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Top Rope Tough Girl

By April 18, 2014May 1st, 20145 Comments

Who can forget this amazing climbing classic?!

I have a confession to make. I’ve been toproping. Frequently.

I feel as though I’m cheating on bouldering. It’s been my obsession for years- unfortunately, my bouldering confidence wanes at times. One day I feel like I can climb to the top of anything I set my mind to. The next day, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I totally suck.

How well you climb is directly linked to your confidence level. There’s no way around it. Just like with any other discipline, knowing that you can do it is a vital to success.

I’m very aware that everyone has bad days, but I’ve come to the conclusion that my mental (and physical) struggle is not based on probability: it’s my lack of endurance.

You want me to go where?!

You want me to go where?! Lead climbing at the Red River Gorge in Spring 2012.

I begrudgingly went...

I begrudgingly went…

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been living on the road, rock climbing, for over 2 years and have gained little endurance. I am certainly much stronger than when we began the road trip, but I still get the feeling that one, or both, of my hands will spontaneously open up if I’m on the wall for over 30 seconds [not an experimentally acquired measurement, but a good estimate].

I also do not have a good gauge as to how long I can hold on once that inevitable pump sets in. I’ve never committed to climbing past it. Yep, I’m a sucker for letting go. This is further detrimental to my climbing since I am predominately a static climber who is 5’2″. I need to be able to make more moves and hang on for longer than, say, Spenser. (Sure, it’s easier, based on physics, for me to hold on to smaller holds because I have am lighter and have smaller hands…but that’s really not the point of this post, so let’s just acknowledge this and move on…)

Basically, I’m not really cheating on bouldering. I’m just using rope climbing to get better at it.

Possibly even more important: I want to get comfortable hanging on a rope so that I will be able to shoot video, or photo, while on a rope. We have a lot of filming planned for the rest of this year and I’m currently holding the team back.

Spenser on Kaleidoscope at the RRG. A *dream* sport route for me.

Spenser on Kaleidoscope at the RRG. A *dream* sport route for me.

You might be wondering why I haven’t dealt with these seemingly easy to overcome obstacles sooner? You guessed it.


Plain and simple, or not so simple, I guess. An irrational fear of rope climbing, to be exact. Rational fears are simple. Irrational are, by nature, more complicated to deal with.

Rationally, I boulder hard enough that I should be able to climb a 5.10 with no problem. Alas, I can’t. Or won’t. Whatever. Either way, it doesn’t happen.

I need to trust the rope. I also need to build that trust.

This WILL hold me.

On repeat in my head? This WILL hold me.

I thought I could just throw myself into lead climbing outside and it would get better. That I would conquer the irrational fear by submerging myself in what scares me: jumping right in, so to speak. It hasn’t worked- I’m still terrified.

So, after trying to rationalize my way through my irrational fear- I decided I needed to turn back time in a way. I needed to do what I should have done when I first started climbing: toproping. A lot. Pushing past the pump. Hanging on the rope. Learning to trust the gear. Taking baby steps to conquer my fears.

I look about this graceful rope climbing.

This is how graceful I look rope climbing.

I feel like a complete gumby in the gym. Struggling on basics, such as how to get back to the wall if you’ve fallen and can’t reach a hold. Yep, I’m the girl kicking into the air while vigorously gyrating towards the wall- all while hanging off a top rope.

My pride is currently packed away. Some of Spenser’s had to be packed away with mine also since his sometimes-badass-girlfriend is flailing like a fish out of water while he patiently belays. Let me reiterate, patiently- so patiently that I feel bad so it makes me try even harder to hold on. Even when I feel like I will fall off any second. Hello, expanded comfort zone.

It’s not expanded enough, though. I want to try-hard sport climbing without thinking about the fall. I want to lead 5.12, 5.13, maybe even 5.14. I want to feel comfortable filming while hanging on a rope, high above the ground. Ultimate goal? A Yosemite big wall.

Lead card acquired. I'm officially official.

Lead card acquired a few days ago. I’m officially official. I guess it’s time to start taking some whippers!

I know I will still have bad days, but I think they will be less frequent. Don’t feel good enough to go bouldering? Let’s go climb on ropes. Not doing well on lead? F it. Let’s top rope, bitches.

This is from a couple days ago in Bishop. Spenser taught me how to use an ascender. I was scared out of my mind, but took the time to go hands-free (+safety knot) and relax on the rope. I think I'm progressing! Hooray!

This is from a couple days ago in Bishop after Spenser taught me how to use an ascender. I was scared out of my mind at first, but took the time to go hands-free (+safety knot) and relax on the rope. PROGRESS! Hooray!


  • Katie Boue says:

    You already know how I feel about this all – and I love that we’re both going through our learning-to-love-ropes period at the same time. The multipitch I did this week was such an incredible experience – I didn’t cry AT ALL – amazing. I can’t wait to see you again so we can go top rope all day. 🙂

  • Nic says:

    It’s funny, some people learn how to love the rope, others how to love the matress… I guess that after my recently broken foot (during my second time out bouldering) it will be a tormented love-story.. Greetings from Italy!

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Nic! Isn’t is such an interesting look into the human psyche? Some people can fall on ropes all day…others, like me, think that the next fall will surely be their last. I’m sorry to hear about your bouldering accident. 🙁 As I get older, I am much more fearful of broken bones or torn tendons. It just takes much longer to heal nowadays, but I hope that fear doesn’t stop us from doing what we love! Out of my own curiosity, can I ask how the accident happened? Wishing you a speedy recovery and so great to know we have an Italian reader!!

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