The past few years I started wearing a red shirt for home crags and a green shirt for away crags. I always wear my Prana Zion climbing pants. God. What a shameless plug. This is why they sponsor athletes so dorks like me can drool over their shit, namedrop it, and not get a dime. Whatever. No one reads this blog anyway so joke’s on you, Prana!
Home crags consist of all my favorite high desert haunts, which is where I spend the vast majority of my time so I’m almost always in the same faded, nasty, sweat-stained red tee. It’s so dark under the armpits that you could develop film under them if I raise my arms. Actually, I’ve got two red shirts but both are v-necks and are basically in the same condition so it feels like the same shirt.
I’ve also got two green shirts to choose from and both are pretty gnarly, but they’re at least noticeably different from each other. One is a plain, regular-necked American Apparel shirt, in the most generic shade of green possible. I don’t even know why I own it. The other is a green shirt from Figueroa Brewing with the label for their Lizard’s Mouth beer on the back. I wear it every time I go to the Lizard’s Mouth bouldering area. I’m like the guy who wears the band’s t-shirt to their concert.
Bear with me. I understand that talking about old clothing I still wear climbing like I’m broke, which I’m not, or like I live in a van, which I don’t, or like I have no style, which is probably true, is a boring way to start. But clothes make the climber to a certain degree, at least in our own minds. Why do you think so many dudes wear beanies with their shirts off when they boulder? There’s even a dude at my gym who cut massive holes in a t-shirt he wears all the time plus a beanie. It’s his thing. I actually like it more than the been-there-done-that shirtless beanie bros. So cheers to that stoic sonofabitch. Never seen him smile.
Point being is I’m not alone in my repetition of climbing clothes. Maybe my closet is even simpler and more repetitive than others when it comes to their big day out every week, but I don’t think the spirit of my approach is all that unique. Lots of people have lucky clothes they revere like talismans of climbing power, as though Chris Sharma wakes from his bong-ripped stupor up in the clouds to look down upon you and smile, blessing you with the send that day because wearing that beanie yet again means you’re worth it. Psah!
What if I were to tell you, however, that that the world of lucky climbing clothes extends beyond your own person? Get ready for some Inception-level shit.
Wes’ son Mojave has a shirt with a preying mantis on it. It’s pretty ugly and somewhat horrific looking in a way, but also kind of cool. The mantis has these unnecessary bumps all over its body, bulging claws, and this wild glean in its glaring, yellow eyes. It looks like it could kick your ass.
We went to Fairview one day and he was wearing this thing and I thought, “Wow that’s an ugly shirt, but also kind of cool. That’s a mean looking bug.” Later that day I sent Palm Nailer, a techy 12a second-go after damn near onsighting it.
I climbed a couple times after that weekend without Mojave present and didn’t do so hot. Had a real shit day at New Jack and then had a really fun day with Wes but not exactly a barnburner as far as my expected abilities go. I got an 11a called Hangnail second-go after bailing off another 11a called Solar Warrior Dynasty. I usually expect to onsight 11a’s at my local crags but that day I was feeling subpar.
So then next time out Mojave is back and he’s in that damn shirt again. I was having another rough start but then I looked into those evil yellow eyes (on the shirt not the boy, he’s a sweetheart) and thought to myself, “Don’t waste the power of the shirt.”
I hucked onto Toecutter, a hard 12a and fell twice. I did it again and fell twice that time too. It’s short but powerful and very beta-dependent. It’s not a route I was ever going to onsight so just pushing myself enough to get on it in the first place and do that well was meaningful. It was clear to me that Mojave’s shirt gave me the conviction I needed to dig in and try hard. It was then that I entered a new realm of climbing superstition.
The next weekend I got on Toecutter feeling confident for the send even though Mojave and the shirt weren’t with us. I was close, damn close, passing that tricky second clip only to fall post-crux on two separate attempts. I went up a third time and was so gassed I finished but it wasn’t pretty. Time to go home.
Third session on Toecutter Mojave was there wearing the shirt and I sent.
It’s actually a great route and I’ll spend more time talking about it and others at Fairview another time but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the fact that the very next weekend I tried Alien Highway, another Fairview 12a, with just Danelze and I struggled mightily. I got on it the weekend after that when Mojave was there wearing his shirt and I surprised myself by redpointing it way sooner than I expected (February 2021).
That was the last time I climbed with Mojave around. I haven’t sent a 12 since as of writing this (April 2021). I am not so naive to think that I won’t send a 12 without Mojave and his magical shirt, and I also don’t know if the shirt’s power is contained strictly in Fairview or if extends to other areas. Those abilities have not yet been tested. What I do know is that you can take your lucky beanie and shove it straight up your ass because there is nothing more powerful than someone else’s lucky clothes. My climbing uniform is the same on the best days and the worst. But Mojave’s preying mantis shirt has been there for all of my best days this season in Fairview.
The story of this shirt is not yet concluded, and I do not know where its path will ultimately lead. Legend has it (some dude I don’t know on Instagram) that Fairview has a 13, though the guidebook calls it a project. I’m not going to get ahead of myself, and children don’t stay the same size forever. There will be a time when the shirt is retired. Hopefully it is passed down to his younger sisters so that they can keep the power going for a while. No matter, this tale is still being written, and I know that next time I’m out and Mojave and the shirt are back again, it’s going to be a good day.