Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop the feet

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

We got to Joe’s Valley Sunday afternoon and played around on some fun classics like Angler (v2) and slipped off the super polished Big Joe (v7). Unlike most of the other places we’ve climbed on this trip, Joe’s Valley’s boulders are scattered around the sides of two different roads. Similar to 221 in Boone, you have to drive, park, and hike a couple minutes to get to any of the dozens upon dozens of boulders. After you finish your project (or give up) , you get back in the car, drive to another area, park, and repeat. It will take us a while to figure out the lay of the land. The only Joe’s Valley guidebook is poorly written and  covers about 1/3 of the total actual boulders.

Yesterday was hopefully a good taste of what’s to come: we warmed up on some fun (yet crimpy!) v0s-v3s, and then I got on Porcini or Portabello (v7). Yes, that is the full name, including the “or.” The bottom part was stout, but once I figured out the beta and got through all the moves, I knew that I couldn’t waste my go by falling off the super sketchy highball finish. I knew that my fear of falling would be self-fulfilling if I let it, so I forced myself to take some deep breaths, to calm my nerves and stop my legs from shaking. One year ago, I would have balked and just hopped down, shaking my head and telling myself that it  wasn’t worth it. I had very little confidence in my body, my shoes, or the rock itself. Now, I’m learning to ride the wave of fear and let it power me up to the top. I shook out and then just kept moving up. None of the holds were amazing, but they certainly weren’t bad, and my head went quiet as I focused on completing one move at a time. And then it was over, and I had to shake out a good bit before the equally-sketchy highball v1 downclimb.

Hah. Take THAT fear of heights.

We did some more fun stuff in the same general area, joined by friends Jeremy and Kim. Drexel was able to smash Kinda Brawny (v8) after maybe four goes. The wind picked up so we moved to the Cabin Fever area. The hike in was crazy because the wind shoved into our sail-like crashpads and knocked us all over the place. I felt like a sail boat, except I couldn’t really adjust the sails, only keep walking. Luckily the boulders were much more sheltered and kept the sand from attacking our faces. Drexel worked on Death Scream (v10) which was pretty cool and worth returning to on a fresh day. The rest of us hunkered under Electric Fence (v7) and exhausted ourselves trying to figure out the stout moves. Jeremy made it look easy, but he might be paying for it today with a throbbing knee. I decided to put more effort into the adjacent Powdered Toast Man (v8), and sent it a little too quickly considering the grade.

Jeremy showing us how to do the tricky mantel on Electric Fence (v7).

We retired to the Food Ranch, a local grocery store that has a den-like cafeteria section upstairs where climbers tend to congregate. It’s a win-win situation, since climbers eat non-stop, and the store sells ridiculously cheap donuts all day long. It was awesome to meet so many new people that we hadn’t already bumped into outside. The winds increased, and at some point the power went out, so we were asked to leave. The drive back to our campsite was sketchy. The heavy winds (upwards of 60mph!) rocked our van all night, but Drexel assured me that we would not tip over. In the morning, we were still upright, but nearby tenters weren’t so lucky.

Today was just a blast! We headed to New Joe’s and got on a bunch of classic v1s-v5s. My favorites were Reading Rainbow (v5) and Bad Genes (v3). We ended up stalking the folks from our campground, which means I had some badass short girls to climb with and Drexel had some tall bros. AND there were always at least two puppy dogs within petting reach.

The not-so-bad Bad Genes (v3).
Marcy turning pages on Reading Rainbow (v5).

Soon enough, it was time to put on our try-hard pants. (Note to self: ask Walmart if they want to sponsor us and provide a life-time supply of hot pink children’s sweat pants.) We tried Chips (v7) and all the girls struggled to link the big move. The guys did it, and then moved on to Planet of the Apes (v7). We hiked over to the Resident Evil and Marble Cake area. I saw some girls on Spam (v7) and got super psyched to try! I was able to do it in two parts, and then stitched it together.

This climb helped me see even more how mental climbing can be – multiple times I did not think I could do the next move. After the dyno, I expected to fall. Each time I stuck a move, I surprised myself and kept going. My legs were visibly quaking and felt weak with fear (that empty tingly weakness you might feel when looking down a sheer drop-off). But I didn’t want to give in and let the terror sink in. This seems so silly to write about, but I feel like I’m pushing past this barrier in my head that has kept me from sending in the past. I’m not grunting or getting animalistic, but I am pushing past what I thought was possible and just… not stopping. This might be setting me up for a worse fall, since I’m not preparing myself physically or mentally to fall, but so far it’s been successful. I’m gaining confidence, and it’s exciting! Looking back at my own development, I wonder how much quicker a person could progress in climbing with just the right amount of confidence. It makes me want to shake everyone excitedly and say, “YOU CAN DO IT!”

Kim throwing heels on Spam (v7).

Anyways, enough of that rant. Drexel got super close on Resident Evil (v10), but his bleeding skin delayed the inevitable. By the end of the day, his t-shirt and pants were crimson Rorschach tests. (Guess laundry day will be coming a couple days early.)

Drexel was too innocent for Resident Evil (v10).

We’re planning to rest our skin tomorrow while we figure out our next plan of attack. I’m sooo excited to be in Joe’s Valley. There are such nice fun people to climb with, and the scenery is breathtaking. Everywhere you look is beauty.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” -Rumi

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