Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Heat Wave!

It was quite toasty here in SoCal last weekend - temps jumped up to the 90s without much warning.
Due to my landlords suddenly deciding not to renew the lease with my housemates and I in Pasadena and some frisbee drama leaving my feelings pretty bruised, we decided to take a more relaxing weekend plan. We slept in Saturday morning and Luke went to the gym to set some routes while I stayed home and did a little homework and some apartment searching.

On Sunday, we headed out to Woodson in the morning to get some climbing in before it got unbearably hot. We went to Hard as Nails first to try to boulder the line, which we both previously did clean on TR. Head games were very much in play as it suddenly seemed a lot harder to do the thin moves without a rope. It's going to take some more work to do this one.

Then we headed to Hear My Train a'Comin, where we set up a TR so Luke could try the whole line, which he sent after a couple false starts! I was glad that he was on toprope and not soloing it (not that he wasn't awesome, but it's pretty long!). I didn't get as far, but I was improving on my beta and getting a move further than I had been getting last time we worked on Train. Luke thinks the moves will just keep getting harder because the fingerjams are on the big side for him.

We finished up by working a little on AIDS Victim on TR, which follows a thin seem with a couple of very necessary crimps to either side. Luke re-worked the beta and sent it clean on TR, while I worked through the first crimpy move (last time I tried I couldn't even pull on the crimp - this time it felt pretty good, so a good improvement there) and got to the top with a couple of falls. My fingers were suffering from the abuses of Train, so I decided to stop after my one try. I did, however, get an awesome perfect thumbstack in one of the pods. Yay learning stuff in Indian Creek!

Overall, a good session - it's always fun to go to Woodson to work on hard cracks - each one requires something new and different.

We'll be leaving tomorrow night for a long weekend in Bishop. We'll be going with a couple other friends, so hopefully we'll come back with some sweet photos!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pushing the Limits - Reflections on IC

Things have been so busy since we got back to Indian Creek that I've only now begun to reflect on my experiences and think about all the things we learned.

Speaking of learning, here is the top 5 things I learned in IC:

(1) Thumbstacks and ringlocks (does this size not exist in granite cracks or something????)
(2) Cams can be really freaking hard to clip (the carabiner is facing a different direction than a quickdraw clipped into a bolt).
(3) Sandstone hurts. You think it'd feel nice and soft compared to granite, but in fact the consistent and sustained nature of the splitters means you wear the same place on your skin over and over and over again. Result? Lot's more oozing than I usually get from granite.
(4) Footwork. It really matters once the crack starts getting small (thin hands and smaller). Getting blood blisters under your toenails and trying to jam thin hands/thumbstacks is a bad idea.
(5) Endurance. I gained a new appreciation for the thank-god jugs and ledges that granite tends to form.

By far one of the coolest parts of my Indian Creek experience was getting to try my hand at so many hard routes that I would normally consider way above my ability. The splitter cracks are pretty safe to protect (not that hard - just put in the right size of cam) so I was really able to push my limits more than I ever have before. Over the week, I tried several 5.12 cracks, which all offered a completely different experience:

Digital Readout (5.12) - This was the one that really killed my fingers because, even though the top and bottom of the crack were perfect fingers for me, it went to off-fingers in the middle (which is perfect fingers for Luke), which was really hard. I really learned how big a difference subtle variations in crack size could make, as well as how much harder it is to lead something than just TR it - placing the cams, clipping them, and then having to climb around them definitely adds another level of difficulty. This stuff ain't no sport climbing...

Swedin-Ringle (5.12-) - This route was really cool! The bottom section was challenging because the crack was the wrong size so I had to do a little sport climbing up the face holds to the side before getting down to business. My first try I fell trying to clip a cam off a thumbstack - it was only the 2nd day of the trip and I hadn't had much practice. The coolest thing about coming back and trying again on the end of the trip was how much better the stacks felt when I got to them - I think I clipped two cams off stacks. It was mostly my feet and the lack of skin on my fingers that were keeping me back. It was awesome to feel so close to sending something this hard.

Slice and Dice (5.12) - This line is gorgeous! It was pretty thin - definitely would involve some stacks mixed in with the thin hands. Unfortunately, I realized I had a blood blister under my toenail that was making it excruciatingly painful to put my left foot in those thin foot jams. Definitely want to try it again when my toes are functional.

Way Rambo (5.12-) - We all tried this on toprope. I was surprised at how hard and sporty it was at the top! Definitely a more challenging lead because after a certain point, you just have to gun it to the anchors because placing too much gear will just make you more likely to fall. A lot less sustained than the other hard cracks we tried because it's enjoyable straightforward hand jams up until the crux, which was not just jamming like most of the other routes were.

Coyne Crack (5.12-) - This is now 5.11+ in the guidebook, but I thought getting off the ground was harder than most of the moves on the other routes we did. Luke thinks I will need to layback the first few feet until I can get a handjam, but I'd hope to be good enough at thin hands/stacks and crappy thin footjams that I could jam it. It was definitely disappointing to be turned around so close to the ground (I think I got 2 cams in...), but I also didn't want to resort to cam jugging just to do the upper part. It's such a beautiful climb that I want to be ready for it.

The Inflictor (5.12-) - A lot of thin moves on to way more stacks than I ever thought I would have to do on a "thin finger crack". This one might be hard to lead because of fiddly gear placements down low, but it was fun to try on toprope.

The craziest thing about this experience was the fact that I was trying 5.12 crack climbs when I generally feel I'm not at all ready for that grade on sport climbs (or maybe I am, but I'm just holding myself back). It was crazy to be able to push my limits and learn new skills all on lead. It's something I hope to apply to sport climbing and trad climbing on more typical (a.k.a. granite) cracks. I know I can expect most "normal" 5.12 climbs I attempt to be a little harder - more varied skills, less straightforward gear (on trad climbs), pumpier (sport climbs), but at least I've made a step forward mentally - gaining the confidence to push myself on lead and try harder routes.

(Like equinox :-D )

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chillin' in JTree

We tend to be pretty non-stop down here in SoCal - what with my school and ultimate frisbee, Luke's work, and our constant chasing of "The Right Season" at all our local climbing areas, we're pretty much busy every single weekend.

But we did have the weekdays to "rest" (haha, school=rest, yeah right...) after our Indian Creek trip, which if nothing else did help my knuckles heal a bit and stop oozing whenever I touched something.

The agenda for this weekend was to take my sister Maddy to do some fun outside rock climbing, as she was visiting for a couple days after her junior year college tour trip with my dad. She's stuck in the gym most of the time up there in Bremerton, so visiting SoCal at this time was a perfect opportunity to return to JTree, which she'd been to a couple years ago (3?).

We were going to drive out and camp on Friday night, but when we left at 7:30, traffic going out of Pasadena still seemed a little heavy and Luke and I were worried about reliving our previous Friday night experience - small campsite wedged between very noisy neighbors. So we went back home, watched a movie, and resolved to get up early (5:30am) the next morning.

We did manage to get up, so we arrived at the Split Rocks parking lot at around 8am. We walked out to the Future Games Wall to climb Bendix Claws (5.11a), which Luke and I had both done on TR before. Everyone toproped it - Luke and I were both thinking about going for the lead, which I didn't because I wasn't quite feeling my granite mojo after a week on IC sandstone. Luke, however, did go for the lead and got the redpoint! A cool route for sure - I still want to redpoint it some day.

Then we headed out to a boulder problem we'd seen walking back from Equinox last time - Slashface (V3) - a tall, nice-looking problem with a series of horizontal crimp rails (that look like slashes) running across it. Luke sent the problem, while Maddy and I struggled with the crux - a long reach off a pretty crappy crimp.

Maddy and Luke working Slashface:

After this we went over to the Rusty Wall so I could try to onsight Wangerbanger (5.11c). Unfortunately, there were a bunch of people already over there, with the route in question occupied for several more climbers. Luke and Maddy TRed O'Kelley's Crack (5.10c) and then we decided to go work on Gunsmoke since it seemed silly to waste Maddy's singular day in JTree waiting in line for a route I could come back and do any time.

So, to Gunsmoke we went. Luke did some laps, Maddy fought with the short person crux (she's a little shorter than me, so she was trying some different beta) and I got the closest to sending I've ever been. I got through the short person crux and to the corner (before jumping off to save energy) after starting not at the beginning, then linked the short person crux through the normal crux before falling - so close to the send! But by then I was getting tired, so the send will have to wait for another day.

On Sunday, I had to go play in a frisbee tournament with my team, so Luke and Maddy went to Stoney Point with Julie to do some more bouldering. I think they had a lot of fun and I hope Maddy enjoyed the taste of SoCal climbing that we were able to give her in the short time she was here.

Maddy and Julie bouldering at Stoney Point

Next weekend will probably find us in Tahquitz climbing some more granite cracks!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Indian Creeeeeeeek!

Indian Creek! What is IC? It is hard, sunny, sandy pure crack climbing. You won’t find jugs, crimps or normal hand holds at the Creek. Never ending splitters of all sizes guaranteed to have at least one stretch of your worst size. There are off-with pods, threatening fist cracks and my personal nemesis the ever dreaded finger stacks. We had a small crew of three for this trip with quite the assortment of body types and hand sizes. From Lizzy's tiny fingers to Lucasz's immense height. I sat in the middle with average proportions but evidently smaller that normal hands for a guy. This was funny though because even my pinky has a bigger diameter than Lizzy's biggest finger, excluding her thumb. Here hands were so small that she would often have to jam up to her elbows on my "hand" cracks.
Lucasz was the only person that we could recruit to come and visit IC. To many a crack climbing Mecca just has too much crack climbing. The climbing was a new style to all of us and we had a big learning curve with the smooth and parallel cracks. The climbs were relentless between 80 and 160 feet in length and usually dead vertical. Our first day held one of my most memorable climbs. Big Guy, one of the easier offwidths at the Creek was to be my training for future punishment in the big sizes. I had my full assortment of large cams that I had been collecting for such a challenge. The climbing was super strenuous once I got out of the fist jams. I was able to get really good hand stacks but without having a knee in it was impossible to make progress. After 50 feet of struggling I gave in and hung on the rope the effort instantly overwhelmed me and I hung there for 20 minutes fighting the urge to hurl. About 5 feet of struggling later I was able to get my knee in but got it promptly got it stuck and had to hang on a cam and wiggle it out. After putting my left knee in the crack I was able to work through the hand stacks into the hand fist stacks and eventually got to the anchor. What an experience I had no idea how much effort offwidths take!
Indian creek offers all sizes of cracks from super thin tips jamming to the gaping offwidths. A person’s hand size can greatly affect the difficulty of a climb. Lizzy would climb most of the small cracks, I would get the hand cracks and Lucasz tackled many large hand climbs. Above Lizzy warms up for her attempt of Digital Readout. This super thin climb, featured below, ranks in at around 12b making it the hardest thing Lizzy has ever lead!! She cruised the initial thin fingers section before getting super pumped and losing a ton of skin on the off fingers middle. It’s funny to say that the middle is off fingers for her since it is yellow alien/TCU with a few bigger pods in the grey alien range which were perfect finger locks for me. The start, that Lizzy cruised, started at blue alien, and widened to green alien at the first roof. This was my crux and I was lunging between pinky locks to get off the ground. It was quite intense until I could get the first foot hold and finally get my fingers into the crack at the roof. I need to go back and try and lead it and I know Lizzy would love to redpoint it with a bit more skin.After watching Paralleljams for Return 2 Sender and cruising around we made a tick list and tried to do a bunch of the classics. On my birthday, the 23rd, I got on Think Pink. It was an easy corner up to a steep hand crack. Or at least I thought it was a hand crack from the video I had seen of Jim Donini climbing it. He climbed it easily and made it look super fun and secure. Well he sure sand bagged me as I got up to the steep section to find that my #2 camalots were quite tipped out and I would be placing tight #3's. This made it too small for fist jams so I had a long battle with lots of grunting while learning how to do steep cupped hands. I managed to send first go and it was super nice when the top section narrowed back down to #2's. I was really pumped and it was another big fight!
Lucasz flew up the climb on TR and came back later in the trip and lead it first try! Damn those big hands!!

We took a half rest day to get food and water in Moab and then headed out to Way Rambo. Below Lizzy is starting up Slice and Dice. This climb is super hard for us big handed folks who have to finger stack in the sharp crack. She cruised up the initial moves but a blood blister under a toe prevented any more thin foot jams so she had to back off. I am sure that next time Lizzy will fly up this.

At the Cat Wall I ended up donating a bunch of skin and blood to Johnny Cat. This beautiful off fingers (.5 camalot) has feet for three quarters of the route and has a nice rest in the middle. I learned how to do ring locks and got within 10 feet of the anchors on my onsight. This last section has five or six hard moves on bad off finger locks with only the crack for feet. You are unable to place gear but luckily get a good foot for clipping the chains. After a few efforts I was able to get through the last feet to the chains. After a rest I gave it another lead go but was stopped short at the top again. While I was not nearly as pumped as my onsight go I was unable to get my locks to stick. I later realized my hands were out of sequence which due to the slight offset of the crack made left jams very difficult.After the Cat Wall got too hot we went to the Reservoir wall where I lead the new wider Slot Machine and Pente. Slot Machine was quite an endurance test at 160 feet and it was super tiring. Lizzy made it through the first half of Pente before running out of gear and having me finish the lead. It was fun but not quite as classic as I expected. I thought the Incredible Hand crack, which we had lead the day prior was much more fun.
After taking a much needed rest day we headed to Broken Tooth. There were a ton of cars in the parking lot but they were all at the Fin which is quite close. We had a great day and shared the main three splitters with a two guys from Colorado, Hayden and Johan. First I lead Rock Lobster which was super cruiser until the last 20 feet where it turned from thin hands into the dreaded finger stacks. Unable to trust my feet I took on the gear before finally trusting the gear and punching it to the anchors. While Lizzy and Lucasz top roped Rock Lobster Hayden gave me a ride on their TR of Polygrip.Polygrip, seen in the photo above is a 3 part climb with a no hands rest after the first part. I was able to do it first try on TR and it was super fun. A section of offset poddy thin hands leads to the rest followed by an excellent perfect fingers corner. There is a bad rest before the crux off fingers roof. Once over the roof you luckily get a nice rest pod and then with a few more moves an almost no hands rest before the final spring to the anchors. I tried to lead this climb later in the day but ran out gas before the roof. The roof proved much more difficult to do on lead. Lucasz lead an unnamed long hand crack to the left of the main wall. It was pretty weird and had an exciting layback finish. We finished the day by Top roping the Inflictor. No one was able to climb it clean due to a tricky crux and a pumpy finish that was off fingers for Lizzy. On our last day we went to two different crags to tick our last few climbs we wanted to do. Above I am onsighting Scarface which was super fun. A few hard moves off the ground led to thin hands which became perfect hands where I am in the picture.
Lizzy red pointed Scarface, above, and then we moved to Battle of the Bulge Buttress so she could try Swedin-Ringle again. She did well on her onsight go making it 15 feet below the anchors. On our last day she did a bit better besting her high point by one more cam! I was able to TR the route clean first try and then did it again mock lead style placing gear. I think next time I will try to lead it! Swedin-Ringle is in both of the photos below. We also did a bunch of other climbs besides the ones featured in the pictures. Highlights were Disco Machine Gun, Supercrack, and Way Rambo. Everyone learned a ton and we want to go back for sure. I struggled a bunch with my lead head. I was really pushing my physical limit trad climbing 5.11 and 11+ and was scared to try anything 5.12 trad. After doing a bunch of 5.12 cracks clean on TR I knew that I had the power and the skill and that if I could increase my endurance to place the gear I should try to lead 5.12 next time we go to the creek!

For more pictures go to Picasa online.