Friday, June 17, 2016

the way we are

Another rainy day at the wall of worlds.

Hold that swing.

Paul reaching on Californicator.

Mmmmmm, moist.

Selfie with Nook.  He looks so bummed.

Billis on Clearcut.

Waking up. Ready to head to the crag.

Green shirt on Green Mchinist.

Hou figuring how to do this.

 

When green shirts collide.

Thought I would just chuff around on this thing for a while.

Fight Club, we probably shouldn't talk about it.

You don't need to be rich to enjoy a beautiful view.

Perfection.

A little evening fire accompanied by a good dinner and friends.

It's a standoff.

No reason you can't pose and rest at the same time.

Heinous looking Yellowjacket nest on the wall.

The girl loves drop knees, Goris on Fight Club.

Doug on Groovin' in the Woods.

Kev reaches for the jug on Baby on Board.

Setting up for the compression crux.

Billis has to get psyched.

 

Cruising up some random 5.12a.

The send!

Nook is ready to leave, he wouldn't stop talking about the mall.
 
The struggle continues.  We plunged through muddy trails, sat through down pours, waited out sweaty walls and long ques, swatted at mosquitoes, and jugged back up to our high points.  It was a difficult road to intrinsic pleasure but we walked it all the way to its logical conclusion, which, in the end, was just another road offering even more chances at enlightenment. 
The past few weeks have been filled with failure and breakthroughs.  Anger and joy.  Good friends and realizations.  Shredded skin and egos.  After an incredibly daunting and moist/drenched weekend at the ole World Wall, making staggering progress on Pornstar only to come back well rested and ready to dispatch and finding it in a total siege of water, we headed to Equinox.  The first weekend was nothing short of just absolutely frustrating.  Wet holds, slimy walls, long waits, and unbearable heat.  The second weekend was absolutely perfect and complete redemption for the weekend before.  Dry wall, cold rock, no lines, it was wide open for sending.  I thought I would put Fight Club down easily after discovering new beta at the top crux but it was not to be. Instead I got to watch my friend Kevin walk up it like a warm up.  I guess one month of not eating and shivering under a blanket increases your ability to crush power endurance 5.13+’s by tenfold.  I was psyched but it still wasn’t enough, my high point was falling at the very last move on the very last burn of the trip.  Now I have to wait for the 4th of July weekend to see if I can grapple my way to the top and hopefully the weather doesn’t bone me on this one. 
I’ve had so many opportunities and so many good weather windows to complete my projects this season it’s agonizing every time I have to leave the crag empty handed.  And I can’t help wondering when these windows are going to slam shut.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Reflecting Pool


It’s morning.  I sit down into my swivel chair, tilt to one side and wait for my computer to warm up.  A picture of a dead girl pops up on my screen.  Young, vibrant.  She sits cross legged in an office chair wearing netted stockings and a short metallic blue and black dress.  Black pumps.  Her hair parted, blonde, shimmering, falling down around her shoulders.  The background is uninspiring, an office setting with striped dull carpeting and off-white file cabinets with corners so pointy they appear to be piercing time and space.  She wears a smile that says ‘I’ve learned how to smile for pictures like this one ever since I was two years old’.  One eye is squinted and the other open, staring right into the camera lens.  Her hands clasped across her lap, a silver pendant hanging statically from her neck it’ silvery brightness in sharp contrast with the front of her blue-black dress.  She looks young, and happy in an uncomfortable way.  She appears to be at a cross roads; one path says tradition, conformity, expectation, the burdensome pressure of religion stripping her of all personality and uniqueness.  The other path, unknown, exotic, enticing, dangerous.  But nothing was more dangerous than the decision she made to get into that car.  I’m sure it happened quickly.  It must have been one hell of a hit to take her life.  But then again I don’t know the details, I don’t know car accident statistics, and I didn’t really know her.  Although the sound of her bubbly voice on the other end of the telephone causes me to become quite emotional.  The sadness and fear associated with death crawls into the already cramped space in my head and I sit on a pile of overwhelming sadness for a fleeting  minute.  My emotions are all co-opted though, and mingle with real emotions, and the thought of it all being over before I least expect it grips me. 

What do you see when you look at me?  Do you see yourself?  The worst things about yourself?  Do you want to tell me how badly you hate the things you see in yourself in me, and push me away?  Run away?  Where do your priorities lie and why do you have them?  What are we doing this for?

My expectation: a balloon.  Excitement: the air I pump into that balloon.  Disappointment: the shriveled limp body of that balloon falling to the ground after it was popped by too much excitement turned to disappointment by reality.

 The wall was a sweaty mess.  Moisture clung to all good surfaces turning the existing chalk to sludge and already slick footholds to impossibly frictionless.  The lines were long and people kept coming.  My irritation grew to an unbearable weight and I finally had to face myself.  I wanted to be mad at everyone there, I wanted to be mad at the wall, at the conditions, the sun, the heat.  But it didn’t matter how mad I got, it would change nothing.  It didn’t matter how annoyed I was with the person struggling on the only route at the wall that was dry that I wanted to do, it wasn’t going to get him up the route and out of MY way anymore quickly.  So I thought to myself ‘is my climbing any more important than someone else’s’?’.  The answer as obvious as the heat baking the top of the wall.  I had two choices: be an asshole, an angry idiotic asshole, complain, be obviously upset, make people uncomfortable; or, relax, accept, and choose to be kind and helpful.  Extend yourself to others in a time when choosing to be angry and obtuse is so easy.  The real crux is choosing to be positive and caring at times like these.  What is my relationship to climbing and the people within that community?  It is all at once teacher and student. 

I’m wearing bracelets of bug bites, my skin is red and swollen, and I feel like I’ve done a lifetime of crimping.  These are all signs that point to a weekend spent at Equinox.  With a predicted weekend heat wave we retreated to a small oasis in the hillsides that watch over Mt. Vernon.  The cold air from the cavernous spaces created by large boulders leaning against this one fractured dome in the middle of nowhere escaped into the atmosphere and fueled our anticipation of good climbing temps.   It also transformed the bottom 30ft of almost every route into a horribly slimy mess.  It gave me an opportunity to work on many things, but for one I had a chance to try a few routes I had never given any thought about.  Climbing into the abyss was so much fun.  Onsight climbing can be incredibly frustrating or rewarding or both.  It’s a style of climbing that intimidates me because of the built in pressure of having just one opportunity to get everything right (or wrong).  It is the supreme test of your skills and gives you such a good perspective on the picture of climbing as a whole.  I love it.  Turning to the now dry’ish project I dove in head first (I actually did hit my head against the wall at one point, I’m not sure if this is because I was looking at my feet too much or if I don’t have hair??).  I love hard climbing.  Having to keep reserves of power and stay focused mentally through several trying sections on a route is the crescendo of why we train so hard.   And when it all comes together it creates such a stunning moment in time.  I was not lucky enough to have one of these moments this past weekend but I did get really psyched on a new project and at one point I thought I was actually going to do it.  I thrutched a little too hard at one point and lost all composure from the bottom half of the route I had strived to maintain.  I grabbed a greasy rail and tried strenuously to keep my core tight.  I watched in desperation as my foot ripped off a hold and I kept my body tight for a couple of seconds as I tried to get back on the wall but I failed and fell into the darkness.  It was a good tantrum.  I was pretty jacked up from waiting to get on this thing and at the beginning I thought ‘Hell, I’ll just put this rig down right now!’, but in retrospect I wasn’t really that close.  When you don’t have at least a small amount of respect for the route you’re climbing, this tends to be the outcome.  I’m looking forward to coming back and sending this route in good style and with respect.  It truly is one of the most fun hard climbs I’ve tried, maybe ever? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

From Crawling to Walking to Running to Climbing



Progress is a funny thing.  It can seem so transparent, so clear and abundant and comfortable.  But when you feel this way it’s actually not progress that you’re feeling, it’s the outcomes of progress.  Actual progress is embodies in those times when you’re emotionally overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, depressed, or even angry.  Progress presents itself when you least expect it, and most of the time when you don’t really want it.  Progress is monotonous and unrelenting; it’s constantly poking at you, prodding you to do one more rep, or shaming you into not eating that last slice of wedding cake.  Progress is the determination to hold on even though your fingers are unfurling before your eyes; progress is the feeling that you should have done one more burn as you’re packing up your rope.  The outcomes of progress on the other hand, well, they can be seeped in anxiety and self-doubt.  They can be fidgety and unsure.  They can also be weightless, carefree, exhilarating, joyous. 

I’ve just returned back to work from a beautiful and inspiring weekend of sport climbing.  The weather was flip flopped (Saturday high of 81 and clear as a bell, Sunday high of 64 and cloudy) so I conjured up a plan that would cater to both weather patterns.  Saturday Ruth and I headed up to Bob’s Area, a small cluster of crags found near the top of Mt. Washington at Exit 38.  I have a slightly involved past with this crag and you can read about it in this post here crawling.  Roughly 6/7 years ago I fell in love with a route (or rather the idea of climbing a route) that had the magical grade of 5.13a.  At the time I had never climbed a route graded 5.13a and it seemed like a big deal to me as well as my peers.  It represented strength and skill and some magnitude of ability that I whole heartedly believed would lead me to gain the respect of said peers and procure for me…what exactly I’m not sure.  All I can say is I wanted climb 5.13a so I could impress other people.  It was as clear as that.  And maybe that’s exactly why I got smacked down so hard by this route so long ago; when you climb for the wrong reasons it’s easy to find yourself face to face with an oncoming wall of failure. 

Returning to this sub-alpine sport climbing mini-paradise was pretty damn awesome.  It was such a nice break from the well-traveled trail to World Wall and it also has some nice views (although marred by clear cut scars and an unaesthetically pleasing quarry) if you can look past all of that and take in the rise and fall of the wandering ridgelines of neighboring mountains, breathe in the refreshing taste of clean air, and just enjoy standing on the precipice of a rocky outcropping as you gaze over the I-90 corridor, you’re in good shape. 

My intentions were pretty transparent, I wanted to get back on Crawling from the Wreckage with my newly acquired skill and strength and see if the tables had turned.  For Ruth, I just wanted to get her on some new rock, new routes, and test her onsight ability.  Bob’s area is really perfect for this because the routes are somewhat cryptic and technical, and there is hardly a trace of chalk on any of the holds.  For the 5.10+ to 5.11b/c climber, Bob’s is a perfect testing ground of this skill.  Not to mention, for a sport crag, the setting is remote and it can really allow you to feel engaged with the climbing in an somewhat adventurous way.  There are a variety of small crags scattered about this small area and the main wall we climbed at see’s shade all day and I knew it was going to be a perfect get away on a hot day. 

As we approached the wall and I got a glimpse of Crawling I got really excited and then really nervous at the same time (progress!).  Staring up at the route I could remember the moves but the holds from the ground looked all wrong and I couldn’t really make out my old sequence anymore.  We warmed up which involved some scary slab climbing at the top of a 5.10c covered in moss, and I actually had to take on a 5.11b because I could absolutely not find any holds (they were there, they just blended into the rock so effortlessly I had to pretend I was looking at a magic eye poster in order for the holds to reveal themselves).  I rapped down Crawling to hang draws and re-acquaint myself with the old girl and got even more excited as I felt the holds.  I laced up my boots and gave it a day-flash go.  Fuck, I was so nervous; I wanted to do it instantly and on my first try to prove (what? I’m not sure) that I was above this little 50foot run up.  I actually stuck the first crux and it felt kind of hard, but I pulled through the next few lock-offs and made it to a small rest, then launched into the next crux sequence and linked to the exact hold that I kept falling off of so many years ago.  “I’ve got this” I said to myself, but wait, is my hand slipping?  Shit!  I grabbed the draw.  Oh no!  I’m right back where I was.  The shame, the self-doubt, the feelings of inadequacy all came rushing back in as if someone had just opened the floodgates on the dam housing my insecurities.  I took some time to really figure out what was going on and it all came down to body positioning.  My feet were too high (historically and just now) and once I dropped them and centered my weight under my right arm (which was latched onto a sloping shelf) the clipping stance felt easy. The top crux is pretty sweet, two small crimps and some very interesting pinches with a stand up finish to one of the most bizarre and interesting sloping jug huecos.  I re-hashed the beta, brushed some holds, and then it was time to rest and get psyched. 

We hiked up to the upper crags so I could show Ruth some of the classics of the area like the stemming corner ‘Green Buddha’,  the perfect slab climb ‘Stemming Out Beyond the Grey’, and the powerful and unique face and arête climb ‘Aperture Ecstasy in a Nocturne Divine’.  All 5.11a/b and all worth the hike and the time, most developed and bolted by Leland Windham back in the late 90’s.  All these routes are all so good and pay homage to the dedication and love the climbers of that generation had for Washington climbing, good rock, and their sense of adventure.  We stared out over the Snoqualmie valley, the sun igniting the low lying clouds on the horizon into a wispy tangerine of ethereal cotton candy.  The haze from the city added to its presence, Mt. Si lorded over the smaller Little si and it was funny to me how small World Wall looked from where we stood.  A breeze whipped around us and the bizarre sub alpine furs stood still amidst the abundant salal and fat black ants that busied themselves amongst the dry dead wood scattered everywhere. 

It’s hard to know when you are ready to send.  For me, I squeeze my forearms and if they are squishy and relaxed, I’m ready.  I also get anxious and want to just get it over with, the unsettling anticipation in my stomach goads me to take action and I can no longer wait for full recovery but want to embrace and harness that nervous energy and use it to crimp my way to the top.  This next go I drew upon all of the previous times in the last two years I had been faced with a situation like this one.  A route I wanted to climb, the doubt that maybe I wouldn’t finish it, the desire to have it under my belt, the fear of failing.  I’ve been here before, I thought.  Just climb and breathe and relax.  I fired the first crux (about V.4) nearly missing the slanted crimp crux hold, but regaining my composure.  I locked off on the next few holds (all good incuts) and made it to an incut crimp and a chunky side pull, I traded hands shaking each one out and thinking about the next sequence.  “Just get on with it!” I kept saying to myself, “You’ve done harder routes!”.  The thought of this made me hesitate, and shoo out one last time.  I was ready.  I cruised through the next sequence involving to slopey pinches and dead pointing to a slopey shelf.  I kept feet low, I felt secure and strong.  I made the clip and without hesitation cruised through the last bit of hard climbing with one last grunt to grab the weird hueco jug.  It was done.  I’ve sent harder and much more involved routes, but this was somehow much more meaningful.  This had been an absolute battle for me years and years ago; a battle I initially lost.  But now, to be back on it, to be back in this area, on a perfect Pacific Northwest day, clipping the chains on a rather beautiful piece of rock with some great movement; I really couldn’t be happier.  Redemption, learning, and overall progress.  Not only was I able to put it down quickly, but I was also able to enjoy the route more.  I really love it when things come full circle like they did on this day. 

Sunday was a perfect day for rock climbing.  The clouds moved in, the temps dropped, and the rock at World Wall was dry and cold.  Ruth and I had just come from an incredible breakfast in Seattle and even after the drive out and the hike up I felt kind of heavy.  She gave me the first lead so I went up my usual warm up, Softliner.  The rock was so sticky, everything felt effortless.  I got to the usual lowering place just beneath the start of the crux on Flatliner but instead of saying take I felt so good at this point that I thought why not just climb into Flatliner and fall at the crux?  So I shouted down to Ruth that I was probably going to fall soon and to keep an eye out.  I climbed up to the crimp pinch and felt even more solid, reached out to the gaston, rolled into it, grabbed the credit card with relative ease, and to my absolute surprise stuck the small three finger undercling, reached out to the pinch and then bumped to the juggy undercling.  Soon I was at the chains and lowering down from the hardest warm up of my life!  I was in shock, definitely confused, but overall excited and filled with confidence.  All of a sudden I felt like maybe this was going to be the day that Pornstar was going to fall!  (Turns out it wasn’t, but it was still a very good day)  The story turns to Ruth now who has been leading outside for a month.  Her hardest lead had been a 10c a week ago, and today she had 11b in her sights.  After a rough start on a cryptic slabby 10d and a bit of a break down and then breakthrough, she was ready.  A quick re-visit of the route, a rest, and then she made her way up to the crux.  A false start going to the crimp had her coming back down and then launching through her sequence and nailing it.  She got to the last crux and with zero hesitation snagged the last ledge beneath the chains and pulled up to the victory jug.  It was not an easy road to get here (progress), but she pushed through and enjoyed her hardest lead to date, Psychowussy (5.11b).  Amazing!  So proud of her and really excited to see her get on some of the other fabulous 5.11’s at World Wall.  I think I will point her in the direction of the Bad Guy next, a great crimpy face climb, get psyched Ruth!

The day spread on and out.  Drew Ruana (maybe in the top ten of American sport climbers??) showed up with visions of crushing the ever-loving piss out of hundreds of small crimps up a 125 foot tall piece of rock.  And he did not disappoint.  After a quick warm up he got on the Boy Meet’s World project.  We all watched with suspense as he approached ultimate (but not the only) crux of the route, the exiting sequence of the new whore of Babylon boulder.  A wild pogo that he figured out last weekend propelled him through this crux and all of a sudden things were looking good.  He crimped, flagged, locked off, grunted, lunged, stuck to tiny holds with some kind of demonic fervor, and soon he had done about 75% of the route (which he reported being 9a on its own!).  He got to the ‘red point crux’ an absolutely heinous drive by snatch to what can only be considered a ‘razor blade’.  Now, it’s one thing to see your friends or your buddies trying hard on a climb that you are projecting as well.  You get their try hard and you understand why it’s necessary. But when you see a climber of Drew’s caliber trying really fucking hard it’s not just awe inspiring and motivating it’s almost unfathomable to understand exactly how hard he is trying in order to stay on because he is literally doing something that you cannot conceive of doing, the impossible if you will.  I got to witness this as Drew loaded up and stuck this incredibly hard drive by cross over on razor blades.  His foot swung out wildly, his body barn doored and he let out a guttural yell from the depths of everything that propels us forward; desire, intensity, passion, anger, joy……LIFE!  To our as well as his amazement he stayed on, clinging to holds I have been on before and know are bad.  His task: daunting to say the least.  Just a mere 14 moves of V.10 to do before a 5.13 exit.  No big deal.  He tried to get into the last bit of climbing which starts on the flatliner cux but at this point, 90 feet of 5.14+ under his belt, it just wasn’t the right time.  He slumped out of the gaston and fell.  It was a proud link, we were all amazed and highly impressed. 

He wrapped up his day by making a very nice link and a wonderful contribution to the now 4 or 5 14a’s at the crag by making the FA of Chixalub which starts on Psychosomatic and then cuts just slightly right into the new bit of climbing on the Mega Proj and ends on Pornstar.  He said it felt to be 5.14a.  The first half is quite easy and the second half is sustained crimping in an overhang ending with the Pornstar crux and little rests.  It’s quite a nice line and a perfect route, well done Drew.   











 

 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Love&Worth

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.