Wednesday, July 27, 2016

No Flex Zone

 
 
What an amazing season it has been so far.  The temps have been outstanding, we have had more good weather windows for sending than I can count on both hands, psyche has been high, and even the rock has been mostly dry or dryish.  But, as with all long drawn out struggles, sometimes you have to admit defeat (temporarily) and wait for an even better time to strike.
Last week I took about 7 days off from climbing (which is a lie, I actually climbed one day out of seven but it was in horrible conditions, the first all season).  I ate a ton of good food, drank a pretty decent amount of delicious beer, and poured sugar down my throat in the form of ice cream, gelato, doughnuts, cookies, and those little 'fun' size milky ways.  Oh man, it was a regular fat guy pig out marathon.  I loved it.  I took some time off from climbing not due to an injury, or because of bad conditions, or emotional problems; what I needed was just a break from the routine.  Climbing is and will always be a grand adventure packed with every kind of emotion I always hope to experience for the rest of my life, it is for lack of a better word what I love to do.  Projecting within climbing is a different beast.  And I had found myself with my head in that beasts jaws too many times in the past months struggling to keep them from closing around my cranium.  Wake up - eat breakfast - drive to the crag - hike to the crag - warm up - project - project - project - hike to the car - drive home - repeat.  And during the weekdays it could be even more monotonous when you throw a highly rehearsed 8 hours of cornea shredding desk jockeying on top of training and watching what I eat.  Ugh.

 
So it came as no surprise when my psych hit the floor, then sunk through the floor in an oozing gelatinous translucent blob only to come to rest on the cold cement of the basement, festering and steaming.  In the middle of an intense projecting season you need something to keep you going and if you don't get that 'something' it's very easy to just fall off your horse midway through a call to arms.  It can be even more daunting, then, to feel at the top of your game and still not feel as though it's good enough.  So I didn't exactly take my ball and go home, instead I just heard the siren song of a different game and decided to follow the tune. 

 
After a nice little hiatus from training/projecting/climbing I found myself at the tail end of this pseudo vacation craving the movement of it all.  It filled my veins and my mind and I got that lovely itch again to get back into the gym and back on the rock.  There is really nothing better than feeling that renewed energy to get after it.  I'm spending the next five weeks trying to get realigned with some goals I set for the beginning of the season in hopes of executing those goals when Fall starts.  The temps are looking a little heinous this week but it doesn't matter.  I've still got some tricks up my sleeve and hopefully by training in a humid gym on highly chalked holds I will emerge from this sticky sweaty womb as a mutant ready to send something hard.
All photo credits belong to: https://www.instagram.com/tarakerzhner/
 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fantastic Frustrations

Tara reaching on her warm up of the super classy Clear-Cut.
 
It was nearing 9:30 in the morning as we slowly rounded another bend.  My face hurt from wearing the frustration and stress of the last 16 hours.  I wasn’t sure if this beat being at work (which is where I was SUPPosed to be) or if this was somehow more of a punishment.  The crunch of a gravel road freshly wet from an overnight rain was amplified by the fear previously instilled in me from the events that had just taken place yesterday evening.  There it was.  All of a sudden I could feel the anxiety and fear melt away and an ending to this story could finally ink the pages of my brain. 
When we met a paved road again I was ecstatic and couldn’t help but think about the overreactions, frustrations, anger, resentment, and unwanted feelings of insecurity and ego-based hang ups I had to experience in order to finally get to this point.  I learned a valuable lesson: always carry two spares in your car. 
Tara 'the Crane' Kerhzner.
 
The last few weeks I’ve felt a little like what a meth addict must feel like.  The constant pull to enjoy something fleeting yet tedious; eye opening yet horrendously overpowering; manic yet calm.  It’s always hard to pin  point that exact time when a project turns from something you look forward to doing and know you can do, into something truly daunting and insurmountable.  The mind can play tricks on you, and after a while you can start to feel like a dwarf in the depths of Mirkwood: 'Is there no end to this accursed forest?' said Thorin. 'Somebody must climb a tree and have a look round. The only way is to choose the tallest tree that overhangs the path.'  But even the tallest tree can prove difficult to climb if you don’t have the will to find a way up and out of the stagnation of your idle third eye. 

 

Feel the moss, LIVE the moss!
 
It has been extremely refreshing then to meet a couple of fresh faces and see what new motivation and unbridled confidence looks like (as a reminder).  Meeting the Kerhzner’s and managing to pervade their personal climbing space for the last few weeks has been truly a gift in the middle of what has turned out to be a somewhat stagnant and unsuccessful projecting period for me.  Greg and Tara go together like Gin and Tonic (which is why I believe they got married, so their bath towels can have G&T monogrammed on them).  Both light hearted world-traveled disciples of the millennial generation, they ooze an Alobar&Kudra-esque persona while managing to sample every classic at every crag they magically appear at.  In fact, the comparison of the two to the Tom Robbin’s characters is so startlingly apt that I’m prone to believe that I’ve been hanging out with a thousand year old couple originating from the loins of Bohemia and the trunk space of India.  If climbing is the new youthful approach to shirking death then these two will live forever.  But impressive feats of strength aside they have more to offer than sick sends of high numbers, like witty insights on climbing culture, Russian paradigms to help you transcend weakness, Juju, friendliness, IT support, a killer truck bed, and most of all you feel like your back in 7th grade again and that they just ‘get’ you. 

Is that a Rooftop Brewing tank top????
 
I’ve had a consistently comical time while getting to know them and all the dance marathons, logging road break-downs, manky hiking Tyrolean traverses, and deep-fried Oreos aside, hopefully they have had a good taste(deep-fried) of what the PNW has to unwillingly offer.  It is on that note that I wish them nothing but the best on their next chapter of wayward globetrotting.  Adieu mon ami’s!  I hope the gelato is plentiful, the rocks are soft, and the couches have removable seat cushions. 

Greg launching into the overhang before starting up Voodoo.


 

Kevin with some girls gone wild motivation.





 

Kevin on Baby on Board.





Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rainbow Magic

In the depths of this sweaty mess we call home lies a crag that is not to be unbroken by the will of simple men.  It’s fractured faces weave a tale of hummingbird orgies, mossy drippings heard by none, swamp donkey syndromes,  and creaking desires of the vertically inclined.  Come prepared for a feast which you cannot partake in, and observe the maddening drone of expanding wasp infrastructures.  The exploding silences are only undone by the will of creatures who have never ventured into the daylight.  If you are struggling, relax; if relaxed, then sleep, and if asleep then dream of the struggle!  Dream of the unclean horde descending upon your tidy day dream and goading you to engage!  ENGAGE!
 
Guido Princess onsights Black Magic (5.13a)
 



Tex repeats Artifact (5.12d)


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Americagasm

My good friend Steven came up for a visit and got a great taste of World Wall One by sending one of the best (if not THE best) 12d at the crag Californicator.

The 4th of July holiday does not hold a particularly special place in my heart by any means.  My memories of this day are centered around sticky summer encounters with popsicles followed by warm evenings set atop my grandfathers’ brown and tan Econoline replete with ladder on the back, small fridge and non(read: never) working sink, dusty velvet couch seats and noisy venetian blinds (my brother and I thought it was the coolest thing we had ever ridden in).  We would huddle on top of this beast with bags of popcorn and wait for the fireworks to start in the middle of a dry flat Texas field.  This is back when we lived in Texas and visits to our grandparents house in Amarillo were frequent staples of our 3 month long summer sojourn from school.  
We even got a visit from Waterfalls who showed up just to remind us that he's not fat and old.



Flash forward 20+ years and I find myself shaking out on an enormous jug halfway up my project, the disturbing traces of a recently detonated mortar reverberating off the tree clad slopes of the valley between Mt Si and Little Si.  It sounded like a war zone but the intensity of it all only added to the building climactic crescendos of either failure or success.  This time around success had to be measured in feet, and unfortunately the send still eluded me. 




I spent three days this past weekend working on my project that I had been apart from for over a month due to wet holds.  I kept telling myself that by the time the holds would be dry the weather would have turned to shit (meaning too warm to hold onto the texture-less side-pulls at the top).  But like some miraculous series of astral collisions that create a black hole, so too were the pattern of weather events that lead to us having extremely good climbing temps for the entire duration of the holiday weekend.  I quickly climbed back into my old high point and started to fuss around with the top crux trying to implant in my mind the sequence and saturate my muscles with remembrance.  The second day on, a miracle happened and instead of falling where I typically had I actually made it three moves farther!  I was so stunned and over-gripping so hard I couldn’t have even imagined sending at that moment.  The irony being that for the last 15 attempts I had kept saying ‘Yeah, as soon as I perch on that brick I’ll have it done.’  But in typical ‘me’ fashion I not only ate my words but relished in them.  I was very psyched to have broken through that wall (mental and physical) but also really bummed that I hadn’t put it down, especially considering I had a brilliant photographer above me, my visiting friends cheering me on below, and my amazing girlfriend belaying me.  I mean, are these not ingredients for top performance?  Perhaps I got a little too excited.  The last go was a fitness burn and I didn’t even match my new highpoint but the seed was finally planted.  Third day on?  OF COURSE!  I couldn’t let this wave of psych elude me or resist the urge to ride it so on day three we were back at the base of Pornstar.  I didn’t really know what to expect from my body or mind having already put everything I had on the line for two days but I warmed up well and felt like I could give it a legitimately good burn.  I did, I fell.  But I was still buzzing, I managed to perch on the brick yet again but fell going for a small crimp not having flagged hard enough.  I shooed my fears and weariness away and on my second attempt I climbed well, but felt tired (I was actually kind of pumped at the top of Abo, yikes!).  It was a surprise to everyone including myself that I climbed into the crux cross through to the pocket and yelling at the top of my lungs fell again.  Matching my high point from the previous day, it would seem disappointing but in fact it was so validating to know that it hadn’t been a fluke.  I utilized this opportunity to test out some new beta and it worked like a charm.  I also had been missing a better crimp for my left hand so I came down from the defeat armed with two new pieces of knowledge.  Yet another lesson in patience and a reminder to try EVERYthing before you commit to an iron clad sequence.  This burn would have surely done me in but I was WAY too jacked up from coming so close yet again to give up so easily.  It was overcast, almost cold, and the rock felt amazing.  I set an alarm for exactly one hour and fifteen minutes from the time I came down from the route and waited.  Trying new beta this late in the game is sometimes fatal and sometimes redemptive.  My last go of the day I felt a fire burning inside of me.  Not only did I feel good physically, I felt excited to climb (a feeling that had come and gone in the last few months of climbing on this route).  I tried to harness my excitement, reining it in and focusing it in order to give me that killer instinct I need to climb something at my limit.  Long story short I fudged my new beta and gave up all too easily.  I was pissed.  I was filled with disappointment in myself.  Usually when I feel this kind of disappointment I can justify it by having someone to blame but the room was empty and I had only myself to point the finger at.  Maybe I just didn’t want to send that burn.  Maybe my mind was jumping ahead of my body or vice versa, or maybe it was just bad new beta.  I jugged up in a rage and instantly pulled back on sailing it to the top, a dance I have done too many times to feel good about. 



The conflicting emotions that ensued after a long weekend of failure (success?) were ultimately contradictory.  After so much invested time all I wanted was the end result, and I went blind to the fact that this was a victory.  I am no longer falling where I used to, and now I am falling just shy of success.  I used to think that I had this project in the closing stages but now I realize how wrong I was, it’s not over until it’s over. 





Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Say That

Another perfect sunrise in Seattle.

 Just another perfect summer day at the World Wall. 








When you find something amazing it’s hard not to want to share it with other people.  It must have been kind of mind blowing to find a crag like equinox.  I’m not sure how they went about discovering this small sport crag (google earth??) but having it tucked up in the hills just off a perfect access road (a logging road) and overlooking the small town of Mt. Vernon I’m sure gave it a remote feel and yet a closeness to the city that only an activity like sport climbing carries with it.  This crag only has handfuls of each 5.11/5.12/5.13 graded climbs and just a few 5.14’s.  But what it lacks in volume it makes up for in quality and the area itself is such a chill place to hang out and enjoy climbing and friends.  The locals and the people who discovered this crag put a very decent amount of work into it to make it a perfect escape for climbers looking to get away from the other more popular crags and it also offers a very dense concentration of power endurance climbs that seem to be somewhat lacking in the NW.  The style is bouldery and power endurance oriented with all manner of grips to tickle your fancy. 

I haven’t been coming to Equinox for a long time by any means but it has become quite a tradition in the last few years every time we look for a place with cooler temps and a different feel.  Of course nothing is perfect, as I understand it Equinox is located on DNR land, land that is leased to a logging company (hence the access roads).  The land is bordered by an outdoor Boy Scout camp that also has an access road that leads to a trail that has approx. 20-25 minute approach to the crag. 

Via the logging road it is approx. a 20 min drive to a pull out just 5 mins from the crag.  Via the boy scout approach it was roughly a 5 min drive to the trail mentioned above.  The local climbers and developers of the crag had an agreement with the owners of the Boy Scout camp in order to access the trail to the crag, it involved an exchange of a lock combo to a gate that guarded the access road.  Everything was fine in that regard until the Boy Scout camp changed ownership and the new owners no longer wanted climbers or anyone for that matter who wasn’t associated with the Boy Scout camp to use the access road and they also changed the combo to the lock on the gate.  At this point, with the Boy Scout camp access being sketchy, the logging road remained the only way to gain access to the crag without hiking for hours.   

Over the seasons more and more people got wind of a ‘new’ crag and wanted to check it out, and for good reason, Equinox is awesome.  With the increased traffic comes the increased use of an access point that wasn’t necessarily cleared as an okay access point to the crag.  In other words, the increasing popularity of the crag lead to increased traffic and instead of two to three cars in the pull out by the crag it turned into 7-8 cars crammed into the pull out and various people camping alongside the road for the weekend.  This of course raises the hairs on the back of the logging company who leases the property, because they certainly don’t want cars driving on a road they made and possibly interfering with logging operations.  Enter the county sheriff and a very disappointing text from one of my friends this past Sunday that went like this: “We just received our first and last warning from the county Sheriff who told us if he finds any motorized vehicles on the logging road he will ticket and tow them.”

The short and bittersweet of it all: no more driving on the logging road, PERIOD, unless of course you don’t mind fines and possible towing of your car (which would be kind of a feat in and of itself).  So I guess the only access point at this time is maybe parking outside of the boy scout camp and making the trek up to the trail and to the crag.  I’ve heard this takes about 45 minutes but I’m kind of skeptical of that quote.  I guess the only way to find out is to do it because honestly, I’ve got business up there I would very much like to take care of. 

In the end, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked about this outcome.  And it’s not anybody’s fault.  Crags are meant to be shared and climbing is something we all enjoy.  However, it would have been prudent to contact the logging company, maybe DNR, and the local authorities and work something out before this happened.  It’s too easy to point the finger and get mad at the fact that too many people had found out about this little gem, but the crag doesn’t belong to anybody.  Even a local crag doesn’t belong exclusively to the locals, and again climbing is something we do as a community and want to share with our friends.  Our accomplishments are validated when the whole community has access to them, not when we hoard the vectors of them like precious jewels.  We just need to have a better head when it comes to communicating the delicate nature of access and use to the community and to the players involved.  It’s awesome that they (the sheriff, the logging company, and DNR) doesn’t necessarily care about us climbing on the parcel of land Equinox is on, but we now need to come to agreement with the Boy Scout camp in order to regain an ease of access to this wonderful little crag.  If anybody has any suggestions as to foster a better relationship with these guys please let me know. 

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.