Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kale and Garbanzo Beans

Someone got a new haircut!

We are preparing for our Bow Valley trip and I could not be more intrigued.  We spent approximately 2 months just trying to figure out where to spend our week of vacation and since our Rifle trip fell through we set our sights on locales that were slightly closer.  The Fins were in the cards until I stumbled across the guide book for the Bow Valley.  It only took a short flip through of the colorful guide to make up my mind.  With several amazing limestone cliffs all within half an hour or so of each other and surrounded by pristine wilderness in the heart of the Canadian Rockies it was an easy choice.  I’ve spent the last month pouring over the guide and trying to formulate the best plan to make the most out of our short time there and I still don’t know exactly which crags we will end up visiting.  But I do know that we will have a great time and I am really looking forward to escaping this never ending heat wave in the PNW.

The scene here has been good lately, but not nearly as good as last year.  Maybe I suffer from the same kind of winter induced seasonal Alzheimer’s that everyone else does but I don’t think I can remember a summer that had such long lasting high temps.  I’m not unreasonable, each summer in the PNW I expect at least a couple weekends of temps in the mid 80’s to low 90’s but this Summer has been a different matter with temps in the mid 80’s to low 90’s lasting weeks instead of days and when you think the heat has evaporated and the cooler more pleasant 70 degree temps have returned the glaring warmth resurges just to remind you of how badly you crave the crispness of the Fall. 

But maybe I’m just getting old, or climbing at the wrong times or even at the wrong crags because within my small climbing community sends have been going off left and right.  I haven’t really been working anything lately.  I’ve visited Little si quite a bit in the last month, no after work sessions just on the weekends.  I’ve put some good fitness burns into Pornification and I’m fairly confident it will go down this Fall but it’s not the main motivating factor for me this year.  After sending Fight Club earlier this summer I was so exhausted with the process of repeating the same routine for one route ( a route I had arrogantly written off as in the bag after a couple sessions only to turn into a 6 week long battle) that I headed north a few times to sample new routes in Squamish and take a break from really pushing myself.  Now I find the taste of projecting quite appealing only to be faced head on with a 9 day trip to the land of Canadian limestone and the performance-wise unknown.  Ugh, sounds like I’m complaining at this point.  First world problems, right?

Between the staggering amount of new rock we will encounter in the Bow Valley, all the hiking we will have to do in order to access it, and the mental cruxing we will encounter I’m excited to step out of the routine once again to sample a new crag and add limestone to the list of rock types I have yet to but will soon climb on.  When we return the battle continues but hopefully not with the conditions.  There is still a long list of local crags (okay maybe only like two) that we still want to visit so it will be difficult deciding where to spend out fleeting weekends.  Fingers crossed for a cool and crisp Indian Summer. 


I have procured a new camera and lens and lately I’ve been way more motivated to snap photos of friends climbing than I have been to climb myself.  But don’t let that fool you, at the end of the day when all I have to show for my efforts is a memory card brimming with shots I always feel guilty that I didn’t get enough laps in or make some break through on the boulder crux of my new project.  That’s just how it goes some days, trading time on the rock for 25-28 likes on social media, HA!
This camera (recommended to me by a friend and amazing climbing photographer) far surpasses anything I have ever used before and I am still just flying it on auto pilot.  My plan is to get comfy with it for the next few months and then take a class at the local community college to really go in depth and expand the little knowledge I have about digital photography and editing.  So far I have had an endless amount of fun shooting with it.  All the photos on this post are from the new camera and none of them (I am sad to say) have been edited, but I picked the ones I liked the best.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reaching Past the Last Hold

Me on Fight Club, coming oh so close to the send.  This was the burn that unlocked the ending for me and would initially seal the victory.  I would send just five days later.  Photo by the ubiquitous Tex Richman.
I started breathing, loudly.  Suddenly everything melted away, success, failure, ego, and I was left with just focusing on my breathing.  The movements came easily, each muscle contraction was met with reward, latching a sharp crimp here, locking off, stepping up, falling into a jagged side pull, leaning heavily into a gaston rail, pulling the rope up, and relaxing.  But always breathing.  All of the other tries had not felt like this.  I was filled with a sense of calm and confidence, a feeling I had not had any other time on the route.  The myriad of weekends spent driving, hiking, falling, commiserating failure, re-tooling my approach, my training, taking time away, trying to let go, only to come back and want it so much more, these memories were distilled immediately through each solitary breath.  And then I just knew.  It hit me right in the brain - the realization that THIS was the go, I was going to send and there was nothing that could stop me.  It filled me with a sense of giddy-like joy, almost as if I was toying with the route before I finally put it out of its misery.  I shook out at the last rest with a smile on my face and then proceeded to execute the last boulder feeling as if I had just pulled on from a hang.  Everything went perfectly, just like I had rehearsed dozens of times before.  Instead of feeling weaker after each crux move I felt stronger, like I was channeling the very life force of the rock itself.  I slam dunked the last flat jug and had to stifle a shout of joy.  I knew it was done but didn’t want to celebrate before I had clipped the chains which came shortly after as well as a very stout victory scream.
This woman never ceases to AMAZE!  Here she is just one burn before sending her hardest route to date and first 5.12b Kobra Kai.  So proud of her and will never stop being proud of her.  Ruth is not only my partner in life but also one of the best climbing partners I could ask for giving me countless belays, talking me off mental cliff edges, supporting me and motivating me to try harder and enjoy the process.  So happy she is in my life and I am thrilled that we get to spend the rest of the season exploring new crags and knocking out more projects together. Photo by the ever intuitive queen of ISO Billis McGee.
Lowering back down to earth after the close of any long chapter in project climbing is surreal to say the least.  Time and time again you program your brain to deal with failure, to fall at the same place, to obsess over grabbing a hold wrong or not feeling comfortable trusting a foot hold, and then for one small flutter of a butterflies wings you snatch victory from the jaws of the dragon and plunge your chalky fist through its rocky armor claiming its golden still-beating heart as your own.  Relief washed over me as if I had just sat down in an oncoming tidal wave.  For the next ten minutes or so I felt invincible, humbled, brave, confident, euphoric.  You almost feel as if maybe something went wrong, like this wasn’t supposed to happen, was never supposed to happen.  You keep waiting for everyone to say “Nice job but you stepped on that bolt.” 
Speckled light on a vacant 4th of July afternoon.  Mike gleaning some beta on Kobra Kai.  I've grown so fond of making the trek out to Equinox almost every weekend.  While I'm relieved to send my project I'm also kind of sad to step out of the routine and miss out on the seemingly always perfect conditions at this crag, the chill vibes in the shade, perfect sequences up shattered rock, the deep blue skies above, the frisky dive-bombing humming birds, the judgmental frogs on the log, and the overall comfort of this unique small crag.

This feels like it was the most mentally challenging battle I have ever had with a route, maybe ever?  But in reality, I’ve been through this multiple times, whether breaking into a new grade, struggling to complete a low percentage move, or just trying to convince myself that it could be done. 

A rift in the time space continuum showing us Morgan Heater transcends all laws of biophysics and exists on  a perfect plain of interdimesionality. 

The key ingredient was letting go, telling myself that I would give it a long break.  With that thought securely embedded in my mind the pressure to succeed dried up and a new well of intent was dug.  I always like to start the season with a good send and each year I feel like I have climbed harder and harder and hopefully learned something from my progress.  Going in to this season and starting the process of completing this route I fully believed each session that it would be now, I would send soon, it wasn’t that far away, and at the end of each session my motivation dwindled and dwindled and the pressure to succeed now grew out of control until I was left with nothing to admit except defeat.  The mistake I made was one of hubris, and I’ve said it time and time again that if you don’t respect the climb you can expect to learn a lesson in humility at no cost to the rock. 

This is what you get when you send Fight Club.  Kind of bummed, I was hoping it was gong to be a Nike contract :(


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Someone is Watching

Nick on Cannon Fire (5.13a) at Equinox.

Through the tree, Nick working Cannon Fire.

Ruth bathing in the sun (while wearing her down parka) and Luke getting psyched for Fight Club (5.13c)

Luke climbing through Fight Club.

Luke taking the whip at the very top of Fight Club (he would send just days later)

A pretty little white butterfly but actually a scourge to the gardening community.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Power Windows

It has been a diverse last three weekends.  My partner and I have switched our focus (laser at it may seem) from sport climbing to bouldering, mostly due to a very wet local crag/s.  The winter season here in the PAC NW has bled into spring and the reprieve from the rain is on delay.  We have had to either drive south or east to escape its watery clutches and after a good stint of Smith Rock climbing we decided to try our hand at seeing how weak we truly are.  Enter: Leavenworth bouldering. 

My arm injury is now almost a thing of the past and with that in mind I have tried (somewhat hesitantly) to start training power, although it’s pretty daunting when I’m reluctant to add weight to any of the exercises I do.  I’ve been mostly relying on getting stronger during our climbing trips.  It seems as though the gym is a sorry excuse for the dynamic compression lines of the Bavarian themed east. 

Our first trip to Leavenworth was just a day trip and it was just as well because the finger tips were shredded in a matter of warm ups.  My main goal was to start projecting The Practitioner (or Prac to the super hip bouldering locals).  I thought that maybe it would be a somewhat obtainable goal given the amount of time we would be spending here (three weekends in a row) but I learned the hard way that stepping out of a sport climbing routine and into a hard bouldering routine is majorly difficult (for me anyway).  I watched as several people flaunted their power in front of my week little eyes and climber after climber stuck moves I could only dream of sticking.  In short The Practitioner shut me down cold.  I was able to do all of the moves with the exception of one and to this day have still not done it (crux move to a wide pinch).  Ruth on the other hand has been dominating everything she sets her mind to.  Before this trip she had done a V.4.  Now she has done several V.4’s, flashed her first V.5 and sent her first V.6!!  My eyes are popping out of my head as I write this.  She never ceases to amaze me with her constant progression. 

I ended our first trip with a big fat zero on the scoreboard, but had tried a lot of new things which is always fun (Bedroom Bully, Practitioner, Trickle of Silence, Monarch, Prism). 

The second trip we had Ruth’s son Cameron along for the ride, a sturdy and rather cute little three year old who relished rolling in the dirt, taking big slams while walking, and collecting (and through no fault of his own torturing) bugs.  I had the pleasure of repeating a few boulders I had done long ago and all in all we both climbed a bunch and still got to incorporate some good family time into the mix.

Now, coming off of our last and final trip to Leavenworth I am finally fully intrigued and invested in some amazing projects out there.  It took a few weeks but I feel in the groove now (and sadly too late).  I still have not sent anything noteworthy but the projects just keep coming.  I pawed at the first move of Abstraction, still could not stick the crux move of Prac, nearly grabbed the sloper crux dyno move on a randm little turd called Musk, had an AMAZING first session on Turbulence just falling short of gathering the commitment I needed to send, and fell off the last hard moves on Sorrow Bird.  Good god, how much more defeat and failure can I withstand?  Well, I guess I won’t be hanging around long enough to find out.  But even in failure some valid victories have been tasted.  All of this sampling of hard problems has really inspired and motivated me to spend some more time in Leavenworth, which is a meager 2hr 15min drive from my house!  I’m already altering some plans for October to cater to a demand for more bouldering.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that some early season sends on the rope will expedite this growing intrigue.  I certainly want to achieve some very high goals on the rope this season but now I am also thinking the same could be done on the boulders.  One of my biggest weaknesses is succeeding at both disciplines so the next challenge becomes finding a way to excel at both.