The objective was simple. Climb Ro Shampo, a 5.12a sport climb in the Red River Gorge, without a fall.
I recruited my friend Aaron Wohlfeil, who I had climbed the route with earlier this spring. His wife was generous enough to let me borrow him for the weekend. He also has an unquenching addiction to rock climbing, so he didn’t mind the 8 hour drive to Kentucky, just to climb a single route.
We arrived at our destination around noon. As we hiked in the sun started peeking through the clouds, a perfect fall day for climbing. The wall where our route was located was empty. We quickly warmed up on the 5.8 arete nearby and then focused our attention to our muse.
The plan was for both of us to climb the route, bolt to bolt so we familiarized ourselves with the route again and then go for the send. Aaron went first. He worked his way up the route, resting at nearly every bolt, trying to find as many rest points on the route as he could, knowing that rests were likely going to be the difference between success or failure. He came down and commented how pumped out his arms were.
I was up next. I worked my way up, resting at each bolt. At the 3rd bolt, that is where the crux was for me earlier this year and this time. I knew what I had to do, it was just a matter of execution. It took a few tries until I got it. The rest of the route went smoothly, even the top sequence near the chains. I came down and felt pretty good. My arms weren’t too pumped and the climbing went pretty well.
We rested as several other climbers joined us and wanted to try the route. We let them climb on our draws. Two guys sent the route, making it look pretty easy in the process. They both clipped the anchors from different points below the jug at the chains, and it gave me an idea for my turn.
After resting Aaron made the first attempt at the route. He made it through the crux and up to the 4th bolt, but then fell. His arms were pumped. He decided to finish, and after one more take, he made it to the top. 2 falls, which was one better than this spring but wasn’t a redpoint. He came down and I was a little psyched out because I felt like he was the stronger climber and he couldn’t hold on.
By now the sun had gone behind the clouds and the wind picked up so I tied in, took my jacket off and gave the route a go. I got to the first bolt, fumbled at the second bolt and then fell trying to do the crux at the 3rd bolt. Frustrated at my climbing I lowered to the ground to give it another attempt. I think I was too anxious and that made me climb poorly. I got some water, waited a few minutes and then tried again. This time I got to the crux smoothly, but fell. I decided to just climb from there, because I didn’t think I had another full go in me. After resting I got through the crux and up to the 4th bolt. I tried the next big move, but my arms said nope and I fell. I then climbed to the 5th bolt, got a decent arm shake out, made it to the 6th bolt and then tried to clip the chains like I saw earlier. I couldn’t and my arms burned so I fell. After assessing the situation and finding a better jug, I realized I could clip the chains from below, did so and then finished the route to the top. 3 falls. Not a redpoint send, but better than the 4 I had this spring.
We decided our arms couldn’t take any more of Ro Shampo so we packed up our stuff and told the route we’d be back again to do battle.
The day ended with us trying to climb a 5.10a several routes to the left, in the rain, with a blank crux at the chains. Needless to say we both fell and decided to retire for the day.
Failure in rock climbing is very interesting, because the whole thing is based around these arbitrary rules we bind ourselves to, which define how we climb something. So yes we technically failed to achieve our goal, and I could probably write all sorts of things about not giving up and other inspirational pithy sayings, but sometimes failure is just that, especially when doing something as silly as rock climbing. It is such a joy to get outside and spend time with friends doing something we love. I’m always inspired, even when I fail. In fact, I recall that I said to Aaron that day that “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day rock climbing.”
We applied that philosophy the next day, and even with temps in the 30s and snow flakes in the air, we hit up another area and had a blast climbing and falling on more rock before heading home. Another great weekend of failure and rock climbing.