Tag Archives: Appreciation

Ending the Boltless Year (Part 2)

Living in a cloud isn’t ideal for rock climbing.  Though once the rain stopped and the overwhelming grayness left our life, Ten Sleep Canyon morphed back into its magical summer state of cool, dry conditions.  There was a little over a week left in the trip, and all I had managed to do was punt off the top slab of Esplanada 5.12d in a sleep-deprived mania.  Taking this short trip to Ten Sleep was partly to observe an emerging personal tradition of making an annual pilgrimage to the glorious carbonate cliffs of Wyoming and partly to see how/if I had grown as a climber.  I decided a good evaluation for this would be to attempt to send Sky Pilot 5.13d.  Sky Pilot is one of the most sought-after lines in Ten Sleep.  It ascends a narrow golden streak located in the middle of Sector D’or et Bleu, the highest quality blue-streaked wall of the canyon.  Consensus seems like it is solid for the grade, and in an area where route “enchancement” is sometimes acceptable, Sky Pilot is completely natural.  The route is engaging: two stacked cruxes on amazing pockets, a decent but not quite relaxing rest in the middle, some consistent face climbing to reach another okay rest below the anchor, and an exciting (heartbreaking) finish move to an epic jug lost in a sea of tiny pockets and crimps.

Sky Pilot

Enjoying the opening boulder problem in the blue rock of Sky Pilot.  Photo by Charles Marks.

The first day on Sky Pilot solidified my confidence.  I managed to do all the moves, and in typical boulderer fashion, half of them were twice as hard as they needed to be.  Unfortunately, I wish I had known earlier that these sequences were too hard for me to execute together.  I turned the opening V6/7 crux which uses mono pockets as intermediates into a solid V8 in which I locked off a sharp one pad mono pocket, and quite late in the game (the last day of the trip), I figured out that I didn’t have to dyno to the finish jug, which I had tried and missed four times from the ground.  Fortunately, I eventually realized easier ways before the trip was over, and I was reminded of an important lesson:  always find the most efficient and consistent way to climb.

Version 2

This is how you can make the finish sequence harder than it should be especially when you lack endurance.  Photo by Charles Marks.

I knew I could send Sky Pilot during this trip, and I was quite patient in the whole process.  Even after a random rest day involving some freak stomach flu in which I couldn’t move for about 12 hours without vomiting, I remained positive, chugged some ginger kombucha, and was more than psyched to climb a route that I had always walked past with dreams of sinking my chalky digits into its snug pockets.  On the last day of the trip, with a looming 16 hour drive back to the fiery inferno of the Eastern Sierra, coming off of the previous climbing day having fallen with my fingers tickling the finish jug three times, I knew I had to focus or be prepared to deal with excessive self-shaming and a validation of how much I suck.  While not a healthy behavior that I sometimes engage in, I have accepted my negative reinforcement as inevitable when I fail in something that I care about.  Simultaneously, I have learned that it is best to make it as brief as possible and to avoid bringing the amazing people around me into my temporary self-destruction.

Sky Pilot 2

Such a juicy mono pocket in the opening boulder problem.  Ohhh but pockets are tweaky, I don’t like them, why don’t you set some more running jump start sideways dyno to sloper-volume problems, they flow better… Photo by Charles Marks.

First attempt of the day:  fall on last move on a perfect burn…dynoing there is stupid…you are can figure out something better…yes, you can lock off a sinker two finger to statically reach the finish jug.  Then, it starts to thunder, and my mind starts to race.  I felt like the worst friend for being distracted, quiet, and completely worried about whether or not I would be able to give my project another attempt with the possibility of rain when I should have reciprocated the supportiveness of my best friends as they enjoyed their last hard-fought efforts.  It doesn’t rain, and I proceed to give Sky Pilot the most anxious and sloppy attempts ever.  Yeah, chill out for a while, eat some chocolate, drink some water, give it one last try, and APPRECIATE being with two of your best friends in one of the most awesome places in the world.

I had completed my only goal of the trip…in the final hour…on my last try (its always on the last try?).  I felt bad in some ways that Charlie and Aaron had supported my efforts, and it might have to do with spending so much time bouldering by myself in the last year knowing that my projects were always a completely selfish endeavor.  Or it might have been the self-imposed separation from the people around me?  Or it might have been the feeling that someone I loved left my life?  They shouldn’t have wasted their time on me.  Is this what too much time by yourself does?  You end up wanting to be around people, yet when you are with your friends, your inconsiderate habits emerge unintentionally after the tendencies have been repetitively reinforced?  Some people have told me that I should use my time alone to better understand myself…I have dealt with too much of this time while my brain has started to melt in this high desert void.  I want to be better at balancing my thoughts and avoiding the worried distractions of the ego.  I want to consistently be a supportive partner who sincerely wants others to succeed.  I don’t think I am a terrible person for dealing with egotistical thoughts, but I feel like I have recently become more aware of how I interact with my community.  Let me practice something that I think I am starting to grasp.  Navigating this newly realized individuality and loneliness of my life is a project that won’t ever be sent.  One can only hope for some good days when you link a bunch of moves.



Return to the Buttery Sickness

For the past three summers, I have raced out west to Ten Sleep, Wyoming to savor the most “American” sport routes located in the magnificent and isolated canyon with its endless vertical walls of pocketed and chert-infested Bighorn dolomite.  During my first trip out West in which I had originally planned to go to Rifle, my friend, Lena, convinced me that I should stop by Ten Sleep.  I was a little skeptical since I had never heard of the place before, but after my first day climbing at French Cattle Ranch, I was completely psyched.  There was a slow start to each summer day as we waited for the shade and crisp air.  The routine was just like Ceuse except mornings were usually spent hanging out in town at a cafe or the amazing Ten Sleep Public Library.  Once everyone had finished their Internet binge, we returned to the canyon (where there is no distracting Internet or cell phone service) to grab our climbing packs, endure the hot hike to the cliff, and experience the “real dope Shinto”.


Welcome to Ten Sleep Canyon via U.S. Route 16 Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway.

Though, this trip was a little different than what I had experienced the previous years.  Instead of driving with my girlfriend across the desolate wasteland of GMO corn that is the central United States, I was by myself and going to meet one of my best friends from college who had just started climbing.  On top of that, I was not returning back East after Ten Sleep; I was moving to Bishop, California.  My Honda Civic was packed to the brim, and my life felt different in so many subtle ways.  I had just graduated college, and I did not know what to do with my new freedom/responsibilities just like my first days of college.  I had just returned from an amazing European climbing trip, and I felt fired up to get back to a familiar and sentimental place.  Over the past year, I implemented a new approach to my personal training, and this was the perfect time to measure my improvement over the past year on routes that I struggled with before.


A picturesque Wyoming summer sky.

First on my agenda for my two week trip was to redpoint 5.13c (8a+).  I was still slightly bitter about leaving Ceuse, but now it was time to go all in on Hellion 5.13c.  The route is absolutely awesome and has so many things about climbing that I love: slightly overhanging terrain, a great mono pocket crux, pumpy pocket pulling, and some victory climbing thrown in on your way to the top of the Supererratic Pillar.  (Note: I saw some people climbing all the way on to Great White Behemoth in the opening sequence of Hellion so they could take a much better rest before the crux.  This is significantly easier…)  During my first day, I managed to do the crux sequence twice and figure out the rest of the route.  I felt confident though I was a little surprised that the meat of the route was quite sustained.  Regardless, if Sasha could send this route, so could I…right?


My new friend, Sam, onsighting the Shinto wall classic Wyoming Flower Child 5.11d. Right after this ascent with barely any rest, Sam went over to the left side of the wall for some more magical Ten Sleep Shinto sickness to onsight her first 5.12a, Dope Shinto.

I had been making consistent progress on Hellion over a few days, but I was repeatedly falling on the last move of the sustained two finger pocket sequence.  A double rest day was in demand, and they involved belaying my friend, Charlie, and going to the crag as the designated photographer.  With fresh skin, rejuvenated muscles, and overwhelming psyche, Charlie and I once again returned to the Superratic Pillar.  I warmed up and felt great.  On my first burn, I fell AGAIN at the same spot; though this time, I realized my own stupidity with this accuracy move to a sinker two finger pocket.  I quickly re-worked my beta, and a simple drop-knee made the move much more consistent.  I lowered down and rested.  As I rested, the winds started to pick up and the sky turned gray.  Initially, I was excited for the cooler than usual conditions, but then, a thunderstorm began roaring through the canyon and droplets of friction-death fell out of the sky like bombs sent to destroy my possibilities of sending.  I knew most of Hellion would initially stay dry, so I quickly tied back in and fully committed to each move.  I cruised through the mono crux which ended up feeling like V2 and rapidly pulled through the following pockets to reach the dreaded pocket stab.  I stuck that damn right hand MR pocket jug, and I was going to the top.   I stopped at the huge double jug rest (all I could think about was the guidebook photo of the mythical Dave Hume staring down this amazing position), and despite my heavy breathing, I didn’t feel pumped.  I relaxed and gave myself time to calm my nerves as I only had one more tricky 5.11 move to do in a sea of jugs.  Then, I felt it.  The rain had reached me, and I started to get wet.  The whole time I was on the route, bolts of lightening were shooting across the dark sky, but I did not feel threatened until the moisture started to coat my skin and drops splashed into my eyes.  Sometimes, people talk about having a hard time determining how long to rest at a certain point on routes.  I wondered about this often on other rests, but clearly, right now was the time to go.  I climbed as quickly as I could and shouldered out the last relatively hard gaston move.  Finally, I was at the top of Hellion getting rained on in a thunderstorm and smiling as I clipped the chains.


Post-send joy.  Photo by Charlie Marks.

I felt so relieved and amazed that I was able to send Hellion, and like most climbers, my mind started to race about what to climb next.  Two beautiful gold streaks clouded my thoughts as I enjoyed some celebration chocolate in the pouring rain: Sky Pilot 5.13d, one of the king lines of the canyon, and Super Mama 5.13b, an old nemesis from the previous summer.  I had just completed my “big hairy goal” for the summer, and I made the more prudent decision to clean up some routes in my final week.  So after a solid rest day, it was back to Super Mama, and I remembered the beta like it was yesterday as I easily went from bolt to bolt.  I struggled to link key parts of the route the first day, though I got a little closer on the second day.  But, my skin was trashed; Super Mama’s pleasantly abrasive crimps and pockets ate away at me as I flailed.  The smooth and somewhat glassy white face of Hellion was pretty nice because it barely wore away my skin.  Knowing the Super Mama was quite attainable, I once again took the double rest day, and the results were amazing.


One of my favorite parts of Super Mama: THE “Peanut” hold. This crux involves a left hand bump to a split two finger pocket. I found it easiest to hit it IM, and then twist it to a mono as I gaston to grab a right two finger crimp. Photo by Alan Moles.

I ran up my favorite Lil’ Smokie 5.11 a few times as a nice warm up, and I then took a nice little hike into the woods further down the cliff.  I returned after a few minutes and as I approached Super Mama, I smiled and could not have felt more relaxed as I tied in.  I embraced the starting jug, and my body easily and automatically flowed up the route like an extension of my tranquil hike.  I had no thoughts and each move was perfect.  I felt like I was watching a video of myself climbing until I reached the rest ledge under the final crux when my conscience mind returned to the experience.  After some positive self-talk and an excessive amount of shaking out, auto-pilot was off, and I purposefully grabbed each hold as I set up for the blind deadpoint.  I dug into the razor edges and sprung to stick the jug.


Carefully balancing myself on a crimp undercling in the final crux. Photo by Alan Moles.

I hopped through some final easy slab moves and let out a euphoric scream while dropping my rope into the open hook and clipping the fixed biner.  After so much thrashing on Super Mama during the previous summer and some bad attempts in the previous days, I was so happy to experienced one of those rare moments where you effortlessly redpoint a route on your first go of the day.  With so much sunlight left in the day, it would be a waste to leave the crag when the conditions were so good.  I tried Pussytoes 5.12d a little and only managed to loose some skin.  Because the next day was my last day climbing in the canyon, I made another prudent choice and pulled off a quick ascent of Kielbasa 5.12c, which was a fun route but not nearly as high quality as Super Mama or Hellion.  Leaving the crag that day was a little sad because I realized I wouldn’t return to French Cattle Ranch until maybe next summer, but overall, I could not have felt better hiking back to camp as I watched the smoky sky glow in the sunset.


Sticking the final deadpoint on Super Mama 5.13b. Photo by Alan Moles.

On our final day, Charlie and I cooked in the sun while hiking up to the iconic Cigar.  Once again, I had my sights set on two routes that had given me some trouble the previous summer:  Sleep Reaction 5.13a, a roped boulder problem, and The Name of the Game 5.13a, consistent pumpy pocket climbing.  These routes are complete opposites, and last summer while working the routes with my friend, Dan, I couldn’t even do all the moves of Sleep Reaction.  After another great lil’ smokie warmup, I quickly started figuring out the beta, and I became so frustrated until Charlie surprisingly pointed out a possible glassy foot smear near the arête.  It worked perfectly, and I lowered quickly to hastily shake out and re-chalk my hands.  I pulled on and crushed it;  it felt like a V7? boulder problem to 5.9 vert climbing.  I was not done, and I began to feel somewhat cocky.  Like most climbing trips in my experience, you leave with a feeling of incompleteness, and this trip was no different.  I was racing against the approaching darkness to send The Name of the Game on the inside of the Cigar, but I just didn’t have it in me.  I was tired, and I wasn’t climbing as efficiently as I needed to send the route.  Recently, I have developed a preference for bouldery or more sectional routes, yet this sustained face undoubtedly exposed my weakness.  Three desperate efforts filled with aggression did not work, and I accepted defeat.


Charlie onsighting the classic and over-bolted Euro-trash Girl 5.10b.

Being able to return to Ten Sleep each summer has been so much fun and a great way to measure my improvement in climbing.  Though for many climbers, it seems crazy and/or too difficult to accurately see if they are improving for a few different reasons.  Either they are constantly trying to climb routes that are new to them or their testpiece problems in the gym get stripped every few weeks.  Also, sending a harder grade doesn’t necessarily mean one is improving, and more often, it just means a certain route better suited their strengths.  Following an actual training plan in which I meticulously record what I am doing makes it easy for me to see if I am improving in my day to day workouts.  I am not saying that all climbers should do these things if they want to improve, but doing these things makes the answer to the question “Am I getting better?” painfully clear.  I have derived much satisfaction from addressing my weaknesses through training and then revisiting rock climbs that were difficult for me.  I already know that Sky Pilot is next on my list when I return to Ten Sleep, but for now, I will be spending a lot of time here in Bishop, bouldering mecca.


An Interpretation

One of my favorite things about rock climbing is that it gives people an opportunity to creatively interact with the soul of the Earth.  The Earth is a massive rock flying through space around a ball of lethal and life-giving fire.  This rock has a pleasantly crunchy shell, gooey inner bits, and a hazelnut surprise of solid iron.  Earth is the rock we share and need.  Over billions of years and in many dramatically different ways, Earth recycles and creates new forms of all its tiny pieces.  Rock layers are preserved right under our feet, and in some lucky locations, we can see the past.  These outcrops are the place of worship for rock climbers.  We appreciate and savor the steep cliffs with just enough imperfections that only allow our bodies to climb it perfectly.  We embrace and carefully caress with boar’s hair brushes chunky boulders that have been broken and separated from their stratigraphic family.  Climbing outside and directly connecting with the Earth is amazing, and the artistic process of finding, cleaning, and interpreting rocks while preserving the environment for future generations to love is a journey that I will enjoy for the rest of my life.


This set of boulders in Elyria, Ohio has captured my imagination.  The left boulder in the foreground is a nice warmup that has most likely been done before and probably around V3/4.  The “king line” in the center is unbelievable, and I foresee a Vdouble-digit straight up the arête and a V5/6 compression problem just right of the arête.  Both would topout at around 25ft.  The knobby wall on the right is dead-vertical and has some of the most unique sandstone holds I have ever seen, and it is another Vdouble-digit project.

In the midst of finishing my undergraduate education at Oberlin, training in preparation for my carbonate-crammed summer, and attempting to make plans for my immediate future, I manically rushed around Northeast Ohio trying to find new potential projects and revisiting an area testpiece. Despite having a limited amount of quality rock and annoying yet justly flouted access issues, many climbers in the region go crazy about finding first ascents, and sometimes, community members act in excessively secretive ways and/or lie about random rocks they found/climbed in the woods. There aren’t many people in the climbing community here that would go outside to boulder, and I truly think that almost every climbing area in the region could benefit from a stronger climbing presence, even the places where the park systems criminalize climbers. Trying to work with the parks is hopeless. While some climbers are abstaining from enjoying the natural wonders (that we are already paying for with our taxes) in order to establish a better relationship with a bureaucratic entity that probably won’t change their uninformed and idiotic opinions, there are amazing artists ruining our rock with spray paint. These wonderful people should definitely be rewarded for their thoughtful contributions.


The Pharaoh V4 is one of the best boulders at Bedford Reservation. Found and sent by Tony Accuardi…ruined by SAMO. Photos by Tony Accuardi.

Isn’t it great how this beautiful sandstone block now looks like any dumpster in East Cleveland? I know the Cleveland Metroparks are upset about this…wait no they just want to penalize and prevent climbers from having some fun on the rocks. They do a much better job with that. Seriously, if climbers were allowed to be an active presence in the parks, there would be fewer dumbasses trashing our dearly valued geological gifts. This destruction is what makes me more mad than the silly regulations regarding climbing access. After finding this “new rock” in Elyria, it would deeply hurt me to see it get tagged because it completely changes the rock texture and annihilates the natural aesthetic. I am not naïve, and I understand that thinking you are the first to find some climbable boulder in Northeast Ohio is usually ridiculous. Though depending on the difficulty, a new interpretation is always possible.


Another shot of THE Arête.

Another shot of THE Arête.

I am completely mesmerized by this boulder and would hate for it to see the same fate as The Pharaoh.  The rock quality is amazing, and there are opportunities for hard, highball bouldering.  There are some logistical problems at the moment because there are no trees or places for natural protection on top of the boulder to build an anchor for cleaning and working the lines.  Though with some work, this will be one of the best boulders in all of Ohio.


Looking up at the sculpted knobs of the project next to the massive arête in Elyria.

Most climbing areas have routes or problems that are legendary.  They are rarely repeated, difficult, and often the most aesthetic.  For Chippewa Creek in Brecksville, it is the Gem.  From what I have heard, it has been climbed by two people and goes around V11 (there is a right variation that is around V6, and despite what some people think, they have not climbed the true line that traverses left and tops out straight up on the faint arête).  It is located in the river, and the landing occasionally gets washed away during flooding.  After some caveman-style construction this spring, the landing is solid, and you can throw some pads down without having them float away.  Despite my best efforts, I could not find a good way to get up the arête.  Maybe I will be back with stronger fingers, smarter tactics, and more suitable conditions in the late fall or winter?

Dave Schultz cranking out the opening moves of the Gem.

Dave Schultz crimping out the opening moves of the Gem.

Over the course of three days down in Ohio’s Amish Country, I had so much fun visiting a secluded area, repeating some quality boulder problems, scrubbing new lines, trying existing projects, and eventually getting the first ascent of a (sick, rad, gnarly, intense, aesthetic, unbelievable, beautiful, perfect, classic) line.  As it was my first time in this amazing area, my friend Damon, who was one of the first developers, was a great guide and provided immense support while we explored the densely forested and mosquito infested hills and valleys of Holmes County in search of quality boulders.

Smooth cross sequence on 80 Proof V7/8 going out Scotch Roof.  This was the second ascent, and the finish over the lip was quite PEATY after not being cleaned for several years.

Smooth cross sequence on 80 Proof V7/8 going out Scotch Roof. This was the second ascent, and the finish over the lip was quite PEATY after not being cleaned for several years.  Photos by Damon Smolko.

I had seen pictures of a very clean 45 degree wall in the Amish Country area years before I had been there.  Damon said that it was about V8, and I had always been extremely excited to climb it.  It was the only and best problem in my mind even before I had seen it in the flesh and lost flesh on its abrasive crimps.  During my first day out, I got a sampling of all the different problems in the mostly unconcentrated area.  I had finished my last hangboard workout the day before, and even climbing easy problems felt hard. So, it was a good opportunity to remove cobwebs, brush holds, and scrape moss.  A few days later, we went out again and I managed to figure out all the moves of the 45 wall project.  I couldn’t contain my nervous excitement, and on the send-go after pulling the crux, I stupidly forgot I could match my right hand to a good hold to setup for the topout sequence.  I got anxious and threw half-heartedly to a hold that looked like a jug and fell.  It was such a stupid mistake, but I was sure I had it on the next go.  I rested and relaxed.  On my next attempt, I felt perfect, and while pulling through the middle section, I ripped an important incut crimp right off the boulder.  It was devastating, but I was still psyched and immediately tried to figure out another sequence.  Nothing really worked as I was getting more tired, and I also broke off another small hold.  I eventually lost motivation, but I did finish the day with a quick send of 80 Proof V7/8 over at Scotch Roof.

After finishing the last final exams of my undergraduate education, I drove down to Amish Country with a great of sense of relief and freedom.  Damon couldn’t come with me, but I was determined to send the 45 wall problem and knew I would be okay without a spotter.  After warming up, I started trying to figure a new sequence for the middle section of the project.  A long deadpoint from high feet to an incut crimp worked well, but I needed to rehearse it efficiently because skin was a precious commodity on the fresh sandstone.  I made some attempts, but I wasn’t sticking the move from the start and even started regressing on the opening moves.  I finally decided that I might as well yell to grip the hold rather than from experiencing more pain while falling off the move, and it worked perfectly.  I couldn’t believe what I had done, and I was filled with happiness as I kissed the maple tree on top of the boulder.  I frantically texted Damon that I had sent it, and he had already thought of a perfect name for the problem, Rumspringa.

It felt great to get the first ascent of a boulder problem in my home state, and I still can’t believe that this beautiful sandstone block exists in Ohio.  I have never seen another boulder like it in the whole state.  Crimps on steep terrain is one of my favorite climbing styles, and this problem fit me well.  The grade seems around V9, and a lower start on the right side that would link into Rumspringa still needs to be done.  I am so thankful that I could participate in route development in Ohio and that I have great friends who share my excitement for climbing.  This on top of graduating double-degree from Oberlin and having a loving and supportive family has made my spring beyond awesome.  I am currently hanging out at the Camping Zoo in Arco, Italy and trying to find partners to go sport climbing.  Though I will be traveling most of the summer, I will always miss Northeast Ohio.

Sticking the crux of Rumspringa V9.

Sticking the crux of Rumspringa V9.

Day Dreaming

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.