Monday, August 31, 2015

Movement is Bliss

Mt. Index, as seen through a haze of wildfire smoke from lands to the East.  If anyone knows of a route up this beast please let me know.  I constantly stare up it and see nothing but seemingly good rock and stellar looking trad lines but have found nothing in terms of route beta for this big wall.

A good read from Steph Davis.  I really appreciate this take on living a ‘dirtbag-esque’ lifestyle.  Excellent advice.  I don’t normally enjoy or find the kind of patient wisdom that can really advise young people in their quest to become…whatever it is they think they want to be, in her posts.  But this post is a good one, and focuses on something that we all struggle with from time to time: patience.  I have a horribly low patience threshold.  I guess in my case it can really ebb and flow.  But it definitely gets worse when I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything meaningful for a while. 

A post like this is good because it reinforces the feelings I have about my own situation in life and also shows that there are ways out from underneath the weight of a ‘traditional’ American lifestyle.  A lifestyle that I have never felt a strong calling for.  The majority of my life I have simply floated through financial, academic, or social obligations; under the naïve assumption that ‘things’ will just simply work themselves out.  This way of going about life - a passive aggregate of non-committal behavior influenced highly from a belief established early in my youth that there was always someone better suited for the job than myself - has really left me in a place of starting over time and time again.  The main detractor of this experience being that if you don’t change what’s not working, you’ll never send the problem. 


A really hard free solo crack climb I FA'd last weekend.  No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service!
Here I am about to turn 34 and I’m just now starting to BEGIN to figure out what kind of a life I want for myself.  Not the kind of life my parents want for me, not the kind of life my peers think I should have or deserve, and not the kind of life our traditional mores dictate to us.  But what it is I truly want to do and enjoy.  I’ve already figured out what I want to dedicate myself and my life to and that’s obviously climbing.  It’s quite scary and revealing to make a statement like that one but I don’t think it’s any less important or meaningful than someone who proclaims they want to become a parent, or doctor, or a professional athlete, or a road scholar, or an artist. 

The last couple of weeks have been increasingly difficult.  I’ve dearly missed my time out at the crag, surrounded by familiar faces, laughter, motivation, and engaged in an activity that fills my soul with purpose and serenity.  But I’ve been working extremely hard, probably harder than I normally would have had I been projecting on real rock, in the gym trying to get a head start on training for the RRG.  And things seem to be going well.  This past weekend we had one of the worst wind storms on recorded history for this area and this time of year.  Nearly half a million people lost power, two people were killed by falling tree branches and several more injured; in parts of Seattle the wind was clocked at nearly 50knots!  Yikes.

It was a good time to keep a low profile, enjoy time with my friends in a non-climbing setting, and get into the gym and kick my own ass.  I’ve been doing a lot of power endurance training lately, linking long sets of boulder problems into one another, doing weighted dead hangs, and trying to complete ring work outs at the end of it all.  As with any training cycle you reach a point where your body is just straight up broken down.  I hit this wall yesterday when I decided to have a three hour long bouldering session with my good friend Tex.  It was also in part to kind of gauge where my finger is in terms of healing.  The good news is that I crimped pretty damn hard on some overhanging terrain with my injured finger and there was zero pain; the bad news is that I was pretty run down and the session wasn’t exactly a send fest.  But, I don’t let things like that get me down because I know how hard I’ve been working and I realize that you get stronger during the rest cycle then you do during the actual training cycle.  What was so great about yesterday’s session though, was just how much mileage I was able to put down, even after a hard conditioning work out the day before.  I think by switching my focus to power and power endurance it makes the endurance portions of the training cycle easier and more enjoyable.  I’ve also been adamantly getting out and running at least 4miles after every session which has been promoting a stronger cardio base and has ramped up my metabolism.  It’s so nice to have something like the RRG to work towards.  It makes it easier to push off that lack luster feeling ripe with excuses to skip a work out when you’re feeling drained mentally and physically and push on through in order to complete a day of training.  I’m just so psyched to be where I am right now.  I think the year is going to end well and I’m already focused on what next year will bring.  So MANY places yet to go and explore and SO many routes to try. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Family of Trees Fallen to be Haunted

What a bizarre weekend. 

Not only was it much cooler than expected (predicted) but the air quality was downright frightening.  I couldn’t help but think to myself- as I was perched comfortably on this giant granitic/amorphous/basalt anvil overlooking a perfectly lapis lazuli lake of serenity-is this what it’s going to be like in 25 years?  In 10years?  In 5years!!??  As the encroaching haze of nearby wildfires eerily crept across the sky and filled the air like some ghostly premonition of future fall out, it was hard not to imagine that this could be the norm for generations to come.  The air pollution is already so bad in parts of the world it’s easy to overlay their fates onto ours.  Of course the air pollution we saw this past weekend was as a result of the devastatingly dry climate we have come to know for what has seemed like the past 12 months (instead of industrial progression, the fallout of forced warfare, or the ravaging of ecological fecundities). 

While it is true that there have actually been LESS forest fires this season than an average year, the fact that overshadows this triumph is when you take into account that there has been MORE acreage burned this season compared to an average season.  Less fire sounds great, but the ones that have started have burned with a concentrated intensity and burned for longer.  Not good, and thus we are greeted in the morning with an eerie haze that lingers for the entirety of the day.  The light that does make it through this smoke screen is effervescent and sexy, tangerine in its affect and blood red in the mornings and evenings, providing the table setting for a creepy atmospheric malaise; the backdrop of violence and apprehension.      

The cooler nights and mornings I greet with open arms spread wide under my comforter that has now become a permanent staple of the flora of my bed.  I think I stowed it away for what seemed like it would be an eternity back in May when we got hit with our first taste of what this summer would consistently bring us.  Now my favorite part of the day is wiggling under the layers and burrowing out a comfortable niche as the evening sets in and the cool air becomes abundant and embracing. 
Holy shit!!  Is that me?!  With hair (sort of)?!  First trip to Leavenworth circa October 2007.  That's Dom attempting Crimpsqueak (V.7 in the old guidebook now V.8 in the new guidebook, I always thought it was hard for the grade).

I just picked up the new Leavenworth guidebook and was completely blown away.  Amazed, stunned, impressed.  It has been close to eight years now since I bought the first addition and strode unknowingly into what would turn into a full blown addiction.  But it is more than that, more than something I seek out to get a fix.  It has become the lens of holism I use to look at everything in my life.  And I haven’t donned those spectacle in a while.  Flipping through the guidebook carefully trying to take in all the new additions and blow life into the memories of old, I was reinvigorated!  I am in love with how photos and beta can bring me instantly back to the times that really formed my true identity and star struck fascination with climbing.  I truly do miss those golden October days cloaked in crisp Autumnal sunlight, framed by the brilliance of changing leaves and vibrant lucid colors.  Three things strike me when I think of those first few trips to Leavenworth: 1) camp fires at the end of the day, radio, beer, embers. 2) puffy jackets, chalk flavored pants, thin skin, time stops. 3) dry dusty trails and crisp tacky granite edges and slopers.  Sending in the twilight as the sun sinks behind the ridges of the icicle. 
Check out the wicked widows peak I was rocking back then.

These memories are all so visceral and spasmodic yet concentrated and beguiling.  I can remember my first trip to Leavenworth like it was yesterday (ugh, I hate that saying)! 
A perfect Sunday afternoon in Tumwater Canyon.

We stopped at the very first boulder we saw in the icicle right as the sun had dropped and the environment was seeped in a dim fading light.  The three and a half hour drive coupled with the barely tolerable sensation of expectation and electrifying excitement was too much for us to pass it by.  The Fridge boulder.  We got three quick sends in before it was absolutely too dark to climb anymore and for the time being we were sated.  Those memories are fantastic, and the fleeting intensity of those moments is comforting and mesmerizing in a kind of tranquility that temporarily helps me lose myself and become detached from the present moment and lost in the solidifying amber that signals the permanence of the past. 

I had to try the Beach Arete on my first trip.  Not sure what was up with the bandana though.

Yet it is not only the places I visit or the climbing that fills my head with euphoric tumbling, but the faces and the energy of my companions within this collection of memories that also breathes life into them. 
Witnessed success and failure imbues the carrier with dramatic inclinations.  The solidity of evaporating honesty frozen in time.  We can neither believe ourselves, our eyes, or our feelings, but drink in the minutia of the day like a heavy stout; slowly, with intense focus and a steady relaxation of the mind.





Friday, August 21, 2015

Imaginary Wisdom

As climbers, we cultivate, in a sense, a sort of twisted strangely subjective yet firm kind of knowledge.  It's called beta.  And what beta really is, is a kind of imaginary wisdom.  As soon as you think you have your beta for a route it can suddenly change color like that fucking horse in the Wizard of Oz.  I call it imaginary wisdom because it's really just something we like to wear in order to ward off our innate fears about trying hard and being defeated by hesitation and physical imperfection.  We also convince ourselves that 'our' way is the 'best' and maybe even the 'only' way to do something and criticize others for doing a sequence or copping a rest somewhere as invalid or wrong.  Again, this is a fallacy, an imaginary premise, a false wisdom.  Just last weekend I saw a new sequence in a section of rock that I had done a certain way for almost the last seven months!  I tried the new sequence I saw and it immediately made that section easier and more straightforward.  Fuck me, right?? 

I guess my point is, that as climbers (sport climbers) we don’t always find the best most efficient beta.  And then we get down on ourselves when something feels hard or even impossible.  We simply don’t spend enough time ‘interrogating’ the route.  “Routes have a lot of secrets to tell us, you kind of have to interrogate them.”(Bill Ramsey).  I feel that an increasing amount of pressure in the climbing community as a trend is to send something as fast as you possibly can, and that’s what people seem to respect in climbing lately.  But this ethic falls short in a lot of areas when it comes to pushing up against your physical limitations, respecting a good sequence of a classic route, or simply enjoying the process of climbing.  And yet I'm about to bust a 180 here and give you an example that doesn't necessarily disprove this theory but refracts it's points through a different angle.

It sounds like I’m about to go off on a tirade against onsight climbing and I’m really not.  In fact, I think onsight climbing is one of the purest styles of climbing ever.  To be able to look up and immediately abstract a workable sequence in a section of rock you’ve never been on is truly a fantastic and admirable skill.  I have to say, even though the hardest onsights of my climbing career so far have been 5.12a/b during those onsights I have never felt more connected to climbing.  Pulling onto the start of a route and knowing that you have ONE chance to get an onsight, it’s exciting, exhilarating even, nerve wracking, intimidating to say the least; it’s almost like a trip on DMT I would imagine.  Where your very soul is put upon by the forces of nature and you either surrender to it and become a part of the world around you in the constant flow of energy and matter ebbing and flowing; or you resend into a neo-natal state giving into your innate fears and repressed emotions of anger and resentment, and the end game is failure and frustration, a dead end.  I think onsight climbing can really tell you a lot about yourself not only as a climber, but as a human being.  It has the ability to evoke inside of you a kind of power and focus you never knew you had, combined with (if you allow yourself to go there) a meditative flow that enables you to (for the duration of the route) become free.  The flipside is as I previously described, falling, into fear, into a vulnerable castration of your resistance against letting go and giving up control.  Really, onsight climbing is like a metaphor for our struggle with life and the way it is classically encountered by the citizens of our society.  The paradox of living in a ‘free’ community that also has to abide by rules in order to sustain peace and commerce.  Giving up control over certain situations, actions, and stochastic events in our life that we simply cannot control and doing it in a way that necessitates understanding and acceptance instead of anger and repression.  This is onsight climbing to a T.  I could go on and on about onsight climbing, but my initial point was about spending more time getting to know a route, a sequence, a section of climbable rock. 

I’m big on respect.  I don’t always show respect to my projects, friends, or family member’s, but I’m also not perfect.  I make mistakes and I give into my reptilian brain sometimes and react instead of respond.  I’m still learning how to think, but as I do I find it crucial to analyze my behavior under the context of climbing.  I know in the verglas of our commercial existence something as removed from our understanding of extant circumstances such as the seemingly banal activity of climbing (everyday) is predominantly seen as a blatant waste of time.  However, I would argue that climbing is paramount to our organic intuition of how exactly we can evolve.  We are constantly being ushered down a manufactured avenue, influenced by social constructs and ideologies (mostly founded upon the inklings of a bunch of old *white*men) that presuppose how we should interact with each other and live our lives.  The same noxious and infecting paradigms pervade our lifestyle of climbing and usher us yet again down avenues that we may not need to pursue in order to contemplate life and find happiness.  How do we exculpate the idea of respect and what to respect in the shiny insidious faces of our accomplishments?  And by what means do we value or devalue the methods in which we arrive at these ‘victories’?  Cheating, lying, using performance enhancing drugs; if climbing is to be seen through a lens of banality, immutable to the ‘real life’ problems of working class people, these may appear at first innocuous, contrivances that hold no sway in the outcomes of the fates of men (and women).  I highly doubt our actions within climbing can be separated from how our lives play out in the realm of ‘reality’ (again begging a definition, assuming climbing is not part of reality to begin with that it is merely something we do for fun, as opposed to someone who works as a doctor saving lives and treating genetic maladies, or someone who works in government trying to enact passive laws that attempt to redefine how we conserve energy and the environment; assuming these tasks and their outcomes are ‘good’ and shape reality and the actions within climbing are merely figments of an imagination we have spontaneously in our spare time that is derived from reality in which we actually exist and make real choices that have real consequences).
But the two are inextricably linked, no matter whose definition of ‘reality’ you choose to follow or place your belief in. 

If I am a shitty person inside the climbing community I inevitably will be a shitty person in the ‘real time’ community.  If I lie about an onsight of a hard climb what form does this take in the larger community as a whole?  I guess what I’m getting it really has to do with what we value in the community as a whole, how we form our beliefs and ideals of respect, and what kind of weight or gravity do our actions have within and between the communities we create?  I certainly don’t have an answer and have absolutely been guilty of bad ethical practices, the basis of which were always generated out of fear or a longing and desire to be respected and admired, realizing now that it was not a desire circumscribed only to the climbing community but to the larger social community as well.  Climbing is a mirror, whose applications are boundless. 

As for me, what I am up to.  Well, it’s been a mixed bag lately.  I’ve been kind of up and down, sometimes at the same time.  I’ve been really struggling with getting over this nagging injury in my middle finger.  While it doesn’t necessarily limit me inexorably, it’s like a splinter in my mind.  The more I climb on it, and the more time that passes where it doesn’t get better the more neurotic I become when I think about future trips and training in the gym. 

For the past six weeks I feel like I’ve been an extra in the movie Ground Hog Day.  A few days pass, I rehab my finger and train in the gym, it feels better, then I climb on it outside, the weekend passes and I start over on Monday with a sore finger, and so it goes.  I’m admittedly exhausted of this pattern.  With no end in sight.  Literally six weeks of this.  Last weekend I climbed both days on it, I tried some hard stuff as well; I woke up this past Monday, pain.  As the week went by its felt better and better but here I am on Friday, facing the weekend, feeling strong and wanting to go climbing and knowing that I could get away with it, but also knowing that I will probably wake up on Monday with a sore finger and have to start the cycle of healing all over again.   I’m not sad or angry about it, just concerned.  Concerned that I can’t stop.  I am making a concerted effort in the light of this frustration and consternation to not climb this weekend.  My finger is feeling great and I want to solidify the healing process and not have to worry about this again.  I’m sure I sound like a broken record and I can assure I feel like one, but I’ve gotten back into lock down mode especially after purchasing my ticket to the RED RIVER GORGE!!  So psyched to be heading back to this oasis of sport climbing.  And this time I will be there for two whole weeks.  The excitement I feel is almost uncontrollably oozing out of my pores.  I already have a laundry list a mile long and wildly optimistic but hey, you gotta' start somewhere.  I'll probably just end up wanting to spend the entire time in the madness cave pawing at large holds and falling off the same pumpy jugs over and over again; but you don't go to the red to slab climb or pull on tweaky pockets, you go there to play He-man or Conan the Barbarian or the Beastmaster and swing your sword high above you head to disembowel the mega-endurance monster that lurks in the massive darkness of our souls. 


Friday, August 14, 2015

Elevator to the Moon

Oh, let the rain come down and kiss my vapid soul.  I need some of that moistened Pacific Northwest Banana slug breath to reinvigorate my slow beating heart.  My sleeve was caught on the banister of the elevator to the moon and I had to run in place while several sun-kissed children of the plains passed me by.  Giggling they pointed at my pool of sorrows and watched as I struggled to keep pace with the fastidious rate of the mechanical up-lifter.  I was festooned in perpetual motion.  Awash with a kind sanity unbeknownst to mere observers.  And I saw the streaking stars that kissed the night’s sky die in infamy and recalcitrance.  Snuffed out like the tip of Prometheus hand rolled by an indignant outcast.  Birth on arrival.  Death on delivery.  Disappointment upon opening.  Satisfaction within ignorance.  Useful terror worn by the children’s crusade of loving echoes that leads to the galley of slaves.  Mere progression was not enough to save her.  I clung to the wall admiring the graceful pattern formed by the rope swaying between my legs, held in place by the gentle yet firm carabiners of life saving steel.  Entranced with the way the rock swooped out from the ground and met me where I was, frozen in amber, a snapshot of this moment, caught reading the language of this behemoth inviting me to dance with her. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lemon Drop

It was like that first time I started making links on Chronic.  That constant breathing, that intent focus, unwavering, that fire in my belly, that insane DRIVE!  I love that feeling.  That unquenchable pump.  The sudden burst of adrenaline when you realize ‘this is it!’; you have a choice at that moment: to be the helpless, unsuspecting mouse drenched in fear and apprehension; OR, the predatory snake, calm, articulated, powerful, subverting doubt and relying on a killer instinct given to you by millions of years of evolution, striking and surviving.  This metaphor of the snake and the mouse is prevalent to thinking about how to switch modes in climbing.  Alex Megos, Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma, and many other elite climbers have talked about having to switch ‘modes’ and develop this intense focus when they enter a hard redpoint crux or go for onsights.  And I propose that when you develop the ability to flip that switch you are learning how to climb with the ‘snake’ mentality, calculated, focused, instinctual. 

It had to be a good attempt or else I wouldn’t have taken it seriously.  I did in the end give up, on myself.  I knew I was pumped but I maybe could have squeezed one or two more movements in.  I’m not sure I enjoy sending things in this kind of hectic, convulsive style.  I like to feel like the powerful snake, moving like a cloud and striking like lightning when the crux approaches.  Unfortunately my fingers recoiled from the small sidepull crimp I was supposed to vice grip and I decided to fall victim to the fangs of the route instead of the other way around.  I was still pleased with the way I climbed up to that point.  Extended Illness is proving to be a worthy adversary.  When I send it, it will definitely be one of the most sustained routes I have ever done, particularly because I am deciding to just skip the knee bar rest and go for broke, looking for hints of recovery buried in the underclings just before the crux.  One shot of psych from this last weekends attempt on Extended was figuring out better beta for the slab crux.  Lead off the sloper with the right hand and reach up to the side pull as a gaston, elevator door with the LH on another good gaston and cross to the flat jug!  It worked like a charm.  I am totally and fully reinvigorated on this project and will start giving it send burns next weekend.  I’m hoping it only takes another two to three sessions to have it in the bag.  But this isn’t even my main project right now.  I’m using Extended (sans kneebar) as a trainer for the ultimate goal: Pornstar.  I had my first lead attempt (after trying parts of it on top rope a few months ago) and I actually did way better than I thought I would.  I was able to do all the moves up until the last crux boulder problem.  I think with a little refinement in the footwork department and the use of a different hold I should be able to start getting into the crux with some regularity.  I’m so energized on this project and am hopeful I can start consistently linking into the last boulder problem by the end of the month.  It’s a major undertaking, but I felt like the majority of the route was not too terribly hard, just powerful and sustained.  The first crux is amazing, huge moves on relatively good holds, totally my style.  The last crux is so heinous though, I can see falling there for a loooooong time.  Fortunately I have a loooooooong time.  And the temps are only going to get better. 

This past weekend on the ledge:

A whole smattering of strong people could be seen hunkered down in the tepid cloak of the afternoon high up on the ledge.  I think I knew almost everybody that was there as well: Zi, Paul, Waterfalls, Julie, Jimmy, Austin, Dr. Intern, Tex, David, Kyle, and Billis.  Needless to say it was a little crowded but in the end I didn’t have to wait for any of the lines I wanted to get on.  While the air temps were less than ideal and the rock was a tad warm and greasy it still proved to be quite the day of climbing.  Tex ended up flashing Sweet Tooth, which Waterfalls subsequently de-equipped and then swung right and de-foliated and equipped Slug Lover; so the quest to up the traffic on some of these old 5.12’s that see zero traffic continues.  The big news (sort of) was the main event of Dr. Intern’s continuing showdown with Chronic.  I just want to point out that Dr. Intern has come a long way since last season.  He has showed a lot of improvement and confidence at the ole World Wall by sending some of the more classic hard 12’s like Californicator, Psychosomatic, and Technorigine.  So it was natural when he decided to gravitate toward Chronic.  While he hasn’t sent 5.13a, Chronic is still kind of the next logical step, and definitely an attractive feather for the aspiring 5.13 climber cap.  I was impressed with the way he calmly climbed through the bottom section, looking dialed, and focused and relaxed.  As soon as he launched into the crux he started to get a little nervous, and in the redpoint crux there was definitely some try hard accompanied by the usual Dr. Intern expletives.  But, he stuck the moves and made it to the rest before the bulge.  Climbing over the bulge was very exciting and there were several moments when I thought he was done but managed to stick each crimp and pull into the last hard move lurching up to the jug.  THIS IS IT!!  He’s got it!  Oh wait, no, he’s falling off the LAST MOVE!!!  Like snapshots from a climbing nightmare; it was over in an instance.  I know how it feels to come so close to a breakthrough, the investment, the mental warring, the doubts, the small success and frustratingly slow progress, only to see victory slip (literally) through your fingers.  It was a pretty epic way to get a new highpoint, but as awesome as it would have been to see him send, at least he can be comforted by the fact that he now knows that he can get there again, climb those sections more efficiently, and ultimately send this route.  Now it’s just a matter of time.  We gave him a ton of shit for punting off the last move for the rest of the day so maybe that will be incentive for him to latch that victory jug next time out.  We will see.  I think there is an important lesson here in Dr. Intern’s failure.  When climbing at your limit there is an incredibly fine line you have to walk; between, hubris and humility, confidence and respect, and focus and fear.  Teeter too much into either side and you will find yourself falling into the abyss. 



"But now I looked back of them and felt the pinch and pressure of the environment that gave them their pitch and peculiar kind of being.  I began to feel with my mind the inner tensions of the people I met.  I don’t mean to say that I think that environment makes consciousness (I suppose God makes that, if there is a God), but I do say that I felt and still feel that the environment supplies the instrumentalities through which the organism expresses itself, and if that environment is warped or tranquil, the mode and manner of behavior will be affected toward deadlocking tensions or orderly fulfillment and satisfaction."  R. Wright  (Native Son)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A curse, a prayer, and a groan...

Thibeaut Pawlas on Pornstar (8b)

Reaching up in a desperate greasy attempt to move upwards I latched this smirking crimper and tried to lock off.  Nothing happened; my arm chicken winged and I backed off, falling. 
Forest Collin on Chronic (8a)
This past weekend on the ledge it was FUCKING HOT.  But that didn’t stop us from chuffing super hard, drinking too much beer, acting a fool, and sweating on everyone. 

David Ackerman on Californicator (7c)
 The same bad decisions were made, I thought I hurt my finger but it turns out its okay, Tex thinks he’s going to climb 5.14, we saw the re-emergence of Waterfalls, the Intern did typical intern stuff (not to mention he had no idea who Kyle O’ Meara was), they did not have Day Glo IPA at the NBBG, the dog poop on the trail is rampant, some stringy French guy showed up with mega-hot g-friend in tow and pissed on everything (including us), and no one got stung by the massive amounts of angry hornets that are slowly colonizing the wall.  God it’s good to bee alive (ha a pun!).

Kevin Erickson in the crux of Psychosoamtic (7c)

  The weather forecast for August is looking super cray right now.  In a good way.  The ridge of high pressure that was belligerently sitting on the coast like a drunken, obese, sweaty, cream filled Jaba the Hut has finally been devoured by the trough of low pressure that has allowed for some of that sweet sweet sea air to come in.  And with it, lovely low temps for the next few weeks. 

After a small finger re-injury scare I made it into the gym to the triumphant sound of no pain and am really happy to get back after it.  Training has commenced!!  Besides Squamish in a few weeks I’m heading back to the Red baby!!  This time for two weeks.  I’m so stoked I can’t stand it.  There is so much there I want to accomplish that I have to keep a lid on it and just start training for the trip now.  Until then it’s back to projecting and the pursuit of my first 8b.  Cheers to you all. 

Kevin Erickson nearing the crux on Flatliner(8a+)
Kyle VanHouse mid crux on Psychosomatic (7c)
 How do you respond when someone close to you tells you that you will never be that good?  Does it motivate you to prove them wrong?  Do you yield to their assumptions and self-imposing projections of their own insecurities?  Do you disagree out of anger?  And what does it mean when someone tells you this?  Does it validate your own fears?  IS it true? 

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Slice of What's to Come

It's so cold I'm slipping into deep contemplation....

I’m not sure why, but driving out in the rain, literally surrounded by low lying clouds and feeling as if I’m flying through one of them, just to go climbing, it feels good to me.  It’s exciting.  Maybe it’s all of the memories I have surrounding climbing at little si in the middle of a nice Fall rain storm.  And yet, it doesn’t really have to be a rainstorm, it can just be a nice Fall day AFTER a rainstorm, but in any event, these kinds of days; the ones that are filled with the smell of damp vegetation and decomposing wood, the ones with a bite in the air, make your hands cold on the hike in but still manage to drench you in sweat.  The ones that make your rubber stick like pine resin to the cold surface of the otherwise marble-slick rock, and have you scampering to pull your puffy on before a belay.  When the trail is littered with dead leaves of all shapes and sizes and colors.  When you know that this could be the day that you’ve been waiting for, after pouring an entire month of effort into one single pitch of climbing, this drop in temperature could spell victory.  What it really harkens back too for me, is that first time I paid a visit to World Wall.  It was October, it was a beautiful blue bird day, and my god I remember it being so cold.  I numbed out several times on my warm up, which was of Jug or Not (a terrible 5.10b that I did NOT send).  Despite my poor performance on the rock it was something more than all of that, it was the true beginning for me.  So when I think of where it all started, where I really fell in love with climbing, it was on one of these days, one of these perfect Fall days with a damp trail, shivering Alders, colors, cold, friends, and massively overwhelming walls of potential and introspection.  It is this memory that provides the foundation for my giddiness on these kinds of days, and yet there are also recent memories I have that fill me with this kind of joy as well.  Memories of sending Chronic in a downpour with mist literally hitting the wall as I was climbing; crunching up the trail in a sea of dead big leaf Maple fodder; drinking cold beer in freezing temps under a blue bird sky and having to climb a route twice (once to get warm, and a second time to go for the send); and knowing that at the end of the day surrounded by laughter and friends we would all retreat to the warmth of the NBBG and lament over good food about the shrinking of the days and extoll our plans for the Spring. 

Summer swells our experience like a bag of energy gels left in a hot car.  Everything slows down.  Even your climbing style seems to inadvertently change in speed and grace to resemble that of a constipated hippo.  Projects get put on hold (or sent, there is no in between), projecting sounds tedious and boring, and after the warm up the increasing sound of beers being opened can be heard all around.  The reigns are loosed, and everyone kind of goes into chill mode, as if we all suddenly inhabit the isles of ‘who gives a fuck’.  It’s harder to get this kind of excited about a summer day because the energy changes.  But when October rolls around, the days get shorter and the rock gets colder there is this primal rush to sew your oats.  You can feel the pressure and weight of the window slowly closing and all of a sudden shit gets serious (in a maddeningly playful way).  I keep coming back to that first memory, though.  Of being scared to death on Rainy Day.  To trying False Idol over and over and over again to no avail.  To the time where I wouldn’t even think of leaving the small Rainy Day corner.  To possibility, to newness, to the sheer unbridled camaraderie of life at the crag.  It is in all of these things that I find solace and euphoria. 

Bustin' a lap on Psycho(5.12d)
It was no surprise to me then, that this past weekend when I awoke in Seattle to clouds and rain and found myself driving out to Little si after a two week break that I couldn’t help but smile periodically throughout the day.  The air was thick with the smell of plant life opening up to receive there moist gift and expel the pheromones of life.  My hands were cold but my body was swimming in the humid temperance of the valley.  Julie trailed behind with an umbrella, I just took my shirt off and let the rain kiss me.  In the back of my mind I knew that the wall would be dry but there is always a small bit of paranoia that maybe your day out will turn into a day in.  We stumbled upon a completely dry wall (well, pretty much completely dry) and had a lovely time repeating the classics.  My big project for the day was getting a gauge on where my finger was (injury-wise) and where my fitness was (chuffer-wise).  It was mentally taxing to take so much time off after feeling like I was finally hitting my stride, and even more so having to wonder whether or not taking that time off did my finger any good.  But, it was all for the best because after I warmed up and started to get on progressively harder and crimpier lines I noticed there was no pain or soreness in my knuckle, and soon I wasn’t worrying about it and I was able to really just enjoy being outside on a cold and rainy day doing what I love to do.  The highlights of the day were repeating Chronic first go of the day and pulling into the gaston of Flatliner after not resting nearly as long as I usually do at the ledge or triple jugs.  We also came out Sunday and it was just as magical as the day before and cold.  I loved it!  I had a very similar day to the one before with the real victory coming in the form of zero pain in my finger and hopping on Gerbil Killer and day flashing it to the psycho crux before getting pumped stupid.  Gerbil Killer is awesome, I love that line and I’m actually really psyched to do the Gerbil Rising link on top of getting back on Extended Illness.  However, I’m also not naïve to the fact that I need to take it slow coming off of my recent injury and ease back into project mode instead of violently crimping my way back in.  I wish I had been in better shape to take advantage of this little Autumnal vortex that came whirring through over the weekend but it served as a good reminder that taking time to rest now will pay huge dividends when the temps, leaves, and projects start to drop. 

What do you bring to the crag?

My main focus now is to hangboard (A LOT), start mixing in some bouldering to my training regiment, and make a few trips to Squamish, Newhalem, and maybe get back to Equinox and try to sort out Fight Club.  I also have to keep in mind that it’s roughly four weeks out until the Cutthroat Classic and I have to start training for that as well.  August already seems to be packed with things to do and objectives to accomplish and in a way, it’s enjoyable, in another way it makes the time pass in an uncomfortably quixotic fashion.