This past weekend I drove 3 hours to meet a new friend face-to-face for the first time and to climb outside with her. She's a friend of a couple I absolutely adore and admire, so I knew she'd be cool when I first approached her for a potential climbing partnership. "Lola" absolutely lived up to my expectations, and I hope to spend many more weekends with her before she moves across the country in 2 months time. We are both hoping that these next 2 months will provide an opportunity to improve our climbing and to push past our present experiences and (though I hate the phrase) "comfort zones".
I know that Lola already has her hopes come true. Previously she's only attempted a single 5.9 climb in the area on a toprope, but didn't finish it. On our very first day together I had her working and finishing both a 5.9 and a 5.10a on toprope. I also put her on a 5.5 lead, and that would be the first lead she didn't redpoint on toprope first. I have every intention of seeing her lead 5.8 by the end of August, and have at minimum one 5.9 climbed clean. She doesn't know this, but if she hasn't had an outdoor lead fall yet, I'm planning on seeing that, too.
I can't learn a lot of technical stuff from Lola*. But I also have enthusiasm for the partnership and believe I will make gains from it. Given that I am the stronger climber, I will have to lead pretty much anything and everything I want to attempt to climb. I have always said I wanted to learn how to work things on lead, and this will absolutely force me to do it. I will have to get braver and more confident and I'll have to fall. I'll probably have to fall a lot, and will suffer a great number of cuts, bruises, abrasions, and ego injuries. I already started that on the first day as I fell completely unexpectedly on a 5.10a lead. I think I surprised Lola and her friends because after I safely came to a stop I whooped with delight "That was awesome!"
It was awesome, and awful. It was sobering and emotionally hard falling on a 5.10a, because I used to be able to climb that with ease, but it was invigorating (as lead climbs often are), and it reminded me that falling is not necessarily a bad thing. I gouged my knee and surfed the wave of the endorphin flood (giggling while being borderline weepy and shivering a little). I was also reminded, and it was reinforced by Lola's perspective, that I climb better on outdoor 5.10s than I do on things with lower grades (I find the routes so much easier to read).
This means I have a little better idea of what I can possibly do with myself in terms of goals, or at least make promises of what I will try...
- I will attempt 5.10s, ideally a minimum of one every day I'm outdoor climbing.
- I will stop "taking" on climbs 5.8 and easier, even if I get lost or pumped.
- I will climb 5.11a (albeit maybe not cleanly) by the end of August.
- For each new grade I climb cleanly (or sub-grade as I'm talking 5.10a, 5.10b, etc) I will reward myself with a new quickdraw, and I will not cry when I have to abandon gear because I can't finish a climb.
- In the unlikely event I climb something in the 5.11 range cleanly on my very first attempt (at all), I will reward myself with my own rope.
- I will attempt at least one 5.12 by the end of August (toprope acceptable)
- I will lead 5.6 and 5.7 trad before the end of the August (more difficult if I keep going out only to sport crags, but I'll do it anyway)
- For each new grade 5.8 and above I climb cleanly on trad, I will give myself a piece of trad gear (again unlikely given my preference for sport, but why not?)
I will also, and perhaps most importantly, revel in every new success that Lola meets as though it is my own.
* Yes. I know that many people will tell me about how the teacher can learn form the student et cetera, but my experience is that while I initially did learn things from people who didn't climb as well as me (not so much about how to climb, but more about how to observe my own climbing), that's petered out significantly.