Monday, September 12

The Canyon

Whenever I spend a chunk of my life living outside I remember how much I miss while I'm inside. Being outside day and night and day and night is refreshing and humanizing - I love it. Our environment is constantly changing - you simply can't miss it when it's all around you. I've been admiring the arrival of autumn, taking notice to the ever-shortening days and steadily cooling temperatures. It has become pretty obvious that the season is shifting... the growing weekend crowds and widespread success on the Western Slope is a clear testament.
I've been keeping myself busy and challenged in Rifle. I'm learning the language of the rock better with every route, and I'm really pleased with the way my climbing is going - especially considering the imminent arrival of the fall. It's something of a shame that there is so much stone and such a short window of incredible conditions, but at the same time that's the very reason why the fall is such a sacred time for us rock climbing types. Get psyched people!!!
As I mentioned before, after finishing 'Bad Girls Club' and 'Planet X', I was keen to try some of the other test-piece routes in the canyon. 'The Crew' 14c was the next logical step given that it was widely regarded as Rifle's hardest route before the arrival of BGC. I starting working on The Crew early last week and immediately I recognized it as a pretty serious challenge. It opens with a very bouldery section of climbing between pretty good pockets - characterized by big moves up a steep section of wall. There is a marginal (at best) rest that separates this first section from a following, airy resistance section before two separate, very good rest positions 2/3 of the way to the top. A short and interesting low angle sequence leads you to a very powerful and steep finishing roof that features crazy only-in-Rifle style thuggery. Clipping the chains is no joke either. It's a very hard climb and I approached it as such. Once I figured out my beta I took every burn seriously... first falling from the mid-section and then finally making my way to the anchors - in full battle mode. I happily did The Crew on my third day but it was a fight to get it done.

I remarked on my experience climbing The Crew with respect to my ascent of Bad Girls Club in a Rock & Ice interview - My first impression was that, to me, the two routes felt about equally challenging. As I mentioned in the interview I did think that BGC suited my climbing strengths and also my size better, but regardless - they are both the real deal. One other factor that recently came to light, that could have played heavily in my opinion was a sinker knee-bar rest in the lower section of The Crew that I seemed to have missed - adding a bomber rest to the lower portion of this route would have been pretty damn helpful, but who knows - perhaps the rest would not have fit me, etc, whatever. I think to some extent we've lost track of the purpose of grades and the subjectivity of climbing. In my mind, what matters is the climbing, it's challenge and our process. Every climber is different, every route is different, and we all have strengths and weaknesses (and crappy days, brilliant days). These are both unique and really difficult climbs, I'm psyched to have done them!

Next on my list was a huge, endurance route up the canyon, Joe Kinder's creation, 'Waka Flocka Flame' 14c. This route begins on a killer 14b called 'Waka Flocka', climbing essentially all of it's difficulty before jumping right into the dreaded '5.8 dyno' on 'Living in Fear' 13d and continues up Living's extension, 'Living the Dream' 14a. It opens with a powerful sequence through underclings and edges, where for every one hand movement you're shuffling your feet two to five times.... This lower bit ends with a great rest, and then you continue for about 60 feet without stopping - doing the second crux on Waka Flocka before a tough move sequence connecting the routes and onward into the pumpy finish of Living the Dream. It's a sick route - a full 70m rope is required and there is really no wild jessery... just climbing. I tried the route on Saturday, sussing my beta for the lower section and rehearsing the top. Sunday I returned and managed to get it done, strategically handling pump where I could and otherwise trying to climb quickly and skillfully. Joe was the first to congratulate my success - respect. Joey is a model ambassador - not because he's ambitiously made dozens of contributions to climbing areas all over, not because he's climbed hard and been in the spotlight for 10 years, but because he's a freakin' psyched dude, who gets psyched on everyone's success. I've never thrived on competitive energy and people like Joe happily remind you that there's no need for it.

'Marry Me' Kinder Photo
...and I'm off
'Spray-A-Thon' Kinder photo
I carried on the day with a flash on 'Vision Thing' 13b, a really cool route with a nice variety of movement and holds. I finished Steve Damboise' new route 'Marry Me' 13c on my second try - a nice, bouldery route with a few demanding moves. Lastly I flashed 'Spray-A-Thon' 13c, a classic Arsenal route with everything from a dyno to some steep jugs and interesting sequences throughout. Just to keep me honest I fell off a 5.12 to really finish the day ... everybody falls. (except Ethan Pringle)

Today I'm resting and relaxing before another couple days in the canyon. Thursday I'll head back to the front range to enjoy a night out with friends and a brief trip to visit my lovely girlfriend in San Francisco. It'll be my *gasp* first time in California! Tourist suggestions anyone?