The day I did not send Joe Blau
by We didn't write this
Every climb starts on the ground.
I chalk, wipe my hands on my pants, chalk, and wipe pants again. Blow the chalk off my hands, compulsively, nervously. Like I care too much, like way way too much. Thats what everyone says. I care too much. Too much in my head, too invested in the climb. But screw them. I just want to push it.
I start climbing. With the anxiety that I will blow the first crux, a v9 boulder on sharp overhanging limestone. The first move is a huge dyno. Then 2 razor blade crimps, and a deadpoint into a sharp pocket that cuts my skin. Soon, I am in free solo territory, clipping the 3rd bolt at my ankle and facing a sure ground fall if my feet slip. A few sharp crimps lead to a huge jug.
Here I rest and try to get everything back. Above is 100 feet of climbing. 45 feet of non stop, 14b crux ending in an all out dyno, and then 50 more feet of sustained 13d to the anchors.
I have been working on this route for 6 weeks. According to the Pringle Multiplier, I should be ready to send.
The Pringle multiplier is simple. It took Ethan Pringle 2 tries to do Paper Mullat, a glorious 14a tufa on the right side of Oliana. It took me 8 tries. 8 = 2 to the 3rd power. It took Ethan Pringle 5 tries to do Joe Blau. This means I am sure to do it in 5^3 = 125 tries. I like these odds.
I wipe my shoes a few times, chalk my hands, chalk them again, and proceed. The 14b crux section goes flawlessly. I skip 2 draws in a row, avoiding the huge fall I have taken many times on the road to this ascent. The moves feel very, very hard but muscle memory carries me through. Soon I am on the exit dyno. Shitty undercling, horrible pinch, move feet up, close eyes.
Somehow I stick it.
Here you can rest. The jug is good, but only for one hand. Switching is taxing. Unfortunatley, I feel like I have exerted 95% of my energy on the crux below. I try to relax, try to breathe, try to vigorously get some energy back, but feel like a boxer who got punched very hard in the head, like I almost got knocked out.
A sad feeling comes. Like this is my one chance to finish this thing, the one thing I really cared about for over a month of my life, but like I have no chance of actually doing it because I am fucked, too exhausted to go on. I try to curb that feeling, take a deep breath, and finish business,
I do the next 5 moves and face the redpoing crux of the 14a, Gran Blau, to which I am doing the direct start. I shake on the underclings and go for it
Suprisingly, this crux feels easy. I skip another draw and run it out 25 feet. Sadly, these exit moves once more drive me to total exhaustion and I clip the 3rd to last draw once more feeling completely worked.
Here, I rest on two positive pockets for as long as I can. I get some energy back and climb one more bolt, another crux
Here you get a decent rest and stare at the rest of the climb, about 25 more feet to the anchors, about 12d on its own. Only 12d. A 12d finish to a hard 14c.
I shake, and shake and shake but have a deep, dark feeling like I am going to fail.
The next few moves are a reachy sidepull crux where I often fall. Eventually, I try to clear my head and keep going. At this point, I have been climbing for about a half hour.
The next crux feels easy.
I get to the last bolt. Its only 10 more moves to the top. I am 10 moves from the top of a 160 foot climb. Its just a simple v4 technical boulder problem on wierd pockets and crimps. Easier than the top of Proper Soul. I shake for a second. The right arm maxes out. I switch to the left. It maxes out too. I go for it anyways. I do the first move, then the second. The arms stop working. I fall.
That was the day I did not send Joe Blau. The route that Ramonet did 2nd try, the route that dominated my thoughts for nearly 2 months. Rock climbing is a funny thing.