I knew no one in this country. I had never lived more than 15 minutes from my parents, and my knowledge of Ecuador was limited to a vague mental image of an alpaca in a poncho. I had never even been to South America. So I understand why my presence here seems pretty random to taxi drivers, coworkers, and even fellow gringos. Maybe it seems more random when I tell them that I moved here for the climbing.Read More
I believe the first phrase I used to describe the boulders at La Perrera was “Cotopaxi’s dried-up lava barf.” While these gray beauties are mementos of volcanic eruptions past, that description may not capture the magic of this place. In fact, after a weekend in the lush green playground of igneous rock and baby waterfalls, I still don’t think I’ve processed the wonder.Read More
So I just kept climbing, daydreaming, and attempting to absorb the powers of the greats through YouTube binges and Crux Crush interviews. I slowly progressed past the V5 mark and toward V6, strengthening my shoulders and bettering my head game by climbing a lot of routes in styles I enjoyed. When the lady climbers I most admired talked about their own training plans, I shrugged some more: Sure, they train, but I’m not on that level yet. Well, I think I really am. I don’t even think there is a level. Climbing with purpose and cross training are probably beneficial no matter how long you’ve been scurrying up walls.Read More
The thing is, I haven’t been super motivated to climb recently. I sent my first two V6es the week before Peace Corps staging, and then I didn’t climb for two months. It sucks to feel how weak I’ve gotten so soon after that milestone, and I’ve had trouble dragging myself to the gym ‘cause I know how much bruising my ego will take once I get there.Read More
There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Knowing how much music and poetry this state had inspired over the ages, I resolved as a child to one day visit the promised land and see its riches for myself.
Well, I’m finally here! Currently enthroned on a mass of sleeping bags in the back of Evan’s van. He’s been living out of it for a few months, and I got to join him on Monday. After three flights, a little turbulence, and one spilled beer, I reached Mammoth Lakes in time to end the day in a hot spring, watching my first California sunset. The next day, we headed to Way Lake for my first boulder of the West.
The approach to Way Lake is, it turns out, an actual hike. In the South, 20 minutes of mild steepness is a trek, but apparently 30 or 40 minutes up a mountain is NBD out here. We hiked up and up and up and ugh. It probably took us even longer than the average climber to reach the lake itself because a. we don’t hike and b. we kept stopping to look at all the pretty things!
I can’t believe how beautiful it is out here. Also big. My Western experience so far: everything is beautiful, and everything is big. The word that comes to mind is “magnificent.” And I’m blown away by the diversity of California’s landscapes. It’s crazy to think that people actually live in this fantastical place.
We finally made it up to Way Lake, which is currently a sad gray circle of dirt and rocks, but by the time we found our boulder and actually started climbing, the sun was pretty low in the sky.
We had oodles of fun on the Way Lake boulder as the sun began to set. I had just gotten the crux of a V5 called Beareagle when darkness hit, and after a few more burns we decided to call it quits. We maybe should have left sooner though, because trekking crash pads down a dark and unfamiliar trail in bear country with one dying headlamp and a cell phone light wasn’t really the original plan. We made it out though, obvi, and had a high-class dinner of rotini alla Ragu.
The next day, we headed to Rock Creek, a magical fairyland of water and rocks and gray logs that appear to have fallen ~*just so*~. There were aspen trees everywhere, and their rustling leaves were bright yellow and orange. Magical fairyland, y’all.
In the morning, we climbed with our new friends Melanie and Danny. I found them on Instagram a few weeks ago (follow Danny here and Mel here!), and it was great to meet the people behind the feeds. They are total crushers, full of beta and psych. I worked a V4 called Groovin’ Arête for forever, and while I never sent, I definitely learned some much-needed foot technique.
The climbing out here is really different from the stuff back home. Problems in general seem to require less power but are challenging in techy ways. I have been learning some strange-to-me toe stuff, and my biggest battle is trusting the feet.
So I never got the four, but it was a lot of fun to work. Our new pals left in the afternoon, but our ex-Athenian-now-Yosemitan Philip showed up with his friend Beth.
We had some fun on the Campground boulder and made friends with two older guys. Paul is roadtripping around the West at age 65. He chatted with us for a while about the history of Rock Creek and our generation’s duty as stewards of nature. Then he gave us beer. I didn’t catch the other man’s name, but he is British and a mountain biker. He was really into our climbing and watched for a long time, asking lots of questions and contributing psych.
Thursday was our rest day, and we ran into our Insta-friends at the Looney Bean coffee shop in Bishop. I guess there are only so many places in town for greasy folks in need of wifi. Oh hey! If you haven’t read my RootsRated review of Little River Canyon, get to it!
Today we climbed at the Buttermilks with Evan’s dirtbag friend Jeff. Jeff is six months into a one-year stay in Bishop. He wasn’t climbing but was nice enough to offer pads, beta, and a spot. He got us on some easy classics that were techy and painful but awesome. I’m learning to love crimpy highballs… one V2 project at a time.
Our skin was shot after a few hours; it hadn’t really healed from Wednesday. The rock out here is way smoother than the slopey sandstone we’re used to, but it’s still really textured and can definitely hurt. It doesn’t help when you are slapping and slipping and sliding around instead of trusting whatever tiny nonsense you have managed to smear your shoe onto… I have a lot to learn.
#Vanlife is fun so far. It would be nice to have a hot shower, but I am loving the ungodly amounts of Ramen. And pretty much everything else. <3
Dogs and babies flock to me. Their moms and dads have jerky and peanut butter, but they don’t even notice ‘cause we are busy playing What’s That Face and Where’s That Stick. I give a top roping cub scout beta, and he finishes his first 5.7. His joy is unparalleled.Read More
And here's the thing about bouldering in July. Yes, it's really hot, but it's also really green. All the plants are stretching their limbs and yawning greedily in the sun, and the moss is creeping up over the rocks. There are evil thorns coming at you everywhere, and it is just really hard to find stuff.Read More
I found a gym that has me missing Active from across the Atlantic.
Arkose is a bouldering gym in the graffitied backstreets of Paris’s Montreuil suburb. Sista Fran and I have been traveling for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to climb. So when we got to Paris, we were psyched to hit up some polyurethane.
We googled something like “Paris climbing gym” and found a bunch, including behemoth Hardbloc (“LA PLUS GRANDE SALLE DE BLOC EN FRANCE”) and Arkose, a tinier establishment. We decided to try Arkose based on the fact that it was 12 minutes closer to our hostel than Hardbloc. We got lost anyway, but I’m glad we chose it.
I’ve decided that Arkose is like Active’s cool teenage cousin who lives in the city and gets to drink wine at dinner parties. Or something. It’s another little warehouse-y gym where space is scarce but creativity is not. There’s some slabby stuff, some steeper stuff, and a big fake top-out boulder. There’s a sweet play area by the traverse wall, and there are communal chalk buckets just sitting around.
Also, this: there’s a bar inside. Like, 10 feet from the climbing. You can fall off your project, turn around, and order a drink. Ha! Is this a thing? Europe.*
Oh, and you can get food too. Fancy-sounding food like “croques” and “tartines.” Ooh la la.**
I really dug the atmosphere at this place. It was quiet and cozy with friendly staff and chill vibes.
I wasn’t familiar with the grading system — I think it was based on the Fontainebleau bouldering grades, with seven levels of difficulty from “child” to something like “really freakin’ hard” (in French, of course). This was kind of freeing because we didn’t have any V-goals hanging over our heads. We just climbed until we burned out, and it was a good day.
Some things I noticed about the Arkose crew, which may not constitute any consistent differences between the American and French climbing cultures but, rather, are freestanding observations drawn from a single personal experience:
1. Nobody was “powering through.” Seriously. I didn’t get on a single climb that required me to blast off into space with the strength of a thousand flying oxen. Everything was tech-y.
Now, I didn’t try any of the hardest problems, and there’s a chance some hidden dynos got past me. But it really seemed like everybody at this gym had to use their beta-smarts.
2. Everybody used the changing room. Except for us. We were in cute tourist clothes for the morning, but we changed into quick-dry leggings and neon sports bras before getting on the metro because that’s what you wear to the gym. Well apparently, just 'cause you wear it at the wall doesn't mean you wear it to the wall.
Turns out these posh city dwellers wear real clothes in transit and save the gym attire for the gym. Oops. I had wondered about the conspicuous lack of Parisian norts…
3. People spoke French. Duh. I was a little bummed that the language barrier kept us from bonding with the Frenchfolk, but a little beta exchange did occur, and I got a couple of “Allez, allez”s. But also…
4. It was really quiet. Which was nice. Everybody was super calm. But it was kind of strange being surrounded by men and not hearing a single grunt. The closest I got were my own little struggle-squeaks.
I suppose some beta spraying may have occurred — in hushed voices, with minimal hand movements — but it was probably in French. Because, again, duh.
After leaving the gym, we put our tourist clothes back on and embarked on a quest for the perfect Eiffel Tower pic. During our journey, we discovered a little fitness area by the Seine River, complete with tiny rock walls. So cute! We played.
photo cred, as per yooj, to Mackenzie Taylor Photography So now we must be ready for Fontainebleau, right? I hope so, ‘cause we just got into Font proper, and we’re setting off at o’ dark thirty to beat some of the heat. We’ve got a guidebook, a new brush, and a rented crash pad — fingers chalked and crossed.
*Other unexpected alcohol sightings in Europe include shelves of liquor at like every gelatería ever, Parisian old ladies sipping beer at breakfast, and a kid drinking rosé from a bottle on the Paris metro.
**I actually heard a French lady say this yesterday. It was to me, about her little dog, whom she also called “très mignonne.” <3
I guess I’ve been climbing for about two years now.
Actually, May 10th marked my two-year anniversary with the plastic at Active. I’m so glad I discovered our little bouldering gym back in 2013 (Thanks, Nick!). Climbing has taught me so much about strength, confidence, failure, and perseverance. It’s teaching me to trust myself.
Looking back on New Climber Sarah Anne is a little strange. V3s seemed impossible then, I thought my Elektras were the shiz (they were), and I didn’t think I’d ever do a pull-up.
I'm stronger and more confident now, but really, I’m still a beginner. I’ve finally developed a modicum of technique, but put me on anything slightly overhung and you’ll have to spoon feed me the beta. Hand-foot matches? Toe hooks? Bicycles? How does one climb? I definitely plan to get stronger, but I also have so much to learn about the basics of bouldering. I’m even newer to sport climbing, and trad is a distant dream.
Still, this year has been special because, as a newly not-totally-new climber, I’ve gotten to introduce several other people to the sport. I’ve taken a few friends out for their very first bouldering trips, and I’ve even helped teach a couple folks how to belay safely and clean routes. Sometimes I’m in the gym, and new dude bros ask me for beta. Me! For beta! Dude bros! It’s exciting to help others get psyched on a sport that has affected me in so many positive ways.
But it also makes me appreciate the guidance I’ve received from other people. I’ve learned so much about technique, training, and mindset from the Active crew, and I will always be thankful for the super strong guys who let me tag along on their bouldering trips, even when I was projecting V2s with an all-wrong attitude. They taught me to push with my feet, use my reach, and chase good times instead of grades.
Then there are the folks who have literally taught me the ropes. I am only now beginning to realize how fortunate I was to get my first lessons in belaying and leading from such experienced and safety-conscious climbers. I’m grateful to the guys who had — and have — the patience and fortitude to teach me, trust me, and correct my mistakes.
So thanks, guyz: Evan, Nicks, Chuck, Remi, Matt, John, Thomas, Jeremy, Chris, Sam, Hal, and every other person who’s seen me beg for beta, belay poorly, or cry on lead. Y'all are the best. Climbing is such a great part of my life, and it wouldn’t be as awesome without people like you.
Grunting also seems akin to swearing, and (occasional) swearing has been proved by SCIENCE* to increase pain tolerance! Climbers can always use more of that. In fact, in Taekwondo there is even a special term for the force that leads practitioners to shout during their practice: kihap. Evan told me about it just now, and I found a little info on the Taekwondo Wiki:Read More
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
Spring is making me sad. I mean, don't get me wrong. Flowers and breezes and sundresses are great. But bouldering season ended way too quickly.
You may have noticed, O Dedicated Reader, that I haven't posted in a while. Well, that's because I was too sad to write after the weather ruh-UINED my spring break. I mean, not really. But kind of. You know? You don't, but you will, 'cause I'm going to tell you now.
Months ago, Caroline and I both took off all of spring break and an extra weekend so that we could have Super Awesome Rocktown Fun Times fo dayyyz. And we did. For two days. Ish. We tried lots of new projects and didn't send anything and drank gas station sangria that was surprisingly good. And then it rained, and kept raining for the rest of the week at every crag in the Southeast.
It did not, however, rain in Athens. And everybody freaked out. It was like, 65 degrees outside, and girls all over town emerged bikini-clad from their winter nests to tan on the still-dead grass, smiling and shivering in the breeze. And my non-climbing acquaintances kept saying things like, "Oh em GEEE, it is SO. NICE OUT." And I was just like:
But it ended up being an okay week. Seester and I actually spent a day hanging out in Chattanooga proper, which I hadn't really done before. It was wet, but Chatty wears rain well. We found a vegan restaurant (with donuts!) and a bakery for dogs and Jane Austen-inspired toddler books for our future progeny and...
Well, anyway. We didn't climb.
But guess when I did climb? Last weekend! And guess where I climbed? Boone!
It was my first time there, and it. was. awesome. I was apprehensive about climbing on granite (#boatrockh8rsclub), but the rock was wonderfully grippy and not too sharp.
I went up with Evan, John (the one who went to the Obed with us last summer!), and another John. (There are actually quite a few Johns. This one was one of the professors on my Costa Rica study abroad last year! He is super cool and has a greenhouse and roasts his own coffee beans.) We were only there for two days, and after a brief detour to the M1 (?) Boulders, we split our time between Grandmother Mountain and Blowing Rock.
It was beautiful, so lush and uncorrupted. It was hard to believe it had been snowing there a few weeks prior.
It was refreshing not to see any graffiti on the rock or trash on the ground. The area doesn't get as much foot traffic as many climbing spots. There's not a guidebook or even a topo for these boulder fields, and there's not much information on the internet. We learned some stuff from the Boone Boulders website and the rest from other humans at the crag.
I sent three ~V4s at Grandmother: Dynobot (which I did not dyno), Car Door (a sloper-juggy-sidepully feature climb with one big move in the middle), and a slopey traverse I don't remember the name of. I didn't get to try any fives, but there is allegedly a moderates mecca within the Grandmother Boulders called Valley of the Kings. I really want to find it and work Potato Chip, a V5 feature climb that looks super goofy in the best way.
The slopey traverse.
Oh, hey, check out this climb. It is called Look Ma, No Hands and is supposedly a zero or a one or something. You are supposed to climb it with just your feet, but I think only Evan got up without using his knees or elbows. Super awkward to climb and fun to watch:
Super Strong Nick joined us Saturday evening, and our camp site was super sketch. We were actually camping on the side of the road. In this tiny clearing across from a death hill. Awaiting attack by bandits. In retrospect, I kind of doubt the legality of our setup... Caroline and I are planning a trip for April, and we will be opting for a more ~*legit*~ space.
Everyone complained the next day about how loud and windy and cold the night was, but I slept like a very sleepy rock in a fuzzy sleeping bag I borrowed from Evan's mom (Thanks a ton, Faye!). In the morning, we went to Blowing Rock so Evan could work a V10 called Squeeze Job and Nick could get on Flagyl, another 10. There weren't as many moderates here, at least not that we knew about. I got shut down quickly by The Finn, a V5 that Obed John sent at the start of the day.
John on The Finn.
I was also denied by a supposed V3 called Center 45. Apparently it is ultra-classic. Meh. I never got the first move.
I tried the five to its right, the name of which I have forgotten, and was quickly shut down uh-gain. Then Greenhouse John and I found a wall of jugs with Nick's guidance. We repeated a few zeros with increasingly harder/sillier beta, then got pumped on some contrived traverses before checking out another four called Harvester of Sorrows. I really liked the first part of this problem: slightly reachy moves on kind-of-terrible slopers, then a WHOOSH-y heel hook and some hand matching. But the topout is some awkward slapping around and then a giant mantle I just couldn't do yet. (Have I mentioned how mantle-weak I am?) I'll get it next time, though; I've been upping my pushup game.
Nick and Evan didn't send their problems, but they still climbed well. Nick got every move on Flagyl out of sequence before splitting his tip and heading home, and Evan was sooo close on Squeeze Job. But most importantly, at the end of the day, we got pizza.
SOMETHING'S COMING YOUR WAY.
They are vegan and full of protein. Here is the recipe, kind of. ("scoop" = ice cream scoop)
Recipe, Kind Of*
1 can of chickpeas 1.5ish scoops of almond butter 1.5ish scoops of shelled hemp seeds 1 tsp. baking powder a little salt
Put all of that in a food processor and mixed it all up 'til it's dough. Then ball it up into little cookie nuggets, press 'em down with a fork, and press the following tidbits into the top:
some craisins some chocolate chips some coconut flakes
Then bake 'em at 350 degrees. I think mine were in the oven for about 12 minutes. They should be soft and taste like health. You can obviously forego the chocolate chips to make them #sugarfree or whatever, but I would also opt for a sweeter nut butter because the chocolate is what made these taste not-legume-y.
*I can't take total credit for this concoction. It is based on a recipe I found on Instagram a while back, from @herbivorous_rex.
**Full disclosure: I edited the colors in three photos and cropped two of them. Not John's doing!
How was your Valentine's Day? Mine was pretty good. I went to Little Rock City and bled on things. It was a great day of trying stuff, making friends, and practicing proper tape technique. But Sunday was even more exciting because I went to a new crag!
I say "new" mostly because it is new to me, but it really is a pretty new climbing spot. I'm talking about the Hospital Boulders in Gadsden, Alabama.
Located in the middle of a neighborhood and down the street from the eponymous Mountain View Hospital, the area became open to climbers in 2012 through negotiations between the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, the Access Fund, and the (now previous) landowners. It finally became SCC property last year after a lot of fundraising to pay off the AF loan used to secure the area. (Half the boulder field, however, is still on private property — so be careful where you walk!)
I had heard the name a few times, but the Athens climbing folk don't make their way to Gadsden very often. And I don't know why not! It's like a smaller, denser, less developed Rocktown. Admittedly the rock isn't quite as amazing at in Lafayette, but it is pretty darn awesome. It's just as close to Athens as any other good climbing, and it doesn't require a pass. After passing through a dummy-locked gate*, you just park next to a barn, walk 20 feet, and climb on rocks. YAY!
There isn't a guidebook yet, but there is a topo. Many of the routes are unnamed, and oodles are waiting to be FA'd. It was really fun just climbing on whatever and not worrying about grades.
The important stuff: we climbed lots of things, I am now psyched on roofs**, and Lucy made Evan a hat.
So that was cool. But something has been bothering me about climbing lately.
It started with little plastic corners at Little Rock City. You know what I'm talking about? When you open a Clif bar, or a Lara bar, or a Luna bar, or whatever bar you are eating (because you are probably eating a bar), you rip off the upper right corner (or maybe the left one), and then it disappears.
Well, actually, no, because matter doesn't do that. You actually just dropped it in the dirt and forgot about it. And now it is just sitting there, not disintegrating because it's made of film plastic, and film plastic doesn't do that.
So there are little corners sprinkled all over boulder fields, like malignant sparkles waiting to be picked up by an observant dirtbag or choked on by an animal. And whoever dropped them probably didn't even realize it. They probably don't know their trash has taken up residence in an ecosystem which has no use for it and, in fact, is negatively impacted by its presence.
I am not a scientifically minded person. At all. I've withdrawn from two logic classes in college, and as fascinating as my geology class was, I barely passed. But I was a Girl Scout for 12 years, and if I learned one thing from Brownies about caring for the earth, it was this: you should always leave a place better than you found it.
Now, that is easy to do when you are at LRC and can stuff somebody's litter into your pocket on the walk back to the car. But climbers as a group are not doing an excellent job of cleaning up after ourselves, and we are certainly not leaving our crags better than they were before we came along. The fact that we are even interacting with the earth in our bizarre way means we are going to change it. But at the very least, we need to try harder to leave no trace — or at least a smaller one.
I am pretty new to climbing, and really to outdoorsiness in general. Most of what I know about minimizing my impact I've learned from the Internet and fellow climbers. So I am definitely not an expert. But I remember how I was when I first started climbing outside a year and a half ago: totally clueless to the impact of my new passion on the environment, but not wanting to be a part of the problem. I know there are others like me out there, and I think it's a good idea to address some basics of keeping climbing an innocent sport that doesn't destroy the planet or anger anybody.
The SCC has a nice little "crag minimal impact" flier that you can view here. A lot of it seems pretty intuitive, but there are definitely items climbers tend to overlook. Some problematic behavior I often witness (and some of which I am guilty) on bouldering trips:
1. Not staying on trails. Two words: unnecessary erosion. Another word: bad.
2. Leaving toilet paper everywhere. I know a lot of people have different opinions about what to do with toilet paper, and many folks just bury it. But considering how many people you see at the crag, and incidentally how many people do their business at the crag, the amount of toilet paper we are putting into the ground no longer seems negligible. And honestly, it doesn't seem like everyone is doing a good job of burying theirs; the fact that it is so easy to find a chossy rock with a bunch of TP wads strewn behind it is a good indicator that we should probably just pack it all away with our bar wrappers and their corners.
3. Leaving cans and bottles in fire pits. I don't know why this is a thing. A lot of people think that this is an OK thing. Maybe they are trying to make a fuel gift to future campers? But aside from the fact that aluminum and glass need some mega hot flames to burn, and the fact that cans and bottles are recyclable, and the fact that you are probably risking a fine just by bringing glass into a camp site, it seems obvious that glass and metal do not belong sitting out in nature after you have left, getting rained on/rusted/blown away/whatever. Like, they weren't there before you got there. They shouldn't be there when you leave. Right? Correct me if I am wrong and this really is a benign practice.
4. Throwing food scraps on the ground. I do this ALL THE TIME. But I recently learned that it really is important to pack everything out; even though things like apple cores are biodegradable, they take a while to break down, so much so that it's kind of a problem to just leave them in the dirt. According to Leave No Trace Dude, banana peels need a month to disintegrate, and "those bits of orange peel left behind might still be there a few years from now." Yikes.
Additionally, when lots of people leave food scraps behind, animals become habituated to it. This is a problem — I think — because they can then become dependent on humans' scraps, and/or they start eating whatever we leave behind instead of getting the nutrients they need from the food they would naturally be eating. So the reasoning here is similar to why you're not supposed to feed bread to ducks.
5. Not scrubbing off tick marks. This is more of an etiquette issue; it is pretty rude to chalk up a rock with a million lines and then just leave it like that for the next climber. For one thing, they might not want your beta. Also, tick marks are ugly. And again, that chalk wasn't there before you showed up; at least rub it out a little before you leave. I am definitely guilty of forgetting to clean my projects, but it's something I think a lot of us could work on.
6. Being obnoxious. Another etiquette issue, but an important one. When an area opens up for climbing, especially an area near civilization like Hospital Boulders or LRC, we want to be good neighbors. We don't want to have a reputation as the scruffy new kids on the block — leaving trash in the forest, letting our dogs run wild, and playing bad dubstep out of crappy iPod speakers. 'Cause climbing anywhere is a privilege, and if we are awful neighbors, it will be that much harder to open up new areas. And besides, we're better than that. Right?
So. Am I on point? Way off point? Did I forget anything super common and terrible? Am I wrong about the cans? Speak up in the comments!
*The gate was dummy-locked on Sunday. In the future, the SCC may implement a code, so make sure to check the website any time you're planning to go.
**UPDATE 1/4/2016: Just got back from my second trip to Hospital, and it turns out those mega-cool roofs are not on SCC property. Super tragic, but we steepthusiasts must stay away. :(
Let me tell you about last weekend. I woke up Friday after spending Thursday in bed with a cough. I had made plans with Elaine and Joe to climb, and when I wasn't positively dying that morning, I decided that a "little cough" was not gonna keep me out of the mountains. Sure, I sounded like a frog who'd swallowed a broken battery and found myself occasionally collapsing in a hot hacking mess, but I was fiiine. FIIINE.
(No, I wasn't.)
But we met Evan and Chris at Little Rock City, and it was a good day, and I almost sent Sternum (V5), and I FINALLY SENT PANCAKE MANTLE!!!! (Click here for an introduction to my personal Pancake Mantle saga.)
Elaine sent The Big Much (V4) and Latin for Dagger (V5), and Evan and Chris worked on Biggie Shorty (V10). And other things happened. But by 5 p.m., I was dooone. Donedonedone. Done. I walked/hacked/slowly crept like a decrepit sea hag back to the clubhouse alone, ready to trade my soul for a cup of tea. The clubhouse man was locking the door when I arrived, but he took pity on me and let me fill a styrofoam cup with hot water inside. Bless him. Then I sat crouched on the steps using my crashpad as a blanket, wearing three hats and covering my face with my gloved hands, prompting inquiries from concerned passersby who probably thought I was crying or possessed.
Eventually everybody else showed up, and I went with Evan and Elaine to this neat brewery, which I didn't appreciate because I was dying, and then we stayed in her friend's actual log cabin, which I didn't Instagram because I was dying, and when I woke up I was pretty much dead. But that wasn't gonna stop me.
I was in much worse shape physically this day, but I planned better than I had for LRC, and I sent my first V5 at Rocktown! It is called Slapper, and I owe it all to Traditional Medicinals.
I could tell you some more stuff about the trip (we met up with a bunch of Athens folks, and Nick flashed a seven and a six, and then he sprained his ankle, and I got to tape someone else up for once), but instead I leave you this gift:
A Packing List for the Sick Boulderer
Let's be honest: if you are sick, you should not be climbing. You are just gonna make yourself sicker (I was in bed for two days after Rocktown), and you're not going to climb your best. But if you are stubborn and your body has bad timing, there are a few items that will help you out.
1. A Thermos: I have been wanting to get a thermos for a while. I spent a lot of time last week researching Hydro Flasks, Stanley thermoses, and Zojirushi vacuum bottles. I didn't want to rush such an important decision! But after I finished Friday's climbing session with such a desperate need for warm liquid, I knew a thermos had become a necessity. And the most convenient option that night was whatever Walmart had to offer — which happened to be a 32 oz Stanley monster. Saturday morning, I filled it with tea and lemon and a jalapeño. All day, it was like a magical elixir of hot nourishment and sending power. OK, so I only sent the one problem, and I didn't actually climb that much. But it really improved my day! I think without it I would have been a very cranky frog.
2. Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals: This is THE BEST thing for a sore throat. Honestly, I think it works best without anything added (although the lemon and jalapeño were revitalizing for me, I think my throat would have fared best without them). It also just tastes really good. And if something else is ailing you, this company has a lot of other great teas. I recommend the PMS Tea and the Breathe Easy. And the Ginger Aid. And everything else.
3. A blanket: I didn't actually have one of these, but I wished I did. Because even if you think you are going to climb as hard and as often as you do at your best, you aren't. And while you are sitting around watching your friends climb and trying to convince yourself that you feel FINE, ALRIGHT?, you are going to get cold. I had to make do with the extra fleece I had thought to bring, but there was definitely room in my pack for a rolled-up car blanket.
4. Extra TP: Really. I didn't think about this beforehand, but when you are drinking extra fluids because you are sick and dying and all, you are going to have to pee more than usual. So bring twice as much toilet paper as you usually need, because you don't want to have to ration it as the day wears on.
5. Low Expectations: You are probably not going to have much energy today. Saturday, I sent Slapper after about an hour, tried Rescue 911 (V5) twice, and then only had four burns left in me for Golden Showers (V5). But it was still a really fun day because I got to watch my friends crush, drink yummy tea, and experiment with my monster voice!
I hope these tips are helpful for any other foolhardy climbers. If you have any advice I didn't think of, leave it in the comments! <3
You know how in my last post, I waxed poetic about subverting the climbing gods by not hurting myself on the one-year anniversary of my tragic Rocktown ankle sprain? Jinxed it.
Elaine, Caroline, and I rode to Rocktown on Saturday with one of the Chrises in spite of the fact that like, eight people had bailed on the trip on account of a cold, cold forecast. (I believe the high was going to be 34? 35? I keep trying to check Facebook and then forgetting what I am doing there and getting lost in engagement photos and something about Nancy Grace.)
It was indeed very cold. Like, 19 degrees when we arrived around 9. NINETEEN DEGREES. But we persevered because we love rocks, and we drove three hours to reach them, and we were probably too prideful to accept that everyone else had been wiser and we should've stayed home. At least, that's kinda how I felt. Also, I was a little afraid that if we began really voicing our misery we might start feeding off each other and collapse into a sobbing puddle of suffering.
On the bright side, we ran into a lot of friends! Including Atlas, our favorite climbing toddler. Apparently a bunch of groups from Athens (and not-Athens) had decided to forge through the cold. One group had even camped, which sounds just ugh, but good for them and their dedication...
I had really been wanting to get Caroline on Soap On A Rope (V4), so after numbing/burning our fingers a bit on the warmup Orb boulders, the three of us ladies got right to it (this was around the time when Chris found a supa strong bro squad to project with. Bye, Chris!). But we really couldn't feign enthusiasm in that cold, and soon we kinda gave up on seriously projecting it. It was a bit discouraging, but soon the sun came out and the temps rapidly rose.
So we went to Golden Showers (V5)! This is going to be my first five, I just know it. This time around, I finally stuck the sloper that had been SO HARD the previous weekend. Everyone humored me on it for a while, but once I started digressing, we packed up for The Hobbit (V5, aka Diamond in the Rough). This is a really cool problem with a slight incline and sloper jugs and fun beta you can make as swingy or as static as you want. Elaine is about to finish this guy, I progressed a few moves, and Caroline got farther on her first burn than I did during my first session. But eventually we all started to tucker out, so we decided to rest for a bit and move on.
We ended up at Screaming Church Girls (V4), Caroline's long-term project and the bane of my climbing experience. Seriously, this problem incorporates all of my least-favorite things about climbing: a high-feet sit-start, scrunchy static movement, and crimps that hurt — right before a long move to topout jugs that would ordinarily be no problem for me. This problem makes me feel like a giant frog with a giant frog butt and unusually long frog legs. It's one of those climbs I'll try twice on every trip and then scoff at.
But Caroline has been working on it for a year and a half, and she was determined to send. And between my grumbling, half-hearted attempts at the horrid thing, SHE DID!!!
So then I tried a little harder and discovered some start beta with lower feet that worked for me. And I didn't send, but I got through all the scrunchy moves that had been so hard for me before tiring out at the big move, which was also exciting but still frustrating, so now I feel like I haaave to try it again... *grumble grumble*
So go Caroline!! After that success, we checked out a V4 none of us had tried before called Serendipity. It is weird-looking with a curved crack and — well, the beginning looks like this:
It goes up and left to this ball-y thing and is pretty high. Elaine eventually sent it (yay Elaine!), but I was still daydreaming about Golden Showers and didn't even get on this one. Instead, I headed back to that beautiful boulder, knowing somebody would have pads under it.
Actually, a lot of somebodies did. There was a crew working the adjacent V10, Golden Harvest, and another on my proj. So I hopped on, and lo and behold — I stuck the sloper and the undercling! Now I was getting excited — I just had to throw for the big slopers and top the thing out.
In retrospect, I definitely should have rested longer between burns. But I didn't, and I got tired, then sloppy, and then I fell going for the undercling — not even the slopers — and then I rolled my ankle.
It hurt. I swore. I took deep breaths and had a mental freakout waiting for shock symptoms to wash over me like last time, but they never did — my first good sign. Then I could kinda-sorta put a teensy bit of weight on it at just the right angle, another good sign. It still needed tape, though, and I was fumbling. This guy who had been working Harvest came up to me and was like, "Have you ever taped an ankle before?" "Um, not really," I admitted. "Me neither, but I'm really drunk right now," he said. I think he was kidding? The tape job looked pretty bad but served its purpose well. Thanks, possibly drunk ankle-taping man!
The whole thing was pretty embarrassing, but at least it was toward the end of the day. Chris found Elaine and Caroline, and we had a leisurely walk (hobble) back via the main trail. I was super bummed at first because this is the first weekend I've had off in a long time, and Evan and I had been planning a camping trip. But I've been icing it all week, so I'm hoping I can climb on it a *little* tomorrow. It is still a little swollen and kind of painful at times, and I will definitely wear a brace, but I've been walking almost normally the last few days without one. I've been calling it a "minor sprain" and drinking lots of turmeric. I'm just gonna take it *mostly* easy tomorrow.
In other news, Taylor and I have already failed on the 30-day yoga front. We decided we will start over in February. So maybe it will be 28 days of yoga? I dunno. Still better than no days of yoga!
And I am taking weight training! It's one of my PE classes this semester, and I am learning a lot. My deltoids and triceps have been sore this week, so I hope that means I will be stronger tomorrow. Because I am definitely going to Rocktown, and I am getting on Golden Showers, and it might be a bad idea, but this time I will bring my first-aid kit and an ice pack.
This majestic beast is named Bananas. All photo cred to Sista Fran.
I like to think that New Year's at Rocktown is now a thing. We went last year, and yesterday, we went again — although we rolled in pretty late post-NYE-ing. January 1st is probably the only day I will ever be OK with leaving at 7 a.m. for a climbing trip. Until I move somewhere with climbing less than three hours away, I guess. Which hopefully will be soonish but you know.
Anyway, this time, Sista Fran got to come! Taylor has been climbing for longer than I have, but she had to take a bunch of time off and stays so busy she had never made it outside. It was really exciting getting to show her around Rocktown, which I think is a pretty epic first taste of outdoor bouldering.
In the weeks leading up to this particular trip (during which every day I had off was a day when it rained >:[ ), I for some reason imagined our crew as the only one in the park. I dunno, I guess I thought the rest of the South's climbers would be sleeping off hangovers? Well, I was wrong, and there were tons of people at the crag. Fortunately, they all turned out to be lovely folks full of friendly beta and encouragement, and they had dogs. So that was great.
Don't you love that girl's hat? She has strong fingers and a little dog named Rumi.
Since the Orb area was packed when we arrived, we headed to some apparently classic other climbs to warm up. One was called El Clásico, but I don't recall which one it was or what the other thing we climbed was called. They were both kinda highbally for my tastes, but Taylor was pretty fearless on them. Still, I was excited when I finally got to show her my favorite zeros and ones in the Orb area at the end of the day.
More joy. And Sam. And Sam's hat.
Since we really only had about seven hours of good climbing time, we didn't go all over the place like we otherwise might have. The guys worked on Golden Harvest (V10) and The Orb (V8), and Lucy and I projected The Hobbit (V5), Golden Showers (V5), and Soap on a Rope (V4) — all of which I think we can send in another session or two. I worked on them with Elaine a couple of weeks ago, and I am more psyched on these three problems than on anything else I've tried, ever. I < 3 slopers!
I found myself feeling unreasonably relieved at the end of the day (which by the way was perfect and ended with vegan pizza at Mellow Mushroom) when I realized that with the exception of a single bloody pinky, I had not injured myself. You see, a year ago yesterday I fell while attempting what would become my first V3, Super Mario, and sprained my ankle. It wasn't really that bad, but that was when I first developed a teensy fear of falling. (It reached the ludicrous proportions we now know after my first bad lead fall, but we can talk about that later.) My ankle is still swollen... maybe I should be worried about that? Anyway. I didn't get hurt, and I'm happy about that, because maybe it means I broke some kind of curse under which the climbing gods would otherwise have me dwell.
I really think my pull-up obsession (I'm up to eight!) is starting to pay off. Not in the ways I thought it would — lock offs are still just ugh — but my abs are definitely stronger, and static-but-strengthy movement is way more possible than it was a few months ago. I so recommend pull-ups to any girl (or, I guess, person) trying to get stronger fast.
Do you have new year's resolutions? I am very pro-resolution, any time of year. I have a bunch, but they don't have anything to do with climbing. I'll tell them to you anyway, though, because this seems like a good spot for a list:
1. Be more of an adult. This means wear "real clothes," budget better, spend my time wisely, and wear makeup when I feel like it.
2. Make more music, see more music. It's always been a huge part of my life, except recently, and I miss it a lot.
3. Don't say "no" without a reason. I'm in the terrible habit of turning people down when they ask me to do something simply because it wasn't part of how I originally envisioned my evening. Or saying that I'll go to a show or something and then not because my bed is so cozy or it's cold outside or I don't wanna put on pants or whatever. And I just need to start going.
I don't want to make resolutions about climbing. I'd rather see what happens. I know I'm working hard and that's how you progress. But I'm also realizing climbing can't be my number one priority right now; I've got to make money and study and apply for jobs and graduate and all that.
But I'm not worried : ) 2015 is off to a great start — I climbed at my favorite place with some of my favorite people yesterday, and today Taylor and I started Yoga with Adriene's 30 Days of Yoga. Tomorrow, I'll finish up an article for Flagpole, and I might paint my nails post-gym!
Oh, and did I mention I cleaned my room? It was an ankle-trapping minefield before, but now it is yoga-ready and smells like macaroons. < 3
Oh, my gosh. It's been two weeks.
Life is getting hectic here in college land. Bouldering season is finally upon us, and so are midterms. And bills...always bills.
But I have gotten out a bit since my last post! Two weekends ago, we did indeed return to Horsepens, where we night bouldered, camped, and bouldered some more in a big happy group. After a long — long — battle with the Panty Shields (V3) topout, I finally sent it. It was one of those "I'll try it just one more time, but it probably won't happen, but I'll kick myself if I don't" kind of successes after three sessions and many frustration tears. And it finally went!
We also got on a really cool V3 called The Thespian. The beta is straightforward for some folks (watch this guy do it at 1:44 — just nope. NOPE.), but between Caroline, Lucy, Elaine and me, some heelhookey, toejammy, footmatchey madness occurred. I can't wait to get the last move on this one — by the time we returned to it at day's end, my skin was, well, not.
Some other fun/weird climbs attacked by our crew included Bum Boy (V3), Millipede (V5), Hammerhead (V5), and Lowdown (V4). I'm reluctant to attribute sends to specific people since it's been so long and my memory is not the greatest, but I'm ~*~pretty~*~ sure Elaine sent The Thespian, Lucy sent Bum Boy, and Evan and Nick sent Hammerhead. Caroline got her longstanding V2 proj, The Stranger, too (!), and I just remember Remi being tall.
I didn't get tons of photos like I said I would, but I did get a few pretty shots with my new Samsung Galaxy S5 Active (*which I love*):
Evan bein' burly on Hammerhead.
So that was fun. And then this past Sunday, folks wanted to go to LRC, but it rained there, so we (Evan, Nick, Thomas, Lucy, and I) went to Mount Yonah for a pre-pour halfday instead.
I didn't get any pictures.
Yonah is a granitey ouchfest located near Cleveland, Ga. It's better than Shaking Rock but bereft of Horsepen's boulder magic. It does have routes, though. And it's only about an hour from Athens, so it's the place to go when you don't have all day to climb.
But let's be honest. We hardly climbed. We took forEVer to leave Athens after a groggy Kroger meetup and an impromptu stop at Dunkin' Donuts (they didn't have peanut butter for their bagels! Is that not a staple among bagel condiments? But Thomas shared his almond butter <3 #magnanimous). It was a nice relaxed morning — one of those days when you warm up for 10 minutes, chat for 15, move to another boulder, chat for another 15... it was great. We spent a few hours bouldering, but I really didn't have it in me after an exhausting week of being a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, future-fearing college student. Lucy flashed a V4 (crusher!), which I don't know the name of, and that's the only thing I really worked. I got every move except the first one, which is a sit start (ugh) to a pretty-good hold that I just couldn't make myself grab onto because I hate pain and it was pebbly which means potentially hurt-y and why am I a climber again?
Other than that, I just goofed around on juggy things and kinda-sorta practiced mantling on tiny boulders. I don't even know what the others were working on outside of my little sleepy-eyed world. I believe the Yonah triumvirate was worked, maybe, I dunno, I was staring at a caterpillar. I took a nap kind of, and something stung my butt. I was just not feeling the whole climbing thing. Also, I didn't bring any food.
So imagine my euphoria when we left mid-afternoon (it never rained) and ate delicious Vietnamese food at a restaurant with a decidedly Vietnamese name! (Hint: it was great.) And then we were gonna go to Stone Summit to try on shoes, but Google was wrong and they close at 5 on Sundays, so we tried on shoes at REI instead. Which was almost as awesome because Athens doesn't have an REI and it is an amazing place, like an adventure Walmart but prettier. So like an adventure Target.
And we were all home by 9 o' clock.
Recipe: Slice bananas. Freeze them. Blend, with a little vegan milk if your blender is terrible or you're a soft-serve person. Sprinkle on buckwheat for crunch and class. Cocoa powder optional (as all things are).
And I still haven't explained the end of my no-poo adventure. Basically, I went at it for a few months with vinegar and baking soda, and my hair definitely luxed up as I freed it from the effects of chemical shampoos. It kind of "transitioned" to being not-disgusting, but I am just too active — and Georgia is just too humid — for me to maintain the twice-a-week routine. It never smelled bad or anything, but whenever I had a rinse-only day, it dried pretty flat and just didn't look good. And if I didn't scrub really hard in every spot with the baking soda, it was not gonna look clean either. I dunno, maybe that's health.
I will say, though, that the first wash after three months without shampoo left it looking the best it ever has. Seriously. It was full and shiny and beautiful until I put a cap on it and went to work for eight hours. But since then, it has never looked quite as awesome. I am back to whatever was sitting in my bathroom at home-home for now, and I'm hoping to make some sort of natural shampoo and conditioner once I get some time slash money. Then again, it's getting cool, so I might be able to pull it off now. There is a gallon of vinegar in my bathroom cabinet...
Additionally, I have casually taken up doing yoga with Adriene in the comfort of my sister's bedroom. I do it in there because mine is too messy. But I'm working on that, because I hope that organized surroundings will give me a sense of control over my mental chaos. That's part of why I'm doing yoga; although I know it will help me gain balance and flexibility for climbing, the real draw for me is its emphasis on internal wellbeing. I feel a bit conflicted about it because of the culturally appropriative aspects of Western interpretations of yoga, but after reading/listening to multiple qualified parties' thoughts on the issue, I think I can practice it while maintaining respect for the religion and culture from whence it came.
And I recently began reading 9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes by Dave MacLeod. Evan insists that it will make me a better climber, and the first 50 pages have already prompted me to change my mental game. I will elaborate, you know, eventually, but for now I leave you with these words, which I am trying to keep as my longwinded training sort-of mantra:
"The ideal attitude is that failure is an absolutely integral and central part of any worthwhile endeavor...Failure can and should be relished as a psychological tool to motivate, a practical source of essential feedback for those who don't have a coach and even the spice that makes eventual success taste so sweet when it finally comes."
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.
So Labor Day weekend happened, and I didn't climb at all. Friday through Monday, my Facebook feed filled up with photos of mountains, boulders, rocks and ropes while I...worked. I didn't even have time to climb plastic! I know I was bound to go some weekend without climbing, and bills gotta get paid, but I was pretty disappointed to miss out on all the fun.
And going four days off made me nervous — would I reenter the gym a weakened ghost of my formerly burly (ha) self? Would I forget all my beta? Would I get lost in the cavernous S Wall???
Nope. I finally got to Active again last night, and it was fiiine. I knew as soon as I arrived that I didn't feel like projecting anything; it's already been an exhausting week. But I still wanted to use my few hours of gym time wisely. So I worked on stuff that was easy enough to attempt but hard enough that I wouldn't feel bad about not sending. I was able to try hard without any pressure, and I felt like I got a good workout.
Then Lucy and I went into the kids' gym and (sort of) campused the giant.
And then guess what I did.
(You already know 'cause it's in the title.)
My first pullup! And then my first set of two pullups! And then my first set of two and a half pullups!
<3 hangboard sloper jugs.
You don't understand what a big deal this is.
My least favorite beta is, "It's just a pullup!" (My second-least favorite is, "It's just a lockoff!") In my pullup attempts a few months ago, I couldn't bend my arms past like, 20 degrees without feeling hella shoulder pain and dropping. And upper-body weakness has been a defining factor in my climbing. Sure, my footwork might be better than that of the brawny dudes who clumsily throw themselves up my projects, barrelling to the finish with cringeworthy foot placement. Sure, my climbing might be better balanced and (slightly) prettier. But historically, when a problem has contained a shameless pullup or lockoff to which there is no alternate pretty-foot beta, I've just been shut down completely. Which is why although I sent my first gym 5 last week, there are still plenty of 4s that I've long considered out of my league.
BUT NOW I CAN DO A PULLUP! ALL THE THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!
So I'm going to keep doing them, because the Internet says pullups are the second-best training for climbing (next to, you know, climbing). My goal is to be able to do five, you know, soon (let's keep going with this no pressure thing). I really think this is a turning point. Who knows what my future holds? Today, two pullups. Tomorrow, eight pullups. Next week, sponsorship.
Anyway, that was probably the best thing about my gym session last night, but the SECOND-best thing was that Ted, keeper of waivers and bolter of holds, made me a vegan hand salve!
He's been selling beeswax salves for a while, but I had whined for an insect-friendly one. So he actually made one! The vegan version is from candelilla wax, which I know nothing about except what I learned from Ted last night: that it is plant-derived and Mexican and softer than carnuba wax, which I also know nothing about.
I also don't know much about balms, since I don't buy things that aren't gas and food. But the stuff Ted made definitely felt good on my skin, and it smelled like eucalyptus, mint, and something else that is fragrant. Mmmm.
He didn't want to sell me a pot yet since he hasn't perfected the recipe, but he let me take a chunk home to keep testing it out. And I really needed it after all that jug-surfing on the giant! What a great end to the day.
Now it's time for a pre-gym nap — let's see if I can do more pullups tonight. I'll keep you posted!
What training challenges have you overcome? What are your thoughts on hand salves? Do you hate the word "salves" as much as I do? Share in the comments or through the Contact page!
This seems to be the norm for approaches at Little River Canyon: Class 4?
This weekend, I learned about hiking classes. I'd heard of them before, but as a budding adventurer I was unfamiliar with how hardcore hikers graded their routes. According to my seasoned outdoorsman friend Charles, the basic breakdown is this:
Class 1: You're walking. Class 2: You're still walking, but it's a little scarier and you have to be careful. Class 3: You're on your hands and feet. Class 4: You're on your hands and feet, and if you fall you might die. Class 5: You're climbing, and you probably need a rope, because it you fall without one you will probably die.
And that's why sport grades start with a 5!
This Alabama crag is worth the scary death-hike. It's hard to find anything below a 5.11, but the climbing is great, and the canyon itself is beautiful. Best of all, you can climb there in the rain.
Just follow me on Instagram, already.
Friday, I went to Lizard Wall with Evan and Charles. I was pretty sore from a workout a few days prior, and I couldn't stick two moves toproping Lemonade (5.11a) or Bon Voyage (5.11b) without getting pumped. But I had fun anyway and learned things! For instance: you can use a Grigri as secondary protection when you're cleaning a route and lowering off one anchor. Who knew? (A guy on Mountain Project did.) I recommend learning how before you're at the anchor.
So Friday was fun, and the guys worked on things and probably sent some, and I remember the name Robyn's Route (5.12b) but not much else besides pumpy forearms and these delicious lil cocoatmeal nuggets:
Nugget recipe coming soon!
But Sunday was when the real try-hards happened. I'd been psyched all week for the girls' trip Caroline, Lucy and I were planning to take to Rocktown (alluded to here), and Evan + 3 were planning to hit up Lost Wall for some trad. But then the forecast crushed our dreams. So Sunday morning, we all rode up to the Canyon.
We goofed off a bit on the damp Mushroom Boulders, waiting for Beckett to eat her breakfast.
It was frustrating to see such beautiful sandstone defaced with people's terrible handwriting. Beatles quotes, declarations of love, pleas for Instagram followers (really) — we keep running into this. Remember the Shaking Rock graffiti? Sand Rock has tons of it too. And last Sunday at Rocktown, someone had written "cum" on the Orb boulder.
Fortunately (I guess), I think it was done with charcoal and not paint. But still. Just why? Why?? Whyyyy???
Anyway. After bouldering a bit at the 'shrooms, we made our perilous way to the Toomsuba wall. Everybody was awesome! Our new friend Thomas onsighted a 5.11a called Combat Zone, and Evan onsighted Courtesy (5.12a). Elaine, Lucy, Caroline, and I warmed up on Cheesecake (5.9). Elaine onsighted it, first-time outdoor-leader Lucy flashed it, and I…didn't.
Caroline and I are kindred, height-fearing, helmet-wearing spirits.
I took a pretty scary lead fall on the Sand Rock classic Misty (5.10b/c) in April, and since then I've developed an unfortunate fear of heights. But Sunday, I decided it was time to conquer my lead-fear. I knew I was ready to flash this 9, but I wigged out near the top and took my first lead fall since that one. It was for the best, though; I needed to fall again, this time correctly. And it wasn't that bad.
And later, when I sent the route, Charles told me to pull up a bunch of slack and then jump from the anchors. It's the second-scariest thing I've ever done, and I took a minute to work up the courage. The moment before my feet left the rock filled my entire body with fear, but the thirty feet down were exhilarating. Trusting the gear and my belayer was weirdly empowering in the way it freed me from "what-if" thoughts. Qué será, será, you know? You're already flying through the air, you have no control — might as well enjoy gravity. It took my body like, ten minutes to stop shaking, but I couldn't stop smiling either. I highly recommend this technique for anyone trying to get over a fear of falling. (Thanks, Chuck!)
After that, we did a 10a called Vogue that really felt easier than the 9 (but whatever, burly route-setters). Lucy, Elaine, and I worked an 11c on toprope after Chuck and Thomas put it up. Lucy was the only one to make it up, but I think we should all work this one again when we're fresh and a little bit stronger.
Now that I've reined in The Fear a little, I can't wait to get back to the Canyon (specifically Grey Wall, where the 5.11s Obsession and Easy Out are awaiting my send). I'm psyched for bouldering season to begin, but I'm starting to get the hang of this sport thing. I think even when "The Season" is here, I'll keep climbing higher…and occasionally jumping down.