It's so cold I'm slipping into deep contemplation....
I’m not sure why, but driving out in the rain, literally surrounded by low lying clouds and feeling as if I’m flying through one of them, just to go climbing, it feels good to me. It’s exciting. Maybe it’s all of the memories I have surrounding climbing at little si in the middle of a nice Fall rain storm. And yet, it doesn’t really have to be a rainstorm, it can just be a nice Fall day AFTER a rainstorm, but in any event, these kinds of days; the ones that are filled with the smell of damp vegetation and decomposing wood, the ones with a bite in the air, make your hands cold on the hike in but still manage to drench you in sweat. The ones that make your rubber stick like pine resin to the cold surface of the otherwise marble-slick rock, and have you scampering to pull your puffy on before a belay. When the trail is littered with dead leaves of all shapes and sizes and colors. When you know that this could be the day that you’ve been waiting for, after pouring an entire month of effort into one single pitch of climbing, this drop in temperature could spell victory. What it really harkens back too for me, is that first time I paid a visit to World Wall. It was October, it was a beautiful blue bird day, and my god I remember it being so cold. I numbed out several times on my warm up, which was of Jug or Not (a terrible 5.10b that I did NOT send). Despite my poor performance on the rock it was something more than all of that, it was the true beginning for me. So when I think of where it all started, where I really fell in love with climbing, it was on one of these days, one of these perfect Fall days with a damp trail, shivering Alders, colors, cold, friends, and massively overwhelming walls of potential and introspection. It is this memory that provides the foundation for my giddiness on these kinds of days, and yet there are also recent memories I have that fill me with this kind of joy as well. Memories of sending Chronic in a downpour with mist literally hitting the wall as I was climbing; crunching up the trail in a sea of dead big leaf Maple fodder; drinking cold beer in freezing temps under a blue bird sky and having to climb a route twice (once to get warm, and a second time to go for the send); and knowing that at the end of the day surrounded by laughter and friends we would all retreat to the warmth of the NBBG and lament over good food about the shrinking of the days and extoll our plans for the Spring.
Summer swells our experience like a bag of energy gels left in a hot car. Everything slows down. Even your climbing style seems to inadvertently change in speed and grace to resemble that of a constipated hippo. Projects get put on hold (or sent, there is no in between), projecting sounds tedious and boring, and after the warm up the increasing sound of beers being opened can be heard all around. The reigns are loosed, and everyone kind of goes into chill mode, as if we all suddenly inhabit the isles of ‘who gives a fuck’. It’s harder to get this kind of excited about a summer day because the energy changes. But when October rolls around, the days get shorter and the rock gets colder there is this primal rush to sew your oats. You can feel the pressure and weight of the window slowly closing and all of a sudden shit gets serious (in a maddeningly playful way). I keep coming back to that first memory, though. Of being scared to death on Rainy Day. To trying False Idol over and over and over again to no avail. To the time where I wouldn’t even think of leaving the small Rainy Day corner. To possibility, to newness, to the sheer unbridled camaraderie of life at the crag. It is in all of these things that I find solace and euphoria.It was no surprise to me then, that this past weekend when I awoke in Seattle to clouds and rain and found myself driving out to Little si after a two week break that I couldn’t help but smile periodically throughout the day. The air was thick with the smell of plant life opening up to receive there moist gift and expel the pheromones of life. My hands were cold but my body was swimming in the humid temperance of the valley. Julie trailed behind with an umbrella, I just took my shirt off and let the rain kiss me. In the back of my mind I knew that the wall would be dry but there is always a small bit of paranoia that maybe your day out will turn into a day in. We stumbled upon a completely dry wall (well, pretty much completely dry) and had a lovely time repeating the classics. My big project for the day was getting a gauge on where my finger was (injury-wise) and where my fitness was (chuffer-wise). It was mentally taxing to take so much time off after feeling like I was finally hitting my stride, and even more so having to wonder whether or not taking that time off did my finger any good. But, it was all for the best because after I warmed up and started to get on progressively harder and crimpier lines I noticed there was no pain or soreness in my knuckle, and soon I wasn’t worrying about it and I was able to really just enjoy being outside on a cold and rainy day doing what I love to do. The highlights of the day were repeating Chronic first go of the day and pulling into the gaston of Flatliner after not resting nearly as long as I usually do at the ledge or triple jugs. We also came out Sunday and it was just as magical as the day before and cold. I loved it! I had a very similar day to the one before with the real victory coming in the form of zero pain in my finger and hopping on Gerbil Killer and day flashing it to the psycho crux before getting pumped stupid. Gerbil Killer is awesome, I love that line and I’m actually really psyched to do the Gerbil Rising link on top of getting back on Extended Illness. However, I’m also not naïve to the fact that I need to take it slow coming off of my recent injury and ease back into project mode instead of violently crimping my way back in. I wish I had been in better shape to take advantage of this little Autumnal vortex that came whirring through over the weekend but it served as a good reminder that taking time to rest now will pay huge dividends when the temps, leaves, and projects start to drop.
Bustin' a lap on Psycho(5.12d)
Bustin' a lap on Psycho(5.12d)
What do you bring to the crag?
My main focus now is to hangboard (A LOT), start mixing in some bouldering to my training regiment, and make a few trips to Squamish, Newhalem, and maybe get back to Equinox and try to sort out Fight Club. I also have to keep in mind that it’s roughly four weeks out until the Cutthroat Classic and I have to start training for that as well. August already seems to be packed with things to do and objectives to accomplish and in a way, it’s enjoyable, in another way it makes the time pass in an uncomfortably quixotic fashion.