Friday, April 27, 2007

Gym Time Yet Again

This past weekend we were blessed with just the right amount of sunshine. It blasted through the early-morning clouds and dispersed in between the empty tree branches, leaving us warm when we've been so depressingly cold and wet. The rock was wet in some places, but it was dry enough to bring smiles to our faces and rigid shapes to our fingertips. We winced as we pulled against the jagged crimps because we felt we had to; to keep the weather gods from raining on our parade, and in some circumstances we felt the fear of absent light creeping in, so we had to get a few more climbs in as the sun set and the Meadows at Rumney grew dark.

And then there was Wednesday - a return of the rain that we have been trying to avoid all spring. It rained Wednesday, was nice Thursday and poured again today, Friday, so that any notion of hope that the walls would be dry by sunup were destroyed by the noon-time downpour.

I climbed at the gym Wednesday with an old partner who is becoming more committed than he has in the past. We were joined by a newcomer to the group. He will be a good addition. We all felt strong.

I'm not convinced the 5.11s at the gym are harder than 5.11s outside. I ran another one clean, and climbed the first half of an 11c very well my first time on it. Yes, the second half was full of falls and dynamic stabs in the dark at slopers I had no business snagging, but I felt strong throughout most of the night. I feel I have surpassed yet another plateau. Here's hoping my next ceiling doesn't hit until the winter.

Another gym day tomorrow. Maybe I'll set a route, maybe I'll get a needed good-night's sleep and write. That is what I will do. Yes, I'll write and rest. Sunday is another day. I will see you all at Quincy Quarry...if it is dry.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The First Rumney Assault of the Year - YEAAAH!

OK, so we were so excited after hitting Qunicy Quarry a few weeks ago that we got ahead of ourselves in thinking we'd be able to get out every weekend from that point thereafter (maybe until the end of time). I know. I know. It was a foolish thing to think, but I'm not convinced it's entirely abnormal; especially after living inside for the winter. When it gets cold at the start of the winter, you pretty much know that you're inside for the duration of the season. So it stands to reason that when it gets nice in spring that you'd think you'll be outside for the season. But alas, this is not summer, as I just noted; it is spring instead, and that means transition. From the time we spent clawing our way up the cliffs in Quincy until this past Thursday, it's been rain, rain, rain and a little bit of snow mixed in with cold temperatures and a dysfuntional jet stream that wouldn't fight back against that bullying artic cold front. That is, as I said, until this weekend.

It took a while to figure things out. You see, a few of us have been planning to stay at the MIT cabin in North Conway for the entire weekend. We were looking at heading up Friday night and Saturday morning collectivelly to hook up with some people who knew what they were climbing (we're all sort of noobs to the cool climbing areas, we need help and direction, we need leaders to become leaders ourselves).

But instead of enjoying what turned out to be a glorious weekend at the crag in North Conway, we were hit with a mother of a nor'easter Sunday evening into Monday that dropped about 5 inches of rain and snow in the NoCo area (the storm lagged until early Thursday morning, even though the worst was over by 8am Monday). Throughout the week there were talks of whether or not it would dry by Saturday and if the snow packs at the top would be dangerous - a topic that also came up suddenly at Rumney too... twice. By Friday afternoon it was evident that everyone who was heading up to NoCo was bailing. It was pretty much over except for the waiting for the guy who rented the cabin to officially call it off. Four of us were still willing to go, but then the guy in charge said he wasn't going. Alas, we were stuck in a void of ascension, and something needed to be done.

That left us scrambling to find out what we were doing for the the weekend. First it was the Gunks, but some people didn't want to go all weekend and some people have a hard time jumping out of their comfort zone (ahem) at the last minute. Then we decided on Rumney, but would that mean all weekend or just one day? Back and forth we went. Do we go to Quincy again? That wasn't ideal, and neither were Crow Hill or Red Rocks in Gloucester (it's funny because I feel I have to justify "Gloucester" every time I mention that place). By late Friday afternoon, just as word was coming in that the NoCo raid was officially off, it was decided through a hodgepodge of patchy e-mails and voice messages that there would be an all-out assualt on Rumney at least on Saturday. Then the lines went dead.

Four o'clock passed and no decision on time or length of stay was determined. Then five o'clock. Then six o'clock. More calls and e-mails went out. A few hits came back, but none were decision-worthy comments - just "I'm in!" or "count me in for whatever!". Decisions had to be made, and they had to be made quick so that decisions could be broadcast to the world, and I failed, miserably.

Not knowing what people could do or what our options were for accommodations, I called off the weekend overnight (admittingly, I did this after hearing that one of the two main groups could not stay overnight, so it wasn't as if I was pulling the evil cord from the socket - I had help and direction). But we still didn't have a time. There were meeting places to set, time to keep, pickups to make, logistics to get around and it was nearing seven o'clock (where, by the way, I was still sitting at work grumbling as I played with a spreadsheet I hope to get rid of in the next month).

What time do we leave?

Eight o'clock?

But we have to pick up so-and-so?

Seven-forty five?

What about the others?

Call them.

Do cellphones work up there?


Slowly, things came together and by the time I finally put my head on a pillow Friday night, at around midnight, we had a plan, a little excitment rumbling in our belly and a full-day of sunshine and warm, dry crags in front of us. It was to become the first 2007 Rumney Rumble!!!!!

OK, so I'm being dramatic, but we all met up as planned. My group arrived first and we headed straight for the 5.8 Crag to get a couple of warm-ups in before we hit the harder crags. I was a little worried we'd see a lot of water on the routes, but a few were dry and the crag was empty. We were off to a good start.

As we finished up there, the second group showed up and decided to head to New Wave where there was a nice combination of moderate routes and steep, stiff and fun harder routes. By the time we showed up, the second group had set up some nice top ropes for our moderate climbers and were nice enough to leave the lead gear for the really hard guys (tongue-in-cheek - if you're a new subscriber to my blog, it may be best if I disclose my sense of humor now - it's a bit off). The routes were all over the map in terms of moves - high steps, mantles, high-step mantles, underclings, knee bars, sticking-both-feet-into-a-really-cool-and-wide-crack (not sure what to call that one, and I don't think the acronym "SBFIARCAWC" works - suggestions can be made in the comments section below). Everyone led, even those who were a little nervous about it, and everyone felt as if a perfectly good day of climbing and workout had been had. We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, more fun hearing the laughs from below when the second group headed to the crag above the first group, and pleny of sweet smelling suntan lotion (hint to person who brought that - get more! The chicks like it!)

Anyway, as I noted, before we finished all the routes on Lower New Wave, the second group headed up to Upper New Wave to get a few more runs in before leaving. We joined them, but found a limited number of routes available due to water runoff and growling stomachs in the secound group that wanted to go home. So we waved good-bye, noted our desire to climb with everyone again, and headed down to the Meadows to get a few more climbs in at the end of the day. One person found her "new love" on a 5.7 while I nearly crapped myself taking a lead fall I really didn't want to take (it was wet, overhanging and I was damn tired - leave me alone!). We packed up and left for the long ride home, and, despite being overwhelmingly exhausted, are probably ready to head back again next week for more punishment.

On a side note, these are some of the things we learned yesterday, in no particular order: The techno star (and former hardcore punk bad boy) Moby named himself after his great-grandfather; his great-grandfather wrote "Moby Dick"; "Moby Dick" was written by Herman Melville (NO! It's MILLER!!!!); some people have crushes; some people fart; some people have farts that echo; some people don't hide properly; others use the rope on overhangs; dogs like sticks on precipitous edges; John Ritter was not in WKRP in Cinncinatti; Manchester is known as ManchVegas for a reason; melting ice on a steep hill has only one place to go when it breaks off in dangerous chunks; guys who look like a rag-tag crew as they come into a restaurant aren't always the same people we saw climbing earlier; people in Sweden live alone; women in Sweden are the ones who pick up guys in bars; Greg wants to move to Sweden; people in Sweden are poor, but all own bikes and eats lots of sour cream while the royal family can afford mayononaise (tartar sauce on holidays); Thailand has way sharper edges than Rumney; the video game "Guitar Hero" is still annoying after two weeks of being removed from the apartment (he's going through "Deep Purple" withdrawals - it'll be over soon - I hope); some people like putting big, thick sausages in thier mouths, others prefer coconuts and hotdog buns; some people have courage despite not being able to climb harder routes; and everyone was happy that Rumney was pretty much empty of crowds and waterfalls.

Till, next time...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Santa Fe

I made it in to Santa Fe alive, although barely. The flight from Denver into Santa Fe was on a two-prop plane that couldn't resist its blaring alarms every time we hit a patch of turbulence, and we hit those a lot. Anyway, I was in Santa Fe for a health care conference and was hoping to get a few hours of climbing in before coming home. I tried, I honestly did, but Santa Fe is an odd town that seems to tell you what to do instead of the other way around.

I landed at the tiny airport (about the size of my apartment, I swear!) at about 4pm on Tuesday, rented a car and headed to the Eldorado Hotel to check in. My plan was to check in, change and head out to White Rock to get an hour of climbing in before checking in for the night. Before I left, I checked to see how far White Rock was from Santa Fe, and it looked like it was only twenty miles away. Piece of cake right? Apparently not. When I arrived at the hotel I asked the valet how long it took to get to White Rock, and he told me it was about an hour's drive.

"An hour?" I asked. "But it's only twenty miles away."

"As the crow flies," he said, which, as I think about it, that expression sounded so appropriately mid western for the first time in my life. "It's up in the mountains. The roads to get there are winding. It'll take a while."

Odd, I thought, considering the sign at the airport said "Santa Fe, Altitude - 6532 feet". I thought about this and did some math. "Four-thirty now, ten minutes to check in, ten minutes to crap a day's worth of airport food...nope, make that twenty minutes, five minutes to change and get my car out of the garage. That left me a little after five o'clock. Then we're talking an hour to White Rock. So that's six o'clock. Probably getting dark. Twenty minutes to find the damn crag. Now we're talking six-thirty. Ten minutes at least to find a way to keep from getting freaked out by evil, hiding-in-bushes snakes. That's a bit before seven. Nope, not happening tonight."

That was disappointing, but OK. I ended up walking around town in search of some decent food (found some at Del Charro - a must if you're in town. It's cheap and good). The city is much smaller than I thought it was; only sixty-thousand people. I swear one can walk from one end of town to the other in less than an hour.

Oh yeah, and the Santa Fe River is a puddle in the city. I wish I had a picture (no batteries for my camera and didn't buy any - too lazy, sorry), but this one will have to do. It's not much different than where this guy was standing. Forget about what's behind him.

There are art galleries everywhere. They make Dunkin Donuts in Boston look like hidden treasures. I did spend a little time at the Georgia Okeeffe Museum and bought a couple of prints. I don't like her flowery stuff, but her landscapes and building paintings are eye-catching. It's interesting because I think of her in the same way I think of Jack Vettriano, as a great artist who makes paintings that may not be considered art. It's pretty and nice to look at, but is it provocative and conceptual? I think it's art, but not everyone does.

Anyway, you didn't come here to read about art (though I should start an art blog and maybe put some of my own work on it). You came to read about climbing and I decided to head out to White Rock after the conference on Wednesday. In fact, I planned on leaving after lunch to get some good old crimping in before the snow set in that evening.

Well, as it turned out, the conference was pretty damn good and I came back with good information for the first time in a couple of years. The conference also ran a bit late, getting out at 4pm, too late once again to get to White Rock (that and Dice K's Fenway debut was a 5pm local time - I know, I'm a sham. Go ahead and tell me so, just make it painless and I swear I'll behave better). Instead, I hiked a couple of the hills in the area and browsed some more galleries before I headed back to watch the game. Two hours later I was downing my second Jack Sour at the conference dinner.

That left Thursday morning. I was to fly out at noon and, considering the size of the this airport, there was no need whatsoever to get there two hours before take-off. I asked for directions to the ski resort and hoped there'd be an outcrop or two that I could scurry up on the way. Guess what I found. Nothing. Nada. Rien. There was a lot of snow on the ground (I'm glad I'm from Maine and can handle driving in the pretty, white stuff), but that was it. Even the views were disappointing. Bummed, I drove back down to the airport and realized I was going to make it to the airport two hours before takeoff anyway. I should have gotten up early and headed to White Rock, despite the threat of heavy snow in the area. At least I would have seen the Rio Grande.

But I didn't go down without a fight. I was committed to not arrive at the airport early, so I spotted an Arby's at 10am on the way there. But a stop at a fast-food restaurant that I haven't seen since driving through Augusta, Maine on the way home to Bar Harbor isn't enough to kill an hour, so I missed the driveway and had to turn around. You'd think that would piss off someone who drives in Boston, but again, no one lives in Santa Fe. So turning around took all of two minutes. I didn't even bother to go in the damn restaurant. Five bucks for a frigging roast beef sandwhich with extra horsey sauce and I was at the airport fifteen minutes later.

Two hours, three national guard fighter jet take-offs and two conversations between locals that would make anyone kill themselves later, I was on another bumpy plane ride to Denver, then to be delayed in Charlotte before landing without my luggage at Logan. Good conference, bad everything else. And now it looks as if my North Conway trip next weekend is going to flop (nor'easter coming through tomorrow that's sure to dump snow up there, making the cliffs unclimbable for folks like me).

Oh well. There'll be better days. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

No Climbing This Weekend - But This Week in Santa Fe? Maybe

I didn't get outside this weekend, though I probably could have. The temps hovered in the low 40s yesterday (Saturday) and that seemed a bit cold. Still, the temps were only in the high 40s at QQ last weekend and it felt like the mid-50s in the bowl. I bet QQ would have been fine.

Instead, I ended up going to the gym to set a route. It was hard work, and it took me nearly six hours to set it and get people to run it. I was shooting for 5.8, but it ended up being 5.8 to 5.9+ progressive. I just didn't have the time or energy to finish the top. I think it's a nice route, but hard.

I think I'm going to the gym on Monday instead of the middle of the week, when I usually go. That's because I'm off to a conference in Santa Fe on Tuesday for three days. I think I'm going to bring my shoes to go bouldering, if time permits. There won't be any pictures (kind of hard to take pictures of myself), but I'll bring my camera anyway, just in case. It looks like there is an area called Whiterock just outside of Santa Fe. I may give that a go. I'll keep you posted.

Check back next week for another update. I hope to get outside next weekend too. Not sure where, but I bet I have a story to tell. Until then...

Monday, April 02, 2007

The First Day Outside in 2007

We've been waiting for this day since last November when we stopped all outdoor activities and committed ourselves to the gym. That decision was a mistake, however, as we watched December and January temperatures soar into the 60's before plummeting sometime around January 15th. An extra two months of outdoor climbing went down the drain, much to our dismay. It was a mistake we yearned to make right by wishing, hoping and praying for spring to sprout up earlier than it has in past years. Our wishes were starting to come true as warm weather has been gaining ground the past few weeks. The only problem is that it has always fallen on a weekday, thus keeping us inside just that much longer. Finally, the weather gods blessed us with our first Saturday with sunshine and warm temps. We sensed the on-coming excitement boiling in our blood. We committed ourselves to climbing outside, and we never (almost) looked back.

I say this because we almost jumped the gun. Earlier in the week the forecast said that Saturday would host 60-degree temps, and we committed ourselves to going outside. But as the week drew on, the forecasts changed enough so that the warm weather was supposed to hit a day early on Friday, leaving Saturday with temps that might jump up to 50 degrees, but would probably stay in the high 40's. I admit it. I wavered. The thought of climbing in 40-degree weather made my fingers curl. My extremities have always been susceptible to cold weather, being the last body parts to warm up and stay warmed up. Grasping quarry edges with my hands while toeing over-polished footholds that could give out at any moment did not sound exciting to me. But then I received this e-mail to my climber's group -

All that I can see on the forecast for Saturday is a big fat shining sun, so in my eyes, I can't see any problems with that. And 50 is more that than 40 or 30, as far as I know. Besides, I betcha Jello has already been doing at least 10 outdoor climbs already this season, wherever he roams these days :D So I am in for Gloucester (or anywhere under the sun). But I know I might have to succumb to the gym-rat crowd.

Those were the fighting words I needed to hear, and I'm glad I heard them. We decided on hitting Quincy Quarry at 11am, hoping that it wouldn't be overcrowded by then and hoping that enough people were there with ropes already set up so we could climb everything under the sun. And the sun was there to provide support. I love this place. It may have graffiti, I-93 and young, under-age, drunk punks hanging out after dark during the summer (seeing 15-16 year-olds walking across the field with a case of Pabst under each arm is not unusual), but the quarry walls cast all that aside. Noise travels horrendously within the confines of the quarry. It's almost as if one is out in the wilderness and not a single soul is there to keep the climber from going up peacefully.

As you can see from some of the pictures, the crowd was light, but strong enough so that every route had a rope. None of us had to to queue all day, and we all felt strong; getting to the top cleanly on most climbs. This is an amazing feat to consider. For one, few people climb better outside than inside, and that is especially true the first time outside (there's just too many obstacles - no more marked routes, the fear of falling, the element of wind and real rock, the notion that the gear may fail, etc). But also because Quincy Quarry is notoriously sandbagged. The routes are harder than graded, so much so that it wouldn't surprise me to see a 5.8 at QQ really be a 5.10 or harder. The reason for this is because the rock has become overly polished over the years. There is one 5.6 that has a near 5.10b/c start, and right next to it is a 5.10 route with a 5.12 start - all created due to the constant flow of rubber on the granite. I personally think this is a testament to really working on technique inside over the winter. Speaking for myself, I was able to hold moves better than I was last fall when I just starting to climb well at QQ. I guess I've taken the leap forward. That makes me pretty darn happy.

Well, we stayed just about all day, and that was fine with me. I got a little burned today, but that's OK. I'm happy we made it outside for the first time in 2007. Here's hoping we get more in between now and next winter.