Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Steady Eddy - Long Term Project Update

When I first took on the endeavor of climbing all the documented routes at the Main Areas of Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina, I was fooled by the hard men of the past. With most routes being traditional I assumed the bulk of my project would be a cake walk. But I soon learned that these traditional routes are tricky with gear and chossy with rock quality.

Fortress Wall <br /> <br />Fortress Fingers (5.10) trad <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Onsighting Fortress Fingers (5.10 trad) with tri-cams only

The less traveled traditional routes that I had assumed easy have been physically easy but mentally challenging.With the harder and popular sport and mixed routes being frequented and top roped often, they are cleaned of most bad quality rock, unlike the trad routes I mentioned.

Rawlhide Wall <br /> <br />Arborcide (5.9+) trad <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Arborsit (5.11+ trad)

While climbing several of the obscure traditional routes I've had rock crumble in my hands, I've had to bail, I took a fifteen to twenty foot whipper because of a rock hold breaking. I've had 'oh shit' moments, I've climbed hidden gems, I've climbed routes I will probably never climb again. All of this in pursuit of what? I just wanted a goal. I live two hours from the nearest climbing and Crowders is the nearest outdoor rock. I figured I could try and climb something new every visit.

Red Wall <br /> <br />Axis(Bold as Love) (5.11c/d) mixed <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Axis Bold As Love (5.11c/d mixed)

Crowders became and is my training grounds. The hike in alone is a challenge to do while keeping pace and not stopping. A great warm up as you gear up for the first route of the day and a great way to get in shape for some of the longer hikes at other climbing areas.

Middle Finger Backside <br /> <br />Prick-A-Digi Ow! (5.11b/c) trad <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Prick-A-Digi Ow! (5.11b/c trad)
The more I climb at Crowders the more I get to know the rock quality and how to look for creative gear options. I've learned to be nimble on mediocre rock. Like any other climbing areas, sometimes you get great gear, sometimes you set mental gear, sometimes there are no gear options. Because of the subtle and creative gear options at Crowders, I've noticed that when I go to an different area with straight forward gear I tend to excel.

Plane Above Your Head Wall <br /> <br />Left of Plane Above Your Head (5.10) trad <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Plain On The Left (5.10+ sport)
This project has taken patience because there are times I would like to work hard projects at other climbing areas. I feel I am paying my dues by climbing a lot of lower grade traditional routes first.  I want to be climbing for a long time so I don't want to rush trying to climb hard grades too often. I need to build my base experience up in order to be efficient and well rounded. My traditional climbing skills have sharpened with the subtle and deceptive gear options while climbing the physically easy but mentally challenging routes at Crowders Mountain. 

Rawlhide Wall <br /> <br />Cro-Magnon and Bullwinkle (5.10) sport <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina

I'm almost finished climbing all the 'easier' traditional routes. Routes like Double Naught Spy (5.9R), Sadistic Rhythm (5.9), Rocky's Roof (5.10), Psychotic Reaction (5.10), Pink Flamingo (5.11a), Temporary Tradition (5.11), Instant Karma (5.10b), and more are all nearing the top of my checklist. . It's great to move up in the grades. I'll admit I'm excited but the unknown is always a little scary, right? I thought the physically easy routes were a challenge mentally, imagine what these physically hard routes are going to do the mind!

Red Wall  <br /> <br />Fashion (5.12b) sport <br /> <br />Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Fashion (5.12b sport)
Its been a challenge recruiting and climbing with different partners. We all climb at different levels so I make sure that I get them on routes that are going to build their skills but I also try and find routes that I haven't ticked yet. Because I'm running out of routes in the lower grades, I tend to pick whatever I feel will give my partner the best experience based on what they want to climb. Some partners want to do traditional routes to work on cleaning and placing gear. Other partners want to climb hard sport routes and some partners allow me the pleasure of working on my goals so they climb on whatever I need to tick. I usually improvise my day depending on who comes with me. I have learned to never get caught up on one particular climb but to remember the overall project.

Onsight the obscure Respirator (5.8 trad)
This project stemmed from some of my early experiences at Crowders. Only the high traffic areas were well documented so I set forth to update Mountain Project. I've been clearing briars, taking pictures, climbing like a madman, exploring areas unknown to me, and focusing on having fun. I've noticed with long-term projects that it is easy to get sidetracked or lose motivation. That's okay with me because it is a long-term project. I've also noticed that our society gets caught up on instant gratification but some things are meant to take time. If I lived next to Crowders I would probably not give myself as much slack but because this mountain is two hours away, I feel I'm doing a great job managing my time out there.

Onsighting Playing An Eliminate(5.10- trad)
I get asked often how the project is going, my answer is that it's going. Progress is slow and steady but at least it's not at a stand still. I have taken note that a lot of retro-bolting occurred when their was a rebolting project in the 90's. Squeeze jobs are pretty common in the Resurgence Area. For example, the squeeze job left of Plane Above Your Head, the squeeze job right of Cro-magnon Crack, and the squeeze jobs right and left of Passing Out Wolf Tickets. Not only are they squeeze jobs but they are retro-bolted squeeze jobs. The original Trundlasaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rox were trad climbs with one bolt. Now they are sport routes with one trad piece. Things have changed and are probably going to keep changing. The day of the trad climber is making way for the day of sport climber. Even in good old ground-up North Carolina trad country.

Heady Areteddy (5.9+ trad)

It is a dying art that many of the die-hards have fought hard to keep in North Carolina but with the introduction of the indoor climbing gym and the 'instant gratification' attitude, people want to climb hard and safe right now. The day of putting in the time to know your ability enough to climb the 'R' and 'X' ratings is making way for the 'add a bolt' in order to remove the 'R' or 'X' rating so that it can be climbed now. In England a person would 'headpoint' a route in order to obtain the mental capacity to climb the 'R' or 'X' rated routes.

Silence The Critics (5.12b sport)

I try not to judge because now a days there are everyday weekend warriors crushing at the harder grades. Before you had to dedicate a lot more to become an elite in the climbing world. Now a couple of days in the gym and a couple of weekend outdoor trips is all it takes to achieve what would have taken a lifestyle change in order to achieve the same in the past.

Slimebelly Snakeass Sodhole Skunkpie (5.12a mixed)

In trying to hold myself to a standard set by hardmen of the past I've gained a lot but at the cost of time. As I mentioned before, I want to climb many years to come and if pacing myself in order to stay healthier physically and being able to climb long into my older years than I will gladly sacrifice a little time in order to gain years of pain free climbing. Efficiency is my goal.

Hemingway Elementary School Brick Wall Training Traverse- Ketchum, Idaho 2003
Getting ready to hike into Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina.
Training Weight!

Enough talk, I'm off to practice being a smooth, balanced, powerful, mentally strong climber! Off belay!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Belayed Gratification Climbing Club

When I first moved to Columbia, South Carolina, in the summer of 2005, I started frequenting the local climbing gym. I started working at the Stronghold Athletic Club in 2007. I worked at SAC for about three years but unfortunately I was let go in September of 2010 due to the previous owner's financial problems. The gym was sold to the current owner and with a fresh paint job the gym was redubbed Stronghold Gym.  I tried to reacquire my position and was met with excitement but a week later I was told the position had been filled.
Finlay Park - Columbia, South Carolina

While in hiatus from SAC I worked at United Parcel Service (UPS) for a year and then applied for the Columbia-Richland Fire Department, all the while climbing mostly outside. Upon finishing Recruit training in May of 2012 I decided to see if the new owners of Stronghold would let me volunteer to set routes. Rumor had it that there was a lack of motivation in route setting in the tower by the then current staff. I was patient and volunteered about twenty four hours as a way to get my foot in the door. Once word got out to the owners that I was doing a 'great job' I applied to become a part-time employee. Since the gym was going through a transition period, I was able to reacquire my position as a climbing instructor, route setter, and climbing coach.
Stronghold Gym Climbing Logo
I now coach the Belayed Gratification Climbing Club and the Holdstrong Climbing Team (within the climbing club). The competition team has several elite climbers, especially when considering that we don't have a state of the art facility or any outdoor climbing areas nearby. In fact several of these team members have made it to Nationals at USA Climbing, in both the American Boulder Series (ABS) and the Sport Climbing Series (SCS).

The competition team recently started the 2012-2013 ABS season. The team attended a preseason competition at Active Climbing in Athens, Georgia and came home with a good amount of experience under their belts. This past weekend (Sept. 8th and 9th) I was unable to attend a competition at Wall Crawler Rock Club in Atlanta, Georgia but several of my students placed well in their season opener. 

When I coached the team previously we had age criteria that had to be met, seven years old and up and under eighteen. I did away with the criteria because some of the best climbers are younger and because USA Climbing allows any age level to compete and they also host a Collegiate Climbing Series (CCS) which allows anybody attending college to compete at the Collegiate Competitions.  

My goal is to nurture a climbing community that has folks from all walks of life. When the adults I invite to club witness the younger climbers crushing, it motivates them to work hard. Inspiration and motivation work both ways so I invite high level climbers as guests to motivate my younger crowd as well.

I want club members to not only be good at climbing indoors and at competitions but I also stress the importance of knowing how to climb outside... safely. A thirteen year old student of mine is actually one of my favorite climbing partners. This past summer he was my go to climbing partner. He was on summer vacation and because of his age didn't work. I knew I could count on him because I had coached him during my previous stint as coach for SAC. A simple call to his mother or father and they would give him to me for the day. He and I had a lot of adventures this summer and we both learned a lot together. I feel that his hard work is paying off. He placed first at the Wall Crawler Competition in his age group and he has only been climbing about a year and a half. His motivation blows me away. Every exercise I have the Club do he finishes first and does so with no complaining.

For some of the Competition Team members it has been a hard transition to go from their old climbing coach to me because we have very different styles of teaching. I stress technique, personal strengths, power endurance, and most important efficiency. Some of the team members are used to relying on strength, power, and spoon fed beta that their previous coach was known for. I want well rounded climbers who know how to think for themselves, read routes, down climb, and have endurance to spare. Most of these competition team members climb in both the ABS and SCS which require different skill sets that tend to be opposing but if done correctly can be very complimentary.

Because climbing outside is important, I have already given more outdoor climbing opportunities to the  climbing club and competition team members than they received all of their last season in the two months I've been coaching. I don't get paid extra for the outdoor climbing trips but I don't do it for the money, otherwise I wouldn't be working at the gym period. I love to pass on the gift of climbing outside with no expectations of monetary gain. Climbing outside was taught to me in the same manner.

I've been having fun teaching the hobby that I love and I hope to get better as a coach and instructor. I also hope that our small climbing gym in the middle of the sandhills can stay open for more generations of climbers to come. It's an oldie and a woody. Until next climb!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sick and Pumped at the Dump

I woke up sick, Saturday the first, at Fire Station 33 and had doubts about going to North Carolina to climb for what was left of Labor Day weekend. I hadn't climbed outside for two weeks. I was craving rock!
Three and a half hours later I was at the Dump

I made the three and a half hour drive feeling miserable the whole way up but I was still excited to be visiting an area I hadn't been to before. The drive was surprisingly shorter than I thought it was going to be.

The hike into the Dump can't be called a hike in. Seriously, you can see the parking area from the first wall that has the route Son Of White Trash on it. I could hear Marvin and Garrett from the parking area. A couple of steps up the trail and I could see them. It's a nice change from the hike at Crowders but  the downside was that I didn't have a full body warm up. I managed to snag a couple of pictures of Marvin as he was leading the sport route Son Of White Trash(5.8), which can be led traditionally with a run out.

Marvin Dawson leads Son Of White Trash (5.8)sport
Because I made the drive after being relieved at the station, I only managed to climb Son Of White Trash and  White Trash before the rain drizzle began. Undeterred, I decided to lead Dimpsty Dumpster but I underestimated the rain. By the time I reached the third bolt it was wet from there to the top. I tried to climb straight up the face but found it difficult to pull down on wet sloped crimps so I down climbed. After a quick shake off on dry rock, I attacked the arete finding it easier to lieback on wet rock. At one point I felt like blaming it on the rain and quitting but something kept me going. I don't know what but I just went with it and surprised myself when I topped out. Although it was a short route, it gave me a glimpse of what is achievable on wet rock and taught me to trust in my instinct.

While Marvin and Garrett finished climbing Dimpsty, I scoped out a route under a roof that was keeping me and my belongings dry. I looked looked at two routes. One was a traditional route that I later found out is call Warpin Endorphine (5.11+) X Top Rope. I was really considering leading it but the wet was creeping in on the last part of the route. I didn't have a guide book on me and I thought it looked do-able but in the end I decided to lead a sport route in the middle of the overhang that was not going to get wet unless the winds changed direction.

The route I was scoping out looked easy to the first bolt and then I could tell the second bolt would be a bit of a challenge. The third bolt looked to have a huge ledge right underneath it but then the fourth and fifth bolt looked like a strength endurance haul. This was my first impression while I gather beta (information) from the ground. I surprised myself in getting as far as I did. I've climbed (5.12) before but I don't do it frequently and as of lately I've been chilling in the lower traditional grades finishing up my ticklist at Crowders Mountain State Park.

After deciding that I could use a bail carabiner if I didn't make it to the anchors, I laced up my shoes, racked my quickdraws and set forth into the unknown. My favorite thing about climbing something new is that you don't know whats going to happen, you don't know the moves, you are burning up energy trying to solve the puzzle as you climb! I break the route up into small sections of climbing in between the bolts. It is hard to stay opened minded in the middle of the action so I come up with different ways of doing a section while I read the route from the ground. It all come together when my feet leave the ground.

I thought the first bolt would be easily attainable and I was correct. A series of small ledges deposited me right on top of the first bolt (if you bring a boulder pad you can try a sick boulder start).
First bolt at my waist and eyeballin' the next section towards the second bolt of Unwritten Law(5.12b/c)

I was also correct when I thought the second bolt would be a challenge. It was not only small as I had perceived but it was also  a bit of a reach for me at 5'5". I did have to down climb and feel around before I found a positive crimp to hold while I clipped my quickdraw into the bolt's hanger.

I was tempted to follow the chalk that led out cliff left but I decided to go for a direct approach to what looked to be a big ledge under the third bolt. It turns out it was a big ledge, only with a downward sloping angle. I managed to grip the ledge from a small throw and after stabilizing myself I proceeded to the third bolt.
Oh no (slopey ledge) 
Third bolt
From the third bolt I got a bit confused because there was a camouflaged bolt hanger that I hadn't seen from the ground. Garrett, Marvin, and I talked it over while I depumped on the ledge. I chose to go cliff right with what seemed to be the line. The section between the third and fourth bolt took be a couple of attempts between resting on the ledge and a trying to decipher which way was going to be the easiest for me. Finally, after several ideas, I found one I decided to commit to. I reached up high to an undercling and pushed hard on a small foothold to propel myself up. From here I clipped the fourth bolt and tried to move swiftly into the next section.
Nope not this way...
First rest
Not this way either...
Getting a better rest
Good hand, bad foot
So, did I mention there is a really good ledge to rest on?
That's the right combination (look at that stacked foot and hand, right in line)
Made it at last! Now where is the next ledge? What do you mean there are no more rests!?!?
I was shut down quickly. The holds got small in between the fourth and fifth bolt and the steepness of the wall got greater. Unfortunately, I didn't have a ledge to down climb to and decipher this section so I had to take a seat on the rope. This section was also very much a reach for a person of my stature. I eventually settled on throwing hard to what looked to be a big hold with a tick mark (chalk). When I finally stuck the move, I barely caught it with three fingers, I moved swiftly because I had talked over what I was going to do if I did manage to grab the hold with Garrett and Marvin. I managed to clip the fifth and last bolt but again I was shut down going from the fifth bolt to the bolted chain anchor.
I hung on the rope shortly after this and had to dissect this section of this route.
Trying to reach statically... not enough  reach.
Had to throw for it!

The last throw was on the smallest crimps yet and close to none-existing feet. I tried to work the last move but eventually gave up due to exhaustion. I clipped into the wall and sent some rope down. Garrett clove hitched a stick to my rope. With the sick and some tape I keep in my chalk-bag pouch, I fashioned a stick-clip and clipped the anchors so that I didn't have to use a bail biner.
The throw to the top was a show stopper for me. Serious crimps and a serious dyno make for a serious crux!

Marvin surprised himself and got to second bolt on his top rope bid. He had never tried to climb a 5.12 and was stoked to have led Son Of White Trash. He did a fabulous job of keeping his weight on his feet and using his extension. Marvin came off the wall grinning saying that his fingers were shot but that he appreciated the experience.

Garrett cruised this route all the way to the section between the third and fourth bolt. He was 'smooth like butta' but taking the summer off from climbing and focusing on work while in Washington state he lost a lot of his endurance. He also came of the wall grinning.

Although we only got four routes in, we all agreed that we were exhausted and that it was a fun short lived trip. I know that if it was dry I wouldn't have tried climbing Unwritten Law and we would have done a lot more routes in the (5.10) range. In a way I'm thankful because I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I'm used to gauging the group and climbing routes that everyone will have a good time on. I usually don't climb projects while in new areas, I try to climb things that I can onsight. I gained valuable experience on this route because it allowed me to climb at my limits.

Garrett had plans and had to get to Columbia quick, but Marvin and I headed to Boone and had some Mexican food. As the evening progressed I felt worse and worse. I planned on climbing on Monday the third (Labor Day) but I decided to drive home with a nasty fever instead. I sure was bummed too because Robert Hutchins, Wade Parker, and I were going to go to Moore's Wall. Traditional climbing paradise! But you can't always get what you want. Instead I got to sleep in and have a full day of rest before my shift at the fire station the next day.

Until next climb!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Linville Crush

Robert Hutchins leads Pump On Demand
 There is a place that I've been to only three times. It is a hush hush place that is still in the process of being developed. I met Robert Hutchins and he allowed me the privilege to climb at this area with him and his fellow developers. The main area that we climbed at is referred to as The Hole

I met Wade Parker whom I knew through climbing a route he established at Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina. I had respect for Wade before I even met him because of his wonderful contribution to my climbing experience. He and I hit it off right away and plan on climbing together in the future. It is nice that he lives near Crowders Mountain State Park where I spend most of my time training.

It was going to be the three of us but we were pleasantly surprised when we found out that Tim Fisher would be joining us. Tim Fisher is one of the early developers at Moore's Wall. Fisher is known for his staunch ground-up ethic where he only bolts when necessary and engineers other forms of fixed protection. This ethic can be regarded as a dying art, for it is now common practice to rappel off a cliff and add bolts every 10-15ft. North Carolina in general is known for the groundup hardman(and hardwoman) style of climbing.

Wade Parker and Robert Hutchins

Hutchins parked his Off Road Xterra into the pull off and announced that Tim Snyder was at The Hole too. Snyder was at The Hole the first time I met him and had a very impressive day then. I was excited we were going to be sharing the cliff with him as well.

Scoping out Feature Presentation 
I led the hike in to see if I could remember where the Home Theater (first main climbing area) is located. The hike in is mostly down hill and provides for a good warm-up prior to climbing. Wade allowed me the honor of onsighting a (5.9) traditional warm-up and I returned the favor by getting him on what I consider the area classic (5.9) warm-up. Then it was time for business but not before we watched Robert put up Pump On Demand (5.12) an over-hung mixed route.

Robert at the halfway point of Pump On Demand

I geared up and tried to send Lactic Bubble Bath(5.11) but failed at the crimpy technical crux. I am positive I'll send it on my next visit and I am proud of my progress on this long sustained traditional masterpiece of a route. Fisher thought it would be good training for me to get on Pump On Demand (5.12) while I was tired. Since I had done Pump clean on Top Rope on both my visits prior, I deemed Fisher's challenge a good idea.  It had been a while since I had come off a route because of overpump. I was positive I could hold on as I tried to clip but I slid right off. After two more takes I reached the anchor and lowered down.

Tim Snyder did us the honor of putting up another Home Theater classic, Feature Presentation (5.11) mixed.    I took a small break and watched Snyder, Wade, and Robert climb Feature Presentation. I remembered where I had trouble on this route on my first visit and gathered more beta to put together a plan of attack for my Top Rope bid.

To everyone's surprise, including myself, I sent Feature Presentation on top rope clean while removing the gear as well. This route felt a lot more feasible than the first time I attempted it on top rope. It is on the to send list for the next trip for sure.

I gathered my stuff and prepared myself for what I remembered to be the toughest part of the day. The hike out! The first time I climbed at the hole I had to literally crawl out on all four. It was the most exhausted I had ever been on a climbing trip. I vowed never to get spanked on this hike again and I now attack the hike at Crowders with the intention to dominant The Hole hike in. My hard work was noted by Fisher himself. I'm sure it was because my pack was lighter.

It was an incredible day spent with people I rarely get to climb with. Quality climb instead of quantity climb ;-)  Until next climb!