Tag Archives: Sport Climbing

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.

14195904_10207278478546930_2928536462311389446_o

Advertisements

Ending the Boltless Year (Part 1)

Since the first day that I tied into some jug-filled toprope at Kendall Cliffs after a draining high school track practice, I became deeply and constantly curious about how other people got “stronger” and what I could learn to benefit myself.  By “stronger” I mean “better at climbing”, and this is a somewhat normal phenomenon in an activity in which an individual’s mental, technical, and physical abilities are tested on common ground with other participants.  Most of my climbing life has revolved around progressing on single-pitch routes.  For five years, I had great access and supportive partners to explore the endless cragging of the Red and New River Gorge.  But, I learned quickly that there were more efficient ways to get better at climbing than simply climbing all the time.

539374_3726129747129_286528020_n 2

Peace Frog 5.12d at the Sanctuary.  An interesting double heel-toe cam move out the roof at the start leads to a characteristic overhang of iron oxide jug slots at the Red River Gorge.  Photo by Paris Achenbach.

As was my tradition of spending the week-long, mid-semester breaks in college at a climbing destination, I clearly remember the last week of March 2012 at the Red.  The weather was surprisingly good, and though I had ventured down to Miguel’s by myself, I had quickly found great friends and reliable climbing partners.  Besides having a good time climbing and experiencing some personal best performances, I also remember a specific day at the Undertow Wall.

548974_1807321582830_341037003_n

My friend Andrew cruising up the Bob Marley crag classic, Dogleg 5.12a

As I lay on a comfy slab of Corbin sandstone waiting for another burn on the Kentucky classic, Ale-8-One 5.12b, and weighing the benefits of certain rests between sections of the route, another climber rolled up to the Undertow Wall and asked if he could take a lap up the route on my draws.  It wasn’t a problem at all as I was still pumped from getting spit off 2/3 of the way up the route on my previous attempt, and I gladly shared the route.  As he started to tie in, I recognized that he was Brad Weaver and was one of the elite climbers in the Southeast.  I began to analyze everything a little more carefully and started to remember reading about him taking years completely off of sport climbing to…boulder.  Sport climbing at the Red is about endurance; why would anyone do that? I was still pumped in that moment; how could someone think that it would be a good idea to avoid endurance training to progress at an area known for its unrelenting style.  Five minutes passed as I watched Brad Weaver warm up on my project without bulging a forearm vein.  At the end of my spring break, I did manage to redpoint Ale-8-One, my first 5.12b, and it felt hard as I could barely clip the chains.  More importantly, I began to realize that there might be something to be gained from investing some time strictly devoted to bouldering.

560651_422859661063763_1317517097_n

I miss my mohawk and rest days at the Wild Turkey Distillery.  Photo by Andrew Freeman

Last summer, I had one of the best times of my life which was filled with exclusively sport climbing from finishing a good spring season at the Red, followed by the continuous and beautiful beat-down of Ceuse, and ending with the American glory of Ten Sleep.  I have always been attracted to more sectional or bouldery routes, and I had decided that I would move to Bishop and immerse myself in its bouldering mecca greatness.  My initial plan was to spend fall through winter bouldering while figuring out some organized training plan that would cater to the progress I wanted and what I could tolerate mentally.  Often, the balance of training and the daily fun (stress relief from life) is something that is overlooked when you first are really psyched making your plan.  During my first months, I learned that I needed to be doing more actual climbing, and that the typical linear training plan that was easy and effective for sport climbing in an area with very specific climbing seasons was not as effective for bouldering in which a high level of technical skills, POWER, and weird (often hard to train in an exercise)  body strengths are necessary all the time.  Winter slowly melted in spring, and I had become so clearly identifying as a boulderer that I didn’t feel like dealing with the logistics of cragging or big days out climbing in the mountains.  Bouldering is so freaking simple, very high quality, and easily accessible in the Eastern Sierra, and I saw no reason nor had any motivation to do anything else.  My plan of bouldering through winter turned into a year hiatus from clipping bolts.  Many of my new friends didn’t believe that I had ever climbed on a rope in my life.  I only used a rope to climb two times in the last year, and they were both 5.7 traditional climbs in Tuolumne Meadows involving a significant amount of simul-climbing:  Matthes Crest and Euphoria on Pennyroyal Arches.

13040971_10154048179904654_4699532374537377121_o

Some of the best bouldering on the Eastside.  Mantling out the slopey topout of Soul Severity V6 at the Smolko Boulder under the Wheeler Crest.  It felt amazing to climb these beautiful lines put up years ago by fellow Ohioan and motivating climbing partner Damon Smolko.  Photo by Kyle Queener.

Currently, I am sitting in the typical climber Internet spot/shelter from the elements:  the Ten Sleep Public Library.  When my best friend Charlie suggested at the beginning of summer that we take a trip back to Ten Sleep, it seemed so natural and like a great way to see how I have changed in the past year.  Ten Sleep has become this consistent feature of my life, and it feels so good to be here.  Though, getting here was borderline painful.  After Charlie made espresso drinks all afternoon and I grinded through another 9 hour shift at the Gear Exchange, we quickly loaded up his van and drove 16 hours through the night.  Stopping only to switch drivers and get some tasty coffee and pastries at Lander Bake Shop, the psyche-fueled drive left us drained.  Yet, nothing could stop us, and we drove straight to the French Cattle Ranch parking lot and loaded up our packs for an evening of sport climbing.  I felt vey confused while I placed my rope and shiny new sport draws in my pack; it seemed like I was forgetting some integral piece of climbing equipment.  Regardless, we crushed the approach up to the Grasshopper Wall.  We both decided that it was quite fitting and somewhat comical that we climb the short, three bolts in length, and four-move crux right off the ground “route”, Lil’ Smokie 5.11.  (Volcanic Tableland V2) I love this mini-route, and I find the other Lil’ Smokie routes a worthwhile and quirky experience of the climbing in Ten Sleep.  After I ran several laps on the classic Lil’ Smokie, I was so psyched to be sport climbing again, though with only maybe 2 hours of sleep while getting tossed around in the back of the speeding van, I was falling asleep sitting on the nicely arranged rocks at the base of the cliff.  Esplanada 5.12d, a hard for the grade and continuous face climb, seemed like a good idea?  I had never sent the route before; I had always overlooked this area classic in favor of harder routes.  I didn’t remember the route having any hard moves, and I proceeded to hang the draws.  As expected, the moves felt too easy.  I usually warmup on problems with moves that are significantly harder, and the footholds on the route felt huge.  Despite this impression of the route, I managed to punt off the upper slab crux twice.  Still about to fall asleep between my pathetic burns on Esplanada, I gave up for the day in favor of eating and sleeping.

Polemonium_confertum_closeup_amk6358_lg

This route has been on my mind for a year, and I cannot wait to see how it feels.

Waiting out the heavy rainstorms seems quite foreign after having lived in the Eastern Sierra for a year, but I remind myself that the beautiful blue streaks of Bighorn dolomite will be prime in cooler conditions tomorrow.  My body will also probably be better suited for physical activity too.  I know I am stronger in many ways, but in order to realize this improvement, I need to refresh those rusty route climbing skills and more importantly, enjoy being back in one of my favorite places in the world.

Spring Springing Springly

The pains of winter have been expelled from us for we have arrived in Purgatory.

The pains of winter have been expelled from us;  we have arrived in Purgatory.

It is beautiful to see the hours of challenging, punishing, and boring training manifest itself in the accomplishment of clearly defined goals.  Last fall, I spent my final climbing day struggling to stick the crux move of the direct start to Table of Colors.  I had sent the original line a few weeks before, and I had done all the moves of the harder start.  Yet, I couldn’t control the sharp hematite crimp with my left hand in order to stab out right to an oddly-shaped crimp divot when I started from the ground.  I wasn’t pumped approaching it, yet I also couldn’t consistently do the move even after hanging on the bolt.  I was pissed, but it was exactly what I needed.  Left Flank is one of my favorite crags in the world, and the beauty and quality of routes there have always motivated me to improve.  Thanks to Mark and Mike Anderson, I knew what I had to do and how to do it.

Cruising through the opening moves of Table of Colors Direct 5.13b. Photo by Melanie Xu.

Cruising through the opening moves of Table of Colors Direct 5.13b.
Photo by Melanie Xu.

I was lacking power, and I generally needed to be stronger on crimps and pockets if I was going to send Table Direct in the spring.  So, training began in December with a month of hangboarding, and it was quite convenient that the hematite crimp, which was giving me so much trouble, very closely resembles the smallest flat crimp on the Trango hangboard.  January involved a bouldering trip to Bishop, an area characterized by powerful climbing on crimps, and by February, I was back at it fighting freezing conditions in Eastern Kentucky.  I could feel that I was stronger and more than physically capable of climbing the route, but I needed to figure out the proper way to apply the new level of power.  I had one good session on the route in February, but early in March, there was heavy rain that brought send-crippling condensation.  I wasn’t surprised; the Red River Gorge is basically a rainforest.

Resting right before the crux, which links back into the original line.  Photo by Melanie Xu.

Resting right before the crux, which links back into the original line. Photo by Melanie Xu.

During the last week of March, I had a week-long spring break, and the weather looked promising.  After visiting a good friend in Lexington and horribly playing darts for too long at a college bar the night before, I was rolling down Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway blaring the Offspring all the way to Left Flank.  I was so psyched, and more importantly, Waffle House seemed to be sitting well.  On my first attempt on Table Direct, I still felt a little weak and not properly warmed up after walking up Aquaduct Pocket.  On my second attempt, I completed the bottom and stupidly missed the “bass mouth” in the middle crux.  I knew I only had one more good effort for the day, and as the sun was setting, I tied in for one last try.  I cruised through the bottom section more easily than I had ever before, yet pulling each successive move after that seemed increasingly difficult.  In the middle crux, I felt like I was falling off the holds while somehow moving up and stabbing my digits in the correct place.  I was amazed that I was still on the wall and sitting in a comfortable rest position.  My mind raced, and I rested for an eternity.  After finally calming myself down, I mentally ran the final sequence over and over.  Once I came to the realization that I need to leave this rest, I chalked up my already obsessively chalked finger tips and executed the final section with ease.

Clipping after finishing the direct start.  Photo by Melanie Xu.

Clipping after finishing the direct start. Photo by Melanie Xu.

11082635_10204697522330375_7922008939128789662_n

Beginning the most desperate yet successful battle with the “bass mouth” crux. Photo by Melanie Xu.

Spring break started off extremely well, and after a solid rest day, I was ready for more.  Recently, I have been somewhat annoyed when climbing at Muir Valley because I hate hiking out, there aren’t many routes that I want to do, there is an overwhelming amount of people, and I HATE HIKING OUT.  I mean I love the climbing there and could not be more thankful for this area, but personally, I would rather go somewhere else given the plethora of world-class crags within minutes of driving.  Despite all of this, I went with my friends to Muir for the day and proceeded to almost whip off a disgusting and freezing cold 5.10 warmup.  Not the most ideal start to the day, but I was excited to try a route that had spit me off too many times.  As usual, Solarium was packed, but no one was on Bundle of Joy.  I quickly hung draws and found myself staring down the final crux at the top of the cliff.  I tried the dyno beta, but failed.  I tried it a few more times and failed even though I had done that beta before.  I wanted something more consistent and remembered some of my friends talking about using tiny (heinous) holds to statically pull the top.  I found exactly what they were talking about, and it involved a small and sharp left hand crimp, which allows you to rock over your right heel to reach the ledge.  I rehearsed it until I completed the crux sequence three times in a row and made sure the holds were clean before lowering to rest.

Starting up Bundle of Joy 5.13a.  Photo by Melanie Xu.

Starting up Bundle of Joy 5.13a. Photo by Melanie Xu.

While relaxing on a comfy rock and eating a banana, I realized for the first time how cool Solarium really is.  It is a consistently overhanging and beautifully streaked wall littered with good holds.  It is hard sometimes to see the beauty when there is a mob of people waiting in line for a route with some dude flailing his way up and saying, “None of the moves are that hard; linking it is really pumpy etc. (DUH that’s what most of the climbing is like)”.  After this contemplative moment, I tied in and quickly made my way to the giant hueco rest below the crux.  I love these massive holes in the wall where you can hang out.  I usually like to try to find the resonate frequency of the hole by humming, listen to my heart beating, clean my shoes, look for any crag literature, make chalk drawings, imagine I am being birthed from the cliff, peek my head out to watch other climbers, and/or optimally adjust my clothing situation.

Chilling in restful hueco.  Photo by Melanie Xu.

Chilling in restful hueco. Photo by Melanie Xu.

After much procrastination, I yelled to my belayer that I was still alive and wanted to make sure she was still belaying me as I worked my way out of the hole.  I climbed as fast as I could to the last clip, which felt more desperate than I had hoped.  I precisely executed my sequence to set up for the final move to the top, and all I could think was “I am going to pull as hard as I possibly can, so I don’t have to do this again”.  It worked, and I excitedly grabbed the sloping ledge and shook out quickly before the final mantle to the chains.

Chalking up the left hand finger tips to ensure perfect contact with the sharp crimp.  Photo by Melanie Xu.

Chalking up the left hand finger tips to ensure perfect contact with the sharp crimp. Photo by Melanie Xu.

The second half of my break involved a struggle to find partners for a few days and a weird negative feedback loop in my mind that developed from not being successful on routes that I thought were in the bag.  Everything worked out, and I even headed back to Ohio with smile despite being not sending and having to do homework.  I have realized that on a very superficial level I am concerned with the concrete results of my performance (sends), but what I care about more when it comes to pushing the difficulty of my rock climbing is consistent execution of things within my ability.  I derive great satisfaction when I do something well, and I am very annoyed when I screw up something that I know I can do.  I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, but I savor complete power of my domain.

I harnessed the power to balance more chess pieces than my engineer friend.  Definitely a fun way to kill time in Miguel's basement when you are sick of playing real chess.

I harnessed the power to balance more chess pieces than my engineer friend. Definitely a fun way to kill time in Miguel’s basement when you are sick of playing real chess.

Welcome to food that you don't have to cook, warmth, and a line for a better toilet.

Welcome to food that you don’t have to cook, warmth, and a line for a better toilet.

Welcome to the party, smelly people, and sometimes dogs pooping on the floor.

Welcome to the party, smelly people, and sometimes dogs pooping on the floor.

Spring break was great, but I didn’t have many good opportunities for climbing after that.  The next weekend was a reenactment of Noah’s Flood; even if you were fortunate not to have your car drown in the lower parking lot, you couldn’t get anywhere because roads all around Slade had rivers running through them.  The following weekend was my last chance to sport climb before taking some time off to focus on music and begin a training cycle for the summer.  I spent both days at Summersville Lake throwing myself at the Pod 5.13b, but I left (once again) empty handed.  It still amazes me that on my second attempt ever on the route I climbed cleanly to the anchors, and struggled to clip for eons before falling.  That weekend on the best attempts, I would climb from the bottom and fall in the middle crux, but I could from a hang:  do the crux, climb to the top, AND CLIP.  I have started training again, and now I have some fresh mental images to remind me to get aggro.

Spring has been a bundle of joy.

Spring has been a Bundle of Joy.

Damnation to Transportation

If you actually go outside to climb on rocks, you most likely have to do some sort of traveling to get from your home to the crag.  In addition to the fact that climbable rock is a precious commodity that isn’t a universal characteristic of local geology, weather and climate are just as important as outcrop or boulder field quality.  If clipping bolts on 5.easy Corbin sandstone in climbing conditions only suitable for tropical tree frogs and attempting to sleep in a pool of your own sweat and fine dirt particles for $2 a night sounds like a great climbing trip, you should go to the Red in July.  Outdoor climbing is driven by location and season, and if you live in the United Sates, you are going to have to drive everywhere.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0228.

The only time to climb on Endless Wall at the New is when there is enough snow on the ground to prevent a Prius from entering in the Nutall parking lot.  (Don’t worry, it doesn’t take much snow.)

Going to school in Oberlin, Ohio has put me over 300 miles from any real rock climbing.  Though the two main destinations are arguably some of the best single pitch crags in the world, it is a haul and traveling takes a toll on the body and mind.  In my effort to pack in as much quality climbing at the Red and the New before graduating and hopefully leaving the relative “closeness”, I have been driving quite a bit.  I have developed a wonderful love/hate relationship with driving, and I have had a ton of time to think about it while getting stuck behind and pissed at people driving slow in the left lane down I-71.  Driving for longer road trips usually doesn’t seem as bad, and as long I make a point to not go overboard with continuous driving, it is somewhat comfortable.  If you have the opportunity to get out of this beautiful, spacious, ridiculous, and diverse country called the United Sates, jump on it and experience the totalitarianism of air travel and cushy rides in trains through scenic countrysides.

This is how I feel after a drive to the airport, three flights, and a train ride.  Yet, I still have to schlep all my bags and gear uphill to the Olive Branch in El Chorro.

This is how I feel after a drive to the airport, three flights, and a train ride. I didn’t sleep, and I lost track of hours.  Yet, I still have to schlep all my bags and gear uphill to the Olive Branch from the train station in El Chorro.  Photo by Carly Broderick.

Many wise people told me when I was just starting to drivers’ education that you truly start learning to drive after you get your license.  They were completely right, and I have been learning through many valuable experiences.  Things I have learned include : the REAL speed limit is 10mph over what is posted, cruise control is God’s gift to driving (once this is realized you can even practice yoga sitting poses in places like Nebraska or South Dakota), THE LEFT LANE IS FOR PASSING, only stop to refuel (eating while driving is ideal, going to the bathroom is more comfortable in the gas station but not mandatory), if you have a driving partner make sure they can drive the car you are traveling (apparently not everyone can drive a standard transmission?)…

One of my favorite cars ever: a Skoda hatchback rented in Barcelona.  This thing tore up Catalunya and made driving between Siurana and Margalef just as fun as the climbing.  The speed camera ticket at the end of the trip wasn't cool, though somehow I never had to pay?  Photo by Carly Broderick.

One of the most badass rides ever: a rental Skoda hatchback. This thing tore up Catalunya and made driving between Siurana and Margalef just as fun as climbing. The speed camera ticket at the end of the trip wasn’t cool, though somehow I never had to pay? Photo by Carly Broderick.

No need to munch on candy bars or gulp down energy drinks because healthy snacks can be enjoyed while driving too.  Simply put salad in your crotch and use your hands.  Photo by Carly Broderick.

No need to munch on candy bars or gulp down energy drinks because healthy snacks can be enjoyed while driving too. Simply put salad in your crotch and use your hands. Photo by Carly Broderick.

Cars can be quite useful if you want to quickly move your tent to snag a better free campsite in Ten Sleep, Wyoming.  Photo by Carly Broderick.

Cars can be quite useful if you want to quickly move your tent to snag a better free campsite in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Photo by Carly Broderick.

Overall, driving and more generally transportation are a necessary annoyance and blessing to rock climbing.  It consumes time, petroleum, and mental energy, yet it gives us the freedom to climb and explore.  Our vehicles can also become our home, and while I have not adapted my car for climbing and “living the dream”, the amount of time I have spent in my Honda Civic has made it feel very homey.  After just getting back from one of my last weekends of climbing down South because the weather is getting quite warm and my senior recital is quickly approaching, I am happy that I won’t be spending so much time traveling for at least a month.  Thank you car and roads and million-year-old dead plankton for bringing me to beautiful rock climbs and creating wonderful memories.  May my carbon footprint be forgiven for the combustion was not made in vain.

Nothing beats a day at French Cattle Ranch in Ten Sleep followed by sunset dinner on the back of your car.  Photo by Carly Broderick.

Nothing beats a day at French Cattle Ranch in Ten Sleep followed by sunset dinner on the back of your car. Photo by Carly Broderick.

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.

IMG_0649

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.

IMG_0705