Monday, October 20, 2014

Falling in Frederick

The trees have turned to gold out at Bushwhack, and I was lucky enough to get in two days there this weekend, first on Friday with Chris Irwin and then yesterday on a solo trip.

Chris did really well for his first visit to the area, flashing Tourette's Tantrum,  coming really close on Tauntaun Sleeping Bag, and doing the high start to Stink Stank Stunk pretty quickly.

Tourette's Tantrum
Tourette's Tantrum
Tourette's Tantrum
Tauntaun Sleeping Bag
Stink Stank Stunk (High start)
Yesterday started with Jon Alexander giving me a tour of a couple other nearby areas.  Even though I've spent the last few years telling people that the Frederick area has a lifetime of bouldering, what Jon showed me blew me away.  You can see some of it on his Frederick bouldering site, but that's only scratching the surface of what's out there.

Getting to Bushwhack, I had my mind set on a project that I had started on Friday with Chris.  Before I had been able to stick the first move to a bad sloper, and this time was hoping to match on it, and maybe even get through the next few moves to the top.  Couldn't even stick the first move this time.  After about an hour of futility, I cursed the extra gravity from the previous night's beer, and went up to try Peter's double toe hook start to the Tourette's problems.  No luck.  I've only recently started really stretching again since my summer foot injury, and my lack of flexibility showed.  At least I figured out that my Solutions work better for the start than my Miuras did.

As weak and useless as I felt from those two climbs, it really wasn't a bad day.  I had warmed up with laps on Stink Stank Stunk (middle start) and Tauntaun Sleeping Bag, and finished the day with sends of Constructive Winter, Flipping the Switch, Atonement, Bitterness and Shadows, and was still able to stick the crux of Flipping the Bird even though I didn't climb the rest of the problem out.  In hindsight, I guess I wasn't really as weak as I felt at the time.  Just needed a reminder that falling means I'm trying hard.

Flipping the Switch
Stink Stank Stunk (middle start)
Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Catoctin bouldering access alert

For those of you who boulder in the Frederick, MD area (and if you haven't yet, you should), my good friends at Mid Atlantic Climbers need your help in spreading the word about the current access situation in Catoctin Mountain Park.  Here is their statement with details about the restrictions, but the basic message is don't boulder in Catoctin.  MAC is currently working with the Access Fund to approach the park about restoring access, and in the meantime the best thing we can do is give them the space to work.  Continuing to climb in a restricted area will only send the message that climbers don't care about the rules, making it less likely that the park will adjust those rules in our favor.

The good news is that while much of what people usually refer to as "Catoctin bouldering" is along Catoctin Mountain, it's not actually in Catoctin Mountain Park where the restrictions apply.

Yes, those boulders affected by the restriction are good, but they're only a small portion of what that ridgeline has to offer.  Point being, there's more than enough great rock out there to keep everyone busy until MAC and Access Fund are able to resolve the issue.

Speaking of which, if you're not already a Mid Atlantic Climbers and Access Fund member, now is a great time to join since you can score not only the Access Fund membership gifts (including the new NRG t-shirt), but also a MAC shirt if you join by 10/5/14.

Thanks to MAC and AF for being on top of this one!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Finding my feet again

One of the biggest perks of being a teacher is having an entire summer off.  Although I usually take the opportunity for a road trip out west, this summer I chose to stay more local and fit in two great trips to the Gunks before somehow pulling a tendon in my left foot.  It was good for me in a way, getting to focus on the less active things that I don't often make time for anymore, and in the process letting my mind remember how to be still.

It was a month before I was walking normally again, something that I actually had to make a conscious effort to do after adjusting my stride for so long to keep the stress off the center of my foot.   Starting with toproping in the gym, my endurance was a little less than I wanted, but the movement came back quickly.  Even then, it was another month before I was able to make it onto actual rock, and it showed.

With the weather finally cooling in the past couple weeks, I've had some great days of bouldering at Northwest Branch, Sykesville, and Bushwhack.  Yesterday at Bushwhack was especially fun, with Peter figuring out a low start to the Tourette's problems that I'd been puzzling over in my past few visits there.  Didn't get any video of his send, or his repeat that included him flicking us off while sticking a middle finger mono crimp, but here's Charlie showing how it's done.

Okay, so it's more of a shoulder start than the true sit start that we'd envisioned, but it was a really fun solution that I can't believe nobody thought of sooner.

In this case, I was glad to have someone else's approach to follow, but as I get back to climbing outside I'm also experiencing an imbalance between finding my own sequences and following others'.  On climbs I've done before, my own foot placements come right back to me, even if it's been a year or two since I've been on them.  On new climbs, however, I keep finding myself automatically using whatever footholds others are finding useful, rather than stopping to think what would be more suited to my own body position.  This is especially problematic when following someone who is a couple inches shorter and probably 40 pounds lighter than me, and has frequently resulted in me wasting so much energy that I can no longer finish the climb even once I've stepped back and found a better way.  At least I'm realizing this now though, and can make it a point to keep finding my own feet as the weather gets better and I get out more often.

It's good to be moving again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book review: The Great American Dirtbags

Almost two years ago, a late season hurricane and the resulting power outage finally gave me the opportunity to check out Colorado author Luke Mehall's Climbing out of Bed.  Mehall, who also publishes The Climbing Zine, recently sent me a copy of The Great American Dirtbags, his newest collection of short stories, poems, and general reflections on small town mountain life.

It actually would have made perfect morning tent reading for my summer Gunks trips, but now as I spend days on my deck waiting for my foot to heal, the book provided a much needed break from my computer screen.  And hey, if I can't climb, reading about it can be almost as good!

Actually, I have to say I enjoyed the greater focus on climbing this time around, written in a way that simultaneously captures the beauty of the outdoors, the bonds formed with friends, and the personal challenges faced.  This last aspect was especially well addressed, with Mehall never hesitating to call himself out for being terrified on a climb, getting in over his head, or being lost in the woods.  Rather than glorifying his accomplishments and glossing over his shortcomings, he paints both as necessary parts of our overall development as climbers, friends, partners, and decent human beings.  I find these stories especially relevant during a summer of getting back into leading, which has often meant being over my head, scared to the point of nausea, and even pumping out on my warmups, but always walking away more prepared for the next climb.  Mehall's writing is a great reminder that we've all been there, and that those experiences often make the best stories of our lives, and leave us better able to shape the lives of those who come after us.

For more on this and his other writing, check out The Climbing Zine and Luke's Bloggie Blog.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Coopers Rock Climb-a-thon 2014 wrap-up

Funny how the past few days' plans have changed.  Chris Irwin and I had originally talked about spending another week on the road before hearing about a friend's going away party on Wednesday and the Coopers Rock Climbing Guides' 3rd annual climb-a-thon on Saturday.  New plan: climb and party on Wednesday, spend Thursday/Friday at Old Rag or Seneca, and jump over to Coopers on Saturday for some fun toproping.

How it actually went: Pull tendon in foot Tuesday, party Wednesday, sit on my deck all of Thursday/Friday, aside from limping into the doctor's office with the hopes of being cleared to climb Saturday.  I wasn't, but I went out anyway and still had an incredible time.

The climb-a-thon was our first impression of the folks from CRCG, and it was a great one!  Unlike anything I've participated in before, they created something that was fundraiser first and competition second.  In the days and weeks prior, participants set up fundraising campaigns for the adaptive athletic programs of Paradox Sports, in addition to their entry fees being donated to the Coopers Rock Foundation.  By the time of the event, somewhere around $4000 had been raised, and a ton of good raffle prizes had been donated.  Even better, participants received extra raffle tickets based on donations raised, further emphasizing the true purpose of the day.

Chris and I arrived midway through the sign-in, along with my mom, who I was hoping could climb in my place since I wasn't allowed to.  I'll admit I was a bit worried that they wouldn't let her substitute for me.  After all, why should they make it that easy when they could pull in extra registration fees instead?  Whether it was amusement about the 65 year old woman taking my place, or just being good people (I believe it was the latter), they let us make the switch with no problem.

Waiting for the briefing to start, we were a bit unsure what we were getting into.  As Chris struggled to turn off the event planning part of his brain, we looked at the seemingly high ratio of climbers to volunteers, and expected borderline chaos once the climbing started.  Turns out they had worked it out perfectly.

With 35 topropes set up, participants had three hours to climb as much as they could, and it seemed like almost nobody had to wait for a belay when they were ready to climb.  The routes themselves were well chosen and spaced, with something available for everyone.  In fact, there seemed to be several people who had never climbed before, and I loved the fact that the route selection catered as much to them as to the advanced climbers, especially in allowing three falls before lowering.  They even set up an adaptive climb, with participants pulling themselves up a rope to get a taste of what they were raising money for.  The scoring system also leveled the field nicely, with points awarded for vertical feet traveled times a difficulty multiplier, but with categories kept relatively broad.  For example, a 5.11a and 5.12d of equal height were worth equal points in the top category, giving as much advantage to the 5.11 climber as the 5.13 climber, and further minimizing any competitive or ego-driven silliness that would have detracted from the event's philanthropic nature. Participant and volunteer alike were there to have fun, to cheer each other on, and above all for the common goal of giving to a good cause.

Chris Irwin cruising his warmup
Pennie Close stepping high and Chris Irwin resisting the temptation to pull her off
Racing to the top
Pennie Close clocking some roof time
After a great gear raffle, Chris and my mom both got a fun surprise.  Turned out that that she had won a new harness for being the top female climber, and he won a new rope for being top climber overall, an outcome that hadn't occurred to either of them as a possibility.

A huge thanks to all who donated to my fundraising campaign, even though I wasn't able to climb in the end. Glad I was able to at least bring in someone who could do your contributions justice.  Thanks as well to the Hershey family and everyone else from Coopers Rock Climbing Guides for putting on such an amazing event. You took something that could have been competitive and intimidating, and made it into something welcoming and fun, and something that I hope will make regular climbers out of yesterday's newcomers.  The businesses I'm quickest to support are the ones that put community first, and from everything I saw yesterday, you guys could show people a few things about that.  Barring any more stupid injuries, I can't want to come out and climb with you next year!