Above me quickdraws swing in the gentle breeze and some distance to my right gentle summer rain patters down on the verdant foliage. While my brain searches for internal peace and calm I tie in to the rope hanging down from the first clip and wipe the red dust off my shoes and onto my leggings. Seconds later I stand at the base of the climb, chalk up and set off. I try to climb smoothly and efficiently, I try to climb fast, I try to remember to breathe and I try to stop thinking. My hands follow a precisely prescribed pattern; my feet perform a continual dance of tiny subtle foot-moves that are vital yet entirely subconscious; my body twists and turns, core muscles contracting for each move and relaxing allowing a gasp of air into my lungs.
I sense my fingers slipping slightly on each hold and bite down harder, my left foot steps up and my body automatically turns – a sort of half drop-knee move – allowing my left hand to reach up to a crimp. I squeeze all four fingers on and grip the edge with my thumb pulling hard enough to dig the nail of my thumb into the side of my index finger.
The next move, however, is one that can’t be overcome by subtle changes in body position or by climbing quickly or slowly or smoothly. The key to the move is simple - keep pulling on the crimp, don’t allow your fingers to open even when it feels like it they will rip from your hand. If I manage that then a quick snatch will see me to a good hold and further series of moves that seem both powerful and delicate will set me up for the crux. From there if my right hand pinches hard enough and my legs power me up and left enough and my left hand reaches out fast enough, with enough strength left to latch the hold... then the route could be over.
My thoughts drift on ahead of my body, removed from the stubborn battle between hand and hold. I press down harder with the fingers of my left hand, will them not to open as I reach my right hand across. The fingers on my right just manage to curl around the tiny tufa ear when the crimp under my left spits my still-crimping fingers off into space and a split second later my body follows, falling backwards until the rope comes tight.
Anger and frustration bubble up inside me threatening to explode; months of wet holds, of 100% humidity, of stalled progress steal my composure leaving me swinging on the rope seething.
That I will return is a given, that I will keep bashing my head against this particular brick wall is a certainty. Maybe if I could forget about this route, if I could no longer see the moves in my mind’s eye, no longer know the feel of each hold under my fingers... maybe I would give up but I know that I can’t.