Our final story in this week’s mini-series comes from Michaela Tracy, one of the UK’s top multi-discipline climbers. Having been climbing for nearly 20 years, Michaela has some impressive achievements under her belt: redpointing sport 8bs, E5 trad onsights, boulder problems up to 8A, and podium wins in national and world championships. We caught up with Michaela from her new home in the US to discover what her proudest moment was this year; we are grateful to her for sharing these personal and moving moments with Womenclimb.
Personal celebration: sending ‘Halcyon’ V11/8A
“Of all the climbs in Pawtuckaway, “Halcyon” was the one I wanted. I’d moved to America about a month ago; packed up a bag full of clothes, stuffed one full of climbing gear and caught a plane away from my life in the UK. I left in a hurry, trailing untied ends and unsaid goodbyes. I don’t know what I expected, that the stream I had slipped out of would just stop and wait for me to jump back in a few months down the line? Only the longer I stayed in the US, the more I found the cords that bound me to the old world dissolving and disappearing into a passed future.
It all came to a head that week. I felt uprooted, in a foreign country, alone but unable to contemplate the concept of returning to a life that no longer felt mine. When I left that morning to go out climbing my head was full of questions. I wanted answers, needed the reassurance of solid ground. The whole drive down I drifted up into the dappled canopy and over the ocean, desperate to feel tied to something, or someone.
We were at the boulder when I got the message, ‘I don’t think we should talk’. I staggered as the wind suddenly slipped from my stomach, felt winter’s chill cut deep into the crisp autumn morning. My next attempt was a mess, I barely made it off the ground; words spun wildly, confounding my vision. I cowered into my down jacket, feeling the sunshine slip through my cupped fingers, echoes of the clock running down; resigned myself to one more try, to siphon all my frustration out into this one thing I could control.
From the second I set off it didn’t feel right; I forgot my sequence, missed all the feet, grabbed the first crux hold the wrong way, considered letting go but something in me refused; at least do this, at least try, at least fight. On the edge I slapped between holds, just about keeping myself on the rock, winding the coil of my resolve tighter and tighter until it strained and started to fry, threatened to snap.
And it stopped, and I was stood on the lip of the boulder, just a few simple steps to the top. I took my time, picking my way between paths of moss, dusting pine needles off holds and sweeping leaves from underfoot. When I reached the summit I stopped to sit for a while, allowed myself to feel the sunshine on my face, far away from the earth below. An unexpected emotion rose within me; something a lot like joy, but touched with the sadness of departure – the feeling almost brought me to tears.”
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