At that point, it seemed insurmountable. I couldn't even get on a 5.8. I could barely thrash up a 5.6.
I've gotten close on a couple of vertical 5.10s before now, and I've collected three or four on the slab**.
Well, tonight I got up my project wall, which is a 5.10 I've been working on since January 25th. I did not do it without falls, and it was not pretty--but I figured out the crux move, and I think next time I will do better.
It goes like this:
Both hands on little crimpy nubs, right foot up, left foot up on a backstep. Right hand up jammed into a horrible crimpy ledge. Right foot up on a hold the size of the last stub of a #2 pencils stuck to the wall sideways. Left hand up on a tiny side-pull slanted wrong. Left foot up on a backstep, right hand up to a crimpy sidepull with at humb pinch (my hand STILL aches). Right foot up to the crimpy horrible ledge your right hand was on back there.
Then stand the hell up and left hand to a slopey, useless, slanted brutal monster of a side-pull that you can only use if you are under it and hanging left. Match hands on that and try to trust it.
Flag back and find your left foot. Carefully, carefully, with impossible balance (staying under the hold that is at chest level while trying to shift your weight across its line of usefulness) push your center over the right foot. You will lose the left foot here, and the hand will become bad. Balance, core, breathing, and bring your right hand up to find a hold that's only good if you hit it right on top. (It is this hold that I have been lunging for and missing, or being unable to stick. It turns out you have to sneak up on it.)
Good. Now breathe and match feet to stand on your left foot and flag out right. Take your left hand off the slopy moon-shaped hold and raise it up to the next hold.
Good. You got it. That's the crux: now scramble up the rest on crimpers that leave the bones in your fingers aching.
Six months' work. Right there.
I may be learning how to climb.
I also got a 5.9 I have been working on, but I cheated my ass off on at least one move.
*For the uninitiated, in the Yosemite system, which is what we use in Amurka, this being where Yosemite is found, technical non-aid climbing higher than 15 feet or so is rated between 5.0 and 5.16. It used to be 5.10, but climbers and equipment got better. The hardest climbs in the world are currently 5.16.
4 is scrambling, and does not require protection. 6 and up are aid climbing--they involve hammering things into the rocks. A 1 is a wheelchair ramp. The kind of climbing I do requires protection ("pro"), but we don't use it to assist our upward progress, just to arrest the downward kind.
**There are four kinds of surface in climbing: vertical, overhung, "roof," and "slab." Slabs are so-called "positive" surfaces, where you are climbing a (sometmes very steep) slope--another term (used humorously) is "underhung." They require different techniques than climbing vertical or overhung walls. More friction is involved, for one thing, and less strength.)