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Saturday, I sent my most recent project. I’m not bragging, just setting this up. It’s easy for most of the people I climb around, and hard for some. Including me. Everyone sends something sometime or we’d all hang it up and go surfing.

Last weekend I tried it six times, and it was hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, and hard. I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t make the last clip, couldn’t make myself climb above the last clip, couldn’t pull the crux move at the last clip, couldn’t make myself skip the last clip, no one else’s beta worked for me at the last clip [1], got pumped at the last clip. Et cetera. The crux is at the top, could you tell?

Then all of a sudden, it was easy. I warmed up and did it, and I knew I was going to do it when I pulled my shoes on. I could have botched it and fallen, but I didn’t have that feeling. I don’t know why, because the last time I was on it, I was trying really hard (ask the witnesses!), and still… couldn’t do it.

I’m not any stronger than I was last weekend. Maybe a bit lighter (I didn’t step on a scale). The conditions were slightly better – perfect to be exact, but last weekend wasn’t bad. I didn’t train specifically. Didn’t obsess. Didn’t visualize. Just ran and biked and spent about three hours on the climbing wall, along with a couple of PT sessions in the gym.

And six days farther into the decline.

Yet it went from hard to easy. From screaming at the top of my lungs and falling off [2], taking big whips, to utterly casual. Maybe a grunt or two, but it felt easy.

What changed? It had to be mental. Something in the mind, something mental, just clicked over, and what was hard was now not. Like understanding a mathematical concept, or one of those color-blindness tests; once the neurons click, you can’t unsee it.

The real trick is, how do you go immediately to that state? There must be a way. Ondra, Sharma, Megos (and similar experts in other fields – music, science spring to mind), immediately see the flow and the consequence. How do you train yourself to get there immediately without the intermediate frustration state?

10000 hours, I suppose… but there must be a mental switch that’s accessible, because in 25 years of climbing, I must have the hours in at this point. A mystery.


[1] Thanks, Vincent, for the key beta in the bottom crux. Even though he, and no one else, does it the way I do it, Vincent saw the flaw in my sequence and pointed out an improvement, taking it from 50% success to 100%. The top crux sequence is all mine, and probably nowhere near 100%, but you only have to do it once for the send.


[2] Taking a big whip while falling off trying is A Good Thing.