Clearly something is in the air in Rocky Mountain National Park, because serious sendage went down this weekend! To kick the weekend off, Angie Payne sent her 4-year-long, self-proclaimed “nemesis” of a project Freaks of The Industry (V13). Then on Saturday, Alex Puccio, fresh off her first V13’s just a couple weeks ago, she sends Jade (V14). And here we are, still trying to pick our jaws up off the floor. Both women have achieved something really amazing here, it’s hard to know where to begin, but each send is truly mind-blowing for very different reasons.
We caught up with Angie last winter, when she had already put 50 days into this project. 50 days. On her blog Angie says of Freaks: “Freaks is a nemesis that surpasses all nemeses I have ever had. This is not the first time I have invested multiple seasons in a boulder problem, but it is the first time I have experienced a mental battle of this magnitude… I have tried countless mental approaches—getting angry, relaxing, letting my mind wander, repeating a mantra as I climb, screaming, rhythmic breathing, acting like my life depends on it, pretending I couldn’t care less about it, even drawing positive reminders on my arm—you name it, I have probably tried it. But the battle continues.” Just think about all that for a second. Really appreciate that struggle for a moment. And then, you know those times when you’ve worked on something for like 3 days (or let’s face it, like 3 hours) and you’re like “OMG, why can’t I do this? It’s so annoying. I’ll never be able to do this.” And then you go climb V0’s the rest of the day? No? Just me? Anyway, when I think about how much frustration she tolerated, how she was able to keep going back, year after year; it’s kind of like trying to imagine what a billion dollars really is, or like, how many stars are in the universe-very hard to wrap your head around once you start really thinking about it.
And then of course there’s Alex. What we are loving about her right now is something completely different. Rather than super focused projecting on one specific boulder, taking months or years, Puccio is basically just getting outside, taking a break from comp climbing, having some fun, and seeing what see is capable of. In our interview with her in March (just before she won her eighth ABS nationals championship) she shared with us that climbing outside is really her reprieve from the comp circuit, “I have so much stress in competition that when I go outside I finally don’t have to feel like I’m training for something. When I go outside I’m like, ‘I don’t just have 5 minutes to do a boulder.’ It’s quite nice. It’s refreshing.” At that time that she had climbed fourteen V12’s, and thought she was capable of V13, but just hadn’t found the right one yet. Well, she found the right two, Nuthin’ But Sunshine and Top Notch in RMNP within a week of one another, and then Jade, swiftly making her the 4th woman in history to climb V14. Not to mention this particular V14 is known as one of the hardest boulder problems in the world. This line was initially a project of Dave Graham’s, and graded at V15. Daniel Woods earned the FA in 2007 (video from Big UP) and it was then repeated by many big names including Jimmy Webb, Carlo Traversi, after which it was decidedly graded a solid V14.
Both Payne and Puccio are so inspiring in what they have achieved. Added to the list of other historic sends lately (Ashima, Shauna Coxsey), we feel pretty certain that the first ever V15 send by woman could happen any day now. In the meantime, we want to say thanks for giving us new energy and excitement to push ourselves in our own climbing, and we’ll be on the edge of our seats to see what happens next!
Photo Credits: Matty Hong and Joel Kerr