Who is the Greatest Climber in the World?

I have been thinking about this for at least 15 minutes now and I don’t have a good answer. Here is why. We could look at a couple factors like ability, first ascents, difficulty of climbs and even competition results and I believe that they play a role in making the determination, but at the same time not totally.

What I am getting at is that there are many people who if they had the time (assuming they have the drive) that are capable of climbing routes and boulders at a high level of difficulty. But who is actually the greatest climber? I feel that it could be the climber who has spent the least amount of time training, preparing and climbing. What I mean is that which ever climber that raises the bar in the least amount of time could vie for the name the greatest.

It is not really impressive to me when someone gives a route or boulder 200 times and finally sends it. But what is impressive is the onsight or low attempt send. Any thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School is in session and so is my Training!

The last two weeks have been filled with academic thoughts. The 2017/18 school year has begun for me and it has been the busiest ever. We are making big changes for the learners in our building and the initial stages of the transition are teacher time heavy.

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For the first time in years, I have been bringing work home and that has been a big change for me. I also have been cranking with my training. Over the last two weeks (with a September fitness peak being my goal) I have been following this training program.

  • Rest on Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Circuit Train, Systems board/campus training and routes on Tuesday
  • Circuit Train, Systems board/campus training and Treadwalling on Thursday
  • Climb outside on Saturday or Sunday depending on the weather

My body has been handling the return to training seriously pretty well. I do have soreness in my elbows and knees. In return, my endurance has returned, my lead confidence and my willing to go for it in multiple situations.

I will be going this hard for 3 more weeks and then kick it back to a lower intensity. In order to send my project, the Infinity Round I will need additional power, more endurance and the ability to recover quickly. These things can be developed, recruited and improved in the next month of training. I am excited to go through this process and share it with you.

Today I got on my the Infinity Round and used the attempt to relearn the subtleties of the crux moves and the rest of the pumpy climbing on the route. Many sections on the climb feel impossible if I try the movements the wrong way, but after a little bit of hanging and retrying I was able to relearn what is necessary to send. Today was a good day!

Unaweep and Training

The skin on my fingers is peeling back and finally beginning to callus. This is a good time for me. I have been doing a slow training progression on plastic to get my skin to the point where I can actually do a complete session on my Treadwall. This evening I was finally able to complete a full 4×4 without quitting early due to skin issues. My skin lasted, but I failed physically. That is ok, I can fix that with an increased effort and focus during my weekly training sessions.

Why all the focus? Well, I have just 2 months to complete a route that I bolted three summers ago. Last fall I was one hanging it and ready to send, but I over-scheduled sponsorship duties at American Alpine Club Craggin Classics and missed my opportunity. I was so busy that I couldn’t even take a day off of work. So this spring I was super close to sending and then I got my staph infection in my arm which took 8 weeks to heal. By then the temperatures were too hot, I hadn’t climbed in 2 months and I had to head out of state to visit family.

Now it is fall again and I have sponsorship obligations starting at the end of September and going all the way through October! AHHHHH! Then, the wall will be too cold by November and if I miss my window for being fit, the route will have to wait until spring… again.

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Fortunately, I have a real job teaching high school and the route is just 35 minutes from my house and I have no real reason/need for wanting to send the route other than it is really fun to climb on and that I want to be the first person to free it. It’s called the Infinity Round and has been a major influence for my current training methods on rock and indoors.

This Saturday I was able to get back on the walls of Unaweep to feel where my fitness was at by climbing a few pitches. Right now I am not at the bottom of where I need to be, but I am not far away. I will need to take advantage of the easy things that I can control like my diet, my sleep and my health (I am currently battling a second staph infection fortunately without surgery). The physical training has to be pinpointed in order for the little time that I have to be successful and productive. What I enjoy about the process is that it is messy. My kids are going to get sick and I won’t be able to train. Work will tire me out and I won’t be able to train. Surprises will come up and I won’t be able to train. The weather will be too wild and I won’t be able to even attempt the route. But the light at the end of the tunnel is that it really doesn’t matter on the grand scheme of things and if I sweat it too much then I have lost sight of all the things that really matter in my life like my family and friends. So the moral of the story is to give it my best and enjoy the process. If I find myself trying the route again in the spring, well that is ok too.

 

The End of Summer Vacation

This summer truly flew by in a flash. It began with me still recovering from my May staph infection and surgery. I camped and played with my family locally and in Ohio. Then it was time to head to Canada and finally Washington State and the Cascades for a little climbing. I was debating on traveling to a few different climbing sites for my final week of summer and was excited to choose the one with the best weather. As the days before the trip grew shorter I had not chosen a site yet. I studied the weather each and every day and eventually decided on the Cascades.

It has been a great challenge having to utilize my on-sighting skills on unknown terrain and unknown routes. I am being honest when I tell you that at times I was psyched when the cracks were prefect fingers or hand sized and scared when I didn’t have gear close by and I couldn’t tell where to go and finally, ecstatic when I would find that huge thank goodness hold after a long run out. My partner and I made sure to pick the best routes so that we got to sample the goods on our short trip.

The Hitchhiker, The Passenger, Thin Red Line and The Tiger and Part of Ellen Peas. Each of these routes were long, slabby, technical, mostly well protected with a mixture of bolts and gear. The approaches were uphill (approximately 1000ft in less than a mile for most of them) The climbs required excellent footwork and smearing on tiny or non footholds. And the sun shone brightly the large and imposing granite walls.

Climbing Liberty Peak was a highlight. The Thin Red Line was awesome to get to climb for the first time. The second time on that route would make it even more fun because you would know what gear you needed to save and where you had to punch it.

Additionally, we got to see a wildfire just north of us. Each morning we would wake with ash on the car and a smoky hazy in the valley. It was incredible to see how it grew and grew each day. Fortunately, the wildfire was not near any buildings or roads and deep within the national forest.

As my free time disappears and work at the climbing gym and my school places me back into a regular schedule, I will look back fondly on this summer and plan even bigger for the next one.

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The Passenger on Washington Pass

This route has one 11+ move at a bolt with the rest of the climbing being pretty good. LOTS of awkward movements take away from the route, especially the belays which are not fun to be at (with one or two exceptions). The descent is a breeze, just some walking down hill with your approach shoes on and two short rappels to the base.

We did two routes on this feature and each time approached from a different start point The first time we came up from the switchback (straight up the hill 1hour 15minutes. The second time we came from the Blue Lake trail which is a nicer trail but it takes longer at 1hour 45 minutes. (the latter we did without packs and it still takes that long!)

It was hard for me to find a groove on this route. It constantly threw super weird moves (which I normally enjoy) in the midst of really fun climbing. The bolted traverse pitch was a trip and really fun to figure out on lead and the other pitches were a little less memorable. Overall it was fun but not on the repeat list. I was bummed about that since it is heralded as one of the best in the Cascades.

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Washington Pass and the Cascades

I am beginning my final week of summer with a short trip to the Cascades. We are hoping to climb every day (the weather looks great) and to try out the classics. As of today we climbed The Hitchhiker. This is a super great warm up route to get the feel of the wall. It’s short, well protected, easy to follow and stacked with spectacular pitch after spectacular pitch. We rapped the line and were back to the car for dinner and a soak in the river down in Winthrop, which is about 30 minutes from the pass. Tomorrow we jump on The Passenger. We left our gear stashed up at the base to make the uphill approach not feel so bad since my partner and I are feeling the approach and decent in our knees.

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Arcteryx Climbing Academy

As I have participated, spoke and taught at quite a few climbing events in the past, I have began thinking about how they are similar and different. Here is a list of differences:

Size: some events are small and at the grassroots level and some bring thousands of people together. You have to decide whether you want to be around when your local area says that there is a climbing event. The small ones are intimate and most everyone gets to know each other, experienced climber to beginner and the large ones are like a rock concert!

Location: most events are at desirable locations to climb but they may not be suitable for a big gathering of people. I have found great happiness in the ones where you can walk to everything including the event site, campsite, climbs and even the toilets. Other events where the camping is different from the event which is still different from the climbing can make it feel like you are running errands at while at home. I would say that ideal event locations have everything very close together.

Season for the event: some areas just can’t be climbed at certain times which means that in order for people to want to come the weather has to be nice for climbing and hanging out. What is nice now is that there are pretty much climbing events during every season and for all types of climbers be it bouldering, sport climbing, traditional climbing, aide climbing, ice and alpinism.

Purpose: most events purpose is about bringing climbers together for a good time and teaching new climbers about the sport. Some are about making money. Ultimately for me, they are about meeting new people, sharing stories, climbing, listening or watching speakers or videos and just getting outside for another weekend. Crags might be busy, you may not get to climb the route(s) that you planned on but you get to climb and get to know other climbers, travelers, and dreamers!

Giveaways: some events give away a ton of product from their sponsors. This can be smooth and it can be tricky. I have observed that the audience only stays around for the giveaways but they hate to do it. Raffles are tough to sit through. I enjoy the events where nothing is given away in the mass form at the same time but where you may receive a gift for participating in something at the event. Be that doing a clinic or playing a game or fun competition or attending a presentation.

Games: some events have tons of ways for climbers and non climbers alike to participate and enjoy the venue. It might be by trying to accomplish tasks while climbing or building a trail or cleaning an area or building a parking lot or running races or climbing competitions, costume parties or whatever. I have found that I like these the most! These games bring people together and get people talking to each other which is good for the community.

I have probably forgotten something in the list and I may update it later.

How does the Arcteryx Climbing Academy stack up? I will let you know in another day or two but the opening night was pretty good! I will report out soon.

 

 

Climbing in the Dark?

Last night I was invited to climb the Chief in Squamish. As I hadn’t done that before, I was immediately saying “yes, let’s do it”. Minutes later after scrambling to get my climbing gear together I was getting into Jesse’s rental and we sped off to the granite wall that overlooks Howe Sound in Squamish.

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We were going to mini traction a route. What does that mean? It means that we needed only a mini traction device, our shoes, harness, chalk and a headlamp. Our friend Will had recently hung a few ropes on the whole multipitch route and we were up for some after work fun as the sun was beginning to hide behind the mountains.

I put on my new pair of climbing shoes after we ran up the trail to the base of the route. Jesse was already a pitch up his favorite route in Squamish and I jumped on the line behind him before he reached the first belay. A third joined us Taryn (I think that was his name (a local Squamish guide)). We cruised up the lower angle pitches quickly without a care in the world until we reached some more challenging terrain. Delicately and with encouragement I danced up the wall using mear foot smears and tiny crystals to advance in height. The crack was mainly finger sized with a random hand jam for good measure. The entire climb I couldn’t believe that my feet were staying on the rock on the invisible footholds.

It was at the crux of the route where we each climbed on the rope slowly and methodically. A mistake would mean a fall on the rope and that would mean ridicule from our joyful team. We hooted and hollered as we each climbed perfectly but not without effort up the crack in the darkness until rapping the wall drenched in sweat with wide smiles across our faces.

It has been a while since I felt that way and played with reckless abandon. Thanks Will for hanging that line and providing me with some great memories and thanks Jesse and Tayrn for inviting me to join in the fun!

Whistler… Ah Yeah

First time here at Whistler and it is all that it is cracked up to be! It was hazy due to the wild fires up North, but still awesome. We downhill mountain biked for the first time. I crashed when I got tired at the end of the day and went flying over the handlebars. We rode the Peak to Peak gondola and hiked to the summit of the mountain while smelling the smokey air. Lastly, we saw 3 wild bears on the mountain while riding. Overall it was a good day.

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