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Day 14: Met my Heroes!!

Today was FANNNNTAAAASSSTTIIIIICCCCCCC!!!!! I kind of flew by the seat of my pants all day and it worked out very well haha. The day started off early at 6:45 because Ian and I had to move our cars out of the student parking lot by 7:30. We grabbed breakfast and then I headed off to Denver to meet up with my friends Jimmy and Delaney for the “OR” (Outdoor Retailer) trade show downtown. Denver traffic was epic, but I made it to a decently priced parking spot not too far away from the Convention center. I had not be completely certain if I was going to even be able to get into the building, because it’s required that you have a pass, which are usually purchased by large companies looking to buy things from the booths. Luckily Delaney is a professional climber for the Adidas Terrex team, and was able to sneak me in using someone else’s pass. 

Inside OR is insane. Huge booths from Northface, Black Diamond, La Sportiva, you name any outdoor brand and they have a magnificent booth filled with their gear. I was a kid in a candy shop while Jimmy and I walked around the booths. We made our way to the Black Diamond booth because they had free coffee and loads of cool new gear. As we stood there waiting for his coffee, a man in a red jacket and large black backpack appeared in the middle of the booth floor, and I thought to myself “That looks like Alex Honnold”. Sure enough he turned around and it was friggin’ Alex FRIGGIN Honnold standing 5 feet away from me. I don’t think i’ve fan-girl’d so hardcore in my life. My face instantly flushed and I knew I had to find a way to shake his hand and get a picture with him. I waited patiently as he talked with some other folks and then finally he walked towards me. I said “Hey, would you mind if I shook your hand?” with an extremely flush face I followed that up with “Can I get a picture as well if it’s not too much?” and he was very nice and took a photo with me. Such an amazing experience that I never expected would happen. A random tid-bit about Alex, his hands are fairly large, and his fingers are fatter than “normal” ones would be, I don’t know if you care or not, but it struck me as interesting. 

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It took me a while to come down from that high, but we walked around to the other booths in the building. We found our way into the Patagonia booth, and started to check out the jackets and their clothing repair station. I have some strong opinions already about my Patagonia Micro-Puff jacket, and if I hadn’t already replaced my original jacket that had ripped, I would’ve given them an ear full about their jacket’s weaknesses. We concluded our Patagonia experience and began to walk out, but as I turned around my eyes stopped when they recognized TOMMY CALDWELL standing straight in front of us. I flipped out instantly as I saw him and proclaimed out loud “THATS TOMMY CALDWELL DUDE” and as I said that Tommy witnessed my freakout sesh 10 feet away from him. I casually walked over to him and asked if I could shake his hand and grab a photo, and he very kindly agreed. I really wanted to ask if I could see his finger that had been cut off when he was a kid, but I figured I’d settle for a handshake and a pic. The day was completely and totally made in my opinion at that point. Not only had I met my two climbing heroes, I was hanging out with other professional climbers all day. It really felt awesome to be around so many strong and passionate people all day. 

Not only were Delaney and Jimmy in town for “OR”, but my mentor and friend Mario and his wife as well. I really wanted to see Mario before I got to Wyoming, he kind of feels like a little slice of home, since I’ve spend so much time with him. Luckily I got to spend my night with him and his wife at the new Brooklyn Boulder’s HQ in Denver. The opening was a celebration of diversity in the outdoor and climbing community and had a super positive atmosphere the moment you walked in the door. It was a really amazing way to round out the day, I’m so glad I was able to hang with Mario before I went off into the wilderness of Wyoming. 

It was such an amazing day that kind of just fell into place piece by piece and turned into one of the best days of my trip. Tomorrow I drive to Wyoming and start my journey as a Wilderness EMT / Mountain man / Person who can drive on ice (hopefully). Tomorrow will be filled with reading my Emergency Care book for hours and filling in the gaps of my blog from the past few days that I didn’t have Wifi. Thank you all for following along this far!

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Day 11: Texan driving in a snow storm

What a day today, man. There were certain points of today where I thought I might be stuck in the middle of a mountain snowed up to the roof on my Bronco freezing my butt off until the sun melted me free. I planned to be in Boulder tonight but plans change just as quick as the road conditions changed today. I started my drive to Boulder around noon, and in my mind I had given the sun a chance to melt the snow on the roads. I sent videos and called my parents saying I was on the way to boulder, and even felt pretty confident that I could conquer the Wolf Creek pass mid snow storm. The sky slowly turns grey as you drive into the white distance, and eases you into the slowly deteriorating road conditions. 

I drove out of Pagosa Springs and a large billboard flashed “WOLF CREEK PASS - EXERCISE CAUTION” and the road began to slope upwards towards the mountain. Very quickly the black road gave way to white snow patches and then total white as I climbed higher. I was only going 40 and I had a small chevy sedan trailing me and I thought to myself “Surely if this guy is doing fine, I’ll be fine in my truck”. As we got higher up there was an area for the commercial vehicles to put on their chains on their tires. As I drove by it I had a fight in my head about wether or not I should stop and attempt to put chains on my tires for the first time ever, but a voice spoke up and said “Trust in the 4 wheel drive, you’ll be fine”. I continued to ascend the increasingly sloping road and my truck started to lose speed, but when I pushed the gas to maintain my speed up the hill my truck’s back end slipped out. I fishtailed back and forth and I struggled to regain control on the narrow road on the side of a mountain. Finally regaining control I immediately pulled off the road onto the shoulder that was significantly deeper snow. I had a small melt down as I realized how insanely over my head I was, 8 miles from the summit of this pass and unable to control my vehicle while mini vans were doing just fine. I got out of the care to feel the road with my feet to see if there was even a “road” to drive on, there was not. Completely covered by a thick snow pack my foot slid back and forth on the tire tracks. I got back in the truck and had another miniature panic attack about how completely screwed I was. I determined that there was no chance of me regaining enough speed to make it up the sleep slope and that I needed to turn around in order to stay safe. Completely defeated I managed to turn the car around without sliding off the road. I sulked down back to Pagosa Springs, filled with the sinking feeling that if getting to boulder was this hard, Wyoming would be 10x harder. 

I pulled into the first gas station I saw in Pagosa Springs and called my mom, defeat is never complete without a call to your mother haha. We talked for a little bit and she did what she does best, she helped me find a new way to go without the dangerous pass. It was longer and I wouldn’t arrive in boulder today, but it was a much safer drive and I would be on the right road to get to Boulder tomorrow. We re-routed me to Santa Fe, 2 and a half hours away, and determined I’d stay there for the night and give the weather time to relax a little. 

Today was easily the most trying day of my journey so far. I legitimately thought my truck was going to get stuck in the middle of a snow filled mountain and I’d have to somehow walk out of the pass on foot. It’s the most out of control i’ve felt in a very long time. That feeling of complete helplessness has been absent for most of my adult life so far, and it was strange to welcome it back today. It felt like being a kid again, and it made me wonder if my father had ever had times where he felt helpless like a child. It effected me so much that the rest of the drive I was on the edge of my seat when I saw any patch of snow on the road. I’m very grateful I have a new route for tomorrow that doesn’t include sketchy roads. I’m grateful I have a mother who I can call when I feel completely out of control and she calms me down. Hopefully tomorrow I make it to Boulder!

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Day 10: The Schwob/Wheeler Hangboard lives!!!

Well we’re basically all done with the hang-board! after two-ish days of work (roughly 10 hours) all that’s left to do is to put the final finish on it. I wasn’t expecting it to look as good as it does to be truthful, it ACTUALLY looks like a “Beastmaker 1000”. 

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We started with a block of cherry wood 3 feet by 11 inches and cut it down to 22 by 8 inches. We knew the layout we wanted because we were basing it off the beastmaker 1000. We’d have two 4 finger, two 3 finger, and two 2 finger pockets on the bottom row, all half an inch deep. On the next row is the same layout, except with a single 4 finger pocket in the middle of it, and these pockets are 1 inch deep. On the final row only two 4 finger pockets on the outsides and two 3 finger pockets in the middle, each of these at 3/4 an inch. Finally at the top of the board we’d make a sloper at a 45 degree angle and round the edge in the back to make for a nice jug hold. 

The size of the holds was fairly easy to figure out. I measured 4 of my fingers for the 4 finger pocket, and then measured 3 fingers, and so on. The other part we had to figure out was the spaces in between the pockets which were either 3/4s an inch or 1/2 depending on the amount of pockets on the row. After we had calculated all the dimensions for the board we had to make a sort of stencil for it so that we could cut out the pockets using a plunger drill thing (idk the actual name, but it has the word Plunger in it). This was actually the hardest part of the whole endeavor, the plunger drill is a hard thing to control and getting the correct depth in the pockets is key to have a consistent training board. After we drilled the pockets we hit them a second time with another handheld drill that cleans up the edges without making them wider. Then we cut the square board and made the edges round so that it resembled the beastmaker a little more. When we got that done we cut the sloper hold on the top of the board at the 45 degree angle. After all the big cuts it was mostly just small things to make the overall look a little nicer. Rounding the edges, making the pocket’s edges smooth so they’re nice to hold, sanding the faces, and putting the final wood finish on it. 

I couldn’t be happier with the final product, It looks like the real deal and I made it with my own two hands with my grandpa in his workshop. It makes me feel like a real man when I can craft things out of wood that are actually good looking hahah. I have a few ideas for the board as well, I think I’ll have my friends do as many pull ups on it as they can and then write on the back and sign it or something cool like that. All good things must come to an end and tomorrow I leave Durango to move on up to Boulder with my friend Ian for a week. I can’t believe that school is a little more than a week away, but I’m so excited to start I can barely contain myself! Hopefully my drive tomorrow isn’t horrible with all the snow dropping tonight, Pray for me!!

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Day 9: Creating things in the Workshop

Today was a fairly laid back day.. Not in the sense where my body isn’t sore and I feel well rested, but in the way of I didn’t climb anything hard today haha. The biggest change of the day was that I got a hair cut FINALLY. I don’t have a picture or anything of it, but it’s finally out of my face and I don’t look like i have a mop on my head anymore. The only other thing I did today after the haircut was work on making a “hang-board” from scratch with my grandpa. I looked up some plans online for making a home made hang-board, and I also printed out a picture of a real hang-board, and grandpa and I went into the workshop like two mad scientists to create our vision. 

We got a lot done today on the board. It’s basically 3/4s complete, all that’s left is to sand the pockets where the fingers go and then make it look pretty by sanding the rest of the board. The process was long and tiring to create this thing hahah, doing all the math and then measuring each hole for fingers took hoursssss and then cutting and drilling it was even more time. I’m fairly happy with how it’s turned out so far though, but there were moments when I thought we’d have to start over from scratch. Luckily my grandpa is a master at salvaging disasters in wood, and we saved the project multiple times today. Tomorrow I’ll probably do a full write up on how we created our home made hang-board, after I see that the finished product looks semi decent haha. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow so I might not have much else to do!

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Day 8: I sent my Project!

Today was dooooooopee. Spend most the day climbing at Sailing hawks again, and even met some cool dudes out there today. It was my goal to send the V7 “Sunday Stroll” that had ripped a hole in my finger on Tuesday. I also wanted to sample a few other things and try a hard V5 that I didn’t know the beta for called “Three Finger”. 

The first climb I walked up to today was in fact “3 Finger” the V5 thing I hadn’t ever been able to figure out, but I also hadn’t put too much effort into working the move or figuring it out. While I set my pads up for the route’s fall zones 2 guys walked up and said they were also going to work on Three Finger. One of the guys, Ben, had some good beta for the route. Apparently the whole thing hinges on a dank heel hook, hand match, type thing. After I figured that out it only took 1-2 tries to finish it off. Even though it only goes at V5 I was quite satisfied to take down a the classic Sailing Hawks V5. 

 Eric on holding the Right crimp with the Knee bar, getting ready to fire up to the lip!

Eric on holding the Right crimp with the Knee bar, getting ready to fire up to the lip!

After that Ben said one of his friends Eric was going to come out, and that he also wanted to project “Sunday Stroll” which was a pretty great coincidence. We padded up the bottom and I started to feel the moves again individually. When Eric walked up, he shoed up, and was actually able to get it on his first try today. Super impressive, and kind of intimidating to see hahah. It took me quite a bit longer than 1 attempt, but I too was able to send the route. I’ll spew some of the route’s beta here as well; It starts on two side-pull holds on the bottom left of the boulder and then goes up left hand to a 2 finger pocket. You then throw a right hand to a small crimp and you walk your feet over to the right side and drop knee the side of the boulder which allows you to smoothly bring your right hand up to another crimp about as small and as bad as the first one. You then get a high left foot up and put a higher right drop knee on the side and go up left hand to a knobby thing that you can make into a crimp. This is where the climb “turns on” for me, you go up right hand again to yet ANOTHER small crimp and then you get a super duper high right foot and twist your leg into the side of the boulder and it turns into a very nice drop knee. The drop knee allows you to bump the right hand up to a broken hold that is only really positive on the pointer and half of the tip of the middle finger, but just good enough to hold onto. After that the left hand goes out to a very small pocket-y hold and then finally you slap the top out and it’s all over! It’s not the hardest V7 i’ve ever done, but it was certainly rewarding to send this thing after it took a chunk out of me. 

After Sunday Stroll we projected a few different things, a V9 called “Global Warming” and a V8 called “Meat head” were the two that stood out to me. Oddly enough the V9 felt more doable for me, mainly because it fits my style of climbing well. The V8 is this powerful roof climb that is still proving to be my anti style, I was only able to pull the first move. Overall I had a pretty rewarding day, I’m glad to take down my “Durango Projects” on this trip and I have some new projects to grab next time i’m here. Tomorrow grandpa and I plan on making a home-made hang board and I’ll probably finally get a haircut too.

 Eric on "Meat Head" V8

Eric on "Meat Head" V8

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Day 7: Rest day number 2

I write tonight very sleepy from a not so hard day, I’m really baffled on why i’m so tired tonight haha. I went back to the slopes today with grandma and grandpa for a short day on the mountain, but I was glad that I didn’t push it too hard. I’ve started to realize what I really value because I used to go all out on snowboarding, really pushing it to the max, and I’ve hurt myself several times, however on these 2 days I showed some self control and chose not to. I value my climbing above all else right now, and more than that I really can’t injure myself before my school starts up haha. 

After our short day on the mountain we pretty much just rested until dinner time. I went up to my room and started watching “Troy” because I enjoy ancient greek stuff and mainly because Netflix has nothing else I was interested in. I dozed off for about an hour and woke up for dinner. I can’t overstate how much my grandparents are doing for me while I’m here, They cook for me almost every night, my grandpa bought my lift tickets and board rental, and they’re really making me feel pampered while in Durango. These are the days I really feel blessed. I get to travel around climbing on things and snowboarding, really living my “dream” for so long of being care free and doing what I want. I enjoy these relaxing days, but I feel a little guilty for not squeezing every last drop of excitement and adventure out  of these days because I know this is a gift that few people get in life. I just want to make sure I do it right. 

Short blog for today again, hopefully tomorrow i’ll have some climbing junk to throw in here about a successful day filled with sends and new friends!

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Day 6: Hit the Slopes

I write tonight with dry eyes and a fully belly after a full day on the ski slopes followed up by a nice dinner in town. The snow conditions in Durango are very sub-optimal for the time of year, there’s a lot of icy patches and rocks on the thinner parts of the snow. It makes for some interesting snowboarding to say the least. 

The day wasn’t all too exciting, grandpa and I ski’d all over and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The place was empty, hardly anyone even on the slopes all day, even at the restaurant on the mountain we were the only two in the entire building. Towards the end of the day a girl pulled up next to us and was yelling “Oh god I broke my F**** hand”  and sure enough she pulled off her glove to a severely bruised palm. It was very strange because just as quickly as she came up to us, she was ripping back down the mountain again haha. After that encounter I was resolved to not injure myself while snowboarding, so after we made back to the front side of the mountain we called it a day and headed home. 

Almost as soon as we got home I went straight to the couch and knocked out for a few hours. When I awoke grandma was saying that we should go out for food tonight and we ended up going to an Italian restaurant inside downtown Durango. It was a nice end to a rather uneventful day. Tomorrow we’re going back to ski some more and then hopefully on Thursday my fingertip is healed enough for me to go back to Sailing Hawks and finish the v7 that bloodied me!

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Day 5: Bloody Monday!

It was bloody Sunday today. I got one of the worst “flappers” i’ve ever had today, I’m not sure it even qualifies as a flapper if it’s this bad. It’s more like a deep gash like cut on my right hand’s middle finger. I’m going to make you read a little though before I tell you what happened! Muahahah!! 

Today started off with an amazing breakfast burrito made by myself and my grandmother, and then it was straight to the Sailing Hawks bouldering area. I always forget how intense the hike up the initial hills are just to get to the first series of boulders. I had scoped out a few different routes I wanted to try today, mostly V6s & 7s, in an attempt to test my strengths in different areas of the country. I walked up and saw someone working a V6 sloper traverse route and I asked if he would mind if I joined him for a while. He didn’t mind, so we headed for the “Font” boulder to try some harder things. There were a few routes on the mostly sloper-y boulder, a V4 stand start, a V6 sit start, a V8 traversing into the V6, and then a V10 that traversed across the entire face. I started on the V4 stand and found it fairly easy so I moved right along to the V6 sit start. This V6 was probably one of the more technical boulders I’ve tried from that grade. Starting with matched hands on a jug side-pull, you throw a right hand up real high to a slope-y crimp like thing that’s better as an open hand rather than a closed crimp. After that move you re-adjust the feet and throw a right foot wide and high and the left foot cams into a small crack down low. This move is definitely one of the weirder techy moves i’ve had to do, while you focus your left into the foot jam into the crack, you stand up on it and bring your left hand into a very small undercling. I wasn’t able to actually do this move after about 30 attempts haha, either the right hand on the crimp dry fired off, the left foot slipped out, or I just totally missed the undercling. A very frustrating start to the day, but I was still psyched on the beautiful weather outside. 

I decided to move on to the boulder I really wanted to climb today called “The Sunday Stroll” boulder. This boulder stuck out to me because on my very first time at Sailing Hawks 2 years ago I was completely unable to pull onto the start holds of this boulder, and I wanted to test if my new strength in bouldering meant I could do it now. As I walked towards the boulder I walked past the V6 sloper traverse route and a guy was working on it. I stopped to catch my breath from the 5 minutes of hiking and started talking with the guy and found out he was working a low start that goes up the middle. The route really stuck out to me because it was a short, technical, powerful climb. Just my style of boulder. The beta was cool too, I started matched hands on a incredibly bad sloper start with a low right foot and a really cool left toe hook waaaaay underneath the bottom of the boulder. I core up a lot, and really sink my left foot into the toe hook and fire my right hand up to a really awesome mono pocket. I don’t release the toe hook just yet, and I slap my left hand onto a small hueco sloper pocket. From those two holds I slowly pull the middle finger out of the mono pocket and go up to a slope-y crimp and then bump it again to a good sloper on the lip of the boulder. At this point I cut both feet and bring the right foot up to the start hold, while also getting my left hand to a sloper and bumping it again to a higher one on the top of the boulder. The last hard part is getting your left foot into the hueco sloper thing while not being able to see it at all, after that it’s just a mantle off solid feet onto the top of the boulder. I really enjoyed projecting and finally sending this thing, I think it’s one of the cooler routes i’ve done at Sailing Hawks for sure. 

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After I finished, I said thanks to the guy for letting me project his route, and moved on towards the Sunday Stroll boulder. It didn’t take long and I was setting my pads up underneath the boulder that was so hard 2 years ago. After feeling all the holds and trying the moves out individually it was very apparent that this boulder was perfect for me. It starts on a left hand pocket and right hand crimp and follows kind of the same kind of technical moves up the whole thing. Right hand goes up with a right drop knee off a good foot and then left goes to a side-pull, and that trend continues for the next 4 moves. I was able to get the first 3/4s of the route fairly easily, I found them to be very much my style of climbing, the crux for me is the last crimp before the top out. The hold has broken fairly recently, and it’s a very crappy hold that basically only your point and middle finger hold onto, but if they latch oh boy it’s good. After getting all those moves I decided to try the top, and THIS is where it gets bloody hahah. I pulled onto the last two holds before the top out and then threw my right hand up to the top to see how good it was, it was dooooope by the way, and after I jumped off the route and back onto the pads, ready to attempt all the moves for the “send go”. However when I landed back on the pads I looked down at my hands and I had blood gushing like crazy coming from my middle finger. This was more blood than had every come out of my fingers before from a scrape or cuticle popping, it was alarming to say the least hahah. I realized I was bleeding all over the place and quickly grabbed my Nalgene to poor water onto it and then I saw really how deep the cut went. At that point I recognized that with this kind of cut on my strongest finger on my strongest hand, my climbing was done for the day. 

Luckily my grandma was a nurse and when I came back to the house she patched me up nicely. Overall i’m very pleased with my day, even if I didn’t get the V7 i wanted to get, I got a really cool one that I didn’t even plan on doing today. I’m trying to enjoy the process on these kinds of days, really put some energy into focusing on the technical beta rather than the overall sending of a problem. Luckily the injury will have some time to heal while I snowboard with my grandpa over the next couple days, but I fully intend to go back and send Sunday stroll V7 before I leave Durango!

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Day 4: Highway to the mountains

Finally in a bed!!!! I made it to my grandparent’s house in Durango, CO today! Not to say I didn’t love sleeping in my Bronco in the cold, I just really enjoy showering and sleeping on things that are designed to be slept on. 

I woke up this morning several times; 3am, 5am, and finally 7am and I figured that was an appropriate time to start my day. It was a pretty chilly morning, but I made sure to take in the last little bit of Hueco I could before leaving. Driving all day doesn’t really leave much to write down about the day, it was a fairly standard day of driving.. I drove for 8 hours and at the end of that I was in Colorado. I’m not very fond of New Mexico’s speed limits I can say that much at least, and there are way more police on the long stretches of highway than I anticipated. 

When I arrived at my grandparent’s house I showered for the first time in 5 days and then edited some pictures till it was time for dinner. Grandma always makes the best food and I’m really looking forward to eating well this week. Sorry this isn’t a more entertaining day, but hopefully I make up for it later in the week!

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Day 3: Sore skin & Trying hard stuff

Tonight i’m laid up in the tailgate of my Bronco feelin’ friggin haggard. Was such a tough day filled with hard climbs. I wanted my final day in Hueco to be good, but also I wanted to make sure I tested my limits as well. Boy did today tick both of those goals.

We started the day on “Shroom” (v9), a crimpy climb that starts low and has some pretty powerful moves before the easier v7 top out section. I projected the start of the 9 for probably 20 minutes but couldn’t manage to get the right arm lock-off start into the left hand high cross onto a sharp crimp. The stand start is a v7 that starts on the right hand sidepull jug and left hand on the sharp crimp. I was able to get the first few moves on the v7 and just needed to figure out the foot beta to be able to slap the far left jug. Sadly right after I figured out the foot beta and had the hard move locked down, my left middle finger got a gnarly flapper and that was my queue to move on to other climbs. 

We headed to another v9 called “Bathtub” after, and this was hands down my favorite boulder i’ve ever touched. The whole climb is mostly super positive slopers traversing up a face. It had some amazing sequences and technical parts that were awesome to figure out. I was able to do the entire 1st section but unable to link it into the middle sequence. I worked from the middle to the 2nd to last move pretty well, I definitely think with some endurance and core training it would go on my next trip out here. 

After working Bathtub we headed to “Crash Dummy” (v7) which Brandon said was his favorite 7 he’d done, so I was pretty excited to try it out. At this point my toes and hands were really feelin’ the fact that I had been projecting for 3 days straight basically. I wish I had tried it earlier in the day or maybe just had a rest day before trying it, but I didn’t have those options. I made the best out of my tired muscles and the fact that every body part was very sore from climbing so much. I was able to do the entire underbelly up to the 2nd left hand bump into the crimp side-pull, but ultimately couldn’t keep my arms from giving out when going for the 3rd bump to the pinch. I was overall pretty happy with the progress I made, being as tired as I was. 

Even though nothing went today or yesterday, I projected hard and gave the climbs my hardest effort I could, and I’m happy with my attempts and psyched to send these things on my next trip to Hueco. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and drive to Durango and stay with my grandparents for a week. I’m really excited about having a real bed to sleep in, and unlimited showers haha, having grandma’s cooking will be amazing too for sure. Hopefully be getting some more climbing in at Sailing hawks up there and some days of Snowboarding before heading off to Boulder!

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