Climb­ing with

Alex Me­gos Be­lay­ing the First 5.15 Send in Canada

Gripped - - OFF THE WALL - Story by Read Ma­cadam Read Ma­cadam is from Canada’s West Coast and cur­rently lives in Oman.

I love be­lay­ing. It’s true. I am that guy who shouts, growls and screams as my climber gives it their all high above. I love that en­ergy. To climb with part­ners who share stoke and try hard is what it’s all about. I have been known to shout a climber or two up their project. I, too, thrive when my be­layer puts their vo­cal chords to the limit. How could I let them down? My finest be­lay ever was when I had the op­por­tu­nity to feed rope to Alex Me­gos when he sent Canada’s first 5.15, which he called Fight­club.

The older I get, the more I climb, the more con­scious I am of the im­pact my part­ners have on my day. I crave en­ergy. I want to share mo­ti­va­tion and try hard, but above all, I want to learn. I be­lieve that we can all gain some­thing from the peo­ple we climb with be­cause whether we climb 5.10 or 5.15, we all bring our own spice to the crag and to life. It is not a co­in­ci­dence that I had been climb­ing with Son­nie Trot­ter and his guests, Alex Me­gos and Me­gos’s girl­friend Daniela Ebler, dur­ing their six-week sum­mer va­ca­tion to Western Canada. It was a chance to share sto­ries and ac­quire wis­dom from two of the world’s best. Need­less to say, the en­ergy at the crag was crack­ling as Me­gos inched his way closer to Canada’s hard­est sport climb. And lowly old me, well, I stayed busy at the crag hold­ing the rope for many of Me­gos’s at­tempt, while try­ing my own projects.

So, what is it like to climb with one of the world’s most ac­com­plished sport climbers? The first thing I no­ticed is that Me­gos is a wry and funny guy. Climb­ing is fun and he loves it as much as you and I. On the wall, Me­gos climbs per­fectly and de­fies all of my pre­vi­ous con­cep­tions of what elite climb­ing looked like. There are no power screams and cer­tainly not many mis­takes. Even when en­ter­ing the crux of a 5.15b, it is not ap­par­ent whether he is strug­gling or not. He is ei­ther on the wall or off.

We of­ten hear “nat­u­ral tal­ent” thrown around the climb­ing world as a catchall to ex­plain to­day’s elite sport climb­ing achieve­ments. Sadly, it is usu­ally in a de­ri­sive tone and used to un­der­mine ground­break­ing achieve­ments of our sport as a sim­ple bit of ge­netic good luck. To write off elite climbers as su­per hu­mans or win­ners of the ge­netic lot­tery is patently un­fair to those climbers’ ded­i­ca­tion and hard work and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, un­true.

If climb­ing with Me­gos has taught me one thing it is that the ma­jor­ity of us do not try hard enough and we do not try enough. I have news for you naysay­ers, Me­gos and I are pro­por­tioned al­most ex­actly the same, but he climbs a full num­ber grade harder than me and I have been climb­ing con­sid­er­ably longer. Of course, Me­gos has a very de­sir­able body type for climb­ing, thou­sands of climbers do. Over his 18 years of climb­ing he has cul­ti­vated the grit, de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­se­ver­ance re­quired to climb 5.15b quickly through thou­sands and thou­sands of hours of ded­i­ca­tion, both to train­ing with the top coaches and to climb­ing out­side.

I asked Me­gos if he would take a day to re­lax if he sent his 5.15 project at Raven Crag. Sit­ting in the dirt, metic­u­lously us­ing a ra­zor blade to file off a new split in his fin­ger, he glanced up at me and said, “No. I re­ally want to send so I won’t have to take any more rest days.” He then re­sumed his man­i­cure, ap­ply­ing tape to an­other fin­ger. Min­utes later, with six of his fingers fully taped, blood leak­ing through, Me­gos tied in to try the project once again – his fourth at­tempt that day. Quite sim­ply, he oozes the drive to be out­side and in­dulges in his love of climb­ing. “Each time I tie in, I just think, this could be the time I send,” he replied when asked how he main­tains drive and mo­ti­va­tion dur­ing his hard projects. His en­ergy is in­fec­tious and be­tween his at­tempts to send the full project, he in­sisted that I give the f irst half a try. Ev­ery time he reached a high point, fell and low­ered off, I would tie in as Me­gos fed me beta. While Me­gos has climbed the first 5.14b sec­tion over a dozen times, no one else has re­peated it.

Since my time climb­ing The Path 5.14R with Tim Em­mett, I have been recit­ing and shar­ing a pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tion that Em­mett brought back from a con­fer­ence dur­ing our fi­nal trip to Lake Louise. “To­day is the best day of my life.” It’s funny, it’s hy­per­bolic and when we say it enough, we catch that iota of truth that it holds and it per­me­ates our day. As I pulled hard on my locked Gri­Gri to show Alex his be­lay, we made the req­ui­site fist bump and I of­fered en­cour­age­ment, “To­day, Alex.” He grinned and said, “It’s the best day of my life,” be­fore set­ting off into Cana­dian climb­ing his­tory.

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