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...

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