It’s April in Vienna. I’m waiting in the isolation tent with some fellow competitors. The sun is shining, but we all wish it wasn’t. After all, World Cup boulder problems are hard enough as is—the unusually warm day isn’t helping the cause.

I am nervous, sitting in the chair waiting for my turn to climb in the semi-finals. The World Cup in Slovenia the weekend before left me feeling humbled and frustrated, and I want to redeem myself. There is a crowd gathered to watch, and many more viewers tuned into the live feed online. I am about to dive into a familiar, nerve-wracking world where there is a time limit, pressure to perform, and nineteen other incredibly strong women to contend with.

Don’t think about any of it, I tell myself, just do what you do. Forget about the weather, the people, and all the time and money you invested to get here. Just climb and try to enjoy the experience.

[Angie Payne climbing in the World Cup in Vienna. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]

“How much time left?” I ask.
“Wait five more minutes,” my boyfriend replies.

I am impatient, but five minutes is nothing compared to an entire winter. We are in Rocky Mountain National Park and I am sitting in front of my personal project waiting to put in my first real attempt of the season. The boulder recently emerged from its winter home beneath the snow, and I am anxious to see how it feels this year.

Vienna is now a memory, and a trip to Greenland is on the horizon. But all I care about in this moment is the boulder problem that I tried for more than twenty days last season and came painfully close to finishing many times. It has been a true test of patience and an intensive lesson in the art of waiting—waiting for the weather to cooperate, waiting to find someone to go to the boulder with me, waiting between attempts, and waiting through almost ten months of alpine winter.

So here I sit under the boulder, waiting for my rest time to elapse. A mysterious morning fog lifts between the weathered pines, slowly unveiling the beauty of The Park. It is these moments that make me take pause—the moments of anticipation, when I am forced to stop and take it all in and savor the wait that is such an essential part of the climbing experience.

Fast forward to August in Greenland. I’m waiting in the Yurtini with Mike Libecki, Ethan Pringle and Keith Ladzinski. It’s cold and rainy, and we all wish it wasn’t. We have just set up camp, but the fog is still too thick to explore the cirque where we will spend the next two weeks.

And so we are waiting.

[The northern lights shine over camp in Greenland. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]

This has been the theme of the past few days—waiting in Iceland for Mike and Ethan, waiting in Kulusuk for the weather to clear and the helicopter to fly, and waiting in Tasiilaq for missing luggage. It has given me time to feel nervous, but it’s not the type of nervousness to which I’ve grown accustomed. There is no five-minute time limit here, no crowd, and no intimidating field of competitors. There is just the unknown, and my fear of it.

That fear hit me in the chest just after the boat left us, as I was attempting to haul one of the Libecki duffles to camp. I sat down for a minute and watched the little vessel weave through the icebergs. Here I am, I thought, in the middle of nowhere, diving into a completely unfamiliar world, with no way to leave. The thought brought on an odd sense of claustrophobia. Just breathe, I tell myself. There’s no rush, no pressure to perform, and no expectations. Just be here, and, above all else, enjoy the experience.

[Angie Payne takes it all in. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]

So here we sit, four people and fifteen bags, waiting in the tent for the weather to pass. As anxious as I am to see through the mist to the jumbled boulders and massive walls I feel looming in the distance, I have to wait. And as frustrating as that is, it is good for me. It forces me to slow down and practice the art of patience. After all, I have no control over things like the helicopter flying, or our bags arriving, or the speed of the boat taking us to camp. And I most certainly have no control over the weather, so I might as well just accept that.

I have to be patient and trust that it’s worth the wait. —Angie Payne

2 Responses to Worth the Wait

  1. Jon Magee says:

    Awesome post, Angie. We commoners can only dream of doing the things you’ve done in the past months. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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