Most people know, I love the Monastery. The holds are thin, the angle is just off vertical, the scene is quiet, there’s a nice warmup hike…I could go on. But more importantly, the Monastery holds a special place in my heart, as it represents a milestone in my growth as a climber and a person. I never knew how to try hard until the first day I visited the Monastery, a miserably bitter cold day in fall of 2009. I’m not sure why I returned after that day. I wasn’t in shape for the hike and nearly died on the way out in the dark. I couldn’t feel my fingers, let alone the rock beneath them. It was not a pleasant day. Yet for the first time, I felt I had discovered a style that suited me, that I loved, and that would push me to test myself.
I’ve never been the best about pushing myself. I don’t particularly like being cold. If I don’t feel as though I’m climbing perfectly on a route, I might let go. But at the Monastery I quickly learned that things never feel perfect. It’s always hot or cold or windy or dry or smarmy. The moves always seem hard, no matter how many times I repeat them. The feet never feel big enough. It really comes down to whether I’m willing to try really really hard. With sparsely placed bolts, trying hard is often the only option, save whipping into the rock’s face down at your belayer’s level.
I’ve also never made noises before when I climb, except maybe a few wimpy squeals. Here, I found myself heaving and grunting my way up the wall. I learned to make my efforts count, because I didn’t get many each day. After one, maybe two burns on my project, my skin ached and my triceps ached more. To try at the very limit of my ability on every single move for eighty feet was a new experience to me. This was my journey on Grand Ole Opry.
This Fall, I set out to finish up the Monastery. I had two more routes to complete, Third Millennium and Dreamcatcher. I could crimp my way through Third Millennium, but Dreamcatcher presented an opportunity to learn a few finger locking maneuvers. Needless to say, utilizing cracks is not my strength. But alas, I have completed the Monastery. To be fair, I still have Chateau Vert to complete, a 5.12 gear climb. However, this will have to wait until next spring after I learn to place and trust my gear. I’ll have no problem returning to my favorite crag in the world, again to learn something new.