Category Archives: Rock Climbing

Stories from Rock Climbing, or something in that general area

The Battle for Bolts – A rock climbing endurance epic

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The Battle for Bolts – A rock climbing endurance epic

Saturday into Sunday, 30-Sept-2017 & 01-Oct-2017

 

Summary: Sarah and I climbed for 12 hours straight, climbing 63 routes total and earning ourselves a solid second place overall in the competition.  That’s right – 7 months post injury, Ben placed 2nd place in a climbing competition.  With Sarah, since it was a team comp.  Where Sarah won most of the points.  But still!  Ben was on the team that came in second!

 

Today, we battle. 

We battle not for ourselves, but for climbers everywhere.  

Not for climbers everywhere, per se, but climbers in the Northwest.  In Oregon.  At three crags in Oregon, specifically.  We battle for climbers there!  Sport climbers.  Not trad, since trad doesn’t need bolts.

Today, we battle for a very select group of climbers!  Huzzah!

 

A few weeks ago, Sarah and I heard about a climbing competition coming up, and got really excited.

We got excited because it was pretty far removed from the ridiculous chaos of the previous competitions we’d been to.  It hit all the nice things we’d been hoping that a competition would hit: a cap on the people allowed to compete, It was held when my knee wasn’t broken, and it was roped climbing instead of bouldering.  Basically the perfect comp.  It wasn’t free, unfortunately, but the proceeds went to a climbing access fund that replaces worn bolts at crags in our area (see the opening poem thing), so that was pretty cool.

We planned the competition out, and arrived with our heads full of schemes and our packs full of gear.

This wasn’t a straight-up, who can climb the hardest route, competition – instead, this was an endurance comp.  Which meant that we’d be climbing for 12 hours straight, and that the number of routes we put up was going to be more important than just how hard those routes were.

Because of that, we had plans.  We’d packed a full meal (spaghetti and chicken), as well as a few thousand calories worth of snacks, bars, cookies, and coffee.  We also had a rough timeline for ourselves – how long we’d climb, when we’d nap, and how long we’d nap for.

We expected the napping to be critical – you can’t crush climbing routes if you can’t think, so we aimed to take at least two naps throughout the night.  The food we’d eat about halfway through, right before a napping cycle, and the snacks & coffee we’d spread out throughout the night.

For routes, we planned on starting easy, then quickly going toward the harder routes.  Then we’d taper off toward more moderate routes for most of the evening, before finishing strong with some of the hardest climbs of the evening in the last hour – since the last hour gained us 2x score on any routes climbed.

 

 

 

We arrived right before the start at 8:00 in the evening on Saturday; just in time to sign in, stash our gear, and hang out for a bit before the staff went through the rules and discussed the timetable with us.   That part was pretty entertaining… mostly because the staff wasn’t much better informed than we were – this comp was run quite loosely, which worked perfectly with the small group of people that were competing.  In total there were 6 teams, 12 people total… a bit less than the cap of 100, but still enough for some pretty stiff competition for top spot.

Then we climbed!

We stuck to our plan pretty closely, not pushing ourselves too hard and climbing routes that worked best to our skillsets.  Sarah climbed strong crimpy routes, and I danced up delicate slab routes.  We took breaks, snacked, and even played some of the games that the staff put on – Crate stacking and donut eating were the  best, though playing Ninja was definitely a good time as well.

Napping was definitely helpful too… but a bit frustrating since people kept stealing the beds that we’d made.  See… when you combine Sarah’s skill at making nests from her time on Grimm with my not-caring-about-stuff, we came out with some really nice beds.  I’d grabbed 10+ bolsters from the yoga room, which we then combined with a few blankets and some yoga mats, into glorious full double beds.

First nap, we made one and napped luxuriously.  Then when we went to our second nap, someone had stolen our first bed.  So we made a new one.  When the same thing happened the third time (both our previous beds were occupied), we did get a bit cranky, and may have made a little extra noise while making our new bed.

 

Anyways, we did well.

When the time came to tally our score, we’d come in cleanly in 2nd place!  We’d won with 4,200 points, roughly, where the next team had just over 3,900 points – so about two of our hardest climbs worth of points.  We did a grand total of 63 routes, with Sarah earning the lions share of our score.  But hey – for a guy with a recently broken leg, I think I did pretty dang well!

Smith in September

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Smith in September

 

Monday, 25-Sept-2017 through Thursday, 28-Sept-2017

 

It’d been a while since Sarah and I had done a dedicated climbing trip – we’d been kind of hesitant, since we weren’t really sure what my knee could do, and that hesitancy had bred just enough inertia that we’d become complacent and okay with sticking in town and playing on the plastic of the climbing gym.

No more.  No more would we be captives of our own inertia.  No more would we be slaves to complacency.  Instead, we would blaze a trail of adventure and excitement!

 

So, a quick summary:

Monday

Arrive mid-morning, after depositing our finally-returned security deposit from the house in Hood River.

Crush a few routes in the more popular areas, since they’d be empty mid-week.

Side note: Ollie was amazing.  She hasn’t forgotten her crag-dog training, and relaxed like the best pup.

Head back to camp, and make a group dinner with the friends who we were meeting up with.

Sleep like logs, and start to fix our messed up circadian rhythm.

Tuesday

Wake up, have breakfast, and do some hiking.

Tuesday was a relaxation day – I read, Sarah painted, and we wandered around with the puppy.

Hit some quick climbs at the waterfall slabs, just to keep energy up.

Glorious dinner and gloriously early bed.

Wednesday

Dawned hot… hotter than expected.

Bust out a climb at the Dihedrals… then skip out to the shade.

Climbed at a new area… new to us, at least.  Sarah led a 5.10!  Ben followed!

Read and draw some more, climb a little bit more, then another early dinner.

Super early bed – we were seriously in the tent falling asleep by 8:30.  What.

Thursday

Pack up, head out back toward Portland.  Get coffee a few times on the way, because we missed coffee shops.

 

 

Climb details:

We honestly didn’t climb as much as we’d expected.  I guess that inertia that I mentioned above still held sway over us… But hey.  We hadn’t been out on a trip like this in a while, and we needed the chance to re-connect to our more energetic selves.  This was the perfect opportunity too, since the park was nearly deserted, and the weather was glorious the whole time.

What we did climb though…

 

Monday

5 gallon buckets, 5.8, Sport.  Sarah led, Ben seconded.

Left Slab Crack, 5.4, Trad.  Sarah led, Ben seconded.

Easy Reader, 5.6, Sport.  Ben and Sarah led.

Tuesday

9999, 5.6, Sport.  Ben and Sarah led.

Amelia Dearheart, 5.7, Sport.  Ben and Sarah led.

We also did a few variants of each, for giggles.

Wednesday

Purple Headed Warrior, 5.7, Sport.  Sarah and Ben led.

Nacho Libre, 5.6, Sport.  Ben led, Sarah seconded.

Float like a Butterfly, 5.10b, Sport.  Sarah led, Ben seconded.

How low can you go?, 5.7, Sport.  Ben led, Sarah seconded.

Rope de Dope crack, 5.8, toprope.  Ben and Sarah climbed.

 

What else… The trip was excellent!  We had a great time, enjoyed cooking food over a fire, and doubly enjoyed the pizza and mozzarella sticks that we had on the last evening we were there.  We climbed well, hiked well, and felt really good.  My knee didn’t give me any trouble the whole time, and actually felt better than it had in a long time.  I think that means that I’ve been under-exercising it, which is definitely good to know.  Means I can push harder, and maybe even start doing heavier lifting… deadlifts, here we come!

Visiting Smith Rock! An Epic of epic proportions!

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Visiting Smith Rock! An Epic of epic proportions!

A Crater Lake adventure!

Sarah had planned a glorious adventure: We would drive down to Smith Rock to climb for a day, then spend a day at Diamond Lake exploring, and then hit the jewel of the trip – a sunrise exploration of the Crater Lake rim.  From the rim, we’d stay nearby, explore Crater Lake, relax, take a boat ride, and have a great time.  We’d packed the car, made trip itineraries, and Ollie was safely at camp for the week.  All we needed to do was drive…

 

Monday, 28-Aug-2017

 

Smith Rock.  Climbing place.  Rocks.  Stuff like that.

We’ve been here a few times… a lot of few times.  We weren’t particularly worried when we parked at the main site in the mid-afternoon, and started racking up at the base of the cliff at 3:30.

We… we should have been, though.

The route started gloriously though!  We headed up Moscow, a 5.6 2 or 3 pitch trad route – one of my favorites at Smith, if I’m being honest.  It’s easy… but sustained; the climbing is never insane, but it’s almost never easy.  The moves all keep the same difficulty level, and it’s a great challenge of a route.  It’d been a bit of a challenge for us though, since the first move is Sarah’s white whale – a reachy bulge move.

 

But she pulled it!  Sarah crushed the move, and annihilated the first pitch.  I did the same to the second pitch, officially ticking off my first post-injury Trad lead!  Yay wins for both of us!

Pitch 3 threw us a bit of a curveball though… Sarah ran into some trouble about halfway up, with tough moves and tired hands, so I climbed up and took over the reins to finish out the route.  I did leave a headlamp with her though, just in case my lead took longer than expected and we had to have a dusk adventure.

Ohh… I am glad I left that headlamp with her.  Though I kind of wish I’d brought a second one…

When Sarah topped out after Pitch 3, it was dark.  She’d needed the headlamp for the last dozen feet, which led to a pretty cool view from my end.  Something between an angel ascending up the rock, and a monster crawling up from the abyss.  I think it depended more on what noises she was making at the time… either happy about finishing the climb, or angry at my difficult-to-remove placements.

 

But wait, there’s more!

There’s always more, isn’t there?  Remember… the climb is only half the fun!  The other half if the descent!  This descent wasn’t super fun.  Short version: I taped my phone to my helmet and set it to flashlight mode, Sarah tracked our way up, and we took a 20 minute nap at the base of the climb because we couldn’t really walk super well, thanks to being tired and super thirsty.

In all, the three-pitch route was done in five pitches, including the final roped top-out for safety, and took us nearly six hours.  We did debate sleeping on the wall at one point… but I think that thought was what kept us going to make sure we DIDN’T have to do that.

Then began the long trudge down into the canyon.  Then back up the canyon.  Honestly, not that bad in retrospect… we were tired, true, but we held a pretty good pace and kept pretty happy spirits.  Once back at the car we chugged more gatorade than one should normally chug, and ate more cheetos than one normally admits to eating.  A quick drive took us to the campsite, and then a quick unpack had us cooking ourselves a dinner.

It was nearly 11:00 at this point, so we’d obviously debated skipping dinner and setting up the tent right away.  But this was the first day of our adventure: It doesn’t behoove one to start an adventure by starving ones self.  We buckled down and made ourselves pasta with rendered sausage and asparagus, paired cleverly with a nice red ale.  It went down wonderfully, and was clearly our best decision of the day.

 

Then our sleeping bags lay out, and asleep we went.