Thursday, April 28, 2016


Ruth definitely feeling the pinch on 'Feel the Pinch'(V.4)
Not much to say really.  It was another gorgeous weekend in Leavenworth and yet another reminder that bouldering is just one of those great activities that fall under the umbrella of climbing.  Each trip it gets harder and harder to pull myself away from the boulders, and easier and easier to lose focus on the monster projects at Little si.  Our pseudo participation in the Icicle clean up yielded results in sends, and I even got to meet my Pro-climber doppelganger Chris Shultes who made a very random appearance at Forestlands before disappearing up the trail surrounded by an entourage echoing sentiments about getting on the Practitioner.  Oh how I wanted to follow…

Jeremy reaches for the slopey lip on his send of 'the Drill Sergeant' (V.8)

Ruth getting so close on 'Feel the Pinch'

The perfect way to walk your dog.

But we chose the solace of the Pretty Boulders and it was a great choice.  The area itself was deserted, the granite was just as good as I remember it, and the scenery was stunning.  It’s easy to get sucked into four or five moves on a small piece of rock, until you turn around and try to absorb the staggering chasms, haunted groves, roiling river, and rocky breasts half covered in snow pack that make up this enchanted canyon called the Icicle.   

Ruth gets into the dihedral on 'Pretty Girl'(V.3)

Climbing 'Pretty Hate Machine' (V.7/8)

Two days in this wonderland appear and begin to thin into distant memory like the smoke from a fire, but the smell resonates and clings to you with the strength of a vivid memory.  Your skin stings, your muscles are sore, but you want to stay.  You want more.  Being in this canyon, soaking your hands in the frantic lapse of the river, smelling the pines, and watching the lizards bounce through breaks in the boulders; it’s entrancing and enchanting. 

Ruth wins the No Skin Left award on our last day in the Icicle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chronic Delivery

Time to re-visit the garden.

So proud of my friend Zi for sending his project Chronic (5.13b) this last weekend!  And his first of the grade.  That brings the toll of people I have seen climb their first .13b on this route to 6, myself included in that number.  Zi has been following a pretty logical path of progression at Little si since last season, taking his time to tick off the big four(Propaganda, Californicator, Technorigine, and Psychosomatic) and now he is starting off the season in good form sending Californication and now Chronic.  Funny how things seem to just fall in place after putting in your time here.  I was psyched to have arrived at the wall just in time to watch him lace up his boots and get to work.  He glided effortlessly up the first half resting well at the typewriter before launching into the red point crux, sticking the sidepull and watching his fingers dance across the juggy surface of the gaston horn jug.  I glanced over to see him resting casually at the sloper jug, 'one more boulder!' I thought out loud, and I'm sure the same thought was going through Zi's head as well.  The tension built at this point, the last few times Zi has worked this route his heel has blown off unexpectedly on a somewhat precarious and technical move (the heel hook shown above).  He launched off the last jug and flew up the final boulder problem guarding the chains.  It was quick and dramatic and an amazing moment to have witnessed coming to a close.  It was over in seconds and I think we were all expecting more of a struggle but I'm quite sure Zi was relieved that there wasn't one.  Well done my friend!

Abo top rope: destroying photos of chronic since 1997.

The day was just ending for some and just getting started for others.  I had purposefully gotten to the wall late in the day (typical summer start at 2:00pm) hoping to avoid crowds, fat day hikers, and the dreaded parking fiasco that has gone from kind of ridiculous (last season) to absolutely desperate (sort of like the Republican campaign as of late) this season.  I found a spot in the upper lot, which is a win, but the trail was more crowded than I have ever seen.  I don't need to go into it.  The wall was actually pretty busy as well.  Two pitches in two hours?  C'mon!

World Wall 1, an amazing summer crag and a wonderful place to shoot poorly lit photos. Eleanor on Chronic (5.13b)
The magic happened on my second burn of Pornstar.  My first burn was a disaster when I decided to throw all of my previous foot beta out of the window, make a stretched out clip, and then skate off the holds with a sinking feeling of ‘long-term’ in the back of my mind.  I revisited some of the changes I had made previously engraving them in my mind and then took a long rest.  My second burn was truly one of the best I’ve had.  I got into that ‘floating’ mind state, moved quickly and efficiently, took good rests, and found myself shaking out at the brick and crimp rest just before the last boulder.  I launched into the sequence and got one move farther than I ever had falling trying to perch on the brick.  I pulled back up and cruised it to the finish.  Break through!  I wasn’t sure I could repeat this kind of performance but ended the day doing the exact same thing but feeling just a little more tired.  This is so huge for me.  All of sudden this project is now in the closing stages and I didn’t really spend a lot of time on the struggle bus yet.  But I don’t want to jinx myself.  I just want to focus on this progress and use it to get a little further.  I’m positive that once I can perch on the brick I should have it done, but I’m not naïve to climbing’s little tricks, I know that once you think you’re golden another move you never thought would be a problem starts to make itself known. 

I’m headed back to Leavenworth this weekend for another little hiatus.  Rain is supposed to set in this weekend so I’m going to spend it in the sunny and crisp environs of the east.  And believe me, I would much rather be at Little si obsessing over my project, especially in the light of this new development, BUT I’m going to try and do some things differently this year and that includes not getting overly invested in something I want so dearly.  My emotions are turned up right now so I think it’s a perfect time to step back and do something different before returning to the project.  Bouldering is a great way to foster small successes while staying strong and refreshing the psyche.  The temps look great for this weekend in Leavenworth, and then next week the siege will continue.  Hopefully it’s a short siege, but if not, I’m ready whatever the wall has to throw at me.  I will say this, I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing anything else until Pornstar is done. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sprung on Granite

Spring arrives in Seattle
Washington granite: some have said it’s the best granite on the planet.  We have all types, from that dark slick Index granite, to the bright white and shiny black salt and pepper erratic granite.  We have the dark brown to bright orange granite, usually medium grained, to the black and tan fine grained, to the almost blue colored dark grey granite that’s rough and smooth almost at the same time.  Then we have that large grained granite that is almost exactly like the texture of monzonite and just as painful.  We even have granite that is so smooth and so similar to sandstone you would swear you were in Font.  We have granite so river polished and bomb proof the holds are almost nonexistent and the problems are like sun cupped snow, crafted by the delicate forces of time and elemental creativity.  We also have shitty granite; dry flakes, cracked foot holds, and crumbly sandy slopers.  It can’t all be good right?   But the range of movement, the quality, diversity, and perfection of the holds, these ingredients all coalesce and make something comparable to art; a natural subjectivity that conflates physical strength with the mental warfare of summoning solutions to the most intricate of three dimensional puzzles. 
I have now been living in Seattle for the last two years (starting May 5, 2016) and yet I haven’t once been out to this eastern paradise I used to know and frequent so well.  When I lived in Olympia it used to take on average approx. three and half hours to make the drive to Leavenworth.  So you could imagine my surprise when it took only 2hours and fifteen minutes before we were pulling onto the Icicle Canyon road and making our way up the canyon.  Memories of course started to flood back from the times when I first started to come to this place back in 2007.  They seemed so close to me, and yet now it was like remembering an entirely different life.  I blame Leavenworth for my addiction to these short yet intricate scrambles, an addiction that ultimately lead to living in Bishop for a couple of seasons.  Everything was where it was, the town has not changed a bit, and the only difference I could see was a little more chalk on everything.  The Wenatchee was roaring, the last two weeks had brought the heat to the upper elevations and as a result the massive amount of snow melt was now raging through the canyon providing us with some of the best white noise nature can create. 
With the increasing popularity of climbing comes the inherent increase of injury to someone.  A visiting climber (most likely a college student, obviously male between the ages of 19-24) had fallen off a boulder and broke his ankle.  We were 'lucky' enough to be on scene when the ambulances arrived.  Sad part was that he had at least 6 or 7 spotters and a lot of crash pads, ignorance breeds this kind of outcome.
I didn’t visit any of the new spots that have now been documented in Kelley Sheridan’s latest contribution to the climbing community, but opted instead for some of the more mellow and popular roadside spots.  We started at the Carnival boulders where I got to run laps on THE best V.4 in the canyon called The Rib.  We moved over to the Sword boulders for some shade.  The temps had soared in the sun and now we looked for solace amongst the trees.  The highlight of the trip for me was seeing so many friends everywhere we went!  At the Carnival boulders it was a group from Oly I hadn’t seen in years, at the Sword it was a group from Seattle I don’t see that often because I never boulder anymore, at the Forestland we ran into another group of friends from Seattle, and the next day when we returned to Forestland we ran into an SG group who I absolutely love.  It was like this great party that followed us everywhere we went.  The love and positivity were flowing in massive quantities and there was nothing but good energy bouncing through the spaces between the boulders.  This is what I miss most about bouldering and about traveling to old and new spots.  What a fantastic escape.  The snowcapped mountains only adding to the ambience and alpine feel of the environment, and I couldn’t help but gaze out across the valley from time to time and feel lucky to live my life. 
Ruth on a dainty little V.0 and a great backdrop just up from the Sunny and Steep boulder. 
Molly, ex-pat Seattleite now local Leavenworth high school teacher and granite crusher along with her husband Chris, crushing a new(??) problem on the Sunny and Steep boulder.  My GF Chris (V.5/6, FA me! maybe...)
Molly on the tricky press top out.
Gino trying My GF Chris on for size.
Gino having fun in the sun!
A weekend trip like this one feels like a high that is very hard to come down from.  Now that I’m at work and most of my raw tips have started to heal the trip already feels so distant, the memories vibrant and important but fading.  I understand why people go on the road and live out of their vans and dirt bag it in order to feel this high all the time.  Its living truly and presently, surrounded by beauty and challenge, friendship, love, danger, the unknown, nature and technology.  A combination of the man-made and the natural world that makes us feel strong and comfortable yet vulnerable and ambivalent.  At the end of the trip we stood on top of this little dome overlooking Barney’s Rubble; large black and grey boulders strewn haphazardly about the granite tableau like a child’s building blocks.  The setting sun just starting to make its way to the ridgeline, kissing our already slightly burned cheeks.  I sat on a particularly large block and looked down at the valley already ensconced in shadow, at the river stampeding its way over the white polished boulders that made up the stumbling riverbed, at the snowfields clinging to the crotches of north facing scree fields in the crotches of sheer granite towers, and at the faded twisting road that would eventually carry us home.  I thought about the laughter, and the picnic table cooked meals, about our sad little fire made of scrounged wood filled with sap and dying life, the blanket of stars that covered us at night and made me feel so small, about the success I had had and she had had, about how the feeling of sun burned shoulders, dry skin, and raw finger tips makes me feel so alive.  Of course I wasn’t ready to go home, but the thought of returning was worth the demise of that feeling of freedom these boulders in this canyon had made me feel once again. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Drinking the Koolaid


Zi on the first crux of Technorigine (5.12c)
I was lucky to spend yet another fantastic weekend at my favorite local crag World Wall 1.  These kind of weekends just don’t get old no matter how many times we end up in the same positions, playing on the same routes, or making the same dumb jokes and drinking the same overpriced IPA’s.  This shit is life, it’s beautiful, it’s imperfect and hilarious, frustrating and ego-destroying, painful, joyful, introspective and spacey.  It doesn’t really matter how many people are on the ledge or how long I have to wait to try a burn on my project, as long as I’m surrounded by friends who encourage me, make fun of me, promote me, and inspire me, it all feels like a family reunion at the end of the day.
I was having a hard time getting the motor started on Saturday; it probably had something to do with being endlessly frustrated with how many people consistently decide to hike this shitty little trail each and every weekend.  In turn it leaves me circling, like a shark, the upper and lower lots praying to Shiva, Buddha, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Allah, Osiris, Jesus and anyone else who would listen, to get a fucking parking spot before my patience imploded and I was left in smoldering black circle on the side of the road. 
And that wasn’t the end of it either.  The walk up to the crag (sans headphones and music) was blisteringly aggravating as well.  The smell of dog shit wafting up from the sun baked ground, fat day hikers waving trekking poles about as if they were conducting traffic on a busy New York intersection, gobs of giggling teens immersed in the flashing lights of their tiny digital screens held aloft by weak wrists and an even weaker interest in their surroundings, snot gobblins strapped to the backs of sweaty overweight moms shoveling processed sugar at their ankle biting spawn with a look of exhaustion and sexual depravation so intense as to shrivel the girth of a hefty Virginia peach freshly plucked from the tree, and hordes and hordes of gawkers and bystanders and pseudo outdoor enthusiast in new lycra and enough synthetic material to make a new ‘breathable’ yet insulating toga for the Statue of Liberty.  Do these people not know about other trails?  Every weekend they descend upon my little paradise in numbers so great you would think they were giving away bags of money at the summit.  I don’t get it!! 
Warming up in my new shoes.  First pair of Miura's, they are pretty damn awesome.
I turned my anger into laziness once at the wall and sat around like a cat that just got out of rehab and was plotting their next move in order to properly re-pay its owners malfeasance.  That is to say, I was tired and not exactly motivated. 
When it all turned around for me was when I one hung Pornstar for the first time this season climbing into the brick sloper and incut crimp on link.  I hung briefly and then fired the crux and it didn’t feel that impossible anymore.  I know one hangs can be misleading but honestly, I know I can do this route now.  I don’t when exactly, but I know it will go and I know it will go this season.  It may take me all summer, hell it may take me well into Fall, but I know it will go and THAT, my friends, is one of the best feelings EVER.  I came down from that particularly good burn and was able to breathe in the feeling of renewed psyche once more.  I have my goal, it’s clear, I know what I need to do in order to reach it and that feeling of intense focus, of clarity and direction, well, it’s extremely freeing.  But I also don’t anticipate every session to be so ground breaking.  I know there will be ups and downs to follow, but I also plan on mixing it up this season.  I don’t intend on beating my head on the same route over and over until I develop some weird Freudian complex and end up fleeing to Tibet to become a monk in the face of failure. 
Sunday morning was like this weird yet amazingly light hearted gift.  As I sat on the deck overlooking not just my back yard but four others backyards as well, the sky framed by several towering pine, cherry, and London plane trees; I was ensconced by what could only be described as my own personal urban aviary.  Black capped chickadees sung and hopped from branch to branch, red breasted finches sat on baking roof tops and pondered their next meal, Rufus hummingbirds whizzed by and stopped in midair before sipping the nectar of the nearby blossoming cherry tree, and all manner of junco’s, house finches, and robins squawked and chirped with social delight as they plopped about the branches of the arboristic amphitheater plucking off fresh blossoms and chasing each other about the matrix of twisted branches and open air. 
I could do nothing but relax and observe, and this was EXACTLY how I wanted to spend my morning. 
Paul coming close on Psychosomatic (5.12d)
I got the itch around noon and scooped a good friend of mine up.  We headed to the World Wall with sore tips and muscles but it turned into one of the best sessions I’ve had out there.  Nothing cataclysmically mind-altering happened in terms of sends, but I was able to tap into that special place climbing takes me at times and hang from jugs effortlessly and gaze out over the valley that eventually spills out onto the I-90 corridor lousy with dark green conifers and lime green deciduous spring buds. 
I made another highpoint on Pornstar and somewhat of a breakthrough being able to actually shake out on the brick and the incut before launching into the last crux.  I fell two moves in but pulled back on and clipped chains again.  I think I’m in line for doing this routine quite a bit before anymore ‘progress’ can be made, but it’s a victory nonetheless.  I also cleaned up yet another ‘extension’ in the form of adding 50 feet of climbing on top of the original Californication by doing the Extendorigine extension.  I had actually been trying this line for the last few weeks giving it random warm down burns here and there and agonizingly falling just feet below the anchors.  This time I sacked up and burled through to the top which felt quite good.  It’s a weak FA, but still, it’s kind of a cool line.  Like everything at Little si, it grew on me in the end.  If the rock was slightly better it could be quite a good marathon route.  I have to give a shout out to E for the 45 minute belay.  As a thank you I gave her back to back belays on Californicator, she did it two times in a row without resting, I think her endurance is pretty good (wink wink). 
Now I’m going to take a small hiatus from the Wall to go and try my hand at bouldering.  As soon as I wrote that, horrible images of me falling off an easy top out and breaking my leg in three places flashed through my mind.  Yikes.  Wish me luck.   



Friday, April 1, 2016

Positive Feedback

This is it, I thought.  I’m right beneath the chains.  I had to find a way to calm down and ensure I didn’t over-grip or not grip hard enough.  My heart rate rose and then fell again.  I had that weird surge of energy accompanied by that sinking feeling in my gut that attaches itself to failure.  I couldn’t keep hand matching on this small block and resting, it was literally two more moves to a giant bucket and the chains.  Okay, here we go.  I moved up right hand sinking into a incut side pull.  I walked my feet up on polished smears and found the small left foot jib I stand on to make the powerful move to the glory jug.  I caught myself with a right hand crimp, and stood up easily grabbing the sharp jagged jug and with it the first victory of the season.

    Somewhat anticlimactic, glorious nonetheless, and totally motivating. 

I found myself, after a somewhat poor week of training, feeling quite good on Saturday afternoon.  Arriving at the crag with two of my favorite people in the world.  Sunshine illuminating the sky and reflecting off the bright white surface of the rhino stone.  The wall was actually seeping way more than I would have thought.  After a dry week the ledge was wet and my hopes of getting on Pornstar were somewhat dashed.  It didn’t matter, when my options are limited it’s kind of nice because it gives me a chance to really focus and not feel so scattered.  I warmed up on Softliner and felt pretty strong.  I didn’t exactly have the energy I was looking for but my power was there.  Thank you weighted pull ups and circuit boarding!!  It’s also nice to climb in a tripod.  It gives me a chance to really rest between sets and give myself enough movement in between to recover efficiently.  Something like 45 minutes passed and I wasn’t sure if I was ready or not, I nearly hopped on Techno for a secondary warm up but then thought, what the hell, this could be my secondary warm up, get the jitters out.  I absolutely flew up the route, I felt a rush of energy and power and felt unstoppable.  I got to the type writer and decided not to hang out very long, took a couple shakes, and kept it moving.  I was surprised that this strategy worked.  I launched into the last sequence and was feeling relaxed and most importantly focused.  Goddamn that feeling is addictive.  I’m sure I felt so good (despite my poor performance in the gym that week and feeling super tired all week as well) due to the fact that I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in five days and had also been dieting.  I made it to the last few spots you can rest before you have to do a four move boulder problem on small crimps and bad feet.  I crossed into a large undercut mouth and grabbed a brick shaped undercling with my right hand.  I clipped and then placed my left hand back in the mouth shaped undercut but I felt something soft and furry and all of a sudden a hissing noise came from the hold!  I ripped my hand away immediately and came off the route feeling a little stunned and angry (I was stunned at first, and then incredibly angry).  I shouted obscenities and kicked the wall.  I knew what had happened, there was a small bat tucked up into the corner of the undercling I use to shake out before the red point crux.  I was pissed because that was a legitimate attempt and a possible window to send and I didn’t even really give myself a chance.  I lowered and thought to myself, fuck, what do I do?  I can’t get back on it knowing there is a rabies-riddled bat on one of the holds? Luckily m friend Zi went up Chronic and on his way down he did me a total solid, he whipped his brush out and finagled the bat out of its resting place.  We watched in semi-frozen horror as the bat helicoptered down to the ground, one wing extended the other tucked into its body.  It did a that weird kind of half helicopter motion that Maple leaf seeds do when you throw them in the air.  It was insane, and just as quickly as my hopes had been dashed, they were suddenly re-built again.  Waterfalls kept saying ‘If that bat flys out and gives Zi rabies you better send or you have to pay Zi’s medical bills.”  Well, thank god no one was hurt, except maybe the bat?  (Turns out the bat was just fine). 

I drank a beer and thought about the outcome.  Could I tap back into that focused mind state?  I wasn’t sure.  But I was only two pitches deep, and the one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is the fact that I always climb better on my third pitch.  So, the waiting game ensued.  At this point I didn’t really expect to send, I just kind of expected what has always happened would happen again, and I kept saying to myself, ‘it’s not going anywhere, you’ve got plenty of time to do this, just climb fast and give yourself another shot.’  Well, I’m not sure if it was the mental coaching, the training, or having all of my good luck charms on the ledge that day, but I finally managed to climb Extended Illness on Saturday March 26th, 2016.  It felt so effortless, I felt so light and strong, and when it came down to it I climbed it the way I like climbing hard projects, efficiently and in control and in good style.  Linking through a piece of climbing I’ve never linked through before is akin to a kind of strange magic that is better left to the realm of the unexplainable. 

Just the other day I made my first ‘after work’ expedition to the crag.  It was truly the first good weather day we have had since summer ended, the sun was blazing, we got out of the car in the parking lot and were hit by a heat wave radiating off of the pavement.  I couldn’t believe I was packing my puffy and long pants up with me, but I also knew it could be a good decision.  Out of the sun and into the dimly lit shady grove at the base of the wall.  The puffy and long pants came in handy.  I was bubbly and somewhat tired but ready to try and climb hard anyway.  The wall was actually pretty wet surprisingly.  There were literally pools of water on some of the flat buckets on Psychowussy and wet streaks lined the wall seeping from the various cracks and crevices.  I was stunned to say the least, we had just had three days of sun and yet the wall was leaving little to be desired.  I tried Pornstar but it was hard to take it seriously with one crucial hold sopping wet and a few others leaking.  I did manage to decide on some new beta at the top but the last move (the roll into the pocket will remain the ultimate crux, especially in manky conditions.  I know what I need to do to succeed on this route so I’m psyched to plunge into yet another Little si epic.  The day however, belongs to my good friend and training partner Zi.  The entire way up the trail to the wall he lamented the fact that he didn’t think his current project Californication would ever go.  It was obvious he respected the route and I tried to be encouraging amidst his doubts, it’s obvious to me that he is strong enough to climb the route but it’s a lot harder to convince somebody else they are.  After a his first time ever warming up on Technorigine he decided to go for it.  He yelled through the traverse to the type writer, sailed through the Californicator crux and rested on a very wet jug, before making it to the abo chains.  He rested quite a bit, then fired the techno crux, fired the move to the mail slot and it was apparent to me that if he just kept his shit together he would have the send.  Moving upwards to the last clip his foot popped off unexpectedly but he held the swing and shook out just beneath the chains making sure he had enough for the last few moves.  He shot upwards and with one final highstep he up and over and clipping the chains.  Very cool to be there to see him send his hardest route to date and also really awesome to watch him go from nervous and apprehensive to sending in one fell swoop.  Zi totally deserved this send.  As his training partner for the last six weeks or so I know how much time he has put into getting stronger and preparing for long power endurance routes but there was also never a point in which he acted like the route was beneath him, he showed a lot of respect to this project and I think that makes the send even more special.  It was really entertaining to watch him climb, there were moments when I was sure that he was done and coming off but he always reeled in the next crimp, made it to the next rest, and kept moving upwards.  It’s going to be (and already has been) great to see him progress this season, I’m looking forward to more after work sessions. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beat Down

      Peeps in Spain, a couple in the Red, everyone seems to be on climbing trips or planning them.  I have nothing in the works and it feels quite depressing.  It’s also depressing to feel the sting of age on the second day of climbing in the form of pumped forearms and achy joints.  My mind was into it, my body was not.  Climbing up to the same underclings, facing the same boulder problem, and feeling the SAME pump was so discouraging.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m just sick of doing the same moves, sick of the same kind of prolonged failure, and sick of projects taking so long to get done.  I’m just sick of it all. 

      But, and this is a big but, I’m also encouraged by the fact that I’ve been here before and I realize this type of heavy discomfort-of feeling like climbing is sitting on my chest and weighing me down instead of freeing me-is normal and that it doesn’t last.  I had a pretty stellar weekend of failing.  Of course it’s hard to see the small successes amongst the huge amount of unmet expectation, but it doesn’t mean the successes aren’t there.  I tried my latest project three times this weekend over the course of two days.  Day one was some kind of gift from the perfect weather climbing gods.  It was breezey, sunny, cold (but not too cold), and dry (we’re talking not a hint of moisture or humidity ANYwhere).  I had had a good week in the gym accomplishing some short term goals and felt rested and ready to climb and it showed.  Halfway through my warm up I felt as if I wasn’t even having to try in order to hold on at all.  It was pure magic.  Floating.  It’s the kind of strength that facilitates awareness of your surroundings, you can start to pay attention to the way the rock feels or how blinding the sun’s reflection on the white stone is, or just how beautiful everything can be when the breeze kicks through and the draws start to sway and the sound of the wind in the trees makes you close your eyes and listen, really listen to the noises of the outside world.  In short, I felt very good and somewhat hopeful that today I could get some projects done. 

I lowered down from Softliner and rested for a good half hour.  I was ready.  The first 2/3’s of the route felt down right enjoyable.  I started to clench up a bit near the undercling rest but shooed away any feeling of apprehension.  I think I was a little too relaxed.  I engaged in the crux and I was able to even shake a little on one of the intermediates.  This is it for sure I thought, but that last bump move to a small crimp had my number and I fell at the same spot yet again.  That fragile meditative state shattered, it was hard to believe I could get back to that spot with that kind of strength and relaxed stature.  But I rested again for nearly 40 minutes and felt ready, again. 

     This time I would force myself to try hard, I lurched upwards at that small crimp and latched it, I growled to stay on and tried to turn my open hand to a crimp but my fingers refused to hold it.  I fell again.  I pulled back up to that spot and finished the route, another one hang.  I’m getting so good at one hanging this route that I just know it’s a matter of time, but I’m tired of it taking so long.  I’ve put in exactly 9 attempts on this route just this year, with an added 15+ from last year.  I’ve definitely put in more attempts on other projects but not on something that has felt so obtainable.  It’s a total mind fuck to feel strong enough to do something but not able to prove it.  I’m committed to this route.  Failure won’t sway me, jealousy won’t either, and in the end I’ll have it so dialed it will be like a secondary warm up.  It has been a while since I really buckled down and started trying something with intention and focus.  It feels good to know that this is my mission, it feels good to know that I’m pouring myself into a challenge and am motivated to complete it.

     The second day on I felt tired but my mind refused to let me  spend the day indoors watching the rain clouds pass, so I geared up again and made it out to the wall.  The weather was perfect again.  It was brutal to be out in such good conditions and know that my body was just not able to match my minds enthusiasm.  I was tired and I felt it while I climbed.  A little less sure of my feet, a little more tense on those good crimps, way more pumped at the top.  It was going to be a difficult day indeed.  I switched priorities and tried to do a 42m long pitch that I had had in my back pocket for a while.  I spent a good 30mins on the wall and fell two moves shy of the chains.  I haven’t been that scared and pumped in a while.  It was a weird feeling.  I felt the slab rush up at me and disappointment and anger started to flood in.  What was going wrong?  Where was that calm confidence, empowering me and filling me with that swagger that propels you to the chains?

I wanted to be in Spain, surrounded by sun and friends and new rock, new sights, new smells, new food, new nights of laughter and freedom.  Building my life brick by unbridled brick.  I wanted to be in the Red hugged by overhanging sandstone, watching climbers disappear into the abyss, psyched to climb forever upwards on massive jugs and free fall into pumped oblivion. 

I wanted to be anywhere but here. 

It’s not fair I kept telling myself.  But it’s not about fair.  It’s about choices. 

I don’t want to lament about my situation.  It’s not really a ‘situation’ anyway.  I’m just frustrated.  And I’m also not celebrating the good things in my life and in climbing.  I spent all weekend outside in perfect conditions climbing and falling on 5.13+ routes!  I even clipped chains with a couple hangs on a 5.13d with the obligatory one hang of my current 5.13c project.  I can’t really be unhappy about that, a year ago that kind of progress on these routes would have been unimaginable.  I guess the frustration stems from how much time I spend training to how little I feel it has impacted my actual progress, to feeling chained to my job, to just down right wanting to travel and explore more.  The monotony of routine has downsized my motivation but has not yet killed it.
I definitely feel stronger this season; I just haven’t had that breakthrough send to validate all the indoor effort yet.  I’m also very eager to get out and really immerse myself in new places. 
I’ve been looking into going back to Spokane for a couple of weekends, I also want to head to Newhalem, my first time there 6 years ago was ultimately my last so I have a ton of climbs to try there.  I recently purchased the Squamish Selects guide book as well and holy shit there is a ton of sport climbing I never even knew about in and around Squamish.  It’s all very exciting.  Climbing has a way of opening up if you want it to.  There is so much rock here in the PACNW that it’s kind of foolish to think that you have to buy a plane ticket in order to get on new routes and great rock.  My fingers are feeling strong and are injury free, my shoulder is even starting to feel better.  There is just so much right now to be happy about and thankful for that it does seem quite childish to waste time perseverating on the shame I feel when I can’t climb like someone else. 

In other news, Sean Bailey won SCS nationals!  Like a true boss Sean just 'floated' up the routes.  Truly magnificent to watch, he looked calm and strong the entire comp.  Props to both Sean and Drew Ruana for representing the PACNW proudly and placing 1st and 5th respectively.  Those two are silently (maybe not so silently) leading the way for the future of American sport climbing. 


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Brave New World

After coming agonizingly close to sending my current project at Little si it looked as if I wouldn’t get another chance for months!  The little cartoon clouds and rain had moved in on my favorite weather forecasting site and taken over.  It seemed as if we were doomed to live in a perpetual state of saturation.  I threw my arms up in disgust and gave myself over to the idea of maybe taking some rest and then getting back into the gym and training some more.  But I couldn’t let this near success elude me.  After an extremely nice day this past Saturday I put my feelers out and found some partners AND was lucky enough to witness a little history taking place.

My good friend Erich Sachs tuned me into his plan to bolt the ‘king line’ at Little si, and a long with the help of the climbing Phenom Drew Ruana, he was going to see his creation come to life.  Justin and I arrived at World Wall this past Sunday amidst sun and occasional squalls.  Drew was just entering the new part of the climb and marking spots for bolts.  Shortly after he came down from doing all of the new links of this massive new line, Erich went up and sunk some bolts in to stitch together what is ostensibly a master piece and creating the hardest route in Washington. 

The new line!
The line starts on The Whore of Babylon; you do the heinous V.10 boulder of that line BUT instead of going straight up into the start of porn star, you add four movements shooting out left onto some bullet stone to a small rest on incut crimps and then blast straight up into the middle section of Pornstar avoiding the giant jug out right.  You climb the sustained part of Pornstar and into the last boulder on that route but instead of crossing through to the pocket you head just slightly left and link into the crux on Flatliner and then finish on Lost Horizons.  It is easily the most sustained route on the wall and the hardest bolted line in Washington as of this post.   It essentially links the hardest climbing of the Whore of Babylon with Pornstar, Flatliner and then finishes on Lost Horizons.  Now, the tragedy here is that you could traverse in a couple of spots to gain rests, but really, it wouldn’t change the grade that much.  The true challenge is not succumbing to weakness and trying to link this power endurance test piece as it is.  There aren’t any boulders on the line that exceed V.10/11, but it’s basically stacked, the grade run down goes like this: V.10/11 to a mild rest, then sustained 5.13+ climbing to a V.6/7 boulder problem on heinously sharp and small crimps to join the V.6 boulder crux of Flatliner and then right into the V.9 boulder on Lost Horizons.  It’s a bouldering marathon and just pumps you stupid.   It’s unique because like all of the other hard routes on the wall it has no rests (as long as you don’t traverse cheat) and is basically just a long patch work of linking boulder problems. 

Drew cruising the boulder on the Whore of Babylon, with wet holds, sheesh. 
It is quite the stunning line when seen from above.  The fact that it adds new movement to old lines and throws in some of its own unclimbed territory makes it refreshing and new.  It also opens up several new link ups, like linking Psycho into Pornstar and it gives you a new twist on New World Order.  By adding four bolts Erich essentially opened up 20 new variations and link ups. 

Drew sets up for a mega-drive-by to a good incut crimp.  One of the only moves that was giving him trouble on the new link.  SUCH a rad move, adding length and difficulty to the Whore boulder.

Drew clipping the first bolt on the new link.  This basically signifies the first 'rest' after completing the new and improved Whore crux (V.10/11). 

I was so excited to see Drew making quick work on this rig.  He did all of the moves of the new sections and now it’s just a matter of time.  I know where I will be once the wall dries though, I want front row seats to when he starts giving it send burns because it’s going to be a ‘palm sweating’ good time!! 
Some of the suggested names for the new line are: 'War of the Worlds', 'Brave New World', 'Boy Meets World', 'The Trango Tango' etc.  Feel free to leave a suggestion.