I remember my first trip to Earthquake Hollow about six years ago. I think Fischer and I went out there when it was pretty chilly. I recall sending the tall Prow V0 and Water Dyno V2, which is still one of my favorites. He showed me Phoenix V5 with a certain reverence. This was the area testpiece. He indicated that the sit start was basically impossible.
Now Phoenix itself took me about three years of work. I kept getting to the top and trying to gaston really hard on the diagonal sloping crimp, but then I finally figured out that I ust needed to pull straight down... Anyway, the sit start was supposed to be about V9, and I remember jokingly trying it on almost every visit to the area. I would fondle the holds, pull up for a second, then have a sore leg for about three days. Eventually, I had climbed just about everything there that I wanted to, and stopped going there regularly.
This January, I sent Daily Dick Dose V7 down in Hueco. When I came back to Earthquake, I realized that the opening move could be done with a similar hip position, except with a high right foot instead of a high left foot. I stuck the first two moves pretty easily and got really excited. Over the next three months, I went out there every chance I got. Then on Saturday, April 26th, it finally went.
The night before, I watched John Henry play at the Blue Note to a sold out crowd. It was wonderful, but it still hurt to see that part of my life over. I went back to Uprise Bakery where a bunch of my friends were gathered and cried in the bathroom. That night I dreamt of Ben Williams, who was my climbing mentor. He taught me how to lead gear and was the belayer for many of my hardest sends: first 11a (on his birthday), first 11b, first gear lead, first gear 10, etc... I hadn't spoken to him in a year or two. The next day, I remember going out with Tuesday, and having her drive. She only has her permit, so it was her first time on the interstate. She did well of course.
We were joined by Elijah, Trent, Becky and Samar. I did really well at first, with twenty minutes of ab quivering rest between attempts, but then I started to do worse and worse. After I decided to quit, Trent said he'd give one more try for Phoenix. He sent. When he came down, he said, "Send Train!" I jokingly mumbled, "That window's open buddy, just gotta jump on through..." like a burnout hippie. The problem starts with two bad crimps and a high right foot. You throw out right to a sloping pinch/sidepull, then bump to a tiny two-finger, quarter-inch layback crimp. Next, you get a left heel hook and cross your left hand above your right. Here is where I always barn-door and fall off. Right as I was falling off, I heard everyone shouting, "You got it!" I reflected to myself that they clearly had no idea, as I didn't "have it", was in fact falling off, and would probably have a better chance if they were to give me some quiet. About the time that I completed this thought, I realized that I had stopped the swing, turned my heel into a toe, and caught the crux right hand toss into the stand start holds. Then I climbed the upper half easily and collapsed at the top. Samar saw me rolling in the dirt, nearly crying with joy. I ran down and hugged Trent and slapped high fives with everyone.
Since then I have been invited to give a talk at CUNY in New York City on the recent math stuff that I've been working on with my advisor, Alex Iosevich, to train to be a volunteer guide down in Hueco, and gotten two buddies to go to Joe's Valley in Utah next week! I'm excited to go to New York, because Laura and I can go to some sweet vegan restaurants, and the conference should be a good career builder for me. The other two things are exciting for obvious reasons.
I really don't know what the grade should be for Phoenix Sit Start. I've climbed several V7's before in different areas, but this took a whole lot more effort than any of those. The guidebooks call it V7, but I don't think that either of the authors has actually climbed it. I'm sure that it's not harder than V9 though, as I've come close to some V8's and V9's, but never to any V10's. The grade isn't that important to me though, because the fact that I did something that I thought was impossible is so much more rewarding than any number.
Here's an Earthquake Hollow video.