Friday, June 12, 2009


Getting in the zone.

I've been climbing for about 8 years now. I've traveled an awful lot, seen lots of things, climbed lots of places. One thing I have consistently been impressed with is the global climbing community. Everywhere I have been, I have always met incredible and friendly people. With the common bond of climbing, it has always seemed to me that I could make friends everywhere I went. The climbing community is small. Real small. Let me give you an example: While sitting on the deck at a climbing hostel in Vaterfal Boven in South Africa, I am introduced to two dudes from Portugal, I casually mention that I have a good friend from Oman who now lives in California. These two guys knew him!? I'm sorry, but it is mind-boggling to me that here I am on the other side of the planet, and I randomly run in to two people from another country who know my friend. Wild.

I will say, however, that at Rocklands, I was massively disappointed with the Americans I met. it was the first time in my climbing career that I have met any other climbers and been left with a really bad taste in my mouth. Very strange. I did, however meet a group of guys from the UK whom I climbed with all week. These were good people. I hope to see all of them again.

One of the other boulder problems I had my sites on was Caroline, a classic 7c+ at the Roadside Boulders. I had done several problems of this grade that week, and felt very strongly that this one would be relatively easy. It is about 10 moves on a fairly steep rock progressing up two lines of shitty pinches. Seeing as how I had spent the last 6 months with Mike, Max, Dave, and others training on a 50 degree wall using nothing but the world's shittiest pinches, I felt confident that this problem would go.

DAY ONE: I went up to Caroline for the first time at the end of day one, still high off my send of Ulan Bataar. Even though there was only about an hour of light left, I was pretty impressed with the line, and immediately set to work. The UK boys were using some pretty lousy beta, which worked well for them since they were all much stronger than me. I spent most of the hour sussing the moves and figuring out my own beta. Which involved an unorthodox yet effective heel-hook start.

DAY TWO: After warming up and exhausting myself on the world's hardest 7a, I stepped up to Caroline again. No luck. Every dumb thing that could happen did. I fell from the last move twice. This was obviously a bit frustrating. The crux move was killing me. Very low percentage for me. Why can't I do this boulder? Seriously.

DAY THREE: RAIN. In South Africa, the mist/rain combo is called "Moth Rain", because it's like a swarm of moths. The rain doesn't really fall from the sky in drops, it consumes everything in a swirling mist. Woke up bummed but went to the Fields of Joy boulders to enjoy a day of highballs and classic moderates. At about 3:30, it was clearing up substantially and I made a run for Caroline. With a 40 minute hike and just 2.5 hours of light left, this was a gamble, but I was willing to take it. The boulder problem was SOAKED. Dripping. Well eff. I had hiked all the way out there, I might as well try it. I immediately took of my sweatshirt, and began drying the problem off, chalking holds. Surprisingly enough, I got about 80% of the way up the thing, which was encouraging since these were probably the worst conditions imaginable. I also sussed out some incredible toe-hook beta for the crux move which made it easy as hell. Siked!

DAY FOUR: Didn't spend much time on Caroline this day. Had my mind set on other things. But the 7c+ had shut me down for three days, and was looming in the back of my mind. Anyone who knows my climbing habits knows that I can't let things go. I tried it a few times but for some reason my foot was coming off the big foot hold??? BAH!

DAY FIVE: Last day. Leaving in the morning. NO retreat. NO surrender. A Muerte! I have to point out that at this point, I had been climbing for about 12 hours a day, 4 days straight. This meant that after about 2 attempts on Caroline, I was halved over sitting on the ground wincing in pain as the tendons in my arms swelled up like balloons and were throbbing. Praise be to Advil. My beta was working really well, but I had to take 15 minute rests between each attempt to let me skin and tendons relax before another go. Honestly, why was I not doing this boulder problem? I couldn't figure it out. I could get on at any point and do every single move, in any combination of links. But whenever I started from the ground, something went wrong. GAHHH! This boulder problem was becoming all consuming. As the day progressed, I got more and more exhausted. The only thing harder than the stupid boulder problem was letting it go, admitting defeat. Which, after about 7 hours, I finally did at 5pm. Failure. Shut down. You lose. Do not pass go. Do not collect $500. Thanks for visiting. Fuck you very much.

It's ok though. Because in the end, I climb for the experience. Sure, standing on top of hard boulders, or clipping the anchors of difficult lines is always pleasing. But really, this trip could not have been ruined by Caroline. The settings, the (non-American) people I met, my travel companions, the climbing quality, etc. All of it was second to none. And Caroline will be there when I go back next summer. HA!

The sunsets we saw walking out after epic defeats on Caroline.

Finally, I leave you with this gem. It became the theme song for the trip. And let me tell you, there is nothing like having people sing this song to you while you try hard:

1 comment:

  1. the degrees of separation are incredible, i've managed to run into people who know people i know almost everywhere i go in order to get away from people i know. ya' know?

    also, i was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of nostalgia reading about your experience on caroline. in hueco, there was a boulder problem that's reputed to be one of the best classics of its grade in the country and i linked all the moves and mastered it in segments but not once did i send it. after some of the most grueling defeated hours i can remember. juli can attest that some of the best climbers you or i know watched me fight the urge to cry over this thing, and fail. i really feel that this put me at the "next level" from a recreational climber to a serious climber. there were tears i absolutely could not choke back. i still run this boulder problem in my head frequently and it will be my first send of the trip this year.

    it's experiences like sitting in front of a beautiful boulder featuring a remarkable line that exists nowhere else on any other boulder in the world and being not only humbled by it but shut down by it entirely, that at first reinforce my sense of mortality but ultimately provide me with a stronger sense of appreciation for climbing. it's incredible, really.