I've been doing indoor rock climbing for nearly three months now. The first month or so was mostly working myself up to speed, figuring the basic techniques and just learning to trust my body so high up on the wall.
I had been climbing up 5.8's with some success for about a week or so when I made my first attempt on That One Wall. If you've been to Planet Granite Sunnyvale within the past few months chances are you've seen this wall; it's rather innocuously marked as a "5.8" in difficulty, which I soon learned was a sore understatement. It starts off as a normal enough vertical climb with easy handholds, but then arches upwards into a pair of underhang handholds and then up to an overhang requiring one to reach up with one hand, and then *slip* I fell for the first of many, many times.
I spent the past two months working on that wall. In the meantime my skills improved to the point where I could climb just about any wall rated a 5.9 or below within the gym, but could only manage a spectacular failure on this wall each time I tried. Amongst our climbing group it started to acquire various nicknames, such as "The Evil Overhang", "Monkeywall", and "The 5.8 of DOOM". We'd watch as other, much more skilled climbers attempted that wall and failed as we did; as others started to figure out the trick to that wall we'd watch them scale it hoping to emulate it ourselves, and they in turn were happy to try and offer advice and moral support as our group repeatedly gave it our best. Eventually chirik and gentle_gamer were the first in our group to successfully climb it, followed not long after by lilyth_lindorie.
Last Wednesday I decided to try it as the first wall of the night for a change. And as many times prior, I got to the point where I reached up and grabbed the overhand with my left hand, used that to leverage my feet further up so I could then reach up and grab with my right hand, and then in turn got my left foot onto a small rock and my right foot onto the second undercling. And for the first time, I was able to push down with both feet and pull with both arms at the same time to get to the next handhold! And then... I panicked. I couldn't get myself up the rest of the wall as it continues to angle outward, requiring additional strength and stamina, and my center of gravity was too far off the wall and the next few handholds were relatively poor grips by comparison. Even with my chalksock my hands were sweating onto the rocks to the point where I had no grip on them.
I had made it past the hardest part of that wall that night and couldn't make it further. But I couldn't keep focused on the fact that I had accomplished a very difficult maneuver; I spent the entire following day at work obsessing over where I had failed.
I knew I was running out of chances; most walls at the Planet Granite gym stay up for two to three months before they're taken down and replaced with a new route. And I didn't want to have that regret hanging over me. With that in mind, I arranged to join chirik and gentle_gamer on their lunchtime climb that Friday. But my body was still sore and my muscles were nowhere near 100%, and... I couldn't get past the overhang again.
And then I tried a different maneuver that I had seen someone else perform; I got my left foot to the same small rock, but then worked my right foot to a different rock on the opposite-facing wall, so I was sort of "doing the split" with my legs. From there it was easy for me to propel up to the next rock with a minimum of effort. This time I was ready; for all the times I replayed this moment in my mind the prior day at work, I realized that the one mistake I truly made was that I panicked. So I drew a deep breath, kept my heartrate as low as I could and was somehow able to control the sweating from my hands; and this time I made it! My arms and legs were absolutely shot, pushing beyond their breaking point and I was starting to dehydrate as well... so everything else I had left in me, I drew up and with one last lunge I had finally conquered the wall!
I managed to hold it all in for a rather impressive five minutes or so. It wasn't until I was in the locker room that it hit me and I lost it. I broke down crying tears of joy, overwhelmed by the emotions of having persevered and met this challenge. This stubborn wall and its innocuously low difficulty rating, this beautiful maneuver which no other wall in the entire gym sported, and I had finally proven to myself that yes, I can do this.
I was at the gym tonight and - not surprisingly - That One Wall was gone. I know myself well enough to know how much I would have regretted and anguished had I not finally been successful at it before it was gone. But for the crowning moment of awesome that it was, what I hadn't known was that moment touching the top had become a turning point. Tonight I scaled a pair of 5.10a walls with only a moderate level of effort. And now there's talk of going out and trying outdoor rock climbing at some point in the near future too.