Climbing in a Pandemic – This is a new world, but we’re all learning to live in it.

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Sunday, 09-Aug-2020

 

 

I haven’t been to a climbing gym in months.  Since COVID really hit, at least… and probably before that, though I can’t quite remember.  They’ve been open for a while, actually… but I’d cancelled my membership about a month ago, and hadn’t really planned on restarting it anytime soon.

 

Then a study came out, suggesting that climbing chalk can deactivate the COVID virus nearly immediately upon contact (Ed Note: We’ve posted a link to the article is at the bottom of the post, enjoy!).  I also have a few friends who’ve started climbing again, who let me know what sorts of precautions the gym’s been taking, and how crowded (or not crowded, in fact) the gym has been recently.

I… wasn’t fully convinced.  But I kept tumbling it around in my head… questioning whether I’m really being safe, or if I’m being paranoid.

That’s the name of the game these days, isn’t it?

How much protection should we give ourselves?  What’s safe, and what’s an unnecessary risk?

What’s a sore throat, and what’s COVID?  Is the sneeze because I just split pepper, or inhaled a face full of dust?  Or am I contagious, and risking my and everyone else’s health?

 

We simply don’t know, so we weigh the options and do our best.  Like we always do.  We move forward.

 

I finally moved forward to the gym.  I don’t regret it.

 

Nothing is safe, but climbing at the gym was… acceptably unsafe.  I don’t think there was really any heightened risk outside of the normal “I’m climbing fifty feet into the air, protected by a half-inch thick rope”, and I’m confident that there wasn’t any pandemic-related risk greater than going to the grocery store, or picking up tacos at the local bodega.

Everyone had a mask, and I felt good.

That being said…

Man am I weak.  I finished a few routes, yeah, but… dang, man.  I need to climb more!

 

 

Link to article: https://www.abcwalls.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Corona-Virus-and-Chalk-Press-release.pdf

My first long bike ride – the Banks – Vernonia trail!

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Friday, 07-Aug-2020

 

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve gone on a long bike ride?

I think it was fall of… Man, I don’t even know at this point.  I just spent like 20min searching through the archives of this blog looking for it, but couldn’t find any details.  It was the fall of “a long time ago”, when Daniel and I did a long ride around the small towns surrounding Boston… clocking roughly 35 miles between various small farms.

Why’d we go between farms?  For apple cider donuts.  Duh.

 

Today, I didn’t go between apple cider donut farms.  Instead, we took a gloriously chill ride down one of the “Rails to Trails” bike paths.  Fairly flat (sort of), nicely paved (for the most part), and pretty empty (until later in the day), it was a glorious chance for me to stretch my bike-legs, and see how I’d do after pulling a nerve in my back earlier this spring.

Man, did we enjoy the ride.

Like I said, the route was mostly flat… but actually, was really on a slight incline the whole way out.

Which, you know what?  I’d vastly prefer that over the alternative.  We worked hard to get to the end, and then on the way back?  We just cruised.  Seriously – I think I cranked the pedals like… twenty times in nearly 10 miles.  Like I said, glorious.

The ride was beautiful – mostly farmland and forests, with a few small roads that we had to cross.  One big trellis bridge, one steep section, but mostly just lovely cruising.  Just the right intensity that we could hold a conversation… with a few random pauses to catch our breath.

I loved it.

 

We started near Banks, about three miles into the trail, and cruised as far as we could before some trail maintenance blocked our way.  From there, we turned around and headed all the way down to Banks for a quick bite of lunch at a small cafe that we found.  Outdoor seating and hamburgers were our requirements, and they ticked off the boxes for both pretty handily.

Interestingly, the burgers didn’t come with fries.  They came with tater totes mixed in with mac and cheese, and baked with a cheese crust.  Never had it before, but they were definitely pretty solid… if a bit heart-attack-ish.

 

From the cafe, we turned around and headed back – almost exactly 30 miles total under our belts.

Not bad at all for my first big ride of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

Ohh, you wanted to know about the highlight of the ride?

The best part?

By far the coolest thing on the whole trail?

 

We saw three goats, a sheep, and their sheepherd dog.

Hanging out on the side of the trail.

Eating leaves.

I stopped to take a picture, and then when I started biking?  THE DOG FOLLOWED ME.  AND THE GOATS AND SHEEP FOLLOWED THE DOG.

They were just chilling, no cares or worries.  It was… glorious.

Climbing on Larch Mountain… or at least trying to

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Saturday, 01-Aug-2020

 

Some adventures are clean, clear, and go exactly as planned.

Other adventures are challenges, that are unpleasant in the moment but make memories that last a lifetime.

 

This adventure lay somewhere in between the two. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as one would have liked.

A quick quote from the trip summarizes it well, “Today isn’t the day that we sent the route. Today is the day we found the route.”

You see, we went looking for bouldering.

 

By now, I should know better. The Garden. The Rat Cave. Neither “famous, best in the area” climbing areas were easy to find – I still haven’t found The Rat Cave after five years living here. When Laurel and I settled on going to Larch Mountain… I should have been skeptical.

The guidebook seemed to have a good map, and showed solid climbing on good rock. Interesting routes, good moves, and safe landings. You know, all that good stuff that you look for in a bouldering area.

We did find it, at least. It did take a while though.

 

Thankfully, Laurel did the driving and so we had the four-wheel drive truck to help us grind our way up the questionable trails in Washington State. Nothing was too bad, but I was still glad that the Mustang wasn’t making the drive up, if only for the time savings that a solid two feet of extra clearance give!

So we drove. Parked. Looked around. Drove some more. Got turned around. Backed up down a scary-small road in a scary-large truck, and were thankful for backup cameras.

Finally, we found one extra landmark that made us pretty confident that we thought that we might have found the area we were looking for. Packed up, and started hiking in.

It was a longer, and steeper, hike than I’d expected we’d be taking, but it was a good chance to get some training in, and for us to just hang out and chat – never a bad thing, especially with views of the whole gorge like we had there.

After a while, we found it!

 

Weirdly, we missed about half of the area though… I think we passed it somehow? I’m not really sure. But we found ourselves hiking into the mid-point, which… you know what? After a hot and dusty hike? Sure. I’ll take it. Sounds good to me. Let’s eat.

The advantage of bouldering is that you bring a crash pad along for safety. Which, interestingly, is just a huge cushion. Sort of like a portable couch.

The disadvantage of bouldering is that you’re in rocky terrain, that doesn’t usually give you a comfortable area to place said couch.

So we settles onto the rocks, pulled out our sandwich parts, and ate.

Then we explored, did some bouldering, and… Man, I couldn’t really tell you what we climbed. Here’s my best bet, though…

  • VB – Two easy / fun routes near the East Fin of the Wild West cluster. Slabby, slightly mossy, but definitely a fun reminder of foot movements and sloper holds!
  • V2 – Meat Cleaver – Maybe? I think we did this one? It was really fun! Must easier if you skip the sit-start, and I couldn’t honestly tell you if I completed it cleanly with the sit start. But We met some cool other boulderers working this area, and both Laurel and I were able to rock most (if not all) of the route, so… I’m happy about it!

From The Wild West, we moved onward. The rock was okay, but the landings were pretty rough – the V2 that we worked was safer, thanks to 3 pads that the other folks brought, but on our own my single pad wasn’t quite enough to inspire confidence with the landings we were looking at.

So we ventured onward, in search for the mythical Leavenworth Boulder…

 

We did find it. After a lot of dust, small turns in a large truck, and bashing through brambles. We did, in fact, find it. Queue the quote above “Today is the day we found it.”

I’d thought I was smart when I wore shorts – It was going to be hot, so I figured that the less cloth would be a bonus. Laurel thought I was nuts, because she fully expected to be bushwacking and battering through brambles… so she wore pants.

I did not make the optimal decision. But, bloody and battered, I was able to break through the undergrowth to the boulders!

 

And… they were… interesting. To be frank, the only good route we found for the day was that V2 I mentioned above.  I mean, we did get to do a quick photoshoot for “king of the fairys” Biscuit, but… that was really the highlight.

In the Leavenworth and Black Forest boulder area, it looked like there’d be a ton of great routes… but we figured out that everything was based on it being winter, without the undergrowth clogging the pathways and landing zones. We tried a few lines, just to give it a sporting chance… but luck and climbing was not on our side, and every route just seemed to dead-end.

You know what, though?

Not every trip has to go ideally. Some trips can be challenging, hot, dusty, and have less-than-optimal endings. At the end of the day, we’d gotten to explore. Go outside. And even find a new area I’d never been to before.

And that? That makes this an excellent trip in my book.