The full spectrum of the projecting process including frustration, nervousness and inspiration, is entirely contagious. Even as a willing belay slave, I've vicariously lived the ups and downs of the sharp end while belaying my good friends over the years. I may have never touched the route, but I know that he/she (WE) are nervous at this part, or that this move right (HERE!) is heinous hard. I know the top is easy but (WE'RE) still stressed out!
I vicariously witnessed a project come full circle yesterday, and while of course I can not claim to have experienced the same level of emotion that my lovely partner did- I'm definitely still very STOKED. After a dozen or more days of attempts, Paige Claassen dispatched the fourth ever ascent (first female) of Tommy Caldwell's infamously difficult 'Grand Ol' Opry' 5.14b+ at the Monastery here in Colorado. I watched almost all of Paige's impressive process on this technical and thrilling route over the course of late August and September. From day one I knew she was capable, but seeing her so confidently stitch this climb together was super inspirational.
Grand Ol' Opry, established by Tommy in 1999 thwarted the attempts of many very capable climbers for nearly a decade, until it had it's second ascent in 2007 by Rifle mastermind Andy Raether. Originally graded 5.14a by Tommy, Andy felt that the climb warranted the 14c grade after investing many days of effort. Both Herm Feissner and Luke Parady (both well known for their mutant strength) were also working the route at this time and the pitch had also tasted the skin of Adam Stack and Justin Sjong over the years. I invested a couple days of effort that year, and then returned in the early summer of 2008 and managed it's third ascent. At the time, this was my second ever 5.14, and while I knew it was significantly harder than any route I'd yet to summit, I felt unable to confirm or deny Andy's upgrade due to lack of experience.
the dreaded approach
When Paige was in the top-roping stages of working the route (there is a quite thrilling run-out in the meat of the crux), I jumped on and managed to repeat the climb (on TR) after re-learning the moves. This route is a very specific style of climbing, characterized by hyper-technical, relentlessly long and shouldery moves. It requires accurate footwork, very thick skin and even a touch of compression in the crux. I now feel well qualified to state that Grand Ol' Opry is unquestionably the most difficult 8c (14b) I've ever been on, and to a climber that is unaccustomed to this unique style, it could definitely feel 8c+. Regardless of the exact grade, this send marks an impressive breakthrough for Paige and a truly inspirational day even in my life, as just a humble belay slave. Needless to say, I'm SUPER proud of Paige.
In other news, I had the chance to get out and work with Videographer Jon Glassberg of LT11 this past weekend, putting together a cool little video of myself repeating the area test-piece, 'Prime Time to Shine' 14b in Clear Creek. It was a bit warm climbing on this thing in direct sun, but it yielded some rad clips- stay tuned for the finished product!
After tireless training, both for Kryptonite, and in preparation of my trip to the East, I finally got myself in for some massage work this morning. Erik Cumming (GRIP Massage) specializes in massage for athletes and has been developing massage techniques specifically for the climbers body. It's definitely not a vacation massage, but the results are fantastic. I feel a bit like a cooked noodle at the moment, but I'm always very psyched after a rest day.
nothing but STAINLESS!!!
Now, with less than a week before I take off to Kentucky, my psych levels are beginning to boil. I'm really excited to check out RoctoberFest, hang out with a handful of great friends, and of course, sink my teeth into some of the finest stone on the planet..