Twelve 5.12’s for 2012!
As this year draws to a close, I am excited to share that I wrapped up a year-long goal of mine just a few weeks ago! At the tail end of 2011, I managed to send my very first route at the 5.12 difficulty grade. (Non-climber translation: a “send” means leading a route from the ground-up with no hangs or falls on the rope.) With one under my belt, the next logical step was to establish myself a little more firmly within the 5.12 grade. Averaging one a month seemed reasonable, plus twelve 5.12′s in 2012 kinda had a nice ring to it! I knew that routes catering to my strengths might go in just a few attempts, whereas others that exploited my weaknesses might shut me down despite an untold number of tries. What I didn’t know was that I was going to end up out of commission for all of February and March due to a broken ankle. There was more than a time or two where I thought perhaps my goal was too lofty and I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But despite all the unforeseen hiccups here and there, I was able to wrap up my goal a few weeks ago on my local turf at Crowders Mountain!
Here’s the list of my dirty dozen, in chronological order:
- Welcome to Crowders 5.12a – (January, Crowders Mountain, NC) Ironically this route is right beside my first .12, and went in the same number of tries (four), but it couldn’t be any more different. This one doesn’t have any 5.12 moves on it, but gets the grade because almost every move is hard 5.11, which adds up to 5.12.
- Low Brow 5.12a – (April, Meadow River, WV) Top-roped this one on my first day back out of my ankle boot, and came back the next weekend and sent it on lead. This one might be one of the most unique lines on my list.
- Slabster’s Lament 5.12a – (April, Hidden Wall, NC) This one gets the prize for most memorable, hands down, as I had been one move away from a send on it ten weeks prior when a funky fall caused my ankle to go snap, crackle, pop. It felt good to come back and get this one packaged up and sent.
- Pockets of Resistance 5.12a – (May, New River Gorge, WV) This one was “supposed to be” my first 5.12 last year, but it kept spitting me off at the last move, so redemption on this route was the perfect Mother’s Day present!
- Blind Prophet 5.12b – (May, Pilot Mountain, NC) This one took a ridiculous nine attempts to send (and it wasn’t until the fourth that I actually made it all the way to the anchors)! Apparently .12b is harder than .12a. Go figure…
- Last Glitch Effort 5.12a – (June, Boone, NC) This route was tailor made for my climbing style, and I was shocked that it went down as quickly as it did.
- Freaky Stylee 5.12a – (June, New River Gorge, WV) This one really pushed my physical and mental limits, and has since become the gold standard by which I assess my mental game. It was truly awesome… but I probably won’t ever get on it again.
- Wu-tang’s Secret Shinto Ride 5.12a – (July, Ten Sleep Canyon, WY) First .12 on-sight! (Non-climbers: sending a route first try without ever seeing anyone else on it). The hard stuff was right off the ground, then gradually easing terrain to the top.
- Homerectus Direct 5.12a – (August, New River Gorge, WV) It’s near impossible to send hard during southeastern summer humidity, but this one move wonder crux went down during a freak autumn-like day in the middle of August.
- Bullet the New Sky 5.12b – (September, New River Gorge, WV) This one is my favorite one on the list. If there weren’t so many other great climbs at the New, it’d be worth getting on every time I went up there. Spectacular arête climbing – this one took four tries over the course of back to back weekends.
- Hardcore Jollies 5.12a – (October, Red River Gorge, KY) Another one with the crux right off the deck.
- Fashion Direct 5.12c – (November, Crowders Mountain, NC) And that’s twelve! It was neat that #12 went down at my home crag, and it’s only fitting that the last one would be my hardest one! This line is definitely a test of brains and brawn (and if I were a guy… balls). Two distinct crux sections, with the upper one high above my last piece of protection (translating to a big fall potential). My warm-up actually shared anchors with this route, and the scare factor made it too tempting to resist working the moves out on top-rope first. The upper crux was feeling good after two top-rope burns, but I still felt desperately lost on the lower section. So on my first lead attempt I was expecting to thrash around on the bottom for a while, but amazingly enough I made it through that section clean. I stalled out for a minute trying to remember how to initiate my crux sequence, but once through I felt strong and powered straight through to the top!
Woo-hoo! Twelve .12’s are done! It’s not only been a fun ride, but also quite the learning experience. The good thing about having a long term goal was that it kept me focused and motivated throughout the whole year. The bad thing was that a couple of times I put too much pressure on myself to perform, and when that happened, I would forget to have fun (which is a shame, since climbing should be fun regardless of whether I send or flail).
Who else out there had a goal (athletic or otherwise) that they were able to accomplish this year? Don’t be shy, you worked hard for those bragging rights!