Monday, April 7, 2014

Breaking Through Barriers

The most difficult thing that I have had to face in my rock climbing career is a hand/wrist injury that I've been crawling back from for about 4 years.

Rewind back to four years ago. I am incredibly close to sending this amazing 5.13b/c at The Wailing Wall called Pucker, located just outside of Mesquite, Nevada. I make the lunge to the final hold, latch it for a mini-second and fall....again on the last move. But this time, it was game over. My finger was injured. For years I tried to crawl back. I took up trad climbing, figuring that a switch in styles would help. And it did. But then every time I would try hard on small holds again, I would be set back by wrist and finger pain that eventually robbed me of my confidence in my grip strength.

In 2013 things started to improve. I started to train, balance and rebuild. I vowed to push my finger slowly and cautiously. So I let go a lot. And I pretty much ruled out onsight climbing all together. I was essentially always searching for the perfect project that didn't hurt. I found some absolute gems, but I still never found the confidence that I once had in my fingers and wrist.

For 2014, I have had one climbing goal in mind: Climb 5.14.
A 5.14 in 2014 just had a nice ring to it.
To me this number just meant that I would finally have to build back the confidence in my finger and in myself. But I have never been one for long term projects, despite my husband trying to talk me into trying harder routes for years.
"It is hard to send 5.14 when you don't even try them!", he says.
Makes perfect sense to me!

So I created the perfect plan... 
Lime Kiln Canyon, Arizona.

We returned to the birthplace of my finger injury, Mesquite Nevada. I wanted to face that finger ruining limestone head on. This casino town is right in the middle of an abundance of fun limestone sport climbing along the border of Utah, Nevada and Arizona. We have the perfect set up here as Kyle gets to live his Texas Hold 'em fantasy on rest days at the casino and I get to climb on that beautiful limestone on my climbing days.

Trilly loves her Mesquite desert home.


Mesquite night lights. Campsite vistas. 

I had one route on my mind this trip, a climb that I had associated with being the most fingery of them all... Magnum Opus, 5.14a. It was put up by Todd Perkins, a local legend and really inspiring climber that I admired. I really looked forward to trying out his Magnum Opus. This technical test piece stands tall at "The Grail", a beautiful limestone crag with perfect 35m limestone face climbing. I felt like I'd earned my keep on this wall after onsighting Honeycombe 5.13a, Mantis 5.12c and climbing both Homo Fabor 5.12d and Hoarse Plattitudes 5.13b in a day. Magnum Opus was the next step, it was the last one standing.

Keith Ladzinski photo of Todd Perkins, getting the FA of Magnum Opus 5.14a
The photo I have had on my desktop since January.

Kyle made me hang the draws on it after sending Horse Plattitudes. It wasn't pretty but I did somehow stick all of the moves except for one my first try. The holds were tiny, kinda tweaky and seemed to accentuate all of the things I was scared to do on my right hand. It scared the crap out of me actually. I was beginning to question if this whole quest was worth it, at risk of being put back on the bench for good.

Limestone delights.

Brendan Oneill and I put down the cliff classic ,Vespers 5.12b.
 We went to Vegas for over a week to climb some big stuff, and I let Magnum be for a while, and pondered if climbing this fingery route was a stupid idea. <Lack of confidence returns>.
But I felt that this fingery testpiece was the much needed final test to myself. To gain my confidence back.

Then I had a great couple of climbing days at Arrow Canyon, and after years of hesitation, I finally went for a harder onsight. It was time. I onsighted Heart of Glass 5.12d and several other 5.12's in the canyon. With Magnum Opus on my mind, I felt like this was the perfect place to test my skills again. <Insert confidence again>.

Arrow limestone sampling

I rushed back to Magnum to work out more beta, and I stuck the entry boulder problem which was the missing piece of the puzzle for me (midget beta). My brain and fingers were still not making the connection though, and everything was telling me to let go and move on.
Your fingers and wrist can't do it.

We switched up the style for another week, climbing some steep stuff on The Wailing Wall and Arrow Canyon. We were very out of shape on steep routes after almost a month in Joshua Tree, yet cruising the technical stuff. I also made it out to the Red Rock Rendezvous for a few days. I was really stoked to of been invited to teach a couple clinics at this event. I had an awesome time and would totally love to do it again!

Red Rocks, Nevada

Climb Like A Girl Clinic, Red Rock Rendezvous.
Brendan Oneill indulges in a link up on The Wailing Wall.
Team Weakness unites

Campsite Bocchee Ball

So many rest day activities!

Upon my return to Magnum, I made some great linkage and was given some key beta from a friendly guy named Chris from Alaska. This new beta was perfect and I one hung the route twice on the next climbing day.

Holy crap... It was ready to send. 

Digging deep on one of the many creative non-holds of Magnum Opus.
Adam Demmert Photo

The next climbing day we were graced with perfect winds from the north. Too perfect actually... as I came down with a mild case of sending anxiety. I was also concerned about a pain that was starting to develop in my wrist. The Grail was busy that day, with our friends and a few other nice people from near and far. With it being a weekend, Magnum Opus was surprisingly a popular route and the 3 of us who had been actively working on it were there and going for the send. Although nobody could seal the deal all day.

But I still had one more try left.....

Nailing the crux. Like a Boss.
It was a perfect moment, to be there with friends, after a perfect day, with perfect weather, clipping the anchors on a climb that represents so much more to me than a number. This climb represents new confidence, moving on to new levels and breaking down personal barriers. This route was my chance to face an injury head on, and I am so ready to move on to bigger things with confidence in my body again.
Anything is possible.
You just have to believe.
And want it.... really really bad.

Wanting it really bad and latching the final hold on Magnum Opus.
This grand finale couldn't of been timed more perfectly. I am really excited to start trying harder stuff and discovering my real limits on the rock. This turned out to be nowhere near my limit, but I will let other people with more experience in the grade be the judge.
The trip is coming to a close. And it is a perfect set up for the upcoming Ontario climbing season.
On the Rocks is open for business May 1st. STOKED for another season of guiding and climbing on the beautiful Niagara escarpment!!!
Just. Really. Stoked.


  1. What Now! Yip, Yip!

  2. Replies
    1. haha oooh ya! Definitely dreaming about some hard routes up at Lion's Head this summer!

  3. Incredible Les. .14a, SIIICK

    1. Thanks Dave! Hope you had a great trip to Bishop :)