Tag Archives: Planet Granite

The Battle for Bolts – A rock climbing endurance epic

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!

11-Mar-2016: PDX Pulldown, my first Redpoint competition


Friday, 11-March-2016


Holy crap there are so many people who want to rock climb in Portland.

Like… seriously.  We get to the climbing gym for their competition, the PDX pulldown, and there’s already a solid 100 people.  And they don’t stop showing up; at its peak, there must have been ~300 people at the gym.  Which is awesome, right up until the point that I’m trying to get onto some routes so I can actually… you know… compete in the competition.

Because I’ll be honest – people weren’t really being ideal climbers.  They were… well, one rule was the “one fall” limit.  You come down after a fall, so the next person can try.  Well… I heard the phrase “I just won’t count the points, I want to try it anyways” way too often.  There were also a few folks who had never tied knots it seems, and one or two people uncertain of which direction one is supposed to climb (Hint: it’s “up”).

All of that in mind – I had a good time.  My only real regret was that I ate their free pizza… that was not particularly delicious or good for the climbing feel.  But aside from that, I did well, climbed hard, and enjoyed myself.


The best part?  I reached my goal!  There were three divisions that I could place into: men’s recreational, men’s advanced, and men’s open.  Open was the top level, consisting of people climbing lead routes, and working the hardest.  The top three members of the open division would compete for first place in the competition… I knew I couldn’t get into that region, but my main goal was to place into the open category.

And in theory, it was simple.  I just had to lead a single route.  Just one completed lead would get me into my goal.  But funny story – they’re all tough.

In the end, I did two.  Well… I completed one, and got halfway up a second.  My completed was a 5.11c, one try, no falls.  My half-way was a 5.12b, one try again.  One fall though… since, you know, didn’t finish.

But I placed.  I got cleanly into the Open Category, out-scoring everyone in the Advanced, and a solid 50% of the folks in Open.  I did well.  I am proud of myself 🙂

Ohh, you want to know what I won?

I got a little coffee mug, as free swag from one of the merchant booths.  Funny story – if I had just done Advanced, and not tried to get into Open, I probably could have won.  But… you know… personal pride and goal setting and silly stuff like that.

A glimpse into my life in Hood River: A week in August.

Week of 23-Aug through 29-Aug
I love living in Oregon so far.  Granted, we’re still in the sunny and beautiful months, so that’s definitely a factor that I should take into account: I don’t like long dark days, and I hear that we’re going to have a lot of those soon.
But thankfully, my current adventures are filling up my “get outside and rock out” tank, and I’ve got a whole new network of mountaineers to call on once it gets rainy, and my thoughts drift toward muddy hikes and bagging peaks.
So what have I been up to?  Well – let me give you a quick summary of an enjoyable week that I just had.
Monday, 24-August-2015
Interesting fact, the week officially starts on Monday, per ISO standard 8601.  I did not know that until I looked it up for this post.  I really thought it was Sunday.
I started the week, officially, driving from Portland to Hood River.  It’s an early morning drive; a side effect of Sarah having to wake up at 4:30 for her current project.  It’s nice though, because I’ve been regularly seeing something that I previously thought was only a myth: The sunrise.
And this sunrise is over Mt. Hood, through the smoke of the forest fires that’re burning throughout Oregon and Washington.  So the sunrises have been particularly pleasant recently.
Another advantage of being awake early: breakfast.  Stopping in for a good breakfast is an excellent start to the week, especially since it’s definitely a treat for me to be able to have a solid pre-work breakfast.
After work, Monday was a quiet day – my rest day for the week.  Cleaning the house, reorganizing my gear from the previous weekend, doing Laundry and making a big huge dinner so I’d have leftovers for the week.
Tuesday, 25-August-2015
The Columbia River Gorge is huge – 75 miles long, with an average height between 1500 and 3000ft.  There are 75 major waterfalls, and countless rock faces.  I have two books that show climbs in the area, and it will be years before I’ve explored all of them.
This week, Tuesday is a climbing day.  My coworker has been pestering me to go climbing with him, but I’d been dodging him in favor of trip prep and random other events going on the previous few weeks.  This week was finally open, so we left work a little early and headed to a crag that I’d never been to before, but that he’d climbed at once with some other coworkers of ours.
OH8 – Old Highway 8 – crag is a lot like… I don’t know, really.  It’s like itself – it’s got pretty solid Basalt rock, with tons of small fractures throughout.  Though looks can be deceiving, and the climbs had far fewer crimps and nubbins than I expected, going into it.
If anything, it’s like Quincy Quarries back east – semi-tall, good climbing.  Except that everything is Sport (eat your heart out, Daniel), and they bolts are well maintained, and there’re no heroin needles or huge graffiti tags.
So not like Quincy Quarries at all, I guess.  The rock is, though.
Climb #1 – Tidewater, 5.9 Sport, lead by Ben.  A fun route, though kind of run out.  Right at the crux.  With a ledge fall potential.  So… a little bit sketchy.  But not super tough for a 5.9… I’ve heard it called a 5.8, which fits more with what I’d rate it at.
Climb #2 – Sasquatch, 5.11b Sport, set up as a toprope from the top of Tidewater.  It’s a challenge… but a fun challenge.  I work up it twice; the second time I come close to doing it clean, except for the crux section.
Wednesday, 26-August-2015
Another quick note about Oregon – everyone is athletic here.  Like… my oldest coworker still goes free diving and spear fishing on a regular basis.  Portland has the highest population of interesting / adventurous people that I’ve seen so far, so it’s no surprise that there’s more than a few climbing gyms in the area…
Wednesday I run into Portland again – It’s a bit of a haul, but the only climbing gyms in the area are here, and the chance to climb and have dinner with Sarah definitely makes it worth the ride in.
And honestly, my road trip reminded me just how relaxing and calming driving is for me.  So the drive is a good chance to decompress halfway through the week.  Call some family & friends, maybe.  It’s nice.
So this week, we hit Planet Granite – versus the usual Portland Rock Gym.  In all honesty, I find that I like PG better than PRG; the routes are more toward my style of powerful moves, and the gym is a bit bigger, and so less claustrophobic.  PRG is still excellent, with much more delicate & technical climbing, so I’m looking forward to alternating between the two.
Sarah and I take our lead test, and then get on the wall for some adventure…
5.9, sport lead – this is where we take our test.  Fun.
5.10a, sport lead – a solid jug haul, with some good overhangs and committing moves.  Definitely my style.
5.12a, sport lead – Why did I get on a 5.12a, you may ask?  Because I’m trying to show off to Sarah, is what I’ll answer.  Also, I was curious… and it turns out that PG has very soft ratings… I nearly finished this route with only a single fall.  I wasn’t able to move past the crux though, but it’s a project that I’ll be working on.
5.11b, top rope – Again, proof that their ratings are soft… yet very fun.  I did this route twice in a row – only falling once during the second run.
From the gym, we headed back and made dinner – an amazing charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine.  Because Portland is a classy city, and we’re classy people.
Recipe: charcuterie plate
2 oz prosciutto smoked ham
1 Fuji apple, sliced thin
1/3 of a thick baguette, cut into medium chunks
1 pot of home-made fig jam (or bought, if Sarah isn’t around)
1/2 summer sausage, sliced
8oz Brie, thick cut and slightly warmed so it’s spreadable
8oz blueberries, in a small bowl
All served on a large cutting board, and artfully arranged with a selection of rock climbing gear (see picture)
Paired with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Because the bottle was interesting looking.
Thursday, 27-August-2015
Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.  You’re close to the end, but there’s still enough time to get everything done before the weekend.  And that ties in with both work and pleasure: At work, everyone’s relaxed because we’ve still got Friday to get those projects finished up.  At home, all I ever really have to do is some basic packing and prep work for the weekend.  So, by this rule, Thursdays have become my gym/gaming night.
Thanks to the fact that I stayed in Portland Wednesday night, I find myself in Hood River (awake) much earlier than normal – I’d love to say that I get into work super early and beast-mode the day, but… that just wouldn’t be even remotely true.
Instead, I head home and make myself breakfast.  I’ve done breakfast out on some of the occasions that I’ve driven down the gorge early in the morning, but it’s not really as excellent as I’d like… half the fun of a huge breakfast is knowing that you don’t have to go to work afterward.
So instead of eating out, I save a few bucks and stick with my usual smoothie.  I grab a quick shower, a less quick nap, and then head into work a little bit earlier than normal, as opposed to super-early.  It’s still pretty good though, and the day goes by quickly.  Especially since I’d spent some of the early morning making lunches, and so I had an excellent Brie & prosciutto & apple sandwich to eat.
Then after work, I bike over to the gym.  Very exciting.  I pick up some stuff.  Put it back down.  Pull some things, push some others.  You know, the usual stuff that a dude would do at the gym.  Flex.  Growl.  etc…
Leaving the gym isn’t particularly pleasant though, since it’s not actually the end of my workout… I still have to bike myself home.  Which isn’t generally particularly pleasant, at least after doing squats for half an hour.  But home means dinner, and dinner means happiness, so I push through and have myself a plate of delicious food ready before too long.
Then some gaming, then soaking in the tub full of salt water (Epson salt is amazing, and I’ll be forever thankful to my old roommate Lizzie for introducing it to me), then some more gaming, then a bit of packing for the weekend.  A simple and pleasant Thursday.
Friday, 28-August-2015
Friday’s are not my favorite day at work – but they’re almost always the best day of the week as soon as I leave the office.  That’s because, especially out here in Oregon, I get to go on some amazing adventure for the weekend. 
This weekend was originally going to be a pure climbing weekend – Saturday and Sunday at Smith Rock, trying to get a semi-insane number of climbs done in a rather short period of time.  Sarah was going to meet me in Hood River, and then her friend Josha would meet us at Smith.  Then on Saturday we’d start on a five-pitch sport route, then get two single-pitch routes done, then finish off on a three-pitch trad route.  Then I’d drop Sarah off for a mountaineering trip on Sunday, and Josha and I would spend Sunday climbing some lighter routes.
However, plans change… pretty regularly, in fact.
The forecast was for rain, so Sarah’s mountaineering trip was canceled.  Not a bad thing, since it meant we’d have more time to climb.
But then the back-breaker – Jasper (Sarah’s arthritic, geriatrically lovable dog) got sick.  Sick enough that he couldn’t be left home alone.  Sick enough that he had to go to the vet that evening, to make sure he was okay.
So instead of leaving the house early to drive down to Smith, I hit the gym on the way home.  Then, Sarah and Jasper drove out, we ordered some Chinese for dinner, and settled in to have a low-key rest weekend.  A nice change of pace, since I haven’t had a real rest weekend in over a month…