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Archive for the ‘Climbing’ Category

Last Saturday I went climbing with two friends in an out of the way place that local climbers know about but don’t widely describe its location. The day began cool, cloudy, and damp. There was no one out. We stopped along the way to take pictures at the top of the cliff, because you walk in from above and descend a gully to get tot he base of the cliff. My friends had never been to this location before, but I didn’t show them around much because our time was limited.

We worked on 3 different climbs, two sport and one trad. I have a habit of overprotecting trad climbs, but I put in adequate protection without overkill this day. It felt good. For the uninitiate, sport is clipping your rope into bolts on the way up using carabiners, while trad (traditional) protection is various devices that you place in cracks and clip the rope into with carabiners. Trad is more challenging since you have to take more time, and therefore more energy, to place the protection.

The clouds blew away in late morning, leaving a clear blue sky and pleasant temperature. We encouraged and quipped each other up the rock. It is good to have friends with whom to do things.

This day out of context seems pleasant enough, but it is mid-October and still unseasonably warm. The year has been exceptionally wet. Flowers and shrubs seem confused. I have an azalea that is blooming for the third time this season. Below is a picture of rhododendron blooming in mid-October. Mosquitoes are still fierce, moss is still green under the trees in my backyard, and mildews are ubiquitous. Most of the leaves are still green and only now do we see sourwood turning deep red (picture below). Higher in the mountains the yellows are appearing, but green is still the predominant color. Finally, this weekend we expect near freezing temperatures, but we ought to be approaching hard freeze date and it is not likely soon. Whether this is a permanent change or a prolonged cycle I have no foresight to tell, but it is at the very least odd.

One way or another, for one reason or another, this old world will be as a worn out garment one day, ready to be changed and rolled up. But God never changes. He will remain and all of those who by faith are His children. (Psalm 102:25-28) So, I enjoy the beauty of nature and glorify God for its beauty and in its fading glory.

preping at BF

Preping for the Climb

Dan at BF

Balance and Concentration

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“Paint Flake” Lichen?

Noel belaying

The Old Man Belays

Stephen at BF

Beautiful day for a challenge

Stphen belaying

“Belay On.” or Banana on?

variety of seedlings

How many varieties of tree seedlings can you identify? (I see 4 and one more I’m not sure about, a vine and a shrub.)

Lake J From BF

From Cliff Top

3x selfie from BF

Guy Outing

Rhodo blooming in Oct

Rhododendron blooming in mid-October?

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Today is the day that Florence crossed North and South Carolina. I have no great stories and hope it remains that way.  For many this was a day of struggle and loss, for others a day or heroism, and more than not, a day to stay indoors. Much prayer has been answered, in that the storm was Category 2 by the time it reached shore and many have been rescued. But the snail’s pace of coming inland has caused massive flooding with feet of water rising, dozens of inches of rain in places, hundreds of people rescued, thousands of homes flooded, hundreds of thousands without power, and millions of dollars in damage. Many good citizens are out helping others.

On this rainy day I am going to recall last weekend when the rain was more of a nuisance than a difficulty. We had to go to two different crags because the first one rained us out after about two hours. It was amazing that I could climb considering my back problems, but if you avoid significant twisting and dynamic motion it is really just good stretching of the spine that increases blood flow and disc hydration. And I climbed a climb (Homegrown 5.10a) clean that rarely happens for me. It has one hard move on it at the top, which is more a matter concentration and balance than real difficulty. The mild pain, which I was monitoring for a change that would tell me it was time to stop, seemed to increase my concentration. I was with my climbing partner, a friend who had not climbed in five years, and a new friend who had not climbed on rock before. Two said they were impressed; my partner had seen me do it before. I was just happy.

We only did three pitches there before rain set in. On our way along the Parkway, we got past the rain cloud. We decided to stop at Barrett’s Boulder. This is a nice little crag with six climbs on the side of Hwy 181. In the summer the rhododendron and tree cover completely conceal the crag from the road visually, though not audibly from road noise.

My partner lead Obvious Route (5.8) which is a fun flake with a huge undercling move. I top roped a climb I have done now many times on which I believe I made the first ascent in about 2010. The reason for this FA, I believe, is not because I’m such an awesome climber, but because it is not an obvious line like Obvious Route and Skywalker’s Revenge on either side of it. I just claimed it and named it on http://www.rockclimbing.com (see it here). And following is a video of me climbing it: Climbing “Biohazard”. I also have a video of me climbing Barrett’s B… (5.9) (not my name): Climbing 5.9.

Click on new friend to see a pre-rain attempt on Homegrown. My other friend of longer acquaintance stayed behind the camera of the pictures that I have.

My partner (click here) and I (click here) struggled on what I call “Sharp Loaf”, which I have climbed clean several times, but certainly not this day. I call it that because the last hold you see us struggling on is shaped like a loaf of bread but is sharp and takes a strong open-handed grip. I need some more hangboarding before I try it again. To make the move on the “loaf” is the crux, and I would say a 5.11b move.

I am genuinely thankful for friends, old and new, to climb with, challenging ourselves, having good conversation, and doing it all outdoors on a pleasant day. We dodged rain, mostly, and injury, and I, for one, came home tired and satisfied.  I have so much to be thankful for to God.

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I’m not getting out to climb often enough to improve these days, but I am amazed how well at once a month I am maintaining. I do some training on the hangboard, door frames, and pull-up bar. We climb in the morning at a South facing local crag. We were 75% of the time in the shade since the Sun had not come around the corner. Of the four climbs we did two of the climbs that we did were positive slopes with minute holds, almost friction climbing. Three were sport climbs (having bolts to clip into, for the uninitiated), and one was a mixed route (meaning it had bolts (2) and needed gear placed (in this case cams)). There was a 5.8, a 5.9, and two 5.10’s. I flashed one of the 5.10’s. I enjoyed the mixed lead most and have some pictures of my climbing partner and me leading it. The day was surprising pleasant for a summer day in the South. There were occasional cool breezes and random small clouds and some shade. The insects were slight, the other climbers out of earshot, the skies exceptionally blue, no injury, and several clean (no falls) topouts. Our conversation was pleasant, and I believe God glorifying, and my mind was cleared. Such nice days make the harder ones more manageable. It is good to set aside and commit such days to the One who “gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

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Lead on a mixed 5.8

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Partner entering the crux sequence.

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That’s what I need to take it to the next level- local endurance. “Local endurance is a muscle group’s ability to sustain effort over a period of time.”

I was climbing on Sunday, the second time in a comeback attempt after an injury. My finger strength is good- no real decline there. I can crimp on half finger pads, but I have maybe 12 to 15 feet of crimping and I’m done for 15 minutes. After flashing a 10a I’d never been on, my partner and I set-up a 10d on top rope. I knew that I needed to climb fast to make it through the 25 feet of sustained 10d climbing. I was just past it making the next somewhat easier move when the strength drained out of me. I reached for the next hold just above the directional quickdraw we had placed. My fingers would not grip. I came down and my right middle finger went right through the gate of the carabiner, stripping a half inch of flesh off adjacent to the nail. Had I grabbed for the quickdraw? No, the injury would have been much worse. My extended finger meant I only peeled some flesh rather than broken a finger or skewered my hand. Instead, my finger should be good in a week or so. I’m not a free bleeder, so after a momentary spirt of blood, and a shake out (hands above my head to prevent further bleeding), I finished the route without much difficulty. But how frustrating, to be one move away from completing the climb and getting shutdown. My overall strength is sufficient for higher grade climbing, I just need this local endurance. So here are two websites that describe training for this deficiency:

Learn to Train: Local Endurance for Climbers

Training: Maximize Your Endurance

I hope to increase endurance through these workouts. I am always having to balance responsibility, desire, time pressure, enjoyment, higher priorities, and relaxation. I like to play hard and rest well. I am thankful to God that I still can, but wonder with my most recent injury if that will be possible much longer. I wasn’t doing anything extreme or foolish. I just strained connective tissue from midway down my leg to around the knee. For a time running and climbing stopped and even walking any significant amount. As they say, things just don’t heal like they used to. Both life and climbing are challenging and take strength. 

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I rock climbed at Crowder’s Mountain for the first time today. My partner said it is “also known as” (aka) ‘Crowded Mountain’. It was that. We had to park on private property where a donation was requested about a 1/4 mile away. Most of the people on the approach seemed to be there for hiking and viewing rather than climbing. Though we saw many climbers, we did not have to change what climb we wanted to do or wait once. I had heard some voices at the top of the climbing area. It turns out that the 5.10a climb I was doing had a lip at the top, almost like a banister for the flat spot on top. When I popped up over the top at least 20 young people were lounging on the ground and rocks. One young woman was sitting on the anchors. I said, “Excuse me.” She moved and said, “I’m sorry.” The whole group was staring at me silently, so I said, “Oh, is there an easier way up?” Most laughed, but one limited English-language lady began to explain and point to where the trail came up. I listened politely, shook my head approvingly, and walked away.

It was foggy when we first arrived and the rock was not totally dry. The rock is very different from where I usually climb in the High Country. There were alternating layers of metamorphic rock: hard, iron rich layers and chossy, mica-rich, weak layers. Odd shaped nubs, jugs, and cavities were everywhere at the interface of the two layers. We climbed 30 foot 5.7 and 5.8 for warm-up on the back side of Finger Wall, then a 5.8 and 5.9 (though we both agreed it was much easier) on the back of David’s Castle. Then we climbed a sustained 5.10a on the Practice Wall, followed by an attempt at Burn Crack (5.10c) It lived up to its name, overhung and intense for the first half. Both of us are coming off of injury and neither of us finished it. I was pleased to have done so well after 5 weeks off of climbing from a knee injury. The ability to begin again is a blessing from God.

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The Finger (Wall) Crack

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Standing in the Gap

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Transition from chimneying to layback crack

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A pleasant view

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With my partner at the top

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The Piedmont and the Charlotte skyline

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Feeling It

On MLK Day I went bouldering at Rumbling Bald with a large group of 20 and early 30 somethings, 6 guys and 2 gals. I’m used to this scenario since climbers approaching 60 are not common. I seemed to be off to a good start, warming up and climbing a V3 in the first hour. It was in the mid-20’s temperature but with the full sunlight and copious clothing it was not a problem. The hardest issue to overcome in winter bouldering is cold rock, not cold air. If it is early or shady or a stiff breeze, the rock is cold, and my fingers don’t function well. After the warm-up, Trailside Boulder, three of us moved on to another area to try out easier climbs while the bulk of the group went to project a V10, Pilfer. We tried out some new rock to me, and I started having trouble. I climbed a few V2’s and V1’s but couldn’t even complete another V3. I should be sending V4’s and challenging V5’s, but not today. We regathered with part of the group who were cruising V6’s and 7’s. One diminutive (in size, not ability or intensity) girl was working a V5. I alternated with her having a go at it. We were shut down at the same move, but for qualitatively different reasons. She had reach issues but she was so controlled and fluid. I was stabbing at the holds and began waning in endurance and ability to retry. Our little group of three moved off to the Bart Simpson Boulder. I think that is a ridiculous name and propose ‘Shark Attack’ as an alternate. The other girl in the group suggested the name ‘Narwhal’, which I could go with. After doing Marge (V1), I watched my partners do it, too. Then I set up to do Bart, a V3, probably so rated because to the top-out. I threw my left leg up to complete the mantle; my foot cramped. I lowered my foot, stretched it out, and put it back up. I started the mantle; I struggled to get over center. I lowered my body to give a more concerted effort. When I put pressure on my hamstring something audibly popped on my left shin, migrating like a flash up to and around just below my knee. I groaned and came off. My climbing partner and fellow teacher knew me well enough to know that I don’t verbalize often. I lay writhing in pain on the pad. Would I be able to walk? Had I destroyed my knee? Was if muscular, tendon, ligament? After much rubbing and feeling around I tried to stand. Amazingly my knee was not collapsing, but it sure hurt. My partner later admitted that he was trying to figure out how to carry me out. It took some time but I could hobble. Even more amazing was that I actually climbed some more later, my partner picking a problem that involved almost no left leg involvement, Basketball Mantle (V3).

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Watching my partner, C., get back into climbing after some time off. Wish I could climb so well off the couch.

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Watchers rather than Spotters

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J. is concentrating rather than posing for the picture.

James on Pilfer3

J. on Pilfer, V10, is what all of the effort is about.

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D. making the first move on Basketball Mantle (V3) look easy

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V1? right of Basketball Mantle

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You have to palm the Basketball and throw a high right smear of both arm and leg to mantle this V3.

Now I sit at home, thankful for a snow day from school to pursue healing, blogging, and reading, and even more thankful that the pain is subsiding and the function returning. But healing doesn’t come as quickly as it once did, and for that reason I like to stay in shape, pursue good nutrition, and take calculated risks (most of the time).

Even with the injury and climbing frustration I enjoyed being out with other climbing enthusiasts, observing the beauty of God’s Creation: blue sky, warm sun, sleepy winter boulder field, ice calving off the cliff behind us, and even the natural incuts of holds and friction of a cold day at the boulder field. This transition of life has its difficult moments, but I am thankful to still be able to heal and try again another day. It will not always be that way, and that will be OK, too, since I look forward to a better transition.

Thanks to D. for the pictures, save hers, which I took.

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I know people that don’t know how to play and others who don’t how to work. I like the addition to the old saying by Maria Edge recorded in Wikipedia, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy; all play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.” Keep me far from both kinds of people, because for the one you will constantly have to pull their weight and the other will perpetually be a weight to your spirit. Upon reflection, however, I think that knowing how to work and knowing how to play are both learned. So perhaps I should feel sadness for someone who doesn’t know how to do either or both. And for my part, I have erred on too much of one or the other in times past. Not that I have the perfect balance now, but I find that when work is over done either by compulsion or by obsession, play is frequently the tonic. When the indulgence is too much play it loses its savor, because change of pace and relief from work are largely the reasons and pleasure in play.

Yesterday and today were examples of when I went after each one in its appointed time.

Yesterday I went bouldering. I had not been climbing in a month and wanted to go ever so much, but life gets in the way sometimes. I didn’t climb particularly well, which is to be expected when I don’t do it often. My climbing partner had not been for a longer time, but we both tried and celebrated our little successes. During a break we were sitting in the sunshine listening to water trickling over pebbles beneath the nearby boulder and admiring the large trees around us. It was probably below 40 degrees, but we were heavily clothed and the thin overcast did little to obscure the warmth of the sun. There was no breeze and we sat mostly in silence much of the time. Later I observed that I think that I needed the excuse of going climbing today to be allowed to sit in the woods and be quiet. I did enjoy climbing and succeeded at several problems; I enjoyed the conversation; most of all I enjoyed the winter woods in hibernation and the rest it gave to my soul.

Today I set aside for attacking the huge job of cleaning the leaves off of my three quarter acre lot, knowing full well that it was only a start that I was going to make and not a completion. Usually there is little reason to start this chore before the New Year because willow oaks are reluctant to shed their leaves. This year they came down several weeks earlier because a heavy, wet snow pulled them down as it sloughed off in the wind and warmth. I had previously blown some leaves away from the back of the house, so today I began by hauling 10 loads on my painter’s drop cloth. Next I climbed up on the roof and blew the gutters out with the leaf blower and did the same on my neighbor’s roof. Our growing season is long and grass frequently grows even through parts of winter. Leaves in high grass are very hard to get up. I mowed back and forth pushing the leaves in one direction. Periodically I stopped the mower and raked up leaves onto the drop cloth. I trimmed branches and cut down dead flowers and hauled downed branches. I surprised myself and finished the whole front yard and 30 feet away from the back of the house.

Why am I recording all of this work and play? Who cares and why would I care to remember? Well, my blog is more about me reflecting on life than having a following, though I hope that you may benefit from my musings and ramblings. I am reminding myself that I value working hard and playing hard and sleeping well, because I think these are right and good and I am thankful to have the strength to be able to. And when I pause to think about it, I hear the encouragement or admonition, depending on my frame of mind: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) I hope that I have and hope that you and I will in the New Year.

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Bright day, Boulder, and a Buckeye tree

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Reaching for the topout hold

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