I have climbing projects everywhere. It seems that every place I visit to climb contains at least one route or problem that captures my imagination but exceeds my ability. There hasn’t been a place yet where I have not managed to find an inspiring line that I was either unable to finish or wasn’t able to attempt. Whether I wasn’t strong enough at the Red, ballsy enough at the New, or the temperature did not cooperate at Horse Pens, there are numerous reasons for having unfinished projects.
The nice thing about projects, however, is that they give us something to aspire to and keep us pushing ourselves. Despite having projects scattered everywhere, the real test pieces for me are at crags I regularly visit. These local crags hold problems that I try repeatedly because they act as benchmarks for me. Many of these problems I have never actually completed, but I feel as if they are within my ability level and have an established history with them (I know how far I have gotten in the past, have beta, maybe have done all the moves but never linked them).
The thing about these benchmark climbs is that I always try them. If we are passing a benchmark problem on the way to a specific boulder, I will often stop and give the problem a burn or two to see how I am feeling or if my climbing is progressing. Sometimes that one try can turn into a full day projecting. More often than not, these burns result in ego deflating failure, leaving me to return to try again another day. I have problems at Lincoln Woods, Pawtuckaway, and Rumney that I have been stopping at and getting shut down on for years.
Over the past few weeks I have been able to send a handful of the benchmark problems. It should feel good, but it doesn’t. Over the last few weeks I have sent problems (in one attempt!) that I have previously poured hours into and made hundreds of attempts on. It is the equivalent to sitting through a Fourth of July firework show only to have the grand finale be a sparkler. It’s not that I am ungrateful to put some of these problems behind me, or excited by the prospects of getting stronger or better at climbing. It is just how easily I have completed some of these problems that have been demoralizing me for years. There is something very anticlimactic about the process.
It seems that after completing a boulder problem, you tick the box in the guidebook and move on; but you are left without the larger experience of climbing. I think that bouldering at the rock gym has taken some of the satisfaction out of completing outdoor projects. With the constant ebb and flow of problems in the gym, the importance of sending is not as important as the action of climbing.