Thursday, August 14, 2014

Training Talk: Mirrors

Descartes almost had it right.  He should have said: I hurt therefore I am.  While I may not always be guilty of thinking (the "cogito" part of the equation), when I head out to the garage for a workout, the hurt part is guaranteed.  Indeed, I'll say to Jodi as I walk down the hall to our hurtatorium, "I'm heading into the garage to hurt myself."  I'm never disappointed, except, sometimes, in my performance.  Today was a somewhat "heavy gravity" day, one of those outings where there's a little kryptonite nearby, invisible gremlins dangling from your ankles, last night's beer loitering in your motivation.  Whatever.  From the first pullup, you know in your bones that gravity has it in for you, so you fight.  That's essence of it, fighting, pushing back against laziness, the couch, the Ben and Jerry's whispering from the freezer.

I am no superstar.  I will not run ultra marathons, complete back-to-back Iron Man's (Iron Men?), or swim the Bering Sea.  I guess I'm a pretty average, middle-aged enthusiast, a nut job doing his best to hang on to some strength and have a few more adventures before the armies of walkers, wheelchairs, and adult diapers drag me kicking and screaming away from adventure as I envision it--at least these days.  Who knows, perhaps one day my greatest adventure will be crossing the street, fighting then against a few more decades of wear and tear and the impending end.  But I'm not there yet, and the walkers will have to slug it out for this flesh.  I'm going down swinging.

The photo above features in the foreground a pair of Metolius Rock Rings, a set of sculpted holds for hanging and pullup exercises.  On the wall is an old sign from when my father had his own gun shop in L.A. back in the early 60's.  He was a Renaissance man in the "good old boy" school, equally adept at Shakespeare and muzzle loaders.  I miss him every day.  I don't do much shooting these days, not for decades, really, but I've still got guns that need tending, and so my dad's sign has taken on a new meaning as I struggle to stay in shape, maybe progress a little, tackle a few hard climbs--hard for me, that is.  Chris Sharma has nothing to worry about.

But I ponder often the internal struggle I go through to face up to another workout, to step up to a hard climb, to start out on a difficult mountain pass on a heavy bike, to set off on a three month ride with no idea how it's going to turn out.  So often there is this huge inertia that holds us back.  At its worst, we reach for the beer instead of the bike, when it's not so bad, we shake it off and do the best we can.  In each instance, we face a mirror, something, a goal, a pullup bar, a hill, a vertical cliff that throws us back on ourselves, showing us who we are, what we're made of.  Mirror, mirror of the wall, who's the weakest of them all?  NO!  Not me!  I can do this.  Can't I?  Maybe not.  This shade is comfortable.  The cooler is full back at camp.  I don't need to do this, do I?  But look at that crack.  It's taunting you, begging you to try.  That mountain pass is mocking you, daring you to clip in and start pedaling.  

The least we can do is try.  What or who looks back at us from that mirror may not be the superstar we imagine, but we can hold our heads up if we simply go after it, day after day.  The cliche is a cliche because it's true:  It's not the destination, it's the journey.  Each workout, each ride, each climb is another chance to cross the threshold of our own uncertainty and try.  Who knows, you might make it.

A one gun salute to all who try:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Crags of summer

This is a roundup post, a chance to share a little of what went down this summer on the vertical.  Actually, the longest trip was technically during spring, from mid-May to early June, but school was out, and that always counts as summer in my book.  Our first outing included picking up a new rig--a Chalet Arrowhead pop-up trailer.  First stop, Shuteye Ridge where some rare California rain shut us down.

Fortunately, Jodi came prepared with the latest in foul weather gear:

With days of the rain settling in, we headed home, regrouped, and launched up the East Side:

Jodi's opinion of her new shoes, which she wore for only a couple of short sport climbs.  The toes pinched down something fierce.  REI will be getting a return:

After a couple of painful romps at the Alabama Hills, we lit out for a remote crag.  Can't tell you where it is, but the climbing is great!

We settled in for a few days, camping, lounging, beer, coffee, sunrises, sunsets, the rough and tumble life of crazy rock climbers:

Jodi belays at the top of the crag.  You need a 70 meter rig to get off with one rope:

The Wyde will take a blood sacrifice:

One of my favorite routes of the summer, Competitive Edge.  It takes the obvious line, not a bolt to be found anywhere, and the crux is protected by a pretty small wire.  The big plates up high are sooooo dreamy:

Jodi and Django mad chillin':

The views and rock formations leave you shaking in wonder:

As the sun sets, it's time to move on to the next big rock:

Lover's Leap was our next destination, and we scored a schweet camping spot.  Jodi's diggin' Freakonomics--a great read!  I'm working on a killer experiment with adult malt beverage recovering drinks--Longboards, if I recall:

Obligatory gear sorting shot.  Note the Adult Beverage enhancement technique.  Don't try this at home, kids!

Scotty leads off on the ever-classic Haystack:

Jodi blazes the upper corners:

Coming to grips with The Line, a route I first climbed 36 years before--yoiks:

 Peace, Love, Dope, and VW's:

We had a great few days, ticked some great classics, including Scimitar and Surrealistic Direct.  Sorry, no pics of those.  We're on the honor system here regarding sends.  Next it was off to the East Side again and the Canyon Clark:

Jodi tackles the steeps:

Django tackles the sleeps:

My favorite route at Clark, Pull My Finger.  It takes the center of the smooth walls then cuts up the middle of the corrugations up high.  Superb!

Jodi following the first pitch.  Dig that beautiful stone:

Pulling through the overlaps:

Wondrous view from the summit:

We tried to do a day of trad climbing at the Stumps, but a pair of these fierce birds would have none of it, dive bombing us and making weird barking sounds.  Great horned owls are no joke!  We left them in peace.

Killer camping was standard, although one night got down to 18 deg. F.!

The road in and out was interesting, but the burly Tundra got 'er done:

Then it was off to our last adventure, a hike around the Horseshoe Meadow area:

Django gets his phreak on:

V is for victory, yo:

Get yer bomber jugs where you can:

My next outings were with they guys.  First off, a quick run up Cathedral Peak with my teenage protege, Max:

Mt. Dana from near our campsite:

Hiking in--6:30AM and sub-freezing:

Granite goodies:

The peak!

Max follows a nice crack near the top of the wall.  I had a very strange experience leading this.  Part way up, I had SEVERE rope drag such that I had to fight my way up this crack that should have otherwise been a simple, enjoyable romp.  I yelled down to Max to keep me posted on slack because I'd be fighting the rope as he ascended.  I grunted my way to the belay, got anchored, and as I went to pull for bringing up Max--ZERO rope drag.  The line had clearly dropped out of some constriction, and I had a pleasant time bringing up the lad.  Harumph.

On the summit: Gotta Instagram the universe:

The grumpy elder:

The Sierras don't get any better:

Another party storms the mountain:

Then it was back to the Leap with Trent the Shermanator.  He kills it in the ultras and is a pretty good climber, too!  Trent tears it up on Surrealistic:

Hiking Main Ledge to bag Corrugation Corner:

Hittin' the corner:

On the summit:

Rocking Hospital Corner:

Trent leads the money, taking us to the top via Dead Tree Direct--Do it, folks!

Last trip of the summer?  Maybe.  Jodi and I head to the Mammoth area, dodge thunder storms and generally have a blast.  The best day was up at Highlander Wall, on Crystal Crag.  Breezy and cool, unlike much of the other climbing we did, which was blazing hot in the sun.

Highlander Wall, sweet sport craggin' at altitude:

It's been a great summer--and we're SO ready for it to be over.  The heat drags us down.  I dig into prepping for classes just around the corner and dream of high peaks and clean granite.  Get out there folks.  Time's a wastin'.