Anne Hughes' 2004
At the urging of my favorite climbing
partner and the dearest of friends, Vera Naputi, I decided to set
myself a birthday challenge. She was to turn 40 this summer
and I, 50 (b. July 5, 1954). In honor of my 50th birthday, I
decided to climb 5 Devil's Lake State Park climbs, that are rated
5.11b in difficulty and to do this within five months. No
drinking, except a lot of water, no calisthenics, no running, just a
hard climbing goal that was a true challenge for my ability and
enough time to maybe actually accomplish it! The fact is,
nobody's around on my birthday anyway - - it's too close to July 4th
and everybody is off at family reunions, the beach or gone fishin'.
& vera in the tetons
It all began last summer, when I was
only 49 and I began to try out 5.11 climbs. I got three
or four 11a's and, frankly, I was kind of amazed to be able to break
out of the 10's. I began to wonder what else I could do.
The thing is, you just don't see women my age climbing at the Lake.
After sending those 5.11a's in 2003 and with the added encouragement
from Sue Lottridge, one of my heroes, I thought, "Well, maybe I could
get Gils... It was the hardest climbing
project I'd ever attempted and this particular climb is considered a
classic! I'm told by climbers way more experienced than I (just
7 years climbing and all after the age of 40!) that Gils Nose
is the classic - - it's a beautiful climb and more sustained than the
others that share it's rating of 5.11b.
I'm a rather
determined individual, not the quickest when it comes to physical
prowess, but focused and willing to do what it takes to
achieve my goals. But getting Gils in the bag
was HARD. The heartbreaker was falling on the last move of
Gils Nose on what turned out to be the last day of
that climbing season, an unseasonably balmy November 2.
left: anne m.
That day, Vera and Brad arrived in
time to see my heartbreaking finish. They arrived with their new
baby Misa, just one and a half weeks old (Ya got to start them
climbing early!) in time to see me on this last attempt.
I estimate I'd climbed Gils 20 - 25 times by the time
the weather shut down the Wisconsin climbing season. Out of
time, Gil's Nose would have to percolate in my mind for the
next five months, 'til spring!
Spring 2004 came and Vera
suggested a birthday challenge, pointing me to www.birthdaychallenge.com.
Still psyched about Gil's Nose, I devised a challenge
based on sending five 11b's within five months. Rather than do a
challenge all on the day of my birthday, when experience has proven that
most of the people I'd like to share the experience with are not in
town, I thought I'd spread my fun across five months.
I was out at the Lake
come the first reasonably warm day of April! I hadn't
lost much in my five month away from Gils. My second
day on the climb, April 22, 2004, I "sent the f_ _ _ er!"
Yippee! This is the moment I felt the most like a real bad-ass!
celebrating after abm
In the coming months
I sent three more Devil's Lake 5.11b challenges: Callipegenous
Direct, ABM and Orgasm Direct. I
worked these climbs with my most fun and inspiring climbing
partners Anne Medeiros, Mary Juzwik, Neill Declercq, Vera Naputi,
Sue Lottridge, Angel Zambrano, Sam Wulfson, and Brad Werntz. None of the climbs came together
without at least a dozen run throughs. You can't say I'm a
quick study, but I make up for it in patience and focus!
I was left with just one more ll.b to go. I chose Pie
Plates. I worked it and worked it, at least four days.
Pie Plates has a crux at the bottom, a still difficult
middle and an easy top. After my usual multiple days of
preparation with my patient partners (thank-you, thank-you, my
friends!) I was finally ready to send it. And I DID! ...
except... I forgot my beta and took a heartbreaking fall on the very
last difficult move! (sigh)... Oh well...I didn't send it that
day nor the next, nor the next. August ticked by and I beat a
path to Pie Plates more often than I should have.
By the end of August, noticing shoulder pain, I took time off.
Then my five month deadline came and went and I was still holding
back, doing physical therapy, climbing 5.8's an 9's to protect my
shoulder or not climbing at all when I could discipline myself to
It is now November 2004.
The climbing season is closing down rapidly - -today it's 40, overcast
and drizzling. I will spend another winter daydreaming the moves
on an 11.b climb and looking forward to April. Meanwhile I can
say I had a LOT of fun this summer, that's for sure! I
accomplished more than I would have thought possible a year ago.
I enjoyed my inspiring friends who patiently accompanied me to my
projects. I learned lots from them! Thanks,
friends! I got practice in being disappointed and in the
difficult art of "letting go" - - something that we climbers
don't normally do - - climbing is all about holding on! Thanks also
to my family, none of whom climb at all, but who listened to me
describe the highs and lows of each day at the crag and tried
their best to appear interested!
the elusive pie plates