(5-10 min read) 


       Time passed well beyond what I expected.  I’d fought Gutless Wonder (5.14b) for the last two years on and off and lost hope.  I’d forgotten how many one falls happened, or even why I dragged my body day after day to the base of the route.  High-points were no longer motivating– I was beat.  Another failed session loomed before me as I hung my head looking for my shoes.  The fault-lines in the rock fragmented and crumbled mirroring how I felt– cracked. Broken.  I had one more attempt before I was on a plane to South America– one last shot before I would have to wait another year again.  


    On the side of a major highway cutting through the Colorado Rockies, sits an obscure and mangled crag.  The Puouxs, Glenwood, Colorado. Bombarded by trucker and train noises, pigeon crap, and choss lay a limestone cliff band with a handful of natural and sculpted routes.  Conditions varied from freezing cold winds that numbed the body to what felt like a sauna depending on the time of year or if the sun was covered by clouds.


    I was lucky because there was someone willing to go brave this area and hike to the top of the hill and let me try my project.  I stood at the base of Gutless Wonder.  An incredibly steep, natural line that looked blankexcept for horizontal breaks that needed dynamic movement to reach the top.  It was a fight from day one.  I didn’t have the necessary skills to make every move.  I didn’t have a clue.  So I enlisted my coach Rob Pizem to help me train.  


    For six months I woke at 4:30 in the morning and drove to the gym. This allowed me to have enough hours in a day to finish my training routine and work within the Grand Junction school system as a substitute teacher.  We focused on power-endurance, finger strength, core strength, and muscle coordination.  On my weekends I trekked through the snow drifts to test the route and personal fitness.  


    My progress felt slow, but within 2 months each move was completed and all I needed to do was put the pieces together.  I thought I had it in the bag, but forgot that the physical portion was only half the battle– the mental was the main issue. 


    Spring I was in red point mode and one-falling– seepage of the limestone cracks was making finger locks difficult to stay secured and as the temperature rose, the cliff line baked.  I was forced to wait for the next season.  This cycle continued for another year.  Within a week or two of each cycle I was back into falling once each time I tried.  Yet I just didn’t send.  I didn’t understand, but always felt that I’d get it, “next try.”  


    That’s when I found myself with a significant chunk of time standing at the base of the route 2 years after my first attempt.  This was it.  I had been on this route on and off for the too long and I wanted off this rig.


    For ten days I fought terrible conditions.  Nature was not being kind to my plan.  Key finger-locks were wet, holds had broken, and sequences were marred.   The temperature was too hot and forced me into concentrated efforts in the evening but I was still one falling.  6 days into my session a rare-deluge soaked everything.  I didn’t really take it well– this was it my last chance.  Deep in throws of despair Mayan asked me a simple question.


    “Why are you climbing this?” She asked.


    “Because I have put so much effort into this and I am so close!” I said.


    “Do you even like it?” 


    … did I even like it?  I’d rarely given that thought.  I was so enmeshed in a routine that I stopped asking myself that question.  I just assumed that I liked it.  But to be honest my intentions shifted from enjoying the movement to just wanting to finish it.  I shifted from a how do I climb this? perspective to a why can’t I do it?  A dangerous psychological place to be.


    That last day I sat at the base the route.  I didn’t bother with sequences, running beta through my head.  I had already engrained the movement into muscle memory.  I just enjoyed the breeze as it lulled off the Colorado river and sank into the rock.  I knew that I’d poured enough energy into the route– I also knew I had one day left before I sat on a plane.  I placed my shoes onto my feet and chalked with concentrated intent… I wanted to just enjoy the movement that had first sparked my excitement and interest in the route.  


    I still don’t really know what happened during the climb.  It was a special feeling that only happens when everything falls into place.  There was no adrenaline or pressure.  Just perfect movement as each twist and turn evolved into a sequence, the sequence into a section, and the section into the route.  I’d sent with very little effort on my first attempt that day before I boarded a plane and lost my chance for the season.  


    It was just my turn I guess.