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.

22 December 2013


We have departed the beautiful sunny valleys of Ticino, Switzerland and have entered the rainy lands of Fontainebleau, France! The end of our Swiss trip was fun indeed, but secretly... I prefer sandstone to granite. Please don't tell Yosemite.

 Sasha Turrentine in Chironico

 An incredible V8 called, "Made in Norway"

One of the most amazing climbs I've ever done, "Molunk" V9

Yesterday I climbed in Font for the very first time in my life! It was incredible! The goal here is to climb ten boulders a day, doesn't matter the "difficulty level," which is completely arbitrary here anyway. The boulders are beautiful and it's like running around a playground. So much to do! And I caved and bought the 7's + 8's guidebook so I'm not randomly trying to get off the ground on what I didn't know was a classic V10, with Frenchmen hiding in the bushes laughing, watching me fail.

This amazing V3 I couldn't do...

It's supposed to rain for the next few days, but hopefully the weather clears up, because I'd like to learn how to rock climb before I head home. Christmas and New Year's Eve will be spent in Paris!!

02 December 2013


I thought it would be longer before I returned to Europe, after my experiences in 2011, which were recently exposed in a Rock and Ice article, where I battled loneliness, failure and depression, swearing to myself rashly that I’d never go back.

Maybe the difference this time is I’m not alone; I brought a piece of home with me, in someone who’s known me for over a decade, since I was a gangly, brace-faced pre-teen.

Or maybe it’s the entirely different curriculum I’m following. My last visit was dedicated to competing on the World Cup Circuit, to plastic and rankings. This time I’m in Europe solely for the pleasure of rock climbing, no judges, no points. No real aspirations, honestly, aside from just spending time climbing in an area I’ve never been before.

Of course being here doesn’t come without some anxiety, even though I’m in a completely dissimilar situation from last time. But each day that goes by, I’m reminded that I’m here because I chose to be, because want to be, because I love climbing. And the climbing in Switzerland doesn’t suck.

It’s so beautiful here. We’re in the mountain town of Claro, surrounded by towering white peaks. We go out in the late mornings, after the frost has burned off, and spend the day at either Cresciano or Chironico, two different areas within just twenty minutes of driving. It’s cold, and sometimes starting up is hard, but if we can get good and warm it’s worth it to feel the gratifying slap of sticking to a hold, otherwise un-stick-to-able in higher temperatures.

Some of the climbs here remind me of The Valley, in the way that they’re proud, granite lines, with slightly technical face climbing. As Yosemite is the only other place I’ve climbed on granite in the woods, it’s easy to seek out similarities. Of course, there are characteristics of Colorado bouldering that present themselves here as well. But to be fair to the area, it is its own. It really is different from anywhere I’ve been, but what place isn’t? It has its own qualities, style, scene. Like all areas, there are lines that are gems and lines that are mediocre. The most exciting aspect of Switzerland for me is that it’s new. Everything is new, and therefore by nature is guaranteed to be at least somewhat exciting.

When the sun goes below the mountains and our fingers, freezing, cease to grip holds we head home, knowing, gratefully, that the cabin in which we’re staying will be toasty, a fire already lit by the kind old man and his wife from whom we’re renting. They spoil us.

Our little place is filled with Christmas sweaters and advent calendars, chocolate and wine, movies and laugher. It’s cozy and friendly and for the time being, home.