Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Primera Linea, or the projecting fever

Projecting has kept me interested in climbing during the last several years. It is an interesting head and body game, that involves willpower, preparation and planning, and execution that might come quicker or later, better or worse than planned. Putting the red dot on the project is an interesting exercise in estimation - estimation of own strengths and weaknesses, desires, and possibilities. One can err on the side of choosing easy projects, those that take a couple of goes, maybe maximum a couple of days. One can also err on the side of choosing hard projects, those that take countless goes, counting in weeks, months, or years.

I have always striven to overcome my (numerous) limitations, and projecting hard routes provides a means to do this in climbing. I have usually erred on the side of choosing hard projects, one or two letter grades out there from my possibilities. It is a reflection of my personality, but also for me it relates to the ever-present human desire to go further, to challenge oneself to achieve just a bit more than currently in the realm of the possible.

After a pause from hard projects and several years of 'building the base of the pyramid' focused on getting back in shape after my shoulder injury, the time came to project once again. Primera Linea in Bruixes attracted me for several reasons - it is a great line, the first one bolted at the crag by Dani Andrada, it is also more vertical than the other routes at the crag, fitting better with some of my strengths. It also presented a challenge - I could not get off the ground. The first crux comes early, at the second bolt, and is hard, bouldery, overhanging. I could not do the start of the route when I tried it a year or two ago. I still could not do it when I came back to the idea of trying the route last fall. But on the positive side, the second crux is vertical, comes after a nice rest, and involves small crimps on orange sandstone, just the type of climbing I could master.

It became a nice motivation to train for the overhanging terrain, fitting well with my obsession to increase the number of pull-ups I could get out of my (mostly unwilling) body. The training started - and it worked! My arms became stronger, my core became fitter, and my back muscles grew. The only problem on the way to success became a sprained finger, that I smacked into the wall during one of the training sessions when launching for a dyno move. The finger rebelled, but following advice of some friends I decided to climb on it nevertheless as the sprain involved the top side of the hand at the knuckles rather than the usual climber injury of the bottom-of-the-hand tendons.

The psychologically draining part of projecting is the uncertainty - it can be today, or maybe tomorrow, or maybe next week. Conditions become more important than food or fun or any other trivialities of life. And then there is flow. Sometimes flow is on your side, and it feels incredible. However, in my experience, I send routes not when I have flow, but when I am tired, drained, and angry. It is interesting - on most my hardest projects, the day of flow, or 'subidon' in Spanish, I never sent - I got to a high point, I felt absorbed in the task, happy climbing better than ever, but I never sent. It was often the second or third try of the day, when more tired, pissed, and somehow determined, that I manage to overcome, to get to that next hold, to somehow stick the crux. It is in an unconscious state that I fight to the last instant, forgetting issues of control, forgetting the fall, pushing through and up.

And so it went this time - at the end of the day, after having climbed like a goddess to the highpoint of the day, and falling there once again, that I managed to overcome myself, to make the body go up while almost falling on the first crux, while the tendons screeched in pain, while the muscles refused to warm up. And so it goes - there is flow, there is this nice theory, and than there is reality. Projects happen when you are ready, but for me they happen after hard work, after many tries, after progress at the rhythm of a glacier, one move at a time. But they happen. So here goes a cheers to Primera Linea, a beautiful line, that will not have to endure my draws on it anymore this year!

At the rest before the second crux

At the second crux

The final crux move

Rest after the second crux, before the last 7a part to the anchor

Thanks for support and training to Jonas, and for psychological tutoring to Carlos. Pictures by Jonas.