Nate’s a Slacker

Nate works at the counter at both RJ1 & 2.  And for those of you who don’t know, Nate has a really cool talent – slacklining.  He comes from a background of diving, and has turned that coordination and strength towards doing amazing stunts on a taut piece of 1″webbing.  Following is a description by Nate of the sport he loves as well as some sweet videos of him in action.

Slacklining: a sport of balance, strength, focus, coordination, and often utter and complete frustration.  For most, myself included, slacklining starts out as a sport of failure.  I relate it closely to my first golfing experience; three hours fifty-nine minutes and 149 strokes of pure agony and miserable shots, yet, sixty seconds and one amazing stroke will bring you back again.  The first day of slacklining might include 10 seconds of standing on the line, hardly balanced, for an hour of work.

For those who are not aware of exactly what slacklining is, let me break it down for you.  It’s fairly simple really, take a long piece of 1 inch webbing, pull it REALLY tight between two points, and walk on it from one end to the other.  In its basic form, it sounds quite easy really, but add the fact that the line will sway from side-to-side and bounce up and down and you’ll realize it’s not as casual as it sounds.  Us ‘slackers’ also complicate it further by splitting the sport into four styles.  A trickline is a slackline that is usually set up no longer than 30 feet and pulled extremely tight.  The ‘trick’ part refers to the different actions that can be performed on the line.  An advanced slacker can do jumps, spins, line tricks (sitting down, laying down, drop knees, levers, etc) as well as flips.  These lines are the easiest to learn the basics on.  A Gibbon line is a type of trickline, but has a 2 inch width.  A long line is a slackline more than 60 feet in length and is much harder to walk.  The longer the line, the more sway and bounce it has.  The current longest line walked on record is more than 650 feet!  A highline is a slackline that doesn’t have a set amount of length, but rather height.  Highlines can be anywhere from 20 feet high to more than 3000 feet.  One of the most popular US highlines is at the Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite National Park.

Most of my slackline training was done at RJ2, where they have a permanent 20 foot line set up.  It took me nearly 3 months to walk across once and another three to walk one direction, turn around and walk back to the starting point.  I started slacklining about four years ago, practicing for about 30 minutes at the end of my climbing session.  Over the years I’ve managed to get my balance under control and am doing my best to help the sport evolve.  You’ll often see me in the gym working on tricks that I never thought possible when I first started.  To date, my favorite tricks are back-to-back 360’s, one-arm levers and backflips.  Currently I’m working on a backflip 360 and a wallplant to 360.

People often ask me one of two questions about my slacklining: am I training for Cirque du Soleil or do I feel that slacklining has improved my climbing.  To answer the first, no.  Though I’m not sure I would turn down an offer to be in their show.  To the second I answer possibly.  Slacklining is directly related to balance and core strength, both important in climbing as well.  I assume, that over time as my balance and core strength have increased, my climbing has improved.  However, I did not and have not noticed a direct relation to slacklining and climbing.

Another topic that is often discussed with new slackers is, “How do you do it?”.  The main part of slacklining is practice, practice, practice.  As far as technique goes, try to keep your core tight.  Really flex your abs as you walk, keep your body upright, and maintain a tight yet flexible tension throughout your body.  The last point is one that is hard to really explain and understand.  You want to keep your muscles tight so they don’t shake (especially in the legs), yet you still need to be able to walk normally and counter the effects of the moving line.  The goal is to keep your center of gravity directly over the line.  This means you’ll need to move your arms, legs and waist to keep balanced.  If you feel your torso start to fall off to the right, for example, thrust your hips out left, and even kick your left foot out to pull the weight of your torso back over the line.  This is a complicated and difficult skill to learn, but with enough practice you’ll soon be walking the line like second nature.  After you get the balance down, the first thing you’ll want to learn is how to turn around once you get to the end.  After that, just let your personal style and skill decide where to go to next.

And of course, if you see me in the gym I would be more than happy to help you on anything slackline related.

If you would be interested in a slacklining clinic, just let us know and we’ll put it together.  Just contact us at tricia@rocknandjamn.com.

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By the seat of my pants

I’ve been climbing for 17 years.  In that time, I’ve done many routes and problems all over the country which I’m proud of.  But when I think about what defines me as a climber, it isn’t my hardest and scariest sends but rather how many times I’ve been able to thoroughly and completely embarrass myself while climbing.  And for a reason I think I can explain, these moments are all centered around the butt of my pants.

I’ll go in chronological order.  About 8 years ago, I went bouldering at Emerald Lake in RMNP with my then boyfriend/now husband (let’s call him Wilbur).  We had separate projects at separate boulders, so after we warmed up, I took off to another boulder with three other guys that wanted to work on the same problem.  After some effort I finally sent and had started the slightly tall but very easy top out when I heard one of the guys below say “Um, you have a hole in your pants.”  Now, I was aware of the fact that I had a pin prick of a hole on one cheek of the butt of my pants.  Assuming that this was what they were talking about, I yelled down at them that I was aware of the hole and that I wasn’t worried about it.  Afterwards, I went back to Wilbur, let him know that I had triumphed over the boulder problem, and we packed up and headed out for the long hike followed by the long drive home.  Once we arrived at home, I took my pants off to take a shower and finally saw the hole the guy was talking about.

It wasn’t a hole.  It was a rift in the space-time continuum.  The seam adjoining the back of my waistband with the crotch of my pants was completely blown.  I easily fit my head through it.  And all I could think of was my cavalier response to my spotters acknowledgment of the situation and what a dummy I must have sounded like.  I showed Wilbur, we laughed, and I wrote it off as a one time incidence.  I was wrong about the rate of recurrence.

The next incident happened at the Satellite boulders in Boulder.  I had gone to try to finish a nasty little problem called Re-Entry Burn.  I have put in over 100 attempts on this pile to date and, due to my recent foot surgery, I will most likely never send.  *pause for a moment of bittersweet reflection*  Anyway, once again, Wilbur wanted to work on a different problem so I ambled over to my project and found three guys working on it.  I asked if I could join them and promptly got to work at getting shut down.  After about an hour of enthusiastic attempts and asking them for power spots, I conceded yet another day of failure on the four move problem and headed back over to Wilbur.  He took a look at the back of my pants for some reason and said, “What in the hell have you been doing??!!”

I looked at him with wide-eyed innocence. “What do you mean?”

“Your pants look like you’ve been mauled by a bear.”

He was right, this wasn’t an ordinary hole.  It really did look like a vicious three clawed predator had taken a swipe at my butt.  My immediate reaction was fury.  I yelled over at the guys I had just been climbing with on the other side of the Flesh Fest boulder.

“Why didn’t you tell me my pants were blown out?”

A single sheepish reply, “We thought you knew.”

Uh huh.  I had just spent an hour making these strangers feel keenly uncomfortable while power spotting me with my fanny in their faces.  The rest of that day involved me feebly trying to climb with a jacket tied around my waist.  Needless to say, there would be no sending for your courageous author that day.  My thoughts on the hike out were filled with wonder as to how I managed a repeat performance of the RMNP incident.  The one time occurrence was sadly turning into my shtick.

The last episode of my butt baring escapades happened a few years ago at Area D at Mt. Evans.  It was so exhausting just getting in and out of Area D that the details have become a little fuzzy to me.  In a nutshell, it was discovered that yet again, I managed to rip a colossal hole in the butt of my pants.  There weren’t many people there that day, so I tried to bravely forge on ahead with trying to climb at that altitude with a drafty derriere.  But while working the top out of the problem I wanted to send, my friend Jackie walked around the boulder at the precise moment when I was milking a sweet high heel hook and caught a glimpse of naked cheek.  All I remember was her saying something to the effect of, “Sheez, Amy, seriously?”  It was so cold that I couldn’t think of sacrificing one of my jackets to my cause of modesty.  Instead, I made Wilbur go behind a boulder with me and give me his underwear for the rest of the day.  (Coincidentally, he climbed strong that day.  Correlation?)

I know what you’re thinking now.  What on earth does this idiot do to blow out the butt of her climbing pants so frequently?  After much deliberation, I believe the answer is in the fact that I am the world’s suckiest hiker.  I’m so bad I could win awards at inept hiking. Any trail or boulder in a talus field approaching a decline of more than 5 degrees has me scooting on my butt like a dog with worms.   I have no shame when it comes to a good rump descent on a hike out.  I truly believe I was born devoid of quads, and I have sprained both ankles so many times that muppet ankles have more stability than mine.  When you have these adversities working against you, you either scoot on your butt, thereby distressing the fabric of your pants, or wear a helmet and shoulder pads on every approach.  And while I would rock the shoulder pads, I don’t look good in a helmet.

So there you have it.  I am a boulderer that has a propensity for mooning people because I possess the leg strength of Kermit the Frog.  I also have an aversion to foods that come in basic geometric shapes, but I’ll save that last nugget of info for another time.