I turned my back to the yachts and headed downward. The limestone slab was easy enough to navigate. I worked my way left just as I had a year prior, down to the base of the routes. I came around the corner to see a few other tourists hanging about the cave: a boy and a girl who looked to be in their twenties, whose climbing shoes looked a little too large – if I was asked to give an opinion on it.
From this little hole in the rock, you can see the whole cove. There were a few bright boats and celebrity-like houses across the water. Looking around it seemed absurd that you’d waste your time flailing on this cliff face. Why not sip a margarita and lay by the water instead?
But there I was, in Mallorca again, ready to hopefully re-do a route that had gone down in three tries the year prior. Last year I hadn’t even redpointed a 5.12 yet. This year, I’d done five. I was surely much stronger this year than I was the previous. The numbers didn’t lie.
I began the traverse to start the route, crossing hands over feet until I was where I needed to be. Then, I heard a thick German accent shouting the boat across the way.
“It’s 7a if you keep going further, but this is the 6b! Yes, yes. Stop there!”
The man seemed to assume that I would be happy to know where to stop since I probably only wanted to get on the 6b (around 5.10d in the yosemite system). I couldn’t possibly be headed for the 7a, because scrawny American girls can’t climb that hard, of course.
Despite this, I continued on until I reached the base of Rich Bitch, the 7a I had done the year prior.
The First Splash
Ready to prove myself to the Peanut Gallery, I lunged for the first move, a rather large throw that demands your feet cutting loose (unless you are about 6’3″).
A few seconds later my nice, dry shoes were soaking wet. I had not quite reached the best part of the slot. With few quick expletives, I swam back over to the start of the route and heaved myself out of the water.
The tourist boy who had made no headway on the route tried to comfort me. “Good try, it’s a really big move.” My frustration brewed.
No matter, I would surely do it next go. My ego throbbed and I evaluated the man on the yacht. Was I really getting sprayed down by a fat, German tour guide while he lounged on a boat?
A Play by Play
Fast forward about twenty minutes, I tried again. This time, I stuck the move and kept moving. My other half, Michael, was also working the route, so we had reviewed some beta together. I was ready to execute, but my focus again dissolved in the shouting.
“OK. Now you’ll want to put your foot up in that hold and move your hand right!”
The German guy was seriously giving me a play by play. I froze onto a crap hold. Half irritated that I couldn’t hear myself think and half trying to maybe take his advice, I made a couple more moves, then slipped off again after messing up the sequence.
My climbing was hideous. I was pissed.
Fortunately the swim through cold water would at least take some heat off me by the time I got back on shore. Though I gave no visible signs of anger to everyone else at the crag, on the inside I was fuming.
The next go was better. Before beginning the traverse I turned and looked the guy in the boat square in the face.
“Can you please not yell at me?”
“Can you please not yell at me? I want to figure it out myself.”
Though he seemed agitated at my request, he did not respond. Which is fine because he did exactly what I asked. Though it didn’t go this time, I made progress. I was able to figure out the next section and the attempt felt much better. I was calm again.
About an hour later, the tourist group and the pesky boat were sailing into the sunset. The crowd at the cliff was dissipating and on the sixth go, I finally repeated the thing. I was not proud, but I was relieved. It was a fine day to unsend something.
I have learned many lessons from reflecting on this day. Here are a few.
For whatever reason, I assumed that because I had done it in three tries a year ago, that the route wasn’t hard and it would go just as easily. I had expectations that this 5.11d would be a piece of cake since I had finally cracked 5.12. I sauntered in ready for a cake walk instead of marching in for battle.
Bad with Crowds
I have always had a hunch that I have some crown-related performance anxiety, but this really illustrates it. The day I sent Rich Bitch the first time, there were about four people from our group at the crag. I was comfortable and I felt supported. On the return trip, however, the crag was flooded with new faces, including my yacht-lounging antagonist. The environment cracked my focus.
You Have to Advocate for Yourself
Though my fear of crowds needs work, we can all agree that having unwanted beta sprayed at you while you are working something is irritating. It was critical that I advocated for myself in this situation.
If you do not like something in your environment that is controllable, then change it. You only get so much time to climb, so make it the best you can be to ensure your success. If you would like for your friends to be silent while you are trying to redpoint, just ask nicely. I am sure they will oblige. If you want your belayer to yell a certain beta cue when you reach a particular hold, then tell them. Own your sends and create an environment that helps you do your best. Conversely, being a good climbing partner is all about helping to give your climber what they need when they’re on the send go as well.
The Pursuit of Mastery
Though I did think that redoing this route would be much easier than it was, I still took the time to redo it and I learned a lot from going through the process again. Here’s some advice from Kris Hampton from his book, The Hard Truth.
“Don’t be satisfied with sending the boulder. Send it better….Revisit old mini projects now and then. Unsend them and then resend them.”
Bad Days Happen
This was the first day of my trip to Mallorca. I was a little frustrated that it took me all day to repeat this route, but I didn’t let one off day spoil the pysche for the whole trip. Bad days happen and I knew the vibe at the cliff had messed with me a litte.
However, I did not let this hiccup cause me to spiral into destructive thoughts like “I don’t have enough power to climb here” or that “I’m not in shape anymore” or “my training didn’t work”. By the end of the trip, I went on to send both of my goal routes, Bisexual (7a) and Metrosexual (7a+). I did not let one bad day spoil my attitude for the week.
The Obvious Lesson
Spraying random strangers with beta by yelling at them mid-route isn’t cool. If you do this, you are an irrefutable ass hat. Just don’t do it. That shouldn’t be too hard, right?
Have you ever un-sent something? What did you learn? Drop a comment or shoot me an email, I would love to hear from you!