A Positively Great Summer
At the recommendation of a friend, I have been reading the new Jerry Moffett book, Revelations. In it, Moffett talks about how reading Lanny Bassham’s With Winning in Mind helped him to change his self-image and think more positively about himself in order to succeed in competition climbing. One of the selections Moffett quotes states that
The mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If you are picturing something positive in your mind, it is impossible, at the same time, to picture something negative. And, if you have a negative thought, you cannot, at the same time, think positively.
In addition to Moffett’s story, I have seen the effects of a positivity in three different scenarios this summer at the crag.
Last month, my family and I took out friends who were beginner climbers. When it was my son’s turn to climb, he moved much more confidently than he had at the beginning of the summer. When I spoke to him about it, he could not really identify what had changed; he simply felt good on the rock. A couple of days later, he led his first sport route. Both he and I were much calmer than I had anticipated, for we both knew that the climb was within his ability and that he was capable of leading.
He placed his feet well, focused on the moves, clipped efficiently, and cruised to the top.
This past weekend, Matt, a fellow guide, and I met several Central Rock Gym members to Rumney for a day of climbing. Working with groups presents a challenge as climbers have different abilities, comfort levels, and goals. This group, however, maintained a positive vibe throughout the day. When a climber performed well on a specific route, the climber carried the success to the next climb. A few times, a climber struggled but did not dwell on the negatives. Instead, they focused on the upcoming route and climbed better.
People volunteered to belay each other and supported the person who was climbing at the time. When it began raining midway through the day, we stopped for lunch and waited for the rain to pass. Rather than grumbling about the delay or of getting wet, we spoke about the previous climbs and the possibilities of the next few routes.
By the end of the day, I was amazed at how many climbs each person had completed. The positive energy remained present throughout the day.
A few days ago, I made it over to Cathedral Ledge with my friends Matt and Brendan. Between a nagging shoulder injury and other time commitments, I have had less time to pursue some of my own personal climbing goals. We started the day on Funhouse, a classic 5.7 crack that takes you to the midpoint of the cliff.
As I followed Matt and Brendan, I felt like I was moving well and starting to get into a rhythm. At the base of Upper Refuse, I opted for Black Lung, a slightly harder variation to the first pitch of the route. The moves felt good and the gear went in easily; before I knew it, I was at the anchor. After we topped out, we headed to the North End to avoid the sun, and I saw that one of the climbs I had been thinking about was in the shade. The previous day, I had thought about it and wondered if I would be able to do. It had been some time since I climbed it and even longer since I led it. As I stood at the base, I visualized the moves and saw myself pulling the crux. After a few minutes of contemplation, I racked up.
The finger locks felt secure and the footholds felt good.
Right before the crux, I felt my right foot start to slip, and I plugged in a cam, which I instinctively reached for. Then I stopped. I returned my hand to the crack. The mind can focus on only one thing at a time. I consciously chose to shift my attention from grabbing a piece of gear to resetting my feet and slowing my breathing down. Something positive in mind leaves no room for something negative.
Looking up, I saw myself doing the moves. I brought my feet up, reached for the next hold, and fired the crux. Matt told me later that he saw me start to reach for the draw and almost said something. He didn’t need to. My trust in his belay helped me focus on the moves rather than thinking about the fall.
In each of the three situations I discuss in this blog, the positive outlook by both the climber and the belayer helped the climber succeed. Newer climbers can create an atmosphere where experienced climbers can succeed and vice-versa. I have seen it numerous times this summer and over the years, and I hope to help foster those positive experiences in the future.