FALL!

IT IS FALL!!! Finally, the best season of the year has arrived! You know what that means, right? It means biking to campus with the goal of riding over as many leaves as I can, blissfully hearing the “crunch” each one makes and mentally tacking it as a personal  victory for the day. It means escaping schoolwork to go to the arboretum or the greenbelt and basking in the perfect light that emerges at just around 6. It means layering in warm clothing  and finally being able to bust out my beanies ( I love beanies.) It means crisp mornings and perfect days.. really it just means a lot of good things, to put it simply. It also means ROCK CLIMBING A MUERTE! !!! Fall is the BEST season to climb and honestly the best conditions  are just ahead of us.

Road cut crag in Donner Summit.

Road cut crag in Donner Summit.

It also means school and internships… which is nice, but is getting stressful. Fish evolution, bird identification, tracking salt marsh harvest mice in the Suisun Marsh, working around the stupid government shutdown to try to get information on the Endangered Species Act for my term paper.. (fuck the government shutdown, by the way. Really not so proud to be an American at the moment. Deny me access to my national parks, among the many things that are denied to us at this moment, screw you republicans. And yes, I blame this all on the republicans… for an explanation please watch this informative and hilarious video… http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/10/the-daily-show-jon-stewart-slams-gop-for-government-shutdown—watch.html) So maybe I won’t climb “a muerte” as much as I did in Spain in terms of volume.. but I sure as hell plan to climb hard when I can!

Speaking of which, last weekend I went back to Tahoe for a 2 day trip. I figured this would be my last opportunity to do a 2 day trip in awhile because midterm season is just around the corner, so I took the chance. Luckily the forecast was super nice and I was stoked. I went with 3 other friends (and my roommate’s puppy!) so we were a nice even party of 4… or 5, depending on how you look at it. On the first day we hit up Big Chief, which is nice because we were a party of mixed abilities and Big Chief offers plenty of diverse grades pretty much right next to each other.  I got back on “Scalper” a 12b I had tried in the summer when it was way too hot. I had been training for a bit and the weather was better so I was hoping to at least get close to sending it. Last time I got stuck on the crux (hardest) move, which is a throw from a painful “scalper” pocket to another side pull pocket. What makes it hard is that your feet are really awkward because you come from a vertical wall to a protruding bulge- aka you have this gigantic lump of polished rock to contend with. I actually figured out what I thought was an elegant solution to this issue pretty early on by crossing my left foot onto the bulge and flagging my right foot out, giving me nice momentum to go to the left side pocket without being super awkward. I worked out the moves of the crux and the upper section, which isn’t easy either but is definitely not as hard as the lower section. There are some fun mantles and also some crimpy moves on these awkwardly flat edges that are a little bit too long for you to actually crimp on.

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On Scalper (12b) at Big Chief near Truckee.

On Scalper (12b) at Big Chief near Truckee.

So, I hang-dogged (got up the route with falling/resting/working out the sequence) the thing which I couldn’t even do last time so that was a win for me. I thought it was definitely possible and was excited to give it another go. I was working this project with Emmanuel, a  friend of mine who also hangdogged up it, granted he did it way faster than me . Surprisingly, it was pretty hot. I thought it would be a little warm in the sun, but it was pretttyyyy damn hot, which was slightly bothersome but nothing too, too bad. The only issue is that when it’s hot your skin is more tender and sharp holds … (like the “scalper” pocket this climb is named after) tend to hurt more. So, on my second go I reached the scalper and fell, half due to being tired and half due to my body just rejecting the pain and forcing myself off. It hurt a LOT more the second time and I couldn’t imagine going for it a third time so I just hang-dogged it again to get the beta down pat and wrote it off as a potential project for when it gets colder.

That night we camped just below Donner Summit (after an amusing journey to find a campsite- it is hard to find these things sometimes when it’s dark and you don’t know exactly where you are looking) and the idea was to either go to Snowshed Wall or Road Cut… or both since they are right next to each other and the approach is basically 30 seconds long.  I really REALLY wanted to get back on “Penguin Lust” a 12c 80 foot vertical piece of beauty at the Road Cut crag. I went there once and tried Penguin Lust (same time I tried Scalper) and couldn’t even get to the second bolt, basically because I kept on awkwardly falling below it and slamming my ankles into the wall.. not very encouraging. It was also super hot and Penguin Lust is all about crimping (using very small hand holds). From a distance the line looks absolutely incredible. It is a perfect sheet of granite with edges and small pockets blanketed in white chalk, making them pop out from the light brown granite. I have always wanted to climb a line like this and with better weather ( and a stick-clip in tow to clip the 2nd bolt) I definitely wanted to try.

Donner Lake as seen from the Road Cut Crag. Photo by Henrique Miranda

Donner Lake as seen from the Road Cut Crag. Photo by Henrique Miranda

So, I did. Luckily, someone else tried it first and I didn’t even have to lead the thing- BOOM baby love the top-rope “figuring out beta” climb. Haven’t done that in awhile but on a precise climb like this it was really, really helpful. It was hard and painful and techy. Some of the holds were ridiculously small and the feet were at points non-existent. But the movement is amazing. You have to be precise, you have to have finger strength and you need to know the beta and execute it very well; otherwise, the wall spits you off. I like overhanging routes that are juggy and hard, but to me routes like Penguin Lust epitomize the more technical and creative aspect of rock-climbing where you have to find a solution that matches your body and your style. In other words, you can’t just pull blindly on holds, you have to think.I got to the anchors and was pretty happy about it. The climb is very possible, it is just one of those routes where knowing the beta makes a HUGE difference, and now I know the beta 🙂 (as evidenced by the half page filled with notes in my climbing journal)

Reflecting on Penguin Lust (12c), a project I have in Donner. Photo taken by my friend and fellow Penguin Lust climbing comrade, Emmanuel.

Reflecting on Penguin Lust (12c), a project I have in Donner. Photo taken by my friend and fellow Penguin Lust climbing comrade, Emmanuel.

Ah, autumn. So glad you are back!

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