Dreams. I have a list of goals I keep on the Notes app of my phone, under the title Dream Big. Some of them are far off objectives, some of them I could complete tomorrow. Some are climbing related, and some are completely personal (and admittedly ambiguous), like, “Experience true freedom” [check].
The Enchantments link-up was on my Dream Big list. Acid Baby to Solid Gold to Iconoclast; 18+ pitches and 18+ miles of hiking. It was something for which I had to plan, train, find a partner, make time. In my mind it was big, and it sat on my phone’s list for a whole year before getting the ceremonial emoji check beside it a few weeks ago.
But here’s the thing: that day, those climbs, that Big Dream – it wasn’t all that hard. We kind of just did it: hiked pretty quickly, climbed a lot of 5.10 pitches pretty quickly, and were back at the car, pretty quickly. Though our feet were damn sore at the end of the day, the mutual feeling between us, hiking into the Snow Creek parking lot, was something like, “that was it?” I had the same feeling when I climbed the Regular route of Half Dome a few years ago, the same feeling after a season in Patagonia this past winter. In fact, I’m getting used to that feeling of the impossible becoming strangely and extremely possible.
I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, I hope my words don’t come across that way. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately, in my post-accomplishment-and-a-little-lost-without-a-goal state: how I choose my objectives, what working towards goals looks like, what I feel I’m capable of accomplishing. What comes next, and how Big should I Dream?
I can’t forget that Whitney and I worked really hard to accomplish this mission. We had some friends who attempted the same link-up a few days after us, onsight, and didn’t come close to succeeding, not for lack of climbing ability. Whitney and I put in our time in the Enchantments, climbing each route a few times, scouting out our cross-country travel, caching gear, meticulously choosing a rack and paring down our supplies. By the time the morning of our link-up came around, we had no more questions – we just had to execute.
But maybe too, hand in hand our efforts to make the goal happen, is the fact that we’re just damn capable. And again, no tooting horns here, I’m speaking with a universal “we.” WE are just damn capable. And perhaps, WE should dream bigger.
I gave a slideshow at Vertical World the other week for Mountain Madness’ Beta Night, a presentation entitled “Cragging in the Stuart Range.” My talk was about the climbing that can be done car-to-car in the Leavenworth area, mostly in the Enchantments. I noticed myself saying over and over again, not even knowing my audience well, “You can totally do it,” “If you climb 5.8, you gotta go do this,” or “That route is so amazing, go and climb it,” almost with a feeling of shaking the crowd and saying, “You guys! Dream bigger! Don’t let your fears get in the way! Don’t let this seem too impossible. You can do this too!”
Afterwards, a good friend of mine cautioned me, saying, “Most of those people probably shouldn’t be encouraged to go out and do those climbs. You don’t know their ability level, Jenny. You don’t know their experience. Just because they climb 5.10 in the gym doesn’t mean they can go climb Acid Baby this weekend. Maybe it’s difficult for you to see these objectives outside of your own experience, but people generally don’t know what they’re doing, and are capable of getting themselves into really bad situations.”
He’s right, I know. But I think I’m right too, and I want to shake you all and tell you so. Climbing demands a progression; Whitney and I needed to climb each route of our link-up individually, know the terrain, plan our attack, and then put it all together. We were physically capable the entire time, just as my duo of friends who unsuccessfully did the link-up, but certainly had to take steps to accomplish our goal. Perhaps in the same way, you might be capable of something (whether you know it or not) but simply need to invest the time to identify the steps to take to get there. And with each of those steps, the Big Dream might start to feel less and less intimidating.
Because here’s what I think. We should all Dream Big. We should all start to Dream Bigger. We should all stop saying, “I wish I could do that…” Our goals will be relative to us, and to our skills and experience, but they’ll all be big, and incredibly worthy, and deservedly intimidating. I’m not sure what it is for me yet, though I’m certainly scheming. I’m not sure what it is for you, but you should find something. It might be really Big, it might seem impossible. But take the right steps, small and slow as they may seem, and you’re as capable as anyone.
You can totally do it.