“Their enthusiasm has no bounds, and therefore people born under the Sagittarius sign possess a great sense of humor and an intense curiosity. Freedom is their greatest treasure, because only then they can freely travel and explore different cultures and philosophies. Because of their honesty, Sagittarius-born are often impatient and tactless when they need to say or do something, so it’s important to learn to express themselves in a tolerant and socially acceptable way.” Hey, fuck off, you don’t know me!
Much like astrological signs, climbing grades are bullshit… but that doesn’t seem to soothe the sickly feeling in your stomach when they seem to be true. The grades in American bouldering go from v0-v17, and these numbers are completely subjective, impossible to explain, and can’t even be described as esoteric because that would imply that there is some legitimate kind of scale for grading them. There is not. Grades are an average of how hard a climb feels to all of the people who have climbed it, and this feeling is calibrated by their opinions on the grades of all other climbs they have completed in their life. No shit, it’s that dumb.
Regardless of how ridiculous climbing grades are, I still wrote “Climb v8” as a life goal on a list next to things like “Be confident because you are always honest,” and “Poop a full wrap around the toilet bowl.” This is a half-truth, I never wrote this list on paper, and if I had, I wouldn’t have specified, “around the toilet bowl,” because I know damn well what a full wrap means. The list is still real however, and has been floating around my head in a magical, glittery font for my entire life. Someday, perhaps, I’ll “Do 20 pull-ups” and “Always be myself even when I feel out of place.”
One of my special skills is cramming my fingers into pockets of rock and hanging my body off of them. It’s hard to say what purpose this serves, but I enjoy it immensely, especially if I have to take my feet off of the wall, and move them to a different part of the wall. That’s just the best. Within this tiny fraction of all rocks on earth, I am king. This is another lie, even within this tiny fraction of all rocks on earth, I am maybe a fruit merchant whose stand is doing well enough in the market even after all of the monkey theft, but only because I smile for the customers while fighting them off. Actually, I can get quite sour with the monkeys, which is embarrassing, but I do try to keep my composure. If I was better at selling fruit, I might be able to afford someone to battle the monkeys for me. Point is, I’m not very good at climbing, and above “Climb v8” in glitter goal bonuses is, “Be fun to climb with, even when you are not climbing as well as you would like to be.” Somehow that one is much harder to achieve.
The future is a mystery and a sham, and the only way to trudge through the wreckage of doubt is to decide something is possible. It doesn’t actually matter if it is, as long as you work towards it. Not two weeks ago did Margo Hayes decide that women could climb 5.15, and that she would be the first to do so. That was the exact same day that I sent Monkey Bar Direct. That evening I came home, opened my Instagram to see only this photo, for pages and pages. I couldn’t get enough, because it was exactly how I felt that day. Margo Hayes celebrated International Level-Up Day with me! Hand in hand we wrote the future of climbing. Where once was only the cold, biting mist of dreams is now one incredible woman pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and one mediocre woman pushing the boundaries of what can now reasonably be considered mediocre.
The reason this picture was (literally, no fucking joke) the only thing in my feed is that Margo Hayes is a wonderful person who everyone roots for. She is thoughtful, well-spoken, kind, and driven in a way few understand. I imagine she handles climbing failure better than I do as well. I don’t actually know this, but I’m deciding that it is true so that I at least have a laser pointer to chase behind the couch. My friends (old and new) were so encouraging and supportive while I was working the moves, and so happy for me when I finally sent, but I don’t feel like I deserve that much enthusiasm from anyone else. So often when I’m not succeeding I let my disappointment in myself become bottomless. I even thought, “Now that I’ve sent Monkey Bar Direct, I can never be disappointed in my climbing again, and I’ll be so fun to be around all of the time!” But then I got food poisoning two days later, and finally lived up to Pliny the Elder’s ancient description of me. “As though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth,” I double-dragoned almost all of my strength out into the toilet (I was in a time crunch, some only made it to the seat). So now it is all gone, and like so many middle-aged high school star quarterbacks, I shall walk backwards down the overgrown path of my former glory.
Please enjoy this video of me trying not to cry.