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...