Finding Willow

Once upon a time, I was intimidated by the crag at Willow River; as such, I have rarely been there. That once upon a time lasted until… just now, when I chose to make it past tense. A day or two ago, depending on when I get around to posting this, I spent the morning at Willow and did a whopping two climbs; the uber UNclassic Jar of Flies (5.9) for a warm up, followed by the ultra mega classic wrapped in a nutshell of awesomeness, Natural Selection (5.12c).

First time on Natural and he's cutting feet and getting horizontal.

A post shared by Elizabeth Bandy (@elizabeth_bandy) on

By climb, however, I really mean that after the fourth bolt, I climbed from bolt to bolt, hanging, shaking out, resting, then moving to the next bolt, eventually reaching the anchors above the raging falls in the river below.

It’s a start, though. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is not easy. Everyone says, “there’s being in shape and then there’s being in Willow shape”; so very true. Overhang has never been my strong suit, but the movement on Natural seemed very fluid to me as I worked through it. Learning the beta and combining it with the proper endurance will be key to sending.

This fall, I spent several days working Preemptive Strike (5.12b) in Red Wing, my first send on lead at that grade. It was a battle every time I stepped up to it. The day before getting on Natural at Willow, I finally got the redpoint. It was more sweet relief than fist pumping accomplishment. The route had beaten me down so hard that I knew it was about the work I had put in. Success at that next level does not come easy. Natural Selection will not come easy.

It’s time to put in the work. It’s time to take some falls. It’s time to get in Willow shape.

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