Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wasps, Bats, Spiders, Snakes, and Ladybugs

The lunar eclipse.

Okay, so the title of this entry is a little misleading, technically there were no snakes involved. 

The wildlife at Little si has been exploding, and I’m not just talking about the strange creatures that resemble humans you tend to see waddling up the ‘trail’.  The wall is teeming with arthropodian action as an orgiastic winged and multi-legged circus of life and death parades around the various cracks and crevices of the great white behemoth that is world wall.  Hordes of wasps looking to breed and feast in order to proliferate into the future and survive the Winter are buzzing about the sunny side of the cliff, while hungry female spiders have been planting finely tuned traps to capture the last gasp of buzzing fury from the tepid pools of September rain water.  Ladybugs numbering in the hundreds coat the upper walls, beetling about, pausing to gesticulate here and there, wandering about the chaotic pheromone trails that will eventually lead to nothing or a six legged lover in a dotted suit of armor.  Roosting bats disturbed before their nocturnal exuberances release a hiss that sounds like the gas escaping from a pressurized cylinder, baring teeth at any wayward fingers that might come poking into their lairs. 


It is twice now that I have yet to fully complete my warm up due to the number of wasps comingling on the upper holds of Technorigine.  Several people have been stung already this early Fall season and one of my friends has even taken a spider bite.  I was skeptical of his story until the other day when I literally saw enormous black and grey banded spiders that resembled she-lob from LOTR raining from the sky.  I suffered a severe nip of shock when I felt a small pinch on my exposed side and looked down to see one of these hideously stupendous creatures clinging to me.  I did the calm and manly patient pantomiming of a Chinese cartoon character on fire and after ridding my bodice of the arachnid proceeded to turn a shade of pale that any virginal bride would be envious of.  It’s one thing to be in awe of the mechanical mysticism's of the insectoid world, quite another to have that spiny world molest your love handles unexpectedly. 

North Bend


It has become almost a daily occurrence now to hear the screeching of disturbed bats emanating from the deep fissures of the hardened rhino rock.  Like the screams of small furry near-sighted mental patients in some kind of granitic prison their shrieks of displeasure can be quite unsettling, especially when one is on the sharp end and the rock appears to hissing at you for no apparent reason.  The less traveled extensions are a popular haunt for these small rabies ridden creatures.  Austin, working his way up Extendorigine literally came face to face while searching for a hold amidst the scattered mini-roofs of this line with a very displeased bat.  It screetched at him to stay away and while that didn’t work it started to bare its teeth at him (I’m sure all the while foaming at the mouth and whipping up a frenzy of rabies concentrated hate). 

All of this to say, be careful out there. 

Here is the weekly ledge-life run down.  Saturday: was a shit show.  There were A LOT of people on the ledge and it was cold, wet, and overcast.  We were basically climbing in a cloud of mank all day.  Mank is a term we use to describe greasy/humid/unfavorable conditions, not something you can usually see visually with your eyeballs, however on this day you could actually observe the mank wafting through the valley and saturating our space with its moist affect.  With that being said the rock was real cold and the mank did not stay, it merely danced and swayed around us, kissing us from time to time, and then left.  It was pretty hard to keep the fingers warm.  I sat around and waited for quite some time between each burn to get on my desired climb.  While frustrating it was also kind of nice to have some forced rests between burns.  I think it did me some good, one hanging Extended Illness never felt so easy and getting a new high point on Pornstar (and then blowing the one hang by centimeters!!) was very exciting.  It was slightly depressing to see how wet the crag had become after a small downpour the night before.  There was almost no place to sit that would accommodate a dry bum, and a lot of the shoulder routes were wet and some of the harder main lines threatened to seep.  As the evening progressed the clouds cleared and a brilliant dark blue ascended promising a drier following day.

The rest,

Man I sure do loves me some good resting.

This hold is lovingly referred to as 'the butterdish'.

The last boulder on this rig is delicate, powerful, technical, and quite brilliant.

Sunday: was gorgeous.  The crowds had scattered leaving the wall free and clear, the sun shone bright, and the air temps were quite nice.  Much easier to keep the fingers warm between burns.  Being scared off the last few moves of Techno by our hymenopteran friends I lowered and immediately got on Psycho to continue warming up.  I made it to the top of Softliner camera in tow and snapped a few shots of Justin on Enigma.



Getting into the nasty compression sequence on crimps and sidepulls.  This route looks brilliant!!

I gave Extended my obligatory send burn of the day and actually came closer than I have before.  I keep getting spit off by pump and small foot holds.  Every time I try to get my feet high to set up for a big bump to a small crimp I get all bunched up and my bulging forearms just can’t keep me from peeling off this small incut sidepull.  But I garnered the one hang again (grumble grumble)

I managed to talk Justin into taking some photos of me trying Pornstar.  I don’t really have any photos of me climbing at World Wall so it was nice to be in the other side of the camera for a change.  I’m also incredibly narcissistic so I really just wanted to know if I look like as a big of a chuff puff as I feel.  You can judge for yourself.

Pornstar felt incredible, even though I was a bit tired.  I fought my way to the usual stopping point and then managed to move into a rest at the start of the penultimate crux, copping a heel hook and striking into new ground.  Another highpoint!  But my heel ripped off unexpectedly and I fell before being able to make the first moves of the last crux.  Happy and bummed at the same time I pulled back on and knew the one hang was in the bag but messed up the crux sequence and fell.  Oh well, the two hang is still a colossal step forward.  I did the crux sequence and it felt pretty damn good to latch that victory jug.  This route is perfect in every way and I’m increasingly optimistic that it could go soon.  If the weather stays nice it could go this weekend (maybe overly optimistic??).  But it doesn’t look like the weather cards are being dealt favorably to our corner.  Every 7 day forecast I look at for North Bend has large amounts of precip in the forecast.  And usually the long range forecasts move up a bit as time passes.  For instance, I’m looking at the forecast today (Monday), and it says North Bend will get close to an inch on Saturday.  However, in my experience , what this really means, is that by this Wednesday the forecast will probably look more like Rain on Thursday and continuing until forever.  The price of being a weekend warrior is usually paid in frustration and bitter resentment towards the weather gods.  And while the Red beckons with a long slender finger from a dark candle-lit room, these projects at Little si are just starting to click!  Oh the conundrum!!  I’m sure as soon as I return from my trip everything at Little si (save Chronic) will be dripping wet and seeping like an emotionally shallow teenage girl at the end of The Notebook. 
I'm sure I'm being dramatic here, but this will probably be the last 'good' day at World Wall.  We'll just have to see what November brings.  In any event, it has been a crazy, magical, emotional, laughter-filled year at this crag.  I've met some incredibly intelligent, sincere, strong, and genuine people over the last 14 months.  I've climbed Chronic a total of 26 times now, went through countless bags of 'dead hamsters'(aka cookies), drank the equivalent of what a small Bavarian town goes through in a night's worth of beer, thrown wobblers, screamed with joy, overcame crippling fears of failure, made the impossible possible, and reinforced time and time again my undying, unyielding, unwavering devotion to climbing rock. 
“The use only of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult” –W. Berry

Monday, September 28, 2015

Open Season

In the fading light of yet another day we walked down the drying dirt path, surrounded by transforming green.  Moss drenched limbs of big leaf maples cracked and weaved through the panoply of our view and the vanilla cream of the baby blue sky now turned a rosy hue as it died behind the curtain of the horizon.  The weight of my pack was unnoticeable as I gazed over my shoulder at the disappearing memory of the day’s events.  The air was crisp and clean, and it made me feel buoyant in a way, energized, renewed.  It breathes life into an otherwise humid and decomposing environment.  This season, Autumnal in all of its glory, is my favorite.  It is both simultaneously inviting and repelling.  It awakens and sedates.  The burst of cold clarity that comes with the shadows of this time of year is also met with a kind of warmth that is different from the heavy dragging heat of the summer. 

This past weekend was really the first true weekend of the Fall.  Climbing temps could not be any better.  While we were bundled up on the ledge, waiting our turn, the climbers who were engaged in battle were shedding layers quickly and commenting on how good everything felt.  This is the time of year we spend all summer forgetting about and secretly training for.  When it finally arrives crazy unexpected breakthroughs happen, and projects get sent.  It was no different this past weekend, a sort of opening weekend in a sense.  I declare an open season on projects at World Wall.  I haven’t seen Californicator, Propaganda, and Technorigine get gang banged so hard, probably ever.  Nothing super hard to report, but a lot of breakthroughs. 

For me personally, I made a highpoint on my project Pornstar, and then in the same burn, after a couple of hangs, I sent the crux which I have never been able to do.  Sending temps indeed.  I have now completed all of the moves on Pornstar.  So psyched!  It will take a while before it’s primed for good sending burns (or rather I’m primed) but I’ve got nothing but time.  Enigma is also getting worked over pretty hard.  Justin and Kevin have been putting the screws to this masterpiece and just yesterday Kevin completed about 65-70% of the route on link falling just short of the ‘enigma’ move.  When he came down from his burn I turned to him and said, “This past year has been all about breaking through barriers and tearing down walls.  Things that have classically been deemed ‘too hard to try’ or ‘out of our pay grade’ have now been put on the project list, and some serious links have been made.”  Kevin is blazing some pretty impactful trails lately, he also stuck one of the crux moves on the Whore of Babylon, has been repeating Flatliner consistently and easily and also working Lost Horizons and has also done all of the moves on Pornstar and has made significant links on that route as well.  He’s basically opened four projects from .13d to .14b for himself.  Not bad.  Not a weekend has gone by lately where I haven’t seen someone sending their project, whether it’s been Techno, Californicator, Propaganda, or Psychosomatic (the Quartet as I call it).  And just the other day we saw some old Spanish dude fall just short of onsighting Technorigine after questing super hard through it’s powerful and technical cruxes.  Very inspiring. 

As the sun dances its way up the black and tan rhino rock the hordes of wasps (the fallout from a particularly bad winter) chase its warmth higher and higher until it disappears entirely and they retreat to their enclaves.  I warmed up on Techno, it was gloriously bathed in sunlight, and as I approached the final sequence I glanced up and noticed 7-8 wasps darting in out of the cracks and crevices that make up the final holds.  As they swirled around my head and legs I opted out of a WWE-esque smackdown with the hymenopteran horde and plunged into the shade escaping any kind of venomous retribution. 

I made it home late Sunday evening.  As I drove west on I-90 I noticed several groups of people standing on the overpasses that lace through the streamlined interstate.  They were all looking east and as I drove home in a somewhat sedated fashion I thought nothing of it.  I pulled up to my house and stepped out of the car, approaching the front door with my arms full and my backpack sagging off one shoulder.  I heard the voice of my roommate, his room located on the second story, his window just above the front stoop of our house.  “Hey man, check out the moon.”  I swiveled and swirled in the middle of the street straining to see something amazing.  “Look east.” He said.  I turned my gaze east, and faintly, just barely there, I could make out the outline of a dim shadow of where the moon should be.  It was as if a strong merlot had been dumped on the satin surface of the moon and it now sported a darkening black eye of liquid red amber.  Later that night, deep in sleep, I had a dream within a dream.  My first dream was a stressful ordeal, I had been awakened by something other than my alarm but to my total disbelief it was already 10:00 in the morning and well past when I usually get to the office.  I remember a feeling of overwhelming discontent and unease.  I eventually snapped awake, but inside of another dream.  I was in my old house in Colorado where I had lived as a pre-teen and teen.  I don’t remember the details very well but I eventually sat in a stairwell, my knees up to my chest and my arms hugging them, and started to cry.  Uncontrollably, a great oppressive feeling of sadness permeated this dream.  I did eventually wake up, in real time.  My alarm had not gone off for some reason even though my phone was telling me that I had set it.  Bizarrely, I had woken up one minute after it was supposed to go off. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Ant That Ate the Elephant

I just wanted to say, I’ve really been enjoying rock climbing lately.  I had a really amazing day out just over a week ago and it was one of those days that filled me with excitement, motivation, and intrigue.  For some reason, I was just filled with energy.  I didn’t manage to send anything on my tick list but it didn’t matter.  It was one of those days where even in failure there was some feeling of success.  I think this happens when you know you have given yourself over completely to the climb and you managed to leave it all on the table in terms of effort.  Which I did.  I love days like these, because it fills me with that passion and reminds me why I love the art of climbing.  Grades, quandaries, ego; they all melt away and what you’re left with is this intense focus; climbing becomes an outlet for your unique way of interpreting life.  Climbing has constantly instilled me with a sense of wonder as well.  Nothing could have been clearer to me as I waded through the adventure climbing on Extendorigine.  It made me realize that for one, I haven’t been on new terrain in a LONG time, and two, there is nothing more exhilarating, nothing more bubbling over with life than launching headlong into the abyss of the unknown. 

 Last week was the one year anniversary of my first 5.13 send.  I didn’t really dwell on it very much, but it is a neat feeling to now be dissecting and envisioning a new challenge.  Something that I really never thought would be a reality for me.  I’ve started working a route called Pornstar.  It, in my humble opinion, represents the standard of hard climbing at Little si, and quite possibly Washington (and yes I know there are WAY harder routes here).  I’m certainly not close to sending, but I’m also not flailing.  I deserve to be on this route which is a very exciting feeling, but I also have a long way to go before all the pieces are aligned for a send.  For now, my goal is to just start making high points and to take down the crux at the top which I have not done yet. 

Lisa Chulich on 'Hang It Out To Dry'(5.12b)
 The route basically consists of four boulder problems.  The first is the techno crux, and I won’t go into detail here because I’m sure the majority of you reading this have actually done it or warm up on it. 

 The meat of the climb begins off a massive sidepull jug.  This is the second boulder problem.  You traverse left using an undercling and a sloper making a big move first to a sidepull slot and then to a good crimp rail  You match the crimp rail and reach to a good LH pinch sidepull.  From this sidepull you make a massive span up and right to a good texture less slot.  You then make a hand heel match with some footwork trickery and lock off to a good LH incut sidepull.  You bump the right hand up the crack/seam a bit more and then stab for a monster jug.  This second boulder problem is roughly V.5 and is easily my favorite bit of climbing on this wall so far.

Bishop 2010
The third boulder problem (and the shorter people do this section WAY different than I do) begins when you leave the jug and come out to some good crimps, you set up for a massive (almost a dyno) move to a LH sloper sidepull, which you have to lock off and bring the RH to a palm down open gaston, then the LH goes to a good undercling sloper.  You clip off of this and move out right to a good crimp and a good blocky sloper.  This boulder is probably V.4, it’s not a lot of moves but the moves it does have are powerful and punchy. 

Discovery Park WFR class
 From these two holds you have to generate some sort of a rest because here is where the fourth and final boulder problem awaits.  Reaching out left you grab what is affectionately referred to as the ‘butter dish’, because it is small and slopey and usually greasy and has zero texture.  Walking your feet through to the left you make a hard snatch up right to a full pad side pull.  Using some heinous compression strength you have to squeeze really hard and get your RF up to the blocky sloper you were just resting on, turn your RH sidepull into an undercling, match feet, and then slowly and strenuously stand up and bring the LH all the way across the body and up into a sort of pocket crimp undercling.  This undercling isn’t any good at first, but once you twist your body to the right and drop your hip in you start to stand up into the undercling.  Grabbing a shitty slimper with the RH you adjust on the undercling, and then make one more powerful, life-draining stab to the holy shit victory jug at the top.  Route over!  The last crux is somewhere in the V.6/7 range (the shorties say 7 while a lanky French dude said 6).  I still have not been able to execute this last sequence but I haven’t really sieged it yet either. 

Infinite Bliss
 My highpoint so far is falling just short of the final crux sequence.  I know, it doesn’t sound promising now, but the route is starting to feel easier and easier at the beginning.  It’s a process, an undertaking, a decision.  A colony of ants has to eat the dead elephant carcass one bite at a time, even though there are millions of them, and one of him.  The route is my elephant carcass because it’s stationary, static, unchanging, a concrete obstacle.  But my brain is like the millions of members of a hungry ant colony; all moving autonomously, but making uniformed decisions, adapting, slowly pecking away at this challenge until I gain the knowledge, muscle memory, and confidence to put it down. 

 All I know is that so far, every time I try the route I feel good.  I feel like trying hard, I feel like it brings who I truly am out of me, out of some kind of ether that floats around me at all times but I don’t quite utilize to its full potential.  And I think, I hope, that’s why we all want to climb hard routes or boulders.  We all try to look for ourselves inside of these routes, these stationary paradigms, these eternal alters of the mind. 

 Mt. Adams

 Camp Muir


What’s on the horizon for me?  Well, the good news is that my finger injury has nearly run its course, hallelujah!!  Every training session, rehab session, outdoor climbing session, it has felt better and better.  I just had my first ‘real’ power endurance training session yesterday and it went quite well.  I’m constantly impressed by the setting at Stone Gardens.  The problems there are of such high caliber in my opinion.  I don’t think you can find a better set of technical, powerful, thought provoking, aesthetically pleasing boulders anywhere in this state.  Really psyched to have this place to train at.  They recently re-set the 45 and stacked it with powerful V.5’s one right next to the other.  SO, for my PE cycle I have been trying to link all of the V.5’s on this wall into each other.  YIKES!  It’s hard, really hard.  But, it’s also a mesmerizing challenge and one that intimidates and motivates me.  As far as my goals for the next month, well, they boild down to trying to get insanely good at overhaning jug hauls in preparation for the Red, and sending a project I’ve been working off and on for the last eight months.  Extended Illness represents the last of the attainable 5.13’s at Little si (besides the three I have left to do, Black Is All We Feel, Hadley’s Roof, and Oval Orifice).  It’s been a very persnickety process.  I’ve failed at finding the correct way of using the monster no hands kneebar rest just before the crux so instead I’ve opted to just climb my way through the rests and try to send the crux on link.  I get a few good shakes in the underclings but for the most part it’s just coming down to raw fitness.  I’ve one hung this rig several times but everytime I go for the link on point I just completely lose it in the crux.  It will come down to sheer determination and a lot of good breathing. 



Mt. Rainier

Sitka Sound


*On a side note: as for the whole perma-draw situation; I would just like to note that Luke has changed out the draws on Psychowussy, from the ‘franken-draws’ to some really nice looking grey banded steeltecs that clip well and look very streamlined.  This whole discussion about what to equip, when to equip it, and why has given me some good perspective, new and old.  For this crag, seeing as how there are so many extensions off both Abo and Psycho it makes sense to have these two bottom lines equipped as well, especially when it’s done properly and the equipment used is minimal and aesthetic.  I would like to thank everybody who has put time and money into making (and maintaining) World Wall One a safer and more enjoyable crag.  Justin has glued the creaking horn on Chronic, a few rusty and sketchy looking bolts have been replaced on Chronic and Abo, a few climbers have gone up Extendorigine and done some cleaning.  Erich Sachs has been working feverishly to connect the dots between psychosomatic and pornstar as well as placing a new bolt to link black ice into the top portion of lost horizons; adding a couple of new challenges and hard linkups.  It seems as if everyone is making a concerted effort to keep World Wall up to date and open for new developments. *




Saturday, September 19, 2015

Growing Cold

I’ve been alive (at least on this plane of existence) for roughly 1,072,224,000 seconds.  A billion seconds.  For some reason when you put it in terms of seconds, no matter how many decimal places you throw in there it doesn’t sound like a long time.  And in deed in the grand scheme of existence and time scales and evolution, 34 years isn’t even a fraction of a millisecond compared to how long time has existed.  It’s such a small portion, a fraction of a fraction of a hummingbird wing titter, a percent of a mass of a particle of proton in an atom of a compound of a nucleus of a cell of the body of an elephantine organism of the life of this time.  It’s so small, comparatively, that it’s a wonder I exist at all.

 Fall wears Summer like a soggy poncho.  Ready to shed it, wearily, and don a brightly colored shower cap insisting it bathe in the Indian Summer’s golden light; cleanse itself of the heat and humidity, the grease and mankiness, the empty beer cans, crumpled cellophane of sandwich wrappers, and grease stained paper bags once filled with delicious confectionary creations.  Fall answers the phone like an old man with broken hearing aids; “What?!  Who?!”, it’s report is silent and crisp, cold and contemplative.  Fall (NOT Summer) reminds me of being a child; unbridled and carefree(less).  Intensely living in this moment as if I was drunk on the power of naiveté.  I can remember thinking about what my life would be like when I was a ‘grown up’, 25, 30, 35 years old.  I can assure you that little Micah did not plan on this.  Rather, I let it happen to me.  Dying and being reborn over and over again, my life resembling the editing room floor of a film school grad student in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. 

Seattle has resumed itself.  Outside looks like the insides of a once proud and stout helping of cotton candy that has now been thrown in a dirty pool of water and picked apart by the various visitors of an abandoned carnival lot.  I didn’t ask for anything for my birthday because I’m happy.  I’m satiated.  I need nothing.  I also don’t enjoy celebrating my birthday, I was born, like billions of others, the end.  But enough of this emo-bull-shit-self-pity-pee-parade.  My thirty-third year on this planet is over, it has been catalogued thoroughly in my blog and there is no need to re-hash the triumphs and failures now.  Instead I look to the future for answers, and questions.  I will not espouse my goals for this coming year but extoll my hopes and dreams from upon high, swing my arms wide and twirl in the virtual fields of the internet.  I hope I go back to school.  I dream of having a career I love.  I hope I train hard. I dream of reaching a new level in my climbing.  I hope my friends and family are happy.  I dream of transcending pettiness, selfishness, egotism, antipathy, and douche-baggery. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Not Because I Love You

I want to talk about quickdraws this week.  In particular the perma-draw.

When I started climbing as a youngster back in 1992 I was eleven years old and sport climbing had been around long enough to have escaped the bolt wars, the rap-bolt wars, the trad wars, the sad wars, and any other kind of war you can imagine.  Although I’m sure sport climbers still received a vast amount of judgmental anguish from trad climbers.  I won’t even go into bouldering since crash pads hadn’t even been invented yet.  However the quickdraw seemed paramount to attaining any kind of climbing glory when I was introduced to the activity of climbing on a rope.  In my recollection the only permanent draws I ever saw were in the gym.  It seemed ludicrous to place your own gear in a controlled environment where people went to learn how to climb and become more proficient at it in order to achieve their goals outside (in an uncontrolled environment).  When I went climbing outside my most prized possession was my sport rack; which I had to beg my parents for the money for, thwarting video game systems, soccer cleats, new roller blades, or Magic cards.  Climbing outside always meant placing your own draws, I never saw permanent draws, probably because they hadn’t been invented yet either just like the crash pad.  This definitely resulted in a loss of gear from time to time. But so it goes. 

When I picked climbing back up in 2006 I was mainly climbing 5.10’s and 5.11’s and just starting to break into the 5.12’s.  My experience with other crags and their inherent ethics was minimal at best and even in 2006/7 the perma-draw had still not been invented (if it had I never saw one).  I can remember my first trip to Smith, full of hubris and gym inflated ego and flailing my way up someone’s pre-placed mank on Churning.  Thank god those draws were there because I pulled on a lot of them.  Back in Washington my introduction to Little si was slow, but I remember it well.  The only routes that had any gear on them at all were what I considered in those days (and still do) ‘the big rigs’, basically anything 5.12c and harder.  Climbing a line easier than that on what we consider perma-draws now would have been bizarre.  We always placed our own gear on sport climbs unless we were projecting and even then at the end of the day we would take our mank off the route and home with us.  Little si has grown in popularity just as the nearby cities have grown in population and about 4 years ago there was a major effort on the part of some incredibly diligent and loving locals to replace a lot of the nylon and aluminum ‘perma-draws’ that blanketed popular hard routes like Propaganda, Chronic, Techno extension, Psychosomatic extension and Flatliner, Porpaganda, Hydrophobia extension, Enigma, Dr. Evil, Extended Illness, Lizard Prince, Porn Star, Black Ice, and the Whore of Babylon.  Everything else no matter how classic or popular was left blank, and for a good reason. 

1)      It is, and always has been, my understanding that we place permanent draws on routes that are hard to clean.  Any other argument goes down a philosophical rabbit hole that only ends in us chasing our tales as we go round and round on a carousel laziness and bullshit reasoning. 

2)      The other reasons are simply because the route is hard and it’s hard to place the draws each time when you want to work the moves, but since hard is subjective to the user this reason falls on its face.  What’s hard to a 5.9 climber is laughable to a 5.12 climber and so on and so forth. 

3)      We put perma-draws on a route because it’s popular.  This argument is stupid because it faces certain economic downfalls like the free-rider problem and the tragedy of the commons.  If a resource is free (at least to the majority of users) it becomes over-utilized and eventually destroyed, which has been the case in certain climbing areas.  So this argument is fucked as well.

You can see why this topic is difficult to address. 

Now, within the past year, slowly, more and more perma draws have made their way onto some of the lower end yet highly popular routes.  At first it was the majority of Abo that received perma-draws.  Okay, I get that, Porn Star is awesome and ridiculously hard and it’s nice to have draws on Abo when your projecting Porn Star, even though if you’re strong enough to project Porn Star you are obviously strong enough to place your own draws on Abo as well as retrieve them at the end of the day; however Porn Star wanders far left from the original line of Abo so cleaning the draws would be nearly impossible and actually would force the climber to have to re-climb Abo to get the draws off.  So perma draws on Abo seems to make sense. 

However, this seemingly unobtrusive gesture to lace an entire 5.11b route with perma draws was setting an invisible standard that we locals were somewhat blind to.  By doing so you send a message to visiting climbers that this is business as usual.  If we are willing to spend the money to put perma-draws on a route graded 5.11b than why not put perma draws on every 5.11 route?  Why not put them on every 5.10?  Where does it stop??  If I was a visiting climber I would look at that and immediately assume that the locals here don’t mind perma-draws everywhere on everything. 

So it does not come as a shock to me when I showed up to Little si this past Saturday to yet another popular 5.11 route completely laced with perma draws.  I wasn’t mad at the fact that these new perma-draws were uglier than the usual ones found on a lot of the other hard route here at Little si, (they were some kind of ‘franken-draw’ with a long and short draw option, the short draw kind of protruding out of the top of the quicklink, it looked like some kind of weird kitchen utensil), or the fact that no one understood why they had been put on this route.  I complained about them not knowing that the equipper was actually at the crag that day.  Upon returning the next day I saw that he was there and had a somewhat passive exchange with him about the draws.  My position was that I just didn’t see a need to equip this route with perma draws.  Especially the kind he had put on the route (the weird double ‘franken-draw’ that gives the climber a short or long option).  He explained to me that he wanted to make everyone happy and give the climbers who were trying Psychowussy the short option, and climbers who were trying Psychosomatic or Flatliner the longer option.  My response was simply, why didn’t you just put short draws on the entire route and then when you project Flatliner place your own long draws on it (which is what I did).  He didn’t seem to understand the need to do that.  I’m not trying to bash on the individual who put these perma-draws up.  After climbing with him that day he is a great guy, a strong climber, and I’m sure his intentions were coming from a place of wanting to contribute and help. 

So here is the conundrum.  How do we police our local crag?  Do we let anyone with the means to do so equip routes no matter what the level of difficulty?  Am I being an outdated douche-bag?  Is the problem with me and my inability to adapt to or accept change?   When do we equip a route with perma-draws, what kind of perma-draws do we use, and at what level of difficulty warrants the equipping of a route? 

In closing I would just like to say that if I could snap my fingers and return Little si to the way it was -approximately four-five years ago - with no route below 5.12c being equipped with perma-draws, I would do it in a heartbeat.  I think placing your own gear up to a certain level is a rite of passage.  I think using perma-draws up to a certain level of difficulty is acceptable considering the nature of the climb and how difficult it is to clean.  But this is all very new to me, and this is also just my opinion.  I would really like to know what the climbing community at large thinks about this issue.  I have not really been privy to any in-depth conversations surrounding this issue.  And I’m sure the statements I’ve made above are riddled with hypocrisy. 
In the end it would be awesome to have some kind of standards and criteria made for equipping routes, as well as some kind of local governing body that visiting climbers could contact in order to consult about local ethics and permission to equip certain routes.  I definitely do not think this should be a free for all.  Never in the history of anything has that worked out well.  I also want to make it overtly clear that I am not bashing the guy who equipped Psychowussy.  He invested time and money in something he thought would make the crag better and I want to encourage that behavior but maybe with a more conservative approach.  Again, locals set the standard with their behaviors and their actions which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways by visiting climbers.  Not every crag has the same ethics, and not every climber shares my opinion or experiences.  I want everyone to enjoy this crag in a safe manner, I want everyone visiting this crag to be challenged, awe inspired, and psyched on climbing.  But there has to be a balance between a clean climbing aesthete, and the aesthete of a gym.  I think I know what that looks like, but I would definitely like some help fleshing it out. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Push Up Push Up Push Up Push On

It's never a bad day when you wake up to this.

Goddamn it felt good to be back in Squamish, and to my surprise everything was just where I had left it four years ago!  That’s right, unbelievably it had been almost exactly four years since I had been in the dark forest; this jumbled labyrinth of granite, this sea of moss and nutrient-rich rotting wood, this pantheon of risen soldiers bathed in coniferous affectitude, the bright white slabs of hardened feldspar, mica, and quartz frozen in their upheaval through time framing a jumbled mess.  But we make sense of it all with our tick marks and boot rubber.  We tame this unyielding beast with sawed logs, crash pads, and attentive spotters; hoping to find our way to the top of these sacred alters, our sacrifice: skin.

Tex can't believe his eyes.

Waterfalls (self-proclaimed 'sport climber') decided to crush the ever-loving piss out of Worm World Cave(V.8/9) on his third go.  Beast.



This girl came for a visit!  Special K, the Colonel, Kearns, K-dawg, the list of nick names goes on and on.  I was so psyched to see this lady and bummed her counterpart could not join her on this Canadian chuff-fest.  She crushed, we drank beer, had rap battles, made fun of awkward hipsters trying to climb, and waxed poetic about RJ’s glorious abs.  Oh the life. 

K-dawg crushing the first move on Golden Boy (V.7)  She made some impressively quick links but failed to send because we were laughing too hard.

New local crusher Mason taking a different approach on the ultra classic (read: grovel-fest) Golden Boy.

The days wore on, and the temps were near perfect.  I haven’t bouldered this consistently in 8 months!  But to my surprise my skin actually held up quite well.  It was funny to be bouldering after such a long concentrated stint of sport climbing.  I found myself trying to rapid-fire problems and then getting exhausted and feeling as if my body was going to disintegrate and realizing that I could not stamina my way through the projects.  I had to get back into that bouldering mindset of patience and intense focus on each attempt, instead of the sport climbing approach which is usually just to wear down the climb.  With the exception of my skin, everything else kind of went the way of the buffalo; my muscles became extremely fatigued as well as my mentality.  I started the trip feeling very strong and motivated to try hard and ended the trip ready to crawl back into the womb and lick my wounds.  Besides getting pretty royally shut down on almost everything I got on I also took a nice little tumble after miss-judging a foot placement on a moss covered rock.  Luckily I know how to fall with a crash pad on and came out the other side with a heavily bruised and scraped up shin.  Squamish + beer  = messed up lower extremities.

The only thing that really stuck in my craw is falling off the very last move of Mantra, especially after seeing like 4-5 people hike it right in front of me.  I was so bummed when I reached that point in the session when I just knew I had nothing left in the tank.  Oh well, I’m not going anywhere and neither is it. 


And then, a massive Gibb's Cave session broke out.  HOORAY for the LAST DAY!

This chick CRUSHED.  She was working some heinous looking power endurance monster of a problem whose name escapes me, but it went at V.10 and we watched her three times in a row climb from the depths of this beast all the way to the last move and fall.  She was pissed.  We were in awe.

Kevin crushed Gibb's after using Forest's heel hook beta.

Forest contemplates his status as 'intern'.

Billis is the strongest gumbie I've ever climbed.  I have no problem admitting that she is most likely stronger than I am.

A lot of things have changed in Squamish since I first started going there back in 2007.  The paved climbers parking lot is pretty sweet, the extra pit toilets are divine, the slack lining area and the picnic tables that you can cook breakfast/lunch/and dinner at are awesome, the spigot for water and cleaning dishes, the spill over lots that you can park in and sleep in for free are awesome as well (even though I heard rumors of a ranger asking people to leave in the evening and possibly threatening a ticket, I slept in my car un-harassed both nights); but some things never change like running into several people I have met over the years in Bishop, the Red, or even from the gym back in Seattle, trying to figure out how to grab those Squamish non-holds just right so that they actually feel like a hold, and waking up to the looming presence of the Chief and staring out over the sound, two immaculate enormities whose presence both draws you in and intimidates you, beckons and expels.  This trip was good for many reasons but the one that sticks out in my mind is how connected you feel to the people around you and the people you climb, eat, spot, laugh, get frustrated with, and share in the joy with at the end of the day.  I love my friends.  I noticed at every breakfast we were the group laughing the hardest, we were the group taking everything and nothing seriously, we were the group succeeding and failing and moving on to the next challenge unscathed (unless of course you slip on a moss covered rock and fuck your shin up).  Home is where the heart is for sure.  And my heart is infinitely broken and mended amongst the rocks,  the dripping benches of rest day rain, the condensation of a night long sleep induced malaise of stale beer breath and re-hashed breakfast mash, the stunned brilliance of contrasting light fading into the depths of razor sharp chasms, the quick exhalations filled with relaxed energy and tense expectation, and the reincarnation of Dahli’s melting clocks that neither placate nor pretend to bend to our predestined explanation of what time is and can be for ourselves re-forged in a new dimension lost to the persnickety minds that wish to suffocate us amongst tiny boxes upon a hillside.