Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast of Fools

To say life has been insane recently is an understatement. I could list all the weirdness that has been happening in my life, but I'm sure you could probably trump me if you tried hard enough. So, let's focus on some good stuff. Shall we?

Despite all the trials and tribulations of life, I really wanted to get out for a good day of climbing this weekend. I connected with one of my favorite partners, Alex, for a day at the Gunks on Saturday.

Alex indicated that he hadn't climbed much over the past couple months, and I haven't climbed much either. The difference is that Alex is almost 10 years younger and is as strong as the Terminator on steroids. I don't know if it's the 12 hour workdays, becoming a Grandpa, or just plain getting old, but my climbing has been a bit off this year. I'm putting my money on the former because I know I was climbing damn well earlier this year before accepting this new job. Gotta think postive, eh?

Anywho0000, the Gunks were increibly muggy Saturday morning as we searched for a warm-up climb. We say Dawn's friend, Steven, at the deli, and then again at the base of the Mac Wall. Steven was climbing with Mike, another Gunks addict. They were pondering Higher Stannard (5.9-), one of my favorite climbs...It's about as thin and bouldery as you can get for the first 20 feet and it takes BIG ONES to just get off the ground. It's my kind of climb. Steven pondered alternate starts while Alex and I eyed up Something Interesting (5.7+) which is a nice warm-up if dry, but today was seeping wet. Alex said, "Let's do it", so I offered him the lead. I have done this climb many times, but was in no mood for leading on wet rock. Alex took his time, and was fine on the lead. In the meantime, I think I probably ticked off Steven by offering unwanted advice, and they opted for MF (5.9+), a harder but more protectable climb.

After we finished our climb, I watched Steven pull the crux on MF, and then we moved on. I wondered why they picked such a hard climb on such a muggy day. I figured we would just take it easy on moderate stuff and get in a lot of climbing. As usual, I was wrong, and it was primarily my doing.

Before I knew it, we were standing at the base of City Streets (5.10a), an easy climb if you are tall, and nearly impossible if you are short. It's a one move wonder that Dawn and I had worked on sometime last year. We managed to fumble our way up it, but it was not exactly free climbing. In theory, I can reach the key hold, and had done so following last year. Unfortunately, I fell several times that day trying to lead it, and stood there thinking, "Perhaps today?" despite being less fit than last year. Nevertheless, we started roping up for the climb.

I worked my way up to the crux move without any issues. I protected the heck out of the thing, but the real protection is an old piton below the roof. After a bit of scoping out the moves, I gave it the old college try, and failed. I was about 3 inches short of the key hold and couldn't reach it. I came close a couple times, and then started losing strength. Alex lowered me off, and then he gave it a try. Alex is tall enough to reach the key hold without much trouble, and then I fumbled my way up it to pull out the gear.

Alex offered me the next lead, since he had pulled off 2 nice leads. I was spent from all that effort of City Streets, so opted for a nice easy climb with great features, Hans Puss (5.7). In the meantime, Alex watched a couple young guns do, Feast of Fools, a hard, pumpy 5.10c rated climb. 5.10 is about our limit for leading, and I shuddered knowing that Alex might want to try it. Dawn had described an epic to me that involved this climb, and it looked damn hard (5.10c is quite a bit harder than 5.10a if you are keeping score). She had led the 2nd pitch on this last year, and I enjoyed following it. It was hard, but didn't look nearly as hard as the first pitch.

After following me up Hans Puss, Alex decided to try Feast of Fools from the ground. Ughh! "I think this is harder than he realizes", I thought to myself. Being a good partner, I did not try to discourage him, and figured he would find a way to get up it. I also wondered how I would get up it. Alex seemed to struggle on this one from the beginning, and belaying him became a full-time job. He had to hang a few times below the first big roof, and I thought we were in for an epic. Nevertheless, he made it through the first crux roof and pressed on after a smart rest. The climbing seemed to get easier, and he moved up the rest of the way without much trouble. Great job Alex! Now it was my turn. Despite being wiped out, I managed to climb the darn thing without falling. I surprised myself completely, but still not sure I would have the guts to try leading it. It is one tough climb.

Now, it was my turn. I stared at the second pitch and wondered if I had enough strength. I was very tired and shaky, but it was my kind of climbing...thin climbing, barely adequate protection, and a clean fall. Despite my better judgment, I found myself leading the pitch. I did a reasonable job of protecting the crux move, but had no gas left in the tank. I worked hard to pull the crux, but kept getting weaker. I was complete spent. After multiple tries, I felt like the real "fool" and let Alex take the lead. He pulled off the move without any trouble, and then I fumbled my way up it. I was truly done for the day.

So, what do I make of all this? Well, I definitely got in a great workout, and learned a lot. Alex has turned into a top notch rock climber, and is starting to realize his abilities. Thanks to Alex, I was able to get on a hard 5.10 and follow it cleanly. I love climbing and trying new routes...time to start climbing hard again.

I also learned that I need to find a new regular climbing partner. Alex informed me that he is moving to Seattle in July to open a new office for his software business. I know he is going to love it there, and I wish him the best of luck. We have a 10 day trip planned for Colorado in August, so it may be one of our last big adventures together. I'm looking forward to it!

For this week, I will leave you with a thought...actually a request. Can I impose on you a bit?

Here is my request:

Try something new this week...push yourself a hair beyond what you might think is possible...even if you fail as I did on Feast of Fools, you will have an adventure and learn something new. Heck, what's the worst that can happen? Think about it! You may not get the results you desire, but you can still feel good about making the effort. It's worth the attempt! Give it a try...

Have a great week everyone!