Friday, November 30, 2012

Faces of Movember

I'd never ask for money for something like Movember. Although it's a great cause we all should make our own decisions about what we do with our money. However, if you find yourself with some cash you'd rather not donate to the IRS, I will throw my name in a hat and with the below offering. Find yourself entertained and need a tax write off go to my Movember page.

Without further ado, here's how my Movember progressed.

The official photo of Movember

"How about a little teamsmanship?"

The most interesting man in Movember

"I do not always raise money. But when I do, I prefer if it's for something useful."

Sometimes dopers don't suck

"ils sont tous dopers!"

Birthday Challenge Failure

Peace, man

"I want to take you highhh-er"

Birthday Challenge Reboot

"I'm going to hunt down the disease that killed my friend and destroy it. Probably with dynamite."

American Flyer

"Hittin' the Jackie Robinson Sports Institute for the Torture Test. Better pump."

And, finally, the look on top that would make Nick and Nora proud. "Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BDC P1: Sometimes The Bear Eats You

Birthday Challenge ’12, part I. A man much wiser than myself once said, “sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you”. Today’s event falls under the latter category.

The weather had been a bit dicey and when I sent out my pre-challenge email hoping to wrangle support. I got a reply from Bob making fun of my optimism given the less-than-stellar conditions. Turns out he was right. Here’s the report I sent out after what turned into just another training day.

A bit too optimistic, yes. This failure falls under two categories:

1) November is always a crap shoot weather-wise.

2) It's always the unknown part of the challenge the gets you.

Taking the second part first, aware of the above possibility I started on the 3 routes I hadn't had time to rehearse, beginning with the hardest. Figured if I could do it things would be all downhill, so we warmed up in the garage (I did one of the easier practice 12s I'd set during training and felt good). It was also in the sun first thing in the morning, which seemed like a good idea with the chilly forecast.

Well, it turned out to be hard, but doable, so the logistics seemed right. The weather forecast, not so much. It was in the sun for about 2 minutes when we got there, followed by clouds, wind, and intermittent squawls. There was also a huge water streak, which had shown up since I put the draws on it two days early, and the trail had gotten worse, so the approach was more arduous, but that's nitpicking. The real issue was the weather.

Anyway, because this route was completely dry two days prior and it hadn't rained or snowed we didn't bring the torch up. So during the full upper section one foot was always on wet holds. I put the draws on it and sussed the moves. Dried it best I could. Then proceeded to fail at the 3rd to last move, then the 2nd to last move twice. Clearly because of a foot slip once but I was also pumped and couldn't feel the holds so it was hard to say. We had a heater so I'd start warm but on each go, post "crux" at a shake out jug, I couldn't feel anything, perhaps due to conditions akin to climbing in a car wash. The finishing moves didn’t feel too bad but the holds are very small and slopey, not great for numb fingers. Anyway, after the last failure it was really too late to complete everything else so I decided to hope the weather improved and reboot, turning the day into more training.

The positive takeaway here is that the route turned out great--far better than expected. Hard from start to finish. Probably "stand-up 12b" or soft c according to Ben.

Went home to drop off Romney, as there was no longer reason to keep her suffering with us, and the weather was perfect. Headed up to the Choss Garden, which had the other two routes I hadn't gotten on. Weather at the car was great. At the cliff (after a terrible approach post holing into talus--always good fun) the "car wash effect" had followed us. Howling wind, spitting rain, which we couldn't tell if it was coming from the sky of the wet streaks on the wall. It was so bad Ben didn't bother booting up.

First half of the lower part of the first route was wet and icy, which made it a little exciting. This "pitch" is only 5.10, leading to my extension, an easy/mid 11 that went really well.

Lowered down the new finish I'd bolted that was linking the cruxes of a 12a and 11d (which I'd done recently and it felt easy). I knew my section would be the crux but since you hit it after a big rest I didn't think it would change the grade. I was wrong. It was both wet and icy and the sky was wet, so it's kind of hard to say, but this section was far longer than I expected. 19 new moves after 24 moves off the previous 2 routes. I tried it quite a bit and didn't get it clean. Blaming it on an "insta-freeze" big flat hold in the middle of the crux that would render my hand useless after I grabbled it (maybe some Buddhist Palm effect). I'm sure it'll be easier in proper conditions but I think it's going to be solid b and maybe harder if the rest doesn't pan out on redpoint as good as I think it will.

Back in town weather was still nice. People were cycling in shorts. Most of the snow had melted. So we headed up Grandeaur to check out Hydrogen Psychosis, another of the perceived hardest routes. As soon as we get near the crag the weather that had been following us around all day returned. Blasting wind, freezing temps, all in all pretty awesome. I'd cleaned the top of this route of snow on Wed and it was completely wet. It was now dry so I lowered down it to re-chalk the holds, I was feeling absolutely cooked by this time but I went post-crux to the top in one go much easier than I expected then did the crux section and the crux clip without incident before calling it a day and turning the route over to Ben hoping he'd find some easier sequences. He didn't but he liked the route a lot, calling it super techie and "a powerful son-of-a-bitch" in the 12b/c range.

We were assessing all the routes on the way down and think that all of the 12s might be 12b (originally thought 2 would be a), plus another 11d or 12a and two mid 11s. This is harder than expected but still doable. I was absolutely cooked at the end but we'd also done the hardest approaches and probably as much volume as if I'd done all of the climbing and gotten it first try. Trail conditions were grim, definitely adding an element as there's probably more than 3,000' of ascent. Most importantly, all of the routes are quality; great local additions that I’ll continue to do for fun.

On the food/drink element: 5 fritters and 12 Olys - zero chance. Ben and I ate 3.5 fritters between us. Felt awful. Bob said he thought 5 fritters would be impossible in 12 hours and I think he's right. We had two boxes with 6 fritters in each and it felt like it weighted 20 pounds! Not sure what I’ll do for the food and drink element, which isn’t such a big deal when you plodding all day and burning calories but a real hindrance when you want to your body to perform a 100% anaerobic effort.

If I had good conditions and a great day I could pull it off (about how a birthday challenge should feel, like everything has to go perfect), and I'm going to try when I get the chance.

And try I did. Will post as soon as I get the chance...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adventure Monday: Turkey

After countless breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even dreams, this summer the time finally came to remove the photo off the kitchen wall.

Here's an outstanding account of an off-the-beaten-track adventure in the mountains of Turkey, not a place generally associated with high-end alpinism. My favorite part is how well it conveyed the games climbers play in their heads dreaming of ascents. Most of these go unfinished. It's much easier to spy a line up a rock face than it is to make it a reality, especially in far off lands. But without such visions our sport would not exist. Occasionally we live our dreams, and this is a tale of one of those times. Be sure and click through to the photos at the bottom. There are still many amazing remote areas left to be explored. For those of us with an inkling of adventurous spirit, it's guaranteed to set your mind in motion.

The story of the new route on Cima Vay Vay dates back to 2005. It was then that Larcher first heard about the great wall of splendid limestone from his friend Recep Ince - the alpinist and owner of the campiste that has always been the base for climbing expeditions in this mountain chain. Ince knows these mountains like the back of his hand, far better than anyone else and a year later the first "contact" came about. "I set off with Recep" explained Larcher "and after walking for two long days, having climbed over numerous passes, following no path at all and with only a rough map which ended 2/3 of the way there, we finally reached the Barazama waterfalls. We bivied ad the foot of the majestic Vay Vay amphitheatre and managed to photograph the face in the fleeting early morning light... At home I hung this photo up in my kitchen and I knew that, sooner or later, its time would come."

And there, at 3000m, is another clue as to why someone can be so in love with such cumbersome toils. For they were awaited by "an idyllic place, a hectare of happiness, a place of tranquillity amid the moraine. It was our small, provisional paradise: a perfectly trimmed lawn ideal for our tents, a snowfield to the side which acted as a fridge, a crystal clear lake fed by a stream, two boulders which provided shade on rest days, both in the morning and in the afternoon..." And, what is more, this was all located directly opposite Vay Vay, that authentic sheet of rock, 1 km wide, 600 meters high and even with glacier at its base. Marvelous!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hardest Onsight, Climbing Circus Tricks, & More

Weather's looking perfect for a long weekend (at least here) so get outside and do something to earn your feast. For inspiration, here's the hardest route ever onsighted, courtesy of Black Diamond and, of course, Adam Ondra.

We don't exactly know it's the hardest but Ondra onsighted two 9as this day, downrating both, and said this one was harder. Since both would be the world's first 9a onsight we're assuming the title. Anyway, it's pretty clear from the vid that he can go deeper. Very, very impressive climbing from the guy with, by far, the most impressive climbing tick list in the world.

However, until he onsights something like this (go to 1:20) he can still raise the bar. The move in this video (maybe onsighted--have no idea) is the most bizarre climbing move I've ever seen. It's like a circus trick and I had to watch it 5 times to figure out what happened. Competition climbing has changed to the point where it's almost more like watching Cirque Du Soleil than how people ascend a rock face.

Check out this last video of a climbing comp from the 80s. Quite a difference, eh?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Le Blond: RIP

Another climbing legend is gone. Details are completely lacking but a French newspaper has reported that rock legend Patrick Edlinger passed away last week, well before his time at 52. It does not seem as though it was climbing related.

Edlinger was a pioneer in the sport climbing movement but will be most remembered for his soloing on film, as well as his amazingly fluid style, which seemed to matter more to him than his achievements as he once said, "(sic) To only reach the top is a waste of time. What's important is that we do it in a way that is pleasing." DPM has a great compilation of his videos here. The one I've posted is a very French look at one of his rampages around the US, doing all of our hardest climbs at the time.

Sadly, there's no 'net postings of his showing at the first World Cup climbing competition in the US. This is the place I first saw him climb and it had a huge impression on me. Not only did he dominate the field, he did it as though God was on his side. After two days of climbing in dark cloudy conditions, the sun decided to make an appearance only after "The Dreammaker" (a name that seemed to be made up by CBS) latched the jug at the very lip of a huge roof, which not only lit up his face and highlighted his flowing blond locks, but sealed his victory and electrified the crowd. It was the stuff of legend, but only another day in the life of Le Blond. May he rest in peace.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't Let Night Ruin Your Day

Here's a cool video on running at night. Headlamp technology has become so good that darkness isn't nearly the obstacle to adventure that it once was, and not just for running. It's becoming more and more commonplace to plan hard climbing routes at night (Caldwell et al worked on these pitches in the dark), which seems insane. And for tomorrow's challenge I'm charging my batteries right now.

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. Work and organizing my birthday challenge have my time pretty well used up. Upside is that I'm saving up some good stuff for the New Year when more people are paying attention.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rock Tasting

"People go to France to taste wine. I came to England to taste rock." - Caroline Cialvaldini

In need of a some Psyche to get your Monday going? Thanks Hot Aches productions for making their film, The Odyssey, is available to download from free for the next week by going here.

The Odyssey follows four climbers on a tour to some of England's most history trad climbing locations. This means, aside from a lot of varied and beautiful scenery, in lieu of the standard crank-o-philia associated with most climbing vids you get your trad on with a heaping dose of scary.

The crew, all world-class (professional) climbers, take Joe Brown's "if ya didn't fall off you must not 'av climbed anything 'ard then" philosophy to the hilt and take to the air regularly. They all have amazingly good heads, laughing where average climbers tend to freak out, but the seriousness of what they're doing still comes out in subtle ways. It's a very different look at climbing than what's played up in the media. Truly scary falls are somewhat rare in climbing films. If you miss that aspect, this is film for you.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Salt & Sugar: Video Chat

Video streaming by Ustream

Here's yesterday's chat, the more robust version of this article. The odd opening came to Keith in a dream, and who are we to deny such a vision? I'm sure there will be more chat dreams/themes in the future. If you have further questios, ask away here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fasting, Aerobics, and Weight Loss

GoreTex Experiance Tour - Dave MacLeod goes for a run! from Hot Aches Productions on Vimeo.

I just got back from an easy morning run. It was slow, almost plodding, ended with a short stretching session, and in total took about 45 minutes. I did it because I need to shed a few pounds quickly and it’s the oldest trick in the book when it comes to fine tuning your weight loss.

I was reminding of this “trick” yesterday when my friend Ben brought up Dave Macleod using this tactic to get ready for his hardest routes. We used to run this tactic in college for track. As for climbing, before the most successful road trip of my life I’d tweaked a finger and had to back off on my training. Without the ability to train for strength I aimed instead for lighter (a roundabout way of getting stronger in gravity sports) by starting 3-4 days per week with 2-10 miles of easy aerobic-paced running. I ended up going into that trip 8 pounds lighter than my average weight, which increased my performance far more than any strength training could have hoped to.

Running in the morning before you eat helps improve your body’s use of fat for energy or, as Macleod puts it, “normally if I run I do it after the overnight fast to get into fat oxidation quicker”. A fasted state, while not optimal for hard training because you quickly run out of stored glycogen (or bonk, a point where your workout goes south quickly), is great for easy to moderate exercise because you can improve your body’s ability to tap into it’s “fat for fuel” process.

In general, light aerobic training has very little effect on your metabolic process. This is why you often hear trainers say things like “cardio only burns calories while you’re doing it where weight training burns calories all day long” and so forth. Aerobic training in a fasted state helps your training in two ways. It heightens your metabolism for a longer period of time than it normally would and it doesn’t break down much muscle tissue so you can utilize it during your hard training.

This is why when we recommend doubles programs one of your two workouts is always easier than the other. It’s not running that’s the magic pill here but aerobic training done in a fasted state. Running is efficient, since even easy running stresses the body more than most things, but any low-intensity exercise that raises your heart rate will work. For example, Cardio X was designed as the P90X doubles workout, which is why it’s much easier than everything else. If I don’t feel like going out, like I do right now because it’s raining so thankfully i'm already done, I’ll pop in a cardio vid instead.

vid: macleod on a 'run'. my runs are often similar. i don't generally (ever) solo 7B in my hiking boots but would guess well over half my runs are explorations that include a lot of off-trail rummaging around looking for rock, or whatever, which often includes technical climbing or, at least, scrambling over rock. you don't need to keep your heart rate at a steady state to get the effects of aerobic training. you just need to keep moving.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Punks, El Cap, and The Red

October may be the best month for climbing but early Nov tends to have the best days. So it's hardly surprising that rad stuff is happening all over that place. As usual, it starts with Adam Ondra...

Fresh off establishing the world’s hardest route, Ondra came to the US for the first time, heading straight for the only place with enough hard climbing to entertain him, in theory anyway. A few days ago he flashed a 9a+ and, yesterday, he onsighted two 9as. He downgraded all of these but we must keep in mind that nobody had ever onsighted a single 9a, much less two in a day, or flashed 9a+. Adam has onsighted more 8c+ than the rest of the world put together so, as Jonathan Seigrist suggested, he may be too strong to know. Or maybe he’s just being modest. Uk CLimbing has a full report here. The downgrades won't really stick until confirmed.

Speaking of Siegrist, he’s on El Cap with Tommy Caldwell on the latter’s decade-long Yosemite odyssey with what will be, by far, the hardest wall route in the world should anyone ever do it. Siegrist offers this great post where he shed’s some light on the difficulty of this monster. Maybe Ondra should head to The Valley.

My favorite post by far, however, comes from Oz where October doesn’t even matter. Mayan Smith-Gobat has given Punks in the Gym, the world’s first 5.14, its first female ascent. But it’s not the route or the grade that made her tale special. It’s her personal relationship with the climb. Realizing life long dreams is very cool, especially when they take this much effort. Mayan nails the travails of just how hard redpoints at your absolute limit can be.

Punks in the Gym put me through a full range of emotions. It caused me a huge amount of frustration, forced me to examine myself and my motivations for climbing. Before heading down to Australia on this last trip, I seriously debated the amount of effort I have invested, and whether it was really worth it… Eventually, I came to the realization that this route does hold a special importance to me. Therefore, I chose to sacrifice other goals and put a month into training specifically for this route. As a result, I felt much stronger this year. However, it was still a struggle… both mentally and physically.

vids: mayan’s been on an incredible roll lately. she’s also free climbed el cap so, since the punk footage is lacking, the el cap vid picks up the slack. she’s makes some nice observations on why we bother with such nonsense as climbing and, if you’re intro freeing big walls, she gives you blow by blow beta on the crux of the salathe—-incidentally another monumental climb and the first big route to get freed on el cap. the pitch she’s describing in the vid was so out there at the time that most of the climbing world didn’t believe it had really gone free.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Movember Is On!

i don't know yet. probably dynamite.

I've joined Denis' Movember team to help raise money for prostate cancer (cause, you know, if you're male in the US you're probably getting it at some point). In order to give you the most bang for your buck, I'm going to try and do this as entertainingly as possible. Here's the deal:

I'm doing Movember "backwards", meaning that I'm starting with facial hair that will be carved into various themed shapes throughout the month. Suggestions might be taken, and those who donate will have the most influence.

I'll also add a birthday challenge to the fray. This should up your motivation factor as I'll be suffering for you as well. You can read about the planned day...

Birthday Challenge is set



Donate enough and I'll even let you name a first ascent. Currently the only names set in stone are Hydrogen Psychosis and Electric Jellyfish. There are six more routes and all of 'em need a name.

Here's the link to my Movember page. Thanks!