Training Trad

Photos of the Chief near Squamish, British Columbia Canada taken in May 2016.
The granite dome dubbed as “The Chief” hides half of its 700m height on a cloudy day in Squamish, BC, Canada.

“Impossible to go on, impossible to descend impossible to stay where he is. […] With cheek and ear pressed against the canyonland bedrock he feels, hears, shares the beating of some massive heart, a heavy murmur buried under mountains old as Mesozoic time. His own heart. A heavy thick remote and subterranean thumping sound. The fear”

-Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

Over the past year I have been pushing aside and ignoring the subtle yet ever-present and stubborn goal of mine to improve at traditional climbing. My excuses were plentiful; I did not have the time to go out to trad crags to improve, I didn’t have the money to gather up a proper rack, what little trad I have done made me good enough (5.8 leader…) for some basic alpine objectives, and crack climbing hurts. In reality, becoming a competent trad leader is a central and essential skill I knew I would have to learn if I were ever to achieve my larger, long-term and more complex goal of becoming a strong and well-versed rock climbing goddess. (Okay, maybe not a goddess.. but just a half decent all-around climber). I want to be able to ascend a feature using a variety of techniques and skills that could only have been garnered by years of experience on different types of rocks and in different styles. My resumé with sport climbing wasn’t so bad, but was seriously lacking with traditional climbing. The fact of the matter is, trad climbing is the TICKET to the alpine, the ticket to some bigger mountains and objectives, and no truly well-rounded rock climber should lack in the ability to utilize a good hand-jam in a splitter crack. I was scared, though. I was scared to fall on gear, scared to take the leap and hesitant to push my trad grade the way I had my sport grade. As the final month of my trip was approaching, though, I knew I would not be able to call it a success if I didn’t spend a concentrated amount of time exploring and growing in this discipline. So, I got my passport and headed to Canada.

I apologize to any non-climbers who have found this blog, because this is a particularly jargon heavy post.

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Refocus

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Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) blooming in front of the Monument crags at Smith Rock. By mid April these guys were everywhere.

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

I really thought I botched it. Instead of smoothly locking off to clip the second bolt, I hesitated, used some different hand holds, pasted my feet onto things I had never used before, and then I clipped it. “Shit” I thought. I was right about to embark on the  hardest part of “Darkness at Noon”, Smith Rock’s first 13a, and I was already screwing up. If there was any room for error, that was it. I had to climb the rest of the route flawlessly if I wanted to have a shot at it. The crisp morning had already given way to what would be a warm afternoon, with the temperatures seemingly elevated in the little “solar oven” created by the opposing rock faces on either side of me. “Why the hell am I doing this in the sun?” I thought. Looking up, I saw about 25 more meters of unrelentingly hard technical rock climbing that lay ahead. I shook out on a bad pocket for a moment, refocused and forged onward.

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Spring in Central Oregon

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Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) with Mt. Shasta in the background.

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

While everyone says that fall is the best time to be climbing, I say that “rock”tober is overrated because during the spring you can climb AND botanize!

Sometimes when I’m caught up in the middle of a sport climbing binge at a very developed crag with minimal approaches and maximum access to conveniences (like redbox DVD rentals and Pho restaurants) I forget that the pursuit of “being outside” is one of those vague yet eternal desires that was one of the initial catalysts that drove me to break from my casual 2 day a week climbing routine at the gym and go outside. That motivation has been much more sharply defined as I’ve progressed as a sport climber and found- joyously- that it offers me pleasures, satisfactions and challenges unlike any other outdoor activity I have ever experienced. A stroll in the woods is one thing, a burn on your project is another.

So, occasionally I get hyper-focused and move about my surroundings like an automaton- going to the same crags and memorizing the beta on my project as well as I possibly can. This process of honing in on micro-details – like the way a feature in the rock is angled and at what temperature you climb your best at- can be very rewarding and also offers a nice break from the “big-picture” emphasis that society seems to throw at us- even in natural areas. Whenever I pick up a brochure it tends to be dominated by photos of vistas or landscapes rather than a unique detail (the Smith Rock state park brochure is a notable exception, it features a stoic Ian Caldwell on one of the area’s hardest routes..)  However, sometimes this micro-focus makes me lose that “panoramic” human vision and almost forget that I’m rock climbing outside and not in a gym.

Until I see a blooming flower. Yes! Even in the corners of the parking lot at Smith Rock or behind the Yosemite Valley store flowers bloom , are pollinated and go to seed. That fundamental ecological process is present everywhere I go and I sure do love to geek out about it. So, this post is going to be dedicated to the flowers that grace my travels and whose beauty and intricate complexities that I- as a moving mammal – completely depend on, am intrigued by and will never fully comprehend. I lack the vocabulary and artistic talent of our most famous naturalists and botanists, nor can I draw anything that even resembles a breathtaking image of a flower … but I do own a fancy DSLR that I sometimes aim toward flowers!

So then I , an average human being on this planet, offer what I can; here are some images of flowers that I saw on my drive to Smith Rock and in Central Oregon.

(Yeah yeah birds and animals are also cool-did you know a Golden Eagle nest can be up to 12 feet tall and weigh 2000 lbs?? thanks interpretive Smith Rock sign from the ’90s for that little slice of trivia!)

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St George Musings

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“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”

– Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being 

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

Since my last blog post my ventures have taken me to a few of St. George’s finest crag, a brief stint in Yosemite, and now to Smith Rock- arguably the birthplace of American sport climbing. Everywhere I go, though, I am trying to maintain my motivation to try as hard as I can, whether that means pushing a new grade, a new type of climbing or just breaking out of my comfort zone to meet new people and explore incredible places. (really , though, I just want to be like all of the crushers I’ve met and “whip off the proj.”)  While on the pursuit of this goal, I have neglected my blog a wee bit..

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The Grail

climbing in lime kiln canyon on Friday March 4, 2016 with Mark Sachs.
The Grail, Lime Kiln Canyon

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

One month down, about two months to go. Two more months of roaming, climbing, exploring and seeking out new adventures of all kinds. While I’m trying to keep a broad “mood” to my trip and not get sucked into any one particular discipline of climbing, I had a hard time resisting the temptation to go spend a week scaling some limestone at Lime Kiln Canyon near Mesquite, NV. Just looking at the guidebook made me giddy- 35-40 meter limestone routes? Slightly overhung with crimps and sloping pockets? Could this be a little Spanish-like mecca of rock nestled in some BLM land along the border between eastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona? I was keen to find out.

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Wild climbing and Wildflowers

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Following my partner on the second pitch “Drifting” (11c) on the Jet Stream Wall in Red Rocks. Photo by Harrison Teuber

“The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.”

Cormac McCarthy- All the pretty horses

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

Over the past three weeks I’ve ran along ridges in the desert, boulder-hopped through pristine canyons and slept under the stars. I’ve been 500 ft up on a clean sandstone face whimpering above some gear and took whippers off of pre-hung draws on limestone. I’ve seen big-horn sheep, had a kestrel fly by me on a hanging belay and have walked through what seemed like endless desert valleys flooded with the yellow hue of wildflowers. Above all, I’ve met excellent, genuine people with whom I’ve adventured, shared dinner and sung around a campfire.

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Spring break- Bishop

Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear- the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break. Turning Plato and Hegel on their heads I sometimes choose to hink, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

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Fall Back

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Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

For the past month or so, I’ve been treated to scenes of early dawn light spilling across the San Francisco bay and showering the city skyline in orange hues. I’ve also managed to  catch it set over the Pacific ocean as I pedal my way up the last hill home. This isn’t because my schedule has been changing, but rather because there is just a little bit less sunlight to soak in each day. In one week, we will “fall back” into daylight savings time. The sun will start to set at horrendously early times (though at least morning runs won’t have to be done with a flashlight in tow) and everything may just start to feel…slower.

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Summer scrambling!

People often talk about the work-life balance, but in my life I don’t know which one is work, and which one is living, confused about where I truly belong; I feel alive when I’m in the mountains, yet I never stay.  Back home in the city recharges my soul, yet I inevitably grow restless and leave again to find fulfillment in the mountains.  Continuously I cross the threshold between these two worlds – worlds in symbiosis, incessantly turning over.  Both are part of my identity, yet I can’t exist in one forever, not without the other.  Like the sand that falls through the narrow waist of an hourglass, I am constantly pulled from one realm to the other.  This is my life in perpetual motion, a delicate dance balancing pleasure and pain, serenity and insanity. 

by Niki Yoblanski in her piece “the hourglass”

http://themilestickaway.squarespace.com

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Photo by Julie Vargo

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

The work-life balance has been a difficult thing to strike lately. Like the author so poignantly describes in that quote from her larger piece “The Hourglass” , I am constantly struggling to create an equilibrium between my career goals that I am pursuing here in San Francisco and my personal passion to play in the mountains. One unfortunate consequence of this tricky task is that I have completely neglected this blog. This, in turn, will benefit you, my few readers, because this will be light on text and heavy on imagery!

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The trials and tribulations of a Weekend Warrior

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
    in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
    of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time. 

-Jack London

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Unknown climber on “Visions of Impalement (11d)” at the Trinity Aretes

Note: This is an old post whose content was created for fun, with little to no proof-reading or editing. Please read this post keeping that in mind.

Lately, my ability to squeeze enough satisfaction out of my weekend warrior-ing to keep me content has been waning. Like Jack London, I want to live, though currently I feel as though I am simply existing. Existing between one work day and another, trying to wring out as much pleasure as I can from my brief trips to the mountains as possible.

Perhaps this sounds over-dramatic, but I didn’t always feel like this.  In fact my first month here all I wanted to do was stay in the city and explore my surroundings.  However, those were some strange times while I was battling changes in life that demanded my mental attention. I also was living in Bishop, CA where I was surrounded by endless outdoor recreation possibilities. Now that life has calmed down a little bit and my scenery has changed, the climbing spark has been reignited. I can trace this back, actually, to a series of weekends I spent sport climbing in the Trinity Aretes.

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