Months of preparation, weaknesses turning into strengths, progress with every movement, learning to go forward; the season was here.  It’s now. 

Bags were packed, tools, a few pairs of pants, helmet, draws, and a new pair of white FJ golfing gloves.  Van life, airplanes, two flights and I was there, Ouray Colorado: easily one of the most majestically, bad-ass places to climb…with ice axes.  Every time I pull up into that town, my body fills with a sense of electricity, excitement, and reason to let go of any hesitation and simply try to be great.

You see, greatness is not found by measure of a man’s success, but merely by true effort, a willingness to commit to one’s greatest effort.  Through any such attempt, what may have been improbable soon becomes the inevitable.  Greatness is not first place…greatness is 100% determination.

As defined, the Hall of Justice serves as the central meeting point for the Super Friends, later to be known as the “Super powers team”.  Clearly no place defines a hero nor any such climb or redpoint, however when standing in the “Hall of Justice”, part of you thinks it necessary for super human strength to get through some of the routes that lay above.  Staring at the lines of draws that seem to go on forever, a roof so high above you’d think a cape would come in handy.  There’s to be no messing around, simply climb, and hold on.

Going to Ouray to mixed climb (or, as it turned out “Dry-tool”) held a question mark over my head.  I had been training for months prior to this trip so the anticipation of my performance left me gripped.  I had no idea how I was going to climb, if training worked, only that I was to go, do, have fun, train more, put to work all that I had been working on, and be good with that.  But still, I was really hoping for gains in performance.  I had been to the Hall of Justice the year before.  At first intimidated by the size of the cave, but soon after my arrival, size didn’t matter, and I was having the time of my life.  My climbing went well; strength, endurance, but still came up short on a couple of the test pieces within the Hall.  Returning to the cave this year, naturally I was looking for a better performance based on recent efforts in my training.

Bros, tunes, super hot temps, beautiful mountains, blue bird skies, beer in the creek for the day’s end, you couldn’t ask for a better setting.  Yes, the “central meeting point for super friends”.  I was fully psyched for climbing.  The energy was through the roof amongst all of us.  Everyone’s attitude was in support of each other’s individual goals.  Game on.

Hiking up to the cave would seem like a walk in the park.  Literally it was the length of a soccer field.  But put that soccer field on a steep angle up at 10,000ft and all of a sudden it feels like you’re trying to push on to the summit of Everest.  Sluggish, heavy breathing, dizzy spells.  Oh crap, not again…I had forgotten about the altitude of the cave.  I had forgotten about how my body reacts to such altitude change.  It’s never good.  I had been to Ouray before…crap, I should have remembered.  I was worried, nervous, annoyed.  What if I didn’t climb well? Settle down, breathe, focus, climb like you train, settle your mind…you’ll be fine.

During my first climb of the day, on day one, moving through the warm up, everything felt slow.  I felt uncomfortable, out of place, and as mentioned…sluggish.  And everyone knew it.  A few comments were let out under the breath of the “observers”, surprised to see me climbing the way I was.  Something was wrong.  Relax, it’s just a few jitters.  Breathe, remember? Focus, remember?

After several warm-ups things were starting to loosen up.  My body was starting to function as I had trained it.  I could feel things coming together.  Ok, it was time to get on something big(ger).  A couple of the bro’s were working on one of the raddest lines in the cave, “Pull The Trigger, Tigger”.  A D12+ that ran straight up and out the heart of the cave.  I had been on it once the year before but fell half way out on the roof.  I had “hog tied” myself in a figure four and couldn’t undo the rope that had tangled me.  So, I figured, why not, let’s get on ‘er again.

One of the bro’s, Marc Beverly, was givin’ “Pull the Trigger…” a go when a hold broke.  Instantly the route had changed.  Right away he thought that section wouldn’t go anymore, thus needing “fixing”.  “Hold on a minute dude, I think it’s still gonna go.” “Really? Ok, I’ll try it and see what happens.” It still went, but now…now it was even better.  What was a simple move leading into the roof of this mega cave, now–a huge lunge that forced you to go as big as you could go.  Wicked.

Leading up to the “Lunge” move, my climbing felt solid.  T’ing up for a huck, I went for it and missed, but still held on.  I went for it again, still missed, but still held on.  On my third try I nailed the big move and kept going.  Now on the roof–I was feeling good, but still a long ways to go.  Suddenly I popped out of a stein pull whilst about to clip and went flying.  Yup, could have used a cape at that point.  Man, did I ever go for a winger.  I had un-weighted an upside down stein pull in the roof, with lots of rope out to clip and my tool slipped out.  I was off.  It was a good laugh for everyone, including myself.

After taking a good rest, I got back on “Pull The Trigger…” and gave ‘er another go.  Back to the lunge, and back to missing 4 times this time around, but still holding on.  On the fifth lunge attempt I finally connected with the hold above, enabling me to get into the roof.  Careful tool placements, making sure I was loading every move with precision.  I wasn’t going to mess up this time.  Hold after hold, clip after clip, nearing the chains, still feeling good.  I couldn’t believe it, on my second attempt that day I redpointed the D12+.  The heavy breathing, sluggish hiking, slow warm ups, it all didn’t matter.  What mattered is that I had just clipped the chains on one of the coolest lines in the Hall of Justice.  The training, it was working, recovery, endurance, more power…it was totally working.  What a great first day.

Throughout the rest of the trip, the level of effort was admirable.  Everyone gave their all and had a stellar time doing so.  Routes were climbed, new test pieces were formed, and many-a screams were heard during the flight of the monster whippers.  And although being a 7 day trip, still, the first day was certainly the highlight–the psyche, the sending, the establishing, and the encouraging.

Great trips are made up of those whom you share them with, whether chains clipped or summits reached.  So, a big thanks to Jason Nelson, Marc Beverly, and Aaron Montgomery, to the “super friends” in the Hall of Justice.

PS. A new route was established on this trip, a line that seems to go on forever.  It’s harder, longer, bigger, better, technical, physical, upside down, right side up.  It has it all…and it’s going to push all.  So get ready, and stay tuned for reports of the first and following ascents.

(Photos courtesy of Carter Stritch)