The Anti Send
View through the boulders at Upper Round Pond
Bouldering is a strange sport because it is filled with a great deal more failure than success. Because bouldering is distilling climbs down to their single hardest section or move, success (especially when climbing at or near your limit) does not always come easily. Or often. It is not uncommon to hear a boulderer talking about working a problem over the course of a season, or in many cases over the course of years. This begs the question: why do we do it? Who really chooses a sport in which the rate of failure greatly outweighs the rate of success?
Mickey Spades looking very serious Gimme Crack
One of the the reasons I think boulderers continue to seek out new and challenging problems is the simple fact that we forget our failures. No one likes to fail, but it is also easy to forget the failure. The days that are memorable are not the days we got crushed; rather, it is the days we feel strong and crush. What is forgotten are the countless times we are spit off a problem as we tested our strength or tried to decipher a particular sequence of moves.
Nate stretching for the Gimme Crack
The other reason boulderers go out despite the odds of success being minimal is that we love a challenge. We are competitive people who would not be happy if something came easy to us. We like the failure because it makes the success more meaningful. The failure validates the success by showing us how hard we had to work to achieve positive results.
Nate climbing a Cause for Commotion
The little study in who chooses bouldering as a sport brings me to the anti send day. I feel most boulderers have made peace with the fact there are going to more days projecting than sending. Projecting is part of the processes and as boulderers we enjoy (albeit are sometimes frustrated by it) and seek pleasure in the fact that we often keep great company and spend our days testing our physical and mental limitations in the outdoors.
Doug working The Hueco Problem
The peace of the process can be shattered, however, if your group is collectively having success either making progress on projects or sending them, while you are battling with a sub par day. As you watch your friends cruise up difficult climbs you find yourself in a conundrum of wanting them to succeed, but not being able to bear watching someone else succeed on something you have failed on. It is a bizarre state of cheering for someone while rooting against them. These are the types of days which make you question yourself. You wonder: Am I progressing? Why am I regressing as a boulderer? Is this fun? Maybe I should sport climb more?
Doug working a fun arete at Boulder Natural
I recently experienced the anti send day on a trip up to Pawtuckaway State Park in southern New Hampshire. It was a gorgeous fall day with cool temperatures and sunny skies and a group of friends who all had the day off. Sensing that this may be the last opportunity for a trip to Pawtuckaway this year, we all piled into the car and headed north. The plan was to go to Round Pond
and warm up on some moderate climbs in the sun, then head to Boulder Natural
to jump on some long standing projects.
Tim working an arete at Boulder Natural
Despite my best efforts, everything from send biscuits (a term for Oreo cookies I recently heard), which are supposed to give you some magical climbing strength, to just plain trying harder, the day never materialized for me. The more frustrated I got, the worse I climbed. So I put on a brave face and tried to enjoy the successes of my peers as best as I could.
Everyone having a good time at the Upper Pond