Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Secret Garden, Kalymnos Aug/Sept 2013

Breakfast at Cafe Sofranos.
 "You must climb this one. It's a new route. Very nice."

I looked over my shoulder, and noticed a diminutive woman speaking accented English. Karen had bronzed skin, the type of color you only get from a lifetime of outdoor activity. She looked fit and her eyes carried an ocean of climbing knowledge.

"You climb this one." She gestured at the end of the wall.
"It's only 8a+."

8a+. I thought about that, did the conversion to the YDS scale Americans use and came up with... .13c. .13c? No fucking way. Even if people claimed Kalymnian grades were a bit soft, that was several grades above my limit.

"Uh, I think 8a+ is a bit too much for me. Maybe something in the 7b range?"

"Oh." Karen was disappointed. She shrugged, then immediately brightened.
"Here, this one. Wonderful climb. You must climb it. 7b+. Easy." Karen was pointing at another climb. My gaze followed her arm, culminating in an interesting 120 feet of stalactites, a giant 40 foot tufa, and a small roof.

"Yeah, I saw that. Saw some monos... not sure about that."

"Mono? Oh yes." Karen wasn't deterred.
"Easy. Your finger goes up to here." Karen pointed to the first joint on her index finger, as if to say that was plenty deep for a mono.

"Look here. The nachtpunkt. You go like this. Then this." Karen showed me how to do what I thought was the crux.
"After that, finished. Easy."

About 20 minutes later, I was perched at the top of the tufa, frantically shaking my arms. If my arms had the power of speech, epithets would have been ringing in my ears.

Easy. Right. Early climbing led to a tough sloper, crossing into a two finger pocket and pulling hard to a decent crimp. I managed the move, and thought, "Finished. Easy."

Calvin looking at what he thinks is the crux. Sucka.
I'd thought wrong.
Random climber showing how it's done
Later That Day

"Did you see that?" Angie whispered.
"See what?"
"Look over there." Angie nodded discreetly.

I did a double take. A woman was climbing topless. On that 8a+, it looked like. She was bronzed, all over, like she'd been climbing outside all her life. I found myself wondering vaguely if the sunburn had ever been rough. Of course, it was Karen.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Calvin the Pimp

This year, Calvin undertook his most challenging project to date. He began working Shorty the Pimp (5.13a) in the Spring, but after multiple trips to Jackson Falls, the climb continued to thwart him. Over the summer Calvin and Angie went on a climbing trip to Kalymnos and when they returned to the states, he felt lighter and stronger than ever. Upon returning to the project on the first trip of the Fall season, the climb continued to spit him off. This was now the third trip of the Fall season and Calvin was determined to send the project. He studied the crux intently and rehearsed the complicated crux sequence. He told me that he was going to go 'bolt to bolt', while hanging the draws. He started off as graceful as ever, flowing through the opening moves that were now ingrained in his psyche. He reached the first bolt and continued on. I wasn't really paying attention to my belay duties and carried on a conversation with another climber at the base of the wall. Soon, Calvin was passing the second bolt. I looked up at him with a puzzled look on my face as he continued on to the third bolt without taking and paused at the massive undercling flake that marked the beginning of the crux. Surely he would take here. I watched as he chalked up and attempted to shake out on the incredibly overhanging wall. Why wasn't he taking? He's not gonna try and.... oh crap, he's gonna go for it! I was now 100% focussed on the belay. Calvin began moving through the extremely difficult crux section. Could this be it? He continued to execute every move of the crux flawlessly. A few more moves and he was through the crux section, but it wasn't over, he had fallen after the crux on multiple occasions. He paused briefly. Does he have enough left in the tank to finish the route? Calvin headed for the anchors and cruised through the moves that had previously sent him sailing into the air so many times before. Upon reaching the anchors, he looked down at the climb as if to say, "What just happened?". Calvin had just sent his first 5.13a.

Calvin, right after sending Shorty the Pimp (5.13a).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Help Rome

Rome Ali is a fellow climber at Upper Limits Saint Louis. While climbing in Chatty, he fell and was severely injured. Rome's now facing a long road to recovery and our thoughts are with him. Please click on this link to donate if you can. Every dollar helps.

From a website setup by his brother:

While climbing in Chattanooga, Rome fell a little over 50 ft, suffering severe injury to his head and brain. He was airlifted to the nearest hospital, Erlanger, in Chattanooga. Rome has since had several surgeries to relieve the pressure on his brain. He is currently on a very long road to recovery. Because he will have minimal insurance coverage once he is awake and is transferred to rehabilitation, any support from his family, friends and fellow climbers to aid with his rehabilitative care costs would be much appreciated.

You can also sponsor a couple of climbers at this year's 24HHH comp at Horseshoe by offering a set amount per route climbed. Here's the FB link.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Ongoing Story of Shorty, the Pimp

Shorty's been on my mind for a while now. I climbed it a few times, got close, then the weather got hot. Shorty's short, and the grade, .13a, tells you it's hard for a guy like me. I typically play around on .12s and used to think .13a was something just really, really strong climbers climbed.

Anyway, I walked past this climb for years. It didn't even cross my mind to try it really. I'd worked Red Corvette, another .13a two climbs to the left several times, and I knew how hard that felt. My best try was almost one-hanging Corvette, and that description alone tells you how close I am. Not very. I therefore assumed it was ridiculous to even try Shorty. Logical, right?

The climbing to the start of the crux isn't terribly difficult - some .10 climbing with an interesting move to a decent rest, then some .11-ish climbing (but not alot) directly into the pod. It's enough to get you somewhat tired though, and then Shorty demonstrates why he's the Pimp.

Let's get to Shorty's crux. Begin at a large flake, a bit hard to rest here (I'm shaking out in the vid)... then a big move to a left-hand shallow crimp/gaston. Here, I bring my right foot behind the flake for a nice heel-hook/cam (that nice hook/cam is also why my knee has been tweaked for the last couple of months). I then bump my left hand up to a relatively bad 2-3 finger pocket. Strong climbers (see Christian, Siebert in the following movie and others) dispense with the early heel-hook and bump first. Bumping first is hard. As in, "I can't do it" hard.

After the bump, a heel-hook, whether already in or not, becomes indispensable. I bring my right hand up to the shallow crimp-ston and then it gets interesting. With your right foot locked in, you bring your left foot up into a toe-hook, release the right foot and bicycle the flake. Cool. Stab hard to the left to a good pocket, then bring your right foot in a bit closer so you can clip. Sharp observers will notice that taller climbers (e.g. Siebert, below) can use the pod to do a drop knee instead of doing a toe-hook. It's probably similarly tough either way.

At this point, my arms are a bit rubbery. Reach up to a right-hand bumpy mess, high right foot somewhere (I use the crimp-ston), bring your left hand up to a tough hold, then stab hard to a good ledge. I fell with my right hand on the ledge twice on red-point attempts. You can clip here, or do a couple more moves to a more obvious clipping jug to the right of the chains.

So, to recap: Fun .10 climbing with a V2 move, rest a little, .11 climbing to a V3? move, rest even less, then perhaps a V6? sequence. I don't know if that means .13a, but it's a memorable sequence and feels pretty hard.

Here's a short clip Rick Holloman took of me trying the crux (I'm falling before the clip--obviously):

Here's much better clip of Siebert on the send. Nicely edited:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

RRG - May 25-27, 2013 Memorial Day Weekend

Climbers: Yoli, Christian, Micah, Dawn, Carine, Jaime, John, Conor, John B(udde) Angie and Calvin
Weather: Pretty darn good, for Memorial Day weekend

Yoli with max extension on Crown of Thorns, .11c @Brightside
Day 1 - Solarium, Muir Valley

Lago Linda's was packed. If you were there, we probably missed you. Tents dotted the landscape, cars blocked the common area and I thought we might have trouble finding a spot. Not to worry, YCR (Yoli/Christian + crew) had found a nice spot in their new Sprinter van and there was open land right next door.

When we got up, mist drifted through and dew covered the grass. Smelled like the fall. We knew we were lucky to get a spell of unseasonably cool weather on Memorial Day weekend and climbers had flocked to the Red. Well, we knew that would happen too.

The Solarium is an old friend. Just a couple groups there when we arrived, even though the parking lot was packed. Mrs. Weber graciously allowed us to park on the driveway by her home and we quickly hiked into the valley.

We threw some draws up on Air Ride Equipped, and started climbing. Carine and John B. headed out to the Great Arch to start warming up.

In case you didn't know, Team YCR now includes Micah:
Micah, Captain of Team YCR
As a result, they have a compressed climbing schedule - climb your project immediately to warm up, then immediately climb it and send the next go. Seems to work well for them. For those of you with kids, someone please explain to me how this phenomenon works: you have a kid, get no sleep, stop climbing, then start climbing again on an occasional weekend - usually outside, and start sending harder than ever. Yoli has now sent .12b, flashed .11d and Christian has sent .13a and flashed at least .12b (c?). Anyone?

Anyway, Yoli followed her usual pattern and hopped on Magnum Opus. Originally rated .12b, now settled at .12a; I think it has a rather difficult crux. Yoli sent it second go, of course.
Jaime Kreft on Magnum Opus
Meanwhile, Angie and I were hoping to get on Banshee, .11c and Abiyoyo, .12b respectively. We missed our opportunity, as the crag soon overflowed with people. I opted to get on Summer Sunshine, .12b  with Christian while Angie and John B worked Manifest Destiny, .11d. SS has moderate climbing similar to Super Best Friends - steep, juggy, fun, with a boulder problem around bolts 4-5 trending right over an arete. Unexceptional climbing, but fun, with the usual .10 climbing to finish it out. It went second go for me, but at the cost of a wasp sting. Glad there weren't more.

As I got to the top of SS, I clipped the chains and looked over the valley. I've missed the Red. Beautiful place. I didn't miss the screams and shouts of hundreds of people echoing around the cliffside, but when you're a weekend warrior it's a small price to pay.

Day 2 - Brightside, PMRP

Day 2 found us at Brightside, a "newer" crag with several stellar looking climbs. Brightside has fairly long routes, although several of the climbs featured no-hands rests, which broke the climbing up nicely.

John B flashed Chica Loca, .11a, while I climbed Pickpocket, .10d to warm up (not recommended). Chica Loca is described as poorly bolted, but I think that's been fixed now - an extra bolt is where you need it to avoid a ledge fall. Angie had fun working CL a few times, but no send. Carine and Team Kreft went to Solar Collector and had fun climbing Super Pinch, .10d down there.

The climb of the day goes to Crown of Thorns, .11c (see top pic). YCR of course tried to warm up/flash this thing (uh, flash pump)... with Christian pumping off in the last few feet off a nasty little crimp rail. Described as a rare RRG five-star route, it has full-value movement and interesting cruxes. Highly recommended. Half-way up it has a sit-down rest in a large hueco, which breaks up the climbing too much in my opinion, but without it would be at least .11d or soft .12a. Several certainly commented on .11d's which felt easier than CoT.

Yoli entering the crux sloper sequence, Crown of Thorns
Christian promptly sent second go, I flashed, and Yoli fell just before the anchors 3 times!! Achtung. John B and Jaime gave it two awesome runs and will be back for more. We finished up the day climbing with our new friends Meghan and Eric, who were climbing Golden Brown, .12a and Brownian Motion, .12b but no sends. With the full sun on the wall, it certainly felt very challenging and my forearms had melted after CoT.

Day 3 - Curbside

Meghan and Eric had suggested Curbside and we were game. Massive props to Jaime, Angie and John B. for flashing  Conscription, .11c and for Yoli's first-try-of-the-day send of the same, a/k/a an old "project." The peanut gallery definitely enjoyed watching each climber 'finagle' the sandy ledge and blast through to the chains.

Christian onsighted Avalanche run, .11d (nice job!), and I sent immediately after. But the biggest congrats goes to Yoli for throwing this thing down first go. To my knowledge, Dr. Chen has now sent .12b and flashed .11d this season, both high points for her. All while climbing the lowest mileage ever (e.g. less than once a week on average). I'm still flabbergasted.

Christian then impressively almost onsighted Wildfire, .12a, and easily sent it second go. Challenging climb, with a premium on finger strength or bouldering power, of which I have neither. Move after move, I watched Christian reach past finger pockets to slightly better holds and resolved to do the same. I should have known better. Wildfire is deceptively overhung, and if you can't go straight to the decent edges, you must tick-tack your way up using two finger pockets and quickly move your feet. I did all of that except move my feet quickly and couldn't make it go.

There are climbs like Wildfire at the Red; e.g. Infectious at Left Flank and Stay the Hand at Roadside. These climbs remind me that without finger strength, the truth of one's climbing ability comes sharply into contrast. More hangboard?

Big Shoutout to Team Saucission! For a Spring Recap - please see YCR's blog here. For more pics, please see here.
We Love the Red!!