipping the chains.

Time to test this theory on something harder! I chose an exposed arete with an overhanging crux and a tenuous finish. I made my way up to the crux and went for it, with gusto, falling multiple times, and not little falls, either! Powering through, I found myself clipping the chains on this one as well, and even though I didn't send, I felt relieved and proud to have pushed through this mental block I've been having with sport climbing for the past few months. Today was the first day I felt like a rock climber in a long time.

I wasn't expecting my "results" to completely 180, and I'm still not. Of course I know there'll be good days and bad days, and some days I'll be terrified again. But to have just one day where I felt normal again has made this whole thing worth it.

Thanks to everyone who posted for making me feel human, sharing your stories, giving advice, and making me laugh.

Good luck!

11 June 2014

Vail 2014

Vail happened. Yes, I was there, I competed, and I tried to try hard. My heart wanted it, but my body didn't feel like cooperating. On Friday I ended up in 26th place, the worst I've placed, ever. And I don't know why.

To some people it may have looked like I didn't care. Those who know me, know I hide behind humor. Was I upset? Frustrated? Angry? Sad? Embarrassed? Of course, who wouldn't be? When you commit any part of your life and self to something and it doesn't work out, of course you'd be upset. Did I cry? You bet. Did I throw something? Yup. Did anyone see me do these things? No. That doesn't mean they didn't happen. On the public stage I kept it together (somewhat) smiling and chatting with the judges, but also throwing my hands up in frustration when I couldn't do something I know I'm physically capable of. Again--who wouldn't be frustrated?


But why? Why couldn't I do those climbs? The ones I did do, why did it takes so many tries? That's how competition climbing goes I guess. I don't know. I keep thinking of a hundred possible reasons: Was it the altitude? Did I drink enough water? Did I sleep enough? Eat enough? Was it the five hours in iso? Am I about to be on the rag? (Sorry dudes.) All possible reasons, I suppose, but why make excuses? It's over now. I did everything right during the six weeks leading up to Friday. I changed my diet, I went to LA and trained on plastic, campused, did 4x4s, ran, lifted weights. Obviously I took this event seriously and to think otherwise would be ignorant. 

I act like I don't care because it doesn't hurt as much.

That's as high as I got on that boulder...

I know I sound melodramatic, but it's hard not to think of the weekend as a complete bust. You spend all that money traveling for what, twenty-five minutes of climbing? Ahhh! Anyway.

Of course I loved seeing everyone, and had a great time hanging out with my friends. They're funny! My consolation prize was commentating finals, which I really enjoy, and some of the performances in finals were insane! Little Megan Mascarenas put up a great fight representing as the only American in finals, and that was exciting.

In the end, yeah I was bummed, duh. But it's just another climbing comp, right? And 26th is better than 27th... And hopefully some people still think I'm cool.

08 May 2014

The Big Move

Newsflash: I moved to Las Vegas!
Actually this is probably old news to most of you. But I absolutely love living here, for countless reasons. This year so far has been the busiest of my life, and it looks like it's only getting busier. Here's what I've been up to the last few weeks:

March 27th: I filmed my "Birthday Challenge" with The RV Project. I was the guinea pig for the first episode. My challenge was to climb 25 sport pitches, and any number of boulder problems adding up to 25 stars. (Climbs aren't just graded on difficulty, they're also graded on quality, i.e. the star system. Usually the highest honor a world class line can achieve in most guidebooks is four stars, in the Vegas guidebook the maximum is three.) It was a long day in a tight corridor filled with people, but I was able to crush out 25 routes in about seven or eight hours, and just barely had enough gas to get 25 stars. My birthday challenge will be their first episode, coming out soon!

April 3rd: After my epic day of endurance training, I decided to test out my fitness at USA Climbing's SCS Nationals at Sender One in LA. Yeah, that tanked, haha. I ended up in an impressive 20th place, actually five places better than my qualifying performance at ABS Nationals in February...hmm. Eh, well, it was a blast to hang out with the girls and climb on that pretty ice cream cone wall.

After the event I got to check out the Evolv Sports headquarters and even try my hand at making a climbing shoe. I'm pretty sure it went straight to the trash, and if not, I apologize to whomever gets it. Making shoes is HARD!

It was a good time anyway. I even got to rock climb and surf before coming home to Vegas! And then I was onto the next chapter of my travels this year...

23 March 2014

The Best V9 I've Ever Done

What I meant was the five best V9's I've ever done. These are the climbs I can't stop thinking about. Personally, V9 is my favorite grade in bouldering. Firstly because I have a thing for odd numbers. Secondly, V9 is the level at which I can usually expect success, but have to try hard to achieve it. Not my limit, but challenging nonetheless. I believe I can go anywhere in the world and climb a V9. Except Fontainebleau, I couldn't climb shit there. I don't know, I just love V9's. They're the perfect grade. Anyway, here are my favorite V9's of all-time!!

1. "Luminance" Bishop, California
Huge, beautiful granite block sitting on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Beginning on an obvious start, overhanging with friendly holds, consistently difficult, tall, committing and exciting.

2. "Molunk" Brione Switzerland
Perfect granite edges spaced perfectly apart on gorgeous stone with a flat landing.

3. "Tilt Shift" Red Rocks, Nevada
A tall, free-standing boulder on a red and tan cliffside yielding sandstone rails with a physically challenging, technical intro section leading up to a foot-cutting dyno and a heady mantle.

4. "Heart of Darkness" Yosemite Valley, California
Three huge moves between Yosemite granite edges. (Climber: Dave Mason.)

5. "Nine Lives" Chattanooga, Tennessee
A long, power-endurance climb starting on a jug, moving through crimpy sandstone rails with a middle deadpoint and a casual top-out.

There you have it; my most beloved climbs at the V9 level. I'm open to suggestions of honorable mentions, I'm always looking to fatten up this list...

22 March 2014

The End

It looks like the season of #siegingtheswarm is over in Bishop. I'm watching the weather from Vegas and keeping my fingers crossed for a random cold front to roll through, but as of now I have emotionally checked out. It really wore on me to be so close to sending, and then gradually do worse and worse on it each day that went by. My assumption is that I was so focused on trying this one specific project that I got tunnel vision. I worked the same two moves over and over again for two months and didn't try anything else and it ultimately made me weaker. There were two days where I fell off after the crux; I was doing it! I should have sent! And every time after that I walked up there I felt pressured and anxious that I would blow it or feel off. I got in my own head and psyched myself out. No bueno! I've learned so much through this process. I'm going to have fun climbing again, enjoy living in Las Vegas, maybe train a little, and go back in the fall and give her hell.

26 February 2014


Disclaimer: The following is not positive. It's honest.

I failed today. What else is new, right? It's rock climbing, all we do is fall. Take this as you will but I'm not used to failing. This is my first time projecting something, mostly because I'm impatient. When I want something I want it immediately, anyone who knows me will tell you that. This climb eludes me. I can't have it immediately.

I'm learning a lot through this process, and when I say "I failed" I don't mean physically, because I felt strong today. It was all in my head. I lost my mental game and it shut me out. I used to walk up to this climb ad feel relaxed, refreshed and calm. Now I walk up feeling anxious and overthinking moves.

Time feels like it's fighting against me. I've been in Bishop for over six weeks yet I've had only nine days on the boulder. I keep having to leave town. I come back and get one or two climbing days and then I have to leave again. My season here has been so interrupted I feel like I need to make every single attempt count and when I can't do that I lose it emotionally, I get angry. This climb was something I was initially so inspired by, and excited about and now it's the biggest frustration in my life. Boo hoo, right? Poor pro climber living the life can't get up their boulder problem. But it's more than that. I've invested everything I am in this. It's not "just rock climbing" anymore. It means something to me I can't describe. And failing hurts.

04 February 2014


From today.

"I just pulled up to the parking area. I'm about to head up to try but I feel like I need to get this out now: I have this swelling sense of pride, happiness, and gratitude for so much right now. I feel so supported, by my friends, the community, my sponsors. It's like I have an army of people up there with me even when I'm there alone. It's an amazing feeling that I've never really felt before. I mean, I kind of get it with competitions, but then the weekend is over, and that's it. This is different. This has been weeks of  positive notes, comments and messages; people walking up there with me just so I have some company. My sponsors have been even more supportive than usual, J-Tree made #SiegingTheSwarm stickers, Gnarly made goody bags, Nicros overnighted me PumpRocks when I was feeling weak, Goal Zero hooked me up with a new battery for my rig, and I wouldn't even be here right now without Organic and, of course, The North Face. It's so hard to explain. I feel like Michael Phelps, or Shaun White. Like the whole world is watching and rooting for me as I go into finals at the Olympics. Of course I want to do this climb for me, but now I want to do it for all of you too. Thanks for all the extra motivation, everyone."

on the way

my new lucky charm from Spenser and Vikki @thervproject

#sts sticker

training on the PumpRocks

40% off training fuel

19 January 2014

Day 4

I'm sitting under the boulder right now writing this, thinking not so positive thoughts. It just feels so hard today. Going into this, I knew I would have good days and bad days, but with the way progress was being made so quickly I sort of thought I'd just do it. I thought I would do it today. Instead I saw a regression. I'm frustrated I walked all the way up here. I can't waste precious skin on worthless attempts. The second move is the crux. I've done it. More than once. Today I wasn't even close.
I started out positive, my body felt alright, my skin was good. I was talking to myself before pulling on each time, "You can do this. You can do this." And then I failed miserably, over and over again, on the jump, coming off screaming in anger sometimes. Of course it felt good to scream. Did it make me get any higher? No.
With some mild form of last-ditch optimism I put my shoes on one last time and as I was grabbing the start holds thought, "What are you doing? You can't do this today." And that was that. It was over. I let go of the start holds, sat down, took my shoes off and packed up. Even if physically I could have done the climb today, mentally I had already failed. I had defeated myself.
I can get to the top of this, but anger, frustration and doubt are not going to get me there.
I know better.
I can not let myself be the reason for defeat.

14 January 2014

I Have Arrived.

It's hard to explain the feeling I get stepping out of the trailer in the morning and into the Kmart parking lot and seeing Mt. Basin first thing. Calming seems to be a perfectly cliched way of putting it. But I think it's something more than that. Like it instills this fire in me. Passion maybe? Like I'm here for a reason. I finally have direction.
My brother drove out to California with me to climb and fish for a few days, but he has since flown home and I am here alone. There's a sort of sanctuary in the solitude. I'm sure I'll get lonely at some point, but it's Bishop... There's always someone around.

I enjoy it; life on the road alone. I'm on my own schedule and I go to whatever boulder tickles my fancy at any particular moment.
Right now, though, there's really only one boulder I feel like going to. I've been unexpectedly pleased with how it's been going, especially after losing fitness to rainy days in Font and being stuck in the car for three days.
Of course I was apprehensive towards it. But the last two days have changed that for me. Partly because I did better on it than I was expecting, but also because of this (here we go again) *calming* sensation I have being here.
I've been obsessing over this one climb all year and now I'm finally here. I can relax. All I have to do is do it!
I may not be the strongest I've ever been, but I'm so passionate about these eight moves on perfect patina that I think my motivation will be a huge factor in carrying me however far I get up this thing.
It sounds crazy that something so obscure can feel so helplessly all- encompassing. Why it matters I cannot express in words.
I know I'm going to have good days and bad days. I know I'm going to bleed and scream and maybe even cry. But I know that here, in my sweatpants in my 1950s trailer in the Kmart parking lot surrounded by truckers writing by lantern-light with my BuddyHeater going, is exactly where I want to be.
I don't feel lost anymore.

28 December 2013

The Art of Feeling Stuck

Here I am in one of the most beautiful, famous climbing areas in the world, Fontainebleau, France, and I don't even want to go climbing. What is wrong with me?
I can't shake the feeling that I want to be somewhere else. Actually I've felt this way for the last twelve months.
I feel stuck.
Why do I feel like I'm wasting time? Precious time. I'm not going to be twenty-four forever. What am I doing in all these places when I know I want to be somewhere else?

I think a lot of it had to do with me signing a lease, my first paid-for home base since 2009. That was the beginning of me feeling stuck. It felt nice to have a bedroom, and a kitchen, but no matter where I wanted to go, I never felt like I could go for long. I always felt like I had to return at around the six week mark, because why would you pay for a place to live if you weren't actually going to live in it?
This most definitely, absolutely, does NOT mean that I want to live the #TrailerLife for the rest of eternity. No, I definitely want a place somewhere. But this time, geographically, I think I'm going to make a better choice. But I have some things to do first.

I lost myself a little bit this year, as a climber and as a person. I wanted to do a climb, and it wasn't the right time, I had to wait for winter. I couldn't go, but I didn't want to stay. My relationship to climbing changed. It wasn't fun anymore, it was a chore. So I didn't climb much over the summer, and I sort of let myself go. When fall came and I decided I loved climbing again and it was time to get back in shape, I was kinda chubby (for climbing standards. And me standards.) I had a hard time getting back in shape. But my focus was stemming from thoughts of my project, and I worked hard, knowing I to need to be the strongest I've ever been to do this climb. I completed seven weeks of a nine-week training program, and felt like me again! But I still wasn't heading in the right direction. I went the opposite way, first to the Southeast. It's almost like I'm running from it; I'm intimidated by it. So I did the ultimate flee and left the country.

I'm not saying I haven't appreciated my time in Europe, of course I have. It's just felt more like... killing time. The entire last year, no matter where I've been, I've felt like I was just killing time, desperately wishing I could be working this climb, but it wasn't the right season. I haven't been able to try my hardest, or start any other serious projects, because my heart has  been elsewhere, on a project farther away.

I got this idea in my head that I wanted to do a boulder, and since this idea's conception, I've only been distracted by it. It sounds like the ultimate cliche, I know, but I've become obsessed. It's all I think about, and I regularly dream about it. None of the climbing areas I've been to in the last eight months have been fulfilling. Of course it's been fun! And I've climbed a lot of incredible lines, and even done some hard things. I just can't focus on anything.

The scariest part about it all is now people know about it. I have been vocal about wanting to work on this climb, I've told people and sponsors. Me, I have put all this extra pressure on myself to succeed.

What if I fail?
Trust me, I'm the first one to admit that climbing is 90% failure. I mean look at KJ and TC, five years in on The Dawn Wall, and Angie three years in on Freaks. It's called projecting for a reason! Who cares if I spend months working it and don't do it?
But this one is different. It's become less about disappointing myself. Now there are other people, and companies involved. I need to do it for me. I want to do it for them.
If nobody knew I was working on it, nobody would know if I couldn't do it. But now if I fail, people will know. And that scares the shit out of me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I've been feeling trapped.

I want to do this climb and I'm afraid to fail.

The thing I want to do the most I'm running away from.

I come home from Europe in a week and head straight out to this project. I feel this need to be there, working on it, but I'm also very intimidated. I guess we'll see what happens.

Welcome to the art of feeling stuck.