failure with a capital F

kinky reggae‘, at the new river wall in clear creek canyon. For those of you that have climbed with me over the last year and a half (ish), you know the full-on war I have waged on this route. I have never spent this much time on a route. Ever. I cannot comprehend the actual number of times I have been on this route. Working out moves, linking sections, dialing in the best warm-up combination and routine, etc. It’s a miracle I’m still psyched on this thing. Astounding, really.

I do remember the very first time I got on it. I couldn’t do a single move in the crux. Not one. But for some reason I was drawn to this climb. The style of climbing suited me: steep/overhung power climbing with big moves between okay holds. I wanted to invest the time because it was really fun. I decided to commit.

So, I kept going back. Again and again and again. After a while, I was able to do more and more moves until I eventually did all the individual crux moves. They all felt really hard. The combination of strengths required was mind boggling to me…shoulders, core, and fingers had to be at their peak to execute these moves. I just kept telling myself that if I can do the individual moves it was simply a matter of time before I could link the whole thing. Perhaps a long time, but still just a matter of time.

I went down there so much and tried this route so many times that my climbing ability overall suffered significantly. I have talked about this before, so I’ll save you the bitter details (if you’re really wanting to read about it, here ya go.) Suffice it to say, my shoulders and fingers ached most of the time, I couldn’t send other routes that were rated much easier, I just wasn’t psyched to climb. I gave up for a while resigned to the notion that I probably wasn’t capable of sending this route.

Once my desire to climb finally came back (thanks again dan, keith and dusty!) newer bolted routes in the canyon kept me busy. But the thought of getting back on ‘kinky reggae’ was always clawing at the back of my mind. I tried it out a few times in the spring, just to remeber moves. It felt good. Moves were still hard, but I felt healthy. It was invigorating.

Once fall rolled around, it was time to start giving it hell again. I had to re-learn how to efficiently link sections. I had to figure out the best warm-up routine. I had to learn how to build and ride my momentum by finding progress in the smallest gains and minute insignificant details. But it was working and soon I was back to my previous high point.

A few weekends ago, literally the day before the cold winter weather moved in, I went down to the new river wall with my buddy dusty. After warming up, spirits were high and we were mildly optimistic. Dusty was working on ‘public enemy’ (13c), and on his first burn fell exiting the crux. His execution of the moves was solid. He was inching closer. On to my first burn…I linked through to the jug just before the crux. I did my best to turn off my mind and just focus on the moves. Off I went, executing. Left hand into sidepull pocket. Feet up and full extension rose move to the really shitty right hand pocket. Zero out on the right hand, feet up, and move left hand to the little sidepull crimp. Feet up again and pull with all you have to bump left hand higher to the good crimp. HOLY SHIT I STUCK IT!!!!! Right foot into the first pocket, dropknee, cross right hand into good pocket, and exit the crux. Before I knew it I was stemmed out in the dihedral rest staring at the final boulder problem that this route shares with the classic 13a ‘sonic youth’. I have done ‘sonic youth’ so many times that I somehow turned it into a warm-up. I have the route dialed. The final boulder problem isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I KNEW the moves. Once I had rested enough, I launched into it. Gaston crimp, thin pinch, bump to good pinch…bobble, readjust, fall. FUCK!!!!! I had it. I had it! It was good though, helluva new high point! I had actually linked through the true crux! This thing was in my sights.

After resting for a good long while, dusty got back on ‘public enemy’. Flawless execution, and he took it to the top for his hardest redpoint to date. It was rad to watch, nice send homie! Plus, he skipped 13b and went straight to 13c!

well, that left me trying to ride the send train and the momentum that he had just amped up. With more effort, I thankfully fired the crux again and found myself at the final rest. I pulled as hard as I could, fighting with all I had. I hit the good pinch and stuck it this time, got the dropknee and the gaston pocket, moved my left foot up, and went for the bump to the first left hand sidepull. I hit it, tried to close on it but was too pumped. I couldn’t hang on and took the whip.

I didn’t throw a wobbler, I wasn’t mad, wasn’t angry. I was just bummed, borderline sad. I just hung there, swinging back and forth completely defeated. I lowered off and just sat there with my thoughts.

I missed sending my first 14a by 3 moves. 3 moves! I gave it all I had and came up just a little short. There was just nothing left in the tank. I was too tired to try it again. The new river wall season was potentially over for me. The sun never gets down there so it stays frozen until the spring. And sure enough, arctic temps and some snow moved in the very next day.

I now have an entire winter to sit bitterly on the memory of my failure. But I have to spin it in a positive light in order to keep my psych up through the cold months. I have to stay healthy and strong. I have to get stronger and work on my weaknesses, of which there are many. I have to be ready…come spring this war ends.


when are you ‘strong enough’?

something has been on my mind lately with regard to climbing…why is ‘downgrading’ of routes and boulder problems so rampant these days? have grades inflated that much? of course, i have no answers for these questions. i wish i did. but i will air my thoughts.

i believe the most well known professional climber that is ‘guilty’ of downgrading, is jimmy webb. now don’t think i’m bad mouthing him or talking shit, that is just simply not the case. the guy is a crusher! he is so disturbingly strong it’s crazy. and he’s been on a tear lately, sending hard boulders left and right. and he gives them ‘personal grades’ which is the nice way to say that he’s downgrading. my only question is when can he admit (and of course when can we all admit the same for ourselves) that he is (or we are) actually just that strong? when can he take v15 instead of downgrading (giving a personal grade) to v14? i know it’s a bit tougher for these guys pushing limits and climbing harder than anyone else in the world. but if you decrease the grades for us mortals, i think it still applies.

when can you take the higher grade and feel comfortable doing so? there is so much self-loathing and self-deprecation in climbing that i believe most of us think we suck. when can we be confident in our abilities and take full credit for our accomplishments? can it ever happen?


re-learning how to climb

to say that it’s been awhile is a bit of an understatement. probably close to a year and a half. in fact, i don’t think i posted a single thing in 2013. ‘so why now?’, you may ask. well, before i answer that, a bit of an explanation on the hiatus.

 

plain and simple, i got sucked into a long term project in clear creek canyon last year. this one rock climb consumed all my climbing focus. i can’t recall exactly how many times i walked down toward the creek, put my pack down and looked up at all those draws hanging off the wall. i wanted to send this route more than any other route i had ever been on before. in my head, it represented a huge milestone; it somehow meant that i had accomplished something.

 

anyway, after working the moves over a few sessions, i eventually had all the beta completely sussed out, one might say dialed in. keep in mind, that the first time i got on this route, i couldn’t even do some of the moves. thoughts of sending this route were a bit of a pipedream, but we have to have goals, right? so armed with a bit of confidence, i started giving it redpoint burns. with each attempt, i was making upward progress. i was getting high point after high point. on my best attempt, i got to the last move of the true crux, pulled as hard as i could, bobbled the next hold, then fell. as i swung in the air above the creek, i dropped a lot of f-bombs. i don’t know if it was a true wobbler, but if it wasn’t, it was pretty close.

 

i continued to try the route, but never got back to that high point. soon after, it felt like i was merely rehearsing moves. i wasn’t really climbing, but just going through robotic motions. because of this, my overall climbing really suffered. it felt like i had lost my ability to figure out moves on new climbs i tried. i was only good at the moves on one climb, and that was it. i was falling on climbs that were at least a full number grade easier, and this started the downward spiral. a complete lack of success on any climbs at a grade you believe you should have success on becomes intensely frustrating. it made me dislike climbing, and the inevitable, impending failures.

 

so i just sort of stopped climbing outside. it always seemed like too much work. one of the hardest parts was the fact i still had to set routes at the gym. when you’re not psyched on climbing, hauling up and down a rope or running up and down a ladder to put up climbs for other people doesn’t help your mindset. this lasted a good 6 or 7 months.

 

about a month and a half ago, i went outside with my friends keith and dan. they took me to a new climb in clear creek put up by our friend kevin. i was told it was my style, that it suited me. fine. i’ll try it out. turns out, they weren’t lying, it perfectly fit my style of climbing. i was able to send it rather quickly (for me), and the excitement started building. after that, i went back to a climb that i had tried the previous year, while in the midst of my climbing ‘funk’. there were moves on this particular climb that i could not figure out. it had me stumped and frustrated. at the time, i blamed it on my height. this time around, though, after a few tries, i figured out the moves. i was stoked! the mojo was building! soon after this breakthrough, i sent a route i had tried a few times over the last few years. this got me thinking, ‘maybe i could go back to the old project, see if enough time has passed’.

 

which brings us to the reason for the post. i went down to the new river wall today, and gave it a go. clearly didn’t send it, but i was able to do all the moves first try. it felt reasonable this time around. the moves just sort of happened, they were buried deep in the brain sauce somewhere. i think i have re-learned how to climb. i believe that i somehow became a better climber, by not really climbing for a while. strange phenomenon. i just hope this is the start to a good summer season here in the front range, and i think my lofty goals are back on the table…


New perspectives and being thankful

I know thanksgiving is still several weeks away, but I have a lot to be thankful for. Last Friday, while riding my bike home in capitol hill, a car opened its door at the very instant I was passing it. I launched! Like 8 feet out. That in and of itself is horrible. It’s one nightmare that every biker or cyclist has had. It’s always in the back of your head. What made this even worse was the car coming up the street from the other direction. Not a bad thing, in and of itself, but if you’ve been in cap hill before, you know how narrow the streets are. So I was flying directly into oncoming traffic.

You always hear that peoples lives flash before their eyes before they die, or think they’re going to die. That’s horse shit! As I flew through the air, all I could think about was how this was a really lame way to go out. I was certain I was going to get hit by the oncoming car, and I accepted that fate. My body was limp.

The instant I hit the ground I heard the screeching tires and brakes as the driver mashed on the pedal. I could do nothing but lay there, helpless and vulnerable. I opened my eyes to see the car tire stopped 2 feet away from me. My shoulder hurt, my hand a wrist were bruised, but nothing was broken. I had hit my head pretty good, but had my helmet on. I should be in the hospital, or worse. But I rode the 1 block home and ordered a pizza. For all intents and purposes, and against the odds, I was fine. Someone or something was looking out for me.

On Sunday I tried to go climbing with my friend Bobbi. I was hungover and sore (post Halloween costume party and bike wreck, respectively). I played around, but my shoulder was def on fire. It especially hurt to belay. It’s a great excuse to get out of belay duty, but in all honesty I’d rather not have the pain and be forced to belay. After we wrapped up, I started to contemplate what would happen, what my path would be, if this became a nagging and chronic problem. What if my shoulder didn’t get better? I was bummed out and slipped into a funk.

The Monday setting session at the gym brought little in the way relief, either physically or mentally. I struggled to move our 35ft extension ladder, “widow maker”. While you’re never fully comfortable moving it, I was really out of sorts, and it seemed heinously difficult due to the shoulder. Tuesday we set the boulder, and I was very gun shy about forerunning the problems. But once I got warmed up, I felt a bit more confident, and the shoulder felt a bit better. It didn’t really hurt for the rest of the day. There was a slight dull ache, but that was it.

I awoke this morning with the same dull ache, but no sharp pains. I was slated to work for a bit at the gym, then head out to get on my project, ‘public inclinations’ (13d). I finally got into the canyon about 45 minutes late, just due to errands and traffic. I was nervous, but amped when I started hiking. I felt good warming up, and while lowering, I brushed holds and did a few moves on the proj. After belaying my buddy Kris on ‘sonic youth’ (he managed a 1 hang), I tied in for a burn. 1 shot, 1 kill! With significant effort I was able to get through the 3rd crux (where i had fallen the last 4 goes) and found myself clipping the chains. This one was a physical and mental battle. Falling at the same spot 4 times in a row had me wondering if I had trained myself to fail there. I was questioning my physical health. But it all worked out, and I thankfully notched a new grade. Well earned, I think.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone for the kind words and well wishes over the last several days. Wonderful people in my life, just one more thing to be thankful for.


New perspectives and being thankful

I know thanksgiving is still several weeks away, but I have a lot to be thankful for. Last Friday, while riding my bike home in capitol hill, a car opened its door at the very instant I was passing it. I launched! Like 8 feet out. That in and of itself is horrible. It’s one nightmare that every biker or cyclist has had. It’s always in the back of your head. What made this even worse was the car coming up the street from the other direction. Not a bad thing, in and of itself, but if you’ve been in cap hill before, you know how narrow the streets are. So I was flying directly into oncoming traffic.

You always hear that peoples lives flash before their eyes before they die, or think they’re going to die. That’s horse shit! As I flew through the air, all I could think about was how this was a really lame way to go out. I was certain I was going to get hit by the oncoming car, and I accepted that fate. My body was limp.

The instant I hit the ground I heard the screeching tires and brakes as the driver mashed on the pedal. I could do nothing but lay there, helpless and vulnerable. I opened my eyes to see the car tire stopped 2 feet away from me. My shoulder hurt, my hand a wrist were bruised, but nothing was broken. I had hit my head pretty good, but had my helmet on. I should be in the hospital, or worse. But I rode the 1 block home and ordered a pizza. For all intents and purposes, and against the odds, I was fine. Someone or something was looking out for me.

On Sunday I tried to go climbing with my friend Bobbi. I was hungover and sore (post Halloween costume party and bike wreck, respectively). I played around, but my shoulder was def on fire. It especially hurt to belay. It’s a great excuse to get out of belay duty, but in all honesty I’d rather not have the pain and be forced to belay. After we wrapped up, I started to contemplate what would happen, what my path would be, if this became a nagging and chronic problem. What if my shoulder didn’t get better? I was bummed out and slipped into a funk.

The Monday setting session at the gym brought little in the way relief, either physically or mentally. I struggled to move our 35ft extension ladder, “widow maker”. While you’re never fully comfortable moving it, I was really out of sorts, and it seemed heinously difficult due to the shoulder. Tuesday we set the boulder, and I was very gun shy about forerunning the problems. But once I got warmed up, I felt a bit more confident, and the shoulder felt a bit better. It didn’t really hurt for the rest of the day. There was a slight dull ache, but that was it.

I awoke this morning with the same dull ache, but no sharp pains. I was slated to work for a bit at the gym, then head out to get on my project, ‘public inclinations’ (13d). I finally got into the canyon about 45 minutes late, just due to errands and traffic. I was nervous, but amped when I started hiking. I felt good warming up, and while lowering, I brushed holds and did a few moves on the proj. After belaying my buddy Kris on ‘sonic youth’ (he managed a 1 hang), I tied in for a burn. 1 shot, 1 kill! With significant effort I was able to get through the 3rd crux (where i had fallen the last 4 goes) and found myself clipping the chains. This one was a physical and mental battle. Falling at the same spot 4 times in a row had me wondering if I had trained myself to fail there. I was questioning my physical health. But it all worked out, and I thankfully notched a new grade. Well earned, I think.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone for the kind words and well wishes over the last several days. Wonderful people in my life, just one more thing to be thankful for.


The front range is FINALLY cooling off!

Fall in the front range, such an amazing thing. It goes from being balls hot to reasonable in the span of a week. Climbing here gets so much better, too, as the rock gets less smarmy.  The psych levels def amp up for us climbers.

I’ve been working a climb at the new river wall in clear creek (I know, I sound like a broken record) called ‘enjoy your youth’ (13c). I first went down there to try it out about a month ago with my friend Brian Kimball (who bolted it, thanks bk!) Even though I was sick (a bad cold I picked up after my friends’ wedding) I figured out all the moves my first time on it. This was way more promising than the last climb I did, ‘sweet inspirations’.  In my head I was thinking it would go rather quickly based on this ‘promising’ feeling.

The next time I got on it, I was with my buddy Dusty. It was the day after a block party hosted by vine St pub and we were both sporting some serious hangovers.  not without effort, I managed a high point on my last burn of the day, linking to the last hard move of the first crux.  I was hoping for something better, but was ok with progress.

weather and scheduling kept me away for a bit, but I was able to get down there with my friend Keith about a week and a half later. he was working the same climb, which makes for an easy day, logistically. On his first burn of the day (2nd route, total) he easily fired through the crux, only to unfortunately stall and pump off in the middle of the final boulder problem of ‘sonic youth’. It was cool to watch. I, however, was not that lucky. I felt terrible, and actually made negative progress. Nothing felt right, I had no core tension, I just plain climbed like crap. I was extremely frustrated, and defeated. 3 attempts that day and nothing to show for it. unfortunately for Keith, it was a ‘first go, best go’ kind of day.

flash forward to today. Feeling a bit tired and run down, but was psyched to be heading down there with my buddy Shaun, who was psyched to try out ‘sonic youth’. I started the day off right with a proper breakfast at watercourse.  We met at the pullout at 1230, just as the sun was getting off the main face.  A few warmup laps on the 12b, and it was go time.

Complete failure! My feet wouldn’t stick to the shitty footholds, I again had no core tension, and I made even more negative progress. After feeling like I should be on to legit redpoint burns by now, to have to start relearning and reworking beta was a real kick in the teeth. I did figure out a better way to grab a hold in the middle of the crux, but I wasn’t about to hold my breath in anticipation of anything good. I lowered off fairly dejected.

My second burn felt terrible, too. I was second guessing myself on the entry slab, which goes at a mere 5.8. But I got to the start of the climb and fired out onto the overhanging face. Not good, not bad, I was just flowing through moves. I got to the jug at the start of the crux and didn’t feel TOO bad, so I gave it all I had. I placed my left foot on a really bad sloping edge and made the big move to the bad slopey crimp dish. I switched feet and fell into the good crimp with my right hand. At this point my right hand is usually fully open, and I’m barely hanging on. This time, though, I was able to stack my thumb on top and full on crimp! I switched feet again, hit the left hand crimp, and bumped to the pocket. I hit the correct spot, situated my feet as best I could and dropped my right hand towards the crimp I just bumped off of. I hit the hold, paused for a brief moment, and took a sizeable whip. high point!

I belayed Shaun on another climb, and while doing so, contemplated if I was actually going to get back on the project. I had a small snack and some water and decided to go for it.

This time I surprisingly stuck the down move to the crimp! My feet cut off and I had a brief moment of panic as I envisioned a large fall sending me into the slab! But I got my feet back on and composed myself and gingerly made my way over to the final awkward rest on ‘sonic youth’. I rested as much as I could, while mentally going through the beta for the final boulder problem. Not without a lot of effort and some not so flattering noises, I made it to the chains!

This one tested me mentally, as the negative progress I encountered was way worse than any climb I’ve been on.  I usually make steady progress until a send is imminent. But this one was a surprise. I’m just glad I took it to the top the first time I linked through the first crux. I’d like to think I learned something about the process of working a hard route, too.  As always, it’s on to the next challenge!


Damn it feels good to be a gangsta

Yesterday, Saturday August 18th was a rest day. But on this rest day, I decided to build a platform bed in my apartment. This involved hauling a bunch of wood up a steep set of stairs by myself. Not fun! Then the chore of actually building the damned thing. It took twice as long and twice as much energy than I had anticipated. Needless to say, a nap was in order afterward. But it went from nap to just sleeping, and I awoke about 4 hours or so later, roughly 8pm.

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