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Archive for the ‘Climbing’ Category

Many of the Thanksgiving traditions of my family are over 30 years old: the meal with the brothers at the oldest’s house, the flag football game, the day after hike, guests from near and far. Many of the children who are now parents don’t really remember Thanksgiving any other way. But as spouses have been added, which means extended families, the traditions have had to flex and bend to traditions and schedules of other families. The day after hike used to be on “Black Friday”, sort of a rejection of the shopping madness for a stroll in the mountains and conversation with family. But this year and last the big meal was on Friday, and this year the hike was on Thursday. Rather than brothers and spouses and children and cousins, it was trimmed down to my oldest brother and me.

We explored a few ruins and cemetery in the Sugarlands of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There was once a thriving community on this gentle slope below Bulls Head of the Mt. LeConte. The sugar maples upslope were a source of sugar and the name of the community. There was Pi Beta Phi settlement school begun there in 1920 with a stone house for the teachers and later a CCC Camp for workers in the young National Park.

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Catching rays in the leafless Autumn before the dim winter days

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The main school house? The boarding quarters or dining room?

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Rest under the plush carpet

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Emma

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Creek crossing

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Teacher’s House

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Kitchen

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Living Room

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Beech and Sourwood juxtaposed

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Bedload scouring

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Both lively and peaceful

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Double Duty- cleared land and separated

After the hike I went to visit my 3rd born. Arriving just before dark, we went down to Kingston to see the sunset. Having already set, we walked the concrete “boardwalk” enjoying the fading colors and good conversation.

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Too late and just in time

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On Saturday I went bouldering at Lilly Boulders at the Obed Scenic River climbing area. I was by myself at first but met up with another climber with whom I enjoyed the day. I was climbing exceptionally well, and truth be told, the grading of climbs seems easy here than at home. The day was perfect for climbing: crisp, dry, sunny.

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One wall at Lilly Boulders

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Lots of good climbing

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Approach Pose

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One of the climbs on my bucket list has been climbing the Sitting Bear spire just below Ginger Cake Mountain. It was a beautiful day. However, I have been sick for quite some time and felt generally exhausted and very out of breath by the time we made the short, but steep approach. Every climb on this rock starts off with an overhang. In fact I would not at all be surprised to one day hear that it has become Laying Bear. The head of the bear makes it appear to be not only top heavy, but also weighted to one side. But not today for I climbed it. Truth be told I was sore and tried to lead the 5.9, “Original Route”, but could not make it over the overhang setting trad gear. So, I told my partner that I wanted on top. He tied an etrier (he pronounced it long “a””tree””a” suggesting that the word is French). With my handy stick clip I aided up a set of bolts to the last two moves before the top. I cheated my way to the top then set it up on toprope. The “Original Route” was not that hard without the hanging out to set pro. On the way up I was amazed at two of the old bolts. I referred to them as tool shed protection because they looked like someone had cut out a piece of mower deck, bent it at right angle, drilled a round hole, and afixed it with whatever small bolt they had on hand. In fact, the lower of the two appeared to be about a 3/16 inch bolt. Perhaps the old climbers climbed more by faith than by sight. The view on top was beautiful, relaxing, aesthetic (as one blogger put it). The head of the bear is just above treetop so that you can see quite well but at the same time feel like part of the forest. The view toward the South Mountains was reasonably clear, not quite what you would need to see the buildings in Charlotte which I have on rare winter days. The angle on the gorge allowed you to see all of the main points and straight down the river to the exit at Shortoff. We tried another 11d to the left reaching the rather blank looking face. It wasn’t the best climbing day I’ve had but doing something I’ve wanted to do on such a beautiful day with good conversation was quite refreshing.

Foot of Sitting Bear

Overhung Starts

Aiding Sitting Bear2

Etrier Arete

Ading Sitting Bear3

A bright and glorious day

Gorge from Sitting Bear2

Aesthetically Pleasing Linville Gorge

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Tool Shed Pro

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It’s a pity when life gets in the way of blogging (just kidding!). But I have so many thoughts and experiences from the summer that I could blog for quite some time. It is not likely to happen as I see more things happening soon, but that’s OK.

I did want to share a few thoughts and pictures. I don’t often suggest books for several reasons. I do more technical reading than reading for pleasure, and frankly many books don’t meet my high standard of what I would unreservedly pass on to those I call friends, or enemies for that matter since I want them to one day be friends. A book that I can enthusiastically suggest is “The Book That Made Your World, How the Bible Created the soul of Western Civilization” by Vishal Mangalwadi. Because of his culture and his faith he simultaneously looks at the West as an outsider and insider at the same time. I keep having the feeling that he is correcting much error from lies our culture has fed us about how we got to where we are. He uses personal experiences and copious quotes to show the deep imprint of the Bible on western culture. I think that you will hear more about it here once I am finished with it.

My friend, colleague, and climbing partner, CC, took me to two boulders I’d never been to before. In fact, he had only been there a few days before with another climbing buddy for the first time cleaning about ten problems, laying a thick base of branches in a wet spot, and clearing part of a large fallen tree. I was privileged to try out the new rock. I like to go back to old familiar routes, but there is a particular excitement about trying new routes, and particularly ones that haven’t been climbed before. I was definitely not climbing at the top of my game, only topping out on a V1 and 3 V2’s. I tried two V4 and got shut down. Both problems involved a gaston with my left hand that I could not stick. It has challenged me to train that weakness. On the second one I discovered that if I did a side pull with my right hand instead, I could top out to the left much easier. We both agreed that it would rate as a V2. I decided to name it “Easy Out”. The two pictures are of me on the right sidepull and the topout. We saw several Cardinal Flowers in the wet, rich spots by the creek. I definitely want to go back, and hopefully clean some problems on new rock myself. (Photo credit: CC with his phone)

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Lobelia cardinalis

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Taking it “Easy..”

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“Easy Out”

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Best Laid Plans

Every now and then I try to video myself climbing, almost always bouldering. I went climbing with three guys two weeks ago who are about 30 years old, much better than me and working on a V-10. One of them almost completed it, falling after the crux (hardest part). I was working on a V-4 immediately next to the V-10 and completed it after about 4 tries. I was pleased with myself and thought I could do it again and video it. When I watched the replay I laughed quite abit. I showed it to the guys for a laugh. Check it out at V-4 called “Put Your Back Into It”

The sequence of photos below gives a vague idea of the process of working a problem. It’s about planning, cleaning holds, training for crux moves, practicing different sequencing, and trying again and again. It may take one session or several years. This group had already been working on it for several sessions. A week later the guy without a shirt completed it. Everyone progresses at their own rate. I guess that is why they put up with me and even cheer me on. There is considerable competition between these guys but they are more challenged by someone else getting to the top.

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Arrival Inspection

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Cleaning Holds

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Remembering Sequences

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The Bouldering Buddies

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Stack Carefully

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Photo Op before working the problem

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Some say, “Grow up”. Others say, “Never grow old.” If both are an attempt to bring balance to people’s lives then I say, “Work hard and play hard so you can keep balance.” I was privileged to go climbing with some friends on my birthday. I wasn’t taking the pictures so the only ones I got from the cameraman were all of me. The day was sunny and warmer than expected. An indication that climbing has gone mainstream is that a county park with paved trails and parking lot, bathrooms and picnic pavilion and ranger office are set up with bolted routes at an old quarry for rock climbing and families with small children climbing made up half of the crowd. 

Leading a 5.7 with an audience

Leading a 5.7 with an audience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting in the Groove

Getting in the Groove

Beautiful Day for a Topout

Beautiful Day for a Topout

I am so thankful to God for friends to work with and play with and for work and play to do.

The key to usefulness is not to work harder, but work at what God has given you to do as unto Him and enjoy the gifts He has given with thankfulness unto Him. Oh that we would do so in this new year.

 

 

 

 

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I kept wanting to go to the mountains but people, responsibility, and other priorities kept preventing it. Seeing my repeatedly frustrated efforts my wife said that I should go tomorrow. I wasn’t going to second guess the cessation of chores and her encouragement to go. Besides, after taking a walk with her early on this August 1st I knew that it was an exceptionally clear, low humidity, and cool day. (65 degrees was enough for several people to say it felt like the first Fall day- wishful thinking with August and September ahead.) So a hasty breakfast and quicker packing job and I was gone. I like solitude but I like company, too, but the whole reason I was going alone was because I couldn’t find anyone and one had even backed out. 

I even enjoy the drive up on a very curvy rode in a small, good cornering car with a clutch and adequate power. The air was crisp, the sky totally blue, and my heart was light. Bouldering by yourself is considered to be quite risky by some, but I have observed others doing it with care. You only attempt climbs that are straight up over the pad with no barn door potential. The weather meant exceptional friction, almost unheard of in the humid South in the summer. I was climbing well, but I can’t say if I was climbing exceptionally well because I couldn’t try anything really hard because of the ground rules for climbing alone I’d set down. During rest breaks I took pictures of fern and tree leaves.

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Frazier Magnolia

Frazier Magnolia

I set up several videos of me climbing (I just admitted to a selfie! I will not let this become a regular event and certainly not an addiction. I must keep this under control.) You may check them out by clicking on the names below. It will be immediately obvious that I’m no rockstar, but I enjoy the challenge, nonetheless:

Disc and Throw

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Trillium fruiting

Trillium fruiting

American Chestnut "bush"

American Chestnut “bush”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After bouldering around until my forearms were quite tired, I walked up to the top of the ridge, sat down, took in the view, ate lunch, and read my Bible. Actually, when I first arrived up top I lay down on the bouldering pad a prayed for awhile. There was such a rest in telling my Father all my burdens about work, family, and internal stress. I have been enjoying, not just tolerating reading Leviticus and Numbers. Numbers 2 and 3 seem like lists of camp arrangement and numbers of fighting men, and numbering religious servants, but they reveal several things about God’s character. He is orderly and efficient and given to detail.  The arrangement of Levites reveals His concern for His holiness among the people and grace to not destroy them with His fierce justice. The taking of the Levites in place of the firstborn and the redemption of 273 additional Israelites by a gift of five shekels each reminds us of the depth of our sin problem and the gloriousness of God’s solution in salvation. The more I read the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) the more I feel like Jesus is repeating Himself when He points to God’s holiness and the Law. As a man did He have “aha!” moments of learning the Word from His parents or the synagogue teachers, moments when He said, “I remember saying that.”? All of His Word speaks of His character and what is important to Him. Are we bored with it because we have little passion for knowing Him and what He cares about? Knowledge of Him is our ultimate goal here. Beautiful days in the mountains and hard days of difficulty or frustration are profitable and meaningful if we allow them to direct us to knowing Him more. Yeah, I prefer one over the other but I am slowly learning to muse, “Hmm, I wander how this situation may draw me closer to Him?”

House Fly

House Fly

 

Evergreen groundcover

Shining Clubmoss (or Shining Firmoss) Huperizia lucidula (Thanks for the ID help Sister L)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view up top increased my enjoyment of my time concentrating on God. He created all of the beauty around us to remind us of His beauty and the enjoyment we may have from these gifts from His good hand.

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About a year and a half ago in late August just before school started a newly hired teacher at my school was helping his brother move a heavy chest of drawers down a set of steps. The soon to be Science Department colleague of mine was bravely leading down the stairs backwards while his brother held onto the bottom plate of the piece of furniture, bent over double struggling down. Part way down the bottom plate broke off and the weight of the chest of drawers came down on the lead brother’s leg just below the knee, snapping the bone. Major reconstructive surgery ensued followed by 3 months in a wheelchair and 3 months on crutches. For a 26 year old who was used to running and was passionate about rock climbing it was a significant blow. School started the next week and he toughed out the first year in public school lesson preps, navigating among students in a wheelchair, severe pain, discouragement about the possibility of not walking right and not climbing at all, the humility of having to be bathed, and more. Not at all a quitter he began to do physical therapy as soon as the doctor allowed it. I can only imagine what kind of pain and discouragement he underwent to try and get his active life back. After he began to walk again just before Christmas, he also began to hope that he might climb again. His friends began to banter that they were training and would take him on when he returned to the rock because he had always showed them how beforehand.

Still not released by the doctor for full activity he longed to begin getting back in shape. I suggested that since I did pull-ups and hangs on my hangboard while waiting for the fire in the stove to get hot, he could join me. In January we started getting together to exercise and get stronger for climbing. The pull-up bar I installed in my basement is nothing more than a sledgehammer handle that had broken off. I mounted it to the floor joists:

AHT5As we trained each week we would come up with new ways to strengthen our core or work muscles we knew to be used in some movement in rock climbing. I installed a clamp to the joists beyond the sledgehammer handle so that we could raise our legs up to it for core development and keep our feet on it for horizontal pull-ups. Gimpy had to stay off of his leg early on. He kept trash talking with his buddies and began to tell them that he was training so that he could climb in the Spring. They wanted to know what kind of training he could be doing in his condition. He retorted that he was doing axe handle training (sounded tougher than sledgehammer handle) in the basement of a colleague (Old Man) and would be ready to take them on. Frequently as they texted or talked he would tout the merits of Axe Handle Training. First thing in the late Spring when he was able to get out climbing he did better than all of them. How could it be, 6 months out of commission after major surgery? They couldn’t believe it! He would just say, “It’s that Axe Handle Training. You should try it!” So one evening this last Fall during a session he Tweeted some pics to his friends of the Old Man and Gimpy hard at the training.

 

Old Man preparing to do an offset pull-up

Old Man preparing to do an offset pull-up

Old Man executing an offset pull-up

Old Man executing an offset pull-up

 

Moral of this story: Use what’s available, don’t give up,

work with someone else, work hard,

don’t accept the expected outcomes

 

 

 

 

 

Gimpy works his core

Gimpy works his core

 

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