Falling in Fall

I am in shape, healthy (except for a 2 week staph infection) and psyched.

The weather has been cooling and the temperatures have been great. Even though all things are looking good for sending, I am still falling. It is certainly not the end of the world, it just means that I am not ready to send just yet.

My hard project, Ramsis is a 190 foot mixed bolts and gear line in Unaweep Canyon. It is a wonderful challenge that has forced me to work on my finger strength (crimps) there are a ton. It has also had me work on my control of body position and timing (as some moves are possible when you lean/shift properly and some are not). Finally, the route has had me work on my sloper lieback moves (these are my least favorite moves which is why I am working them).

I can one hang it at will at this point (I have been on the route around 7 or 8 times) and am surprised with my progress. Maybe one more cold day and I can complete it before the conditions change too much. If not I will tackle the challenge again in the spring. Climbing is for the long term and if it doesn’t happen today, it will tomorrow. I can count on that. So be patient for whatever you are working towards, stay focused and be specific and direct on how you train and it will all come together.

It’s Craggin Classic Time OCTOBER!!!

Hey all,

If you want to catch up or take a climbing clinic with me, now is the time to sign up. I am working the Shelf Road Craggin Classic the 20/21 of October and teaching sport climbing techniques from footwork to onsighting.

Then over the 26/27th of October I will be teaching at the Moab Craggin Classic. Huge Days with a Light Rack is the clinic and my goal is to get the group up a local big feature instead of staying Potash road. It should be fun and a great learning experience!

As always if you have questions on climbing or whatever send me a message and I will get back to you as soon as I see it. The other way to get a hold of me is through my instagram: rob_pizem.

I hope to see you at these two great community building events!                                      Have a great day on the rocks.

4am and What Not to Do.

I am still awake and figure it’s a great time to catch up with my blog post ideas. I hopefully won’t bore you with my thoughts. Now that I have a family and ultimately am no longer heading out of town on a climbing trip (like I did in my 20’s and 30’s) I have come to the conclusion that all the places and features that I would like to climb list will have to be shortened, a lot.

I don’t want to call it a dream tick list or even a dream list because climbing all these features is totally doable but I will will call it a what doesn’t makes sense list because going to obscure places for a rock climb when you could be playing catch or camping or coaching your kids becomes a tough decision. So what are some features or where are some places that I feel that I will remove off of my list?

  • Shiprock: I have always wanted to climb this iconic mountain on the reservation but will save my energy for unclimbed walls in mountains elsewhere. It would be cool to stand there on top over the wide expanse of the desert southwest but ultimately not sure it’s worth the drive, risk and potential challenge of getting permission
  • My 5 Mountain linkup in the Alps.: I have tried to do this link up for over 10 years and it seems like a dumber idea each and every time. The weather is what determines success in the mountains and I am always trying during summer when the weather is more unstable (wet) than the late summer or fall. So year after year I fail. After this years fail, I was so bummed that I decided to give up on not only all of the challenge but even for climbing the individual walls. I will live with looking at other peoples photos on the internet at this point and be happy with that.
  • Climbing in Alaska: I have wanted to do this for years, but no one that I have wanted to climb with was ever able to go or wanted to go when I could. It will have to be passed on for me and I will keep the goal of going to Alaska to hike/sight see and be immersed in the wild rather than climb something, anything cool.
  • Pakistan for Real Big walls: Years ago we had a trip planned. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. Experiencing the culture, seeing and climbing on the biggest mountains of the world and feeling completely and totally off the grid will unfortunately never happen. The time to go never coincides with my teaching schedule and the time away to have a meaningful trip is unattainable with my family and career unless I take a semester off (which isn’t likely)
  • Patagonia: This place has truly been on the list of places to go for me but again, the climbing season is during the school year and I am unable to take that time off. Also the weather is normally extremely bad and that is not too enticing.
  • I am sure there are a few others and I will add them later, but for now I am finally tired and going to try to sleep for an hour before the kids get up.

Staying Motivated

It is 3am on a Friday night. My wife and I have each been up with our youngest son while he is learning to not wet the bed. After my wake up at 2:22am I am now not able to sleep. The question that has been on my mind for the last hour has been, how do I stay motivated to try hard in climbing.

I reflected on my childhood motivation while lying in darkness and listening to my son wiggle and roll in his bed while sometimes letting out crys of fear or joy during his dreams. As a little kid my parents taught me to be goal oriented. They started with establishing small daily goals, like finishing my homework and putting my toys away. These small tasks that I accomplished with their guidance allowed me to stack more on my plate.

Once I began playing sports I was able to work on my weaknesses, like pitching for baseball or backhand shots for hockey. My dad hung a tarp in the back yard, measured out the pitching distance, got a bucket of balls and I threw and threw and threw into that strike zone until I was accurate. The same thing happened with hockey, my backhand was weak so he brought home a piece of metal for me to lay on the ground and practice shooting at the brick wall of our house. After hours of these tasks I improved.

The same thing was necessary for me and my academics. I was not the gifted student but I could sit and do the math problems or write spelling words over and over and over until I could out answer and out spell the other kids in class. So when it comes to climbing I can spend the time on the little things that keep me motivated.

I know that my crimp strength is weak, so I spend the time doing repeaters each and every time that I train. I know that my core can always be stronger for the tension moves and overhanging rock that I enjoy to climb, so I train it twice a week without falter and I know that explosive power is a weakness, so I brought back campus Thursdays to the program.

What does all this have to do with staying motivated? Well, like most of us I have very little time. Between teaching high school, working at my job at the local climbing gym, being a involved parent and husband and trying to be a good climber/sponsored athlete it is easy to say that since I don’t get to climb every weekend anymore that I shouldn’t project anything anymore or that I shouldn’t want to improve. I say that is not easy but that that attitude is not the one that I carry (although I do get unmotivated throughout the year) most of the time.

I look at what I want to do, I look at the details that will make it possible, I look at the possible time investment and then I decide whether or not I want to put in the time and baby steps to make it happen. Some goals are easy to achieve and ultimately are less satisfying (to me at least) while others take a long time and linger in our heads for weeks, months or years. If I can keep chipping away at the small things to achieve the bigger goal, then I am motivated, but if it continuously remains futile and not in the cards, then maybe I chose the wrong goal at the wrong time.

The last few years have been a huge learning curve for me and goal setting. I have made a few correct choices and a few poor ones. Ultimately, the wrong ones lead to adding external stress beyond climbing and that is not cool (it is after all just climbing). But I have learned what is appropriate and worth while and satisfying even though I still choose poorly now and again.

So what’s the point? Pick something that is worth it, pick it apart and then practice what needs to be done in order to get there. Set a reasonable time frame knowing that it can require less or more time. Lastly, know that with every ball you throw or puck you shoot that you are moving one step closer to achieving something special. I know that I will.

Highs and Lows

Having just come off a high volume climbing trip in Europe and Canada I am now entering the low volume or sometimes called NO volume climbing time at home.

It’s my priority to not disappear from my family into the mountains now that I am back. I have made some short 2-4 hour sessions of new routing in the canyon since returning, but that is always while everyone else is busy and usually at 6am.

I am however beginning my training cycle for the fall.

  1. Tuesdays: core/circuit training followed by finger and hand strength training, followed by leading routes at the gym
  2. Thursdays: core/circuit training followed by explosive power/campusing and climbing movement followed by Treadwall session
  3. Saturday or Sunday try to climb outside depending on the weather and family obligations, climbing will be on new routes and one burn a week on my project

This cycle will continue for 5-6 weeks and I will bump up the intensity slowly, so as not to get injured. Those other days I will rest and do some light running to maintain cardio fitness.

So what should you do? Plan on getting fit for something (not just anything). My project is 190 ft tall,  full of tiny crimps followed by powerful lock-offs. That is why my program looks the way that it does. I address all my needs in a simple and direct plan.

Arcteryx Climbing Academy 2018

This years Academy was better than ever. It was powerful for the participants due to the high quality courses and well experienced teachers and for the team in that we honored one of our past team members Marc-Andre Leclerc. He passed too soon and was one of those “one of a kind souls”. He brought an excitement to all whom he met and positively loved the adventure of the outdoors. Thursday night was all about honoring him and his past adventures and accomplishments in addition to demonstrating what kind of person he was with others.

Additionally, we heard from Craig Demartino about his 100 foot fall years ago and how he overcame the enormous injuries. Incredible story really, Craig is top notch. Read of on his experiences and be sure to watch his video Craig’s Reaction

Another presenter who was completely inspiring was Leo Houlding. He spoke about his recent challenge in the south pole. I was in awe as he spoke of the harsh Antarctic environment and how he and his team overcame all the obstacles that came before and after the climb.

Finally, this was the second year for the photo showdown. Six professional photographers had two days to make a slide show with a Arcteryx Athlete and a chosen climber. I was fortunate to be one of the Arcteryx athletes and we worked ourselves into destroyed human beings as we walked all over the Chief climbing for the shots that our fearless leader wanted. Mateo was my partner in for the two days and it was great to have a positive spirit who was also becoming a local as he had just began climbing only 3 years ago. Our team did not win the competition, but we laughed a lot and climbed new routes all day long which was all that we could ask for.  Photos by Thomas Burden Thanks Thomas for doing a great job and having so much fun with us!

Finally, I got to teach an Off-Width clinic in the Smoke Bluffs. I had a wonderful group of climbers who wanted to know the ins and outs of off width climbing. Everyone was worked at the end of the day from trying all the different techniques for ascending those odd sized cracks.

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Travel Time

As I sit here in the airport at 3:30 am waiting for my crack of dawn flight, I am in a daze. I have just traveled for over 30 hours and am still not at my final destination yet. The last few times that I have visited my family or gone overseas I have gotten caught in a series of significant setbacks. The reasons are plenty and even reasonable: no pilots, no crew, no plane, weather, no parking for a plane, an actual maintenance repair, paperwork, you get the idea. I have just been unfortunate when it comes to the airline informing me of what to expect when something does come up.

For example a flight that I took this summer to go and visit my parents that my kids only get to take once a year kept on getting postponed. Add an hour or 45 minutes to the delay every time and when it actually came time to load the airline, the airline would suddenly bump it back more. This gets tough for adults and children alike. The thinking that you are going to board and take off, only to have your world rocked when they just delay the flight a little more eventually reaching nearly 12 hours of standing by for the flight to board and take off. My kids could have dealt with it much better if they just knew from the first place that it was delayed the entire day. We wouldn’t have had to be ready the entire day which also makes the travelers life a bit better (even though the delay itself is unfortunate).

This trip home from Europe was the same. The first flight was on time and the second, was delayed multiple times with no explanation. We eventually got on and flew home but the anticipation or lack of knowledge of the cause is actually the bigger issue.  It is not hard to say, “we messed up and are scrambling to get a crew, we don’t know when or who it will be but we are trying” Or “the weather is preventing your pilots from getting to this flight in time. Based on the fact that they are X miles away we can expect them on this amount of time.” Those types of answers can make it easier for the user to manage their potential stress and for sure their mood as they patiently wait to get going.

Wen I look at flying when I was younger, it seemed like there were fewer delays, fewer issues and lower stress. Now you have to get to the airport 3 hours early which is ridiculous and even then it doesn’t mean you will make it through the ticket counter or the TSA in time to make your flight.

So when you doe travel, stay happy even when those delays come your way.

Chamonix, France

Finally we had a good spell of weather forecasted and plenty of dry rock to climb on. The Eiger would have to wait for warmer weather and if I wanted to climb it, I would have to be there in late August. Unfortunately, that is the beginning of the school year and as a school teacher I will be unable to get back to the Eiger when the conditions are dry and a bit warmer. So I am happy to have seen it, hiked up part of it and climbed a few meters of the wall that guarantees no ascent.

Chamonix on the other hand is full of routes that are dry and easily accessible and Mike and I were chomping at the bit to try a few of them out the final days of our trip to Europe. With a great place to stay and reasonably priced multi-day lift passes we planned our next few climbs and sampled the walls around the valley.

Riding the lifts is a blessing and a curse. Here is why I think so. You are stuck riding up and down the mountain only when they are available. That means that you are at the mercy of the crowds to get up the mountain and down the mountain. You can not say that you will be anywhere in particular at a certain time unless you sleep on the mountain itself in a tent or in a hut. With so many people using the lifts to get into the mountains routes are often filled to parties of climbers. The norm is a group of 3 heading up one of the trade routes. My suggestion is to never pick a trade route unless you and your partner can climb fast and try them a few hours later in the day. It will certainly be more enjoyable rather than being tied up in a line at hanging belays. The other challenge with the lifts is that you need to be back to them by the time that they close. Otherwise you are sleeping over (which is no big deal unless you need to be somewhere) or hiking down thousands of feet of very steep knee destroying trails. The trails are beautiful and switch back down the mountain but my beat up and worn out knees can only take so much bashing in one day.

Now for the climbing. There are routes on every formation that you can see and they often criss-cross each other making finding the “line” a challenge. Routes come close together and guidebooks don’t usually include all the neighboring climbs so it is very possible and easy even to get onto another route without even knowing it until you are on terrain that is way too easy or way to difficult. Additionally, in France they use bolts everywhere. Not that every route is a clip up, but that every route will have bolts on it somewhere. Sometimes next to a crack, sometimes on the face and sometimes there will be anchors just a few feet from each other. All the bolts should make things easier but in the end they were a bit confusing for us.

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The Eiger

Once the weather broke in the mountains we jetted up from Croatia though Slovenia, Italy and into Switzerland. I had always wanted to see the Eiger and try to climb it, so we were going for it. Not knowing the conditions or even how to get to the climb we started off slowly, but confidently. Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc and the conversion was easy as it was a 1 : 1 conversion with the US dollar meaning that it was worth the same. Anyway, that being said Swiss prices are 2 to 3 times more expensive than in the United States. Passes to ride the train up the Jungfrau (The Eiger is next to it) are high, but it saves 3-4 hours of walking before the normal 1.5 hours approach to the route.

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After talking with some guides and shop employees in town we had a pretty good description of the route and how to get there, the problem was that we could never see it from town. The clouds just hung right over the Geneva Pillars (where the climb was located). This made it difficult to actually understand the descriptions that we received. So we headed up the mountain to find the route as it was already late in the day with hopes of climbing it tomorrow. We brought our gear with hopes of stashing it at the approach rappels. After an hour or so of walking in a cloud up steep slabs and alongside snowfields we came to a cliff. Even though we couldn’t see through it or down it we believed that we were at the rappels for the route. We decided to remain there for a while in hopes of actually seeing the rock. After about an hour of wandering through the clouds a tiny opening emerged. It was maybe 50 foot wide. We saw enough to think were were there yet not enough for me to be sold that we really were there. In the end we left our gear under a rock and headed back to catch one of the last trains down the mountain. Nothing seemed correct about where we were and even after walking further up the mountain and down climbing the cliff that we ended at something seemed amiss.

It wasn’t until the following day that we saw where we walked and where the climb actually was located. It is amazing what a lack of clouds does for visibility. Anyway, with a forecast for afternoon showers we explored the valley instead of the north face of the Eiger and headed out early the next morning. When we arrived at the climb another unforeseen thing happened, the entire upper half of the was running with water while half of the bottom half was running with water. We were foiled. We had another option which was to lower in to the bottom half, climb the upper steep 70 meters of the lower 100 meters (the first being a slab) and then try the neighboring route. So we did just that and realized that it was freezing cold on the wall. It is windy and around 32 degrees while we climbed and as our feet and hands went numb during that top rope we both felt like it was the wrong time to be on the wall. We were also surprised to see a film crew filming the upper half of the other route that we were going to try. I was willing to try the other route but when the professional climber that was getting filmed was unable to make it up the route due to the harsh conditions, we felt ok about heading back down the mountain and to Chamonix, France where the weather was soon to be stable and dry.