(IR)RATIONALITY? / by Angela Payne

I am in Greenland right now, hopefully climbing on new boulders and winning the battle against the Greenlandic mosquitoes. Thanks to modern technology, I have scheduled this blog to post itself. Here is a reflection on my second day spent working Freaks of the Industry earlier in July:

Today got off to a rough start. Work was stressful and traffic on the way to The Park made the trip almost twice as long as normal. When I realized in the Bear Lake parking lot that I had left my approach shoes at home, I considered bailing on the day all together. Instead, out of pure stubbornness, I made the forty-minute slog in flip flops, acquiring some bloody toes and a whole new appreciation for shoes along the way.


Today I was on my own, with only a pad and a half to keep me company. I know that I need more pads than that to really make a serious effort on the boulder, but on my second day I didn’t think I would make any real send attempts. I would end up being wrong about that.

It wasn’t as hot up there as I would have expected, which was a pleasant surprise. I got right to work warming up and trying moves. I decided to try from the beginning, and surprised myself by climbing almost to last year’s highpoint, before having to step off for fear of breaking myself. Sometimes I act irrationally and regret it, but very rarely do I regret rational decisions. This time was an exception, as I was immediately mad at myself for stepping off. Could I have climbed past my high point? Could I have finished the boulder? Yes, it’s certainly possible. But it’s just as feasible that I could have fallen and hurt myself. While I obviously care a LOT about completing this boulder, it’s not worth hurting myself just to get to the top. So, this time rationality crept in and won out over rashness and risk, and that is for the best.


I have found myself dealing with this battle between rational and irrational thoughts many times over the course of my years of climbing, and more specifically, while projecting boulders. On the face of it, trying a boulder problem seems rational enough; there is a challenge presented and so I take the appropriate actions to overcome that challenge. After about day 15 on the same boulder, however, some part of me starts to think that maybe there is nothing rational about the process. Not surprisingly, this thought seems to be more overpowering when I feel like I am repeatedly failing. After all, didn’t someone say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I try to constantly tweak small pieces of the puzzle so I am not really doing the same thing over and over, but sometimes I feel a little crazy when I really think about it. I guess I choose to believe that for the most part, what I am doing is rational. But, let’s face it--in the grand scheme of things, climbing up the more difficult faces of little rocks isn’t the epitome of rationality. And maybe that’s one of the many reasons I love it.


So today ended up to be pretty okay. In classic Park fashion, a hail storm popped up at the end of the day and I had the pleasure of walking out under a beautiful stormy sunset. I drove away feeling motivated, already planning when I would return. Psych is building nicely this season, and I’m hoping to ride this wave of enthusiasm right to the top of that boulder.