Thursday, May 31, 2007

Climbed Hard Last Night

I am a bit sore today, and it isn't because I didn't stretch - because I did. Instead, it's more because I climbed hard last night. Well, hard for me anyway. I one-fell three straight hard 11s that were all either over-hanging or had a pumpy roof to navigate over. I'm more of a face climber who prefers crimps to jugs, so whenever I get on something steep I tend to get tired quickly. Still, my endurance is really improving and I think I'm on the verge of reaching a new plateau. Is it that I'm climbing more or pushing myself more? Is it because my confidence is improving? Or is it because I have a new sense of freedom falling upon me? It could be a combination of everything, but in general, things do seem to be a bit more uplifting than they have been the past few months. I feel better, stronger, slightly healthier (though I seriously need to hit the dentist and doctor for a checkup) and slightly more optimistic. Hmmm...

On another note, I promise to have my Adirondack posts up starting sometime Friday evening. It will not be one, long post for the entire weekend but four individual posts for each day of the trip instead. Believe it or not, I'm still writing the posts in my writing notebook...and I'm still on Saturday's events!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Adirondacks Prelude

Just got back from a three-day weekend in the 'Dacks. It was my first time there, and I have a lot to tell. But I am warning you, I've got board meetings Tuesday and Thursday and I'm climbing Wednesday, so it may be a few days before I get anything posted. When I d0 post, however, I will have one post for each day, including the drive up. One thing to consider too, my camera broke (a crappy one, so don't fret!) and I have no pictures from the weekend. If anyone has any, please send them my way and I will put what I can on the site. Otherwise, I had a great weekend and I hope you all did too.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Off To The 'Dacks

It's going to be a long, hot drive today. We're looking at record temps in the 90s. I'm not sure what the temps are going to be like in Up-state NY, but I hope it stays nice throughout the weekend.

I'm hearing rain on Sunday, however - thunderstorms to boot. But at least I was able to get in touch with "Jello". He lives in Ray Brook, about an hour north of North Hudson where the others are camping. While this is a bit of a distance, it is OK because I can drop them off on the way and pick them up on the way back. The only problem is them getting to the crags in between. I'm sure it will work out.

"BikeMan" (this could get difficult, trying to figure out and remember all the nicknames I'm using) has said that we can possibly meet Saturday at Keene Valley on Beer Walls (great name for a crag eh?), but I suspect they are all going to want to hit Rodgers Rock with the weather being good on Saturday and not Sunday. Rodgers Rock, by the way, is apparently a massive cliff right on the edge of a lake that is only accessible by an hour-long canoe paddle (about 3 miles). It sounds like a lot of fun, but I'm not interested in paddling for an hour to get there and then an hour to get back after I've been climbing all day. I guess if I could camp at the rock then that would be OK, but I'm not camping there and so I'm not going.

It'll be nice to see "Jello" again. He's an adventurous sort who's attitude toward like can be a bit intoxicating. I'm happy he found a good job that he likes, and I'm glad I'm getting the chance to drive up there to climb with him.

Just for shits and giggles, I'm going to give some nicknames in advance to people I'm very likely to be associating with this weekend. I'm driving up "Jesus", "Naples" and her boyfriend "Lucky". I've already mentioned "Bikeman", but there's also "CellPhone" and his fiancee...hmmm, have to come up with a nickname for her by the end of the weekend. There will also be "Red" and a few others whom I don't know yet, or at least don't know well enough to give nicknames to. This could be an interesting time. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Comps, Climbing and the Adirondacks

Some weekends are such a blur of activity that one never really understands that activities were partaken in until well after the fact. This weekend was one of those weekends.

Saturday - Got up early and headed down to New Bedford with "Cody" to judge at the Regional Comps held at Carabiners Gym. It was an easy ride down and I was quite surprised at the gym itself: very tall walls with not a space in the place wasted. Nearly every inch, even in the middle where the only thing to attach a climbing wall to is the ceiling, seemed to have a climbing hold on it. It was an impressive site to see. One thing that this gym does too is use the same colored holds for one specific route. This is primarily what the European gyms do, while the American gyms tend to use tape to mark the routes. Granted, using tape is more cost efficient (one doesn't need to buy a million holds of one color to make one route, and one has greater flexibility in which holds to choose), but tape also falls off and, thus, makes the routes harder (and maybe more frustrating over time). One answer to this for "taped" gyms is continuously put up new routes, which my gym (MetroRock) does and Carabiners apparently does not (we talked to a couple of staffers and they said the comp routes would stay up because they really hadn't had new routes in a couple of years - unbelievable!!!). Still, I like both styles and see the benefit of each, but gyms have to continuously change the routes over. As one famous climber at MetroRock once told me (and I'm paraphrasing here), "the routes are the product. Without quality routes, you won't have a sustainable, dependable cash flow." Can't disagree there.

One thing I'd like to point out, however, is the ridiculous requirement that some gyms have regarding the need to use GriGris to belay and for the belayor to be tied in while belaying. First off, teaching climbers to use a GriGri to belay is akin to teaching a kid to do math using a calculater. The answer is going to be the same, but the kid never learns how the math is actually done (carrying the one, for example). This sets a poor precedent for these climbers who start at the gym and then move to climbing outside. Not only is it important for them to learn proper, basic belaying techniques, but it is also important that they learn that a GriGri is self-locking while other devices are not (In my opinion, it is always best to learn the most basic method first and then trade up to more "luxurious" practices). Going from a GriGri to an ATC is probably not as safe as going from an ATC to a GriGri.

Also, as I mentioned above, Carabiners requires the belayor to lock into an anchor, presumably to keep the belayor from going up in the air when the climber falls. This is the most bizarre practice of all. For one, by being anchored, the belayor has limited ability to shift the rope away from the climber. Sure, if the anchor is long enough then the belayor can move about more freely than if the rope is not long enough. But take that a step further and understand that no anchor means even more freedom. But I'm sure that the main concern is that if a lighter-weighing belayor catches a heavier climber then the belayor will go up in the air. This, however, is a good thing. Whenever the belayor goes up in the air, it means the climber has had a softer landing. I know, this isn't as much of a factor on toprope, but it is on lead. I think these types of requirements are clearly pushed by insurance companies to "limit" liability. But let's ask the question, unless the insurance adjuster is a climber, and the insurance company has climbing-specific policies in place, can the insurance company make the best decision with it's limited experience? My guess is no; they can't.

As a result, "Cody" and I decided to use our own belaying methods to belay each other on the comps routes during our downtime. Not only was this more comfortable for us, but we think it was safer because it allowed us to do what we know best. In climbing, in my opinion, you don't take risks that you don't have to take (it may be why I'm stuck at 5.11 in the gym and 5.9 outside, but whatever). When one can climb safely and have fun, then that is better than climbing just for fun.

The comp itself was pretty fun. The routes were long and pumpy and I think the route setting was outstanding. Only one kid flashed the hardest route on the wall (maybe 5.12d) and there wasn't a crux section where a bunch of kids got stuck. Everyone came off at the point where their ability took them. It was really quite impressive. Anyway, at one point "Cody" looked at me and said that she had to be back in Boston by 630pm. I looked at my watch at it was 637pm. Oops. We rushed back and I think she made it to where she needed to be later that evening.

Sunday - I went to the gym and met up "Philly" and, as it turned out, "Geneva", who was flying out that night to visit family back home in Switzerland (oh how I wish I were going with him. I'd love to go back and climb again in Switzerland, even if to climb "Le Miroir" in memory of my friend Mat). I wasn't feeling overly strong, but these guys pushed me. There is a 5.11b/c (I think that's the grade, it may be 11d) that I've been struggling on, but I got up it with one fall at the crux at the top (both "Philly" and "Geneva" climbed it clean for the first time - "Geneva" flashed it on TR). That was the first time with only one fall, so I was pleased with that effort. Right after that we jumped on a 5.12a that "Philly got about half-way up before coming down. "Geneva" finished the route, but not without a few falls. It's too bad because I think he could have climbed it clean had he not gone to Switzerland. The route will surely be gone by the time he gets back (there is a divisional comp at MetroRock - divisional is the round after regional - in June and the 12a is a comp route from a few weeks ago that will need to be stripped to make way for new comp routes). I managed to get about two-third of the way up before coming down. I was truly toast at that point. My next climb I couldn't even get on a route that I normally do well on until the crux near the top. I didn't climb much, but I was pushed and climbed relatively well. I was pleased with the effort.

Adirondacks - I'm supposed to be heading to the Adirondacks with a large group this weekend. It will be my first time visiting the "Dacks", let alone climb there. I've been to the "Gunks" before, and that was fun, but I've heard that while the "Gunks" are sandbagged, the "Dacks" are even worse. Looks like I'll be climbing 5.7s for the weekend. Still, I'm looking forward to it. It will be nice to get away (I seriously need to - my mental health is straining at the moment) and finally go on a climbing trip with friends where I have little or no responsibility. My only concern is that I'm supposed to stay with "Jello" and I haven't been able to get in touch with him. "TD" has offered a tent, but I'm not sure I can get my car onto the campsite (there may be too many people). I don't need this extra stress, but it's OK. In the end, it's all for a good cause.

Hopefully, I'll have some great pics to post next week when I get back. Until then, have fun...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Have To Stop Chasing Grades At The Gym

If you have read my entire blog, you will have noticed that I have spent a lot of time talking about getting better and climbing harder grades. I've linked the topic of grades to such things as weight, practice, technique and strength. Certainly skill and talent either would have or should have been factored in as well, but the truth of the matter is that, as I learned last night, grades are very, very subjective.

Of course, I've known this for a long time. I mean, the topic is practically sprayed across the pages of Climbing and Rock and Ice. One elite climber does such-and-such route and sets the grade. Then another comes along, gets the second ascent and downgrades it. Of course, at the elite level, which I am clearly not at, the difference between grades is substantial (e.g. - the difference between 14a and 14b is probably greater than the difference between 10a and 10c, maybe even 11a), and it is often not coincidental that one climber finds a route at that level to be easier because of the particular talents or climbing style that climber possesses.

But this isn't the entire point. The point is that even between locations, grades are notoriously different. A 5.9 at Rumney is probably a 5.8- in the Gunks and a 5.10- at Red River Gorge. Now, a lot of this has to do with who put up the routes at these locations. Some of the grading, I'm sure, is similar to a housing assessor's job: a house is assessed based on what condition it is in versus the condition of the houses that immediately surround it, thus making different neighborhoods within the same city priced differently for what can seem to be the same apartment. I'm sure the folks who set the grades at Rumney were influenced by the grades put up in North Conway twenty years before. And I'm not saying the grades aren't honest (because who can tell in all honesty). What I am saying is that people have graded over time according what they honestly feel is the grade. Sure, there are sandbaggers out there trying to feed their ego, but they will almost always be taken care of by better climbers who will come around and call them out if the grade is unrealistic.

But not at the gym. Simply put, ego reigns supreme at the gym. One person's 5.11 is another's 5.10b and vice-versa. My case in point was I almost flashed my first 5.11 last night on a great, pink route at my local gym. Every move was so smooth, so easy to read and get through; I really should have done it clean. I didn't because I couldn't see a key foot hold. Had I remembered it from when I could see it from below, I would have sent the route pretty easily. Two climbs later, however, I flailed and flailed on a stiff, green 5.10c/d. In my mind, there was now way the green route was easier than the pink route. Now, to be fair, the green route was bouldery in nature and I'm not a particularly strong boulderer. So that is a factor, but to come as close to climbing a 5.11 cleanly the first time and then really struggling on a route two grades lower is foolish. The grades really should be switched, and I can only believe the reason why the grades are so different is that one of route setters (I don't know which one) is wrong - either they are sandbagging routes or calling them soft.

Why is this a problem? Well, I had a discussion with a couple of prominent route setters / volunteers at the gym recently and I disagreed with their assessment that the grades at the gym are harder than the grades outside, in general. They were appropriate in saying the mental factor outside is probably more prominent in me than I'm giving it credit for, but if their assessment is true then I should be able to climb 5.11 easily outside, and I don't. In fact, I don't even climb 5.10 easily outside and I can get on 5.12s in the gym (albeit, not gracefully). This is important to me because I think it poses an issue while climbing outside. Firstly, I think it's a safety issue - if I get on a 5.11 outside and it turns out to be much harder than realized then I could be putting myself or other in a difficult position. Knowing that, I tend to stay well below my indoor grade while outside. This is mainly out of the fear that I don't really know what constitutes a 5.11 anywhere, especially if I can't figure out what a 5.11 is in my own, damn gym where I'm a route setter.

I know this is sort of a hot topic for some folks, but I'm wondering if I am taking the right approach by being cautious or if I should just go for it. Thoughts?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Climber's Taunt - The Legend of Tiara Girl

One day; a day when the crowds were thin at the famed Metro Rock climbing gym in Everett, Massachusetts; a lazy Sunday when the clouds were low over the sky and the wind chill dipped below thirty degrees in January; a day when no member of the MassClimbers climbing group felt the need to risk life and limb by scaling the most difficult routes in the gym, a birthday was held. And who could the honor of such an annual event be bestowed upon but a little girl, no older than five or six, sporting a chest harness, tiny climbing shoes that would make anyone swoon at the thought of once being young, a pink tutu and a fake diamond-encrusted tiara.

In a climbing gym she was, but climb she did not. Having tested herself on many of the challenging and, due to her appropriate size for her age, low-hanging bouldering problems, she found the only way to truly challenge and exhaust herself was to run around in circles being chased, nay followed, by her gang of squealing admirers. They found in thier excitement the joy of leaping face-first onto the soft, blue mats and the pleasure of swinging freely on the ropes that were not being used to challenge lesser people; those whom she laughed at as they attempted, ungracefully, to layback on a hold that was clearly meant to be used as a mantle.

The passive-aggressive little bitch that she was, she snidely ignored the climbers' grunts, pants and screams by brushing past the belayor's legs, letting him or her know that, despite her indifference, they were still in her presence and should not forget her due dominance of the air that we breathed and the playful voices that we heard. And somewhere, somewhere in the cruel state of denial, where the holds were as valuable as foreign letters and the steepness of the slope that she would walk up (without a rope) pulled back with all of Einstein's theories of gravity in full use, was a ghostly voice emenating from both Hell below and Heaven above taunting, "COME ON YOU PUSS! I DID THAT IN LESS THAN TEN SECONDS, WITH MY EYES CLOSED, ONE HAND TIED TO THE OPPOSITE ANKLE, A BUCKET OF HOT TAR BEING DUMPED OVER ME FROM THE TOP AND AN ARMY OF SPEARMEN HURLING THIER LONG, SHARP WEAPONS AT MY HEEL." We'd look around and see nothing; not a single sign of a humanly presence that could have possibly said such things. We'd look again, our belayor's wondering what was wrong with us, why our fright-stricken, white faces looked so perplexed. And just as we'd get ready to turn our focus back on the climb, off in the distance, a sound would be heard, a sound of a giggling girl in a pink tutu and a tiara taunting us every move therefore after.

Gorgeous Day - And Some Good Climbing To Boot

I can't say we haven't been lucky this year, because the sun has shone brilliantly several times the past few weeks to give us what I think has been the best climbing spring in three or four years. Every other year we've found nice weather during the week or on weekend days the day after it rains (e.g - it pours on Friday making a beautiful Saturday irrelevant). Not this year. This year we've already hit Rumney twice and QQ twice. I predict a Gunks and NoCo trip in the coming weeks as well. I'd even like to get to Quebec City at some point later in the summer.

But that's all beside the point - it was supposed to stay in the low sixties yesterday and it probably did stay there, but QQ, where we saddled up to give "Ashmont" a final, outdoor wave-off before he heads out west for good (he was so bad-ass yesterday. I wish we had a camera. With those tattoos, the 1970s porn star / motorcycle cop sunglasses, the thick beard and the bright orange helmet - I swear, it was as if I was watching some cult leader scare away all the nice kids just by showing up. It was totally cool), is well protected from the wind because the quarry settles into a bowl with cliffs all around. It can get really warm there during the summer, so cool days in the spring and fall (even the occasional warm, winter day) are quite enjoyable.

We also had a good day climbing; knocking off routes that had previously haunted us and kept us from believing we are as strong outside as we are inside. "Chuck" managed her first two 5.10s outside and it is probably only a matter of time before she gets them cleanly. It'll take some work and diligence, but she'll get them. "Gammie" jumped on everything I climbed and felt stronger on some routes than others. Still, he also jumped on a tough 5.10 that I was hoping to work throughout this summer (and I nailed it first go-around. I couldn't believe it. I seriously thought I was going to get it sometime in August or September, and I only got on it yesterday to "work it". But I climbed it clean and it felt so easy. I guess it's time to find another project - I think I did too, to the right there is a 5.11 with a massive blank section. I'm going to need to tape my fingertips to get through the slight, sharp pockets that are there, but it's going this summer, if I can help it), and he also tried a couple of other variations on other routes just to add flavor to the day.

We got off to a good start too. "GGF" taught us all how to swear on her first route. It turns out that repetition is the key - saying the words over and over again, even if you use them in different combinations, helps tremendously. Though the other climbers may now get confused - apparently "GGF" felt the need to both re-grade and re-name the routes. I'm not convinced the QQ guidebook will take into account the new beta. Despite her sailor imitations, however, she's getting stronger, as it was noticeable that she was able to get up the 5.8 and 5.9 routes that I think were tough for her last time. It's all a matter of climbing; just getting out there and practicing different moves for different ocassions. Once the arsenal gets built up, climbing harder grades becomes easier. I think both "GGF" and "Chuck" are discovering this. "Gammie" still relies on raw power, but he's strong enough to climb hard grades without much technique, so it works for him in the end.

Just to make everyone feel a little better, the QQ grades probably weren't sandbagged when they were graded thirty years ago, but because the rock has become slick and polished over time, they are sandbagged now. I'd say 5.9 at QQ is really 5.10. Maybe 5.10- or a hard 5.9+, but definitely not 5.9 anymore.

We didn't escape without some adventures, however. QQ had its share of loonies. There was new graffiti at the bottom of a fantastic 5.8 I was hoping to do another variation on, so that kept us off that route out of fear of getting paint on the ropes. A kid showed up with one of those gas-motor scooters (not the kind you sit on like a moped, but the kind that you stand on instead). He was loud and obnoxious, but he left soon after he sprayed the place with dirt from doing doughnuts. "Gammie" was on the hard 5.10 I spoke about earlier when someone dropped a rope on him, twice. They yelled "rope" once, but didn't actually look to see where they were throwing it. He wasn't particularly happy about it, and I don't blame him. And then there was the poet who was at the quarry when we arrived. He entertained "Chuck" and "GGF" while "Gammie" and I set up the topropes above.

In all, I can't complain about the weather or the quality of climbing we've been getting in. It's been great thus far. I can't wait to get out and do more. On a sad note, good-bye "Ashmont". We'll see you Wednesday, but you can't get out of saying good-bye by not having a going-away party (unless of course you are having one and you're not inviting me (then you're just and asshole). I encourage anyone to post either a good story or a good-bye to one of our most popular members in the comments section of this story. Maybe we'll get some good embarrassnig moments that will never be taken down!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Another Great Day At Rumney

I just can't get over how much fun I've had climbing at Rumney this spring. In years' past, climbing there has been difficult, not because the climbing is hard, but because getting on routes is a challenge on nice days. Rumney has many, many crags spread across Rattlesnake Mountain, but each of the crags are so enjoyable that they all attract crowds when the sun is high and warm. Cloudless days usually mean long lines and posturing for routes. Uncomfortable silence tends to dominate the scene when one group has been queuing for a specific route and another group, one that sees the current group cleaning, starts smacking its lips at a potential open climb. Thankfully climbers tend to possess good communication skills, and the hungry beasts can be pushed back with a witty comment about how they want to stay away from the climb because they heard the guy who just came down farted at the top. It may be a lie, but it works.

Anyway, for the most part, I haven't had to tell tall tales in order to save my next route. For instance, two weeks ago, everyone must have thought Rumney was going to be too wet to climb. I think many people chose the four-hour route to the Gunks instead(which I hear were busy). As I mentioned before, I was definitely OK with that. I know, we did primarily stay in the New Wave area (with quick jaunts to the Meadows and 5.8 Crag), so we didn't exactly venture out to see how crowded the other areas were. But even at New Wave, where the approach is light, we had few groups come our way. We pretty much had the crag to ourselves.

I really thought yesterday was going to be the opposite. When we arrived, I thought we were toast because the main parking lot was as full as I had seen it. But it turned out to be not as bad as it seemed. Somehow, the crowds ventured high up on the mountain first, leaving the lower crags not as busy as expected. I'm sure a lot of people figured that most would stay low and so maybe they overcompensated, leaving good, quality routes for the beginners to play around on.

In any case, We started in the Meadows and hit a nice 5.7, 5.9 and 5.8 as warm ups before the crowds arrived (and by the way, we started climbing at around 10:30am, which, in my estimation is late and definitely peak arrival time for anyone coming from Boston). To get three good, easy climbs in at the Meadows during peak hours is an accomplishment. I didn't get on my project 5.10, but that's OK. It'll be there next time. I saw a few people run it and have an idea as to what to do next time. I have done it on toprope, but leading is tough (if I didn't mention this before, I took a really wussy fall two weeks ago when I asked "Chuck" to pull me off. She did, and I fell. Damn that was scary).

After warming up, we then went to Main Cliff. We knew it was going to be open because the falcons have relocated to Summit Cliff (early for that). We also figured most people did not know this fact, thus, creating an opportunity to get a few runs in on some of the moderate climbs there. As it turned out, most of the easy climbs were trad routes, and we didn't feel as if we wanted to place our own gear. I was OK with it, but I wanted to make sure that there were bolted anchors at each belay point. Bolted anchors on trad climbs makes life significantly easier and allows for faster turnaround time. We couldn't confirm there were bolted anchors all the way to the top, so we passed and instead sought out a hybrid, bolted climb that was supposed to take us to the top.

I led the first pitch of what was supposed to be a 5.9 that probably ended up at 5.7, dropped the rope down for "Geneva" to lead (we didn't want to use two, full ropes to simul-climb the two seconds), and then "Chuck" cleaned. The point was then
to make an easy traverse down and across to the top of a trad pitch and climb the last pitch on bolts. However, it turned out that the traverse was neither easy nor obvious and, despite "Geneva's" attempts to locate the route (see pic), we chose to rap down and eat lunch. The view was fantastic though, and we were all glad that we were outside climbing. After all, it isn't always the grades one climbs. Just being outside in good company is good enough.

After Main, our next goal was to hit Jimmy Cliff, one of the uppermost crags on the mountain. We were prepared to do the full hike, but as we got up to Lower Vader, we decided to stop at Upper Vader just to catch our breath from the warm, steep climb. Upper Vader, as it turns out, is where we met one of our most eccentric climbing-group members ("Jello")last year, and I remembered there were some very nice moderate routes there for us to do. All three had nice moves that were different from the other climbs, making our time there interesting and not monotonous. All three of us managed the fun, and blind, mantle move on the 5.8 while "Geneva" and I had fun practicing our stems on a short 5.6. "Chuck" took a big fall before the first clip on one route, but she got back up on the route after that. I've always said courage doesn't necessarily come in good climbers. I'm a better climber than her, but I made her pull me off a route two weeks ago. She fell without protection (she was spotted well, but hadn't made a clip yet), and still had the nerve to jump back up. You see the difference don't you? I do.

After that, we decided that Jimmy Cliff was just too far to go at the end of the day. All three of us had to be at work the next day (me in particular), and so we packed it in and headed home. There was a beautiful sunset in my rear view mirror that made me smile. I'll be back there again this summer for certain.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Two Days In A Row

Over the past couple years I have stayed away from two things: bouldering and climbing on consecutive days. This is because whenever I did either of these, I got hurt. And these weren't good injuries either. I'm not talking about the easy-to-accept psychologically leg breaks or crushed skulls. I'm talking those lingering my-elbow-feels-fine-today-but-really-isn't kind of injuries that kept me out for weeks at a time. And when I'd come back, it was always too early. But that was when I weighed a whopping 187lbs.

A year later, I'm sitting at 164lbs and feel much more as if I can do static moves without stressing my joints and tendons. A year ago, I was barely able to hold myself on a hard 5.10. Now, I can get my way up the route using technique most of the way. Granted, I've lost a lot of strength from the weight loss, but I've gained a lot more (including harder grades under my belt).

Anyway, I climbed on Sunday and climbed hard and moderately well (knocking off a couple of stiff 10s that I hadn't been able to do clean). I had no intention of climbing before at least Wednesday this week(turns out to be Thursday). But I was convinced to show up Monday and climb anyway - but to boulder, not to rope up - the feared double whammy.

To be clear, I was hesitant. Not only because the suggested climbing style was one that I've always struggled with (both proficiently and health wise), but also because I've been making steady strides both in terms of weight loss and climbing ability. I have to say that both of these improvements are because I've climbed a lot, but also taken care to ensure that I'm not doing too much. A year ago, I was a physical wreck: had constant pain and soreness; various, lingering injuries that kept me from participating in my favorite activity; sleepless nights; no consistent rest and generally feeling ill. I don't feel those symptoms these days (well, I'm still tired sometimes, but not as a general rule anymore - now, I can tell when I'm tired and it is usually related to a specific event). But now, I'm happy with the results and I did not want to set myself back. I want to keep climbing, not prevent myself from doing so.

As I said, I was convinced to go and, in the end, I felt OK. I was nervous about all the big, dynamic moves you usually see boulderers do, but I kept it simple by sticking to V4 at the hardest and V2 at the most frequent. I was tired, but that was mostly from climbing on Sunday. Anyway, I thought I felt a twinge in my thigh and by the night's end my biceps were hurting pretty badly, but it was a good hurt, as if I had done a solid amount of exercise and my body was finding a way to thank me later.

We roped up at the end of the night and I still felt strong enough to get up a hard 10 and easy 11 to finish off. I still felt more graceful on the roped climbs, a little more in control than on the boulders, but I can't complain with the results. I guess you can learn from jumping with both feet - so long as you're willing to jump into the fire and believe it's not that hot.