Climbing and The Trough Of Sorrow1 min read

We actually don't know what it's like to "bring friends along"
Fear the trough of sorrow.

Enter The Trough of Sorrow

It’s the September of your first summer trad climbing. You’re 40 feet off the deck of a 5.8 hand crack, hang-dogging on a #1 that your drenched palms tried to drop 5 times.

As your harness wedgie worsens, and your legs start to go numb, you look at that cam and reminisce about how stoked you were to tear open the backcountry box it came in. This was supposed to be the season you really started climbing outdoors. Now, after several months of flailing with little to no visible progress, it seems like you’ll never be able to wrestle your way up even moderate trad. All hope feels lost.

This is the Trough of Sorrow, a crucial phase in the process of learning a new climbing discipline.

Trust The Process

Encounters with the trough of sorrow happen everywhere to everyone, from bouldering in J-Tree to alpine style ascents in the Cascades. Its symptomatic self-doubt and life choice questioning are ubiquitous.

For all of us who spend our free time grinding our bodies down on indifferent rock faces, it’s easy to dwell on failure. Their consequences are often more visceral than just a bruised ego. Our most crushing bails linger in our hearts next to our most triumphant sends.

The trough sucks, but it’s part of a larger process. All of the times you mutter “Fuck this,” on a wall make the “Fuck yeah,” you yell after finally sending your project that much more worth it¹.

¹Evidence: here, here, especially here.

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