Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Lessons Learned from the Fifth Planeteer – aka Groove is in the Heart

For those of you readers that are on the other side of 30, you may remember a TV show called Captain Planet.  The heroes of this kid’s series were 5 environmental good guys, known as “planeteers,” each possessing a magic ring that controlled an element of nature (earth, wind, water, fire) that they would use in their valiant battle against pollution.  Then there was the fifth guy – his magic ring supposedly gave him the power of “Heart.”  As kids we always thought this guy was dorky – the other planeteers were all much more suave and cool.  In fact I was never really quite sure what “powers” the fifth guy ever really possessed – it seemed like his purpose was more or less to hang around and say cheesy, supportive one-liners to the other cooler heroes.  But now that I am older wiser, I’m realizing that the “Heart Guy” might have been on to something.  When it comes to any athletic endeavour – be it climbing or another sport, this power of heart may just be the most valuable resource out of them all.  

The Planeteers - the "Heart" guy is the unmuscular boy at the bottom

When I think back to my proudest sends, the ones that stick with me the most are the ones that, if I’m being honest with myself, somewhere in the back of my mind I think may have happened by accident.  Sure, its fun to send something hard, but many of my hardest projects ended with a redpoint run that was so well-rehearsed it almost felt like cheating.  In those instances, the journey itself was where the grunt work took place, and the actual send attempt was just the culminating reward.  For me a good example would be Slabster’s Lament, the same route that I broke my ankle on back in February.  By the time I worked through the physical and mental battles, it easily felt 3 letter grades easier because I had dissected every move down to a science.  In my opinion, the most prized sends are not the ones where every move is executed perfectly, but the ones where you have to fight tooth and nail every step of the way – the ones that cause you to involuntarily hold your breath as you replay the climb in your mind because you still think there’s an outside chance you might fall.  The same holds true for spectators, at least for me anyway – which climber is more fun to cheer for, and more exciting to watch…the one who looks effortless and has every move dialed, or the one that you are just sure is going to peel off at any moment?  

I think one of the major differences between these rehearsed versus ad-lib type sends lies in this mysterious power of heart.  I’ve realized that some days I have it, and some days I don’t.  When I’m feeling strong I don’t necessarily need it – I can rely on my strength and technique to get me through to the anchors without a fall.  These are perfect times to work hard routes that push my physical and mental limits, because I’ve got confidence in my ability to make the moves.  But at the end of a climbing trip, when I’m exhausted and my body is rebelling, sometimes “heart” is about the only thing I have going for me on my very last chance to pull a send out from my you-know-where before we pack up and go home.

We had to tap into the powers of heart on an epic day in Big Cottonwood Canyon several years ago. Can you find us? Hint: We're just getting started...

Can I summon it at will?  I wish.  If so, I most definitely would have called it up from the depths of my willpower long before the 3rd, 4th, and most certainly 5th one hang runs on Gangsta out in the Obed a couple of weeks ago.  It’s elusive, this mysterious power of heart.   Unfortunately it only comes in fleeting flashes of brilliance (or insanity, depending on how you look at it), where an overcooked body is able to latch that dyno, fight that barn door, or lock off on that nasty crimper against all odds.   I guess if it were able to be summoned at any given point everyone would have it.  And if everyone could have it, we’d all take it for granted, which would in effect cause it to lose all of its mystery and much of its power.  Though I do wish I could tap into it more, it makes those magical moments where I nab a send by the skin of my teeth that much more special.  And it gives me all the more reason to whoop and holler for my climbing partners when they eek out a crux sequence and I can tell from the ground by the look on their face that they’re just as surprised as everyone else that they made that move.

Even though we can’t bottle it and sell it, I’m sure many of you have experienced this power of heart in climbing, whether it be a specific route, or even something more general such as overcoming a fear of heights or falling.  So let’s take a moment to celebrate the unsung hero of the planeteer gang and what he brings to the table – when’s the last time you or someone you know flexed some mental muscles and put this heart power to action?



3 Responses to “Lessons Learned from the Fifth Planeteer – aka Groove is in the Heart”

  1. Great post Erica. What route in BCC was that?


  2. Beautiful read – thank you!
    …and I know exactly were you are in the picture;)


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN