PROJECT WAIT

Rock and Ice|June/July 2020

PROJECT WAIT
A LIFELONG CLIMBER CONSIDERS THROWING IN THE TOWEL
JEFF JACKSON

I one-fell my Ultimate Project on a Saturday. A few days later, Michael Victorino, the mayor of Maui, issued the stay-at-home order about to take effect. I had cruised the first nine bolts and gotten to the rest fresh enough to trade out in the horizontal and think, This could be it. I might finally send.

I released the foot jam and swung like a tamarin, stabbed my toe at the shoulder-level horn out right and stuck it, locked down and grabbed a little sloping edge no bigger than a pencil and greasy as a Schüblig sausage. Boned up, flagged hard and started to cross when my fingers snapped off the edge and I plunged through the gulf, arms whirling, machine-gunning expletives, ungainly as a dodo bird.

After boinking, I pulled on without resting and sent the route to the top. Uncle Chris Janiszewski lowered me, and we bumped fists (remember bumping fists?).

“Next go,” he said. And then: Pandemonium.

I’ve had projects pretty much nonstop for 40 years. I’ve gone on road trips and picked a line and given it all my gorm for days. I’ve worked projects at local crags weekend after weekend. I’ve had projects in hard-toreach places, and spent years striving and training and visualizing, whispering positive aspirations and ruining relationships, gearing up, hiking in and trying hard, and then after almost losing my grip on reality, I’ve sent my lifetime projects and experienced that feeling of ecstatic release like the guy with a pimple on his leg who squeezed out a Tumbu fly maggot the size of his thumb. And then, 20 years later, I’ve watched Alex Honnold walk out with a friend one morning and onsight my nine-pitch megaproject.

The project before my Ultimate Proj—let’s call this one my Penultimate Project—was supposed to be my last project, but I never sent it. Didn’t spend weeks refining my beta or tweaking my diet. Didn’t feel the urge to cry or call my parents. Didn’t progress the sport or even improve myself, not even a little bit. I just gave up. Threw in the towel. Quit.

I’d projected the Penultimate Project, a steep, slopey line at Plenty Kiawe for a couple of weeks and watched GuiJ Marun—big-wave surfer and one of the most prolific new routers in Maui—do it, and then a visiting Austrian named Stefan fired it, and then Babsi, his girlfriend, did a lap.

After I left it for the summer and got back on it this fall, the Penultimate Project felt painful and committing and scary, just the way I remembered.

“I’m done with this piece of shit!” I shouted down to Coco Dave after hanging at every bolt.

We both knew what I meant. It was too hard. I’d have to suffer hard and fail over and over, and let it get into my head. And then it would mess with my mind. And I’d start to care. And then I’d fall in love with it. I’d go to sleep thinking about it and wake up thinking about it and daydream about it. I’d fantasize about putting my hands on it and when it finally came time to get my hands on it, it would reject me. And I’d fret and worry and go back to it again and again, for months or years. We’d develop a dysfunctional relationship, a one-sided thing where I took care of it—groomed it, blew on it, looked lovingly at its shapes, hung colorful baubles on it—and it would remain obdurate.

Then one day I’d do it. Maybe it would feel easy. The relief would be immense, like barfing up a hot iron ball or having a 10-minute orgasm. I’d feel free for a moment. But then I’d fall in love again.

Coco Dave shouted up some encouragement. “You got it, dude,” he said. “We’ll do some hangboarding.”

Training? That seemed a little extreme.

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June/July 2020