Pink light was fading on the horizon, marking the end of our fifth day on the wall. I pulled onto the rock and danced delicately up the rippled face to the jug below The Move. Shaking out my arms one at a time, I closed my eyes and visualized my sequence.
The Move. It’s all in the name. One heinously hard, fiercely shoulder-y move. One stopper move just below the chains of pitch 24, on a 34-pitch free route on El Capitan. The Move is said to be harder if you’re short. So hard that Hazel Findley, the first woman to send Golden Gate in 2011, wrote an entire blog post about it. So hard that Emily Harrington, who nabbed the second and only other female ascent, broke down in tears on it in 2015.
It’s funny to think that a vertical kilometre of climbing could come down to a single move.
I took a deep breathe. I was putting so much pressure on myself, but I had to let go of all that baggage. I was going to fight as hard as I could — that was all I could do.
I locked off the double gastons and caved my upper body out from the wall, making space to bring my left foot to my belly button. Using tension in my core and shoulders to roll my weight onto that insanely high foot, I ninja kicked my other foot onto a microscopic jib out right. Pressing hard on the jib, I stabbed my right middle finger desperately for the mono, letting out a little power squeal with the effort…
I was in the mono. I couldn’t believe it!
Focus. Keep it together. Breathe. I eyed up the series of pockets that traversed to my left, and then started across them, smearing my feet. My foot slipped and I came sailing down onto the rope. Nooooooo! I couldn’t believe I’d fallen after The Move! But even more so, I couldn’t believe that I HADN’T fallen during it! My astonishment outweighed my disappointment.
An hour later night had fallen. I put on my headlamp and set off again, each hand and foot finding its place, my focus never wavering until I was romping up the final line of jugs to the anchor.