Monday, April 02, 2007

The First Day Outside in 2007

We've been waiting for this day since last November when we stopped all outdoor activities and committed ourselves to the gym. That decision was a mistake, however, as we watched December and January temperatures soar into the 60's before plummeting sometime around January 15th. An extra two months of outdoor climbing went down the drain, much to our dismay. It was a mistake we yearned to make right by wishing, hoping and praying for spring to sprout up earlier than it has in past years. Our wishes were starting to come true as warm weather has been gaining ground the past few weeks. The only problem is that it has always fallen on a weekday, thus keeping us inside just that much longer. Finally, the weather gods blessed us with our first Saturday with sunshine and warm temps. We sensed the on-coming excitement boiling in our blood. We committed ourselves to climbing outside, and we never (almost) looked back.

I say this because we almost jumped the gun. Earlier in the week the forecast said that Saturday would host 60-degree temps, and we committed ourselves to going outside. But as the week drew on, the forecasts changed enough so that the warm weather was supposed to hit a day early on Friday, leaving Saturday with temps that might jump up to 50 degrees, but would probably stay in the high 40's. I admit it. I wavered. The thought of climbing in 40-degree weather made my fingers curl. My extremities have always been susceptible to cold weather, being the last body parts to warm up and stay warmed up. Grasping quarry edges with my hands while toeing over-polished footholds that could give out at any moment did not sound exciting to me. But then I received this e-mail to my climber's group -

All that I can see on the forecast for Saturday is a big fat shining sun, so in my eyes, I can't see any problems with that. And 50 is more that than 40 or 30, as far as I know. Besides, I betcha Jello has already been doing at least 10 outdoor climbs already this season, wherever he roams these days :D So I am in for Gloucester (or anywhere under the sun). But I know I might have to succumb to the gym-rat crowd.

Those were the fighting words I needed to hear, and I'm glad I heard them. We decided on hitting Quincy Quarry at 11am, hoping that it wouldn't be overcrowded by then and hoping that enough people were there with ropes already set up so we could climb everything under the sun. And the sun was there to provide support. I love this place. It may have graffiti, I-93 and young, under-age, drunk punks hanging out after dark during the summer (seeing 15-16 year-olds walking across the field with a case of Pabst under each arm is not unusual), but the quarry walls cast all that aside. Noise travels horrendously within the confines of the quarry. It's almost as if one is out in the wilderness and not a single soul is there to keep the climber from going up peacefully.

As you can see from some of the pictures, the crowd was light, but strong enough so that every route had a rope. None of us had to to queue all day, and we all felt strong; getting to the top cleanly on most climbs. This is an amazing feat to consider. For one, few people climb better outside than inside, and that is especially true the first time outside (there's just too many obstacles - no more marked routes, the fear of falling, the element of wind and real rock, the notion that the gear may fail, etc). But also because Quincy Quarry is notoriously sandbagged. The routes are harder than graded, so much so that it wouldn't surprise me to see a 5.8 at QQ really be a 5.10 or harder. The reason for this is because the rock has become overly polished over the years. There is one 5.6 that has a near 5.10b/c start, and right next to it is a 5.10 route with a 5.12 start - all created due to the constant flow of rubber on the granite. I personally think this is a testament to really working on technique inside over the winter. Speaking for myself, I was able to hold moves better than I was last fall when I just starting to climb well at QQ. I guess I've taken the leap forward. That makes me pretty darn happy.

Well, we stayed just about all day, and that was fine with me. I got a little burned today, but that's OK. I'm happy we made it outside for the first time in 2007. Here's hoping we get more in between now and next winter.

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