Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mt. Crushmore Chronicles Part 2: Ten Sleep

Note:  This blog post sucks.  Please don't read it.  Something has happened to me today and my sense of humor has been replaced with nostalgia and contemplation.  The following is full of nothing but subtle spray and arrogance.  Do yourself a favor and look at the pictures, scroll to the bottom, click on the Crushmore picture and watch the video.  The beginning is funny and you can see what the sick rock climbs in Ten Sleep look like.   

It has really been a treat climbing here at Ten Sleep.  The limestone here, especially on the harder routes, is the best I've ever touched anywhere.  And to top it off, it's exactly 'my style'.  I guess that means the 'style' of route I enjoy climbing the most coupled with the 'style' I excel at.  Endurance crimping and pockets on gently overhung face.

I put a lot of expectations on myself to perform well and despite knowing that I'm doing alright I don't think I'll ever be satisfied.  Case in point:  I sent a 5.14a first try of the day.  Now most of the time I would be happy with that result and spend the rest of the day just having fun and climbing with no expectation.  I put my draws on the 14a just to the right and started the mega-dog sesh.  It felt hard.  Harder than the last one.  I expected to put a few days of work in before sending.  Instead, at the end of the day, I found myself clipping the last bolt, on redpoint, and staring down the final crux.  That little thought crept into my brain, "How cool would it be to send two 5.14's in a day?"  I stared down the move and knew that what was about to happen would make or break a lifetime achievement.  30 years from that millisecond that was about to happen I'd be able to look back and say "I did that" or "I didn't."  I chose the latter and fell. 

I hold no allusions about the fact that I will not have that opportunity again.  5.14's are a rare breed and finding two, side by side, that suit me perfectly, in perfect condition is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I cursed and wobbled and let my temper tantrum slowly recede from denial into anger into depression...(wait, did someone die?)  I know, I take climbing seriously.  But, after a long hike out and plenty of overanalyzing I've come to a point of acceptance. 

I've realized that I'm not going to achieve all my goals in climbing.  I don't know if anyone will, unless they set them so low as to be achievable.  My life list of routes I'd like to climb is staggeringly long.  To Bolt or not To Be has been at the top of that list since day one.  I like to think I'll move to Oregon for a year and do it but that's probably a pipe dream.  Though I might end up in Australia on a climbing trip I'll probably punt on Punks in the Gym and who knows when I'll be back in France for Le Rose et le Vampire.  I might actually not send my mega-proj at the New!  That thought is downright depressing.  But I'm slowly coming to a point where I can accept these things. 

And the funny thing is that these goals seem to be more of expectations.  I don't become overjoyed when I accomplish one, I just make the mental tick and move on, usually adding something else to the list instantly.  Another case in point:  It's been a life goal to onsight 5.13b.  I guess I did that yesterday but it felt so easy that it somehow didn't count?  I've tried much harder to onsight 5.12b's.  Does that mean the route isn't hard?  Don't ask me.  Point being, I didn't feel satisfaction afterward.  In fact, it's never been a goal to do 2 5.14's in a day!  I somehow conjured that one up in a split second just before blowing it so that I would have something to be dissappointed about!  Jeez...what a headcase. 

All I know is that climbing has been so all encompassing for me for so long now that I've lost sight of how far I've come, the places I've seen, the trips I've been on, the satisfaction I have felt.  Somehow I get lost in the moment of constantly pushing myself to do more, all the time, always better.  It's pretty lame in a sense.  But that desire, always nagging, has kept me healthy, alert, and alive.  It's kept me from getting old!  I'm still 23 bitches!

In a bizarre twist of irony, Max looks on mockingly as a bronze 1986 VW Troy look-alike gets hooked up to the tow truck in the background.

My mom likes to remind me of when I was a wee lad.  I think probably 20?  I used to talk about how someday I would send a 5.13a.  I thought that was going to be the pinnacle of my achievement.  In my eyes, everything beyond that was reserved for Chris Sharma and other super human, naturally gifted athletes.  I clearly remember that day at the Obed, TN.  I sat there beneath the Dark Half and stared at it.  I had punted a few times already and knew nothing about redpoint tactics.  I chewed on my tuna sandwich and stared at the holds.  All of a sudden the holds took on meaning, I asked myself why I fell, analyzed the answer and changed my sequence from the ground.  I tied in and sent.  That day really marked the beginning for me of understanding how to accomplish my goals.  I 'learned' how to 'learn' if that makes sense.  Here I am 200 5.13's later and now I get upset if I don't do them first try.  What the hell? 

I wrote a little piece about it that you might get in your inbox if you have a DPM account.  If not here is another 'radio friendly' version of the same thing I just said:

Opportunity Doesn't Knock

As I brought Andy up I could feel a sinking sense of failure on the route and the huge waste of opportunity. I started to wonder if the odd missed training session here and there would have made the difference? Should I not have eaten this or that? The chance to be on this route, in good conditions, with a good partner is so special. As I get older I sense more and more strongly all the time that life moves on, opportunities pass - for good. Just to have opportunity is such a gift. Wasting half chances is just not on.

Dave Macleod regarding his recent ascent of Longhope Direct (5.14a)

I follow Dave's blog fairly religiously. He usually has some words of wisdom but this quote in particular really hit home. I've been on the road again, slowly getting back into the rhythm of climbing and fully embracing the 'two on, one off' lifestyle. I've been climbing, in a committed sense, for over a decade and it always amazes me how I still learn a valuable lesson every now and then at the crag.

I worked out the moves on my next project here at Ten Sleep, Wyoming. I knew it would be a hard route for me so I rehearsed it, over and over, dialing in the key sections. Late in the day, I set off with the cliché of 'no expectations' and found myself clipping the last bolt and staring at the chains. I attempted to draw on past lessons learned and squelch the tiny nagging thought that was tickling my mind somewhere around the brainstem. "This would be a breakthrough for you. To do a hard route so fast. A once in a lifetime opportunity." I breathed deep, focused, and ignored the fatigue and blood that had seeped from my cuticles onto my fingertips making them slippery in the pockets. I set my feet deliberately for the last hard move, stared at the split-finger, Spock-pocket above and gave it everything I had. My fingers sunk not-so-perfectly into the hold and the next thing I knew I was hitting the end of the rope and screaming the F-word.

The opportunity had passed, and it didn't pass slowly. It passed in a millisecond. I lowered to the ground and just like Dave, and thousands of others before me, my mind raced with 'whys.' "Did I eat too much or too little? Should I have stayed at the rest another minute? I should have tied in with the 9.2 instead of this fatty 9.8! Did my confidence wane? Did I forget to breathe? I should have trained harder!" And on and on.

After a few hours I made peace with myself. That opportunity had passed. It was gone forever. But the opportunity to learn something was still there. I overanalyzed the millisecond when things went wrong and eventually came to the conclusion that I gave it my best. Sometimes that's all you can do.

I had a dream that night. It's kind of a recurring dream. I was doing a one-arm pull-up. I have this dream a lot and although I've never been able to do one in real life, I've cranked off hundreds in my dreams. This time I set a new record. I banged out over 30 and a crowd started to gather. My hand was latched to the bar in a split-finger Spock position. I think Dani Andrada was there with his shirt off. Hey, don't judge my dreams, OK. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to master a move, and why not do it in your sleep? I will not fall there again.

Dave's comment, and my experience, got me thinking about opportunity and decision. Most of our lives, we have plenty of time to make decisions and every day we are faced with opportunities. You could go to the gym. You could eat an apple instead of a Snickers. You could not pick up that second, or twelfth, beer. You could put away a little extra cash for your next road trip or study the guidebook and plan your next challenge. All those little choices seem frivolous and irrelevant but ultimately, they determine what will happen in that millisecond of opportunity when you don't have time to stop and think. And for us climbers, what happens in those millisecond opportunities defines who we are. It defines our success or failure and it determines if we achieve our goals or not. You can't change what happens in that millisecond opportunity and you can't change the decisions that led up to that outcome. You can set a goal now and you can decide how to approach your decisions in the future. And if you're going to do it, do it now. You never know when that opportunity will arrive.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ten Sleezy

When we left off before, Max was under the knife.  His driveshaft finally got replaced and we jumped in the rig and drove straight for Ten Sleep.  We were a few days late to arrive which wouldn't have been a big deal but we were scheduled to meet my good buddy Devlin and his new family, Ana, and Chanti.  Devlin and I have been good climbing buds for many years and I was very excited to see them.  So we hustled up to the crag, met the Junker family, and got a bit of climbing in.  It was late in the day when we arrived but it stays light until 10:00 so we were good.   

    Ana, Chanti, and Devlin Junker

My first impression of Ten Sleep was this it is a lot like Smith Rock, Oregon.  Despite it being limestone, it's more like Smith Rock tuff than any other limestone I've encountered.  It turns out that the Slavery wall, our first crag, is more Smith-like then the other crags.  The first thing I saw when hiking up was Gold Member.  It is the super obvious gold streak that begs to be climbed. 

Gold Member

I damn near sent it second go, but had to come back for it.  An excellent route.  Colley picked off a 12 dogface to work on but once we saw some of the other crags we haven't been back to slavery.  Superratic and French Cattle Ranch are phenomenal.  Blue, white, and gold limestone as good as anything in Ceuse. 


I wish I had one of my old photos to post along side this one.  I've got many pictures of Devlin's old late 70's, bright orange VW bus parked next to my 1986 bronze VW.  We've been parked like this all over the country.  Our old rigs were named Tracy and Troy.  The new rigs: Mad Max and the Tiger.


Of course, lots has happened since we've been here but I'd like to take the opportunity to catch up on the video blog.  Click the image below for Part 1 of The Mt. Crushmore Chronicles. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Mt. Crush-more Chronicles

Call it what you want: chance, fate, God's plan. It's all the same and nothing illustrates it more than loading up your belongings, aiming west, and leaving the comfort zone of routine behind. Which is an odd way to phrase it because nothing makes me more comfortable than the lifestyle of 'two on, one off'. 'Two' being climbing days, of course, and 'one' being a day of rest. But all that gets thrown out the window during travel and I've grown to expect it and learned to roll with it. It's part of the game and a part I thoroughly enjoy. Some would grit their teeth and curse at the traffic jam or mechanic that seems to be keeping them from staying on 'schedule.' But it's all part of the game. It's a lot more fun and a lot better for your blood pressure to submit to chance, fate, God.

Leaving West Virginia via the Silver Bridge, site of the 1967 bridge collapse that killed 46 people.  This event was prophesied by the legendary Mothman.  We looked for Richard Gere before crossing then continued.

You've gathered by now that I'm alluding to our misfortunes , or fortunes, depending on how you view things. The 'plan' was to head straight for Wyoming and set up shop there for a month or so but how much fun would it be if that all went as planned? To be honest, I've never been so excited to get back out on the road. The oppressive heat of Fayetteville was killing me and I hadn't been climbing due to it. I just laid around lazily waiting for someone else to climb something so I could write about it online. Lame. But what I was lacking in level of fitness, I made up for with PSYCH!

The drive was fairly uneventful and smooth. 24 hours of driving over 2 days and some change had us into South Dakota and seeing signs for the Badlands. Elissa and I had never seen the Badlands and thought it would be wise to check it out in case we never made it back this way. The small squeek from under the van had grown to a screech and by the time we pulled into Badlands it was starting to growl in a demand for attention. The Badlands were cool but the National Park Service is a bunch of racist commies and don't let little dogs in out of the car so we just drove on through with a few short hikes.


Then it was on to Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota. We checked out Rushmore which was cool and even climbed 2 pitches behind their heads. Well, Elissa did. One pitch of slabby, insecure knob climbing was enough for me. The next day we spent a full day at Spearfish Canyon which is definitely one of America's underappreciated crags. Amazing limestone as good as any I've seen and not a soul around. We got a bunch of pitches in there at two crags under perfect blue skies and perfect temps.

Is this young hippie scum scratching the bugs in his dreadlocks or pondering what he is doing here?  Our founding fathers would be ashamed of our youth.  Note Lincoln's scowl and Jefferson's general snobbery.
Then it was back to the van. The next morning we got a diagnosis from the shop and, as I expected, the same problem I'd had before had returned. Busted carrier bearing. So we ordered the part and headed out for another climbing area. I think what's cool about all this is that none of this was planned. We didn't intend to stop at Spearfish or Mt. Rushmore and we didn't plan to check out the next crag we went to either. Sometimes you have to view these mishaps as blessings in disguise.

Eat a baguette, Frenchie! American limestone is sick.  This is the Indian Wars wall in Spearfish Canyon.
Victoria Canyon, VC as it's known, is probably my favorite sport climbing anywhere. It really is that cool. We drove 4 miles of dirt road across the open grasslands of South Dakota and parked at the edge of a meadow. A short hike through a pine forest took us to the rim of the gorge where we could peer down at the narrow canyon below. I was so excited about what I saw I could barely sleep that night. The next day we were up with the sun at 6:00 and even after a very leisurely morning were hiking in by 8:00. There is no trail through the canyon. It is so narrow that it's easiest to walk down the stream bed which was flowing with crystal clear water. The bottom of the creek is covered in multicolored water-polished rocks. A waterfall occasionally disrupts the hike through the stream and is bypassed by hiking through a lush landscape of fern, moss, wild iris and lady slipper. The rock was equally beautiful. Bullet hard, choss-free limestone that has amazing pockets interspersed with the blocky features found at Rifle. We got a ton of climbing in that day and the absolute joy of climbing got me up two 5.13a's despite my weakened physical state.

Victoria Canyon is gorgeous.  I would never joke about something this serious.

The next morning we got word from the shop that the part was in and we'd be on our way to Wyoming by noon. While waiting in the excellent lounge they offer, Bob the mechanic walked in, "I have bad news." This was the first of three times that Bob would say this but he managed to say it the same way with genuine concern for us each time. Bob is a good mechanic and the folks here at Eddie's Freightliner repair shop are the best of the best. They have gone above and beyond to make us comfortable while we wait even offering us a courtesy vehicle to run around town. Like the bumper sticker says, "I'd rather be climbing," but this isn't too bad.

Max keeps it real despite his busted driveshaft.
I won't bore you with the details of Max's surgical procedure but it has been long and arduous and he requires a transplant. A donor if you will. With no donor available Max needed a new part manufactured at the local steel mill. He will ride again soon and breathe deeply of the steady western-air breeze over his radiator. We've been here two days now and all is well.

Our current location.  Bay 8 and 9 are lower class.  High rollin' at the Oil and Lube bay.

My goal this year is to create a more interactive video blog for my devoted followers (aka. my mom). My limited skill has slowed this process but hopefully it will pick up soon. Due to our chance week-long stay in Rapid City, home of Mt. Rushmore, as well as our desire to crush rigs out here, I have dubbed this vlog " the Mt. Crush-more Chronicles" So far I've only gotten the opening title sequence done but I'm so smitten with the following image that I just have to share it prematurely. Click on the image for the video link.

The Williams Family.  Lifelong residents of Mt. Crush-more.