Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rock Climbing is my Valentine

It's come to my attention that this month marks the third year that Climbing and I have been in a serious relationship. 3 YEARS! I can hardly imagine a life without her - with her ups and downs (literally and philosophically), cross-country travels, and hopefully life-long friends.

That being said, it's also the reason I'm sitting here with one injured finger and 3 others not far behind. Bummed. It's made me think though my climbing and realize a sort of ridiculous thing:

That in those 3 years of climbing, I have never taken longer than one week off. I honestly cannot take 7 days off without going through withdraw and experiencing PCS (Post Climbing Syndrome). The "rest days are for the weak!" mentality that over time, if not right away, will give you a full blown injury was my mantra and I thought non-stop climbing would only make me stronger.

WRONG. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

The first thing I noticed was a decrease in performance; constant fluctuations in my climbing level. The next were the symptoms of a pre-burnout. The "why climb hard?", the "why waste my time with something so meaningless.", the occasional "why not just walk up the back?" thoughts raced through my mind. To a point they make sense and should be reflected on, I mean why spend countless hours a week over the course of years, devoting your life to a passion you're not truly psyched about?

The poisonous thoughts that ultimately make you give up climbing altogether. That was the scariest moment in my climbing career.

However, I began thinking "take a look at all the best climbers in the world, are they that better than me?" The short answer was, without-a-doubt, yes, but the long term answer was no, they had all at one point been where I am now - for some of them, not too long ago. A few of them even took long periods off of climbing. Take a look at Chris Sharma, who was forced to take a year off because of a knee injury. Before that he was climbing 14c/d. Shortly after he came back to climbing he sent Biographie, the world's first 15a. How could that be? Or even Nalle Hukkitival who took a year off while he was in the military, only to come back stronger than ever.

And then it hit me.

Maybe to make those big leaps in climbing ability, physical strength isn't important - maybe it's your mentality. Maybe at the highest level of your ability, the only thing pushing you up isn't ripped arms and iron tendons but your psyche for the sport and willpower to succeed. Climbing is like candy - at first it tastes amazing and it's all you want to eat (or do in the case of climbing unless you like the taste of granite). You become sick of it if you eat too much though. However, if you take a brake from it for a while, it tastes just as good as if you were having it for the first time.

Anyways, long story short, because of all of those reasons, I've decided to take a month off of climbing in hopes of coming back injury free and with a renewed psyche.

Happy Valentines Day and send hard!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Hueco Tanks. I don't even know where to start; so much has happened. I guess I'll start at the very beginning, back when coming to the mecca of bouldering was still only a dream.

I had always bothered Ellis, Earth Treks' Head Coach, about going but problems always seemed to stand in the way like cost, planning guides, even finding people who were psyched to go. Then one day Ellis came up to me smiling, the trip had been set. Fifteen people, including two coaches, planned on going. And I was ecstatic. Jump four months from then and I'm on my way home, typing this hastily written blog post on the airplane ride back to east coast. It's been spectacular, the stone is some of the coolest I've ever seen, and the way it climbs is insane. My expectations on how the climbing was going to be, although set high, were blown out of the water. This is kind of a diary of what's happened during the 7 days we've been in The Texas:

A picture of our tent site on the first night.
Day 1:
Our plane was delayed 2 hours in Maryland because of snow. Bummer. However, considering Kayla, Claire, Brandon and Mark's plane was delayed 5 I don't really have the right to complain... Of course the trip almost didn't happen, Ellis was at the hospital that very morning because his lungs filled with gunk and his bronchial tubes started to collapse making it almost impossible for him to breathe. Or something like that, all I could tell was it made him grumpy and walk slow. Sol, Eli and I sat next to each other on the plane and discovered we were in all actuality the world's worst sudoku players. After blowing about $500 on food and gear at a Walmart we started the 40 minute drive to Hueco, arriving around 11. After pitching our cheap Coleman 4 person tent in the dark and bending just about every stake we had Sol, Brandon, Mark and I went to bed around 12. All well. I had the extreme fortune to slept on a cactus and some pointy rocks. Sweeeeeet. We woke up freezing.

Day 2:
Jason Kehl was our guide! Rad. We started climbing around 11 at east mountain. Quickly sending dragonfly v5, (maybe best of the grade), Sol and I did dry-dock v7, an awesome levitating boulder next to full service. Sol then went on the send Bush League which I nearly did second try, except the sun got in my eyes and I forgot what I was doing... From there we went over to Hobbit in the Blender, another amazing v5, and after doing that one, I set to work on Crimping Christ on the Cross but fell on the last move of the top out.

Our fearless leader, Ellis
Day 3:
Tammy was our guide. Started early, went to the East Spur. I projected Full Monty V12 and did it in 2 sections. Super awesome climb, it has a really nice balance between techy footwork and pure power. After we left that area we went to The Egg and I realized I had hurt my wrist, probably opening up a door the wrong way or something stupid. After taking a short break and watching Sol, Brandon, Claire and Kayla making really good attempts I was psyched enough to try it and surprisingly sent it in a handful of tries. Also one of my favorite climbs. Going to the Maze Area from there I did Better Eat Your Wheaties v9, which I really enjoyed and Jigsaw Puzzle which is my new favorite v5. Maybe my favorite climb altogether? Ellis did Better Beat Your Sweeties v7 which looked really fun too but my lack of skin really limited my attempts.

Kayla on The Egg
Day 4:
Rest day. Our team went to get showers at rec center, but upon seeing how dirty they were decided to wait and clean up at the Hacienda in the afternoon. We did a little more grocery shopping, only spending about $250 this time. At this weird store Jason had told us about I bought a poncho and a blanket. I finally slept well, managing not to freeze in the frigid temperatures.

Day 5:
Rocco was our guide. I sent Ministry of Truth v9/10, this cool problem that started with a two move campus sequence and then a cross into a seam with a high slab finish, while Sol and Kayla did the Long Haul v8. We then continued to west mountain where we did Meddle Detector, Crash Dummy, Star Power and Animal Acts, all of which I loved. Sooo Goood!

Day 6:
Martina was our guide and it was New Years Eve. I went back and sent Full Monty!!!! Right as it started to snow, it felt like a magical send. It might have been the hardest thing I've ever climbed and without some foot beta from Martina I probably would not have did it. Topped it out beaming. Sol sent Javelina V8 and the Egg today too. Bella flashed Your Brain is on Drugs v9. No big deal.

Sol on Javelina. Photo Cred. Claire Bresnan

Day 7:
Jason was our guide again. I flashed Something Different v8 and Man Gum v8/9. Fingers started bleeding...

One of the main climbs I wanted to try this trip was Slashface. Everything about it interested me; the aesthetics, the history about it, the style of climbing, and the difficulty. After giving it a few tries, I knew I had no possibility of sending, I'll have to be at a totally different level in order to send that one. But that's ok - ok because if any problem did, that one got me the most excited to train hard. I can't wait to see what's in store next time...
Peace out.

P.s. - Apparently I did not take any actual "climbing" pictures... I hope the faces suffice...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Winter Day at Bushwhack

Life is Beautiful
Photo Credit: Jon Alexander
This was my second visit to Bushwhack, a small (or big by Maryland standards) granite and quartzite-banded ridge in Frederick, MD. Predominantly known as a toprope area with some moderate trad routes, it has recently noticed bouldering development and a resurgence of popularity. On my last visit, I was accompanied by my dad and my friend, Mark P. With the little climbing footage my dad took, I crudely made a short video you can watch Here.

Realizing how good the climbing was and how much potential it had for new lines, I new I had to go back. As soon as I could. Luckily, this past Saturday I was able to make it out again with my friend and local climbing badass, Robin Close (check out his blog

It was precisely 9:02 as my dad and I arrived the Earth Treks in Columbia, (give or take a few minutes, my phone doesn't keep time well), and were greeted by Robin at his car. After talking for a few minutes my dad took off and Robin and I were on our way. In the hour and ten minutes it took to get to Bushwhack, we conversed about what we wanted to do for the day. Having made plans already with Jeff and a group of climbers from northern Virginia, Robin wanted to try the high and beautiful line (living up to it's name) Life is Beautiful, knowing we would have enough pads to climb it with a lessened risk of injury. Another problem he wanted to try was Flipping the Bird, a climb he had previously done from the stand but wanted to do from the sit which probably adds a grade and a sick double kneebar sequence.

We met Jeff at the start of the approach and walked excitedly towards Life is Beautiful, the sun finally starting to shine through the clouds. As we warmed up, the group from northern Virgina came walking in and offered to let us barrow their a few of their pads to make the landing even more bomber. SWEET. The sun now fully out warming the rock, I put my shoes on as fast as I could and tried the problem, getting it on my third try and saying honestly as I hit the last hold "I nearly just crapped my pants." at the top. Robin and Jeff wimped out...

Life is Beautiful
Photo Credit: Jon Alexander
Great problem, one of the most aesthetic problems at bushwhack.

Next we decided to go try the sit start to tourette's razor, but it was A LOT harder than I had thought and as cool as it would be to see the whole line go, adding the sit probably detracts from the quality of the line. Jeff got super close to this pretty cool, sorta heinous, traverse into the start.

After spending about 30 minutes there we packed up camp and decided to go to try Flipping the Bird just around the corner. I climbed past the crux, a hard deadpoint from a crimpy rail into a sloping seam, in a few tries but fell on the very last move. Sort of bummed, but I will definitely be back for that one.

We then hiked around and came to the butterbeer slab and Robin, the slab-master, wanted to try the blank face right next to it. It had a horrible tree/ pit kind of landing. Of course. Jeff and I didn't even shoe up for this one. Robin gave it a  few good burns, but decided his life was more important than the glorious send... Right around the corner I bouldered maybe a 20 foot 5.9, (with that being said, it was probably a 15 foot 5.6) which filled my highball hunger for the day.

It was almost four in the afternoon, almost time to go, so the last batch of problems we tried were on our way back to the car - the atonement boulder. Jeff was super close on this one and I'm sure he would have sent it if he hadn't had a time crunch. Robin and I both sent thinking it was around a V5. Bitterness and Shadows, the short slab to the right of atonement took significantly longer for me, even though it was probably only a V2. Gosh I am terrible at slab... Robin started doing laps on it (he says because it was fun but I really think they were just spite sends)...

Robin on Atonement
It was a pretty fun trip, and I hope to be back soon!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Acre Parte Dos

It's been a funky few months, filled with leaps and bounds climbing wise. Today was the first day I climbed outdoors in a long while and it was long overdue! PSYCHED!

I made my second trip to The Acre, a ridge of amazing rock within walking distance of the more popular area, Bushwhack Rock. My first trip was about a month ago with Vince, Robin and his family. Since Robin is a large contributor in the scene of the Maryland climbing it was like going out with a guide who knew all the boulder problems and their general grades.

This time was entirely different...

Only my dad and I went this time, besides a few GPS coordinates Robin had sent me over The Facebook and a few videos I had watched of some problems there, we were all on our own (I was surprised we didn't get lost...). Unaware of most established problems and their grades freed us to do anything that we thought looked cool. We were just there to play on the rocks, regardless of the grade, and I think that's how climbing should be (of course there is always a time to push your limits and grades help to narrow down the search). It turns out "cool" problems are high...


About 20 feet high... Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery right as we arrived so this was the only climb we got pictures of. Bummer Bummer Bummer. My dad managed to climb this one as well, topping out left instead taking the full height and going straight up like I did...

We then continued on the ridge and did a few more high problems and possibly the FA of a rig with a sketchy top out to the right of Intro to Belly Dancing. Does anyone know if it's been climbed already? The crux is this classic mantle at the top with the incredibly rare "If I blow this I get a butt full of tree stump" feeling. Perfection. My dad then wiggled his way up the fun Intro to Bellydancing and ate a sandwich while I worked on the problem just to the other side of that wall with a dyno variation I'd seen in a video (the name of the climb escapes me) until I unluckily split a fingertip on the crimpy start. Of course neither of us had brought tape so I promptly put chalk on it to stop the bleeding and continued to climb. Just around the corner I flashed this problem that's movement was really cool and had this awesome sloping pinch that unfortunately was part of a wobbling-loose flake and had to be avoided.

After that, we did a few more highballs, one of which had a gnarly descent (more like a chossy V2 down-climb while you waged battle with an army of dead trees pulled on moving flakes), we decided to pack up shop and head back home. On our way out, we came across the gem of a project that Robin had saved for me and showed me on my first trip. While contemplating whether to try it or not I noticed that a flake on the top was gone, leaving a large crystal band more positive than what was there before. I don't know if someone did it on purpose or not but when Robin or I tried it a few weeks ago, it hadn't moved or even sounded like it would come off, which is strange. However this probably only made it more classic in the end so no worries! I didn't try it again though, the slash on my fingertip would not have held up on the small crystal crimps...

Good news is I'll be back on Friday again with my friend and fellow crusher, Mark!! Super psyched!

Until then, as Mr. Spock would say if he climbed, Send Hard and Prosper.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Autumn Update

     Throughout this fall, we have had some great opportunities to get outside and climb. These days have been accompanied by some great weather and optimal rock conditions. My partner, Kerry, and I took advantage of a past three day weekends to take a trips to the New. Like I said previously, the weather was great; we encountered highs in the mid-forties, overnight lows in the mid-thirties, and overcast skies. We couldn't have asked for anything better!

     Our first day we figured we should try something new, so we went to the Meadow River and decided to hit up Area 51. The drive was fairly distant, along this old winding narrow road where we had to cross over --according the the guidebook-- an old "dilapidated train trussel." We were surprisingly welcomed by a short, five minute approach to the base of this tall, steep, white wall. We had one climb in mind, Made in The Shade, a four-star 12d in which Kerry sent quickly in two tries, and I made shorty after.

     Since the weekend we picked happened to be part of Bridge Day-- an annual tradition where BASE Jumpers from all over come to legally jump off the 900+ ft. New River Bridge-- we decided to stay on the northern part of the gorge since the bridge would be closed all day. We went to Endless Wall and warmed up on this classic 100 ft. four-star 11b, Discombobulated. Shortly after this we quickly parted directions and found two separate projects to work, Pocket Route and Dial 911, two classic, four-star 13a's. After Kerry set up her draws on Pocket Route, I hopped on Dial 911, flailing to the chains with beta from a guy we met the previous day. I figured this route would never go after this lousy first attempt. We returned on our third, and final day to hopefully cleanup what we had started. Although Kerry decided to clean her gear and save this route for next time I felt determined to give Dial 911 a final redpoint burn. I quickly cruised the easy beginning thirty feet and passed the first hard move. I continued past the middle crimping section making an occasional noise to reach the first crux where some powerful moves on these tiny delicate crimps through a dihedral mark a large deadpoint to a mailbox slot. I figured if I can make this low-percentage move then I might be able to man-up and finish through the upper crux. Well sure enough I stuck the slot and continued to this "halleluiah" rest jug. After regaining as much juice as I could I ran at the last crux move with everything I had. Making some ridiculous noises, I stuck the final moves and clipped the chains in relief.

I am currently planning for my upcoming trip to the Red River Gorge over Thanksgiving break and am praying for good weather. Though Kerry, my usual partner, won't be accompanying me, she will be crushing at the Pan-American Championships in Chile along with three of our other teammates, Kayla, Brandon, and Claire. Good-luck to you guys and represent!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

New River Gorge Trip Sept.

 Kerry on Tobacco Road- 5.12b

So it's taken a while to post this, probably due to the increasing load of schoolwork (no that's a lie), or just pure laziness, but i think I'm gonna write about my most recent trip to the New River Gorge of West Virginia.
     My partner Kerry, and I left school Friday with high hopes and full Psyche as we began on our fairly short, five hour drive through the familiar, winding roads of Western Maryland and into West Virginia.
     We arrived at Chestnut Creek campground around 9:00 p.m. just in time to pitch tents in the dark. We decided to eat dinner at an Ihop about an hour prior to our arrival, so we didn't have to cook when we got there (a great idea! Great send fuel).
     Our first day was spent in Summersvile at the Coliseum, a beautiful overhanging wall of white rock overlooking the lake. Some classic routes we sent were Tobacco Road- 5.12b  and Reckless Abandoned- 5.12a. We also hopped on Apollo Reed, said the be one of the best 13's east of the Mississippi, which I fell at the redpoint crux at the 8th bolt. It was my second, and best attempt at the route ever. I was really psyched to return in the future and hopefully send. Along with the climbing, our first of three injuries occurred today where a few of the younger kids we were with, were throwing rocks into the lake and one of them struck one of the kids in the head. He was taked to the hospital and received two staples.
     The Endless Wall was in our sights for our second day. We focused on the Honeymooners and Snakebutress areas. I worked this super classic route, Jesus and Tequila, and also managed a flash of Sacrilege, another classic 5.12b. The Endless wall is a beautiful wall that sits atop the New River, and as the name hints, its endless!  Now, the second and third injuries happened today. One of the younger girls fell on the approach in and catching herself on her hands caused her to break her right wrist. She was also taken to the ER and was put into a cast. And last and definitely least, when backing into the parking space I side-swiped a tree with the front right quarter panel above the wheel and scuffed it up(unnoticeable after a brief buffing and whacking the two panels back together).
     Our last day was a half day of climbing due to the fact that we had school the next day and we needed to travel. We went to Kaymoor in Fayetteville and spent our time in The Hole. Super steep powerful climbing that even Kerry, a hardcore crimp enthusiast, was dying to climb. I worked Lactic Acid Bath a 12d and got 2 bolts higher than my previous burn last season. A lot of power-endurance will be necessary to redpoint this monster.  Kerry also onsighted this super sandbagged 12b, Yowsah. I wish I would've had time to get on that too.

So anyways, that was our trip and I'm super psyched to return and send some projects.
-Happy sending

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shouldn't I be climbing right now?

I hate school. I hate being in it. And waking up for it. I hate homework. I hate teachers who assign homework. I hate that it’s getting in the way of, not only my climbing, but also the enjoyment of the outdoors and the beautiful weather we've had the past few days. I want to set up my hammock under a tree and sway in the 70 degree breeze. I want to climb. Outdoors. I want to travel. Explore. I want to climb a tree. And sleep under the stars. But here I am. On my deck. Laying on a crash pad. Doing my worthless homework. I don't care about Algebra 2, nor does it care about me. Ten years from now, I doubt I will miss it. And after taking ten years of English, I can say we're more than just friends. I don't need to know what people in Egypt were thinking in 600 B.C. I need to care about the future. And then I want to climb.... More.

That's where I am right now. Ticked off at the world with a headache.

Anyways, here's what has been happening in my life on the past few days:

Climbing team tryouts. They were actually a lot of fun, Evan and I lounged under the system board at Columbia, pulled some hard moves on plastic, and did our homework (no surprise there). It was a super laid back climbing day but we made up some interesting problems that I liked. Kayla Lieuw, a world-class climber and equally amazing cupcake baker, brought in a few dozen tiramisu cupcakes (probably the highlight of the night). In the end the laughs were overly proportional to the amount of climbing and I'd have it no other way.

Disc golfing. Aka the 21st best thing in my world - before long showers but after climbing, Christmas mornings, sleeping, autumn, ect... Anyways, it was a lot of fun! Evan, Papa Smail, Harris, Mike, and I went to some course in Columbia and I somehow managed to hit every single tree on that course with my frisbee... Hopefully I will be able to go again soon (and not lose by a ton this time...)

Music. The new Mumford and Sons album come out in 13 days and I'm beyond PSYCHED!!! If you haven't listened to them, you seriously should. If you don't like them, don't talk to me... Also, I recently listened to Of Monsters and Men for the first time and they are awesome! Of course, my sense of music is definitely a little weird... Right now, besides those two bands, I'm really diggin' the Black Keys, The Shins, The Punch Brothers, Jose Gonzalez, The Broken Bells, and CCR. Also, if you didn't know, I am a mediocre piano player. I just started learning Moonlight Sonata (the first movement) and its soo cool! Really creepy and its minor tonality makes it perfect for Halloween coming up next month!

Climbing wise I really happy, besides wishing I could do it more often. Lately, I've felt like a five-year-old boy with ADHD while I'm at the gym and am so psyched to be so stoked to climb again, it's huge. I haven't felt this way towards the sport since when I had just started. I've continued leading and while still uncomfortable with falling, that feeling is starting to go away which is nice. I still suck at clipping though, and apparently I backstep like it’s nobody's business...

In related news, I HAVE A LONG WEEKEND (which is #11 on the list of things that make me happy). Hopefully I will be able to get out to Bushwhack Rocks, Sykesville, or even somewhere in Pennsylvania this weekend and do some outdoor gnarr climbin'! Bushwhack looks cool and I want go soooooooooo badly!

Dan M. on the Levitation Boulder - Courtesy of Robin Close's Awesome Blog.

To Be Continued...