This afternoon I went to Boulder Movement to climb for an hour, feeling that I’ve not been getting enough exercise this week. I attempted a few easy routes, warming up, and then some more difficult ones. I seem to spend a lot of time watching other people, then attempting what they made look easy, and then falling off.
Today though, I watched as a burly man groped across a difficult problem on a vertical wall, and then I tried the same one and, on the second try, realised I could just reach up and get to the top. It felt like the secret of a magic trick had been revealed.
In all my climbing, I’ve never managed a 20. The highest grade I’d done was a flukey 19,which I could never repeat. Today, though, on the third attempt I managed a 20. It was on a 40° overhanging wall, starting with a hold on a large cuboid volume that made reaching for the next hold a struggle.
I tried it one way, fell off.
Tried it the same way, fell off.
Looked at it for a while, planned out a more complicated approach, crossing hands and taking awkward grips, then tried that, found it didn’t work, and while still on the wall found that with three lunges, a lot of hard pulling and some noisy grunts, I could pull my way to the top. My first 20.
After that I had to do it a second time to prove it wasn’t a fluke, and for the mandatory video. Having done that, having beaten my goal, it’s strange – immediately, beating an arbitrary number, some declaration of what counts as a certain difficulty, already feels ridiculous. And yet, I’ve never done a climb graded that hard before. Now what?