In retrospect, it seems awfully silly; when I started climbing, I was the weakest of the weak, and I had less bodily awareness than a 12 year old boy. I could barely unscrew a peanut butter lid. I opened “pull” doors by gripping the handle with both hands and leaning back on my heels with all my body weight. I lacked the hand-eye coordination to catch a basketball from 10 feet away, and I truly could not walk a straight line. Why I expected to be some kind of rock-spider prodigy is beyond me.Read More
After last week’s 5.11 freakout, I was determined to climb some boulders, close to the ground and far from the terror of leading.
And I did — twice!
Saturday morning, I headed to Little Rock City (at 5 a.m., on three hours of sleep, of course) with Caroline, her boyfriend Remi, and our friend Jared. We drove through lots of drizzles on the way up, but nobody mentioned it. I think we were afraid of speaking rain into being, but Soddy-Daisy pulled through. The air was humid and misty when we arrived, but besides a little moisture that quickly dried up, it was the best — and coolest — climbing weather we’ve had all summer. Although I wished toward the end of the day that I had brought a jacket, the air’s chilliness got me psyched for real fall weather and “sending temps.”
The first thing Evan asked me when I told him after the trip that Caroline and I had worked on Pancake Mantle (V2) was, “Did anybody cry?” Not this time. We only spent about 10 minutes here before moving on with a collective eye roll. Caroline and I did not send, but Jared did, and I got a leeetle farther than last time — now I can make it over the pancake, but I’m just not strong enough for the mantle. Guess I’ve got to add some pushups to my pullups.
I don't remember this problem, but it looks like Caroline maybe crushed it.
Speaking of, remember my casual goal of doing five pull-ups in the near future? Well, I did it last Thursday! So now my goal is 10, you know, eventually. But I should probably start training in other ways too — might now be the time to approach the campus board? Those funny rings hanging from the ceiling? What is a kettle ball?
Anyway, Jared and I sent Two Can Sam, one of the V3s I accurately predicted I would send before Pancake Mantle. Supposedly the beta for that climb includes a silly/painful/unnecessary hand jam in the middle, but I’m happy to say we all worked it without forfeiting our knuckle skin. Caroline basically finished the thing but got sketched out on the topout, which is pretty confusing/scary.
Remi worked Red House (V7) for a bit and encouraged the three of us to try Super Mario, LRC’s most beloved V4. It is longish and kind of overhung and traversey, and it combines several climbing styles, which makes it hard but a good study piece for learning *~*how 2 climb*~*. We worked it out of sequence, but I know we’ll all send it before the season ends.
Caroline working the middle of Super Mario
While we were in that area, scary death acorns kept falling on us from above. No one was hit, but it was a very flinch-y time. We met this older (than us) guy who was bouldering alone and had the air of someone who had climbed All The Things over several decades. He was quiet but friendly, and he gave us beta, and I didn’t ask his name because I liked the mystery of not knowing. I will just think of him as the Burl Wizard of Little Rock City. Or something.
And I found this lordly mushroom!
One of the best parts of the day was when, after much try-hard-ing, Remi sent Tennessee Thong, his first V7 in about two years. Remi’s one of those guys who used to crush really hard before life happened. Now he’s getting back into it at the big-boy level. He’s great to climb with because he’s super-encouraging, and you always learn something new from him.
Nearby, we worked Swingers (V3), which I first tried back in April and was excited to finally get on again. And it was cool to see how much stronger I’ve gotten since then! The start isn’t very nice to particularly-not-tall people, with a high right heel-toe cam and a low left smear, so Jared and Caroline weren’t psyched on it. But it’s now one of my favorite climbs at LRC, and I am pretty sure I will send it next time. It’s not the kind of climb I would ordinarily find myself enjoying — overhanging with a low start and muchas matches — but for whatever reason (I think it’s the big pulls and the oh-so-solid heel-toe cam), I love this problem. I ended up using this crazy heel hook swingy beta at the lip that made me feel like a Boulderer. It was great.
And then Remi left his phone on a rock and I lost my debit card* and made the mistake of buying gas station bean dip in a can because I craved hummus but IT’S NOT THE SAME AND IT’S NOT EVEN GOOD** and there was road construction and we didn’t get back until almost 1.
So I went to bed at 2 a.m. and got up at 4:30 for my first trip to Horsepens 40!
I’ve been wanting to go for ages, but it’s so far away that people won’t usually go for a day trip, and the camping is expensive (but worth it), so nobody wants to do that either. But I’m so glad I finally made it out there because, in Evan’s words,
It. Is. Magical.
Evan, Lucy, and I met Elaine and Matt at this enchanting boulderfield, and wow. I didn’t do any research ahead of time because I had heard so much about how amazing Horsepens is and wanted the magic to come at me full-force. That was probably a good move too, because I didn’t have any projects to get frustrated on. I was alternately enamored by how beautiful Horsepens is and despairing at my sore body and
Ripped. Up. Tips. Guess I overdid it on Saturday… I mostly stuck to slopey V0s and pretty much quit climbing around 3 p.m. Everything was just too painful, but it didn’t matter because all the climbs are interesting here, and it was wonderful just to sit and bask in the Horsepens majesty. I wish I could show you what I’m talking about, but I didn’t actually get that many photos this time around. Don’t worry, though — I will definitely have some camera loot after Boulderween (!) this October.
Sunday was much hotter than Saturday, but my hoodie did come in handy as a pillow when I took a series of afternoon lizard naps.
Evan worked the Inspect Her Gadget (V5) traverse at the start of the day, and I attempted the campus-start V4 variation. Maybe I could have stuck a move or two with a higher pain tolerance/more skin, but I quickly moved on to easier climbs.
Elaine and Lucy worked Spirit (V3), which I couldn’t even start because the first holds were so pebbly and vindictive. Everybody sent The Stranger (V2) but me, but I consoled myself with mental reminders of my bodily soreness, sleep deprivation, and lack of skin. Still, we all worked a V3 called Panty Shields. I didn’t quite top it out, but it’s a cool technical problem that I will totes send next time.
Elaine has the most photogenic beta.
I thought it was my last climb of the day until Elaine got on Earth, Wind, and Fire (V3), a slabby crackish classic that is pretty tall and pretty scary (hello, tree spot). I just had to try it. I’m still super iffy on crack techniques, but it was such a cool problem. I’m not sure why I didn’t freak out on this one, because I had definitely panicked a little on Groove Rider (V3), another high and slabby climb which I only attempted once.
Elaine crack-a-lackin' on Earth, Wind, and Fire
We all had fun on Merlin, a super fun V1 named for its resemblance to the eponymous wizard's headgear (told you this place was magical). I know it was easy, but I was proud of myself for climbing so high sans rope. And then I did it again using the arête! Honestly, the downclimb between the hat and the adjacent boulder was the scariest part.
Evan sent Popeye (V5) at the end of the day but for the most part worked “easy” stuff with the rest of us. The rock at Horsepens is special, man, and even the zeros play with your head. Everything is a challenge.
They say, in fact, that all of Horsepens is super sandbagged. I can’t say whether that’s true or not, but it’s definitely tricky to figure out beta, even on the easiest warmups. The climbing is so fun though, and the place is so beautiful. Not just the rock, but the facilities — everything is painted red and yellow and labeled with these cute signs that reminded me of Del and Marte’s place at the Obed. And there are bathrooms and showers and stages and food (marked by an all-caps declaration: “FOOD”). Oh yeah and also horses.
Oh, and guess what I just found out (like, halfway through writing this post). I’m going again this weekend!!! I know you’re not supposed to use more than one exclamation point if you want to be taken seriously on the Internet, but Horsepens deserves all the punctuation!
I’ll try to keep my skin this week, and I’ll (probably) get lots of photos this weekend. In the meantime, I’ll try to actually post something related to the “Eat” side of this blog, and when I have time I’ll update you on my hair (no more no-poo :( ).
Until then — happy sending! May the temps be ever in your favor.
*Debit card has since been recovered. In my camera bag. Post-cancellation.
**I should have known better ‘cause I did the same thing on the way back from the Obed.
I hate Pancake Mantle.
If you haven't heard of it, Pancake Mantle is a V2 at Little Rock City (aka Stone Fort), my second-favorite bouldering spot. It is this goofy climb that requires you to pull yourself up onto this pancakey piece of rock and mantle/thigh-scum/desperately butt-hop to the top-out. It's like, three moves, and everybody thinks it's oh so funny and is like, "Have you tried Pancake Mantle LOL it's so funny right OMG you should do it right now DO IIIT" every time I'm at LRC.
Oh, yes. I've tried the insidious 'cake.
I'm gonna call myself a solid V3/V4 climber, but I cannot do Pancake Mantle. I've tried on four occasions, and I simply can't pull myself onto the pancake. Which I suppose isn't that surprising because I can't do a pullup on a bar either, but like, it's a V2, man. IT'S A V2.
So when I made an impromptu trip to LRC on Sunday with Evan and our friend Matt, I maybe should have passed Ole Cakey and just kept walking. But instead, I turned back to confront the enemy. And then I attacked it for thirty minutes, scraped my arm up, didn't send, and started to cry.
That's right. I cried at Pancake Mantle. "BUT IT'S A VEE TEWWW," I shudder-wept at Evan. I compared it to the myriad V3s and V4s I've worked that are "S-SO MUCH EASIER. IT'S NOT FUH-AIR. HOW IS THIS A VEE TEWWW?" I wavered between accusing the surely burly dude who probably graded this problem of taking his upper body strength for granted and not really knowing the life of a V2 climber and lamenting that I should be able to do any 2, 'cause I've been climbing for a year, man, and 2s are a thing of last July. After sitting on a rock and pouting/sniffling/breathing deeply for a while, I reluctantly moved to where the guys were working some V5 dyno and pouted over there instead. I felt better after sending Rib Cage (V3), which I'd projected before, but the feeling of Pancake Failure stayed with me.
But you know what? I need to get over it. Pancake Mantle is obviously not my style, and there are lots of problems that throwing myself at would actually be fun and productive. And although my pullup inability is definitely an obstacle to be overcome, the only reason this problem is so upsetting to me is because of that silly number.
'Cause really, in some ways the numbers are silly, and pretty subjective. Sure, V points are a good way to measure your general progress, but there's a lot more to climbing than grade-hopping. Here are some things I can do now that I couldn't do before I started climbing:
- open doors on campus with one arm instead of my entire body weight (gonna call this a V1 move)
- pour sugar with one hand on the bag and no spillage (V2)
- pick up industrial-sized bean cans with one hand (def V2)
- make it to the Kroger checkout without trading my produce basket for a buggy (V1/V2, depending on what's in season)
Also, some projects I will probably send before I get Pancake Mantle ('cause I will get it someday):
- Two Can Sam (V3, LRC)
- Swingers (V4, LRC)
- Super Mario (V4, LRC)
- Trouble (V3, Rocktown)
- Screaming Church Girls (V4, Rocktown)
- Isle of Beautiful Women (V4, Rocktown)
- Golden Showers (V5, Rocktown — I mean, maybe.)
The rest of the day was pretty nice in spite of my breakdown and the 92-degree heat. The guys had a better attitude than I did and climbed fun stuff below their grades after working Red House (V7) for a bit. The coolest part for me, though, was all the critters that were out! We saw so many caterpillars. Also, salamanders (I think), but they were camera shy.
Anyway, next time I'm at Little Rock City, I'm heading straight to my projects. I may give Pancake Mantle a few courtesy tries, but if the send isn't imminent, I'll shrug it off and move on to Super Mario.
Same photo, different bro. #sorrynotsorry
Oh, yeah! And I changed the blog name to Eat & Climb, because well duh. And now I'm domain-name legit.