Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and the Ability to Choose

As I ran through the streets of Philadelphia this afternoon, I thought about a conversation I've had a few times recently with a friend of mine. For the past six years I've made the choice to work as a climbing guide, a profession I enjoy immensely. I have a place to live, clothing, food and access to any other amenities I might want in my daily life. I can afford to have a car, to pay for health insurance, and to take occasional trips to other climbing areas. I don't even work full time to afford all of these things.

A friend of mine, with whom I climb frequently, likes to remind me that being born in the United States is like winning the lottery. She grew up in a place where people are born with nothing and they're taken advantage of by their government. Financial support for the people in these areas is frequently siphoned off by corrupt government officials. Being born in the United States is like being handed a lottery ticket at birth. Yes, I know this is an oversimplification of the truth; there's poverty, hunger, and a lack of healthcare in the U.S. too. However most of us have it pretty good. If things begin to go badly in our lives we have friends and family to lean on and to bail us out financially. We don't need to bribe police officers when we get a ticket and we don't need to sweeten the deal when buying a house or vehicle. And for the most part we are safe in our own homes, even with the doors unlocked.

On this Thanksgiving day I am grateful that I even have a choice at all.  Using some rough calculations of population there's about a 1:20 chance that you're born in the U.S. Add Europe and there's a 1:7 chance that you're born a a developed country. Those odds are better than the lottery but I'm still thankful for the position I'm in.

Just some food for thought... Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Red Rocks

Well, I've just returned from a 2 week trip to Red Rocks. If you haven't been there to climb it is definitely worth checking out. The rock is very high quality sandstone with a lot of features - cracks, flakes, edges, and tons of chickenheads. It's a climber's dream and a rappeller's nightmare.

I spent the first week staying with some friends from Boston in a house (a rental). This worked out very well with people pretty much being able to choose who they were going to climb with for the day. The choices varied from sport climbing to long multi-pitch routes.

My second week was spent guiding for Alpine Endeavors. We won the lottery this year! Well actually we were one of the guide services chosen to receive a permit to guide at Red Rocks for 10 days throughout the calendar year. We ran one 5-day trip in the spring and one 5-day trip this November.

Here are some of my better pictures from the trip:

Having returned just returned from Red Rocks, my next few posts are going to be related to rappelling. I've been thinking that I will cover different options for rappelling, and the different rope systems you can use.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Indian Summer in the Gunks

We've had some great weather here over the past few weeks. It seems like the rock season has pretty much ended up north and we've had many New Englanders scouring the Gunks over the past few weekends. This weekend yielded a few days pretty close 60 degrees and very sunny weather. I won't rub it in, I just wanted to share a few of the pictures I've snapped over the past couple of weeks. I'm coming off a very bad cold (not H1N1!) and a pulled shoulder muscle so I've been pretty much down for the count aside from work.

I am headed to Red Rocks tomorrow and am looking forward to climbing some long sandstone classics. I'll post some of the images as soon as I can. Enjoy these photos for the time being.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Matt McCormick - Climbing Adventures, Training Programs, and Coachingfor Climbing

Matt McCormick on a free ascent of Another Whack and Dangle Job at the King Wall in the Adirondacks
It rained again this past Saturday; a perfect opportunity to catch up with some friends at Bacchus during the middle of the day. Matt McCormick was in town to climb, only to be rained out. If you haven't heard of Matt yet you will. He's one of the most motivated, hard working climbers in the Northeast. I've been crossing paths with him for many years now, but didn't have the chance to really sit down with him until last Saturday.

Matt's resume is long and diverse, but recently he's chosen to focus mainly on high-level rock climbing. The image at left is of the first free ascent of an old aid line at the King Wall in the Adirondacks. He also just sent a project at the Spider's Web that checks in at 5.13c R. This bold new line called "Wheelin N Dealin" heads up and right of Drop, Fly or Die on minuscule footholds and an incipient seam. Check out this link on the Mammut Team Blog of one of his falls while working the route.

We chatted over a few beers and Matt mentioned that he's begun developing individual training plans for climber's looking to improve their performance. Matt is a really talented climber, but one of the things that makes him stand out is how hard he trains. If you're looking to improve your performance for the upcoming ice season, or to train for next year's rock season you may want to contact Matt. His personal blog is called Matt McCormick - Climbing Adventures, Training Programs, and Coaching. His rates for consultation are really reasonable and he and many of his friends have had success using his training plans to improve their climbing performance.