Jonathan Siegrist Road to Kryptonite
A Story by Jonathan Siegrist
For myself, every breakthrough achievement in my life began with a distant goal. Once I've totally committed to it, there immediately exists a void between myself and success. Setting a goal is no doubt the first step, but what comes next is the real test - paving that void with growth and dedication. In the case of rock climbing that growth may come in the form of training a specific strength, engaging your mind, or developing a new skill set. Regardless of the specific type of growth necessary, it's a climbers dedication to the process that will empower them to eventually succeed.
I've learned to love the process, and I've come to terms with the fact that this pursuit is mostly that; a process. As sweet as victory may be, it's fleeting, few and far between. If you can learn to love the agony of training at your peak, the existence of various and unwavering pressures and the 24/7 job that is absolute commitment.. then the sky's the limit.
My road to 'Kryptonite' 14d, began in the first few years of my climbing. I was setting long term goals and dreaming about where climbing might take me. During this time I inscribed '9a or bust' on a campus board that I built in my parents garage and decided that if I was ever to climb such an astronomical difficulty, it should be the country's first - Tommy Caldwell's magnificent, 'Kryptonite'. With this lofty goal tucked neatly away in my dreams, I climbed and trained tirelessly for years. Working my way through 5.13 and eventually through the letters of 5.14. After a groundbreaking trip to the Red River Gorge in late October of 2009 followed by an excellent visit to China's sport climbing mecca, Yanghou, just months later, I imagined realizing the long lost goal of climbing 9a. This dream shortly thereafter solidified, and in the first few weeks of 2010, I committed to this goal.
After a spring of local climbing, and a lengthy early summer road trip, I returned home and began evaluating what my path to Kryptonite would look like. I had yet to climb on the blocky limestone cliffs of Rifle, which I'd heard were very similar to what I would find on Kryptonite. Knowing that this was a very unique style of climbing, I made frequent trips to Rifle over the next month in preparation. I honed my abilities climbing on slippery feet, using awkward kneebars, engaging compression and making use of features instead of holds. I managed to do the classic 5.14a 'Zulu' (3 tries), the ultra pumpy 'Living the Dream' 14a (2 tries), 'Roadside Prophet' 14a (3 tries), the burly 'Bride of Frankenstein' 13d (2 tries) along with the kneebar intensive 'Present Tense' 13d (2 tries) among other climbs. Finally feeling prepared and growingly anxious to get after my real objective, I set out for the Fortress of Solitude (where you'll find Kryptonite) in the first few days of September 2010.
My first day on the route proved to be very inspirational in that I managed to do every move. Even so, I knew and respected it's difficulty, and thus when I returned home I continued to train my ass off. With a better understanding of the exact strengths this climb would require, I fought hard to develop them. I took excellent care of my body, and planned my climbing ten days in advance. I reviewed my beta for the route endlessly on bike rides, laying in bed or while training. During this time, my vision narrowed and nothing stood between me and my goal.
I made tangible progress with every visit, and continually returned more and more motivated. On my third day trying the route, I managed to one-hang it. I felt that my success was imminent, but great expectations built unnecessary pressure, and my fourth day I left disappointed with another one-hang.
At this point I was obviously prepared to do the climb. My dedication had done me well and it was clear that I had everything it took to succeed. Now it was only the self-induced pressure and piercing mental game that stood in my way. As I made the 45 minute approach to the cliff on my next day, my heart was racing. I imagined the route in my head and as every difficult move or uncomfortable rest passed I could feel my anxiety building. I needed to relax.
I reminded myself that it's only the movement that matters. What stands between me and the chains is only a series of moves, each of which I'm very capable and each of which I've rehearsed. The emotions surrounding a move or a rest or a clip, were all just creations.. only the climbing was real. And with this, I left the ground. I climbed each movement as it came to me, rested as needed and clipped were I could.
Years ago I dreamt about climbing 'Kryptonite', and although it only took me five days of effort to succeed, to me it was a culmination of countless days of determination and years worth of growth. This accomplishment represents how far I've come in the last three years, much more so than simply a large number. Kryptonite was once an end-all, fantastical goal, and now it's become only a stepping stone.