February was a blur of oppressing winter weather, reading quite a few books for school, practicing for my senior recital, training focused for the next few weeks of sport climbing, climbing in some pretty cold but good conditions, freezing while camping, freaking out about an abnormal finger injury, and route setting more than usual. But even with all this going on, I have mostly been day dreaming about being in California, climbing at the Red for spring break, graduating from Oberlin, and going to Ceuse in the summer.
A frigid, yet amazing, day at Left Flank, one of my favorite places on this planet.
Shortly after getting back from California, I couldn’t even make it a full week until I left Ohio for a quick weekend trip to the New. I wouldn’t recommend tent camping in temperatures slightly above 0 Fahrenheit, but I survived and got to experience one of the best days of climbing at Endless Wall. After a very slow start at Cathedral Cafe involving a hearty breakfast, lots of coffee, and Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, my friend Reese and I eventually arrived at Snake Buttress where the sun was shining brightly and the air could not have been any drier. From the start, I had the mentality that I was going to get my ass handed to me. I hadn’t climbed on a rope in two months, had rarely done more than 15 moves in a row, and I was going to start working the most sandbagged route on one of the most sandbagged cliffs; “Sendless Wall” is a great nickname. My warmup went great…I got to flail on the dead vertical start of Discombobulated “5.11b”. I had forgotten when the last time I had fallen off a 5.11, but everyone needs to be humbled from time to time especially when your “warmup” requires the use of multiple credit card sized holds.
Yes, the Racist is the perfect rock climb. No, it is not 5.13b.
Part of my motivation for trying the Racist was based on the information in Mike Williams’ guidebook that says Chris Sharma called it “the perfect rock climb”. How could I resist that description? I knew this “notoriously sandbagged route” was going to be harder than 5.13b, but I had to see what was so great about this immaculate sandstone face. Immediately upon seeing the line, I realized it was more beautiful than I had imagined, and the movement was unbelievable. Despite getting shut down by the crazy long moves of the upper crux, I could not have had more fun jumping and screaming my way up the route. Though, I am not surprised that so many climbers tend to shy away from going to the New. The weather isn’t great, there isn’t much rainy day climbing, most routes would be considered “slabs” by Red River Gorge climbers, many routes are reachy, grades are stiff, (insert another excuse for not being able to easily send a route), etc. It is rare to hear about a climber who goes to the New and crushes every route especially child prodigies who will usually get spanked as a result of the testosterone-fueled pissing match between tall, burly dudes…I mean route development. Regardless, climbing at the New is amazing. The rock is perfect, the area is beautiful, and you will have the great time if you forget about your ego.
Table of Colors Direct 5.13b tacks on a three bolt start to an already classic route and is packed with many tiny, sculpted pockets and sharp, hematite crimps.
The next weekend I had another chance to go climbing outside with a weather forecast of sunshine and 30F highs. Being cooped up in the winter makes me feel quite desperate, and it can turn 10 hours of driving and sleeping outside in 0F into a fun-filled and worthwhile weekend of climbing at the Red. Contrary to my wishful thinking, I did not get to climb as much as I thought I would because there was a foot of snow everywhere and the temperature was barely manageable for my fingers. What did make my weekend awesome was I got to climb on one of my favorite routes and projects for the season, Table of Colors Direct. After sending the original line in the fall and briefly attempting the harder start, I trained this winter with this route in mind, and I was so happy when I was able to cruise through the bottom section. The whole route did not come together that day, but it will soon.
Ice falling everywhere is quite scary, unless you spend your rest time between burns throwing rocks and trying to knock it down.
For my birthday at the beginning of March, I was able to get out for a short day of climbing at the Cirque. Once again, there was a crazy amount of snow and ice, and the day had quite an interesting start when it took over an hour and the help of two other climbers to get my friend’s Prius out of the AAC campground. (This circumstance reaffirmed how much I hate traction control, and despite our best efforts we did not find a way to turn it off. The moment the tires would spin, the car’s computer, which is definitely smart than the human driving it, would stop the spinning…this meant we got nowhere and had to push the car a quarter mile to the road. Tires chains would have been great, but breaking ice, shoveling snow, and sliding everywhere while pushing a car are such great warmup activities.) We eventually got to the Cirque, and it was great to finally send Sloth (hard) 5.12c and mess around with beta on the crux of Trebuchet 5.13b.
Basking in the much needed sun at the Cirque even with snow and ice covering the forest and the top of the cliff.
Over the past month, I have been thinking a lot about how much I appreciate life. Sure, dealing with shitty weather and being inside most of the time sucks, but it makes you appreciate those days when you get to go outside and do fun things like rock climb. People often say that they lose motivation to climb or train, and I always remind myself that there will be a day when I won’t be able to experience the joys of flailing on a project, annihilating my finger tips, getting lost on the way to a crag, or freezing myself to sleep in a tent. I am thankful that my body works pretty well even though it isn’t the invincible machine that I expect it to be. Appreciation is a key to happiness, and I have only begun to realize this.