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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

 

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

 

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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Photos of Paklenica/Anica Kuk

Debeli Kuk

Generally, I don’t have a big issue taking falls on a (relatively safe) sport route. That is certainly not to say that I have a strong head  all of the time, but I’d say I am most confident and comfortable while on the sharp end of a sport-route. My confidence tends to grow when I find the route inspirational or motivational, so I wasn’t really anticipating too many problems in Paklenica, since I was so excited to climb as much as possible. However, for whatever reason I wasn’t able to muster up the somewhat dismal amount of mental armor I protect myself with while climbing during my first few bouts of sport multi-pitch climbing in Paklenica. Perhaps this is because, prior to Croatia, I associated multi-pitch routes with easy to moderate trad climbing; I never really considered falling on a multi-pitch route, except for the few instances when I lead something hard for me at Lover’s Leap in Tahoe over the summer. Although the systems are essentially the same, having my belayer on the wall versus on the ground got to me; for some reason I had some crazy fear that if I fell, since my partner was anchored to the wall and not firmly standing on the ground, it was more dangerous and something out of a horror story would happen.. AKA  my partner’s anchor would explode and send him tumbling to a tragic death.. Since my principal motivation was to combine my ability to give it my all while sport-climbing with the longer days of multi-pitch climbing, I knew that if I were really going to appreciate this trip I needed to get over this completely irrational hesitance and fear. To do this, I needed to get on something hard.

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“Danas penji, sutra stenji – Climbing today, suffering tomorrow”- climbing quote which originated in Paklenica National Park

 

While visiting family, drinking an excess amount of bosanska kafa and traveling the countryside with my Dad was plenty fulfilling and entertaining, thoughts of my next destination were lingering in my mind, feeding off of my growing excitement…

I was itching to head to Paklenica National Park in Croatia to go climbing on the massive limestone walls that up to this point I had only seen in pictures.

Now I have  some pictures (and stories) of my own to share…

Photos of Paklenica/Anica Kuk

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