Monday, July 6, 2009

A week to remember: A.K.A. Northeast climbing vs. climate change

Vacations...most people take a vacation to relax. Me, I need a day to relax AFTER my vacations.

I spent the past 5 days rock climbing in various places, and partying with friends between rain drops. It was good!

One of my climbing partners, Natasha, says that we are "Adrenaline Junkies", and I think she is right. Yesterday, I was barely awake until it was my turn to lead a climb. The climb was not terribly difficult, but the protection rating indicated that it was not a very safe climb if you fell (Rated "R" like the movie rating: X is bad, G is good). The person who was gearing up for it decided not to do it, so I roped up and led the climb. Afterwards, Natasha said, "You look awake now". I not only felt awake, I felt ALIVE! Everything was more in focus and I had a smile on my face.....

A couple hours later, I was falling asleep on a ledge 70 feet off the ground. I wanted to lead a hard climb, and the day was getting long. I was trying to wait patiently for my turn on the sharp end of the rope, but I'm not so patient. Finally, near the end of the day, it was my turn, and I threw myself at Ants Line. I had led this climb on two occasions, but the last time was about 3-4 years ago. I was curious to see if I had the guns to pull through the crux this time around. Since everyone was seeking shade on this day, I had a decent crowd of on-lookers as I negotiated my way up the steep open book. I was pleased with my stemming and gear placements, and all seemed to be going well. I dropped a big cam in just below the crux roof, and felt pretty good despite the lack of decent feet and my arms were starting to tire. I started into the move, but felt myself getting tired. I backed off a little, but realized I couldn't easily down climb to a decent stance. At that point, my friend Mobes, shouted, "Come on, you know what you have to do..." He seemed to have no doubt in his voice that I would make the move. With that positive reinforcement, I took a deep breath and pulled through the crux with my friends all yelling silly things like "Yeah, you go Dude!" Such things that are music to your ears when it is directed at you, but may seem silly when you hear other people yelling it at their friends. I finished off the last 30 feet of the climb and was basking in my adrenaline rush. After I lowered off, "Natasha said, "Good job, you look human again!" Wow, am I that much of an adrenaline addict? ...or was it the stress relief from a good workout?

Either way, I quickly went and flashed another hard climb on toprope (no real risk of injury) and then spent the rest of my effort on a climb that was at my limits in terms of finger strength for the day.

It was a good end to a great 5 days of climbing.

As for the the other 4 days...It all started with some sport climbing at a local crag with Mobes and Natasha. On that day, I did an on site lead of a new 5.9/10 sport climb that got me thinking it could be a good week.

On Thursday, we only got in 1 short climb due to the rain in the Adirondacks, but we persevered through the rain on Friday to bag some great climbs. The rock dried quickly in between rain bursts and I managed to lead an easy classic, The Sword, and then we toproped a new 5.10d (hard). I flashed the 10d, and started thinking maybe I had my Mojo back. Hmmm...this could get interesting. Despite the on set of more rain, I was damned if I was going to stop climbing now that my mojo was back. We would just climb something moderate that we could hopefully pull through if the rain got worse. Ged let the first pitch of a classic, and I started on a long thin traverse with sparse protection. I was fine until I got to a wide wet streak that was quickly turning into a river. I clipped an old manky pin and went for it knowing that conditions were just getting worse. I finished off the climb with a smile on my face which was flush with adrenaline. Ged had terror in his voice as he shouted to me as he followed the pitch. I had a sick smile on my face knowing that I had just won a hand of Russian Roulette once again and listened intently as Ged played his hand.

After rappeling off the climb, the light rain turned into a full on downpour as if the Gods were saying, "OK, you've had enough fun for one day". The rain continued all night and into the next morning.

A few of us decided to head south to the Gunks, since the weather forecast showed no sign of relief and we wanted to climb. My days off are precious these days and I needed to get my fix.

After driving 3+ hours, we were back in action at my home crag, and life was good. I found a nice cam stuck in a crack and managed to get it out...a nice piece of booty to replace the pair of new shoes I seem to have lost. We got a few good pitches in, and I led a climb that I had never been on. It was scary looking, but much easier than advertised. Natasha and Mika seemed to think it was harder than it's grade, so I started thinking, "Maybe I really do have my mojo back".

That night we had a great happy hour and dinner in New Paltz. I saw several old acquaintances at the crag the next day, and life was good.

Yes, we're back to the point where this tale started.

It was a good trip despite the fact that we didn't get to do much climbing in the DAKS. I love the new DAKS guidebook (Thanks Dawn!) and am glad it didn't take too much of a beating from the rain. Can't wait to use it again! Had so much fun hanging out with Mobes, Arie, Natasha, and the rest of the gang. Mobes brought a case of Black Label, and beer never tasted so good at Happy Hour. Haven't had that beer since college.

My fingers are hurting as I type this note. I guess a rock climber knows that had a good vacation when that happens...

Hope you all had an awesome 4th of July!



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