I’ve come to know the base of this crag very well. The hillside of dust that my rope slides down. The grooves in the ledge where I tie in and shoe up. The little boulder I’ve sat on endless times, my mind heavy with disappointment. It’s all so familiar after one or two hundred attempts on this little sport route
A season passed, then another. Spring, fall, spring fall, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. That pocket move was not giving up. This route meant so much to me. I’d put so much effort, emotion, and gas money into the process. While in school, I’d spent weekends making the 12 hour round trip drive out to Moab. I’d forfeited the idea of playing on other Mill Creek masterpieces, thinking that my chance to redpoint the Bleeding was just around the corner. If only I could conserve skin. If only I could arrive at the crux with just a hint of extra power. If only I didn’t fall off that move. Every. Single. Time. For five years.
Despite the years of frustration and discouraging attempts, Mill Creek is still one of my favorite crags in the world. I enjoy the climbing, the peaceful hang, the muffins and coffee in Moab, and the chance to climb with one of my favorite partners in the world – Lisa Hathaway. The Bleeding aside, I’ll never say no to a Mill Creek trip.
This year, I returned with a renewed mindset. I finally decided that if I never send The Bleeding, I’ll survive. Life will go on, and it will go on just as beautifully as if I did send. My state of happiness and contentedness did not need to depend on this route.
My first day back, I immediately found new beta for the crux. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the high perch I had been unsuccessfully committed to for years. The new feet were lower, and often cut when I stuck the crux pocket, but they allowed me to set up more comfortably and push harder with my legs. I felt confident. But still, I didn’t care. I could do The Bleeding or not. Life would go on.
A spell of heavy rain hit the La Sal mountains a few evenings ago. Cracking thunder, blinding lightning, hours of torrential downpour, and strong winds whipping the tent kept me up throughout the night. The next morning, assuming the crag would be seeping, my boyfriend, Arjan, and I drove toward Castle Valley to take some photos. Midway down the road, we questioned our decision not to hike 5 minutes down to the crag to at least check the extent of the wetness. We turned around, drove back, and hiked down. It looked kind of wet, but I went up to warm up, brush holds, and investigate. The holds seemed dry, although the air felt humid.
As I belayed Arjan, who was also working the route, I began to feel anxious. This was a familiar feeling, one that often preceded a send. I felt antsy, as though I needed to climb right then. Not in five minutes, but in that very moment. Arjan finished his warm up, lowered, and I quickly tied in.
I didn’t shake out as I usually did. I climbed quickly through the rests. I climbed up to the crux, as usual. I had five years of beta engrained in my mind, telling me that this is where I fall. Yet this time, I felt confident. The pocket seemed closer than normal. I stood up, stuck the pocket, climbed through the three last moves that I always feared I might botch on redpoint, and clipped the chains.
I screamed, because it was practically raining and I knew no one in his or her right mind had ventured out to climb today. Just like that, five years of effort was over. I normally feel relieved when I finish a big project, as all the pressure suddenly releases. But I’d already let go of the pressure. I wasn’t relieved, I was ecstatic.
So, what’s next? Mill Creek holds a lifetime of gems that I’ve always neglected, instead saving my energy for my nemesis. I think I’ll give a bit of attention to a few of those classics, and enjoy the remainder of Sendtember.
-CAMP Athlete, Paige Claassen