Seeing goals clearly

“The greatest rapper alive is probably stackin’ produce”


The greatest gift a climbing athlete can possess is not strength or power or endurance… the greatest gift is to see clearly which objective one should attack. Elite climbers often have trips, goals and dreams sketched out months or years in advance. Many of us only feel this kind of clarity a few times a year at best – and to actually see it all the way through, with all the requisite skill and patience and luck, is exceedingly rare indeed. This sense of purpose, this identifying with the goal, is what separates mundane accomplishments from something that truly defines you as a climber and a person.

A few backcountry bouldering trips that I went on completely changed who I am as a climber. These trips nurtured a growing understanding I had of who I was and how climbing fit into that picture. A cycle of preparing for and executing on this type of trip became habitual for several years and tempered that understanding into a realization of what I wanted from climbing and why. It’s not an understatement to say that a handful of days in the woods changed me forever.

We often hope that if we just pick a lofty grade, it will automatically come with a peak experience. But most of the time I believe the peak experience is what we’re actually looking for. More and more I organize my climbing life around this. It’s why I explore, pursue first ascents, and seek out “easier” climbs that will force me to learn new skills. Ask anyone who’s done their next grade a little faster than they thought they would, or flashed something they didn’t expect to. It’s a sort of bizarrely hollow victory, even though we should be happy with our performance. The pursuit of the grade (tree) blinds us to the joy of climbing performance (forest.)

Practiced introspection and organization has led to more peak experiences and deeper satisfaction with my identity as a climber. Keep a logbook of routes. Fill out a pyramid of climbs, somewhere in an obvious place in your home. Do whatever you can to identify with your goals. Always be discussing and writing down lessons you learn. Always be looking to understand more deeply what you are trying to get out of climbing.

Climbing is hard work and often painful. Few climbers make it very far without a bit of masochism, a bit of tolerance, a bit of grin and bear it. Learning from these experiences, and maximizing them – this is the work that determines what kind of climber you become.

Photo by Ryan Palo. Me on Two Pump Chump, V8 FA, Trinity Alps

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