Following my Abalone Diving Experience Holly and I cruised to something a bit more familiar – the land of beautiful rock – Yosemite National Park.
We met my climbing partner Gary Falk, who I last climbed with in Potrero Chico, Mexico in December. Our first day was a nice warm up and Holly got to experience the beautiful Yosemite rock on Munginella – a classic four-star multi-pitch.
That night Gary and I decided to step it up and link up two Yosemite Classic crack climbs – Serenity Crack (5.10d) to Sons of Yesterday (5.10a). Super-topo Yosemite Classics calls this link up “the best and most sustained 5.10 route in Yosemite!” We sat around the camp fire that night and thoughts raced through my mind… This Spring has been interesting for me. Late Winter and Spring is typically filled with intense training (climbing gym in particular) for me. However, this year my focus had been on music – playing the drums with my Rock Band Wounded Knee. Sure, playing drums intensely is a work-out, particularly when we play marathon 10-12 hour sessions, but nothing can replace training for climbing, like climbing.Â Anyway, when I climb with Gary I know that he will catch me if I fall, and when i climb I shoot for being in FLOW. Optimal climbing for me lies right on the edge of my ability and the challenge that presents itself. Isn’t that true for most things in life? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would certainly agree! He wrote the book FLOW – the Psychology of Optimal Performance. And it’s one of my favorites. I’ll leave you with one of his quotes at the end of this post.
Back to the camp-fire. There I was, thinking about just how difficult a 10d crack in Yosemite might be considering my current state. Tim: “So, Gary, I imagine that the falls will be pretty clean on this on, eh?” Gary: “Why do you have to do there? There’s not going to be any falls tomorrow. We’re going to send Jeronimo to the grave!” To put this comment in context, Geronimo is the nickname Gary has given me because of my propensity to fall while climbing. Yes, it’s true. I tend to fall a lot. Well that’s the case because I am always pushing my limits. And as Scottie McGee said in the Seeking True North seminar in Jackson, when we fall while climbing, we actually successfully determine our limits! In any case, there is something to be said about “sending” a climbing route. That is, climbing it completely without a hang or fall. THAT was our intention.
Serenity Crack begins with a run-out start where you follow a tight seam of piton-scars (spots where people have hammered in iron steaks to ascend the route with aid). Gary led the first pitch and the day was fairly windy and a bit chilly. Perfect climbing weather to add a bit of drama! Pitch two was my turn to lead and has beautiful hand jamming cracks with a middle crux (most difficult part) which involves a delicate sequence of moves across a seemingly blank face. I stepped across with some friction and made the move with grace. The final part of the pitch has a classic overhang where you get to experience lieing backward 300 feet off the deck and power through the roof! Sweet.
Pitch three is the crux of the climb is a continuous, beautiful hand crack which diminishes to finger locks and tips! I got to the crux and Gary was above me some 15 feet. “Come-On Tim! Send It!Â It’s gets better… it gets better! Come-On!” I locked my finger tips in the crack and powered through the sequence. Gary’s words gave me encouragement to continue on in the difficult moment, knowing that a better hold was coming. What a great coaching technique! Letting someone know that, when you are in the midst of a very difficult project or challenge, that light is at the end of the tunnel. Yet another climbing metaphor for life and business. We continued the climb and on to Sons Of Yesterday, which was above it. The whole thing (several pitches) was one beautiful, clean, classic Yosemite hand jam crack after the next! Awesome. We finished the climb about 1000 feet from where we had started a few hours ago. We started to rappel and Gary said, “We should bang out Royal Arches next.” WHAT? He wanted to not only go climb something else, but he wanted to climb another 1600 foot route! One which is has been dubbed a “50 classic of North America” climb and one that many people would consider a massive undertaking in and of itself. The guide book says Royal Arches is “committing and has benighted more that a few climbers…” good thing it was about 1:00 pm when we started! “Um…. okay! Let’s do it!”
I will spare you the intimate details of that climb. You must know that it certainly is worthy of the classic rating and is filled with exciting moments, and certainly lots of incredible climbing. Gary and I simul-climbed it, which means the leader goes first and when he gets to the end of the rope, the follow starts to climb at the same time as the leader. Both climbers are secured on the mountain by pieces of gear in between them which are attached to the rock in the event that one is to fall. We climbed the entire route in 4 pitches! Awesome. At one vivid point I was in the lead, climbing up the classic “tree pitch” where you have to swing out over the rock face, feet dangling. I swung around to see Gary about 200 feet away at the end of the rope swinging across the pendulum pitch, with a beautiful waterfall in between us. Quite the mountain experience….
In summary, we finished the incredible day of climbing and made it back to camp in plenty of daylight. rock climbing is an incredible metaphor for WHAT IS POSSIBLE and for the psychology of optimal performance. I had indeed experienced the flow zone nearly the entire day. Â No-one had fallen. As we put out the camp fire, Gary’s put a final stamp on the day with the perfect final comment, “GERONIMO IS DEAD!”
From FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Performance
We have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like.. moments like these are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.