It was a deep need, almost insidious. I found my first project in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington along the cliff band of a local climbing crag called Ozone. Describing this project as an obsession would be benign.

It was ten months in the making. I powered through this route each time I went to ozone only to find myself falling again in the same spot. I remember during one session kicking the rock and feeling horrible about myself. This climb had really gotten to me.

It wasn't until last week that I climbed it clean. What made this attempt different than all of the others? Why didn’t I fall? After a little reflection I realized lots of things were different. Time had passed. I was stronger. I familiarized myself with the sequence. I remembered the new beta at the crux instead of trying it the same old, dysfunctional way that I had before. 

I couldn’t help but feel completely relieved. I wondered why I had let myself get so worked up over a single climb. It might have been my ego. Okay, it was definitely my ego. My project got to the point of focusing on the outcome, getting to the top clean, not the process, the act of climbing. Moments before I sent the route, I remember taking five deep breaths and reminding myself “only climbing, no hesitation.” 

We find ourselves at a plateau in various aspects of our lives. It could be with our jobs, our relationships, anything. We might feel stuck. However, to break through, we have to change something. It could be that we make a small change, or do something drastic. Whatever it is, you can be certain that when you do the same thing over and over again the same results follow. 

Much of what I experienced with this project was mental. Over and over again, I was telling myself I had to get it clean. I couldn’t fall. Don’t fall. That’s a repetitive inner dialogue, not to mention negative. Without fail, I would “fail”. I had to change the script. I had to stop thinking of the climb as a failed attempt. It was necessary to start looking at the climb like it was just an attempt and that it needed no other value. The value I was putting on it, whether success or failure, was my own. 

Of course, everyone wants to get better and stronger. Climbing is about always pushing your limits. But I had lost sight of why I had chosen “High Plains Drifter” as my project in the first place. It was a damn fun route that brought out my strengths even if I did fall at the crux. It called me out - out of my shell, out of my comfort zone. I was drawn to it because it was the first climb that taught me how to move through being pumped. It was long, so it also challenged my endurance. It was a climb that I knew was teaching me how to climb smart and efficiently.

The same day that I cleaned my project, I gave my first 5.11 a go. After falling at the low crux, I surprised myself and got to the top. It’s true that climbing is full of “on” an “off” days. There will be times when I perform so starkly different from one day to the next. The process of getting this route clean over the last year taught me that just showing up for the climb is enough. No expectations. No hesitation.