Tuesday, July 28, 2009

6 million ways to die

We are merely visitors to Owl Tor, but these bastards keep it real. They’re there all day. They’re there right now. And I know when I’m in the mood to have my face ripped off, they’re available. They are the critters of Owl Tor.

Northern Spectacled Anaconda 

Homodo Dragon 

Greater Beige Belly 

Kissing Viper 


Owl Tor is named for the owl who used to live there. We still hear him sometimes but his precise residence is not known. Other birds are all over the place though – vultures, hawks, starlings, crows, etc. There’s also bats but the last two times I saw them I was too busy peeing my pants to take a picture. Take a run on Fallopian Tube if you’re curious.

Some variety of furred critter resides in the grass above the cliff proper. I think I saw one once and maybe have a picture but I couldn’t find it. I assure you they are there though. While topping out on Shatter Hand last weekend I utilized their dirt chambers on the mud/grass headwall. They’ve really undertaken an impressive drilling operation – we’re talking miles of tunnels on super dubious terrain.

Oh yeah, and ‘wormies’ – I saw them once and wouldn’t sit on the rocks at Owl Tor for an entire season for fear they would invade me via rectum. Wormies had gone decades without a sighting and, as far as I know, have not been sighted since. Believing they had the Tor to themselves for the duration of the rainy season, I surprised the wormies one damp day with my girlfriend at the time. This would be Evelyn’s first time climbing/belaying and my first encounter with the critters I now call wormies. I had forgotten my rope at home but I’ll never forget what I saw in the water that day: foot-long tape worm-looking things writhing around in the putrid pee bath that constitutes Owl Tor’s intermittent water source. And no one believes my account. They’ll believe me when a wormie climbs out of the hell nectar to make a run at some poor soul’s colon.

Be careful out there.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

the week in training

My spring climbing season is going approximately as planned. I’m campusing decently, bouldering sufficiently and have managed to put in a few good days on Strictly. Saturday was my sixth day of the season at Owl Tor and my third day on this year’s redpoint route of focus, for which the campusing and bouldering is supposed to provide adequate power. I burned three attempts on the lower section of Strictly Ballroom and two from the ledge to the top, strategically splitting the route into two obvious sections. I’m still concerned with the difficulty of the mono to the crimp at the first bolt, although this day I made progress, hitting the crimp maybe three times. It’s going to take more than a few more hard days of work before I’m approaching legitimate redpoint burns. On a positive note, my timing has coincided perfectly with Lizard mating season. After making moves on a local lady, this guy dominated my shoe.

From Wednesday’s session at the Shed, 1-4-7 on the mediums:

The campus board at the Shed is built to standard specifications: rungs are spaced 22cm, 15-degrees overhanging. The left rungs are the only set to come from a manufacturer – Metolius mediums. The right two sets are my own creation and are considerably smaller.

And for some Thursday climbing action, Micah and I went to Upper Gibraltar to get on a couple of the most mediocre routes in town. This photo is of Micah leading A Route Runs Through It (5.10c) with his pack on to facilitate a quick exit in fading light.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

the first day of the rest of my life

Saturday was my first day of the season on Strictly Ballroom. She’s still an angry route. So much anger. Things went OK though, I think. I expected it to be hard. My biggest concern at this point is the mono move at the first bolt. The start is about V9 to the second bolt, I would guess. The crux of this section involves a mono to a bad crimp that I’ve never actually done. Beginning a project on which I haven’t done all the moves is a bit ambitious. But that’s alright – I expected this. The rest of the route isn’t so bad. From the second bolt to the chains is probably 13c, so after a good rest I expect it’s manageable. My two-finger strength felt good. There’s two two-finger pockets at the start and three consecutive two-finger pockets higher up that comprise some hard sequences. All five two-finger pockets felt about how I thought they would, which is to say good, considering I usually think moves will feel better than they actually end up feeling. All in all, it’s hard for me to make a prediction for my chances at a redpoint. This is a new level of difficulty for me. The really interesting part is: I know I can redpoint, but I probably won’t. Physically, there’s no doubt I can adapt. Throw in other factors like the stress of pushing back the inside of my performance envelope every training day, while at the same time staving off injury, and I don’t know… maybe.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

commence Operation Don't Suck

I'm back from a one week trip to Henderson, Nevada for my bi-yearly commitment to bettering myself professionally, namely the CCIE written exam, and I'm fully focused now on the coming summer's climbing goals, that is: don't suck. This weekend saw a refreshingly populous crew of Santa Barbara locals for the season's third day at Owl Tor. We included Justin, Andy, Skip, and myself. Micah, Elhanan, and Phil were noticeably absent. They each cited respective excuses - Micah's benched with shoulder issues, Phil was in Vegas, Elhanan is fat - like the Tor cares. The Tor remembers these indiscretions with the intention of jarring our memories in December, as the monsoon season steals any opportunities for progress, so that we may realize why we've failed on our projects. She reminds us we have indeed failed and who we may blame for that. Surprise, Tor: we're already failing and it's only April. I'm too old for this. I'm going to push hard for a redpoint on Strictly Ballroom this spring. One of us is going to lose here. Either I'll clip chains despite Owl Tor's best attempts to maim me, or I'll flail pitifully for 7 months at Central California's answer to Mordor. Whichever the outcome, I'm ramping up for an entertaining go of it, and so is everyone else. Justin redpointed Auto Magic on his second day of work this season, his second season climbing; Andy did 11 laps; and Skip is squeezing blood from mud. I had one good burn on BTL then flailed the rest of the day.

da routes:

  1. Power of Eating (5.11d) - redpoint
  2. When the Sea Doesn't Want You (5.12a) - redpoint
  3. Chips Ahoy (5.12d) - redpoint
  4. Better Than Life (5.13c) - ground to the sidepull after the 3-finger after the fifth bolt
  5. Shatter Hand (5.12d) - fell at the last draw, worked out the top
  6. White Cougar (5.12b) - falls at the top
  7. Auto Magic (5.12a) - redpoint
  8. Anchor Punch (5.12a) - 1 fall
  9. When the Sea Doesn't Want You (5.12a) - 1 fall

Saturday, April 4, 2009

off to a good start

Day 2 of Owl Tor season was also my second day of the year on Better Than Life. I basically did what I wanted to, which was climb from the ground to the hueco at the fifth bolt. I've got my eye on Strictly Ballroom this season and I know no amount of training will be too much. This is the time to push hard on routes selected to prepare me for the work ahead.

da routes:

  1. Power of Eating (5.11d) - redpoint
  2. When the Sea Doesn't Want You (5.12a) - redpoint
  3. Chips Ahoy (5.12d) - redpoint
  4. Better Than Life (5.13c) - 1 fall after clipping the fifth bolt at the hueco
  5. Shatter Hand (5.12d) - fell right after the last clip, then worked out the top moves; not my favorite route
  6. White Cougar (5.12b) - fell at the long move after the last clip, then worked around at the top; this route is not brilliant (I'm sorry, Steve - don't hate me cuz you're beautiful)
  7. Anchor Punch (5.12a) - redpoint
  8. When the Sea Doesn't Want You - redpoint

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the crankmuffin conspiracy

Climbing nuggets need a name, so I took action:

Thanks for your definition of crankmuffin!
There's one more step: click this link to review and confirm the definition.
(If the link is not underlined, you may have to copy and paste it into your web browser.)
If you didn't request this email, please ignore it.
Urban Dictionary

But it seems the old garde at Urban Dictionary had other plans:

Thanks for your definition of crankmuffin!
Editors reviewed your entry and have decided to not publish it.
To get a better idea of what editors publish and reject, sign up as an Urban Dictionary Editor here: http://editor.urbandictionary.com/
Urban Dictionary
A crankenfrank's (crankenstein's) biatch. See also: crankenstein
Obviously that crankenfrank's crankmuffin has a humongous badonkadonk.

Not cool, editors.

It was me and Phil at the Tor Saturday. We've really come full circle. After an uncharacteristically populous season at Santa Maria's finest crag, it is Phil and me, once again, as the keepers of the flame. Yeah, I said it - you all let a good cliff down - Elhanan, Andy, Justin, Micah, Andree, Skip, etc... Don't think the Tor didn't notice. You played right in to her hands and now she laughs. Who now will send her projects? Feel bad.

I had a good burn on Better Than Life, which made me feel pretty good about the first day of the season.

da routes:

  1. Power of Eating (5.11d) - redpoint
  2. When the Sea Doesn't Want You (5.12a) - redpoint
  3. Chips Ahoy (5.12d) - redpoint
  4. Better Than Life (5.13c) - 2 falls. I took first at the fourth bolt, so that's from the ground to just before the throw to the hueco. I'm pleased with that for day one.
  5. Shatterhand (5.12d) - A bunch of falls. This route still sucks.
  6. Anchor Punch (5.12a) - A bunch of falls. At this point, I'm done.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

shoulders and the sports that love them

You need shoulders to climb. Surprise. You need strong shoulders. I mean strong in the sense they will not easily injure. For the shoulder joint specifically, that means balance. Get disproportionately strong in a narrow range and you're begging for problems. And unfortunately, there's no dedicated group of impassioned professionals committing their careers to the study of chronic bouldering injuries. So learn from the lessons taught to athletes in other sports. For example, swimmers. If you're not a 108574_m03swimmer, observe - they have big backs and big shoulders. That should remind you of someone. I swam in high school and continue to train in the pool now, in hopes this will benefit my general fitness in such a way my climbing may be improved. There's a problem: while runners train a set of body parts mostly neglected by the type of movement we experience climbing, swimmers work the same. So my running and cycling friends alternate healing to a degree - while their arms are sore from yesterday's bouldering session, they'll hammer on their legs for a bit. Swimmers do not enjoy this same cycle. But there's a benefit: boulderers don't want, and swimmers don't have, big legs. In my opinion, it works out to about equal. Personally, the scale tips toward swimming as my extracurricular activity simply because I enjoy it. I'm digressing - watch out for your shoulders. As someone who climbs and swims, I pay close attention to the condition of mine. And when it comes to advice, I look at what the swim coaches have to say. This brings me to the point of this post - I found a really good article from USA Swimming: Shoulder Injury Prevention

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

we've got a bleeder

IMG_2118 I was so frickin' torqued at my skin last weekend. I couldn't do anything except watch Marcela crank. At least someone cranked.

Friday, March 13, 2009

wild thing, you make my fingers sing

My fingers are crying. They've been in pain all week from last weekend's Joshua Tree excursion. And I'll be returning to JTree today. I've left a project there: Desert Shield. This will be the first time I make the three hour drive two weekends in a row, so I'm hoping for some magic. Realistically though, a redpoint probably isn't in the cards, but if Colonel Sanders had thought like that, we wouldn't have KFC now would we? I also want to finish Avant Chain, perhaps the most painful 12a I've ever seen - my skin can hardly contain its excitement.

Last night I climbed with Justin and Kristy and Andy and Marcela and Bob and Lala and Tuto at Lizard's Mouth. It was pretty good. Andy did the sit start to Gangsta Hippie and a couple rad-looking problems on the Top 'o the World, Ma boulder. He looked strong. Justin and I spent most of our time on Gangsta Hippie - I did it twice but could not motivate for the sit start. It was cold up there, which seemed to suck everyone's motivation. Afterwards, I drove to the Shed and campused for ~90 minutes. Campusing went alright, certainty an improvement over last week, as my focus was on technique - no more swinging around like a slapper. There's just no use in squirming your way up stuff, I feel. If I'm going to finish a boulder problem or a campus move, I want to know I arrived there because I pulled harder, not because I lunged more femininely. Anywayz, that's what I thought about while campusing yesterday, and I feel better for it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

train bad 1 day and feel bad for 1 week

Few things get me more down than a bad training session. And I'm actually pretty fair about it. I won't chastise myself for not achieving some arbitrary, daily training goal. Bad days happen - that's to be expected. I understand I can't crank out personal bests every day. What really sends me over the edge is knowing I sacrificed good form in an attempt at inane success. Take for instance yesterday: I kicked around like a damn monkey on the campus board, flailing at the night's objective. Not only did I not get 1-2-6 or 1-4-7 on my left, but I spent what little training capacity I had on horrible technique. So, I don't get to be content knowing I stimulated a modicum of growth despite a near miss at an interim goal. In the marathon that is this season's training schedule, I just sprinted for 40 yards between miles 12 and 13. And my 40 time really wasn't that good. A day wasted - now I have to heal the damage from a training session spent engraining poor form; the kind of form that left unchecked will eliminate the potential for future performance gains. How ever many times it takes, I guess, is how many times it takes for me to learn there is no shortcut. Just wanting strength is not enough. A person has to train smarter than I did last night to realize impressive power. And that's the thought I get to keep in my head while I wait the self-imposed, mandatory one week between sessions on the campus board. As much as I would like to get in to the Shed for a shot at redemption before the weekend, I know that is too much campusing for a person who would like not to injury himself.


Another thing that sucks: The Banff Mountain Film Festival. And I'm sorry to criticize a person's work like this. It's just, no one should get to produce something this sucky and not be called out for it.

Film #1: I walked in a few minutes late to the screening of this short film about a pseudo-tribal family (Andes, maybe) dealing with a sick father. The Dad wants the daughter to go get musicians to play this song while he dies... It was totally stupid. Anyone on the edge of their seat for this thing would friggin' explode in front of The National Geographic Channel.

Film #2: Committed 2: Grit Kids - Somehow, the creators of this film have devised a method for producing a documentary about a sport I love, featuring athletes I admire, and make it suck. I kid you not, I would rather watch three hours of YouTube. Obviously, it would receive the Alpine Club of Canada Award for Best Film on Climbing. Next year they should choose someone not in a coma to award a winner or at least hire ferrets to pick the one with best smell.

Film #3: Journey to the Center - It's about base jumping.

Film #4: Papiroflexia - This cartoon guy makes origami planes out of planes and stuff... Needless to say, it blew my mind.

Film #5: Seasons - I was surprised to see this film featured at the Banff Festival because it didn't suck. The sound, cinematography, athletes, etc. - all rad. Unfortunately, it's about mountain biking.

Film #6: Under the Influence - Growing up, I skied a bunch, so I appreciate the athletes who push this sport. This film was put together super well and it was entertaining.

And what kills me is they introduce the films like, "Next, we have a short film from the esteemed director of... winner of 2006's... ", like it's going to blow your mind. And you think something's wrong with you because you don't understand who wouldn't gouge their eyes out to make it stop. I want my $12 and three hours of life back.

Monday, March 2, 2009

even the Mona Lisa's falling apart

By back feels like somebody hit it with a truck. It's not even really an injury though - I've always gotten these excruciating cramps through the meaty part of my back, right in the belly of my lattisimus dorsi. It feels like an exaggerated version of a cramp that could appear in some other muscle, only this one is spawned from Hell and typically posts up for half a week. So I climbed through it Saturday and paid the price Sunday... and Monday... now it's just annoying. But there's a second problem with my back. There's this sharp pain that shoots down my left leg when I move in to certain positions (like sleeping, conveniently). It feels like a nerve thing because I'm not able to stretch or massage it away, or even point to a specific location that is affected. My swimming schedule is suspect. All the butterfly kick, I'm theorizing, could be to blame. My evidence is occasional, quick bursts of pain during laps in the pool, always when I'm in the middle of a flutter or butterfly kick. Had these sporadic moments of pain not presented themselves while swimming, I would have blamed bouldering - all the jumping off problems I've been doing this winter. Whatever the cause, the combination of these two ailments prompted me to skip swimming and climbing Sunday. Saturday, however, was epic. Justin and I got up at 7:00 to begin the day; started bouldering at Painted Cave by 8:30; I hit the pool from 1:00 to 2:00; then got together with Justin, Marcela, and Bridget for boudering at Lizard's Mouth from 3:30 to 6:30. That's like seven hours of boudering. It was great but my body was not psyched the next day. The decision before me now is wether to take some time off, from everything, and see if things normalize - or are these acceptable aches and pains one should expect from an increase in training volume or intensity? I haven't decided yet.

Saturday, I did Gangster Hippie (V6) at Lizard's Mouth, toward the end of the day, after working it for about an hour. This is pretty good for me, considering I'm not much of a boulderer lately. That problem is rad. It even looks rad.

By the way, I've determined the two best shows on television are Extreme Loggers and Ax Men. I'm sure a logger will punch me in the face for saying this, but I used to do timber work. Yeah, I said that: timber work. I was super psyched when I put Ax Men on at my Dad's place last March and he walked in the room to say, "You remember doing that work?" Yes, Dad, yes I do. I hated it. But I'm proud to say now, I used to be a timber professional. Maybe all that is irrelevant today, especially in the mind of a true logger, because I work in front of a computator. Well, whatever - it's a free country and I'll reminisce with delirious fondness on my timber days all I want. Do yourself a favor and tune in to see what a real mustache looks like. Think your back hurts? Did your back break 37 times when a beaver attacked you with your own ax yesterday? Before you schedule your sex change, maybe you should CC someone who cares and get the fuck back to work. Those guys... they do men's work. They are men. And they are rad.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

send me on my way

I'm deep in a winter training routine. The weather has me confined to indoor locales like the Shed and occasionally the climbing gym in Ventura. I love it. Holing up in the basement to grow lobster arms while the crags soak is definitely my thing. I've taken this opportunity to campus a bunch and I'm reminded again how stupid it was I ever quit. Over the past two Saturdays I've focused on the Metolius medium sized rungs, spaced 22cm (obviously) on a 15-degree board, and have managed to repeat some of the more enjoyable classics, such as 1-4-7 and 1-5-7. I'm going after weaknesses pretty hard this season. For instance, 1-4-7 and 1-5-7 on my right arm were the moves of note from last weekend, and though I would like to have progressed even more on my stronger side this Saturday, I chose instead to bring up my weaker half, opting to invest my time on 1-4-7 with my left. By no large margin I finished it, and I'm thinking for future moves this is a good practice. Asymmetry is for pitchers. The real campus goal is 1-5-9. That's a good place to be for someone aspiring to climb Big Boy things. That's the kind of move that could give me confidence in my power, confident enough maybe to hit the spring redpoint season with some momentum. Or it could tear my arm from my shoulder, Fist of the Northstar syle. We could be making omelettes here. In any event, there seems to be a lack of strength in a specific area: campus moves where my low arm is especially low, like in moves of considerable distance, like 1-5-9. In order to train in this range, I'm thinking this kind of move could be valuable:

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm making a list and I'm checking it twice.

I'm making a list of rad things. There'll be a couple things on there I've personally wanted to do for quite some time, like climb a 5.14 and do a one-arm/one-finger pull-up, but mostly this is designed to be a compilation of rad things I think any self-respecting, inbred group of angry climbers would want on their cumulative résumé. And please, this is open to suggestion - suggest a feat of radness and I will try to convince someone to do it. This is going to expand to eating challenges, I know it.


The stuff:

  1. climb a 5.14
  2. boulder V12
  3. one-arm/one-finger pull-up
  4. one-arm front lever
  5. mono-campus
  6. one-arm campus
  7. campus 1-5-9
  8. campus 6-1 doubles
  9. one-arm handstand
  10. dry-hump a badger


* The fine print:

  • Video and/or photographic documentation is pretty important here, because:
  • The performer of said feat should not have had prior success. (There's nothing interesting about watching someone who's really good at pinky-pullups doing pinky-pullups. We're making people better here, not handing out cookies for doing what you're supposed to. There should be a struggle, an ascension to impressiveness. And there will be no cookies.)
  • I don't care what the feat, puking disqualifies you. (This does not rule out the possibility of a puking compilation video at the end of the year.)
  • There is not "extra credit". Other than mention in a brief side note, there is no special value attributed to feats which incorporate extraneous events, such as a hospital visit or milk.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

an immutable tenet

You will never be powerful enough. It's hard to develop a tenet, let alone an immutable one. I mean, how do you know something you propose as infallible will never be challenged? Easy: think like a sociopath. Stick to your conviction with the ferocity of a religious fundamentalist - no one's going to tell you Americans aren't infidels, that you can't have 37 wives, pornography isn't evil, or that a comet won't take you to heaven. You're crazy. Enjoy it. At least you know the truth.

I know the truth: I will never be powerful enough. And I feel I lost site of this recently. Climbing routes is great; I enjoy the commitment in training for and finally performing on climbs of scale, as opposed to bouldering for shorter sequences. That's not to say I don't love bouldering. I do. It's just that sport routes appeal to me slightly more. But in my effort to build some semblance of endurance for sport routes I neglected to train raw power. And I've had enough of that. So, instead of heading to Ventura for routes at Vertical Heaven, I'll be at the Shed this weekend, campusing. I'm going to campus, train for the one-finger Birthday Challenge pull-up, then swim. Whatever you're doing this weekend, it can't be better than training power.

Oh yeah, and I meant to write about last weekend's climbing - I was at Vertical Heaven with Justin for about 5 hours. It was rad. Then I did a hangboard workout at the Shed on Sunday. Also rad. My body's able to absorb a larger volume of training now, and I'm going to give it to it - just not this Saturday. That's the day I'm saving for power training. I'm pissed I couldn't do 1-4-7 or really two-finger campus much at all on Tuesday. I need more power. Obviously.

Friday, February 6, 2009

get psyched on Bishop

In an effort to get some people to go to Bishop with me, I want to direct your attention to this:

Mirando from Jon McCartie on Vimeo.

Which reminds me, this dude's blog is rad: http://www.fractionfilm.com/2009/02/mirando/

Sunday, February 1, 2009

if rad routes were a minute, the Tor would be an hour

Today's post title is courtesy of Brian Spiering. Inspired by The Temptations' The Way You Do the Things You Do, Brian's instinct to connect a powerfully emotional song with a collection of routes typifies the Owl Tor pathology - which I'm positive will lend it self to a rad conjunction (ex. path-Owl-ogy). I've not had a relationship last as long as my infatuation with the Tor. And infatuation is a horribly inaccurate word for it - more like conciliation. So yes, I fell on Atreyu this weekend, two more times. I was so pissed I got on Better Than Life and one-falled it from the long two-finger pocket. That eased the pain a little of what would otherwise have been a thoroughly disappointing day. Then I did some work on Rubble, ate a delicious ribeye, and hiked in to Pine Mountain. Not the most pleasant 2 hours of my life but worth the experience, Pine Mountain's 6.5 mile approach left me fairly knackered Saturday night. Bosco was not knackered. In fact, I don't believe Bridget's dog has ever been knackered or ran at a speed less than full-throttle insane. Fed a strict diet of Kibbles and crystal meth, Bosco's energy level is frightening, and his effortless skill at connecting paw to scrotum is astonishing. Micah and Bridget also enjoyed the bouldering Pine Mountain offers - just not as much as Bosco. And I frickin' loved it. All the exercise and altitude kinda wore on me but the time I spent on a couple classics in Pine's near-alpine setting made the whole deal more than worthwhile. But I'm not going there next weekend. Unless they open the road.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

rad photo

I found this at UKClimbing:


That's Katy Whittaker sending Braille Trail (E7 6C) protected by a door handle, a nail (probably), and a micro cam. Rad.

Friday, January 30, 2009

get angry, onion

Climbing lessons - from a Burger King Whopper:

I've been falling on this project for quite some time. Atreyu has already taken much longer than anticipated and I'm still not done. Be the angry onion. There are levels to climbing performance, as I'm sure there are in any sport, which require us to change dramatically before passing. Before such a change we feel a plateau in performance. That extra little bit of juice needed to edge past this lull in progression can come in a variety of ways, such as increased training volume, training intensity, or mental focus. As far as performance stimuli go, mental focus has been the most interesting to me as of late. Enter the 'angry onion'. I think sometimes about the last little bit of business on Atreyu, this big-ass throw to a crimp after what amounts to a pumpy 5.13a. Its hard to motivate for that throw. And that's lame. That makes me a wanker. As if climbing isn't hard enough without your mind preventing your body from doing what it should, I've sabotaged myself for more than a few days by letting my thoughts get out of control. Yeah, the move's hard. Sure, I'm tired. What do I expect? It's a hard route and representative of the style of climbing I enjoy most. There's nowhere else I would rather be than confidently throwing for that hold after climbing through some of my favorite moves on rock. And I know I can do it. So what's the problem? Answer: I haven't been the angry onion. The next level waits for me beyond my current mental stage. Before I get to climb harder routes I need to own this one, and this route is summarized in one move - that long, right-hand throw around a gently rounded bulge to a positive crimp. When I get angry enough to set up for that last move, hands matched on that sloping rail, and kick up knowing - knowing - I will hit and hold the crimp, then I can move on. It's going to take a little more focus. I'm going to need to be the angry onion for a minute.

...and this one's rad too:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

opportunities for growth

Me peeling off Desert Shield.

Micah getting all introspective on a high-ball in the Hall of Horrors Area.

Another personal growth opportunity on Shakin' Hands With the Unemployed.

Justin on Satanic Mechanic.

“It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.” - Chuck Palahniuk

Tyler Durden would crank at Joshua Tree. Don't think it takes some kind of supreme discipline to put your mind in a place where climbing dangerous routes makes sense. Joshua Tree's climb-or-die style can only be mastered by a total dumbass. Forget about everything - your health, the plants at home that need water, the cats and/or dogs that need to be fed, medical bills - and just climb. Be that amoeba, that single-celled, singularly focused creature put here to do one lame thing: to climb this rock in front of you. Maybe then this trip to California's high desert will be therapeutic instead of traumatic.


There are consequences to falling at Joshua Tree, and the technique needed to scurry up her insecure slabs is no forté of mine. I fully expect my money's worth for developing this skill. Clearly the park rangers never tire of scraping human sacrifices off the desert floor - they've permitted bolting yet banned electric drills. My final opinion on this rationale is yet unformed, but I will say: those who excel at this style of climbing are truly men. Unless they're women. Now I'm confused about strong women and gay men and how they would fit in to that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

lunch water, breathing easy

Mary and her glass chamber.

Biking with Ungerer.

My favorite pulmonologist: Dr. Ungerer.

I saw Dr. Ungerer earlier in the day. He's still rad. After putting me through his typical battery of breathing exams, we discussed some lingering affects I may experience from last year's lung trauma. Of specific concern was prolonged muscle weakness, as Ungerer mentioned a recent study has detailed strength impediment in young patients who have spent a week or more in intensive care, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) symptoms such as asthma. Muscle weakness has not been an issue for me for several months at least (I assume patients with debilitating strength concerns are not climbing as much as I'm climbing) but lung utilization might not be what it should. Ungerer explained to me the process by which a lung is "hardened" in response to severe pneumonia, how alveoli may not function optimally in such a presentation. We determined medication in my case may be beneficial but certainly not necessary, perhaps for use prior to exercise, in my case swimming, to counter-effect exercise-induced asthma. So he gave me an inhaler that I used later that day before my swim routine. It worked. I can't say I was skipping across the water but lung capability was undeniably improved and so were my times. There is a concern I have regarding long-term use of any drug. However, my use of an inhaler is not guaranteed for long-term, as a completely healthy lung would not benefit from this medication, nor is its affect today really that dramatic. To quantify its affect, I will say it improves my swimming performance between 10 and 15% - noticeable but not mind-blowing. A competitive swimmer bumping against the inside of his potential performance envelope would surely be grateful for an improvement of that scale but I can do fine without it. So I don't know - I might use it again. I might even use it regularly for a while. Regardless, the inhaler does not provide me an enormous ergogenic benefit.

I was so pumped up about the prognosis Ungerer gave me that I went climbing at Vertical Heaven after getting out of the pool. The climbing session also was rad and left me totally knackered for the day. Between Ungerer's stationary bike exam, swimming, then climbing, I was tapped out - good Wednesday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

loads of climbing this weekend

This weekend was a seriously rad climb-athon. Owl Tor Saturday, Echo Sunday. Actually, the Tor kinda sucked because I put in 3 more burns on Atreyu (5.13b) and was spit off 3 more times. But Elijah, wasn't Saturday the seventh day this season you were slapped off the last move of Atreyu? Why yes, I believe it was. No one's more bummed than me, believe it - I would like very much to send that route straight back to hell. It'll have to wait. It might have to wait a very long time if the weather turns, as typically happens in January. And honestly, I wouldn't mind that much. For letting Atreyu get in my head like this I deserve to spend a couple months thinking about what I've done, or not done. My relationship with this route has grown out of control. It subtly planted this seed of doubt between success on Hard Boiled (5.13b) and redpoint ambition for Strictly Ballroom (5.14a?). If not for Atreyu, I might be generally content with my climbing progress this season, or be feeling good about my recovery from last year's hospital incident. If not for this one unresolved item, I could be strutting around with an unbearable arrogance about me. So thank you, route from hell. Thanks for keeping me grounded in thoughts of my own inadequacy. Perhaps everyone should have an Atreyu in their life. Or maybe I should change it's name to White Whale. What I should really do is get my ass to the chains so I can quit whining.
Enough. Sunday was rad. Sunday was truly a rad climbing day. I gave Echo Cliffs another chance. My last visit to this gem of the Santa Monica hills was with Phil, like 6 years ago, as I was going through this odd condition with one of my arms where any climbing whatsoever made it instantly pumped and effectively unusable. Well, I hated the place anywayz. We got on Buried Treasure (5.12d), which I thought, along with the crag in general, sucked in an indefensible way. Specifically, the hike sucked, the rock sucked, whatever work was done to manufacture the routes sucked, and it was too hot. On my return visit, it was still hot, but I saw the place in a new light. The hike still sucked but the routes I got on were brilliant. And I felt pretty good. Daniel Kovner and Jaime Neilson showed me around. As I know from bitter experience, climbing with folks you like is half the fun. Dan and Jaime, whom I met for the first time that day, are super rad. After warming up on some OK-ish 5.10d, we got on No Remorse (5.13b). SUPER RAD. Dan sent the thing last season and looked proud on it Sunday despite his recent return to fitness from an elbow dislocation. After watching Dan's moves, Jaime and I bolt-to-bolted it. Then I got on a second time to one-fall it. Well, kinda one-fall it - in an effort to not pee my pants at the top, I two-fingered the cold shuts to clip the rope. I know, I know. As if I hadn't climbed to exhaustion already, Jaime gets on Immaculate (5.12a), flashes it, pulls the rope and hands it to me. So I gotta flash the thing or I'm thinking Dan and Jaime will figure out I'm this turbo-wanker. So I flash it. And leave my last ounce of dignity up there. We finished the day on Shiva (512c). Again, very rad route. Cleaning it: not so rad. I would like to get back on her when it's not dark. I would also like to scramble the 45 minutes back to the car with a headlamp.
Maybe Saturday's Tor session wasn't a total loss. I put in some good Hilti work on my new route: 4 new holds, like something the lord made. Progress on this new testpiece is going swimmingly.
Oh yeah, and Andy cranked. He decided not to flail with me, opting instead to send both No Skill (5.12c) and The Natural (5.12c) for his first time. Success like that is rare at the Tor. She'll remember Andy's indiscretion, for which we will all pay.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

day 6 on Atreyu - that's right, 6

Owl Tor was visited Saturday by Phil, Andy, Skip, Andree, and me. Having dominated Power of Eating (5.11d) a couple weeks ago, Andree applied her attention to Auto Magic (5.12a) for her first day of legitimate redpoint burns on this new project. Perhaps though, "project" is not the right term. That would presume she spends a significant time rehearsing for the send, but having seen her on it Saturday I don't believe that will be the case. Skip focused on Power and had a good day of it. In typical fashion for new patrons of the cliff, he doesn't realize how close he is to putting it all together for a redpoint. He's got stacks of strength from building a proud bouldering résumé, meaning he's got the hard part handled already. Andy got on The Natural (5.12c) and No Skill (5.12c), both looking well within his striking range. And Phil got on Atreyu (5.13b) three times with me before moving on to laps on a few other routes. The focus of my day was three burns on Atreyu. Three burns for three falls at the crux. It's a couple days past ridiculous for how much effort I've invested in this redpoint. First go I wasn't even pumped, threw confidently for the crimp but didn't even touch it. Second go had me barely on the crimp, unable to hold it longer than a moment before spitting off. I was all over that crimp for my third attempt but couldn't hold on, knowing even before the throw my arms were ready to throw in the towel. My focus each burn was to relax, to stave off pumped arms all the way to the final crux move, which got harder each successive burn. But despite the day's resultant failure I feel good about my fitness. These were my three best burns on Atreyu, ever. My focus on route-wide fitness, the kind of endurance one must have to climb powerfully for entire sequences, has stimulated some gain. I'm more comfortable on routes of this grade. I now climb at a pace between calculated movement and pump-racing speed. To finish the day I put five new bolts on my new line. And now I know, that's no small task. New-routing is apparently enormously painful. Phil asked which was more tiring, putting in burns on my project or bolting the new line - honestly, it's a toss up.

Friday, January 9, 2009

campusing is rad

I'm going to start keeping track of my campusing stuff. The woodie at the Shed just isn't doing it for me anymore - I only want to campus. Which should be rad. If I only campus and get on routes all winter, spring will find me ferociously strong or horribly injured. Speaking of which, I cut short the 2-finger phase of my workout last night to favor an odd "twinge" in my left hand. I'm not worried but glad I stopped. No pain, just a little weirdness. Sometimes that stuff can even be good for connective tissue, is my theory anyway. Probably I rested a bit too long then pulled a bit too hard on the 2-finger incuts. But 3-finger work felt good.

Last night's moves of note:

  • 4-1-4, 3-finger, big rungs
  • 2-1 drop, 2-finger, standard incut

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

from climbing hell to heaven

IMG_1997 IMG_2048 IMG_2044 IMG_2059 Friday had me traveling from my mom's place in Washington to Joshua Tree for some winter radness. Climbing in the cold is rad. And cold it was - thirties and forties during the day. Sunny though, and little wind, so a well-insulated belayer can pull on crisp crystals and hopefully achieve some progress on otherwise greasy projects. Marcela was not projecting. She was cranking. "Yay, my first 5.10 trad lead". Actually, it was a heady 5.10b onsight. The much touted Sidewinder (5.10b) got straight owned by one Brazilian crankmuffin late Saturday. So late in fact, that Justin and I had a mini epic getting down. Though I gotta say, jumping between pillars is less scary in the dark - at least then you can't see how far down things are. Sunday, we got back to sport climbing business. The three of us pulled around on Desert Shield (5.13a). That's a rad route. I would like to have made more progress on her, ideally gotten close to a redpoint, but she was having none of it. Those little crimps wore me down too fast and there's barely any let up over her entire length. She'll have to go in the project file for now.