Aug 16, 2012

Party Tricks

As climbing has an inherently dangerous and adventurous undertone, a climber regularly performs feats in which he/she defies death. Naturally, I feel this can lead to the inflation of one's ego. I speak of this from personal experience as a young climber, pushing into "hard" grades fighting the urge to boast about his "epics". Forgive the overuse of quotation, but "hard" and "epic" are truly deserving of the hashes to indicate some question regarding how truly "hard" or truly "epic" they really describe. I've climbed for a little over 5 years now, and while many say I'm strong or climb well, I typically respond with: "Well if anyone climbed as much as I have in the last 5 years, your damn sure they'd be a hell of a lot stronger than I". True, I have put my time in on the stone, I can judge the type of placement a crack, seem, or pod will take from 100 feet below, but trust me my natural ability is among the least you'll find in the climbing. So what one may see as "hard" or "epic" is only a reflection of one of the dumbest ways to approach climbing . . . improvement gained by brute force of repetitive action with little thought put into thinking about how to truly improve. Despite the knowledge of my own meager ranking on the time invested versus ability chart; a pneumatic seed sprouts, establishes roots, and begins to flourish. Before I, or anyone else sees this, the pilgrimage to the crag is no longer motivated by why you left the ground in the first place. No, no, your now motivated by the hunger of ego. You can recite the most minute facts about product specs, you having an opinion on all things climbing, and you detest those whose forearms lack a bulging diameter greater than 1-2 meters. Sending, sending, sending is the only word in your new vocabulary despite the mass amounts absolute shit flow freely from your lips. Who cares if your buddy has success, as long as his success won't take the spotlight off yours. And you feel so justified in your own filth because you've finally accomplished something. One which was once labeled as an outcast by "normal" society, has finally found his place. I think that's why so many climbers develop a complex. How many talented climbers to you know who would fit in with the rest of America or Western civilization for that matter? Fundamentally, what draws many to the sport is connection with ability to accomplish something no one you know can. The drive to feel unique, to feel like your more than average. To feel like even when you bubble in "White" or "Male" or "Middle Class" on an exam or doctor's office quiz, you know despite the worlds judge of your character, you are far from average. I have no shame that this is what first captured me about climbing. Here was this community of misfits: the misunderstood, the mistreated, or the misshaped, who could complete feats which were physically and mentally light years beyond what even the "above average" citizen could complete. Finally, I belonged somewhere

Marge below The Drilling Fields on a recent trip to City of Rocks for our one year wedding anniversary
The Gallatin Tower . . . how I miss you so!
Tod on sending the lower crux of Dark Horse. This was Tod's first day back to climbing in over 2 months and he casually sent Gallatin 5.10 with minimal effort. Old Man Power!
. Ask Marge: "What is Kevin's automatically assumed assumption on strangers?" She'll tell you all about how it. Moving to Salt Lake has proved my misanthropic world to be totally wrong. Last week I was invited to perform the biggest party trick to date. Alex Baker, aka "the spider monkey" . . . he doesn't actually know anyone calls him that, and I'm not really sure anyone does, but this compact dude literally bounds up the wall like a spider monkey with less annoyance associated with throwing feces and what not . . . anyway, Alex dreamed up the excursion complete the Excel spreadsheet. His idea was to climb the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in Little Cottonwood Canyon in a day. This is where the Excel spread sheet comes in. Alex sat down and matched pitch for pitch, grade for grade, 23 routs in Little Cottonwood Canyon which would match the pitches for on the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. I was a bit skeptic on this grand scheme, but figured that if nothing else it would be a fun day out cragging. As per my normal blog style, I totally spaced the camera. Thus, I hope my wonderful prose can paint a picture of in a bit less than a thousand words. 5:30 am and Alex is already in the parking lot, post scooter ride in from Salt Lake. With coffee in hand, we headed up canyon to the Gate Buttress parking area. Rambling up the winding nondescript trail, I thought about what might be in store for the rest of the day. I'd never climbed more than 17 pitches in a day. Even then, those were short pitches stacked on top of each other with no lowering or walking between. I was skeptical of our chances, however the moderate span of grades we chose gave me hope that maybe, just maybe we could pull this one off. We started in the Perhaps area of the Green Adjective Gully warming up on some good 5.8-5.9. The first 5.11 pitch fell easily as it was truly a one move wonder (for us tall folks at least) . . . Gordon's Direct. Next up was a Gallatin Canyon graded 5.9 seam / slab. Body English, smearing, shallow finger locks, and a throwing caution to the wind on gear placements got us to the top of the area's name sake, The Green Adjective. Loonie Toones, a classic 5.11 layback was next. Alex was now into the start of his lead block, and cruised this classic. 10-15 feet of power laybacking on smears leads to a mediocre rest before firing a second crux to gain the chains. 7 pitches down, and one more to go in the Green Adjective. The hardest pitch of the day came early, a 5.12 layback . . . to more laybacking . . . to power underclinging. While Alex claimed to have struggled on Trinity Right, I couldn't tell. I was up for the top rope burn, knowing that if I could flash this pitch, I'd have a good chance at climbing the entire day without a fall. Thus far my climbing experiences on Little Cottonwood's harder climbs have been summarized by totally unpredictable foot "pops" during times when I feel my most secure. Unfortunately, Trinity Right fell into above category, with my flash attempt being blown by well, a blown foot in the initial power layback section. However, I was able to get back on the climb and send the remainder of the route (containing the 5.12 crux) without incident . . . great pitch. 8 pitches in the bag and off to the next area, a 7 pitch route termed Stiffler's Mom on the "Shady" side of the canyon. Building mountain thunderstorms over Alta saved our day by providing dry conditions under a cloudy sky, maintaining the temperature in the low 90's as opposed to 100 + as per typical Salt Lake summer weather. Stiffler's Mom fell easily (a few 5.6 / 5.8 pitches followed by a sustained 5.10 pitch, a one move wonder 5.11, and another moderate pitch) in a few hours giving raising our pitch count to 15. The Little Cottonwood classic, Pentapitch on some STELLAR rock was our next goal. With three pitches of moderate climbing, big runouts, and big time savings put us at 18 pitch down, with just 5 more to go. We headed back across the canyon to find shade at the Dihedrals area to finish our day off. 5.10 had never felt so hard to me in my life. Hell, 5.9 had never felt so hard either. The Dihedrals provide great corner climbing with physical moves separated by good rests. 5.11, 5.10, 5.9, 5.9, & a 5.8 pitch fell all before the nightfall and what I once thought impossible was now realized. A great day, with a great partners, on great rock made for the biggest party trick I've pulled (including the shannagins of the old 302 college house). 

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