We are nearing the end of November. And as the year 2015 draws to a close so does, unfortunately, our climbing season. We were fortunate enough to have an incredibly extended season last year and into this year but the tables have turned this Fall and torrential down pours have greeted us here in the NW at every turn. I don’t mind so much. Last year was great but the weather never really presented me with the excuse I needed to truly take some time off to heal, recover, plan, scheme, and get into some other activities.
Since I’ve been back from the Red I’ve felt this unquenchable need to get out and travel every weekend. That has manifested itself into driving to Smith to struggle, crimp, cry, celebrate, and remember what the sun looks like (although even now as I write this the sun is shining outside my window illuminating the massive ship’s prows that lay in the Marina staring back at me). I find myself getting torn between two different emotional states of mind. One mind state is that psyched, ready to crush, ‘let’s send everything!’ type of mentality that drives me out of bed Saturday morning and keeps me going for the five hours it takes to drive to Smith. The other mind state usually kicks in when I arrive at the park and feel the warmth of the sun on my neck and realize that I just drove five hours to get my ass kicked at a style I suck at in a place that scares me to death. So you can see how it’s been kind of a mental struggle for me. Although, in the end I love it. I love the fact that I can hop in my car and drive a bit and find sun and dry rock, and a beautiful twisted river running through a valley filled with new challenges. That’s why I keep coming back. Smith offers me a different kind of perspective on climbing. It’s so technical, slow, and calculated. The holds are engrained in the rock and most of the climbing is so planar. I can never really tell what holds are what and what the sequence is of anything. It’s a style (for me) that takes a lot of time to really digest and get used to. So every weekend I say it’s my last, and then I end up going back the next weekend. And every time I’m there I complain about the crimps and the pockets, and the crockets (crimp+pockets) and how badly my toes hurt and how inflamed my skin is; yet during the work week all I can do is think about how much I want to feel those sensations again. It all melts away when you think of the next epic route you want to tackle or how the sequence on the headwall goes, or how cool it is that every move on your project requires some kind of hand foot match or a double finger stack or the use of some miniscule polished slimper. It’s quite brilliant.
Fuck. Training is so much better when your fingers are healed. I just had my first session on the circuit board where I made up a bunch of four to five move boulder problems utilizing pinches, pockets, and small-ish incut crimps. My main weakness is finger strength and power so as an introduction to this type of training I set mainly doable problems with focused lock offs and static movements on relatively good holds. I’m psyched with how it went, being able to try really hard on crimps on a 35 is a good sign with no pain post work out.
With healed fingers I’ve started to get a little bit more creative with my training schemes and I’m looking forward to bouldering more. I know how to get endurance now, but I’m kind of lost when it comes to cultivating a raw base of power. I’m also going to start campus boarding again very soon which I’m totally psyched about. It’s been almost an entire year since I’ve set tips on a campus board and as a result my power is in the toilet. My goals for next year dictate that I not only have a strong base of endurance but also a bulging sack of power (great route name BTW).
Since I’ve been actually training for climbing for the last 13 months I feel as if I should have learned something by now, and I have, but the void of what I don’t know is overwhelmingly large at times.
What I’ve learned is how to hang board consistently and beneficially. I’ve also mastered the art of the ARC, so my endurance, recovery, and my strength feel pretty high. On the down side my finger strength has really suffered due to injuries and not really training crimp or pocket strength. I have also not been bouldering consistently at all so while I have some power the majority of what I used to have is gone and not being able to campus board, circuit board, limit boulder, or do weighted dead hangs on small holds has noticeably taken its toll.
I like to re-evaluate what I’ve done at the end of every season to highlight my weaknesses but also to realize what I’ve done right. I know several people who have plateaued and always question why it is they aren’t simply soaring through the grades anymore. I also know a few people who refuse to change what they do and end up becoming stagnant and injured. I want neither of these fates and look to continual improvement and new strategies to accomplish this with an open mind.
Winding down a long season like the one we just had is always kind of a struggle. Like these last few Smith trips I wear the desperation of knowing the season is coming to an end like a tree with pale leaves facing a wind storm. Soon to be disrobed and left bare to face my problems in the oncoming Winters’ cold and rain. I’m trying to stave off the fact that I will soon only have the gym to climb in, not even a Bishop trip to get all horny about. But I’m optimistic and somewhat excited about the predicament of being able to focus solely on getting stronger and more intelligent when it comes to my climbing.
What will 2016 bring? Who the fuck knows. I could be training in the gym and blow a shoulder out or tear a tendon and then the best laid plans of mice and men…
But I do have tick lists of course. Unfortunately I won’t be heading to Spain anymore. I’m disappointed it didn’t come together but I’m not worried. When I go I want it to be a really good experience and I want to be ready. I see a Europe trip on the horizon in some shape or form.
In the meantime there is so much climbing to be done right here in Washington it boggles the mind. Some of the crags I wish to visit more frequently or at least once are Deep Creek, Newhalem, Split Rock, and Washington Pass. A lot of development has gone down in these places over the last few years and some very high quality and difficult sport climbs have been added to the tick list. I would also like to get out to World Wall 2 and get my power endurance on. And of course when the Fall rolls around I have another RRG trip planned. I can see myself going back to the Red every year for quite some time. I love that place. But I would also like to mix it up a bit and become a better boulderer. I haven’t been to Leavenworth in years, and it used to be my usual haunt. In fact Leavenworth is solely responsible for me falling in love with bouldering and eventually moving to Bishop so I could focus on that discipline (oh yeah and live in a beautiful place blah blah blah). One of my goals for the next year is to send a V.11 and nab a handful of solid V.10’s. Mixing bouldering in with my sport climbing I hope will be beneficial to both.
These are nice goals to think about but the grand daddy goal of them all is of course going to be sending Pornstar. I will probably dedicate more time to this goal than any other in hopes of coming one step closer to my ultimate goal of sending 5.14.
In case anybody is still reading and/or still interested my life has sunken into an unavoidable rut. I work a dead-end job that I don’t particularly have any interest in. While at said job I dream of doing meaningful work that also allows me to chase my true love and indulge my selfish need to climb rocks all over the globe. The financial comfort and the stability of this job has kept me where I am. Don’t get me wrong either, I am fully aware and grateful for how lucky I am to work in a place that is flexible about my schedule, offers me health insurance, paid time off, and is 10 minutes away from where I live. But there has to be a way to get all of this AND enjoy what I do.
On a previous trip to Smith I had a good conversation with a friend of mine who let me in on what he was planning to do in his life. His situation mirrors mine in several ways and his plan to escape the monotony of it was also a mirror of what I am planning. He expressed his boredom with his job and his goal of going back to school after a few more years of saving and working. I’m on the exact same plan and timeframe, the only difference between us is that he’s eight years younger than me. Sometimes I view my age as a hazard. But I know that’s a fallacy. When I was in grad school there were people of all ages in my program, one of which was a woman in her late 50’s who went on to graduate and now writes and runs a very popular blog about honey bees. The obvious point being that school will always be there, opportunity will always be there. Will the motivation?