geeking out on climbing

i believe i am reaching a new level of climbing geek-dom with this post. i started thinking about the different shoes i have worn over the years. this lead to me thinking about what shoes i was wearing for certain sends and milestones and breakthroughs. i was surprised, and somewhat embarrassed, to realize that i remember a large number of these shoe-milestone combinations.

flashback to christmas 2005, and i’m on a trip to the southeast, climbing at horse pens 40. my whole goal for the ten day trip was to do a v5. i had a pair of mad rock mugens (the all white ones) that didn’t fit my feet quite right. so i went to the general store and talked to big mike and walked out with a pair of evolv defy’s. during the remainder of the trip, i managed to send ‘bum boy’ (v4) and eked out my first v5, ‘slag’.

now it’s the summer of 2007, i’m living here in colorado and have been putting in some time in boulder canyon. i sent my first 5.12a in a pair of five ten anasazi velcro’s. fall of that same year, i sent two 5.12s on the same day (in rifle, no less) in a pair of la sportiva testarosas. first 5.13a, again, the testarosas.

fall of 2009, and i’m in kentucky at the red river gorge for two weeks. probably my best two week stretch of climbing, with several 5.12b flashes, two 5.13a redpoints, a 5.12d onsight (just the highlights). the weapon of choice this time around was a pair of five ten dragons.

recently, evolv has supported me and over the last several years have helped me break into new grades (optimus prime lace up, talon, shaman).

you get the idea…a lot of brain power and space dedicated to something with no value whatsoever, but for some reason i remember these things.

i’m sure everyone has their own neurotic tendencies when it comes to climbing. feel free to post comments with your own habits and neuroses…

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The Vicarious Send

Projecting a difficult route or boulder problem is a finicky beast. You can invest so much mental and physical energy, so much time. And you might not even send the damn thing. Thoughts of self doubt and failure will inevitably creep into the forefront of your mind. You suffer for it, and put everything you have into the sole objective of climbing something from bottom to top without taking or falling. And even though you might feel like you’re out there by yourself, I can assure you that you do not suffer alone.

Personally, I have been battling injuries and just haven’t felt healthy in a little while. But I still like to get out, even if it’s just to belay. My friend Hip-Hop has been working and projecting a climb in boulder canyon called ‘vasodilator’ (13a). Speaking from experience, this route is NAILS hard! It’s technical, burly, insecure and even run out. This rig has it all! He committed to working this thing, fought tooth and nail to get belayers and battled weather conditions. The hike isnt crazy hard, but it certainly isnt easy, either. And there isn’t much else up there, with the exception of a 12a and a new 13+. I could tell Hip-Hop wanted this one bad…so I decided that walking up that hillside with him to be a belay slave was in the cards for me.

All told I made the trip three times, and the first two saw progress and highpoints, and more learning and familiarizing with the route. But the clock was ticking, as this particular crag has seasonal closures for raptor nesting. So the day before the closures went into effect, we cruised up there one last time. Weather-wise, it was damn near perfect hovering in the low 50s with barely a cloud in the sky. Today had to be the day!

The typical warm-up ritual ensued, and we talked strategies. Efficency coupled with purpose and no hesitations. After the proper amount of rest and a snack, Hip-Hop was on his way. He breezed through the bottom part with ease, with no wasted motions. I shouted up reminders and encouragement, and he floated through to the final rest before the true crux. I thought he would rest there for quite a while, so I grabbed my phone intending to snap a picture or two. Looking through the camera, I realized, to my horror, that he was already on the move. Precision and accuracy brought him through the insecure and powerful crux and eventually to the chains. I have never seen someone so happy to clean their draws off of a route.

Even though I did no climbing, I was just as happy that he had sent. I invested my time, too, and to see that it helped was incredibly gratifying. To witness all the progress, and regression at times, offered a very different perspective. We all know what it’s like, personally, but to see it from an outside perspective and to be in a position to give advice was pretty cool.

So while I’m fighting to get healthy, I’ll just have to bask in the sending vicariously. And who knows, these karma points may just build up to something…