Sometimes failure feels like a bruised rib and a bruised ego

My buddy Jerry and I stand beneath our project. 40 feet of slab climbing to an intimidating roof. Jerry grabs the rope and ties in. I’m glad he’s going first. Maybe he’ll unlock the sequence so I have a chance at this.

He gets to the roof with no issues. He clips the permadraw and slowly makes his way out, using an undercling and nothing much for his feet. He struggles and falls. He sees the sharp three finger pocket he needs to use and goes for it. Got that, now big throw out left. He falls several more times trying this move. “Bring me down” he shouts in defeat.

Jerry trying to figure out the beta on Lavender Eye, a popular 5.12a at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas.
Jerry trying to figure out the beta on Lavender Eye, a popular 5.12a at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas.

It’s my turn now and I’m even more nervous because Jerry should be way more capable at this style of climbing than me. I head up and easily make it to the roof. After clipping the draw, I slap at crappy holds a few times before falling. I find the sharp three finger pocket and throw out left to, well, not much. I fall. I try several more times. I pause for a minute, assessing the situation. I have a plan now. I make the throw out left to the ticked hold and get it. I set my feet and then fall.

One more try. I throw out left and grab the hold. I quickly bring my left foot over to a heel hook and bump my left hand up to a decent hold. Sweet success! I unlocked the secret. Another hold and I’m moving up. I get to the next bolt and search around for good hand holds. Nothing good. The feet? Even worse. I hold on and hang my quickdraw. I try to find a better hand hold so I can clip the rope. Just then the wind picks up and I find my self trying not to get blown off the route. My forearms are burning. Can’t find a good clipping hold. I try anyways. Nope. Both hands back on the rock. Oh no. This is not good.

I let loose a tirade of expletives as I peel off the rock. Suddenly I find myself flipped upside down and hanging in midair. I’m alive. Jerry lowers me to the ground. I’m shaken up. My right hand is bruised and numb. My left ribcage aches and right leg is sore, with instant rope burn.

I stand there defeated. A fifteen foot whipper. I should have placed my foot better. I should have clipped sooner. I get some water and try to stop thinking about it.

I go and belay my friend Lisa while Jerry gives it another go. He ends up getting the moves, using my beta and my hung draw. My friend Aaron gets it as well.

Sometimes, failure feels a lot like a bruised rib and a bruised ego.

Climbing seems like a great metaphor for life. We need to have confidence in our abilities and we also need to sometimes fail brilliantly. It brings us back to earth. Back to this reality. Failure sharpens our focus and gives us the drive to keep going, keep fighting for whatever it is we want in life.

For me, it’s slowly but surely recovering from my recent divorce. I’ve had great friends and family surrounding me, but it’s a lonely and terrible thing to go through. But that failure is sharpening me and strengthening me into a better person and so just like my climbing, I’ll hold my head high and not let it get in my way because there are always a lot more adventures to be had.

Hanging out at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.
Hanging out at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.

Even though I didn’t finish my one project, I still managed to get 2 other routes I came for and managed to climb pretty hard the day following my big fall. My 14th and final outdoor trip was a great success and capped off a climbing season that far exceeded my goals and expectations. Now to spend the winter getting back to things like this blog, building my raw energy bar brand and training up for next season.

So stay tuned, I’ve got some good stories from this summer’s adventures.


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