Sunday, November 2, 2008

Changing Seasons

They say peak foliage has past. The leaves are falling and it's more cold than not these days. The end of October and the changing of the clocks generally signifies the end of climbing season and the beginning of running with long pants. To be specific, I call it at 45 degrees. Below 45 degrees and I run with long pants....Below 45 degrees and I can't feel my fingers on the cold rock....and so another year starts to wind down.

Like the animals prepping for the long winter, climbers scurry to get in every last pitch of outdoor climbing to help get them through the winter. Sure, there's ice climbing, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, and even ski mountaineering. They are great activities, and I love them all, but it still doesn't change the fact that dancing up the rock is nearly over for the year. Similarly, the racing season is coming to an end. The NYC marathon was run this weekend, and it's usually one of the last of the year. Like it or not, winter is upon us.

This weekend was a weekend to savor. Savor every bit of good weather, and enjoy every bit of sunlight. With the Goat and I tapering for the Stone Cat Ale 50 miler next weekend, I was only planning to run for around 90 minutes, so there was time and energy for other stuff this weekend.

I headed to the Gunks on Saturday to meet up with old friend, Scotty, and get in some much needed climbing...possibly the last day at the Gunks this year. The day started out cool, but promised to be a great one. In my excitement to get in some climbing and to team up with Scotty again, I elected to jump on a tough, but moderately rated crack climb. I had climbed it once before and it felt challenging but fairly straight forward. This time, however, I could barely feel my fingers on the cold rock, and I got a couple moves out of sequence. I tried to down climb, but could not feel my fingers, and popped off the rock. I only fell a couple feet, but it was a discouraging and embarassing start to the day. Scotty was my partner when I took my worst climbing fall about 4 years ago, and I was starting to think it was a mental thing for me.

I decided to forget about it and savor the day. Scotty decided to lead a climb called Gorilla My Dreams for which I know an interesting variation. We did my variation, and Scotty enjoyed it thoroughly. We ran into some guys from Montreal who were also trying to savor the last bits if the climbing season. We talked briefly, but knew we all wanted to get back to climbing.

We proceeded to the Mac Wall - one of my favorite parts of the cliff. As usual, it was crowded there with so many great climbs in a 100 foot stretch. There is a very thin face climb called Higher Stannard that I particularly enjoyed when I led it a few years ago. It's very intimidating because the holds are very small and there is very little protection for the first 20 feet or so of climbing. The climb is consistently hard, but I remember really enjoying it. While I didn't feel particularly "on my game" on this day, I love the look and feel of this climb. It's a fairly risky start, but I know I can do it. I'm known as a fairly bold leader compared to others, but I don't feel overly confident. Scotty patiently waits for me to decide, and I say "Let's do it". The entire time we are roping up, I'm thinking about doing an easier climb, but I'm committed at this point. I'm thinking of the fall I took this morning, less than 20 feet from the ground.

No room for error....don't listen to the horde of people around you. Focus on every single tiny crystal of rock that you need to boulder up this face. Do it quickly, but don't you dare make a mistake. Pull, smear, crimp, crimp, get your feet up, move... I get to the first horizontal and get a small nut in for protection. I try to get a tiny cam in and get it stuck with only half the lobes engaged. I can't get it out, and my stance is too precarious to yank on it. I clip it and go...Now, I have to go another 10 feet with questionable protection. I keep my head and press on. I finally get 2 good pieces of protection placed and let out a sigh of relief, but there's a long way to go. Damn, this is one thin climb. I move up and place a very questionable nut, but it's better than nothing. This is the crux, and I'll take any protection I can get. I crimp hard and work my feet up until I can grab something solid. Throw in more pro and now I'm feeling better. I move up further, but now nothing looks familiar. Scotty checks the book, but it doesn't help. I know I'm off route, but don't want to down climb. I decide to hand travers across manky lichen covered rock, but soon I'm back on route. Up and through a couple overhangs and I'm finally at the anchors. Yee haa! Life is good. Time to celebrate.

Scotty cleans the gear from the route, and we move on to easier climbing. We enjoy the weather, talk about life's challenges, inspect the damage from a recent rock fall, and savor every bit of time we have there. Another classic Gunks day!

Sunday brings cooler temps as Dawn and I head out for a morning run. The long pants are on for the first time this year. We're wearing hats and long sleeves. It takes a couple miles to warm up, but the sun is great. The views are wonderful, and you can see what the leaves have hidden all summer. I savor the sun and the run. These temps will soon feel warm when we look back in January.

Goat and I are heading up to run Stone Cat on Saturday. This is his first ultramarathon, and he's never run a race longer than 5 miles. Of course, he paced me for 30+ miles in Vermont, so we know he can do some serious distance. I'm psyched for him and excited to do another race. This will be my 3rd ultra this year (50, 100, 50) which is completely new territory for me. I don't feel like I'm in peak condition, but the 1:25 in the 1/2 marathon shows I have pretty good fitness. It will bring an end to an incredible running year, and give some time to re-group for next year. My plan, of course, will be to savor every mile of it!

All the best!

Steve

1 comment:

Jamie said...

You make the climbing sound like a lot of fun! No doubt you'll do great this Saturday. I'm volunteering at the race, so see you there. Best of luck and kick some butt.