Little Si, World Wall I, is one of the most impressive cliffs I am fortunate to have exist just 32 miles outside of Seattle, Washington. Lost Horizons is one of maybe two climbs that can top out onto one of Little Si’s false summits. On this route, I could just barely reach the ground lowering on an 80m, 9.2mm, super stretchy rope with a 120cm extended sling at the chains. I would recommend just rethreading half way down the route, which I had to do on the send since I had to climb past my long sling at the top to clean my gear. The entire route is punchy. There are good rests and decent holds throughout, but the cruxes hit you hard and build on top of each other. The climb itself starts on Psycho-Wussy 5.11b (6c+) into Psychosomatic 5.12d (7c) then into Flat Liner 5.13c (8a+) and instead of finishing right to complete Flat Liner, Lost trends left and continues to the top of the wall. For clarification, you do the line in a single push and from Flat Liner through the Lost Horizons crux, there is no resting. It is about a 20-something sequence of sustained and powerful moves.
Two summers ago, I sent Dr. Evil 5.14a (8b+) and its extension 5.14b (8c) at this same wall. However, last summer, climbing partners were thin, my job was becoming more and more stressful and time consuming and while I had tried Lost two summers ago, falling 7 moves shy of exiting the crux, I was unable to get back on it until this summer. This year, I was blessed with a number of psyched and determined people who were eager to climb first thing in the morning. With reliability in numbers and my determination to not let my ever changing role at work consume my mental health, I settled into life in Seattle and adopted the early morning routine once again—committed to trying and hoping to send Lost Horizons before summer’s end.
The early morning routine, if you don’t already know this about me, is sport climbing ‘alpine style’ starting at the crack of dawn. We call ourselves the Breakfast Club or the Morning Crew and though the group has dwindled down over the years to only a few remaining, it was exciting to see a resurgence in numbers. The morning group has been gathering and climbing at this wall and Exit 38 since as early as 2005. We come from all around the city, meet and carpool to the cliff sometimes in the dark so we can get the most time on the wall before having to rush back to the city for work. While there has been an ebb and flow of the morning group, there has generally been a core set, primarily Microsoftees, that have endured and includes myself. These early morning sessions allow us to get in some good climbs with cooler temps and no crowds. We get in a full day at work and for those with families, get to enjoy dinner at home with their spouse and kids. In the summer, the sun hits the wall as early as 8:30 and if it’s a hot day, can become impossible to climb on the wall by 9:30, which is perfect for us. We can easily be off the wall and in the office by 10:30/11am. Engineering teams typically have a later start to the day and this schedule ~2x during the week doesn’t interfere with the flow of corporate life.
For me, I always had difficulty leaving work once I was there. Our engineering team has been a distributed group of people from Shanghai, New Zealand, Portland, Las Vegas (myself) with my role interfacing with customers and partners and other internal colleagues all around the globe. Spending time in Seattle had the upside of getting important face-time with the core engineering team headquartered there, but with a distributed team and all of the time zones to consider, it was sometimes impossible to manage my calendar. I could have meetings 24 hours a day if I let it happen. The stress of making these important meetings and keep certain days open for these early morning sessions has been overwhelming at times. I would have to sacrifice climbing days to tend to these meetings, especially when they started being in-person, on-site labs. All this distraction meant to me was to get clear on my climbing goals and not waste any time.
Weather in Seattle, while hot and humid, had still been agreeable for the early morning sessions, less one week of torrential rains that set me back just after having my first high point on the route (2 moves shy of exiting the crux!). Temps in the morning after the rains were in the low 50s (12C) and my fingers actually numbed out while climbing. Despite some humidity, the rock was dry and after a day in the gym to stretch out, too slick conditions the day before, this day turned out to be perfect sending conditions. Now, 3 days on, the question was whether my fingers could handle the route and would my body perform that day.
With all of the work stress and struggling through yet another injury that has taken me out from climbing most of the past year, I could not have predicted a send day. I knew it all came down to my mental space because I already knew the movements and I could tell I had been falling in the crux because I was not fully committing to those moves. I could sense there was underlying resistance and despite the “1 hang” I just knew there was something I needed to do to put myself into another state of mind and push myself through that mental barrier. I knew I could do the route, and at this point, it was just a matter of time, but I didn’t want to wait for the ‘perfect’ send, I wanted to send this now!
The day prior to the send, on that route, everything climbed ‘off.’ I was cm shy of holds, moving too quickly through sequences, forcing movements, trying hard but not really in the flow of the climb. It became clear that the route was not going to come together that day. My head was obviously not in it. The next day, committed to a different experience of the route, I scrounged up a partner and took the 20 minute detour to pick him up, which meant I had to wake up even earlier than I usually do and on a Sunday, when most people want to be sleeping in. Fortunately, my climbing partner, Zak, is in his last week as an intern at Microsoft and hearing that my boyfriend was willing to take photos, enthusiastically agreed to join us. I was relieved. His psyche was infectious and I trusted him on the belay because he knew the intricacies of this route having belayed me on it a few times prior. That coupled with my Matt Darey tunes, the first time I’d done that this summer, evaporated whatever was clouding my mental state and I went up the route enjoying every move, flowing through the cruxes and bearing down committing to the sequences even barely snagging the ‘finishing crux hold’ to clinch the send.
This has been a challenging climbing year, climbing with an injury, not wanting to take more time off from climbing but unsure how much to push myself and how far and for how long. My confidence has been hit or miss, my body has been like a train wreck sometimes not letting me sleep because of pain, but I have had the best support from my climbing ‘teams’ and my team of professionals that have helped me manage the pain, work through the injury and climb at ridiculous times of days just to fit it into my finicky schedule.
Coming back to fitness has been a long road, it’s never been fun, but I have learned a lot about myself, my ability, and best of all, I’ve been able to mix things up for myself and keep climbing feeling fresh. These days when I go to Si, I look at the wall differently. I look for the obscure, less climbed or climbs I’ve overlooked. I am having fun and appreciate all who have chosen to include me or just participate with me and share in these experiences. I especially appreciate Luke taking these pictures (real-time send footage, nothing posed) that I am now fortunate to share with you.
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