Step out of the car and close the door behind. Chalk, shoes, pads, tape, coffee. Good to go. Walk down the trail on your way to a constellation of boulders strewn across the ponderosa hillside. Most boulder problems come and go from our lives in a short lived fashion. A day long friendship. Instant success. Immediate disappointment. Fiery one night stands. Eternal enemies. Unforgettable. Apathy.
Squished somewhere in between all the possibilities is a spider web called “the project”. Sometimes softened under terms like passion, inspiration, or psych, stumbling across it is a slip into a wormhole of ultra motivation and watered down madness. It happens when you come down the trail, brush back the pine bows taunting your face, and spot a granite unicorn. The way it looks, the stunning surroundings, the grade, how you imagine yourself pulling the mantle and popping champagne on the top. Most importantly though, it's how you are unable to do the first move to even pull your butt off the dirt. That's the hook. Drive nursed to life not by our current human capabilities but by a vision of that future metamorphosed super being. Peak climbing is attractive and addicting purely on the basis that it cuts straight to the bone of our potential. Plenty of other athletic pursuits require strength. And indeed, many of us are tested daily in our ability to problem solve. Take maximum physical ability and the utmost cerebral awareness and twist them together. Then, with the right climbing shoes coupled with perfect humidity, eleven moves from ground to mantle doesn't seem so far after all. Bouldering at your max is both physically savage and mentally taxing. Twenty-three seconds of the most difficult thing you've ever done.
What's beautiful about it, aside from incredible Instagram photos and boring those who will listen with tales of your heroism, is that much “try hard” acts as an incredible life filter. After all, what could be more difficult than the most difficult thing you've ever attempted? Each session on “the proj” becomes a meditation session and a chance to listen to your own personal self dialogue in a situation where the deck is stacked against success. Less about conquering the stone and more about learning it's subtleties. A dimple in the granite over here for the right middle finger. Rotate your left foot counter-clockwise a few degrees and that thin seem catches your heel rubber. All of the sudden your butt is off the dirt on you're on your way!....ten more moves left to decipher. Little to no effort is required to keep the fire burning. You'll arrive at the base of it many mornings with confidence and optimism only to leave with shredded skin and a slightly better understanding. You'll waive the white flag and crack a beer in surrender as the sun sets in February, and again in June. The drive will outlast three pairs of shoes, multiple angular pulley strains, echoing f-bombs, and torn collateral ligaments. It will see you through all four seasons. And all of the sudden, one day, in an explosion of nothing particularly spectacular or different than the previous two hundred and nineteen attempts, you just walk up and send it.
Walking back to the car you can't help but feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and a soul warming vibe for having pulled it off. While simultaneously, “whats next” begins to creep into the brain. That experience and ability to measure progress in such detail is undoubtedly addicting. Luckily, energy doesn't vanish, it just transfers. It's only a matter of time before you come down the trail, swipe the branches to the side, and spot that next unicorn.
February - October 2017
Landon is a UW-O Kinesiology grad, Wisco native in Utah, a Climber ,and husband to an endlessly sweet yet subtly fierce farmers daughter.