Saturday, November 16, 2013

Old Friends and Celebrations

My partner is quick to point out that the act of climbing is a celebration. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I don't disagree. As I write this, according to World Bank, nearly 20% of the world's population is without good access to electricity and 35% is without adequate sanitation. So, for the rest of us that can find the time to sleep in a heated space, take hot showers, eat the things we like, and peruse our favorite websites, yes, the act of climbing is truly a celebration of a wonderful existence.

Over the years, I've climbed the Black Dike on Cannon Cliff many times. At first, when I was newer to climbing, it felt challenging. On the second pitch crux, the hooks didn't seem secure and the climbing felt boxy and awkward. As an objective, it never felt impossible but it was always challenging. Protection also felt like a real issue, and the fall potential felt huge.

By now I've climbed the dike many times. It seems like I only climb it during the early season, as a way to usher in the new ice season. I climbed it again this season -  last week, during a short cold snap. I lost my hands to the cold while wallowing through deep snow on the first pitch. After that it felt like pure celebration, and I was reminded why I love winter climbing so much. Positive hooks abound on the second pitch and pitch 3 has secure and mellow ice climbing.

My partners for the day were Dustin Portzline and Pete Guyre, two local Gunks guides that are eager to learn more about winter climbing. For them it was a first, and an introduction to Northern New England climbing - snowy weather and strong winds routinely make conditions more challenging than they might be if the weather was perfect.

Pete and Dustin led, and they did a great job. I was able to follow pitches and celebrate life, movement and friendship. Thanks Pete and Dustin for an awesome day! Here are a few photos from the day:

Dustin Portzline at the crux.

Matt Ritter and Erik Thatcher on the
 Cannonade buttress

Pete leads. It was a cold day for early

Friday, November 8, 2013

Photos From August 2013 in the North Cascades

I never posted a trip report from my trips in the North Cascades this summer. After a month of being away from home I guess this is something I neglected in favor of more pressing tasks close to home.

Fischer Chimneys, Mt. Shuksan, Aug 4-5

This is an awesome and classic route. A fast party could do the route in a really long day. There is an amazing campsite on a rock rib between the Upper Curtis Glacier and the White Salmon Glacier. This spectacular camp makes it worth carrying your camping kit to the top of the chimneys. We climbed the NE ridge of the summit pyramid which adds some nice rock climbing and allows you to tour the entire upper mountain, instead of doing an out-and-back summit trip.

Prime Rib of Goat, Beckey Route on Liberty Bell, and Sulphide Glacier, Aug 12-15

Mazama has great weather and really good access to climbing. Over the past few seasons I've begun spending more time there. People love the pleasant weather, the quaint high desert towns and the amazing variety of alpine and rock objectives within an hour's drive of Mazama. We climbed Prime Rib of Goat on The Goat Wall, a 1000' tall crag just outside Mazama first. We also climbed the Beckey Route, on the Liberty Bell, and attempted the Sulphide Glacier on Mt. Shuksan. There we were thwarted by wet weather.

Thanks to North Cascades Mountain Guides for allowing me to guest guide again there this summer, and to Bryan, Mark and Paul for making the trip happen!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Revisiting and Evaluating Goals - Success or Failure May Be All About Perspective

Earlier this year I set a few goals for myself. Here's the post where I discussed the four goals I wanted to accomplish. I hoped to cut a few pounds, perform well in a trail race, run a fast mile on the track, and truly crack 5.12 on lead. With two months left in this calendar year it seems like a good time to revisit my original goals and begin evaluating whether or not I was successful.

During most normal winters I weigh about 190lbs. This spring I decided to see if I could cut back to 175lbs. I figured this would help with my running. It would also allow my partner to more easily catch my lead falls. She's about 115-120lbs and the large weight difference is hard for her to manage if I take more than a short lead fall. Initially, losing weight was not easy. During the first few days my body went through a few physical adjustments that left me feeling really hungry. I was careful about what I ate and drank and I continued to train hard for running. I didn't climb at all for most of the summer. At first I didn't really lose any weight. By the middle of the summer though, I was 176lbs each morning. When I returned from the Bugaboos in early September I was still 176. Right now I'm about 182.

I finished 11th in the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge. I was hoping for a top 5 (or top 10 finish) so I was a bit disappointed with my results. Additionally, my overall time (about 7:00/mile) was a bit slower than I'd hoped.  Looking back at the training cycle I realized a few things I should have done differently. Taking the month of August off from training to guide in the Cascades and climb in the Bugaboos was really disruptive to my training schedule. It broke things up so much, and when I resumed my speedwork workouts I was left with pretty severe tightness in my upper hamstrings.

Since September 22nd, the day of the Pfalz Point race, I've run maybe ten times. My body has recovered, and the occasional run feels much better than running 5 days each week. I no longer have as much chronic pain and tightness in the upper hamstring/piriformis and my legs muscles aren't excessively tight nor tired. I've taken advantage of the break from endurance exercise to climb more frequently. I weigh less than I did during previous rock seasons. This, in conjunction with a focus on very deliberate footwork, has helped me to climb a few more challenging climbs. Over the past two weeks, I've successfully climbed 5 routes in the 5.12a or 5.12b range.

How about a 5:00 mile attempt? It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it will happen this year. I've been dealing with hamstring tendinitis for months now, and speedwork is undoubtedly the culprit. No goal is worth it if it means I create even greater chronic pain for my body.

Looking back, I see that setting arbitrary numerical goals for myself was both helpful and harmful. I never reached 175 lbs., but I did lose 14 pounds for the running season. Finishing 11th in the Pfalz Point Challenge, with a slower than anticipated time was a bit of a letdown. However, it's the first long trail race I've ever run, I took a month off from training only one month before the race, and had an overly long training cycle. I think by most measures, finishing strong and avoiding injury during 6 months of training should also be counted as a success. I'm climbing harder than I ever have before, and I'm happy about this too. Next rock season I'll have a whole new, more challenging set of projects.

Mostly though, I've realized that success comes not from achieving my goals, but from pursuing them. I love movement. Each trail run, no matter how straightforward or rugged, was an excuse to spend time in the woods, living in the moment and focused on the terrain directly in front of my feet. I don't actually care that much about the grades of climbs either; I love climbing for the exactness of the movement, the singular focus, the total body coordination, the problem solving requirements, and because it brings me closer to the people with whom I've chosen to spend my precious free time. These things and others like them, not random arbitrary numbers, are the reasons we set goals for ourselves.