Ann Raber: Climbing with Joy

Ann Raber Feb 28th 2017
The Freedom to Focus

I love the concept of The Freedom to Focus, as it reminds me of what I’ve been working on in all my climbing pursuits this year, which is complete focus and absolute joy. A few years ago I realized I had strayed away from sport climbing, my first love. I had moved to California in 2014 and got carried away with the granite landscape, and the boulders and trad climbs that are so impeccable here. I decided I needed to get back to my climbing roots. I went out as I have so many times, tied in, pulled on, made a few clips, and was, for the first time, frozen and terrified. The bolts seemed incredibly foolhardy, the belay device, the rope, everything involved in sport climbing seemed dangerous and sketchy and I stood there unable to even take. I down climbed. Maybe top roping to start back. Nope. Even indoors I was in tears, convinced that the knot was wrong or my harness was loose. I was asking my belayer to confirm that I was on belay from the top of the route

Now I had sport climbed for many years, travelled around the world doing it, done huge multi-pitch sport lines, whipped on anything, flipped upside down, all the fun stuff, and never gave a second thought to the integrity of my systems. I still don’t know exactly what happened. But I knew at that point that I needed to take this problem seriously or back off from bolt clipping for good.

It has been a long and interesting road to be fully confident and psyched on sport climbing since then. I had to take my anxiety really seriously, and put action into learning what I needed to from it and moving beyond it back into the whip life. I learned that there are so many factors that go into a successful rock climb at your difficulty limit, and most of them are out of your control. The weather, partners flaking, strong skin, enough time, the changing seasons, and whether I’m lucky on a lucky dyno. But if I focus all my energy and time on maximizing the factors I can control, my equipment, my personal gear, comfort, and positive attitude, I can try hard and find joyful movement way off the deck. It’s so inspiring to work with Sterling and learn (and teach others) so much about the equipment we use and why it’s reliable.

Here’s a pic of me fearlessly sending Pride 13a last month at my home crag Echo Cliff. Not a breakthrough in difficulty per se, but a HUGE indicator to me that what I’m doing is working.

Ann climbing Pride 13a