Friday, May 1, 2015

And The Winner Is...


Examining the past can be a useful, if not frustrating, tool.  I often examine the past, I seldom learn from it.  So how can I change this?  It’s obvious to me that if I am to change anything a simple observation of past failures or successes is not enough.  It never is.  Real change comes from a desire deep inside that speaks to genuine motivation. 

For me, my motivation inside of climbing and towards climbing has mostly been from a competitive, egocentric angle.  I usually want to be ‘better’ than someone else; usually that someone else is a friend.  This sheds a curious light on relationships and the role they play in personal progression.  However, this past year has been transformative for me.  The combative approach I usually take when deciding what to climb and how hard to climb is starting to get old.  I’m tired of feeling nervous on hard routes, racing to get a route done before someone else does, or feeling jealous or envious of my friends when they succeed or elated and confirmed when they fail.  I think my mind state has changed this past year after being exposed to so many different kinds of climbers, climbing philosophies, crags, experiences, failures, and breakthroughs.  Working on this mind state is very difficult.  I’m not sure when or where or even how (although I could swing a pretty good guess at all of those) this attitude evolved in my life but I’ve always wanted attention.  I’m not alone in this either, David Foster Wallace put's it nicely:

"We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it's so socially repulsive, but it's pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real -- you get the idea."

It feels good to get positive attention and praise.  To feel everyone’s adoring eyes on you, lifting you up above the mortal accomplishments of others, you feel just that, like a god.  We all want to feel special, to ‘rule the world’ so to speak and have our Sharma/Ondra moments extend into eternity.  The social constructs of the immediate relationships in our lives are built on a very delicate foundation, the lynch pin of which is a balancing act between humility and selfishness.  I want to be humble in the presence of other’s successes and praise them and encourage them to progress out of a genuine desire to see the people I love in my life succeed and ultimately be happy; on the flipside I can’t do this all the time if I’m constantly failing at the goals in my own life.  Success is the conch shell of our dystopian adolescent island.  But, success can look like so many different things to so many different people; not just beauty then, but success also lies in the eye of the beholder. 

"Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already -- it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on." - David Foster Wallace

For me, lately, success comes in the form of catching myself when I start to compare my shortcomings against others accomplishments.  It’s not only refreshing to transmogrify my outlook but freeing as well.  A reminder that I do want my friends to succeed even when I’m not, takes shape in the form of recognizing when I start to feel awful, depressed, anxious, and alone.  I’m not any of those things in reality, so why project them on to others?  Instead I look at what they have done and say, ‘I can do that too, and will.’  Not from a competitive aspect, which can lead to a spurious and stale way of thinking about motivation and progression; but instead in a way that fosters both intelligent confidence and encouragement between and amongst my peers.   

Yesterday was yet another glorious day.  Another reminder that we exist in a microcosm of microcosms; enigmas and ubiquitous experience that unfold for everyone and no one.  When time yields to the fluctuating energy of the wind, and the darkness, to breathe, to the dilating cosmos, rock, and water. 
I could only see the fading shadow, the outline of a friend reaching the apex of eight years of contemplation, frustration, condemnation, and finally elation.  Erich Sachs sent Porn Star yesterday, a feat that can be objectified, but hardly captured by numbers or even words.   


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Destroying Words with Wayward Thought


Me and ‘dem boyz’ (consisting of Kevin ‘Tex Richman’ Erickson, Justin ‘Waterfalls’ Lockhart, and Forest 'Foresto Digitation' Collins) have been humping it out to Smith for the last four weekends in a row.  The first weekend we were all like, ‘Fuck yeah!  Smith rules!  We’re coming back every weekend!!’, this attitude continued into the third weekend, and then by the fourth weekend we were all still super psyched but also in desperate need of a weekend in which we weren’t compelled to get up, drive five hours, and then try really hard on our projects.  

There is a thin line between flacid and erect psyche.  We were in luck because the weather surrounding our beloved home crag cleared out like a hot yoga studio after a chipotle burrito fart.  Blue bird, slight breeze, PERFECTION.  MWAHAHAHAHAHAA!

 I love travelling because it takes you to new places, exposes you to different people, cultures, food, rock, blah blah blah...but what I really enjoy about being away from home, is that first day back at home when everything kind of settles into place and you realize this is where you want to be and where you truly belong.  I had that light hearted feeling this past weekend and I’m still kind of buzzing on it. 

The parking lot resembled that of a cattle ranch feeding trough, it was a shit show as usual.  However, as soon as I pulled into the satellite parking lot a car left and ‘ta-daa’ we had a spot!  The hike was miserable after the morning’s run and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I might climb like an invalid sea monster on sleeping pills. 

It’s always awesome to show up to your home crag and see friends.  Andrew Hou had been there all morning and was really close on his project Technorigine.  I showed up, he strapped his shoes on, and before I could start my warm up he was clipping the chains.  NICE!  Good energy right out of the gate.  To my surprise the warm up was insanely easy, the friction was good, the rock was cold but not too cold, and more importantly dry.  I floated, literally, I felt light, dialed, and my footwork felt stable and effortless.  These are the kinds of moments I live for as a climber (or a kayaker, or runner, or snowboarder, or mountaineer, or ice climber, or artist, or writer or etc. etc.).  I was psyched but also still doubting my strength.  I felt so tired still, but in retrospect I think feeling tired is what gave me that relaxed confidence.  It’s kind of hard to explain. 

Okay, the warm up is one thing, but let’s get to the real fitness check.  I tied in for Chronic and again floated the bottom half, but got nervous in the crux and over-gripped a bit nearly coming off at the redpoint crux.  I kept it together but was way too pumped to nail the ending moves and I gave up and fell just short of the jug.  Okay, I thought, that wasn’t bad, but I can climb it better and I was feeling less fatigued.  I rested a bit and then fired it my next go feeling even stronger and lighter than the previous attempt.  That’s the way I like to climb.  I was psyched and knowing that Chronic had felt that good I decided to get on Flatliner and go for the redpoint burn.  I climbed well into the ledge, rested as much as I could and then climbed into the last rest before the crux sequence.  I made it to the crimp/pinch rail with little effort and moved up snagging the gaston, unfortunately I sagged pretty hard here and while I was trying to get a better grip just came off the wall.  I still feel as if I have a lot of work to do in order to send this last sequence on link, and yet if things fall perfectly into place on any given day, it will go, and hopefully feel easy. 

It’s hard to cope with the fact that perfect days like this one are fleeting and will never be the norm, and really as much as we lament this fact it also is the reason behind why these days are so good.  It was getting darker and I had the energy for a few more but knew I only had time for one.  So I chose my favorite route lately, Californication.  I love this route.  Its long, it has several cruxes that are all completely different, it has amazing movement, cool holds, and great rests.  It’s just a sweet journey up the center of the wall and you get a chance to really work on breathing, resting, and punching it when you have to.  As a warm down it felt amazing.  It was just the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae of a perfect Saturday.  Actually the cherry on top was being able to dip my deluxe bacon cheeseburger in a pool of ranch before every bite.  That was perfect. 

Sunday was just as beautiful as Saturday and even a bit warmer.  I took my sweet ass time in the morning making sure I would have energy to burn for a nice long Sunday afternoon session.  I was re-energized after all the successful fitness checks from the day before and I knew it was time to start getting on the projects.  I feel as if I have done so much at little si, but I still have SO many things to do.  The project I’m most excited about right now is black ice (or vanilla ice, depending on how you climb into it).  I’m currently trying Vanilla Ice in order to get the extension wired for attempts on Black Ice.  This is one of the better extensions at World Wall and you get everything and the kitchen sink thrown at you.  There is a heinous technical dihedral section with pinches and crimps, then some monkey climbing on incuts to a huge incut jug, then more power tech climbing on sweet textured holds for the left and slopey untextured holds for the right hand.  You are kind of climbing between two different worlds, a black streak and a tan streak glide their way up the wall and you’re stuck fighting your way between them, it’s AWESOME!!  The last boulder problem guarding the chains is a cool slopey rail that you have to arm wrestle with to get to some victory jugs.  Anyway, that was the goal for the day but the wall was harboring some mank from the mornings sun bath so it made the first crux very hard.  I tried it once and fell and decided to take a rest.  All the homies showed up and I snapped some photos of everyone crushing.

I tried Vanilla Ice a couple more times and came close to a one hang but there was a small sidepull that ypou have to yard on pretty hard that had some seepage and I came off pulling on it up to the last rest.  It was a great day again, and again it was getting dark and the not only the day but my weekend was coming to a slow close.  And of course, I decided to do Californication for the warm down, but this time I chugged a pint of Montucky’s best and playfully made my way up the route with Waterfalls and Tex heckling me the entire way.  I almost fell off from laughter pulling over onto the slab before the Abo chains, it was great.  We hiked out with headlamps and high hopes of returning next weekend.  It doesn’t look good in terms of dry weather, but Little si has its secrets. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bills' Philosophy

"When people eventually succeed after trying something for an extended period of time, something that involves repeated disappointments, then, no matter how objectively hard it is, they have accomplished something beyond an athletic achievement. They have made a statement about what they are made of—about a type of strength that has nothing to do with forearms. Watching my friends achieve that success on their own projects was encouraging and motivating. Of course, at the same time, it threw into sharp relief my own continued lack of success." - B. Ramsey

From evening sends.

If you haven't read the article yet I highly suggest it.  I met Bill briefly back in 2012 in Bishop, Ca.  He had just flashed Bubba Escapes the Ward and was working on the link up Bubba Labotomy.  He failed to do the link up, but his calm demeanor and openness towards the climb was so refreshing.  A true master.  As he cracked the top on a Sierra Nevada Torpedo I knew I was in good company and we chatted about climbing and life and friends.  He cheered me on as I struggled up some contrived V.7 and then watched as I flailed on Toxic Avenger.  I don't have any deep anecdotes from our meeting but he definitely sticks out in my mind as one of the greats from a bygone era.  You can see it reflected in his tone in the article yet he also has a profound admiration for the future and the now and how it can have a transformative effect on the once seemingly impossible.  Cheers Bill.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fairweather Friends

"fear of falling, fear of failure, tunnel vision, attachment to a specific outcome, impatience, lack of focus or awareness, poor breathing or eye control, poor technique, being unable to shift your climbing “gears,” “thinking down,” and climbing for the wrong reasons"

Above is a quote from Andrew Bisharats' blog evening sends the piece this is from was written by Chris Barlows.  This quote stuck out to me for a couple of reasons but namely because I never really focus in on what my problems are.  I always try to emulate an image of togetherness and confidence which feels so key in being successful as a climber, especially a climber who wants to try progressively harder and harder climbs.  The downfall of this strategy is rejecting what you’re truly feeling at the moment in order to maintain this image, and trying to push through all of the ‘problems’ stated above; instead of sitting with them and trying to understand them. 

I became completely engulfed in my problems and at one point it was as if I was encircled by them stumbling blindly from one problem to the next receiving a knee to the groin, a slap in the face, a kick to the ribs, etc.  I was crippled by fear (of falling and failure) which lead to tunnel vision (blocking all other routes out and throwing myself at this one route), which in turn lead to me developing this crazy attachment to a specific outcome (I HAVE to send this route…or?) which then made me impatient (I need to get there now, I’m ready to climb now, I have to send this NOW), this impatience made me extremely unfocused which only got worse as I waited around at the base of the climb running through the sequence trying to convince myself that if I just try harder when I get to the crux it will go, which then made me unaware of other possible avenues of beta and instead I pit bulled down on the way I was doing it.  This tunnel vision left me focusing too much on failure and expectation instead of breathing and climbing naturally, and in an attempt to be as calm as possible I was unable to shift climbing gears when I reached the crux, instead becoming so tense each try that I literally gripped my way off the climb.  In the end, each time I fell off I became more and more obsessed with climbing this specific grade that I wasn’t climbing the route anymore, I was climbing to prove to everyone else that I was this number, I was this status symbol, I was someone who I thought would impress and amaze other climbers.  The last go I’m not even sure I knew why I was climbing the route anymore.  It turned into this weird masochistic ritual; I became the punch line of a joke that really wasn’t that funny. 

All of this is just a part of my personality which I’m still trying to refine and expand.  I have a really, REALLY hard time letting things go.  Whether it’s failure on a route, a negative comment from a friend or co-worker, a relationship gone sour, feeling like I was wronged or embarrassed in some way or even just feeling like I let someone down.  Have I gotten ‘emo’ enough for everyone?? 

What it really boils down to is the fact that I compare myself ruthlessly to everyone and anyone.  It’s all about whose better, whose stronger, whose more likeable, whose more successful, whose better looking, whose richer, who’s more intelligent, etc. etc.  I don’t do this all the time, at least consciously, but the noise levels are different for different people at different times in their lives and for me the noise is always cranked way up on this channel if I’m wallowing in failure and self-pity. 
“Maybe your source of stress isn’t a fall, but something that it symbolizes–failure, injury, getting fired, being late. How much of your stress is true? And how much of it can you bypass by changing your circumstance or mindset?
Imagine that you could remove stress from your challenge. Imagine that you can remove consequences, that you are free to practice, to play and create, to explore and discover new possibilities while you do your work. What does that look like?”  This is a quote from my friend Erich Sach’s blog. 

What does that look like?  It looks like Ondra onsighting 5.14c.  It looks like someone who is locked in yet free, focused yet playful, efficient yet creative.  It looks like meditation; a mind state that allows you to drop all of the judgment, the stress, the points, the fame, and the fear; and just float. 

In the end, it comes down to how much you want it, how determined you are to making it happen, and what you are willing to sacrifice to become a more evolved/enlightened human being. 

"Yes, climbing is hard. Enumerating why it’s harder for you is wasted effort. If you want to climb it, figure out how to make it happen." - C. Barlows


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sweeter than Honey

Oh how I miss my sweet litte si!  Don't worry baby, dem boyz will be back soon...

It's Not About You

So I read this post on Steph Davis’s blog-High Infatuation-and it lit a fire in me for some reason.  If you want to see Steph’s response to the letter you can visit her blog but I decided to respond to her myself, even though she will probably never see my response, I just needed to vent a little.  Here is the letter that some girl named Shannon submitted to Steph:

Hi Steph,
My names Shannon, and right now I’m a senior at CU Boulder studying evolutionary biology and ecology. I just read your book high infatuation, and i guess you could say it was kinda life changing and spoke to me. I just started rock climbing about three months ago, and I love it. When i visited moab, I fell in love with indian creek and that type of climbing. I would really love to move out there and dedicate myself to that type of climbing. However, I am still a beginner and do not even know how to trad climb yet. How do i find like minded people to climb with and teach me because i am willing to learn. Also I have a dog as well, and i was thinking about just car camping while living in moab, but what did you do with your dog when it got so hot during the days. I mean i guess you worked nights at the restaurant? but did you ever have a time where you could not take her with you and what did you do with her during the hot days? I guess i just need some advice on how to go about all this. Also finding a job in moab, I still would like to keep environmental aspect of my life, encouraging people to be sustainable and renewable and make this a better place! I’m just worried i won’t find a job out there like this that also give me enough time to dedicate myself to climbing.

And here is my response:

First of all, you’re a senior in college, anything that is not the norm is going to ‘speak’ to you.  And writing the word kinda’ in regards to the term ‘life changing’ is completely idiotic and speaks to your generations lack of commitment, understanding, naiveté, and ability to take anything in their lives seriously.  Antibiotics changed lives, the automobile changed lives, the civil rights movement changed lives, this book just kinda’ changed your life eh?  How?  Did you drop out of school to become a dirtbag?  Did you realize you love your family and want to finish school to support and honor them?  Did you realize you were a lesbian?  How does something just kinda’ change your life??  You can’t kinda change your life, you can only totally change it, kinda change it is like switching cereals in the morning, going from Coffee to Tea, wearing smartwool instead of merino wool; you know, boring lame shit that doesn’t actually lead to a drastic change in the way you think and approach situations in your life. 

You’ve been climbing for three months (gumbie) and you already know that it’s what you want to ‘dedicate’ yourself to doing??  Just stop.  Breathe, I know the adrenaline rush you got from top roping your first climb was great and all but let’s put things into perspective. Let me guess, you also fell in love with your first boyfriend?  And what the fuck do you mean ‘how do I find like-minded’ people??  Who the fuck did you go to the creek with?  And hello, you live in fucking Boulder Colorado(!!!); how about go to the gym and start talking to some real climbers.  Good god Shannon, you don’t need someone to hold your hand you need a bitch slap in the face with reality and some common sense, and most important of all you need to give yourself some more goddamn time.  You’re 21/22 years old and you’re already suffering from an identity crisis; that’s so sad to me.  And from the looks of your letter you don’t even have the patience to write something intelligent and well thought out, let alone spell checked or edited for grammar.  I get that you’re sick of being in school and all 0f it’s ‘uniformity’ and rules but honestly, packing up your life to go wait tables in Moab and living out of your car to climb (something you really know nothing about) is a stupid move at this point in your life.  I would look for a job in Boulder in your area of study; climb and learn how to climb at the local gym and get better at it first, meet some people, live in Boulder and get experience working a job that can actually build your resume, so when you decide that yes climbing is what you want to do and you truly are in love with it and actually somewhat skilled in it (by the way you don’t even know how to ‘trad’ climb yet and you’re talking about moving to Indian Creek????, have you tried any other kind of climbing??  How do you know you’re not really good at bouldering, or sport climbing, or big wall climbing, or maybe you’re meant to be an alpinist!!), then you move to your favorite spot (after a couple years of traveling and visiting other spots you might find that Moab is the LAST place you want to live) and when you look for a job it might be easier because you’ve had a couple years of experience under your belt and people will be more willing to hire you.  Then you can really live in a place you love, close to climbing, and work a job that you love and will be beneficial to everyone in your life.  But I really cannot get on board with this poorly planned attempt to ‘find yourself’ amidst the dirt bags and barstools of a city you know nothing about except for the fact that you had a good time at Indian Creek once. 

I’m just so sick of this wide eyed enthusiasm for a lifestyle that can potentially lead to a dead end for many people who are ill-prepared to lead it and I want the people who have been lucky enough to make it in this extremely tough industry and lifestyle to stop perpetuating the myth that anyone can do it.  Because not just ‘anyone’ CAN do it.  Instead of asking these young people, who got all moist in their draws after their first 5.6 top rope, good meaningful and probing questions that will really expose their motives behind wanting to live this lifestyle they paint a rosy picture of it all working out: the girl moves to Moab, learns how to rock climb, lands a gig at the local DNR office, meets a boy dirt bag and they both crush happily ever after together raising a herd of blue healers.  And how do you even know this is something you want to dedicate yourself to?  What do you know about it?  What do you really know about climbing and what it means to dedicate yourself to it?  Do you mean you want to climb hard routes?  Because that takes years of training and focus and regimented practice.  It involves a high degree of mental preparation, experience, and knowledge of climbing.  Do you mean you want to just have fun at the crag with your friends?  In that case you don’t need to ‘dedicate’ yourself to climbing, and it doesn’t mean fleeing Boulder to live in your car and wait tables.  My god!!  Give yourself a little time to figure out what climbing is and really means to you and what it can look like in your life.  What about your family?  What about your financial obligations?  What about the obligation you have to take care of yourself?  All I am saying is that you have been climbing for three months, on the timescale of climbing that is literally nothing.  Look, I know we have to get a start somewhere. 

Watching the endless menagerie of cleverly manipulated photo’s posted on Facebook portraying the outdoor lifestyle as an infinite parade of powder orgies, splitter cracks, tasty microbrews, name brands by the fire, and plush Sprinter's is enough to lure anyone into the clutches of this pseudo reality.  We fall in love with tales of eating trash in Yosemite and naked free soloing, base jumping with your dog strapped to your back, or double backflips on a highline.  We WANT to be those people, but we never ask ourselves why?  We drool over the media presented to us in this way and fall in love with the idea that if we too dress a certain way, don’t shower for months, and give a big middle finger to the ‘norm’ that we are somehow finding ourselves amidst all of this self-induced nihilism and chaos made glamorous by photographers and add campaigns that really don’t give a shit about you or the spiritual quest you’ve tricked yourself into taking so you can legitimize your presence in the scene.  If everyone’s a dirt bag then nobody is.  Stop running away from who you truly are in order to impress people you look up to.  Let the people who were truly meant to be cowboys because of their life circumstances be cowboys, stop forcing yourself to fill this role because you are not honoring the people who made this lifestyle infamous and seductive; you’re ruining it with your stupid ear to ear gumbie smile, shiny new gear, and annoying dog. 

But then again, maybe I’m wrong. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Aggravated Monkey's Ascending

The rock felt good, even in the horrible sun!

Steven showing some finesse on the technical start of Aggro Monkey(5.13b)

The kneebar was invented in Smith.  Not a lot of people know that.  Probably because it's not true.

Justin crushing the first crux on his way to sending Aggro Monkey(5.13b)

It's a tad reachy.

Look at my beautiful bald head!  Goddamn I sure do know how to color coordinate.

Having a little chat with Justin after punting on Churning in the Wake

Revenge of the Bald Crushers!!  Coming to theaters next weekend.