Monday, August 29, 2011


I was over at Alli and Kevin’s last night watching Ulitmate Fighting Champion.  Last night’s match was between the undefeated champion Anderson Silva and some Asian dude named Yushin Okami that looked like J McNasty.  Silva is widely regarded as possibly the greatest fighter of all time, though I’d never heard of him.  The fight starts and Silva starts doing a little dance.  He bobs and weaves.  He throws mock jabs and kicks, then he throws a little hip thrust.  It is obvious that he is studying the reactions of his opponent and the information is being compiled in his computer-like brain-piece.  A brain-piece that is faster than an I-7 processor.  By the end of the first round, Silva has barely received a blow.  He is at 100% capacity while his opponent hovers around 80%.  With all of his information compiled, Silva is ready to destroy Okami. 

Silva.  Jedi Master 

Having already decided that the other guy stands no chance, Silva puts on a show.  He drops his arms to his sides.  His opponent throws lightning quick jabs at his head and Silva dodges every one.  His neck moves with the quickness of a cobra strike, almost imperceptible to the human eye.  When the time is right, Silva strikes.  A single jab to the face that seems to come from nowhere drops his opponent to the mat.  Instead of pouncing and finishing him off, Silva stands there mockingly.  Okami gets up, obviously shaken, and it is apparent in his face that he is afraid.  After years of training and becoming one of the best cage fighters in the world, he now understands that he is the mouse and Silva is the cat.  The fight is simply unfair.  Silva’s arms are at his side.   His opponent tries futilely to land a punch, anywhere, anything, but Silva’s reflexes are unmatched.   When Silva decides the time is right, he finishes the fight and stands victorious at nearly 100% capacity.  He is barely winded after a title bout with one of the best fighters in the world. 
Oh, I'm sorry, were you trying to punch me?

It was possibly the greatest feat of athleticism I have ever seen.  Silva defines domination in the ring.  Alli was saying that the UFC cannot find anyone in the world that stands a chance against him, not even a remote chance.  And they need someone to beat him because his fights are almost boring and come with a guaranteed outcome.  Probably not good for pay-per-view sales. 
Highlight reel.  I'm not even really a fan of fighting.  It's the absolute mastery of his game that impresses me.   

I left their house in the dark, pumped with adrenaline, and headed back up into the canyon.  I was absolutely impressed having seen a true Jedi-master at work.  I actively thought about Silva’s training.  A trainer throws a small rubber ball at his face for hours and his duty is to dodge it, which he does.  My mind drifted until something caught my eye.  A raccoon darted into the road.  I engaged my lightning reflexes and dodged to the right, narrowly avoiding the coon.  My heart raced as I corrected to avoid a fishtail.  Still trying to keep Max from flipping on his side, a skunk raced out to test me.  I flicked to the left into the other lane with the quickness of a cobra.  Then I immediately hit a frog.  Splat!  Seriously, come on nature, cut me some slack.

What it spoke to me is that we climbers can barely call ourselves athletes compared to the athletic prowess and intense training methods found in some other sports.  Some of the best outdoor climbers in the world spend their days sleeping till noon, smoking pot, and then casually trying hard for a few intense moments when it ‘feels right.’  This is nothing compared to the intensity of a scheduled title bout in front of tens of thousands of people. 

I slept until 10:45 today, something I haven’t done since high school, over half my life ago.   I say this because I find it ridiculous that I feel compelled to write about a miniscule achievement in my personal life that does not even compare to something actually noteworthy like dominating an opponent in the Octagon.  But climbing is my passion and represents something that I’m absolutely addicted to and love.  It means something to me and when I accomplish a personal goal I like to share those experiences with my family and friends.  In the grand scheme of life, it means nothing.  But to me it means a little something and so I will share my experiences and thoughts on the route Astroglide.
Elissa on the classic route Sprout in the Pipedream cave, Maple Canyon, Utah. 
I spent nearly the entire summer climbing here at Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming.  Elissa and I left to attend the tradeshow at the beginning of August and dabbled at Maple Canyon and Logan Canyon.  She flew out of Salt Lake, leaving Lilah and myself alone on the road.  We visited Nick Duttle in Colorado briefly but Ten Sleep was calling me back.  There was one project that I hadn’t tried that nagged in my mind.  Astroglide was listed as 5.14+ in the back of the book, a claim as the hardest route in Ten Sleep and still an unsent project.  I knew I had to go back and try it just to make sure it was impossible for me.

 Upon returning, I went straight to it and surprised myself by doing all the moves on the first day.  I was incredibly excited as I immediately knew I could do it with some work.  My second day on the route I went for a link and promptly split a tip.  Blood oozed out from a tiny gash about 1/8th of an inch from the tip.  The holds were small and the split was telling me that this was going to be skin intensive, requiring a lot of time and rest.  Routes that eat skin are the worst.  Constantly monitoring skin growth is like watching paint dry, sometimes requiring days of rest between serious attempts.  Boring, just like this blog post so I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I eventually sent it after about two weeks of effort.  
 The holds on Astroglide are small and wreaked havoc on my skin.

I am very happy to have been able to send this project.   It is a beautiful piece of rock though I must say it isn't quite a five star route.  The crux section starts immediately off the ground and stays sustained for about 35 feet.  After that is finishes up a 5.12c slab to the top of the cliff.  It’s barely overhanging on very small holds and very technical.  I have to note a few things about how I climbed it. 
Kevin Wilkinson bolted Astroglide a few years ago.  He tried it and said, “It didn’t go well.”  The only other person to try it was James Litz when he came through last summer and easily dispatched everything including Ten Sleep’s actual two hardest routes, General Litzenheimer (5.14c) and Porcelein (5.14b).  At the fourth bolt, James worked the intended sequence straight up to the fifth bolt, avoiding a good edge out left.  After the crux section the rock slabs out a bit and a full recovery is possible.  James climbed straight above the fifth adding another ridiculously hard section before the relatively easy finishing slab.  He estimated that the route, in this fashion was potentially 5.14c.  Though obviously capable, James didn’t return to send the route. 
Astroglide, a slippery little dude. 

When a much weaker climber such as myself came to try the route, I knew right away that staying within the confines of the gold streak was not only ridiculously hard, but also contrived.   Though it would have been a harder and cooler way to do it straight up I knew it would be silly to invest time in something I couldn’t do and furthermore, something that someone else would eventually find a better sequence for and downgrade radically.  So I strayed slightly left at the fourth and far left at the fifth, clipping all the bolts on the route.  This is the easiest sequence and though not as straight and narrow as the intended sequence, it makes the most sense. 

It’s still pretty hard though.  A breakdown of the crux would be: 15 feet of V8 ending at the clipping hold of the third bolt, straight into a 4 move V9/10, to a very poor shake on the aforementioned ‘good edge’ just above the fourth bolt, then a final V7 before the 5.12c finishing slab. 

I’m calling this 5.14a but again have to clarify on what that means.  You’ll note that in the video I call this 5.14a/b.  I hate slash grades more than anyone but can’t think of an easier way out for this route.  Based on all of my previous life experiences climbing at many different crags I think that 5.14a is appropriate but based solely on my experiences here at Ten Sleep it would be 5.14b.  It is definitely a big step up from the other four 5.14a’s here but not as hard as Litz’s Porcelein (5.14b).  Based solely on Ten Sleep grades  I would think 5.14b but I refuse to believe I climb that grade, especially in as little as two weeks. 

Right after I did Astroglide I also sent He Biggum which is just to the right and shares the same first move.  I must say that calling Astroglide 5.14a when He Biggum is 5.13d is ridiculous.  Astroglide is worlds harder.  After long talks with Kevin, Alli and J Mcnasty, the general consensus is that, “Grades are fucked.”  They are and always will be.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Just know that Astroglide is harder than the 5.14a’s and easier than Litz’s two routes at French Cattle Ranch.       

The other thing to take into account is the morphological aspect of difficulty on vertical terrain.  The crux move is a very difficult stab to a 2 finger crimp sidepull pocket thing out left.  I can barely keep my right foot on a tiny knob that allows me to push to the hold.  If you can’t reach the hold from the foot knob, that move will be exponentially harder.  If you have fat fingers, this route will be exponentially harder.  Basically, if you are not shaped to my exact specifications (5’10”, plus 1 ape index, 124 pounds), this route will probably be harder than 5.14a.  So the slash grade also indicates: 5.14a for me, 5.14b for you.  Ha!!  Pretty funny.

If you’re still reading, I feel very sorry for you.  My rants are pathetic.  But before you watch the video I have to note one final thing.  This video is entirely sarcastic.  I’ve quickly learned by posting shenanigans on DPM that many people don’t understand sarcasm and I come off as an arrogant toolshed.  People that can’t appreciate sarcastic humor are the worst of the worst in my opinion and should be lined up and shot to rid the world of the waste of space that they are.  I’m kidding!  That’s sarcasm.  It turns out that there are many people that don’t get it: Autistic, learning disabled, and under the age of four to name a few.  If you fit this profile, you won’t get it so don’t watch.  If you just want to see the climbing footage and don’t want to watch all the shenanigans, skip to minute 7:00.  I also have to note that the climbing footage was all shot from the ground, mostly by tripod, so it’s not the best.          
        Click the Crushmore Crew for video.



Lydia said...

Hardly a rant. F%$# YEAH, DUDE! I was just at your (wife's) house tonight, by the way. Damn, she sure can cook. You are missing out. I'd rather be eating her cooking than climbing 14a/b.

Well, that's probably not true. If the choice were that simple, and both required only a couple of invested hours, I'd probably go climb 14a/b.

Great work, homie!

postmaster said...

If all I did was eat good cooking, I'd never climb 5.14! People think staying emaciated is easy but it takes a lot of work. counting calories, laxatives, throwing up in the bushes before redpoint burns. You know, standard sport climbing stuff.

Jake Jones said...

For what it's worth; a couple things. I might never send a 5.14 in my life so... that's a pretty fantastic achievement; whether you're talking about in climbing alone, or sports in general. I think it takes an amazing amount of mental and physical prowess. Remember, there are boxers and fighters that smoke pot and sleep in too and although they might not excel at the elite levels, they can pretty much whip the collective asses of the general population. And also, I doubt Silva could send 5.14 and if he got 30 feet off the ground I'd wager that he would find himself shitting a meat axe. So pat yourself on the back, you're a damn good climber; in my book that's way better than being a destroyer of humans.