If all those internet trolls wondered why Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson were wasting their lives doing something as useless as climbing the Dawn Wall, then boy are they going to be disappointed in me. There’s nothing like a glued-together cave problem with a drop-off finish in a world class bouldering area to make you question what the hell you are doing with your life. Fortunately, if you look into the cave with the right kind of eyes, you will find the definitive answer to soothe any existential crisis: Going sideways, to that glued jug, DUH.
But when and how will you get to that glued jug? What kinds of moments will fill your life between then and now? Will the path to success be paved with sharts or flappers or donuts? When the story is over will you be brave enough to tell it? In the words of the most ethereal Ronnie Coleman, “Ain’t nobody want to lift these heavy ass weights! I’ll do it though!” From the bat’s wings, I present to you the story of my journey towards that glued jug.
For the first time, we are in Joe’s Valley during peak season, which means there are other climbers here! The weird part, is that they are all, almost without exception, projecting the problem Resident Evil (V10). Because there is a necrotic sea of fear in my competitive little heart, I was intimidated by the thought that I may be the weakest female climber here. Then I thought about it for a second and realized how fucking awesome that is. It doesn’t mean I’m weak all of a sudden, and I actually feel more relaxed. If all of the other women here are stronger than me, I don’t have to feel the pressure of proving what women are capable of every time I pull onto the rock. Sure, I don’t have to feel that pressure in the first place… but come ON. The distant knowledge that Ashima is out there climbing v15, and Alex Puccio is at some gym making insecure dudes angry, just isn’t as comforting when you are the only one who can’t run fast enough to hop the send train.
In a turn of punishing irony, I’m proud of this new humility I’ve found. It feels easier to be myself. I don’t even have to hold my pee inside of my body anymore, it’s that freeing. So we are at Big Joe, a problem I’ve been looking forward to working on for two years. I use a pStyle at the boulders, but if I wait until it’s too urgent, I inexplicably suffer from shy bladder syndrome. I have no shame, and it’s hands-down the most polite way I’ve ever peed in public, but detachable penis is as detachable penis does. I manage to squeeze some pee out, but not all of it. Not wanting to wander further and finish the job the old fashioned way, I figure this will be enough for now.
Flash forward 20 minutes (can you even handle how fast-paced this is?!), and I give Big Joe a go from the start. I get through the first move of the crux, and make the next move, my high point! At the exact same moment, I fully pee my pants. I just let go, faking a fall, and crawl away to go tie my sweatshirt around my waist. I couldn’t even admit this to Eli, and made up some excuse for why I was done climbing about “resting my shoulders” and “coming back fresh”. In fact, he is only learning about this right now, as he reads it! Oh the scandal! If I had sharted I would have told him earlier, but this, somehow is far more humiliating. I have no idea if everyone knew, or no one knew, but I sure pretended everything was alright.
Was it though? Was I ever going to be able to use my core again without a diaper? We’re all dying… but am I doing it real fast?
At least I was going to try to send Big Joe while I waited to die.
A few days later, we showed up in the morning, and projected our hearts out all day long. That is a half-truth, Eli projected for approximately 3 attempts, and then just sent, the way a hungover businessman would make a purely physical appearance at the all-office Monday meeting. He was proud, but he had places to be, like at home playing Zelda in a kiddie pool of gin & tonic. The full truth is that he was there to try Nerve Extension (v10), and believed all day long that I could send Big Joe more than I did. So I spent all day perfecting my beta. A couple hours in, I could do all of the moves, ahem, with complete control. At some point, I did it in two overlapping halves, and that felt almost as good as a send. Eventually, I was too tired to put it together, one of the oldest cliches in the world of projecting. I made more and more new friends, and attempted the climb less and less. Late in the day, a really strong girl came to work the problem. I put my approach shoes back on, tied them, and ate like 13 hard boiled eggs while she rapid-fired on the project. She began to slow down and needed to rest. Eli convinced me to try one last time while no one else was climbing.
Do you know how many eggs Ronnie Coleman eats in a day? A fury began to blaze inside of me, most likely a result of the boiled eggs. Then something as mysterious as the dark side of the moon happened: I got to the first move of the crux sequence, and it felt easy! I wasn’t about to question it, and with all the strength of a raging fire, thrashed my way to the final, glorious, glued-on jug. The glory burst forth with all the force of a great typhoon, and I involuntarily emitted a canyon-splitting, “OH FUCK YEAH!”
As Alex Johnson recently said, projecting is perfecting. Once you do it, it’s hard to understand why you didn’t do it sooner. In that vein, it’s hard to believe that it happened when you finally get to the top, like its too good to be true. So many sends, not just my own, end with the climber turning around to ask, “Did I really do that? Did that just happen?” For me, the solution to this feeling of disbelief is to either repeat the climb, or watch a video of myself doing it.
Except, do you know what happened? There was no video. I shouldn’t care, and maybe a different time we can get into whether or not having footage of myself climbing is good or bad for me, but this is one of my proudest sends, and someday I’ll be a melty old lady who needs to remember that she was once exceedingly mediocre at an esoteric lifestyle sport. Luckily, one of our climbing buddies had a project in the cave so we went back a couple days later to watch him send, and I took the opportunity to repeat and film Big Joe. Now sit quietly, and listen to me attempt to rationalize this sequence of events.
When I was 5 years old, I was at my best friend’s birthday party, and I had been having too much fun to pee all day. I’ve been potty-trained since I was like 18 months old, but I’ve been procrastinating peeing since before I was born. I’m fucking doing it right now. All I remember is that the sun was starting to set, and golden hour was upon us. The playground had an awesome slide, and I was sitting at the top about to go down, when my bladder stopped being supportive of all this non-stop fun. The pee ran down the slide ahead of me and I had no choice but to follow. I don’t remember if my mom laughed at me, or scolded me, or what, but she wasn’t sympathetic, because she knew that I knew what the fuck I was doing and had brazenly made the wrong decision. Big Joe day wasn’t quite as cut and dry (NO PUN INTENDED YOU FUCKING DICKS), but now I can step back and look at the bigger picture. “There’s a price to pay for the girls you lay, life’s gonna hand you a bill one day.” (Afroman 3:7) If you want to be all proud of your v7 roof climb, you are going to have to make sacrifices on the way there, whether that means flailing for years on end, hearing some dude tell his friend it’s an easy problem, and/or fucking peeing your pants in front of as many people as years of life you’ve lived. Since the Dawn Wall documentary hasn’t come out yet, I don’t know how many times Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson had to pee their pants, but probably a lot since that thing was hard. Or maybe they paid in sharts, perhaps we’ll never know.