Squamish Days

I know summer in Squamish is long past and I am a little slow at getting certain things done, rather, slow at getting lots of things done, well I even tend to move and climb kind of slow but that’s another thing though I guess all related… My point is that I had wanted to put together a little something in honor of this past summer in Squam-town which was most enjoyable as usual.

The summer, although brief, was overall entertaining despite the irrational amount of rain and inability of any sort of summer to come when it was called. The Americans migrated north which is always a pleasure, there was an amazing show put on by Katie Baggs and Settlers of Catan was discovered into the wee hours of the night.

For the first time in years we had a Salt Lake City reunion (at least half of the gang).  Sundev, David, Shawna and their new baby, Mina came to Squamish for the month of June. These guys are some of my favorite and most entertaining climbing partners and above all, friends. They are usually psyched to try hard and divulge in various sorts of activities.  As soon as they arrived, my motivation picked up. We went to new problems, visited projects and through some of the wetter days we went to Chekamus Canyon where we tied into a rope. The steep walls of Chekamus guaranteed some sort of continuous movement involving going up despite the showers of rain that were continuously coming down. The only thing to really interrupt the flow was the shaking of the forearms and the word “take” which was yelled due to the burning sensation felt in my forearms which made my hands incapable of holding on any longer. I guess they didn’t realize they were 30 feet off the deck and their survival was dependant upon helping the owner stay in the upright position. My endurance naturally sucks as I tie into a rope under 5 times a year but despite the struggling; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and vowed to tie in more often.

Throughout the Utahan’s stay, things changed as they do. Baby Mina grew an inch, we all became obsessed with the Method, the special camping spot open and closed and the house dwelling continued as did the baking. “Heavy fest” came and passed as did the Squamish Mountain Film Festival. The juice bar was replaced by a great sushi bar and the Texan folks going by the names of Andy, Ema (aka Allan or Keith) and the beautiful, crazy and might I add, surprisingly straight edge, Anne Raber dropped by for a little Canadian summer. Filming for The Season continued throughout the summer which got some unfailing coverage of me falling and falling, and falling again on my most beautiful and recent obsession. That one will have to wait for the crisp and hopefully dry fall which I eagerly and patiently await.

The highlight of the summer which has nothing at all to do with climbing was the amazing show put on by singer/ songwriter Katie Baggs.  Katie comes from my home town of St. John’s and her presence and attitude is not only refreshing but inspiring. I am one of her biggest fans and rightfully so. She is amazing!

Here are a couple links to 2of her songs:

http://katiebaggs.bandcamp.com/track/how-small

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPZhxJnOxFQ&feature=share

Enjoy.

Here are some random photos…

 

The Mysterious OR show

The bi-annual trip south that many a sponsored climber or wanna be sponsored climber take each year to the Outdoor Retailer show has never been on my to do list. The idea of wasting my own money to go and “work it” has had very little appeal to me despite the efforts of friends telling me the importance of personal meetings and that I should view it like going to a conference and that really, it would be in my best interest. In my opinion it was the math and time that mattered and thus I didn’t see the point. Besides, if a resume is handed out it should speak for itself. The little will and ability I had to put into selling myself made me wriggle like a can of uncomfortable worms and besides, I hate job interviews. Another point to argue for not going was the scene. I had visions of being in a crowded room with people who would do anything to get something for free while acting like someone else while I secretly would drop a reality pill in their freshly open can of red bull and talked to them about the importance of sincerity and transparency. But perhaps that’s a bit harsh and judgmental. Everyone is different and has their select path. After all, what I see or imagine I see is often obscured by my own judgments, fears and past happenings and so therefore isn’t always what is.

And so the tradeshow… what is it all about anyway? It’s always interested me to a point. To know what happens, who’s there, what draws so many climbers to it. Is it as much of a scene as its reputations holds? Well you can’t very well be a bystander and directly experience something at the same time. Wondering doesn’t help either. Coincidently (or not!) it happened that the timing of the tradeshow synchronized with my trip to Colorado and more importantly, I couldn’t possibly pass by SLC without visiting my handful of heartfelt friends who I just wish would move into my van with me.


And so after a few emails, I got myself a pass into the show and tried to view going as an opportunity instead of the porn that I had envisioned. As soon as we went to past the guards wearing orange vest, we were quickly stopped. Apparently 4 year olds also have to pay their own way in to this mega event. My dear friend Justin took over from that point and we were quickly whisked past the two old guards and thrown into the abyss that lay below. Justin continued to walk with us, understanding my intimidation. He helped by ‘holding my hand’ so to speak so I could brace myself for the hordes of people which I had imagined. He gave us a detailed tour to an event he was well familiar with. We walked past booths which resembled jungles from the outside to elaborate ones bathing in blue with flowing waterfalls near each entrance.


If anyone doesn’t know what the purpose of the OR show it is this; to show and sell merchandise and new products to retail stores and businesses. And so in order to entice buyers to your booth and product, many companies will give out samples of product or treats such as mini chocolate bars and a glass of wine. There were people walking around dressed as aliens and purple snowmen, to women wearing just a bra and panties. Really, anything goes to sell a product. This was a major perk of going to the show. I got myself enough Probars to last a good few weeks rationing as a squirrel does.


After my first day of the show, my opinion and view of the show (and the people) had switched from assumption and judgment to openness and realizations. Sure there was the random person there who I had imagined littered the place but really the show was a place where climbers (and other athletics) went to improve their relationships with their sponsors and in the meantime see tons of friends. I didn’t do much “business” while there, but I did get samples of lots of food, met some new people and put faces to some names. I also got to check out the premier of “the scene” and a few other films as well as be awed by the amazing strength and endurance of swiss climber, Ueli Steck. Mountaineers do not usually inspire me but man, that guy is a number one bad-ass.


After I got over the initial shyness and intimidation of the whole thing, I found myself enjoying it and socializing with people who I had met and climbed with through the past years. Having them all in one room was a mega bonus! One particular person I meet was a fellow named Rusty. Paraphrasing him, it’s a rare chance to meet someone who impacts and inspires one to be a better person. To help them see things as they are, how ones thoughts, habits and wants (positive or negative) can shape their very life. Just by asking me a few questions whose answers I am still pondering; my time spent with Rusty was inspiring and with all bullshit aside, completely and unconditionally at the basis of why we are really here.

 

The Best Around

I tell myself how great I am, how incredible I am, how I am the best around. Nothing’s ever gonna keep me down. I hear the title fight song in Karate Kid when Daniel-son takes on Jonny of Cobra Kai.

I’m standing on my feet. If I shift my weight too much on the Squamish granite, fifty feet of black rock would tumble by me before a bolt arrests my fall. This isn’t Daniel-son’s tournament.  This is much more real. I need confidence to take on the runout slab and I search for inspiration. Shannon Falls rages next to me as I step high on one foot, preparing to crane kick on Local Boys Do Good, a 5.11 slab route. This is about balance, this about having no fear, this is about to get ugly.

Seven years ago, I slept under a rock behind the Chief campground. I had no money. I still don’t have any money but I had even less than.  I was younger though and able to deal with my severe levels of dirtbagging. Yogurt from the Save-on dumpster, stolen croissants from the store’s bakery and a healthy sampling of the bulk section kept me fed but it was the rock that fueled me.  The sweeps of granite on the Apron, the long friction filled slabs and the enormous walls above consumed me for two months.  I returned two summers later, spent another summer below the Chief, and then another and then this summer.  I wanted to free climb those slabs and then tackle the huge walls.

I’ve never been much of a slab climber.  I spent my formative climbing years in Yosemite, scrambling up easy cracks and aiding the harder ones. Though the national park is renowned for its glacier polish and footwork intensive climbing, I never got good at technical rock scrambling.  I figured that if I couldn’t stand on my feet, I could stand in my aiders.

My second summer in Squamish, I met Strong Alex. Alex has a propensity for ticking off every climb in an area. The slab routes in Squamish were no exception and I eagerly toproped a dozen 5.11 low angle granite climbs behind him.  With the safety of a toprope, I was able to move comfortably on the slabs, taking my technique to a new high point. I fell in love with the friction. My footwork improved and so did my climbing.

This summer, I realized that I needed to work on my weakness even more to become a better climber.  Unfortunately, Alex wasn’t around to rope gun for me.  He took his finely honed slab climbing to the next level, applying his ability to harder climbs and bigger walls- freeing the intial slabs and tackling the headwalls of the harder climbs.  I was far behind him.  My enormous fingers can barely be stuffed into the pockets of my fat boy pants. Crimping down on tiny edges and hauling my enormous ass up is not my strong suit.  Some guys climb 5.13 off the couch. I’m more of a guy who barely climbs off the couch. I knew that working on my weakness would make me a better climber though.  I try to believe though the going gets rough that you gotta hang tough to make it.

My lady friend and I arrived in Canadia a week ago.  Though her grand image of Squamish is long crack climbs like the Grand Wall, I managed to trick her into believing that slab climbing is fun and would help her on the steep jamming of the Grand Wall’s Split Pillar pitch. We worked our way through a few introductory slabs, toproping some 5.9 routes on the Upper Malamute, doing the Bulletheads Xenolith Dance (5.10b), and then getting our swerve on the Apron’s White Lightning (5.10c r/x). Shannon Falls’ Local Boys Do Good was taking it to new levels of extreme. Think 5.11 extreme. Think Mountain Dew EXTREME.

I hit the ground. 30 seconds later I hit the ground again. I brush off the soles of my shoe, climb up the precarious first few moves and then deck once more. I untie and prepare to have a hissy-fit.  Kim asks to boulder the first few moves, seeing a precarious series of wrinkles that I miss.  She cruises to the first bolt, clips it and lowers.  My slab climbing rope gun sticked clipped the first bolt for me.  I feel like I have Strong Alex with me, only way way cuter. I generously toprope the first twenty five, I mean fifteen, I mean five feet of difficult smearing and tiny pebble mantling.  And then I’m on the sharp end.  There’s no Strong Alex or Cute Kim to put the rope up for me. There’s only me, my fat fingers and a strong desire to be a better climber than I am. I start stepping.

A few years ago, my lower lumbar was fused.  Steel rods and pins are screwed into my lower back significantly decreasing my flexibility. High stepping is virtually impossible for me. Daniel-son was handi-capped when Jonny took out his leg but Daniel-son still won the tournament. I let the steel in my back flex a little. The sweep of unprotected granite fell away. I don’t think about my injury, about the lack of protection or the desperateness of the situation. Instead, I prepare.  I prepare for things to get ugly. I prepare for Mr. Miyagi’s crane kick.

My weight shifts. My leg moves. Fight ‘til you drop, never stop, can’t give up, til you reach the top.

I karate kick my foot onto a wrinkle in the stone. I just crane kicked Jonny in the face.  Things just got real ugly- I kicked that slab in the face!  I laugh at myself, knowing that my climbing is improving. Mr. Miyagi would be proud. My dreams of going from the slabs below the Chief into the enormous walls above are slowly being realized through my improving technique.  The triumph will not last. I’m sure another weakness in my climbing will be exposed on the higher, bigger walls. But for the moment I revel in my accomplishment.  I hear the sound track.  I’m the best around. Nothing’s ever gonna keep me down.

Falling Hurts

Since coming home from Europe this last spring, my climbing time has been limited. Between summer classes and work at the restaurant, I have found it hard to get out one, maybe two days a week. 12 weeks of French class for three hours a day, four days a week, has been brutal. After three months of full time climbing and traveling, that is a rough transition. But I’m broke and have to pay rent and want to get graduated as soon as possible, so that’s how it goes.

A couple weekends ago, I had a Sunday totally free and had a full climbing day planned. I was going to spend the morning with my girlfriend and her friends climbing moderates in Big Cottonwood canyon, then drive to hardware wall in Cache Valley for the remainder of the day. But it didn’t go that way.

Sunday morning we rolled out of bed and up the canyon. We found Amber’s friends at an area just up canyon from the challenge buttress. They had already started up a route when we got there, I noticed a few bolts in a line just to the left and up I went. I still don’t know what the route actually is or what it is called, but it couldn’t have been harder than 5.6. I made it to the chains, went straight, threaded the chains and tied back in. The chains were a ledge farther away than I thought they would be from the ground, but I didn’t register that as a possible problem at the time. Amber started lowering me back to the ground and all was going well. I was maybe 6 or 7 feet from reaching the ground, in mid conversation with Amber, and next thing I know I’m crumpled in the talus with my wind knocked out muttering “what the fucks.” The first thing I looked at was the gri gri with no rope in it, and I knew what had happened. I felt so stupid. The ground at the base of this slab was far from level, more like a steep talus filled gully, and it hurt like hell. I had neglected to tie a knot in the end of the rope, and somewhat ironically I had chopped six feet off the end of that cord two days before. All I would have needed to get me to the ground. I never even considered that the route was long enough that I wouldn’t have enough rope, but I guess it is easy to quickly cover more ground than you think you have on a slab like that.

Anyway, on to the damage. Every hard part on the right side of my body (knee cap, hip, elbow, shoulder) got dinged pretty good. I’ve got some prize -winning bruises to show for it, along with an assortment of scrapes and cuts on my hand and forearm. The hand gash was a real beauty. But the most troublesome thing was my shoulder which was somewhat dislocated, really really painful and even more worrisome. I was immediately thinking surgery and recovery time and what a bummer that would be. I have had problems with that same shoulder for the last five years and felt like I had maybe finished off whatever damage was already in there. The next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck, and was angry and still felt stupid. Simple safety precautions (like a knot in the end of the rope) can prevent this type of thing from ever happening.

Although falling and getting hurt really sucks, as in most nasty things that happen in life, you get to learn from them. So these are the lessons learned. Recently I had reflected that although climbing is considered an “extreme” or “action” sport, it can be made really incredibly low impact. Making a label like “extreme” seem kind of funny.  Especially compared to something like downhill mountain biking or motocross or that downhill full impact ice skating stuff I’ve seen on TV where those guys are just asking to get fucked up. Anyhow, I learned that although climbing can be really safe, it can get ultra fucking dangerous in an awfully quick 32 feet per second. It is easy to become complacent and forget that falling onto rocks hurts and it will kill you if you fall far enough. I fell a total of 8 or 10 feet and it hurt a lot. Our generation has been spoiled with giant crash pads that have fooled us into believing falling from 20 feet is not a big deal. Props to those who came before and did high balls with spot pads, these were real men. The moral of the story is to always maintain a healthy respect of what you are actually doing when you are climbing, and let that respect influence your safety practices.

The other lesson is that when we are healthy we quickly forget how lucky we are just to be able to go climbing at all. When healthy, we are rarely satisfied with our performance and fitness and allow ourselves to complain about a multitude of minor issues. Getting hurt a little is a quick reminder of what a blessing it is just to be healthy enough to go out and attempt climbing at all, regardless of whether or not I do my silly little project.

After an MRI and an appointment with a shoulder specialist that revealed fluid in the shoulder socket as well as a damaged labrum, I have decided physical therapy is the best option. Hopefully I can make a swift recovery and get back out there. After all, climbing is the best medicine.

Summer Lovin’

Whelp, it’s been a summer of purposefully not climbing much. Decided to take a proactive approach to injury prevention instead of a usual reactive stance on injury realization. Why climb in the summer heat of the sweaty ball sack that is Salt Lake City, when you can swim in lakes and travel to mild climates for biking, hiking, and even more swimming? I have gone back home to Washington a couple of times, went mountain biking at Whistler where I saw a 15 year old kid kill it at Crankworx, and traveled south to play in slot canyons.

There was an exception to my summer off from climbing. Pace Measom, Joe Meiners, Katie Thorup and I went up to check out the high Uinta boulders. One small cluster of boulders at the base of the Stone Gardens cliff has a high concentration of surprisingly rad lines. Located above 10,000 feet, it is Utah’s summer alpine bouldering destination. The rock was fantastic, the setting beautiful, and the mosquitoes plentiful. Watch the video and get rock hard. Hope you are wearing sweatpants.

 

With September just around the corner (and a Leavenworth, WA bratwurst eating trip, uh, I mean bouldering trip that month), I am trying to get back in the gym to get some strength back. Those first few days, and by days I mean weeks, are quite the slice of humble pie. . . luckily I love pie. I love rhubarb pie in the summer. Anywho, the processes of sucking at bouldering can be enjoyable if approached correctly. As long as you accept that you obviously aren’t as strong as you were a few months ago and that realistically you will be strong again in time. . . then it’s all just climbing. It’s all so relative. I remember when V5, or V3, or V8 was my absolute max ability. I would sit and project V5 and try as hard as I could. Now I sit and try as hard as I can on some double-digit boulder problem and it feels like the same difficulty as that V5 in a relative manner. . . and I don’t mean that in a “it feels as easy as V5” way but as in “V5 feels as hard as V11.” We gain strength/technique/experience and increase through grades but the constant is the struggle and difficulty of the moment. The moment when I climbed a V5 at my max some years ago and the moment that I climbed a V12 last year feel exactly the same in difficulty. That’s what is so great about bouldering. The numbers change but the struggle at our limit is always the same. A dude working a V3 at his limit right next to another dude working a v10 at his is sharing, to the same degree, a struggle of pushing limits(as long as each is trying their hardest). The grade could be the same on each problem because really the difficulty is relatively the same to each person. Anyway, this is how I try to enjoy coming back from time off or injury; by recognizing that the struggle to overcome our limits is our actual motivation. Ok, you can take your boots off now because we are done walking through some deep shit. You’re welcome.

Summer photos:

On Za road. Again.

It was not the first year I had told myself that I would go to Colorado. No matter what happened, I would make it and every year, I bailed. This year when I returned to the horrendously wet and depressing spring in Squamish I told myself the same thing, Colorado in August, I’d make it happen this time, for sure. After a few months, surprise, surprise, I talked myself out of it. Squamish had slowly been improving and the spring climbing no one got this year was hopefully to be had now. Besides, I was getting into work, the market and well, truth be told, I am a little intimidated by the Colorado scene and even more so by the long horrendous hikes that have such a reputation.

Well, I’ll be dam. Shit happens and I realized another moment in Squamish might very well let me further myself into the self inflicted tortures of madness so I packed up and left. I walked into Climb On and told Dan I was leaving and he’d have to find someone else while the market was also put to the side. I dropped everything to seek sanity which tends to be much more useful for survival. Following my gut, I crossed the US border to seek some sort of refuge and hopefully catch a bit of vitamin D. Colorado remained in my head like a tiny seed though I knew better than make any concrete plans while my friend’s voice echoed in my head “you’re life would do great with a plan” and the adversary voice of another friend said ‘if you want to make God laugh; make a plan’. Maybe a balance of the two ideas would work.

The first stop was Index where I awoke in the middle of the night confused with the sound of pitter pattering on my van. Now every Canadian climber I know including myself, seems to think that once you cross the border, it stops raining; usually. Thankfully not all was lost and the next day it cleared up enough to play on the quick drying river boulders. Cedar watched in amazement at the large number of people floating by in odd looking boats while I struggled up the warm up. We both watched Max send one of the coolest lines I had seen for a while with a backdrop that refreshed. Seeking more entertainment for one day we hit up the local park while looking for info on the supposedly haunted house which lay just across the road. Haunted houses thrill me to bits and I was psyched to have some real adventure, never mind them rocks.

Moving on to Leavenworth which is always a good time, I discovered that climbing wasn’t at the top of my list while downing 5 pounds of cherries a day, eating $5 sandwiches at Dan’s, followed by dips in the local river was. Temps were in the high 80’s and I finally felt that summer had arrived. Any climbing to be done was left to evening warm-ups and wrestling with Zorro, a seemingly impossible v8 for anyone less than 5’7, which I exasperatingly yet enjoyably tackle on every visit.

But alas, evening warm-ups were becoming unsettling and the thought of cooler temps and plenty of rock was enticing. The drive south was to begin. Needless to say that was an adventure in its own. The action started with a dramatic tire blowout which resulted in us walking to the closest building which happened to be the local pub. The employees gave us free fizzy water that tasted like lime and showed us their fancy cars whose doors opened vertically while the big boys went to change my tire with no success.  Later, an older well tanned man wearing tight blue jeans who resembled Rod Stewart stepped out of his BMW offering to help. As I watched his long blond hair flutter in the breeze, he told me he had quite a past of helping cars in distress and if I wanted, I could park my van at his house. I gratefully declined and told him we had intended to drive for a while. And so with that, I watched him and the AAA guy use 3 jacks to hoist my van which had already fell down twice. Finally they both managed and we were on our way.

The second blowout happened in the middle of nowhere with no spare (my bad). With no cell phone service, Cedar and I packed up some water and food and started the long walk east. Thankfully minutes later a trucker lady and her man who looked like Willie Nelson stopped to give us a ride which saved us a walk that proved farther than anticipated. I immediately regretted not having my camera and the saying ‘a photographer never leaves home without their camera’ rang loud in my ear. Dam! If only I could show you what I saw… After showing us photos of their grandkids they left us off at “Love’s” along with 2 bottles of iced water where we called AAA. The guy there volunteered to give us a ride back to the van and shortly after tow driver Mike rescued us from the scorching heat. We were dropped off in the creepy town of Ontario, Oregon Les Schwab’s parking lot which had a hovering stench of cow manure. With that smell, we spent the warm night exploring the rough little town, meeting some locals and awaiting opening hour.  The next day and hours later, the Les Schwab boys kindly patched up a major problem and gave me 4 used tires all for free. And so finally, three days after leaving Leavenworth and many a good people, we finally arrived in the fabulous Salt Lake City.

On final note, in defense of the international reputation of the American people, there are a mixture of people here who have some rusty casings yet who underneath have souls of gold. I don’t know if it is because of Cedar’s cuteness that blessed us with the help we got from such an eclectic group of people but whatever it is and in such a time of global madness, it showed me that people are inherently good. Thanks ya’ll.

 

 

 

 

Limitless

This year the heavy winter weather gave way to a long and wet spring laden with some of the most spectacular wildflowers. I spent most of that time in Bishop – bouldering and face climbing – gearing up for a summer spent in Yosemite. Early morning approaches and all day exertions are the tell tale signs of Valley climbing. In the last couple of months here I’ve had my fill of both.

At the end of March I attended the Red Rock Rendezvous  as one of the instructor athletes for La Sportiva. Ben Ditto and I did a bit of our own climbing there, making an ascent of the ultra-classic Levitation 29, in our spare time. This had me hungry for long routes after a winter spent mostly on the boulders. We returned to California in early April. Yosemite was still wet and snowy. Bishop was still perfect. There was some bouldering still to do and it was prime time for Owen’s River Gorge.

We spent our days getting in pitch after pitch of crimps and high steps, ticking off a few 13s and testing the bolts on others. We were feeling strong and primed for a summer season in Yosemite. As the spring rains died down in the Valley and my work season starting I made the trek over to the West (aka. the wet) Side of the Sierra. The waterfalls raged and granite walls loomed above. I felt incredibly small and lost among the tourist and rv’s. I wanted to get off the ground. I wanted to be on the granite walls, the ground sweeping away hundreds of feet below.

El Cap was packed. Team after team stretched themselves across the expanse of the granite sea. It looked wet, too. I told myself I wouldn’t be going up there this season, I would wait for the secret, quiet season. When the chances of getting hit by paper bags filled with poo or some aid climbers dropped rack of nuts are way less. No, this summer my sights were set on Leaning Tower.

At the end of April my good friend Eric Ruderman and I made our maiden voyage on the free climbing of the West Face of the Tower. It was a rough intro to the route, for we were stuck behind an aid party. After two hours of sitting in my harness I finally reached the anchor at the end of the 200 foot bolt ladder. Eric jumared up to meet me. We would not be reaching the summit on this day and so instead took our time in getting to know the two crux pitches of the route. He and I made a couple of more trips up there towards the beginning of May and again in June. Ben Ditto joined us and there was talk of making a team of three ascent. But, it was getting hot and timing was going to be everything. And our separate lives were pulling us in different directions.

Eric returned to the coolness of the Santa Cruz ocean and Ben and I continued to sweat it out in Yosemite. We found ourselves seeking out the shady cliffs and making early morning treks up to obscure classics like Arrowhead Arete. We either woke before sunrise and hit the climbing before the sun cast it’s paralyzing spell or slept in and went out in the cooling off late afternoon. A lot of cragging filled our days in the month June and the heat had us scared for what lay ahead.

But, this July in the Sierra has been one of unusually cool temps and soon enough Ben and I were making plans to go back to Leaning Tower. With the alarm set for 4am on July 10th we readied ourselves for what would be our last trip up there. We drove off towards the Valley in the dark, jittery with the buzz of coffee and pop-tart. We approached with the rising sun and racked up as the birds made their first calls of the day. Pitch one, my lead, I felt tight in my hips- the wild stemming seemed hard – this felt like a cruel and unusual wake up warm up. I anchored in and belayed Ben. Pitch two, his lead, he smoothly climbed through the awkward start to the pumpy crack to the sequency mantel before he disappeared over the bulge of the slab above.

The birds were in full aerobatics mode. Flying and diving into the cracks that surrounded us. A lizard scampered by. I marveled at the grace and certainty in which these animals moved. I wondered what Ben was up to up there; had he reached the knee bar yet? Then a tug on the rope, I almost couldn’t feed rope out fast enough. I knew he had reached Guano Ledge, he had sent the pitch. He belayed me up and soon I found myself standing on the smears under the knee bar. This spot had been hit or miss for me before. I wasn’t going to give in to miss this time. I reached up, grabbed the right hand pinch, shuffled my feet, got the knee bar, matched hands, pushed with my left foot and reached the right hand side pull. Soon I was pressing over and onto the ledge with Ben. I felt pumped but calm. I needed a sandwich, I needed some water. I needed to get focused for my next lead.

After a brief rest I stood on the ledge looking out to river below. A hummingbird flew up and hovered at eye level for what seemed like a timeless expanse. It reminded me to be light and free. I grabbed the rack and set off onto pitch three. Pitch three starts with some of that only found in Yosemite slab down climbing before leaving you to make a huge expanse over to where the real holds are. It had taken me great effort to figure this out previously. I needed all my power and technique. I placed a high piece and climbed down to the iron cross. I laid back on the left hand and stemmed my feet, my five foot frame barely reached the right hand edge. I matched hands, but I hadn’t reached far enough. There was little to grab with the left hand. I went for it anyway, my legs swinging over to the right. I held it for half of half a second before falling and butt scumming across the slab below. There would be a bruise there for sure.

I righted myself, pulled back onto the rock and started over. I knew that if I could make this move then we would make a successful ascent of this route. I was once again down climbing into the crack(s). This time I managed a no-hands rest before positioning myself for the reach. I thought about Wolfgang Gullich and about his ideas of pushing the mind. He had felt that the body has always been capable but that it is our mind that really needs the training, that there is a gap between the two that we need to bridge in order to reach our full potential. I stretched out my left hand, I looked at my sinewy arm. I had the muscle to do the moves, I just needed to focus the brain – clear the mind and focus. I laid back on the left hand, stemmed my feet and reached out right. This time I reached a little further, I matched hands, swung my feet over and was moving over good edges to the mantle. I had made the move, I had bridged the gap. I stood at the last rest before the slopping, juggy, slippery, traverse. I shook out and took off and soon enough I was belaying Ben up.

Aside from the logistical conundrum of pitch four the rest of the route went quite well. There were no falls (although I came close on the last pitch due to some foot slippage), no beat downs from the sun and no shortage of exposure or good climbing. The crack pitches went by giving way to the roof bringing us to the last dihedral before reaching the summit. Sitting there on top of that narrow spine of rock the Valley fell below us. El Cap stood tall and proud in the afternoon sun and the falcons swooped by in shows of great aerodynamics. We had made a team free ascent of Leaning Tower, sticking to our goal and coming out on top. It felt amazing to have helped one another get there.

As we rapped to the ground I thought about the limits of climbing and the limits of the body. I thought about the birds zipping by in their light and fast way – seemingly with no limits. I thought about the incredibly overhanging wall on the left with it’s project free climb and I thought about the amazing free climbing movement in Europe. I thought about that hummingbird’s reminder to be light in the heart and the head and I thought about the harmony of mind and body. Without this harmony we are as Morihei Ueshiba says – stifled; but with this harmony we can achieve greatness, we can attain our goals, we are limitless.

 

 

 

A Circuit for you

In Squamish? Try out this circuit that covers the Easy Chair to Animal Magnetism area. This is one example of some of the circuits I made up last year for the grand wall boulders in squamish. Feel free to print it off if you feel up for a good day out. feedback is welcome. thanks to peter michaux for the topos and sundev of the climbingcollective.com for his computer wits though he’d not be impressed with how i couldn’t figure out how to make this circuit a download so it’d be easier to print off! Though I did discover this way which just might work too though yer probably gonna have to copy paste.

Note: I bet by the time I wake up Sundev will have already fixed this the proper style. wink, wink.

link to circuit:

Click Here to View the Circuit

Circuiting is Awesome!

Respect the forest.