I used to be an elitist prick. I learned how to climb in the Gunks. As traditional as it gets. The only bolts I ever clipped where the ones on climbs there and they are few and far between. I finally reached the level of being able to onsight 5.10 there. Then I decided it was time to take a road trip. You guys who have sold everything you own and put the rest in your buddies garage know the trip I'm talking about. Then I made the list. You know THE list. Every major trad area in the US. Then what climbs your gonna do their. The test pieces. The climbs that get your buddies to buy you some beers if you manage to get them onsight. There was not a single sport area on that list.
Fast forward a few months. A buddy of mine has some time off as well. He wants to get some climbing in. Great. The problem is he wants to do it in El Portrero. I am not stoked to go clip some bolts but he's a good friend so I suck it up and decide to go. On the drive down I repeat every "sport climbing" joke I can think of a few times. It's a long drive. We get there just before Xmas. The first day we do some single pitch routes. My stoke remains low but it's still climbing and beer is cheap. That night we talk about getting on some of the longer routes. My stoke meter is slowly starting to rise. We pick a route called Yankee Clipper. A 15 pitch 12a.
We get up and get on it. Most of the climbing is 5.9ish. The last pitch is the crux. We literally fly up the route. Linking pitches puts us at the crux in a few hours. I get the crux pitch. I've never even been on a 12 before. The moves are hard but the bolts are bomber. So I keep scratching my way up. I finally fall at the last hard move. Did I really just do that? Can I really climb at that grade? Wow this route is cool. All these thoughts are creeping into my skull. I finish the climb and we rap down. We hit the ground just over four hours from when we started. 1500' in four hours and we weren't even trying to go fast. That rocked.
A little over FOUR months later I finally left Potrero. It's the place that opened my eyes and made me drop the BS attitude I was carrying around about sport climbing being inferior. It's just different. It allowed me to push into grades that most likely would have taken me a few more years to get to if I was just trad climbing. It made me realize that if I can climb those grades with bolts that I could also climb them on gear. It made me a better, stronger, faster climber physically. Mentally it unlocked part of my brain to allow me to try harder and reach further. Now I clip bolts. Now I boulder. Now I trad climb harder. Now I am a climber.