Last week, I drove north to Sandstone, MN to visit my long standing project, Sigma, for the first time this season. My buddy Mike came along to belay me and give it a climb himself. Mike is currently projecting his first 5.13a in Red Wing, so Sigma, at 5.12a/b, wasn’t burning a hole in his brain as it has been mine.
Mike sent on his third go and I walked away after my seventh. Back at the car, we got into a discussion about what it means to send a project versus sending just another climb. I asked him how he felt to have sent Sigma. He said it was cool to have it done, in a casual way that was familiar to me when talking about most climbs that aren’t Sigma over the past year or so.
One of my favorite aspects of rope climbing is that we can work at drastically different grades and still support each other with a belay and some good words. Mike and I have the same goals, just on different climbs. It didn’t mean anything to me that sending Sigma didn’t blow Mike’s mind, but had I sent, the feat would have blown both of our minds. That’s a beautiful thing.
He asked me how I thought I would have felt if I’d gotten it clean that night. After so many efforts in a single day, I was pretty certain I would have had a “finally!” response at the chains, as if I had merely fulfilled an obligation to myself by sending. What unfolded was entirely different, however.
This past weekend, I headed up to Sandstone with Brenda from Adventure MN Films who was going to shoot some video of the Kettle River Paddle Festival. My plan was to give my project a couple runs, boulder across the river a little bit, and then join the festivities with Brenda and the river folk.
As I was preparing to lead Sigma, Brenda hiked up on top of the cliff, tied herself to a tree, and captured a top down view of the climb.
Having been on the route just days earlier, I had visualized the moves repeatedly and finished it a dozen times in my mind. It paid off as I stepped through the opening sequence and soon found myself attacking the crux that had shut me down time after time Wednesday night. A few shakes of the arms at my new favorite rest spot and I was into the redpoint crux. Wednesday, I was gassing out here, but since I hadn’t fumbled around at the start and had successfully caught my breath at the rest, I found all the energy I needed.
At the chains, I reveled in the moment with Brenda just 15 feet away, responded to a cheer from down below, and lowered to the dirt.
Later, I sent Mike a text message. “Elation. That was the feeling sending Sigma.” I felt it all weekend and just as Monday’s return to cubicle life began chipping away at it, Brenda posted this video that she had quickly put together for me. I was elated all over again.
As a plug for my friends at Mad Rock: On the Saturday of my send, I pulled a brand new pair of Mad Rock Concepts out of the box, laced them up, and comfortably sent my project. Sharp edges, comfy toe box, easy smearing; all essential qualities in a sport shoe that helped me make it happen. Thanks, Mad Rock!