Oberlin College and Conservatory is a weird, beautiful, and ridiculous place to be for an undergraduate education. One cannot entirely and accurately describe the many aspects that make this small liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere such a unique place. Winter Term is one of these amazing features because it is a magical opportunity for all the students to escape the bleak and oppressive trap that is Northeast Ohio in January. Classes end right before Christmas and do not begin again until the first week of February. Students are required during this time to complete a project. Projects can pretty much be anything that a faculty member, who sponsors the project, sees as an interesting use of time. This could be practicing music for a recital, helping a professor with research, writing about your daily meditation, fermenting kombucha, going to circus school, etc. The majority of my Winter Terms were spent traveling and rock climbing while simultaneously trying to practice classical guitar.
After I finished my finals for the fall semester and before embarking on a road trip to California, I was able to sneak out to Chippewa Creek for a couple sessions and boulder in some unbelievably good weather. The temperature most days was between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air was relatively dry. There was no snow on the ground or the rocks, and more importantly, many good friends were available and psyched to get outside to climb during the holiday season. Most of my time was spent working three different problems. I made solid progress and came close to sending Integration, which is a tricky V9/10 and has seen probably three ascents in the past 20 years. I re-cleaned and failed to make any tangible progress on a vertical/slabby line that will probably be about V9 (though it is very height dependent).
The most exciting problem that I spent a good chunk of time working was an open project nicknamed the Eco-terrorist. Over the past few months, the landing for this project was greatly improved and the face was cleaned by members of the local climbing community. I first tried this problem earlier this fall and was initially discouraged because I could not stick one of the opening moves. Below the nice layer of caked mud are perfectly sculpted holds and long, powerful moves. The face is gently overhanging, and the bedding of the rock tilts uniformly up to the left. The problem starts standing with a good right hand crimp and left hand undercling. After stabbing the left hand into a one pad mono pocket, there is a long and accurate move to bump the left hand to a gaston crimp. From here, taller climbers could lock a right foot heel hook and try to make a long move out right to the top ledge, or for climbers like me who are about 5’10” or shorter, you can get scrunchy with a high right foot below your starting right hand and dyno straight up to a sloper. No one has done all the moves of the face yet, and the topout looks a little chossy and quite dirty. I got close to sticking the dyno to the sloper this past weekend, and after a day of rest, I returned to find the project dripping wet.
Despite not sending any of my projects at Chippewa Creek, I did get to re-climb a few classic problems. Fight or Flight V7 is condition-dependent and tricky traverse. For some, finding the correct beta is a nightmare, and for those who have the moves wired, it is basically a warm-up because most holds are finger-friendly. Los Nuggets V5 is fun, yet sharp problem that involves rocking over a left heel hook. When I first worked this problem, I remember trying so hard with my left leg, which resulted in a ridiculously sore hamstring. Also, enjoy the break from cliche electronic music in these bouldering videos. I may be one of the only rock climbers to maintain finely manicured nails for classical guitar and climb 5.13. I may also be one of the only classical guitarists crazy enough to routinely abuse my fingers and expect to have good tone.
Currently, I am packing for my last Winter Term trip, and I will be spending the majority of it in California. There will probably be a few days of climbing in Red Rocks to break up the long drive, and I am planning to focus on bouldering in preparation of a season of sport climbing at the New and the Red in the Spring. I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity to travel and rock climb. At the same time, I do not know exactly where I am headed in life or even where I want to go. I have one more semester of school, and a vague idea of what I want to be doing when I graduate. I do know that I want to be present in my actions and thoughts each day while sharing the beauty of life with those around me. We are completely responsible for how we choose to spend our time, and we are truly limited by time in this physical existence.
“Strangers on this road we are on…”