Thursday, December 1, 2016

Naked and Afraid

 
 
I don’t really have a lot of words for this post.  My first Smithsgiving flew by and with the weather predictors constantly playing with our emotions it was difficult to predict (for ourselves) an appropriate rest day so instead we just climbed every single day we were there, eight days straight!
There was danger, sun, cold, wind, rain, frost, fear, zen, bliss, ignorance, hesitation, triumph, failure, and friendship.  Sweet, sweet friendship.  And in the end we all ate ice-cream. 
Smith is easily one of the best climbing destinations on the planet with striking lines, beautiful faces, fantastic movement, and a wonderfully grounded community.  I was disappointed with my abilities during this trip and my only regret, looking back, was that I did not open myself up to more possibility.  For whatever reason I held back and now that the trip is over I have a lot of mixed feelings but none of them compare to how proud I am of ticking a couple of super classic routes, and watching my girl friend conquer some of her fears.  I also feeling incredibly lucky and humbled and grateful to be friends with Steven Dimitt, uber local and Smith crusher.  Watching Steven calmly run laps on some of the longest and most drawn out routes in the park was nothing short of inspiring. 

Smith can be an intimidating place, but it's danger lies within it's ability to entice the masses to ascend upon its gullies, paths, and rock faces which can end up injuring/maiming/or killing the unlucky few who take for granted the stinging discipline of safety and focus.  While at Smith we bore witness to this very phenomenon.  A 30y/o woman lowered herself off the end of her rope whilst rappelling to clean a sport route at the top of Cocaine gulley.  The response effort was massive.  The above pictures spotlights illuminating the entirety of the crag in order to help the responders extract the woman from her position high atop the gulley. 

 

Visiting climber Paul DanD'minico warms down in the golden light of another fading day on Nine Gallon Buckets (5.10c).

 
Last day in the park and I decided to get after one of the prettiest lines around, Dreamin' (5.12a). 

Wish I could have gotten a more epic shot of our gracious host for the week Steven Dimitt, pictured here warming up on Phone Call from Satan (5.9). 

 
Now we prepare for Red Rocks!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Forecast




  I’ve enjoyed (read: endured) 11 days of rest.  ‘Rest’ in this instance is a bit of a misnomer since my idea of resting is adhering to a devout rehab routine, but we all have to get our kicks somehow.  Amidst my misguided fervor towards maintaining some strength, I actually developed a nice relationship with a thera-band, k-tape, and stretching.  I knew people did/used these things/activities to evade injury but I always thought those people were just weak minded old fools whose lack of good breeding and inefficient gene pools lead them to their anachronistic ends.  Little did I know.  Little do I still know.  But in any event time bends you to its will and there I was bent over a weight bench doing wrist curls, a bright pink piece of strapping adhered nicely to my upper forearm, digital seconds ticking away slowly on a nearby stopwatch, a jump rope lying limp across a set of box jumps taunting me and my weak calves.  A quick visit to a new physio, some good info on heating and icing, and a lot of Epsom salt soaks, and there I was again clinging to a rock face bathed in Autumnal light filtered through scattered clouds above, the sounds of day hikers galloping along the well-worn dirt path below. 

 

 

 

 
The past weekend was a blur of activity filtered through a lens of dense surprise.  After lurking inside for what seemed like a small eternity the sun came out and autumn was finally able to flash us those pearly yellows, oranges, reds, and umbers she had been waiting to reveal since early October.  We went from a trot, to a jog and then finally plodded up switch backs before gliding down the steep valley hillside that lead us to a small paradise.  Views on both sides of us emerged as we rounded more and more corners of the trail.  I had never been to this side of the mountain before and had no idea such beauty lay a short drive from my house.  Besides the burgeoning day hiker population there were parts of the trail that bordered Snow Lake that felt absolutely remote and pristine to say the least.  The views were stunning, the sun was even more welcome and rejuvenating however, the wind kept us moving. 

 
The following day plagued with sore muscles from our 10 mile jaunt the day before we said ‘What the hell?’ and surrendered to our ambitions to taste the golden light of the fleeting sun once more.  We headed out to Little si which was a gamble indeed given the fact that it had received over three inches of rain the week before.  But we just wanted to be outside, to breathe some fresh air, and to feel the crispness of Fall.  The big leaf maple leaves had fallen and they blanketed the trail trying their hardest to cover up the scars we have worn into the forest floor.  Large moss covered boulders alongside the trail appeared dry and we each raised an eyebrow at the idea of actually getting to climb.  Indeed, upon our arrival the wall was almost in perfection.  I dashed 11 days of rest by tying in and climbing up Abo.  Wow, it felt so good, like waking up from a very long sleep, or like tasting sugar again after some kind of twisted diet, or perhaps even like enjoying a really good book that has been lost at the bottom of your chest and that has recently resurfaced on your shelf.  I couldn’t help myself and nervously climbed four more pitches tasting Softliner, Techorigine, Rainy Day, and Chronic  Mmmmmm, I got my fill, for that day.  My hunger will never be satiated. 

Alex Fritz going big on Men's final problem #1 at the Seattle Boulder Project's annual Northwest Boulder Fest.  He was the only one to send this problem and it gave him the lead which he managed to keep and then win the comp!

Lisa Chulich striking a curious pose while attempting a difficult match on the finish hold of Women's problem #2, a punchy and delicate one.  Great to see Lisa competing as always and still crushing.  I've known Lisa since she was an awkward teenager obsessed with volleyball and tagging along with her brother on climbing trips and now, 10 years later, she has turned into quite the climbing celeb with an impressive resume of climbs and competition results under her belt.  Super motivating, keep it up Lisa!

Ashima Shiraishi calmly reaching up to a seemingly horrible little jib on that volume.  She climbed 3 out of the 4 finals problems missing the last problem by one move!  What can you say about Ashima that hasn't already been said?  Watching her climb in person it all makes sense.  Prodigy!

Ashima locking down the number one spot in finals on a very tricky and powerful mantle/stem problem, Women's #3.

One of the last days to really go for it.  Erich Sachs staring up at the last good burn of the season on Lost Horizons.  He climbed this thing perfectly to the very last hard sequence but could not seem to squeeze it out of the tube.  The last try, pictured here, he was thwarted by a seeping undercling and taking a nice 30' whipper he lowered and enraged flew up Pornification (falling at the last crux).  Back to back burns on 5.14?!  Yeah, that's a thing now.  I drew a lot of inspiration from Erich this season and garnered some good info from him concerning training regiments and resting.  Psyched to see him back out next season and with a brand new baby no less.  Hopefully I will be strong enough to project with him, instead f next to him.

Fall, Autumn, whatever you want to call it, it's my favorite time of year hands down.  I love all seasons but I enjoy AND love Fall the most.  I think it has to do with the fact that I'm such a visual person and during Fall its like a free always changing art show.  Everywhere you go, whether its an alpine lake tucked in the vast wilderness of the Cascades range, to a short jog through the neighborhood there are colors exploding virtually everywhere.  Every tree, bush, shrub, or sapling is trying to make a statement and draw your attention to the simple beauty of existing outside.  The changing colors have an effect on the simplest of outings enhancing them and emboldening your experience if you let them.  Even the down days when the sun hides and the rain pervades every nook and cranny of the city Fall is just another excuse to crowd inside of a local gym and cheer on your friends.  From the crispy temps and beautiful colors to the warmth of the community at the gym or the brewery, I just can't get enough.

 

Soaking up the sun on a run/hike to and partially around Snow Lake.

Playing back and forth on a small ridge the views of the Cascades and the sweeping valleys below open up and you start to realize how infinite this mountain range actually is.  Also great to see the snow level coming down a bit.

We came across so many of these cool little ponds.  Would have been great if a few of them were hot springs.

We finally had to stop for lunch, that blue sky has such a mesmerizing effect on a day like this. It feels so effortless to keep going, but alas, the hands of the clock ushered us back home.

An explosion of color!  We exhibited some pretty bad trail etiquette while dipping, dodging, and diving around the teeming mass of plump and sluggish day hikers that saturated the trail. 


The walk down from a surprisingly dry visit to World Wall.  My lovely partner is breathing down the neck of two of her projects and made some great progress on this day.  Looking forward to getting the honor of having that first 5.12a belay this weekend.
 
Today I was studying my training journal and realized that it has been a whopping 20 days since I have engaged in any training related activities (besides two small fingerboard sessions).  I won’t get back to the grind until next week and I’m really looking forward to it.  I have two upcoming trips, the first is an 8 day trip to Smith Rocks over Thanksgiving.  The second is a two week trip to Red Rocks with a few days set aside for Bishop during Christmas and New Years.  I’m very excited for these trips, it has been a year now since I have taken any vacation or gone anywhere farther than four hours away.  I do have to admit that I’m a little down about not being at full health or strength but maybe by the time the Red Rocks trip rolls around I will be feeling up to par again and ready for an onsight onslaught.  We will have to see…

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What Time Is It?


 For the last two months I’ve been going through the motions.  I haven’t really put a lot of heart and soul into my climbing; instead I’ve been pantomiming a routine that I grew so accustomed to during my projecting phase that I felt lost in its absence and too lazy to think of a new one.  I had a lot of fun bouncing around Squamish on the occasional weekend, even getting a chance to explore a crag closer to home that I had never been to called Miller Highlife (easily one of the coolest and most unique little crags I have ever been to).  I wanted to reaffirm to myself that I could indeed still onsight 5.12 and it worked out here and there so I was pleased and was able to get that quick fix I was looking for. 
I think the consistently poor nature in which I kept training and neglecting to rest set me up for some potemtial physical burn out.  The training routine I had been involved in over the summer led to some incredible gains in strength and power endurance for me which ultimately led to sending my project, but instead of taking a well-deserved rest after the send I kept going (burning the candle at both ends you might say).  In retrospect this was not a smart move for me.  It’s never smart to keep doing the exact same exercises for months at a time with no rest.  Because of my inability to slow down I’ve acquired what I can only describe as a possible case of tendonitis in my forearm/elbow region.  I’m not entirely sure that’s what it is, maybe it's muscular or maybe I just need to take a couple weeks off, but there is definitely something going on.  The upside is that I can still climb on it, it doesn’t hurt while I climb (yet), the bad news is obviously that I will need to take some rest soon and we are right in the middle of the ‘good’ season here in the PNW; although looking at the extended forecast and out my immediate window it certainly doesn’t feel that way. 
This is all to bring up a topic that I don’t think gets discussed much in lieu of casting a brighter spot light on ‘sending sick hard projects’ and dominating competitions.  I never really hear that much about professional climbers ‘resting’ (even though there have been a few recently e.g. Jimmy Webb, Alex Puccio, Shauna Coxsey) although the way these guys go through PT and training it’s almost as if they were never hurt in the first place.  Rest to someone like my self – skiddish, paranoid, weak minded- is like the sound of death rattling its scythe outside my window.  Which loosely translates into: I’m scared to rest because I think I will lose ALL of the strength it has taken me so long to build up!  Which is really a silly way to look at resting but a way in which I think most climbers at my level view rest.  I’ve been climbing for almost a decade now but really I have only been ‘training’ for climbing for the past two years, the point being that my approach and experience level with training is immature and undeveloped.  I’ve certainly stumbled across a lot of exercises that have propelled me forward in climbing physically, but I haven’t yet built my experience up in a way that includes a cyclical approach to training and progression.  Instead I have more of a ‘free-market’ type of attitude in which my brain (the shareholders) want to see quarterly profit gains (higher and higher numbers) at the expense of, well, anything and everything (my poor aging body). 
This certainly isn’t sustainable, for me or for the free-market economy (let alone the planet earth we are destroying for it).  It’s quite hard to step away from climbing when it seems to encompass everything from what you enjoy doing to how it shapes you physically and mentally.  It’s the one and only thing I truly look forward to doing during the work week and it’s what I base a lot of my weekend plans around.  To just stop the routine introduces a small amount of dread into my life, but it’s not an overwhelming prospect. 
Amidst all of the angst I feel about taking a small break there lies a lot of relief as well.  I’m psyched to take a step back for 7-10 days and truly let my body heal itself.  I was having this ‘rest’ conversation with my friend Erich and asked him what he does as far as cyclical rest goes during his constant training cycles expressing to him that my anxiety around resting came from feeling that I would lose so much of what I had worked so hard to gain.  He said ‘Oh yeah man, you do lose it!  BUT, it comes back and you end up gaining more than you previously had.’  Words from a wise man indeed.  I always end up thinking about THIS weekend’s trip, or NEXT weekend’s projecting session and never think about the long game (the trip at the end of November, what next ears project is going to be and how to train for it, etc).  Its’ comforting then to talk with someone who has had a phenomenal season so far and know just from his experience this year alone that resting will make you a stronger climber.  It needn’t be so taboo or dreadful to think about, resting needs to be incorporated into climbing and training for climbing as a serious part of the art of progressing. 

Jeremy Zachariash on Chronic (8a)
JZ just moved back to the NW after having spent a stint in Vegas.  He's pretty much done every hard line in Washington, so lets hope he gets psyched and starts establishing some new shit!

Erich Sachs working the moves on The Whore of Babylon (8c)
Erich has been having a dream season with a quick ascent of The Sickness (8b+) and a FA of Unsung Heroes another 8b+!  He's putting in work on Lost Horizons (8b+) now and is hoping to complete the triple threat of 5.14's by the end of the month.  Nice work Erich and congratulations on becoming a father!!

Erich Sachs working the moves on The Whore of Babylon (8c)

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Sean McColl runs a 60 second speed lap of Pulse (8b+)




A wayward para glider sailing in from a jump off the Chief

An unknown climber on Aborigine (6c+)

Wind surfing on the Howe Sound

Morning sun rise and Mt Geribaldi

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Standing Watch


We followed a road.  Where it would lead us we knew not.  It curved and snaked its way through a valley split in two by a river that, like most rivers ebbs and flows.  This river slithered through the valley bottom like a curvy silver Chinese dragon.  The forest floor was thick with the sweet smell of decay, of new life; soft and porous like a sponge.  We approached the river at a bend, its placid surface a deep emerald green, in sharp contrast were boulders as white as bleached bones strewn haphazardly amongst the river banks.  Up into the forest we ventured.  Following a drainage our path a tumultuous jumble of granite blocks polished to a fine grain, as smooth as glass.  The burnt orange bodies of Autumn, curling inwards, the satisfying crunch underfoot, the sound of their heavy contribution.  We aimed upwards, massive granite walls meeting their crescendo in the heavens towering above us.  The lighthearted transition of the seasons abundant in every step we took.  Farther up this small depression we went until it narrowed to a comfortable niche.  The other side of the thickly forested valley could be seen and splitting it in places like beautiful scars were pieces of wind hardened granite and cascading waterfalls.  A quilted patchwork of almost vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows wove their way across our view.  We were home. 

Warming up on a fantastic 6c+ called 'Welcome to the Good Life'

There were even hobbits up here!

Just one of the many opportunities to go horizontal on Disorient Express (7b+), so many roofs here!


Kevin on Welcome to Highlife (7a+) a varied climb that kind of has everything.



Nick climbing through bulges and Big Leaf maples on the extension to Welcome to Highlife (7b)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Winter is Coming

 

Oh my.  How time can truly fly.  Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind (Nathaniel Hawthorne).  Clocks slay time…time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life! (William Faulkner).  As if you could kill time without injuring eternity (Henry David Thoreau).

And nothing could be truer than the spirit these quotes embody.  I find it absolutely fascinating how time can exist in one moment and then cease to exist in the next.  The moments that filled the last three weeks have ticked by like the clocks in Faulkner’s quote.  But eternity blankets those moments in which we have forgotten ourselves in nature and in love.  The early mornings in which I find myself being pulled from sleep and a warm bed are not filled with the rising suns light anymore.  A small shift is not far off, I can feel the air changing and the true season for climbing is beginning.  What could be more exciting?!!    

 Kevin about to launch into getting a good highpoint on Lost Horizons (8c)
 

I’ve been sitting on my thoughts and updates of my comings and goings for the last few weeks and finally a good friend of mine requested that I post something, so here it goes.

After the ‘big send’ I felt an enormous amount of relief.  All of those feelings of inadequacy and doubt that had latched onto my psyche during the projecting process faded away and I was left with clarity.  That clarity lead me to Squamish, a land so inexorably beautiful and magical that it’s odd to not want to immediately move there upon visiting.  I had fashioned a groove so deep in my weekly routine that walls had started to close in on me and the only way to break out of this rut-like trench was to turn my focus to onsight climbing.  It was like a breath of fresh air.  For the last three weeks we have made two trips to Squamish and one trip to an old crag where I cut my teeth as a new climber (Exit 38’s Nevermind wall).  All three trips yielded some good onsights and even better some great opportunities to work on this highly elusive and difficult to cultivate skill.  Here in the NW we have a ton of rock but due to other obligations, seasonal fluctuations, and/or travel troubleshooting sometimes it feels like we have very little.  You run into this problem in Squamish as well, but when you do get those good weather days and you find yourself in the heavily saturated rocky corridors of the Sea to Sky Highway it’s very easy to get hooked all over again. 

 

Justin working the complicated and pumpy yet beautiful sequence on the bomb-proof rhino-stone of Lost Horizons (8c)
 

What I’m trying to say is that onsight climbing is easily my favorite style of climbing and one that I have been historically terrible at.  The last few trips to Squamish and the subsequent new rock has absolutely enlivened me.  Onsight climbing is fraught with nerve wracking self-doubt and high expectation and the best part about is that it sucks you into being present.  It is absolutely a form of meditation in a way that differs from project climbing, hard redpoints or otherwise.  After you get a couple good ones under your belt you feel the momentum of confidence and all you want to do is go for more.  If I could just quit my job and go on the road for the next year and visit all of the amazing sport crags this country has to offer I would no doubt be in heaven.
On a side note, the coolest thing I got to see in Squamish was Sean McColl at the Big Show doing a speed lap on Division Bell.  It literally took him under 60 seconds to climb from the bottom to the top, sheesh.  Not only is he an extremely fit dude he is also a really humble and funny human being.  I love it when that happens.

 
Summer abruptly came to a close here in the NW.  While we were in the throws of some uncomfortably warm temps we lamented Fall's crisp embrace, yet now that it's gone I look back on those sun-saturated days spent bathing in the warmth of the lazy sun and regret I did not spend more time working in the garden, lounging on the porch or basking in the power of Prometheus's glow.

 The weather for the last few weeks has also not been ideal for hard climbing.  With temps reaching into the low 90’s on more than one occasion seeking shade at new crags has been a welcome reprieve from the sweltering heat.  But now, as I alluded to earlier, we are facing the beginning of the Fall climbing season!!  Starting this week the clouds have moved in, the temps have dropped, and looking around I’ve noticed those Fall colors starting to creep across the bright green façade of summer.  It's this time of year that gets me into the mood!  September is meant for climbing, okay, maybe September AND October, but with the oncoming weeks' temps forecasted to be in the mid 60's it's hard not to think about sending a project or two. 

Ruth aiming for a repeat on the classic Aborigine (6c+) on a baking day at World Wall.  We were in the shade all afternoon on a day where the temps reached a high of 92!  Yowza!  That's hot anywhere.  But surprisingly the climbing was legit, except for a few near encounters with lazy hornets, we had a pretty decent session.
 
Steven Dimitt, the man with all of the beta you'll ever need to know about Smith Rocks came up for a brief visit and a casual send of Technorigine (7b+), also on a sub par condition day.  He donned this bright red shirt nonetheless and sweated up this ultra-classic 95 foot route just so I could snap a couple shots of the send.  It was awesome to be at the anchors as he chugged up the last few feet sticking the high step with nail biting anticipation and letting out a deeply held breath of success.  We will be seeing Mr. Dimitt this weekend for three days of rhino-stone wrestling, get psyched!!
 
 
And then there's beer.  Awwwww, delicious beer.  I've tasted a lot of good IPA's this summer but I'm nominating Reuben's brewery as the producer of my favorite IPA of the season, their Summer IPA has been hands down my favorite.  A close second was Bale Breakers' Top Cutter IPA.  Although, in the end, it doesn't really matter what you happen to swill, as long as you are in good company, the sun is shining, and you can relax on your backyard deck surrounded by massive trees and a beautiful garden.  Heaven.

SO proud of this woman.  We will see some good stuff from her in the years to come. 
 
 
I finally dedicated a weekend to doing something besides climbing.  My amazing older brother had a birthday in late July and in early August we swooped him up and made him walk the slopes of Mount Doom.  It had been almost exactly two years since I had summited Mt Rainier and returning to it's door step at Camp Muir with two of my favorite people in the whole world was rejuvenating.  It was also a perfect day for a long hike. 

 
Embracing my faves at Camp Muir with Mt. Adams in the background.

 
 
This Summer has seemingly been all about some sort of progression.  Progressing physically and mentally on the rock by sticking it out through mentally-trying high points and subsequent failures on hard projects; to pushing through those barriers and sending.   To trying new routes, getting scared and vulnerable on onsihgts and getting a renewed perspective on climbing on new routes in new areas.  And finally learning how to train in the gym without getting hurt but at the same time getting stronger.  I think the best thing to come out of the last 8 months has been my ability to recognize when to push it and when to rest.  I credit this approach for all of my success in climbing this year and I look forward to refining it even more.  Of course I’m sure now that I’ve written about it my next post will be on the harrowing injury I sustained to my finger/shoulder/wrist whilst training, typical karma.  My plans for the upcoming climbing season revolve around three places: hard projects at Little si, onsight climbing at New Halem, and bouldering  in Leavenworth.  Let’s see how it goes. 
Happy start-of-the-climbing-season to you all, I hope everyone reading this is of course surrounded by people who love them, inspire them, and motivate them to be something they didn’t believe they could be.