Monday, April 12

Numbers and things

At times I can't help but feel that our tools for measuring an individuals worth as a rock climber have become too quantitative. I strongly believe that the talent and ability of a rock climber cannot be judged on paper, or tallied up numerically. I stand by this statement for many reasons, but right now I've focused my rant on why style matters, two fold..

I admire pursuits like skateboarding, freeride mountain biking and surfing because there is a special respect reserved for those who do things really well.. more specifically, athletes are applauded when they execute with impeccable style, even in the case that the accomplishment or trick is perhaps not the hardest ever. Obviously, the title of 'the best' would be reserved for those who command impressive style on feats of cutting edge difficulty.

Honed technique is always inspiring to watch, and every confident climber has a unique style of their own. I'm always captivated when climbers administer true style on a route or a boulder, using empowered movement and smooth connectivity. It's not necessarily that they make everything appear easy, but more that they exhibit their confidence and control in such a way that spells out S-K-I-L-L-S . We all flail from time to time, especially when we try hard- and it would be a lie to say I don't derive inspiration from watching a redline, hail Mary, final effort attempt. However, I will admit that I hold my highest respect for those that make climbing look beautiful- regardless of the number grade, regardless of the specific discipline. It would seem that in today's climbing world athletes have been reduced to a numerical worth, but I still believe there is value in style. Naturally we will all admire those pushing the limits of pure difficulty, but I'll always save some respect for those climbing with fresh technique and style, at any grade.

Lynn Hill executes Doric Dihedral (5.12) with impeccable style.. [ANDY MANNphoto]

Marshal Balick executes the back 9 with impeccable style..

Secondly, everyone has strengths and weaknesses and given the shocking diversity of skills needed for all the many forms of rock climbing, it will likely always be this way. It would seem impossible to hone the strength and skill set necessary to climb all forms of rock at a top level at the same time. Let alone to focus on all the specific abilities such as lock-offs, mono-pulling, off-widths, underclings, footwork, etc (to name a couple). Given that all climbers have strengths and weaknesses (and no two bodies are the exact same size, etc)- it's pretty naive to think that a 5.13x to one will feel exactly 5.13x to another. Grades are merely a suggestion and a guideline. I feel that deep down it's all about how hard we try. Like I've mentioned before, the greater effort we put in, the greater success finally feels. No one but you really knows how hard you're trying- no need to lie to yourself, or others. Sometimes 5.11 (5.14, whatever) will feel easy and sometimes you're gonna have to work your ass off for it. I've flashed 5.14a's and also invested three days in the grade within the same month- one achievement might look way better on paper, but I know which send I value more.. If we all only pursued climbs that catered to our strengths, we might have a more impressive resume, but we'd never progress- and worse yet, we might never have the chance to really put in SERIOUS effort!

'Vogue' 5.14, tested every one of my weaknesses [ANDY MANN photo]

If you're reading this sentence, it means you made it through my rant- congrats! Feel free to leave comments and counter-rants if you're feeling inspired.

Speaking of inspiration, the weather in the Front Range has FINALLY cleared up a bit and everyone seems to be sending. I've been rope-bouldering at the local choice powerhouse, the Primo Wall, a bit, with the intention on building my power-endurance up. This little wall always offers a worthy fatigue, and has been a great training ground for me ever since last spring when I first checked it out (probably because it's the closest thing to bouldering I really ever do). I managed to finish all the choice hard climbing there last year, so my returns this year have been purely for training and getting outside. After repeating the top-notch 5.13s at the Primo, my good buddy Nick Duttle (Primo Wall link-up mastermind) suggested a new challenge that would likely be the hardest at the wall- the line begins with the crux of Primeval (14a) and continues through the midsection of Shine (14a), directly finishing on the brutal crux of Grim Aura (13d). After revisiting the bottom of Primeval and the crux of Grim Aura, I expected the link-up to take me some sincere effort- although knowing that it would be just the kind of training I was after. Surprisingly, I fired this taxing link-up the next day. To me, this definitely felt harder than 'Primetime to Shine' (14b). This rig is a power endurance test-piece that adds a proper challenge and enough unique climbing to make it a worth-while tick. I'm hesitant to name yet another link-up at the Primo, but to simplify things I'm calling it 'Suprimo'.

!tortilla chips!
Paige and I have also been hiking to the Monastery- finding mostly bitter cold (like, HEINOUS cold), although we had a brilliant day of May-like weather up there yesterday. Paige invested a killer burn on the classic 'Third Millennium' 13d, and I cranked some training laps on that and it's bouldery neighbor 'The Quickening' 13c- two amazing, difficult rock climbs. We were joined by a bunch of good friends, climbed in T-shirts and laid out in Rocky Mountain sunshine- brilliant.

Now we're packing up for a trip to the incredible Mill Creek, outside Moab, to grab some of the countries best sandstone- with a 7 week road trip on the horizon. Motivation!