Random Thoughts About the Mental Side of Climbing Projects

I’ve had a few questions about the last post regarding the Mr. Universe Project, and the one that gets asked over and over is: How hard is it?

I intentionally didn’t put the grade in the post as I wanted the focus to be on the history of the problem and the journey to success.  Unfinished climbs or climbs pushing a new personal level tend to carry mental baggage which make success more challenging.  How we deal with the mental issues is interesting to me.  Last fall I failed for multiple days on Drive By Sit purely due to mental issues.  On Mr. Universe I had the same problem:  I was physically capable of doing it, but the mental block was holding me back.

On first ascents there is an added unknown factor which can make getting past this mental barrier even more difficult. Sometimes a move can feel impossible until you find the right beta. Sometimes you find the right beta immediately, and it feels easy the first time. On new problems when you don’t know the difficulty, you have no idea if there’s better beta. Whereas on something established, you have a good idea if you’re doing it the right way based on how hard it feels.

In the past I’ve broken through this barrier through meditation, through being mocked by friends, through support from friends, through sheer perseverance, but this was the first time I’ve broken through that barrier by throwing a full on tantrum.  After acting like a 3 year who doesn’t get their way, there was nothing left but to laugh at the absurdity.

Why had I spent countless hours biking, hiking, and trying this problem?  What was so important about this little chunk of rock that I would throw a tantrum?  What made it worth investing all the time, effort, and emotion?  The answer is that there is nothing particularly special about that chunk of rock.  What made it worthwhile is not something particular to the boulder, but something I was searching for within.  That’s what I found, that’s what is valuable, and that’s why I’ll keep doing it.

Oh yeah,  this view doesn’t hurt either!


Looking up Powerline Pass at the base of Ptarmigan Peak. Photo: Kelsey Gray


Oh, and to answer the question that keeps getting asked:  Mr. Universe Sit-v12.