By – Gord McArthur
“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” – Michael Jordan
For the past couple of months I’ve been focusing my climbing a lot on “onsighting” – the art of showing up to a route you’ve never seen before and trying to do it first go. A while ago my coach told me straight up that it was my onsighting ability that’s been holding me back from certain goals (mainly competing). With only a few months to go before mixed season (and the start of all the comps lined up), he basically said to get after it and onsight as much as possible with the time I had left (on rock that is).
It’s been a tough summer, with crappy weather and too many bugs. I’ve been able to rock climb a bunch…don’t get me wrong…but not as much as I would have liked. Because of the various “road blocks” I’ve been somewhat restricted to backyard training. Not such a bad thing considering what I have back there (bouldering gym and a crazy mixed climbing set up). But because of the lack there of, it’s been mentally taxing when the “bit that I’ve been chomping on” has near worn out.
My local crag is rad…but I’ve either climbed “it” or been on “it”. Thus onsighting is a bit hard to do there. Next plan: convince my wife that I need to go climb elsewhere. And so “operation: onsighting” began.
The first stop on this mission was Skaha bluffs in Penticton, BC. This place has a bazillion routes, so there was no shortage of new climbs to jump on. I spent 4 days there (during the first annual Skaha climbing festival), attempting to climb every day, as myself and the two buddies I was with wanted to make the most of the trip. Naturally by day 4 we could barely move, never mind climb. However, sucking it up and ignoring the “pain”, I gave ‘er everything I had for all four days. Onsighting went well and I felt as though I was reading routes a little better by the end.
The next location for mission: onsighting was down in Tensleep, Wyoming. This place is so rad–whether limestone, sandstone, steep, pockets, crimps, the works. I was there earlier this year and had an amazing time. Naturally I wanted to go back. So, I did. The second time around I was totally focused on getting on as many new routes as possible. Of course I Wanted to “send”, but more so jump from route to route, attempting to better my skills at reading the routes as well as my movement whilst on the fly.
Throughout my 7 day stay in Tensleep, we had 5 days of actual rock climbing–2 on, 1 off, 3 on. My buddy Kevin Wilkinson, who has bolted a lot of the top-notch routes in Tensleep, was super keen in helping me with my onsighting. Showing me all the routes to get on, working with me on various tactics, etc., it was certainly great having him there, the support, the encouragement…it helped.
By the end of the trip I was starting to feel as though I had gained some momentum in the realm of onsighting. I was moving more efficiently, not resting as much…all in all I was feeling better about the weakness…which was a good thing.
Last year during various competitions I was strong enough, I could move fast enough…but I struggled with the actual movement, sorting through the moves when the clock was ticking. I thought that perhaps it was power, or lack there of, that was holding me back…but really…from the beginning…it was my lack of comfort on new terrain. I was nervous; cautious…too cautious, uneasy…scared. These elements did not boast well for coming anywhere near the chains (top of route).
Climbing needs to be fun, you need to have fun. Without that…there’s just total discomfort. Despite being focused on recent trips and the task at hand…I definitely made sure there was some “fun” thrown in there. I needed to keep it all in perspective…that I love climbing because I have fun doing it. When I step out into the “arena” of a competition…I need to remember that it’s fun, to have fun…and if I can keep that at the forefront…there will be no hesitation, or caution…there will be nothing holding me back.
There’s about a month left of rock season and I’m gaining on the goal of onsighting 20+ routes. It’s a good challenge and I’ve remained motivated to get ‘er done. I’m psyched, excited, stoked, pumped…you name it. I think I’m starting to understand the “fun” again. Kinda like when you first started rock climbing, that constant chill up your spine, the adrenaline of such happiness when going up (our out if your in a cave…haha). And of course, with the mixed season just around the corner…naturally I’ve been given’r with the tools in the backyard. It’s kinda cool when you’re able to look back at where you were and to where you are now. But what’s really cool, is knowing that where you want to go, perhaps once a dream, is now within reach.
All you have to do is believe and go up.