Monday, March 29, 2010

Natasha Barnes: Vegan Athlete

Natasha Barnes, a Mission Cliffs climber, and bona fide rock crusher has been climbing for the past 11 years. In between sending 5.13d sport routes, bouldering problems like Thriller and Midnight Lightning in Yosemite,and going full tilt on the Yosemite offwidth circuit, Natasha attends Palmer West Chiropractic, where she is obtaining a doctorate in Chiropractics and Physiotherapy.

For the past five years, Natasha has followed a strict vegan diet. "I only eat Vegans," she jokes. Natasha abstains from animal products, processed food, and operates her body on nutrient dense food. She took a moment to talk about her diet as an athlete and how being vegan helps her send.

what are the advantages of being an athlete on a vegan diet?
Being healthy, feeling healthy and recovering faster. Nutritional stress (stress to the body created by food that has unhealthy properties) is a major source of stress on our bodies as climbers. We put our bodies through the ringer all the time and if we are not eating the right foods (unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, high-quality protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and good bacteria aka probiotics) than our bodies lack the components they need to to regenerate completely and effectively. Regular consumption of nutrient dense whole foods supports cellular regeneration which rebuilds muscle and other body tissue and is essential for recovery. Faster recovery = climb/train more often and harder = climb better.

VEGAN PIZZA. Spelt crust, ricotta, Sundried tomato pesto, basil, spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sundried tomato topping with a Malbec.

What do you eat to perform your best?

My best performance foods are whole veggies and fruits. The most nutrient dense and hydrating food. Bananas, oranges, apples, bell peppers, dates, grapes, leafy greens, nuts and seeds etc. I like to eat a big salad with lots of different veggies incorporated if I can. My favorite is one I call Guacamole salad. Mixed greens, cilantro (lots of it), garlic, tomato, avocado (2-3), agave nectar and salt and pepper to taste. It's only a few ingredients but its a winner.

Do you have any difficulties cooking on climbing trips?
No. I usually do burritos or veggie stir-fry because its pretty easy to put together no matter where you are. Plus I love black beans, avocado, tomato and cilantro...AND hot sauce!!

Sprouted corn tortilla, lime crema, shredded cabbage and carrot slaw, chile-beer marinated tempeh, cilatro, tomato, avocado.

How do you eat when you are bouldering? How about when you're sport climbing?
I try to eat pretty light while sport climbing. Bananas and other fruits for quick energy or hummus and veggies for lunch, sometimes I'll just snack on whole grain chips and salsa. I've been trying to remember to drink more water lately. While bouldering all bets are off and its cookies down the hatch. For some reason when I am bouldering I want to snack all day.

How do you add variety to your diet?
I try to experiment a lot and try different foods that I see or read about that I haven't tried before or try different recipes. A lot of the time I end up finding a new food that I totally love and I try and make it more. Its a also good way to make sure I am getting a good rotating variety of vitamins and minerals in my diet.

Will bacon ever grow on trees? How can someone switch their diet?

Haha!! Maybe they can genetically modify some plant to do that but that would be weird. It's easy to switch to a healthier diet. It doesn't have to be a vegan diet. Most of us could benefit even from a small change in diet. It's all about experimenting with new foods and finding what you like. Try to incorporate new veggies and fruits into your diet. You might be surprised. There are a plethora of web resources to help you with the transition to healthier living and recipes for vegetarian food.

These are some.

I also HIGHLY recommend this book by Brendan Brazier Canada's best (vegan) triathlete for athletes more serious about healthy living and eating.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Border Country

The ring of a hammer hitting a drill bit bounced down Gunsight Gully in Yosemite. Mad Dog’s mullet flapped in the breeze as he swore about having to sink another “bristler.” Balanced at a small stance with the help of two hooks, Mad Dog (née Dana Drummond) wailed on the drill bit. Jeremy Collins and Mikey Schaefer traded off belay duty on the ledge above a concave arc of granite.

The hard granite of Middle Cathedral Rock, with its sparse opportunities for stances—not to mention the team’s traditional ethos—kept the three climbers from placing many bolts. They moved slowly; connecting the short technical features of Middle Cathedral into a massive new free climb presented problems not only with protection but with route finding as well. Still, after six months of work in 2009, the trio had completed Border Country (V 5.12c).

Schaefer, a former Yosemite Mountaineering School guide, had scoped the line for a number of years before recruiting Mad Dog and Collins for a ground-up ascent of the route. One of the tallest short men to ever walk through Camp 4, Schaefer’s first ascents have included the first ascent of the 5.12+ Grade V face route Night Shift on Tuolumne’s Fairview Dome. A technician in the sacred art of slab climbing, Mikey walked confidently through his decade of Yosemite climbing, establishing significant first ascents in the Valley.

Mad Dog comes from Northeastern pedigree, but he spends his summers in California, working Yosemite Search and Rescue, hiding his crushing abilities beneath a Hulk Hogan mullet and a John Muir beard.

A couple of years ago, Schaefer and Drummond met Collins in Patagonia, where each had just completed separate first ascents. Collins took a few weeks off from illustrating in the Mid-west to take his horn-rimmed glasses, mild mannered, Clark Kent attitude to crushing altitudes in Yosemite.

In early June, around the time the climbers were halfway done with their route, an avalanche in China claimed the lives of Yosemite Valley monkey Micah Dash, budding filmmaker Wade Johnson, and Colorado alpinist Johnny Copp. The last entry in Copp’s journal, which was recovered in the remnants of the men’s basecamp, includes a poem entitled “Border Country,” which describes the perils of living on the edge of the unknown. Dash and Copp’s climbing goals had forced them to deal with a large increase in objective hazards- rock fall, crevasses, and ultimately avalanches. The mountains are dangerous.

Sean “Stanley” Leary, climbing with Mikey Schaefer, attempted the second ascent of Border Country. He made short work of the initial thousand feet, climbing 5.10 thirty feet between the bolts and sparse gear, and gaining a U-Shaped bowl mid route.

Stanley has nerves of steel. Four months earlier, Stanley packed the ashes of his recently departed girlfriend, Roberta Nunes, and jumped off of Patagonia’s El Mocho, tracking in his wing suit for 600 feet. The winds blew across Cerro Torre’s satellite peak spreading Roberta’s ashes blew across the glaciers. Then Stanley stopped descending. Panicked, he tore at the cord for his BASE rig. When his canopy opened, he propelled a thousand feet above the summit of El Mocho. He attempted to spiral and descend but the Patagonia winds kept him aloft for 13 endless minutes, until he was able to follow a few condors out of the thermal upwind and down to the glacier.

Four months later, Stanley returned to Border Country. He made it up to the head wall but fell pulling the hard face moves. Off the belay, Mikey and Dana had scrunched their bodies, stepping on a tiny edge, and mantling off a small dibit with their thumbs. Despite Stanley’s talent and tenacity, he couldn’t bend his long limbs into the mantle. He pulled on the bolt protecting the move and continued to the summit.

On the run-out fourth pitch of Border Country, 500 feet off the ground, I stopped. Katie Lambert, a Yosemite hard woman with an ascent of Tuolumne’s technical Peace (5.13c) to her name, belayed attentively below me. I pondered placing a tiny cam behind a small flake. I wanted to impress my attractive belayer with my climbing prowess. I shrugged. Running it out any more than I needed to wouldn’t impress anyone. I shoved the unit in, shot up another 20 feet to just below a bolt, and mantled onto a small edge.

I balanced precariously, crimping down on a wet hold as I stared at the bolt. Suddenly my hand popped. My body teetered on the brink. My hips pulled into the wall and then my back arched away from it.

I fell 20 feet before hitting a slab, flipping upside down, and rocketing down another 20 feet before the cam I had begrudingly placed caught me. Katie’s eyes went wide. The lobes of her half inch cam had bent. I groaned. My climbing prowess wasn’t impressing anyone. She met me at the belay, and we continued onto the headwall, where Katie danced up the difficult 5.12, hanging the rope for me. When the shadow of the Nose covered the entire Zodiac, we began descending, rappelling the route two pitches below the summit.

Luis “Lucho” Rivera slept in the back of his pick-up in Camp 4. Around midnight, the rangers knocked on the window, trying to wake him and alert him that he was camping illegally. He lay still, afraid of the heavy hand of the “Green Gestapo.”

The rangers shook the truck. Lucho remained motionless, with saucer eyes, hoping that they would leave. Instead, they straightened a coat hanger, twisted it through a chink in the car window and began to poke the dirtbag climber. He eventually fell out of his pickup and into the arms of the ticket-ready rangers. Despite years of establishing first ascents in the Valley, and a strong desire to climb new free wall routes, Lucho began hanging in the Valley less and less. He felt he had given enough to the Yosemite climbing scene with his countless first ascents, that a cold winter night in the back of his truck would go unnoticed by the rangers. The rangers poke and prod climbers because they often break laws. Out of bounds camping is illegal, so is power drilling, and leaving fixed lines- activities which make the logistics of climbing easier. The constant battle between climbers and the bureaucracy can be more epic than the climbing.

One of the largest bits of Yosemite climbing news in 2009 has been the definitive lack of any groundbreaking achievements. In the past decade, the Huber brothers, Tommy Caldwell, and others have established a dozen hard free routes on El Capitan with seasonal fervor. Last year, the young Alex Honnold free soloed the Regular Northwest face of Half Dome (5.12a), reviving a true sense of boldness within the ragtag crew that calls Yosemite Valley home. Thanks to a tireless crew of Bay Area boulderers, the Valley has exploded with double-digit problems and many newly developed blocks.

Compared to the tidal wave that was the last decade of activity, 2009 seemed flat: no new routes were established on El Cap, no bold solos were done, and the participants in what once was (and always will be) the center of the American climbing universe, diminished. Bachar died. Dash died. Copp died. In this hallow space, Border Country stands alone as the achievement of the year.

Unlike the free climbs on El Capitan, which had been worked and sussed on rappel, Border Country was an adventure up into the unknown. The three first ascentionists didn’t have what Bachar once called “the invisible toprope,” the mental assurance that better gear, or even holds, was coming. A dimming of the unknown.

Why the lull in the Valley climbing scene? A number of Yosemite denizens, like Stanley, have spent less time hanging in the Valley and more time BASE jumping off small bridges, planes, and remote Patagonian Towers. Many climbers, like Lucho, have avoided the Valley for fear of persecution. Not only are activities like BASE jumping illegal but camping, and generally being in the Valley presents enormous difficulties. Jesse McGahey, the current law enforcement officer with “climber ranger” status, doubled his staff in the past year.

“Climbing Rangers are a crucial piece of protecting the vertical Wilderness through outreach, education, hands-on maintenance, and coordinated clean-up volunteer work,” McGahey stated in an interview. Undoubtedly, the rangers have helped protect Yosemite, but they still chase climbers through the boulders at night. The ever-increasing bureaucracy involved in camping and staying in the park scared a number of the committed dirtbag rock climbers, the monkeys, out of the Valley.

Others have moved onto the alpine setting, trading the warm California climate for the blustery cliffs of Patagonia. Facebook updates from El Chalten, the town below Cerro Torre, were in vogue. For many aspiring alpinists, Yosemite has always been merely a training ground—not a proving ground—where they could learn to move fast, freeing and aiding, up a big wall. Once they have the skills, they move on.

Many climbers just appear to be over it. The energy involved in climbing hard new routes in Yosemite is daunting. Hand drilling on the sharp end brings more calluses than glory. The sheer adventure wears people down: the technical ground-up climbing, the offwidths, the rangers. The ditch is a meat factory that chews climbers up and spits them out. 2009 was a year with a noticeable shortage of fresh meat.

Lucho hung off the side of the Middle Cathedral, belaying and staring across the river at El Cap. Hayden Kennedy crimped his way up the wall, onsighting Border Country until the definitive mantle crux. Hayden, though only 18, has already proved himself as a true, young Yosemite force. Though lean, tall and talented, he has the flexibility of a flagpole. He tried to hike his foot up and scrunch into position for 15 minutes. Finally his teenage voice cracked, “Dude, I like c-an’t do this!”

Across the river, El Capitan loomed. Hayden’s big-wall free-climbing list had been slowly increasing and a send of Border Country would be a solid achievement. Routes like Border Country are establishing a solid foundation for the next generation, routes that will give them experience necessary to tackle the bigger and harder lines with a sense of the adventure.

Collins returned to Border Country in early November. He climbed through the tick marks that Hayden, Lucho, Stanley, Katie, and I had left for him. Below the summit, the sun dipped behind Lower Cathedral and the walls of Middle Cathedral became arctic. Collins returned to a ledge, and rappelled the route. Before he began his descent, he opened an urn and spread the ashes of Johnny Copp on the route. The scene in Yosemite changes, but the spirit of the climbers remains.

this article was published in Rock and Ice 185 and can be found online

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dominating the Boulders: Paul Barraza

Berkeley Ironworks manager, Paul Barraza has worked with Touchstone Climbing gyms since 2001. Despite long hours making sure one the busiest Bay Area climbing gyms runs smoothly, the 36 year old has managed to crush many difficult boulder problems in the Sierras. Every weekend with an incredible degree of consistency, Paul drives to Yosemite, where he sends projects and develops new boulder problems. His impressive tick list includes Yabo Roof (V12), Shadow Warrior (V12), the immense Diesel Power (v10), and countless other problems. In's 35+ ranking, Paul is number 1 in the United States. In the first few weeks of February, Paul managed to put down a long time project- Dominated a V13 in Yosemite's Camp 4 Boulders. He took a moment out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for the Touchstone Blog about his life and his climbing.

How long have you been climbing for? How did you get into climbing?

I loved to scramble around in the mountains as a kid, but I didn't start climbing until I discovered the climb wall at Oregon State University 17 years ago. After my first trip to that tiny gym, I was hooked. Every weekend my friends and I would go out to Smith Rock and scare ourselves silly on the technical routes there. It was a good place to learn because there were tons of great routes of every grade and you learned to use your feet.

How do you balance a full time job, a family life, and still manage to climb hard?
It's not hard when you like all three! As long as you can climb consistently and train in a semi-scientific way, you can always make progress. Saying that, I have had long stretches where I haven't improved, but you just have to ride those out as well. The nice thing about climbing is that while you might not be improving - you're still having fun!

Can you describe your training a little. How does your periodization schedule work?

Basically I boulder/train two nights during the week and try to boulder 2 days outside on the weekends. During the year I will do an training cycle (where I do intense weight training) in the late summer to get ready for the fall season and a second cycle around this time of year to get ready for the spring season. Since it is too hot to boulder in the summer, I take it easy to rest up the muscles and tendons a bit, but I still climb and hit the gym consistently so I don't lose that base level of fitness.

Dominated [v13] from Paul B on Vimeo.

Here's Paul's ascent of Dominated captured on his iPhone.

How long have you been trying Dominator? What was your process of sending such a difficult project? What's next?

I spent about 5 years working the Dominator when the conditions were good. I joked with friends that I was going to write a book called, "101 ways to fail on the Dominator" because I had tried every conceivable method and nothing ever worked out. There wasn't much to the process besides being psyched and flogging the heck out of it with a delusional level of devotion. I think I just wore down the boulder problem to the point where it felt sorry for me, if that is possible. It did help to watch Tim Doyle and Randy Puro (both of whom have done the Dominator) get on it one day to actually see the subtleties in their beta so I could see what I had to do with my body. What's next? More bouldering of course!

Paul is a member of the highly active Beta Base crew, who have established a slew of Yosemite boulders. Paul has also done some excellent work developing a solid training program, which can be read about at his blog. Training 4 Climbing.

Crosstown Traffic: A TR by Jake Whittaker

A little while ago, last Spring maybe, Yosemite Valley climbers Jake Whittaker and Alex Honnold headed out to try Crosstown Traffic, a 5.13 free route established by the Huber brothers on Washington's Column. Jake, a closet crusher who is the only non-famous person to free climb El Capitan in a single day, wrote this about the route:

Alex dragged me up this thing last spring...I was kinda off the couch(off the farm), so it was extra spanker for me.

I led the first pitch of the Prow, then Alex headed out on the crux pitch which was very wet and grassy. He spent a lot of time throwing hummocks over his shoulder, hanging on gear, and looking over at me and saying, "This is the worst climbing experience of my life...."

I managed to toprope through the 5.12R first half of this pitch and thought it was rad...featured 5.12 face climbing with copperheads for gear. Then I figured out the .13a boulder problem, finished gardening it, and sent it on TR in a couple of tries...its probably a V5. Honnold quickly lapped it on TR too.

I led up the next pitch, J-tree grain for a ways, without much gear, then traversed right to, and across, a slopey and glassy was kinda scary, with the gear way back left in the corner. I clipped a bolt and climbed up into an .11+ move right above the ledge. I tried to clip a piton but it fell out. It was only about a quarter inch long! I chucked it over my shoulder and powered through the move onto a series of stances.

From the highest stance I clipped a knifeblade. I then spent who knows how long climbing up and down the next fifteen feet, fiddlin in a few pieces of terrible gear and getting really pumped...I was starting to regret my lack of fitness.

After much whining and more up-down action I committed to the crux .12a mantel move in full savage survival mode. I pushed, I pressed, and I went for the high-step to finish. Instead of getting my foot on the shelf, I pasted my knee in desperation, quivering. Then, in full beached-whale position, I slid off into space, wondering if I'd die.

Ping, ping, ping! The pieces I'd placed popped out of the flake with ease. My feet hit the stance by the knifeblade and I tipped backwards, wondering when I was gonna smack the big ledge. Then, the knifeblade caught, I slowed, floated past the right end of the ledge, and stopped. My death scream slowly dwindled away and echoed across the valley. I looked UP at Alex, and said, "You wanna give it a go? I think I might be blown...for the week."

We switched rope ends and he toproped up to the knifeblade. He then repeated the numerous up and downs on the flake, but skipped repeating my gear placements...though I wondered if those pieces had helped steer me right, ensuring I missed the ledge. Finally he committed to the mantel shelf, but instead of hittin it straight on, he traversed left, cripped somethin, and mantled on that side. I looked away and held the rope.

"Gosh, that was scary...wait, what the f*#k?" After performing the crux mantel Alex stood on the shelf at a huge no hands, on a pitch that seemed to be a free variation to the aid line of Electric Ladyland. There, where any normal person would have proudly hand drilled a bolt, Alex Huber apparently decided to place a copperhead. Honnold clipped it, then, after some excavation, managed to get in a marginal TCU behind the ledge...where a lost arrow would've been bomber.

After much wondering and contemplation about the next move, Alex JUMPED upwards and caught a small bucket with both hands and climbed another 20 feet of choss to the anchor! Who knows what would've happened if he hadn't stuck that bucket, or if something had broke.

Note that the climber in this photo is nailing 5.10 fingers. Nailing on free climbs is fucked up!

Since I was a worthless pile of sh#t by this point, Alex dogged up the next pitch, a rad .12b with bread loaf pinches and spicy gear. He sent it second try and then onsighted the next two pitches of 5.12. I started to recover eventually, and managed to onsight the .12c flare on TR...the flare is 5.9 and the fingers in the corner afterwords is maybe .12a. After that we were both tired and it was late in the day, so we rapped before the traverse.

Back on the ground Alex said, "So are we gonna send tomorrow?" I said, "I guess YOU are...." I wondered...who goes up on grade V 5.13, which we now knew should include an "R" in the rating, kinda gets spanked, and decides that the next day would be the best time to attempt the redpoint? I spent the rest of the evening trying to decide if should take jumars...I finally decided not to. For training, I'd power toprope with the pack.

Since it was easy, I again led the first pitch of the Prow, but unexpectedly tore off a microwave sized block, took another huge and dangerous whipper, and let out another blood-curdling scream.

Alex patiently redpointed the crux, and I sent on TR. He repeated the scary mantel pitch, again we marveled at the ridiculous engineering...a couple more pitons would make it a lot safer. We established a good rhythm and Alex floated the rest of the route, though, unlike on the topo, we traversed straight right all the way to the belay just after the Harding Slot. We toiled up the rest of Astroman, and as we did the last pitch, Alex said, "I can't believe I scrambled this." He soloed it again a couple days later.

In conclusion, Crosstown Traffic is a funky, grainy, chossy, runnout, but completely rad new-school route. I still need to go redpoint, but wanna add some more pins to that one pitch. With a lot of traffic it could someday be kinda good. Its like what I imagined free climbing A4 would be like when I was a kid...and i enjoyed toproping most of it. A solid big wall partner is required because of the traverses.

additional notes by Jake Whittaker:
We traversed as per Crosstown Traffic, but at the last bolt Alex decided to continue traversing the obvious dyke feature, on toprope, as opposed to busting blank looking .12 moves into runout terrain. We couldn't tell where we were "supposed" to go till afterwards. So technically we didn't complete Huber's route. The way we went just seemed like the natural way and was super fun and safe bucket traversing. I left the bolt clipped and pulled the rope afterwards.

The initial traversing part of this pitch presents some difficulties for a follower unable to free climb and too impatient to lower out, aka: me with a pack on. I elected to unclip and run, which nearly exploded my tight fitting performance shoes. Apparently my eyes got really wide. Alex was laughing hysterically and said I looked like an owl...hoo! Coulda got real hurt numerous times on this route....

Notes: made by Eric Sloan

Very minor comment on Jake's awesome story: Alex Huber probably didn't place the copperhead on the 4th(the Hubers show the first pitch of the Prow as two pitches, odd because of the long, hard pitches on the rest of the route) pitch, as Endangered Species, which Crosstown follows on pitch 3,4 & 9 was put up in January just 4 months before Alex did his climb. (it's possible that that 4th pitch crux had some fixed pins, which someone doing EL lowered down fifteen feet and cleaned or cleaned while bailing from there). So the second pitch hummocks that J describes Alex cleaning might have been more cleaned out, and there may have been an extra fixed piece here or there which fell out or was removed before Alex and Jake did their climb(Jake describes leaving the traverse bolt on pitch 8 clipped. when we climbed EL in '07 there was a quickdraw on that bolt, which I easily reached over and cleaned from the EL pitch).

Jake Whittaker comments:

So the .12a mantle pitch is part of Endangered Species? That would explain the lack of a bolt. I'm guessing Huber had a pin behind the shelf, since it looks like that on the topo, that would be real nice to have in there. Who knows though, that guy's crazy. Honnold wasn't worried enough to do anything about it. Another knifeblade right next to the other one would be awesome too, especially as the years go by.

It sounds like you cleaned a quickdraw from the first bolt of the traverse...probably where Huber's jug monkey lowered out. I left the second bolt clipped and we went down then right at .11a-ish instead of right and up at .12c.

It definitely didn't seem like anyone had free climbed up there in a long time...and its probably already re-vegetating.

It makes it scary to repeat these routes when the crucial pro is pitons etc. that aid climbers can easily booty as they go past...not really any solution though, other than taking pins and a hammer and dealing...or being less safe.

Ok aspiring hardmen, get out there and buff this thing till it's as clean as Astroman!

Further comments and the original post can be found on Supertopo.

Honnold on Being Bold

Alex Honnold, a 24 year old from Sacramento California, has become a big name in rock climbing in the past three years with numerous free ascents of El Capitan, and ropeless climbs on the Regular Northwest Face of Halfdome (5.12) as well as Zion's Moonlight Buttress (5.12d), and recently Ambrosia (5.14 X). He began climbing at the gyms in Sacramento and has made an explosion in his climbing the past 4 years.

Alex Honnold Ropeless on The Rostrum (5.11c)

What's your training like? How do you train for El Capitan free routes?

My training is a little bit haphazard, I'm not really sure what the best way to train is. But I try different things.

I used to climb in the gym a lot more, when I was actually living in Sacramento. I would do 4x4s or multiple routes back to back, just random endurance training like that. I trained for Freerider [my first El Cap route] by doing 20 routes a night at the gym. Mostly 12s with a few 13s, and maybe a few 11s as I got totally worked. I guess it worked out well enough.

But honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing. I just like to climb a whole lot.

What are you doing these days?

Bishop has been fun this winter. I'm trying to build some power, in the hope that I won't always fall off of the hard moves on routes. I think I'm naturally more of an endurance climber, so I guess I'm just trying to train my weakness.

But after about 6 weeks of bouldering I'm starting to get kind of into it. It's so fun and chill. Super mellow. I see why so many people love to boulder. But I'm still fantasizing about walls. . .

How do you manage your fear?

I don't think it's so much about managing my fear, as not getting fearful to begin with. With routes like Ambrosia and long solos you deal with all the uncertainty and fear before you start. You manage all that stuff on the ground. Then when you climb the route it's already taken care of. So while you're climbing, you don't get scared.

But sometimes when I'm onsight soloing or even just doing stuff on gear I'll get gripped for whatever reason. Then I just do what everybody else does, take some deep breaths and try to keep it together.

Alex topping out Ambrosia, a v10 highball or 5.14 freesolo

What can people do to climb better through heady situations?

I think the book The Rock Warriors way gives a lot of good advice on keeping your head together. One of the really useful things I think was to approach things mindfully. As in to be fully aware of what you're doing and why. So if something is dangerous, you evaluate it and decide whether or not you actually want to proceed. And if it seems to dangerous, you retreat with no doubts.