Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I don't care anymore.

An article in Climbing Magazine that I read today really spoke to what I've been thinking about lately in my own climbing experiences/goals.  The subject of some of my latest blogs has been climbing grades, or more simply put, my thirst to break the 5.11 boundary, which I can safely say I have done now.  What I can also say is something that I have been pondering in my head for the past decade of climbing, and have heard from most veteran climbers as well- grades are stupid.  In my push to break my own "limit", climbing at a level of difficulty that I had not until this year, I have worked on several 5.11's in my local gym.  I wrote earlier on those experiences, and noted that some climbs seems to have one or two "5.11" moves, where others seemed much more sustained in difficulty.  But the grade was the same.  Other routes, established by other climbers and that shared the same grade felt different yet.  A few days ago I flashed a 5.11a, followed by a flash of a 5.11b.  Neither felt as hard as the 5.10a I warmed up on.  It really got me to think over my years of climbing, and all the similar times when I've been climbing in different parts of the country, on routes with differing histories, at times of differing fitness levels, and various types of rock and styles of climbing.  The more I think about it, yearning after a particular grade doesn't really mean much at all.  I could flash several 5.11a routes at my gym, and I know I'd get spit out of any 5.11a crack in Indian Creek I attempted the next day (or be terrified by a runout Black Hills 5.9).  I could struggle on a roof route rated 5.9 on Wall Street, walk 50 feet away to a face climb and flash it at 5.10c.  It's all a bit skewed, right?  So what is a climber supposed to do?  Not what I've been doing.  Don't chase grades just to "get better".  Seek out the experience of whatever climb you happen to rope up on, and enjoy it for whatever feel it has.  Whatever it has to offer.  Only you know when you've been challenged by a climb; only you know what personal grade on that exact day occurred.  So cherish the fun you had climbing that 5.7 crack with your pals, or yawn at how dumb and unimaginative that last 5.10 was.  Feel the rush of crimping your way through a dicey face sequence that pushed you farther than you've gone before.  Rate your climbs by your personal experience.  That's why we started climbing in the first place.  I'm done pre-rating a climb before I've touched it.  Don't walk up to a climb just looking at it's guidebook grade.  Hop on with an open mind and see what it does for you that day.  

Enjoying a stellar day with good friends on good rock, southern UT:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nice work.

To expand on my last post, Lance is still strong.  I'm glad to say I'm embarrassed at asking "will it be lame?".  He has ridden in excellent form in the T of CA and it's been great to watch him tear up the peloton again.  I'm still a fan.  

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Amgen Tour of CA

It's here again to kick of the pro cycling race schedule for the year, and this year, Lance is back.  Will it be cool?  Will it be lame?  The return of course, the tour will certainly be cool.  We'll see if Armstrong has what it takes to race old.  The man is very strong to say the least, but he's at an age where we typically do not see the same performance in racing bicycles.  I wish all the riders the best, and it should be sunny in CA!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick Bay Area trip.

"Box up your gloves and your down coats, bound for the sun and the west coast...." -Dashboard Confessional

Since I've become officially tired of this MN winter business after knowing the fun of the west, I decided to head there last weekend.  I spent three days hanging out and climbing with friends Edward Doerr and David Konerza, whom some of you know.  It's been a while since I've gotten to climb outside three days in a row.  Makes me smile, for sure.  The first day we headed up Mt. Diablo for some of it's somewhat crumbly but good enough sandstone.  Lead an easy two pitch 5.8 (or 5.9 depending on guide book, either way not hard) sport route called the Cave Route, apparently a Bay Area classic.  Good times.  You lead the first pitch up a face of flakey sandstone with a mixture of scary old homemade bold hangers (which did appear mostly safe, but weird), and newer bolts added by people who followed after the sixties :) . The pitch then ends in a cave, where a second pitch takes you up through a hole in the ceiling, which turns out to be the ground above and behind the main rock wall, so you pop out looking like you came out of some deep underground location.  Odd, and fun.  But one thing did make the second pitch the most disgusting climbing I've ever experienced.  Like many caves, this one was absolutely full of bird crap.  We had to do the second pitch, or leave gear as a rappel anchor to return down the first, so I mustered up the gusto to climb through the most animal feces I've ever rolled around in.  Gross.  Wonderful climb except for that stuff.  It's actually still rated four stars, which is very high in fun factor, so that tells you the climbing is worth the poo-fest. 
Second day climbing was done at Indian Joe Caves, at twilight so not much got done, but it was a good time nonetheless.  Top roped an easy warm up, then did an unmarked climb on top rope that was possibly a highball boulder problem.  Good face climbing on basalt; didn't get to stay long enough because the park closed at sundown (just made it out past frowny rangers; sorry boys, the bar will still be there a half hour later.)  
Day three brought us into San Francisco, and the most urban climbing experience I've had to date.  We went by GPS to a chirt wall called the Beaver Street Wall, cuz, well, it's on Beaver Street and it is a wall.  It's in the middle of a very dense SF neighborhood, near the Haight Ashbury area.  It was home to an excellent stiff 5.9 crack route, with lots of glassy
 friction moves to make for confusing moves.  Climb of the weekend.  Only thing we really felt pumped on, which means we need to go harder next time.  (Next time might be Saturday if I get antsy and go out again.)  Enjoy the pix...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Missed it.

So I went to the gym tonight, and the project I was working on has been taken down.  Bummer.  It was only up for a month, which isn't that long considering how long some gym routes stick around, especially good ones like that that a lot of people are working.  So I never did send it, although I had all the moves down.  The good news is another 5.11a took it's place, and I managed to flash it.  Nice.  Feels great to get something the very first time, although, I have to admit I really don't think it was 11a.  Me flashing it is a good indicator that it's not.  I'll take it though.  Grades are stupid anyway.  :)

Monday, February 02, 2009

It swings hard...

The temperature sure doesn't stay put here in STP.  This weekend's post was all about warmth, but today's bike commute returned to -15 windchills.  It's downright normal to see 60 degree swings in the "feels like" temp around here depending on the time of year.  Amazing.  And something else that's amazing is that I still manage to overheat biking in our low temps.  I can barely walk down the street in my regular clothes, but with the bike gear on and exerting energy, I almost always end up sweating, even well below zero.  Nuts.  
One more noteworthy cold weather cycling reference would be the Arrowhead 135, going on now.  Check it out.  Ride your bike.  Even if it's damn cold out.  

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Warm wx ski...

Yesterday was a very good day for MN.  After spending over a month without seeing temps above freezing, we thawed to 46 degrees in STP!  Yeah, I realize to some ready this blog 46 is a cold winter day, but after living through -25 plus horrible windchills, 46 feels incredibly warm to a Northerner.  I knew by the forecast friday night that I needed to be outside saturday, so I planned on getting out to Afton State Park to do some nordic skiing.  I had to be careful to go early enough, because those kind of temps pretty much ruin the ski conditions.  I ended up skiing a couple hours on descent snow (for MN), then for the last half hour it turned to glue in the heat.  I still have to say it was by far the best time I've had on my skis yet since buying them last year, due to the warmth and lack of cold weather pain, as well as the fact that Afton is a descent looking little park, with some actual up and down terrain.  And the uphill sections were very easy to grip due to the warm conditions.  And another thing I noticed was that the warmer temps allowed for more slowing down to enjoy things- I picked out the familiar but missed smell of cool (not bitter) air with pine and snow.  Typical mountain smell that brings a smile.  All in all a nice day out.  It won't stay this way; I'm sure we're in for more winter gloom, but it was nice to enjoy some of a weekend in warmer temps without having to get on a plane and escape.  Spring, you're welcome to come anytime now...  

Uphill stretch (yeah, I know those of you in UT climb thousands of feet on skis and not tens, but it's all we have here)...

Is that sun and blue sky, in January, in MN??  Nice.