Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Auburn Ice Box Canyon

Back in December I got the opportunity to get out climbing with Conor Driscoll, a long-time climbing partner of mine. He had an interview in the morning so we only had a half day to get out. I met Conor around 10am at his house in Westford, MA and we proceeded further south to Auburn. He'd been to this place called the "Auburn Ice Canyon" a few times and said it was a great little spot to get our tools wet in MA. I prodded further and Conor described it as a culvert, which made me think of something I might get my car stuck in on the side of the road; NOT something I wanted to climb ice in. But we found our parking spot, hiked in, and were greeted with a steep canyon neatly blasted out of the earth.

We got to mess around on two different top-ropes. Half of one pitch could have been lead, but topping out wouldn't be protectable. There was one plumb line on maybe WI3 to warm up on, and then many variations including dry tooling. We were able to rack up the laps and turn it into a really fun work-out day. Climbing ice plastered to concrete was also neat, in its own way. Turned out to be a really fun afternoon session.

Conor styling between drips.

Conor trying some rock.

Myself on the upper thin column.

Myself on ice plastered concrete. All smiles.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Entering My Stretch Zone

I've been recently feeling I haven't been living up to my full potential as a climber. And I don't mean by this I could be training harder, or deserting my girlfriend and two dogs to be a climbing dirtbag. What I mean is I comfortably lead 5.9 and most 5.10's, but rarely am I looking in the guide book for 5.11's or harder. I stay in my 'comfort zone'. I haven't taken a lead fall in quiet a while (I can't rememeber the last one) because I haven't been pushing myself. I haven't been entering my 'stretch zone' Every so often I'll get a little adventurous and plan on climbing a 5.11a. Most recently I did this while at Rumbling Bald where I picked out the route "Shreaded Wheat".

Slotting the crux protection on "Shredded Wheat" 5.11a

This route follows a thinning finger crack 70 or so feet with barely anything to smear your feet on. I got on the route and lead it cleanly onsight! It was a great feeling, but what I felt most after was surprised. I was confident in myself and believed I could do it, but the words "I onsight 5.11a" just doesn't feel right rolling off my tongue.

To help me mentally train to push myself I started reading Arno Ilgner's Rock Warrior's Way. This is truly a must read for anybody serious about climbing. From beginner to expert, anyone can learn something from Arno's guidance. I've gotten through the first three chapters, and decided to stop there for now rather than cruise through like I wanted to. The lesson's go in a step-wise manner and I didn't want to skip too far ahead. Better to focus first on the "witness position" and observe my limiting behaviors. I think recognizing I can climb harder is the first step. Now after watching myself not commit to the crux of "The Seal" 5.10a and back down to the jug below the crux five times, I've learned lesson two: COMMIT!

Anyway, go pick this book up if you don't call climbing a 'hobby', like stamp collecting (ew). And check out Pro Climber Dave MacLeod's review.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"If this is 5.10c, I don't know about the 5.11a pitch." -Lindsay Fixmer

"But hey, Jeremy wants to take it, so he can figure it out." This is Lindsay's self described thought process while leading the first pitch of 'Caught Up in the Air' at Cedar Rock in Western North Carolina. I followed the pitch, tip toeing eyebrows and grasping holds that weren't quite the 'laser cut crimpers' I had promised my climbing partner. I had rappelled the route the day before and seen an amazing finish to the second pitch. I didn't pay as close attention to the lower section as I should have, and it proved to be more technical than I expected.

About thirty feet up the shadow of the trees diminished and a surprisingly warm sun beat down on our backs. The day before Lindsay had been at The Nose with every stitch of warm clothing available, and even that morning we were wearing puffy jackets while belaying a group of clients. With a low the night before of 34 degrees and then a high of 75 degrees during the day, you could say I was surprised to be dripping sweat from my face at the belay ledge while swapping gear.

I looked up at a blank face of granite emanating a warm orange brown hue in the intense light. "Where do I put my ...(fill in the blank)" was what I thought of the forty feet above me. All I saw was two bolts that I'd have to levitate to in order to clip. I stepped up on some flakes while holding a nice half-finger rail to clip the first bolt. And what now? "What about that little thing up to the left" Lindsay said. O yes, the 2 millimeter crystal of granite I seemed to miss. Although it was miniscule, it really was my only option. I worked my left foot up onto a small edge and reached. A couple inches out of grasp. I stepped down and surveyed options, finding a desperate right foot edge to work onto and get a little higher for a better reach. I breathed, chalked up, and pulled up on the rail, moving my feet into the new-found position. SO WARM. I reached, touched the hold and tried to make a good first impression. "Hello hold, my name is Jeremy. Pleased to meet you. Will you be kind enough to provide enough balance so I can move my right foot onto this half-inch rail I'm holding?" The response was an immediate NO. So I stepped down and called it a day.

I thanked Lindsay for the free top rope session on the challenging face climb below us. Discounting the nuclear fission produced heat pouring down from the sun, I tried to surmise why this 5.11a seems so much more difficult then the pair of 5.11b's that I sent a few weeks earlier on the same wall? One of them was a sport route I had onsighted, feeling super pleased with such a solid showing. All I can say is that Clarence Hickman and Mark Pell are some great climbers. First-ascenting this hard route in ground-up style while placing such precariously clipped bolts is a thing of my dreams. My hat goes off to these gentlemen.

However, this back-off doesn't discourage me in the least. Just brings me back to earth a little. I'll wait for some cooler temps, or some free chilly morning to get back on this route and pull down on that microscopic crystal.

I won't be thwarted.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rained out in NH

So that wonderful trip to NH I was supposed to have, with climbing on Cannon cliff and at Upper West Bolton in Vermont, was properly sacked due to tropical depressions of rain. Depressions are an apt name for these rock climbing deterrent storms.

However, I did get to visit many friends and family while couch surfing from Cape Cod to Burlington. Between Mom & Dad, Nana & Bumpa, Nick, Tim, Frank and crew, Todd Wright and Mom and Pop Paushter it was a great trip. However, driving through the night to get to work and climb all day put me at being up for 36 hours strait. The next day I felt alright to start, but my energy quickly deteriorated and I was sick to my stomach and headachey. I drove myself home and immediately crawled into bed. Slept for a few hours before I was woken up with the urge to puke. And I did, but all I had in me was a couple mouth-fulls of water. I hate puking on an empty stomach. After that another 12 hours of sleep and I feel right as rain. It will be awhile before I do that again.

And now that I'm back in North Carolina the rock is dry, skies are blue, and temps are dialed to send! Rocktober is upon us, and I need to take full advantage. I may even start running more to get my endurance up. I'm in shape, but not distance running shape. And that type of endurance always helps me in the winter season. Skiing and ice climbing will be my focus all winter long. I'm a great snowboarder, but a crappy skier. I want to improve my skiing because it is the most fluid way to navigate the backcountry. Transitions between climbing snow, and skiing down it are much quicker in skis then a split board. So many days riding lifts to get strong ski legs is the plan.

Enough typing, time to get outside. Its a beautiful Monday in Asheville and I need to take advantage!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's been awhile

So I've been a tad bit on the lazy side with updating my blog. You could say that I've completely neglected it and if it were my child the state would be seeking custody of it. So I'll do a quick recap of everything since June climbing The Nose.

Climbed at the South Side of Looking Glass and got on Second Coming, a fun 5.7 crack with stemming. Liz and I took a couple of pitches to the top and left Balli, our newly rescued black lab, at the base. She's been a great addition to the now family of four, two humans and two dogs.

I finished with Wellspring and have now started with Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School as a Climbing Instructor. I hold the positions of Chimney Rock Park Director and Office Manager. Chimney Rock is a State Park and FMG has a partnership to provide climbing lessons, guided days, and 'tasters' for their clients. 'Tasters' are walk-up climbs where for $15 you can climb a pitch. I'm there every weekend and have really enjoyed introducing so many people to the sport. As the Office Manager I'm communicating with clients and scheduling trips remotely online and with the company phone. Its been fun talking about climbing with people on the phone, explaining how much we can offer them.

I got out with a new friend at the South Side again and climbed Genesis crack in WET conditions. It was the only reasonable climb to get on that day, even given that we had to find an alternate face climb for the second pitch to avoid slick wet rock. Balli came out on this day too and I left her on the ground tied up. She got loose (ate one of my cordalettes in the process) and proceeded to get herself in trouble. Found some sort of snake, probably a rattler from local beta, and got bit. The image above is her swollen lower jaw and neck before I took her to the vet. She was fine by the next day and swelling went away in a couple days. But she was extremely scared and probably in pain when we rappelled to the ground. Poor girl, stinks learning the hard way.

Got out climbing again with a bunch of Fox Guides to Cedar Rock, and sent a couple 5.11b's off the couch. A hand full of stops at the gym yielded the strength to fall a couple times on one 5.11b and onsight another 5.11b. I had no idea I could muster that type of ability with so much down time behind me. My eyes are now wide open, and I'm eager to find my limit.

I shadowed a couple days of private instruction as well. Our head guide Ron had a client out working on lead climbing that I tagged along for, and Karsten had a client out working on multi-pitch leading and rescue scenarios. These were excellent days to see some interesting techniques and different teaching styles I may implement in the future. I also went out with Ron short-roping acting as a client, and took notes on technique and efficiency. There's so much I can still learn, and I'm ready to move on to the next step.

I'm looking at some AMGA Rock Instructor courses in the spring, particularly one in Joshua Tree. Still can't get over how great this spot is, and my familiarity would really help during the course. Just need to tackle 30 or so more multi-pitch climbs and learn all the rescues from my fellow guides. Should be able to take care of a few of those multi-pitch climbs with a trip I'm taking back home in a couple weeks.

I'm NH bound on the 26th, leaving after work at 5pm to start 16 hours on the road. I'll make a stop on Cape Cod to visit a friend and catch up before continuing to home, and getting on some NH granite with my friend Noah. An extensive trip report will follow, and Cannon should be on the list.

For now, a couple more weekend days at Chimney rock, a couple days out with clients, some office work, and the Western North Carolina Climber's Weekend are what I'm looking forward to. And maybe I'll fit in some time to get a second job. All in all, I'm primed for a great fall ahead. See you on the rock!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Nose

This beautiful granite in Western North Carolina's Pisgah Forest is called The Looking Glass. It was formed as a large igneous intrusion under layers of weaker rock that eroded away to expose this monolith.

The Nose is the classic moderate route on the large face central in the photo above, left of the creeping vegetation from the summit. We started up this route early, about 7:30am before anyone else had even arrived at the parking lot. It was a good idea too, not only to snag first in line, but the temperature reached 90 degrees and staying out of the sun for the first half of the day was crucial.

The start of the route got me back into placing gear and trusting my feet on slab. My two month hiatus from climbing has really taken a toll on my psyche. But up in pitch 3 I really started to regain my confidence and execute moves deliberately. Liz had a great time following me and did an excellent job lead belaying. Congrats on her first multi pitch route!

The Blue Ridge Mountains in the background of this photo made an excellent backdrop to this four pitch climb. We topped out around noon and took in the view, along with some water and cliff bars. We simultaneously rappelled on double ropes, passing stations and getting down in half the time. We made it back to the car at 2:00pm for peanut butter sandwiches.

As you can see by the smile on my face, it was an excellent day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

North Carolina

I wanted to start a blog for the purpose of cataloguing my climbing and guiding endeavors. However, I feel it is most appropriate to bring myself up to speed on current events in my life. I've just started my first job out of college at Wellspring Adventure Camp in Canton, NC. Nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains between Mt. Pisgah and Cold Mountain, this place has been my home now for four weeks. And it will continue to be my home for another two, before my partner Liz and I move into our West Asheville Bungalow.

That's it above. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, basement, storage shed, back deck and fenced-in backyard. As my good friend Dave said, "Very domestic." All of our things are now in Asheville (Asheville Mini Storage to be completely accurate) with special thanks to Lamar for his help unloading the Uhaul.

Wellspring Adventure Camp has been a lot of fun so far. Their program for weight loss is truly inspired and provides campers with many opportunities for empowerment. I can't wait for our numbers to jump and to start functioning at maximum capacity.

But as for the true focus of this blog, climbing, that starts this Sunday the 20th. Liz and I are setting out to tackle Looking Glass hopefully by means of the route The Nose. It's heralded as the Southern classic, and we may have to beat the sun to this one in order to catch first dibs. I absolutely can't wait, given I've been staring at the many impressive faces throughout the Pisgah Forest for four weeks now without touching any of them! But I can manage. There will be a trip report soon following this outing. Cheers to all!