Sunday, April 27, 2008

Good Crap, Bad Crap

There's a belief among those who breathe in the currents of self-honesty and live within its cruel social ramifications; those who trust will live, those who lie will die, and those who choose will always get what they ask for, so long as the consequences are understood and accepted, good or bad - and we always choose...

I have a dirty little secret about Friday that I'll keep to myself, but let's just say it involves me taking charge of what I want most out of life: to principally do what I want to do, despite the known risks that may come with it. I could lose so much if I keep doing what I did Friday afternoon, and it bothers me only because I don't know what is on the dark side of the consequences if my secret is discovered. And yet, I'm so eager to get there that I just might allow myself to get caught one of these days, just to see what's in store for me. Is it a lifetime of strife and missed opportunities, or will a world of freedom open up before me that shatters the blind trust afforded to the standards of personal accountability and social norms?

I'm lucky as all hell, but only sometimes. KITT and I arrived at Camp Slime with the tensity of rain spread across our gritted jaws and firm cheek bones. We knew we were safe Friday night, but the forecast called for possible T-showers Saturday morning and afternoon, with definite showers the bulk of the overnight into Sunday morning. And I knew the weather wouldn't play nice on Sunday until deep into the afternoon, well after we were going to be on our way home. "Ratherbe" had run into a wall of climbers the weekend before, and I had heard the community had been out in force up at Rumney, too. Her and I were at the 'Gunks a couple of weeks ago among intermittent crowds that were strategically placed on the best of the classics not far from the head of the carriage trail. We had to settle for a lousy campsite #1 or #2 (I'll never figure out which one is which), and that weekend was cold. Still, the hints were clear. Climbing season was trying to play as if it were in mid-season form, and it was off to a very good start. Would "KITT" and I seek our truth? Or were we just lying to ourselves because the warm weather leading into the weekend convinced us that it was our time to be outside instead of inside slaving away at math problems on chalkboards and spreadsheet? The choice was certainly ours, and I hoped that we chose well.

I was nervous that we'd get to Slime only to find a blockade of colorful canvas that would push us back to the Multi-Use Area (MUA), where I have never stayed, and have no desire to stay. I knew two other parties would be at Slime, and I believed it was too much to ask to know that my acquaintances would be the only ones there. We pulled into the handicap lot at about 8pm and let out a mutual cough of disbelief: not only were there only two spots taken, but the one spot that I know that easily takes my four-person tent was as naked as a baby before the cord is cut. We grabbed it, piled our stuff into the tent and crashed with dreams that we'd at get on least one of the classics we had discussed on the ride down.

Before I get to Saturday, I'd like to introduce three new members to the Greg's Blog Climbing Community: "HappieG" (a fellow climbing blogger - see her link on the right), "Rank" (a silent, lurking member of both MassClimber forums: yahoo and, and "Bulb" ("Rank"'s partner for the weekend, and apparent electrical contractor). "Rank", "Bulb", "KITT", and I went to a local German restaurant down the road from Slime to grab some grub when the following conversation took place:

- "KITT" (who is from Cologne, Germany): I'll have the such-in-such dish (he used the German pronunciation of a dish that he recognized from home - the waitress, clad in a heavy German dress, needed him to repeat it...twice).
- Me (when the dish arrived): Just like home is it?
- "KITT": Um, no.
- Me: Yeah, it's never like that. Ethnic restaurants always Americanize the dishes. Still, you recognized the dish on the menu, right?
- "KITT": Yeah. I certainly recognized the menu.
- Me: It must be somewhat similar then.
- "KITT": Actually, I have no fucking clue what I'm eating.

Note: this restaurant is apparently not very genuine.

Just a side note, I'm going to be creating a new blog soon called "Greg's Route Index". I hope to index and link all the routes that I write about on this blog. Hopefully it becomes a useful tool for folks interested in the same routes. I'm not sure when this will be up, but I'm shooting for the end of the year (2008).


We awoke to what everyone who camps always wakes up to: birds and daylight. When we finally crawled out of the tent at 830am, we were a little taken aback to only find one other tent propped up overnight after we crashed. I rubbed my eyes just to make sure we were that we were alone, but the re-awakening did nothing to change the scenery. "Holy crap," I thought, "there's no one here." "HappieG" was up making breakfast and not ready to climb, "Bulb" and "Rank" said they were going to be up extra early, and the other tent showed no signs of conscious life. It seemed as if we were in the midst of an opportunity to learn something about the 'Gunks crowd: that the threat of rain meant easy camping, and a free-pick of whatever classic climb we so desired.

Frog's Head (5.6-) - Two Pitches - Bolted Anchors - Trad - Greg led
Pitch One (5.6-) - 80 feet

This classic is on a wall of classics with Maria (5.6) to the right, and City Lights (5.8-), Son of Easy O (5.8) and Baby (5.6) to the left. It's also easy to find, too. Follow the carriage trail away from the Trapps Bridge past the to-be-needed outhouse on the right and rescue box on the left. Soon after those two landmarks will be a subtle turnaround spot in the road (where the Mohonk Rangers turn the truck around). You'll see a small stone wall on the left (about two to three feet tall). Take the next marked trail up to the left (marked with a yellow stripe). This short path will take you up to base of the wall, which has a prominent left-facing corner (Maria) on the right and overhangs way up to the left (Son of Easy O). About dead smack in the middle is a large block with a wide flake / right-facing corner that is about 10 feet tall. A foot or so to the left of the flake, on the face of the block, is a crack that starts after a couple of "steps" takes one up about two feet above the dirt ground. Start here at the crack.

Essentially, follow the crack and left-facing corner to the bolts. It's pretty easy climbing, as all the holds were there for me. No stories to tell, except we were the first people on the wall with not a single voice to be heard (including the carriage trail). I remember thinking how odd that was despite the fact that the sun was out, the temps comfortable, and considering location of the climb (within a few minutes hike downhill from the bridge). With so many classics concentrated in one area, I was amazed that there wasn't at least one other person even close to us. I wasn't complaining. I got up to the sun-drenched first anchor, tossed down my long-sleeve shirt, and wondered if it was worth going anywhere else for the day.

Pitch Two (5.5) - 90 feet
While the first pitch was pretty straight forward (nice, but not exotic), this second pitch added a little route-finding fun to the mix. Head toward the right-facing corner and climb that to its top. From there, enjoy the ride to the ledge at the top.

One thing I should note, however, is that the best belay spot at the top of the second pitch is on the rap bolts off to the right (toward Maria). I topped out well left of the chains, which is apparently where the route ends. But the top out has crappy protection, and that's why the Dick Williams guide recommends belaying from the bolts. I don't disagree with this, but what I didn't like was that between the top out and the anchors is a tree that the rope must rub against while the second is being belayed. I wish that I had traversed right just below the ledge and topped out at the anchors instead of left of the tree. I can't vouch for the pro or the holds, but it looked like an easy traverse (I don't think it would change the grade). If you feel confident in your 5.6 climbing ability, I would traverse right at the top before going over the ledge, and this would thus avoid the awkward belay position against the tree.
Descent: The belay anchors are the rap anchors. Two raps with a 60m rope will do just fine. Doubles will get you there in one shot.
Maria (5.6+) - Three Pitches - Varied Anchors - Trad - Greg led

Pitch One (5.5) - 80 foot traverse - slings for anchors

There are three starts to this route: Maria (5.5), Maria Direct (5.9), and Maria Redirect (5.11a R). Don't worry, unless you're spatially challenged, you're not going to think you're on the 5.5 start and actually be on the 5.11a start by accident. The 5.11a and 5.9 starts are both pretty much directly below the left-facing corner that is Maria's second pitch. The 5.11a is furthest to the right, and is a very thin crack with no pro. The 5.9 start is a bit more obvious and to the left of the 5.11a start (a few feet to the left). There are a few crimps on the face that lead to a couple of pockets about 10 feet off the ground (protected by a piton in the right pocket). Those pockets then lead to a thin crack in a shallow right-facing corner. The 5.5 start is the same as Frog's Head for about 15 feet before it traverses right for the bulk of the 80 feet (along a horizontal crack, also protected by a piton at the far right of the crack).

I have to admit that I was feeling emboldened due to my new-found lack of fear of falling and, because there was someone working the crux of Frog's Head (right above the point where one traverses on the 5.5 start), I wanted to save time by giving the 5.9 start a try. I was nervous however, because the crimps at the start looked a long way away from the pockets and, despite my momentary courage, I wasn't in the mood for an early-morning dyno with a sketchy fall below me. I decided to boulder the start just to see how far away the pockets were. Not surprisingly, they were a long way off, but I later found out that I had bouldered the start incorrectly. The crimps are very solid (looking and practical) when doing a layback to the left (with one's back toward the start of Frog's Head). I could have hung off those all day, but the move from that position up to the pockets was huge. The position I was in would have taken me to the left-hand pocket (near the corner and crack), but I should have reversed my position so that I was laying back to the right (facing Frog's Head). After climbing Maria and descending, I saw a woman who claimed she was only 5'5" easily reach up to the right-hand pocket (near the pin). That put her in a perfect position to then get her feet up and bump her left hand into a nice groove near the top of the thin crack. It was an impressive sight that was filled with grace, ease and effort all rolled together...and I'm itching to get back on it...right now!

But that's not what we climbed. We climbed the 5.5 version, and that's just as nice as the 5.9 looked, except obviously a little easier. Anyway, as I noted above, climb the start of Frog's Head for about 15 feet or so and make what may feel like a sketchy move out right just below and to the left of the horizontal crack. There will be some decent hand holds up above, so don't worry about climbing the wrong section. The feet here are good, too (note the three long(ish) pockets). Once you have your feet in the pockets, fade up to the right until you get to the crack. Then follow the crack with your hands until you get to the piton at the far end to the right. This crack is easily protectable, so there is no excuse for not doing so (large tri-cams, hexes in some spots, and / or mid-sized cams will do the job). Once at the piton, head up and to the right to the base of the left-facing corner and belay slings.

Pitch Two (5.6+) - 90 feet - Make your own anchors

Simply put, climb the corner to the ledge and have fun. Wow, what a great climb. There are plenty of moves that rely exclusively on the corner, the face, and everything in between. It protects well, it adds the slight threat of exposure, and it's just plain exhilarating. I have to give "KITT" some kudos here, too, as I placed two pieces that I thought were destined to become a permanent part of the landscape (one nut and one accidentally over-cammed cam that got stuck without due notice). He got them both out with ease, so he's a good second if you ever need one.

Whereas the belay for Frog's Head was the bolted anchors, and despite the fact that those anchors are probably closer to the top of Maria's second pitch than Frog's Head's second pitch, there is enough pro to build an anchor below the roof that is just above the belay ledge. I recommend building an anchor here knowing what I know now about the third pitch.

Pitch Three (5.6+) - 50 feet - unsure of anchors

Alas, we didn't do the third pitch, much to the chagrin of several people who have asked me what I thought of the third pitch. We didn't do the third pitch for three reasons: 1) "Ratherbe" and I didn't do the third pitch of Minty (5.3) a couple of weeks before because it was supposedly not worth it (I stupidly assumed the same about Maria); 2) we didn't know what the rap situation was up top (I know, a lame excuse because there has to be something up there right?) and we did know the rap situation from the top of the second pitch because the chains were right there and; 3) the Williams book doesn't clearly state where the third pitch is. The Williams book states, "Climb the corner above the overhang, step left..." Well, first of all, it's way, way, WAY more of a roof than an overhang. OK, this may be semantics here as an overhang is technically something that "over hangs" something else, but I usually consider an overhang to be steep terrain and a roof to be just that, a roof. Maybe I'm making a difference where there isn't one, but it seems to me that a roof is overhung, but an overhang isn't necessarily a roof. To be clear, it would make sense to use the word roof where there is an actual roof.

So why is this important? Well, because of the words "step left" in reference to the "overhang". I wish I had a picture here to show you, but a description will have to do instead. If one is standing under the roof and facing the rock, one can see a corner that could be steep about 20 feet over to the left (well away from the roof - on the other side of the rap chains). This corner is right-facing and it would be very easy to see how a climber would step left at the top. But that's isn't even close to being the route. The route actually goes up a face and a very generously described as, because it looks more like a feature, a corner. If one visually follows that "corner" up to the bottom of the roof, one visually sees a step to the right, not left. What one doesn't know, however, is that the step left occurs after the step right around the roof. According to the book, there is a crack that one climbs from there to the top. Again, I assume there is a rap option that leads back to the ledge at the top of the second pitch.
Descent:From the top of the third pitch, find the rap station and rap to the ledge at the second pitch. From the ledge, rap the same as Frog's Head (on the rap anchors that split Maria from Frog's Head).
City Lights (5.8) - Two Pitches - Bolted Anchors - Trad - Greg led
Pitch One (5.8-) - 80 feet

If you ever wanted a mind bender for a start, then this is the climb to get your brain cells hooked on. This climb starts left of Frog's Head at the crack that is right in front of a large oak tree. The tree is off, but it certainly is in one's head when climbing because with a single fall one will surely get the backscratching of one's life. There are four tricks to this climb, three of which I am happy to have discovered on my own:
- Trick #1 - There is a cool gear placement on the first hand-hold that one can place while standing on the ground. Take a small nut (not micro) and feed the wire down through the hole from the top, thus leaving the nut on top of the hole. It might take some maneuvering to get this done, but it does work. Don't go with too large of a nut because you'll need the space for your hand. A smaller nut will obviously slip right through. Find the one that is just right, and you'll feel better about moving through the early crux. (BTW - I was so happy to have discovered this trick that I place two other nuts the same way on the second pitch)
- Trick #2 - One can place a 0.4 Camalot in the back, right-hand crack of the first pod, near the bottom of this crack. You won't see the crack unless you look closely at the pod, but it is there, and it is very secure.
- Trick #3 - The mantle through the second pod is really, really hard. In fact, it's not even worth doing it because...
- Trick #4 - Are you ready for the beta? Are you ready for the hidden jug? If you don't want to know then close your eyes and scroll down three times before opening again. Ready? OK, here goes: the first pod is an up-side-down triangle (with the base at the top and the point at the bottom) while the second pod (up and to the right) is a right-side-up triangle. At the very bottom of the left-hand side of the second triangle, right on the edge, is a HUGE(ish) under cling if grabbed correctly. If you grab too high up then you'll simply grab the open-hand layback (it's still a jug, but also still awkward). Seriously, play around until you're able to grab the bottom and outside roundish part of the left side of the triangle. Once you feel it, you'll thank me because then you can get your left hand out left on one of the two crimpy pockets and simply step up to the jug at the top of the second pod. You'll have to trust your feet a bit (the crack is slick), but the layback is so solid that you'll never worry about relying on the two bomber pieces noted in Tricks #1 and #2 above.

From there, follow the climb up to the anchors. As the Williams book notes, follow the path of least resistance. It is easy climbing, even if run out.

Pitch Two (5.6+) - Patty Duke Variation - 90 feet

It was recommended to me to do the variation as opposed to the actual 5.6 second pitch. The 5.6 path goes left to a right-facing corner and straight to the top. The variation goes right through some right-facing flakes. I agree that the variation is a better option, but be careful of loose rock, as it is definitely there.

I also have to say that I ran this out a bit and must not have followed the route precisely. For one, the Williams book notes a long reach left that I never found, and there was certainly some steep rock on this path, which made it an adventurous lead considering the wind was absolutely HOWLING above the first anchor (it was so nice and warm below, but the air's true temps came out as soon as I got above the tree line). "KITT" later noted that he would have led the first pitch but not the second. I must have led up through a harder-than-5.6+ section, so beware of taking my directions here.
Descent:Rap off both anchors with two raps on a 60m rope (one rap with doubles).

The weather may have been different at the top from the bottom, but it was still warm and sunny (I'm sure "KITT" got a stinging surprise in the shower Sunday night when the hot water cascaded down the back of his neck), and there were still only a handful of climbers where we were climbing. It was mid-afternoon and we were a bit tired having conquered six pitches of classic routes, so we used the long log at the bottom as a back rest and watched a few other parties climb around us (the woman who did the 5.9 start to Maria) and a father and two sons, on the 5.5 start of Maria, who recognized me as a comp judge (I kind of recongnized them, too, but they knew who I was as soon as I asked if the kids were comp climbers. One kid had a Team Rock shirt out of New Rochelle, NY. I remember the team from last weekend's comp at Carabiner's in New Bedford, mainly because the head coach was kinda sorta smokin'). We gave the kids beta, something the father was pleased to have. His kids were both 5.13 climbers but trad was something new to them and the initial step up into the horizontal crack was a bit heady without encouragement. There was also another party on City Lights where the belayor was encouraging his "Sally" leader to run both pitches together to the top. It was rather humorous.

As we sat there sipping on our now poisonous water bottles and relaxing in the welcoming spring sun, we discussed for several minutes what routes we were going to do, and this is basically how the conversation went:
- "KITT": So what's up next?
- Me: I don't know. Sundown (5.8+)? Son of Easy O (5.8)? Baby (5.6)?
- "KITT": Sounds good.
- Me: OK, let's get up.
- "KITT": Yup, let's go.
- Me: Uh-huh. Let's do it.
- "KITT": Sure thing.
- Me: Since you're older, you should get up first and give me a hand.
- "KITT": I'm older by a week.
- Me: Christ. OK. Time to get up.
- "KITT": I agree, let's do this.
- Me: Got anymore GORP?
- "KITT": Yup, enjoy.
- Me: What are we doing again?
- "KITT": Have we decided?
- Me: Yeah, let's do... ...mmm... ...damn good GORP, dude.
- "KITT": Thanks. Made it myself.
- Me: This a German recipe?
- "KITT": What? Nuts, raisins and M&Ms?
- Me: Yup. Good stuff.
- "KITT": Are we going to fucking climb or what?
Baby (5.6) - Two Pitches - Unsure of anchors - Trad - Greg led and backed off

Pitch One (5.6) 80 feet

We had two options before us: Son of Easy O (5.8) and Baby (5.6) (I had, for some reason, ruled out Sundown (5.8+)). There were parties on both at the time, but the party on Baby was further along, and so we decided on that route to finish the day. That, and, earlier in the day there was a woman who entertained the entire crag on Son of Easy O with incredibly sexy grunts and moans through the overhang. I knew I was a bit spent from the climbing we had done, and I figured 140 feet of 5.6 was a safer bet than finding my sexuality on a 5.8 overhang.

Baby is located to the left of Son of Easy O, which is left of City Lights. Baby is easy to find because it is below a sketchy scramble that drops about ten feet below the start of Son of Easy O. It is the route with the wide crack / thin chimney / dihederal / offwidth (whatever the hell you want to call it) about 20 feet off the ground. As the book says, a 3.0 Camelot works well at the bottom of the pod (let's call it a large peapod, because it is about the same size and shape as the one on the fourth pitch of Dark Shadows in Red Rocks, and they call that a pod), but a larger cam (4.0? 4.5?) would work really well in the pod itself.

Look, I was tired alright. I tried it three or four times, but each time the layback pumped me out before I could even get my body high enough to jam it into the crack. For that reason alone I wasn't overly disappointed like I was on CCK the year before (where I just freaked out and bailed out of a lack of courage). I was somewhat dissapointed because I was thinking this would be great training for my Yosemite trip in June. To get that out of the way would go a long way toward building my confidence for that trip, but it wasn't meant to be. I was struggling with confidence and strength, and "KITT" was at the end of his allergy suffering rope (poor guy's left eye looked like the Terminator's at the end of the first movie - it was bloodshot red and he didn't stop sneezing and swearing all day). So I decided it was best to retreat and call it a day.

The climbing day was over, but I also had been carrying around some extra weight all day and it was ripening just as we got back to our bags. I left "KITT" to rack the gear while I tried to run to the outhouse before all hell broke loose. I was relieved to see no one waiting in line as I approached the building, and was happy that no one else came along as I came within 10 feet of the door. But then I heard the sounds of gravel crunching under rubber tires behind me. Slowly, a man on a bike passed me, got off, plopped his kickstand down and entered the outhouse. "MOTHER EFFER!!!"

The bastard took his time, too. To make matters worse, there was no toilet paper inside. Well, I wasn't going to not use TP, so I squirmed back to the bags and politely asked (note: begged) "KITT" for spare TP. He said he had some all the way back at the car (MOTHER EFFER!) that I could use. That mean going all the way to the car, past two outhouses on the way(each without TP), and back uphill to one of them before I could lighten my load. And when I finally did? It was a major dissapointment. I just knew this was going to come back to haunt me.

After all that, we ran into town get allergy medicine, my guidebook drilled so that I could carry it on my harness, two beers (again, "KITT" ordered a German beer that he had to pronounce twice before the bartender understood), and some fun talking about how we each wanted to pull the towel that hung out of the back of the bartender's shorts (hey, she was kind of cute and the towel look liked tail. What guy doesn't want tail?). We then went back to the parking lot where we had dinner, and then to the tent where we crashed hoping the evening's rain wouldn't spoil Sunday's climbs.

I awoke first to the sound of the ranger's alarm clock going off in the cabin next to the tent sites. It was apparent that no one was home because the alarm was still going off two hours later. In fact, in the middle of the early-morning rush to the rock, I could still hear it from the Trapps Bridge across the street. But before all of that, as I woke up, I felt the tent around me and frowned as my fingers immediately dampened to the touch (a product of me being too cheap to buy the actual footprint that goes with the tent and using a tarp instead). Would the rock be too wet? I knew the temps wouldn't get warm until late in afternoon, leaving for a cool and raw morning of climbing. Considering how badly my fingers hurt on Limelight (5.7) a couple of weeks before with "Ratherbe", I wasn't so sure the day wouldn't be a total loss.

I nudged "KITT" awake and told him that I was going for a walk to see what the rock was like. I also wanted to try "HappieG"'s recommendation on how to find the routes at the 'Gunks to see if I was being unreasonable in my recent rant (see her comment at the bottom of the post). Well, the results were mixed. I didn't find her technique easy, but I did easily find our proposed climbs of the day, mainly because they are near Minty (5.3), which "Ratherbe" and I had also done the same weekend at Limelight, and I recognized that route from the path. Maybe "HappieG" has a point, and maybe I'll figure it out or maybe I'm too dumb to do so. Still, my rant remains; it is not easy to find routes in the 'Gunks unless you're already familiar with them.

Anyway, we decided to do Beginner's Delight (5.3) as a warmup with Snooky's Return (5.8) as the final climb of the weekend. I walked up to the grey, dark rock and expected it to be as wet as it looked. But it wasn't wet at all. It was bone dry and not even that cold. It was kind of exciting, to tell the truth. I was really looking forward to both climbs. But unfinished business called and I needed to get to the car to take care of said unfinished business. I went back to the tent, grabbed "KITT"'s keys and ran to get the TP. Oddly, on the way to the car I ceased having to go, and so ate breakfast (muffin and watermelon chunks) until "KITT" came around to eat as well. After breakfast we headed up to the bridge (me to the porta - again, a disappointment as I knew I had more up there then what came out), and off to the climb.
Beginner's Delight (5.3) - Three Pitches - Varied Anchors - Trad - Greg led

Pitch One (5.3) - 75 feet - Make your own anchor

Again, I can't really tell you where to go, except that the path leading up to the cliff is well past the East Trapps Connector Trail (which goes down to the right to the road below). On the left, look for a marked trail (tiny steps to start and a yellow stripe) where there is a long(ish) and flat boulder on the left of the path (boulder is about five feet long and two to three feet wide). Head up that path and you should see a thin crack close to some thin trees on the left (one tree has one stump and two trees growing out of that one stump). That thin crack is Snooky's Return (5.8). Up to the left again you'll see a thin crack that starts about 10 feet above the ground. That crack has a triangle-shaped pod just up and to the righ of a patch of grass sticking out of a rectangular pod. This is the start of Beginner's Delight. Nothing special about this pitch. Just climb straight up to the base of the obvious left-facing corner and build a belay.

Pitch Two (5.3) - 120 foot up and traverse - Make your own anchor
This is a fun, safe, and spicy-feeling pitch. I was never in any fear as a result of the moves, but there is a fair amount of loose rock, and some of the moves are committing in the traverse itself.

Climb up the corner about 25 feet or so. If you can see it, there is a pin that is up and to the left, just after the start of the traverse and about 10 feet left of the corner. It is about 25 feet above the belay, and you may not see it until you get up a bit, but it is there. When you locate the pin, keep it's position in mind. Climb up the corner until you think you are on the same horizontal plane as the pin, then carefully make two steps left away from the corner. Clip the pin and fade up left to the right-facing flakes. When you get to the flakes, be careful as there are some seriously loose blocks up there. I stayed to the solid ledges, even if that meant making bigger and more dynamic moves. The moves are easy enough, so don't worry about falling.

Once through the loose rock minefield, exit left through an ungraceful-looking notch to gain the top of a couple of boulders. Build an anchor below the roof.

Pitch Three (5.3) - 60 feet - Belay off the slings on the tree above

This pitch was wild. There were two airy moves that I loved, and one move under the roof that was just a lot of fun because everything was there, and yet, I felt that it was going to sandbagged before I even tried.

Climb the corner to the roof, use the huge jugs below the roof on the right to traverse to the right hand edge before going over. It's airy, but secure and fun. Fade left under the next roof, climb the face below and to the left of that, and exit right so that you're on top of it. The second airy move is a choice move, as there is a less-airy option to finish the climb. The less airy-section just goes straight up (bor-ring). For the fun moves, climb the crack to the right - the crack that steps out away from the ledge over nothing but air that leads all the way down to the base! The holds are bomber, and you'll get to feel as if you've experienced High E (5.6) exposure but with 5.3 moves instead (OK, so maybe the moves are closer to 5.5, but it's really not that bad). Belay off the tree at the top on the putting-green grass (seriously, it looked as if it had been cut with a mower recently).
Descent:Look to the right and you'll see the rap slings to Snooky's Return on a tree (about 50 feet away). Be carefull with this rap. The tree is probably solid, and the branch initially feels solid, but upon closer inspection the branch is rather brittle. The tree should hold when the branch breaks, but someone is going to get the crap scrared out of him or her when it does break. Rap here to the chained anchors directly below (which you can't see - I recommend tossing your rope from the ledge that is below the rap tree so as to not throw your rope onto climbers coming up Snooky's). Rap again to the next chained anchor below (you can't see the second set of chains until you're almost on top of them). Rap to the bottom. We used a 60m rope, so the anchors at the top of the first pitch are less than 100 feet from the ground, despite the William's guide's estimate. Doubles probably get you down in one go from the upper chains with a rap to the upper chains from the tree (better option). Or one could rap from the tree to the first pitch anchors (less desired option due to the frailty of the tree branch).
Snooky's Return(5.8) - Three Pitches - Bolted / Tree Anchors - Trad - Greg and "KITT" Toproped

Pitch One (5.7) - 90 feet - Bolted Anchor

By the time we got back to the ground, we realized that we only had time to climb the first pitch of Snooky's. Since we already had the rap set up, we decided to TR the route. Too bad, too, because it was a sweet route (and I did think two or three times about bringing "KITT" up to finish the route after I climbed it first). Start at the thin crack near the split tree (noted in the directions to the crag above) and climb the thin crimps on the face and solid holds in the crack straight up to the anchor. Pretty straight forward, and the climb is far less intimidating once you climb it than it looks from below.

After that, we packed up and headed out. But just before we did, four climbers came around the corner and said "hi" to us. I recognized one, and she recognized me, too. But I have to admit that I can't place her face. If you are reading this, please don't be offended! This happens to me a lot. Please introduce yourself to me the next time you see me, and I will happily do the same!

The walk out was refreshing in the sense that we had done some good stuff this weekend (good crap). However, I still had one more mission to accomplish (bad crap), and I stole "KITT"'s TP and headed straight for the first outhouse. But again, just as I got there, a hiker came out of nowhere to claim the room for himself. "Crap," I thought (no pun intended, but definitely relevant). He was in there forever. So long that a girl queued up behind me who really had to pee. Since I knew what I was about to do, and since I knew she'd be quick, I let her go in front of me. Finally, ten minutes after the hiker went in (he took nine of the 10 minutes), I experienced success!

Thirty minutes later the tent was packed, I was changed, and "KITT" was stuffing his face with an Italian sub and driving 75mph with his knees on I-87 north. We were both honest with our abilities this weekend (me = Baby; "KITT" = top of City Lights), even when we lied (me = Baby), we chose exactly what we wanted to accomplish in the end (us = small crowds and lots of classics). Hopefully I can get away with my little secret again more often as the summer progresses. Fingers are crossed! We're at Rumney next Sat. Hope to see you there!

Click here to see pics from the 2008 MassClimbers' 2008 Gunks Trips (this trip will be followed by older trips)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Return of the Sunburn...and all is good in the world

I don't have much to say today, except that Sunday at QQ turned into a pretty enjoyable day. I met up with "KITT", "Gecko", and the formerly known as "Asshole", who I have to come up with a new nickname for now that I know his kids look at the pictures. Oops! For the time being, I shall name him "Plymouth".

Quincy is a hit or miss place for me. I get bored there easily, mainly because I've done so much there that I'd just rather go someplace else. But each time I go I find a new way to challenge myself, even on the popular routes on the smooth, granite J-wall and K-wall (the prow). Yesterday was no different, as I tried a few new variations on the popular 5.9 and 5.10 routes. Of course, the new spray paint doesn't hurt the challenging part. The same old routes get changed every year with new blotches of paint, making last year's foot holds seem like this year's impossible nubs. We ticked off Ladder Line (5.11a on - odd because I swear the book says 5.10), Layback (5.6 - "Gecko" and "KITT"), Bombay (5.10a - we probably did a 5.8 version), Power of Positive Thinking (5.10a), Pins (5.10a), Tensile Strength (5.9), and Outside Corner (5.8). I also did a face climb to the right of Outside Corner that I don't remember the grade of. Depending on how one does it, it could be in the hard 5.10 range.

I was both amazed at the number of people I knew there who I didn't know were going to be there, and the lack of climbers there on such a nice day. I know, as I noted in my previous post on comps, a lot of folks headed down to the 'Gunks, but you would have thought there would have been a few more than a dozen cars parked in the lot and along the side of the road. I guess luck was on our side, though, as there were enough ropes to go around to create the usual gym-like atmosphere and yet it wasn't as busy as I expected it to be.

On the plus side, "Gecko" got his first outdoor climbs under his belt (except for bouldering, but we all know that doesn't count), "KITT" appears to be getting much stronger, and "Plymouth" was tooling around with gear just so he could learn how it feels. The top of my head is a little pink (not helped by standing in the sun today while watching the Boston Marathon), but I really got a good workout, something that doesn't happen all that often at QQ for me.

There's reason to look forward to next weekend, too. The weather looks like it could be nice, and I should be heading down to the 'Gunks with "KITT" and maybe "Gecko" for some good old trad practice.

Enjoy the pics, especially the ones at the end of the slide show.

Welcome to the Wild West

"It should not be denied... that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West." -Wallace Stegner

So I have headed west with a new job and a new set of adventures to go on. Wait, let's back up a minute. For the past eight months I was employed by Pok-O-Macready. It wasn't a horrible place to work. Food and housing were provided. It had a great location near climbing and backpacking. Their were problems though. The pay was sub-par. The work to time off ratio was ridiculous. Mostly though it was just the constant bumbling and disrespect I felt from the management. So during a week off I scheduled an interview with a climbing company and also did quite a bit of climbing. My first time on the rock in several months.
Despite a lot of back and forth calling I wasn't sure what exactly was going to happen when I flew into Colorado Springs that March day. Fortunately, the day before I left things sort of fell into place. I was offered a place to stay and rides from place to place which made everything easier and cheaper. So on the day I flew in I met my future employer outside the airport and we drove to his house. He apologized in advance for kind of throwing me into the thick of things as there was a little party going on at his house. About fifteen minutes after walking in the door and introducing myself I'm offered a shot and then copious amounts of alcohol. Luckily I didn't make an ass out of myself and went to bed with promises of climbing the next day.

So after waking up the next day at an ungodly hour, especially after the drinking, flying, and staying up late, I kind of organized my stuff and got ready for some climbing. I also tried to fall asleep again since I figured if I slept from 3 till 9 then I would have accumulated an adequate amount of sleep. It didn't work. So I mulled around, watched some TV and when my gracious host awoke and made some breakfast we were off to sample some of the local fair.

First we made our way to Garden of the Gods, locally referred to as The Garden. Having climbed at The Garden quite a bit I now have some familiarity with the area and the climbs. Garden rock has a lot of variance. Kindergarten, or Grey rock is fantastic hard sandstone and has some of the best rock in The Garden. Technique wise it seems to have less smearing which is good because my shoes are blown out anyways. North Gateway rock is a little bit sandier and a little more fragile. I've pulled on some things that disinegrated under my weight. This is quite unnerving while leading.

The Garden is definately an old school area as well. Most routes were put up from the ground and can be sparsely protected. It's adventure sport climbing for the most part. I have yet to see a bolt that wasn't at least fifteen feet or more off the ground and many have runouts that will ruin your day if you aren't careful. I've also never seen so much old, homemade hardware. So many quarter-inch coffin nails and old iron angle hangers. For the most part though protection is old soft iron pitons pounded into drill holes. I've gotten used to it, but at first it scared the shit out of me. For a place with well over two hundred routes rarely do more than fifty of them get climbed on a regular basis.

My big intro to Garden climbing was the Lower Finger Traverse on North Gateway Rock. It's graded at 5.7 but is undeniably much harder than that. I've climbed 5.10's that required less fancy footwork. The first time I followed it and fell which was a little scary since it's a traverse and most falls will give you a big swing. I've since followed it again and did not fall so I'll have to go and lead it. Besides that their are many classics with spires and cracks and many technical face climbs it's a really nice area once you get used to it.

The next stop though was Red Rocks Canyon Open Space, or RRCOS. The recently aquired land had been through a flood of development and most of that development had been done by the company I was going to work for. Apparently the city did not want another Garden of the Gods and so the hardware is all bomber new bolts and everything is well protected. The rock is similar to The Garden in it's fragility and so the grades are always changing as holds break off and the sandstone is weathered. We showed up and I got to climb with some new people. One of them the guidebook author for the area as well as the Falcon Guide for the Northeast and I also met the owner of a company called Climbaxe. So we climbed around on a few 5.10's and I flailed a bit on a 5.11 but felt overall impressed that I was still in pretty good shape since the only thing I'd been climbing recently was ice.

The day thus ended we headed back and made plans for the next leg of the trip was to Colorado National Monument, Tusher Canyon Utah, and around Moab Utah. So I prepacked some things and headed to bed.

This time I slept pretty good and we were packing up the cars to be leaving by noon. After sorting gear and supplies we were on the road with another car headed for Grand Junction, CO which is where Colorado National Monument is located. After a long drive we made it to Fruita, CO where we met another member of our trip and made it the rest of the way to the proposed campsite, near the top of the canyon. It was around sunset and so everything was looking rather spectacular. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't capable of capturing this. After finding out that their were no fire rings at this campground we made our way to the local state campground and sat around the fire getting to know each other a bit better. The next day we packed up the gear so we were ready to make our way to Utah and headed to the trailhead that would take us to Independence Monument. After a somewhat long, but not unpleasant, and very scenic, route we were standing near the base of the tower. I really like towers. Maybe someone would psycho-analyze that and say it has something to do with some sort of phallic fascination but I think it has more to do with the fact that climbing up is generally the only way to get there. Most routes you climb and you get to the top of a cliff face in which you could have easily taken the easier albeit longer route around the side of the cliff. You can't do that with a tower. You have to climb to the top, you have to have some skill and maybe a little bit of craziness. Even more is that your at the very top of something, literally the pinnacle. Exposure is almost always there and it's climbing which is always fun.

Anyways, our proposed route was Otto's Route which is 4 pitch 5.8 which was first climbed by John Otto in 1911, solo. He hand drilled holes and pounded pieces of pipe into the holes to climb all the way to the top in time to plant a flag for the Fourth of July. He also had his wife carve the beginning of the preamble to the Constitution in a huge nearby rock. For some crazy reason they got divorced, imagine that. Anyways, the route is completely manufactured but it is definately of historical value and is fairly fun. The last moves of the final pitch are classic and the views from the top are fantastic as well. It was definately a good intro to tower climbing.

After rapping down we started to head out but made a quick stop to mess around on some single pitch stuff. I lead a route called Dihedral #1 which despite the mundane name was really fun. Having developed my gear placement skills in the East as more of nuts and tricams type of guy it was a little more difficult because I didn't bring an assortment of small cams. It went fine though and their are plenty of easy stance from which to place gear.

After the hike out we got in the cars and headed for Tusher Canyon, Utah. So the offroading adventure began.

Tusher is a pretty neat place. It's very secluded and the rock formations are vary from interesting to spectacular. Getting into Tusher is an adventure in itself. One needs a high clearance vehicle with four wheel drive to be able to make it through. Even so, one of our vehicles had some trouble when they got caught up in a sand dune. That was a good time. After screwing around trying to dig them out for fifteen minutes we finally towed them out with some webbing. We made it to camp alright though and after settling in we lounged around the fire, cooked some food, and rested up for some more climbing.

Having arrived in the dark I hadn't really gotten a good view of the feature which we would be focusing most of our attention, The House of Putterman. It's kind of a tower, almost a butte. At first glance it looks cool but when you get right up underneath it takes on a whole new air of seriousness.

We weren't undertaking anything real serious, just some fun climbing. We only did single pitch, nothing harder than 5.10's. Mostly toproping with a few leads. The first climb I did was only a 5.9 and I was feeling rather confident for some reason. Unfortunately as I came to the crux offwidth section I flailed and proceeded to turn my arms and hands into hamburger meat. Funny thing about crack climbing. If you have good solid jams you won't bleed. If your jams pull out you make an obligatory flesh deposit on the rock. Offwidths are not my friend. Even so I was excited at all the unclimbed rock and aesthetic lines all around.

The rocks need for blood satiated we left to nurse our wounds, some having more wounds than others, and recuperate for some more climbing the next day. That next day found us leaving Tusher Canyon to explore the local mecca that is Moab, Utah. Funny thing about Moab is it's circus like quality. The town thrives on the outdoor industry, especially mountain biking and the gaudy signs and billboards make it well known, also slightly comical. So we decided to head over to Potash Road. Some nice big cliffs right on Potash Road. When I say right on I mean you can belay from your car, you can feel the wind from passing cars, and standing right next to the rock still puts you in easy striking distance of a car should they not be paying close enough attention.

Nevertheless, it was fun climbing, good for a quick burn. Despite the height few of the climbs went to the top of the cliff. Expressing interest in something multipitch we headed over to the Tombstone. Our intended route, The Corner Route 5.12 III, being to the left of whipper inducing Epitaph which one can find videos of climbers taking sixty footers. That was not of great interest to me. I prefer to climb the rock. Either way though the climb was a burly one, following a dihedral system all the way to the top. The first pitch is a super scary 5.8 traverse. Thankfully I did not lead it. It follows a horizontal crack for about twenty feet. The crack is filled with dirt and the fall would be into the ground simply because of the slope of the ground. After almost yellowing my pants I was to lead the next pitch an easy 5.7 flake. I should have taken more time to recover from my near death experience but I racked up and lead off, sewing it up like a seamstress on speed. After climbing to a short offwidth section I couldn't figure it out. I was scared and pumped and just couldn't think straight, so I hung on the rope till I calmed down. Finishing the pitch I brought my partner up for them to lead the next pitch a pumpy 5.1o section. Cruising the pitch no problem he brought me up and after hanging a few times I finally made it. The last pitch, the crux, is a 5.12 finger crack or easy clean aid. Since we didn't have aiders and it was late we simply rappelled off. After some discussion we decided to head home because we wouldn't feel like climbing tommorrow and so off we went.

First we decided to check out some of the sights and so we drove through arches and I got to see the Fisher Towers and Castleton Tower. They were quite the sight to end my trip on. The desert is quite the amazing place and I hope to go back soon.

Since I've moved to Colorado I've been climbing more than I ever have in my life. I've been here about two weeks and climbed about 10 out of the 14 I've been here. I'm getting used to the chossy sandstone. Now all I need to do is get some new shoes and a new rope.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Comp Season

Just as the bluest of Saturday skies opened up above me, and just as the temperature gauge touched sixty on someone's outdoor thermometer, I pulled into Carabiner's Rock Gym in New Bedford Mass to judge the first of only two competitions that I'll be involved in during the 2008 competition season. The hour-plus drive down from Boston was easy and flowing, as there was little traffic on the road at 7:45 in the morning. The sun had already lit up life around me, and I was thinking not about how my partners were all in the 'Gunks, not about how two of those partners who I've barely ever climbed with are going to Yosemite with me in June, not about how I need to get on the same page with them with only a smattering of weekend opportunities left before the trip, not about what my dentist was going to be thinking about my ground and gritted teeth, but about how happy I was to be going to Ikea after the comp to buy myself a wok.

I walked into the gym just before 9am and looked around. I saw all sorts of Metrorock, Team Rock, Vertical Dreams, and YMCA climbing shirts busted out by Little League moms and dads in support of their non-conformist kids. It's a good environment, and as very likely the only non-parent, coach, or employee of Carabiners volunteering at the comp, I felt a twinge of a satisfied smirk begin to come across my face. But I held it in until one of the coaches came up to me and said, "I hear it's pouring in the 'Gunks." YES!

All kidding aside (well, I did really want to go to the 'Gunks), I enjoy these competitions. I particularly enjoy judging them, and I'm not sure why. I guess for the same reasons that I enjoyed coaching baseball when I was younger, or why I volunteer to be a Board Member at a local farm. I don't really do a lot of volunteer stuff. I'm not the guy who goes out and helps clean trails for a day, or does walks for breast cancer and stuff. But I do enjoy doing some things that allow me to be in the background and unnoticed. I like to contribute where I can, but not where I really don't have an interest. Don't get me wrong, I care about a lot of things. I love clean trails and would feel happy if cancer disappeared, but I learned a long time ago that one can only give so much. And as I've said before, we all live for ourselves anyway (whether we realize that or not), so it's OK to pick and choose the things I want to get involved in.

Anyway, the comp went well. It was a small local comp, but there were some strong climbers and cute coaches there (I didn't say there weren't benefits!). I got fed (three times - urp), and got to talk a lot about the rain that I knew wasn't pouring in the 'Gunks. One of the gym belayors talked a bit about Yosemite with me and I walked out unceremoniously when my day was done. No ribbons, no free gear or climbing passes, and no climbing; just a full belly, a satisfied sense of community, and a wok (and a new grill, and teaspoon measuring cups, and a cinnamon bun...).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taking Falls

"KITT" and I were discussing the outdoor climbing season a couple of weeks ago when I suggested to him that that he learn how to lead. He had been involved in leading before, but his memory was weak on the fundamentals and I thought that teaching him at the gym would be a good place to start.

So I taught him the following weekend. He learned about back-clipping, Z-clipping, rope management, where not to place his feet (behind the rope), giving soft catches, and falling. I'm not going to go into the other elements, but I did want to talk briefly about learning to fall. To start, I thought this small article by Arno Ilgner, as posted on, was a good read for anyone who wants to understand the fear of falling.

I think the most important piece for me is breathing during the fall. As the Ilgner notes, it is important to breathe throughout the fall, not just at the beginning or at the end. This is very difficult to do because it is counter-intuitive to our natural reactions, and because calm breathing typically only occurs slowly; a fall probably lasts less than a second or two, depending on its length. But I agree that breathing helps for two reasons: 1) it is proof that one is still alive and; 2) physical exertion is better executed when breathing (especially during the exhale). Let me talk a little bit about each of these and how I think they are important.

With regards to my first reason, proving that one is still alive is not a silly, manufactured head game that one plays. Instead, it is a method of realizing awareness. I think when people do something that should naturally instill fear, they tense up, hold their breath and hope for the best, and there is a lot that is wrong with that. For one, tensing up could lead to greater injury (ever wonder why drunk drivers are the ones who survive accidents? Because they're relaxed at impact), and hoping for the best really should be saved for those moments when one really doesn't know the outcome of a particular situation. Sure, when it comes to falling, one never really knows the outcome, but to be honest, falling outcomes are pretty predictable in a normal setting. More often than not, when a fall occurs, the climber falls and nothing happens. Even if the catch isn't great or the fall isn't overly straightforward, I doubt that most falls are harmful. So really, despite fear's presence, there is no good reason to be afraid during a typical fall. If a fall is going to happen, then it is going to happen. Why hope for the best when preparedness will help make the fall safer and less stimulating?

So what does breathing do? By focusing on breathing (i.e. - making sure that one breathes as opposed to simply letting nature take care of the breathing), one has stimulated the brain into focusing on the surrounding environment: where I am in relation to the clip, what environmental dangers do I need to protect against, and what do I need to do in order to prepare for the impact after letting go. This isn't really about saying, "It's OK because I'm going to live." It's more about saying, "OK what do I need to do in order to make this less dramatic and safer," so to speak. The breathing allows the brain to shift from fear to focus. Treat the breathing as a sort of awakening where the brain is all of a sudden aware that its focus is no longer the next crimp above but the horizontal crack below instead.

Now, for the second reason, this is basic stuff that anyone who has done some sort of weight training probably knows, even if they don't realize that they know. When doing bench presses, let's say, one exhales when pushing the weight upward. I'm not sure why this works better (I'm not an expert and I don't pretend to play one here), but it does. In fact, with regards to a lot of physically strenuous events, exhaling makes it easier to accomplish that feat. I first learned that I should do this (again, I was doing it all along in the weight room but never realized it) when I was playing baseball in college. Our coach taught us to exhale when swinging the bat. It took a lot of practice, but once I learned how to do this, and breathe regularly so that I could do this without thinking about it, I started hitting the ball with more authority. I also do this a lot while climbing, even on easy climbs. In fact, I kind of laugh at myself because sometimes my exhaling is so loud that even I notice it.

But here is my question: if one breathes during the fall, when does one actually exhale? Does one exhale upon releasing oneself from the rock? What about during the fall itself, when the likelihood of breathing in and out in one, full cycle before the impact is small? And what about during the impact? My thought is that, if given the chance to breathe calmly before falling (i.e. - you know you're going and you're preparing vs a "real" fall when you don't know beforehand), one generates slow, deep, rhythmic breath cycles and begins to exhale upon releasing from the rock. The exhale should then end just about after the point of impact, when all arms and legs are bent and have absorbed the impact. My belief in this is that the brain is focused on exhaling (when the body is more relaxed - try it, and you'll see it is far easier to tense up when inhaling), and is thus not thinking about the fall (either before or during), thus removing the fear due to the climber being relaxed. The exhale also allows the arms and legs to be relaxed enough to absorb the fall comfortably (again, try to jump up and land just as you inhale. Is it easier to bend your legs on the impact when you inhale or exhale?).

So I tried all of this at the gym the other day. "KITT" had learned to lead the previous week, but he hadn't taken his lead belay test yet. After he took his test, my head starting reminding me that I was taking falls last fall in the gym just to get used to them. As expected, I never did get used to them, but that was because I was just falling and believing that the falls themselves would allow me to get over the fear of falling. As I've noted above, and as Ilgner noted at the beginning of his article, that approach doesn't work. The trick is to get ahead of the fear and prepare to make the fall less dramatic and stimulating. In other words, relax, breathe, and think about landing safely (as opposed to thinking about the fall itself).

The first few falls (and, admittedly, the last few) were heady, but I started to focus more on my breathing and preparedness more than I had before. Each fall that I took became easier as the day went on. I tested myself by telling myself that I was going to fall when I touched a specific hold, and, for the most part, I did that. As soon as I touched the hold, I let go (or pushed off). I got bolder and bolder, and, thankfully, "KITT"'s catches were soft enough to allow me to not focus on landing hard. Ilgner noted that a good belayor was needed, so I was glad that "KITT" had quickly picked up on making soft catches. My breathing was also focused, so that I was exhaling when I released and breathing normally when landing. This was all good.

Now, here is where I went wrong, and will need to work on getting over this. As I noted above, I planned all my falls, so I knew when I was going to let go and could focus my breathing on that particular moment. This does nothing to prepare me for real falls, or when I don't know that I'm about to fall. That is the next step, and I think I know how to get over that, though it will require work, as my baseball example also did. My goal is to work on my breathing throughout the climb. I hope to be able to achieve a calm rhythm of breathing throughout the climb, such that I know that if I get good at it that I can count precisely the amount of breaths that I take in every 10, 15 or 20 seconds or so. It should become a thoughtless pattern of breathing that allows me to understand when I can rest versus when I can make a move. In other words, once I have this down, I should be able to make a move when only exhaling. If I exhale every four seconds, then I either move every four seconds, or eight seconds, or 12 seconds. If I'm ready to move when I'm inhaling, I'll stop and wait until I exhale. That will give me my rest as well, because I'll only move when exhaling and will be resting when inhaling.

So how does this help me with falls? Well, in getting back to Ilgner's point about breathing throughout the fall, if my breathing is in a rhythm, then I should be able to breath naturally when a real fall occurs. In other words, the thinking will have been taken totally out of the equation and my awareness will be such that taking a fall will be second nature. The hard part is controlling my breathing under duress, but with a little work I think I can overcome this. If you get a chance to practice this, please tell me how it goes. I would love to have feedback on whether this works or not.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Local Update

Despite the fact that the heavy rains that were scheduled to roll into Massachsetts early in the day didn't show up until later (and, thus, kept folks like me wrongly relegated to the gym instead of being outside), I am a bit more optimistic about climbing in New England this spring.

From what I understand, Farley Ledge and Rose Ledge each have a little bit of snow on the trails, but the routes are clean of snow themselves. The morning sun is making climbing there easy after rain, but it is making life difficult for those who want to park there. Apparently, the mud in the main parking area is keeping folks from parking. The lot only holds eight cars when dry, and the mud is lowering that number down to five or six. The overflow lot has also been found to be on private land. Thus far, there are no complaints, but as this place grows, there could be issues down the line. Hopefully a reasonable plan is being made in order to take an increased popularity into consideration. It would be a pity if Farley were to be closed due to poor planning.

As for Rumney, there's no fear of that being closed, but the conditions are surprisingly similar to Farley. There is snow on the trails, but the routes are dry. Yipee!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rock Fall in the 'Gunks

Holy shit, I damn near forgot to tell you about the rock fall. I don't have much detail, but "Ratherbe" and I were walking on the carriage path toward Limelight Sunday morning when we passed the Shockley's Ceiling area. We were walking along and heard someone yell "ROCK!" We instinctively looked up, to see what had fallen, but both of us anticipated not seeing anything, figuring it was just a small rock. But NO! It was a huge block instead. I'm unsure of the size, but it was big enough to make me cringe as soon as I saw it. It must have been a couple to a few feet in length or width. It fell from what we think is the top of Strickley From Nowhere, and it took out part of a tree that was directly below it. There is a good-sized scar about 20 feet off the ground where it split up. Thankfully everyone was OK, but it did sever one of the double ropes that the team was using. There were people below, and they were lucky. That was definitely the most dramatic rock fall I've ever seen.

Climbing Guides and Thier Great Stupidity

I'm going to take this opportunity to rant about climbing guides in general, especially the two main 'Gunks guides: The Gunks Guide by Todd Swain and; The Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks: The Trapps by Dick Williams.

First of all, the whole point of a guide is to help someone find something that they probably would have a difficult time finding on their own. They are kind of like maps; they direct us to a particular location by providing information that we otherwise would not be familiar with. If you know the route, then you probably don't need a map, right? The same goes for guides. OK, I know there are a lot of routes in the 'Gunks (over 300), and it is difficult to know them all from start to finish, but one must be able to find the routes, too, right? Let me give you an example about how to find Minty. According to the Swain guide, Minty is, "50 feet right of Snooky's." Well, OK. That's easy enough. So where is Snooky's? According to the Williams guide, Snooky's is "45 feet right of Beginner's Delight." Huh. OK, so where is Beginner's Delight? According to Swain, it is "125 feet right of Asphodel below a big left facing corner system." WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE?!?!?!?! Do you realize how many stupid left and / or right-facing corner systems there are at the 'Gunks? I mean, let's get real. Is one really supposed to start at climb #1 in the book and walk all the way along the edge of the cliff marking each climb as one goes just so one can find a 5.3 200 routes down the path? Get real.

Look, I know these books are pretty good otherwise, and it would be difficult to describe a climbing area without using this technique of starting with one climb and continuing down the line. And I know that once one knows the 'Gunks then it is easier to move about. I didn't have a problem getting to the climb that I'm bitching about (Minty) because "Ratherbe" knew where to go. But for me to describe to you how to get to this climb is nearly impossible. In fact, I can't really do it without confusing anyone, so I'm making the decision that you are better off not having my directions, because you'll just get lost anyway. Ask someone who knows at the cliff instead.

And if anyone gripes about me not having a solution to my complaint, then here's one: work with the Mohonk Preserve to post signs and names of all the staircases that lead from the carriage trail to the cliff. The names don't have to be creative. In fact, they probably shouldn't be. I would name the trails after the route that is directly at the top of the trail. That way folks can move about much more easily and not have worry about where the hell they are, because the guides certainly aren't going to tell them. If you want to know where High E is, then walk down until you get to the High E trail, then head up. It's that simple.

The Trials and Tribulations of Early Spring Climbing

It was only a couple of weeks ago when I tagged along with a bunch of friends to the wonderfully local Quincy Quarry (QQ). It was about 50 degrees that day, and I was worried about how my sensitive fingers and toes were going to hold up. Thankfully, the weather forecast was spot on, and the sun burnt the backs of our necks to the point that we only noticed the bite of the cool air when standing in the shade.

Feeling that spring had finally arrived and that warmer weather would soon be creeping northward, "Ratherbe" and I scanned the forecast for New Paltz each of the two weeks after that QQ jaunt. Last weekend was rainy and cold, but this past weekend offered an opportunity that we couldn't pass up: 50 degrees on Sat and upper 50s on Sunday, with limited sun early and lots of sun later. We planned our drive down, hopped in the car Friday night and arrived at Camp Slime late that evening. We were to meet three people there: "Strongmansends" ("SMS"), "Cracklover", and "Mountain Woman" ("MW"). All three were on the same page that "Ratherbe" and I were on; that the sun would come out and we'd all be allowed to play.


The drive down was predicated by a discussion about the weather between me, "Ratherbe", and "Cracklover". The three of us went back and forth between leaving Friday night and bearing the known rainy forecast, driving Saturday morning while the rock dried, or Saturday night, thus skipping Sat altogether and climbing only on Sunday. For a while, all three of us disagreed on the weather, but "Ratherbe" and I were closest to each other in that we were both seeing partial sun on Sat and lots of sun on Sunday. Our difference in opinion was when to leave and whose car to take. "Ratherbe" and "Cracklover" wanted to leave Sat ("Ratherbe" in the morning and "Cracklover" that evening, essentially for only a day-and-a-half of climbing). I wanted to leave Friday night because four hours of one-way driving for one day of climbing is tiresome for me. So "Ratherbe" offered to drive, but then she got into an accident and didn't feel comfortable driving a great distance. So that left either me or "Cracklover" and "MW" driving. "Cracklover" and "MW" definitely wanted to leave later on Saturday as opposed to earlier. They felt the bulk of the climbing would be done on Sunday when the temps were warmer. Carpooling over 200 miles one way was an ideal situation for me, so we decided that "Cracklover" and "MW" would drive. Alas, they forgot that they had brunch to attend that Saturday morning and wouldn't be driving down until later that evening. So, that left me driving and "Ratherbe" and I thinking that two days of climbing was better than one. We took off Friday evening amid slowly-rolling traffic and spotty showers, and arrived sometime around 10pm.

We knew it was going to rain that evening, and we even thought it was going to rain that next morning. In fact, we had totally anticipated not getting on to the rock until sometime after 12pm. As it turned out, a wickedness of rain thumped the tent at around 2am, but that was it. By the time we sniffed the wet pine air Saturday morning, the rain had stopped and the rock was already starting to dry. We had breakfast, I bought a season's pass, and we hopped over to Shockley's Ceiling (5.6) to see if it would be dry and empty. We bumped briefly into "SMS" on the way, but didn't see him again the rest of the weekend (well, I saw him twice but "Ratherbe" only saw him once, as he belayed his partner near Keyhole). It's funny because "SMS" and his partner were heading toward the carriage trail while I was heading back down to the parking lot. As we passed, he looked at me and said "You look familiar." I looked at him and didn't recognize his face. He said his real name (which I will not reveal here), and I still drew a blank. It wasn't until he gave me his user ID on one of the climbing sites that I frequent when I made the connection. He seemed like a nice guy, and so I hope we get a chance to meet up again soon.

At this point, the sun was a mere hazy blur in the grey, but it was starting to poke through the clouds in some spots. The temps were still cool, and my fingers and toes really didn't want to come out to play. But I was doing everything I could to mentally tell myself that this was OK; that it was OK to get out into the cold and suffer a little bit. That this is what climbing is about. It's about the climbing, not about the comfort. We arrived to find Shockley's only moderately wet at the bottom and, more importantly, without a single climber above us.
Shockley's Without (5.3) - 3 pitches - build your own anchors: "Ratherbe" led

There is a difference between climbing on toprope at QQ and getting on gear the first time, especially when the first time is at the 'Gunks. There are a lot of people who say that the routes are sandbagged, which is something I have always contested because I've always felt that the routes went at the grades if done creatively. But thinking that the routes are harder-than-graded certainly gets into one's head. Also, forgetting how to do certain things also gets into one's head such as, in no particular order of importance: forgetting how to belay when not using a Grigri, forgetting how to tie a prussic as a backup on rappel, forgetting how to set a proper anchor, forgetting how to trust one's feet when smearing, and remembering to feel comfortable on blocks that are solid but don't always look it - just to name a few. "Ratherbe" essentially led the entire route, but not without each of us having some "fun" on lead on the ceiling itself.

Pitch One (5.4) - 50 feet - "Ratherbe" led - This route starts pretty much at the top of the staircase, which is across the carriage road from another staircase that leads down to the hairpin turn on the road below, except it is up to the right a bit from the top of the upper stairs. Start at a blocky, right-facing corner and climb to the top of a block section to a nice ledge about 10 feet long and three feet wide at its widest. "Ratherbe" actually climbed up right from there to a small alcove with a nice horizontal crack, about 40 feet up and right of this initial belay ledge. Either way, both are good spots to belay from. The ledge is nice because it is large, flat, and comfortable. The alcove is nice because it has excellent pro on the left side and in the upper, horizontal crack. From what I understand, the ledge is a shared belay spot with another climb, so remember that you have a couple of options.

The climbing on this pitch was less than spectacular, with slippery and off-angle jugs leading to to essentially a walkable rock alley, but it was fun nevertheless. Since "Ratherbe" had led the route before, she took the bottom pitches and let me have the money pitch going over the roof. It was a good first lead of the season, as all the pro was well placed. I couldn't wait until it was my turn.

Pitch Two (5.5) - 120 feet - "Ratherbe" led - Again, "Ratherbe" had actually started up this pitch by ending the first pitch 40 feet higher than the normal belay station. In any case, from the original station, head right up to a right-facing corner. Follow the corner up to the top and fade right to another belay stance, which is pretty much directly below the crack that leads to the roof. This section provided more dynamic moves that relied less on ugliness than on three-pointed motion. It was particularly nice because the sun had finally lit up the rock before me. "Ratherbe" had set up a belay in the shade below the crack, and I was grateful to be getting the next pitch, which was entirely in the sun.

Pitch Three (5.6) - 50 feet - Greg led, then "Ratherbe", then she led "Shockley's Without (5.3) - 70 feet - So, this was a 5.6. Yup, it looked nice and clean from the belay station. I could see a nice crack line leading up to a ledge just below the roof. I figured that's where I'd put my feet. The roof itself had a nice crack in it, too, with what appeared to be a grab-able horn on the right side of the crack. "Piece of cake", I thought, as I headed upward. Once I got there, however, I realized that the foot ledge was a little higher than I thought (about waist high), so I was going to need an intermediate move to place my feet before heading up over the roof. I looked around and saw only whiteish crystals and few sure edges. There was one jib that I could have used, but I was using my crappy shoes and I wasn't feeling that comfortable in them while on cold, slick rock. I down-climbed a bit, rested, and looked at the roof again. The crack was a bit too big for me to jam (hand or fist), and the feet weren't good enough for an elbow-to-hand jam (imagine a lever with my elbow pressed tightly against one side of the crack and my hand against the other side). It also didn't have anything to grab a hold of on the inside. "Hmmm," I thought. "This is a bit tricky." I figured that if this was really a 5.6 then there would be some nice, large jugs on top to really latch onto. So I went up again in search of the holds. I didn't really get my feet in place, though, so I wasted a ton of energy getting into a position that didn't help me gain any holds that would have been close to edge just above the roof. At this point, the horn that I saw below was a good 10 inches out of my reach, and not having felt any jugs before that, I felt that I was going to have to trust my feet to gain that horn.

All I wanted to do was find something I could wrap my hands around entirely so that I could just haul myself up. I figured since the horn was the most obvious feature from below that it had to be the hold I was going for. "OK," I thought. "It's still a 5.6 if I get to it because it'll just be a quick, heady foot move up, and then I can high-step and jug all the way over." I stepped out onto the foot jib that I initially didn't want to trust, got my hands in a good position, turned my other foot around so that I could have a little extra reach and went up... ... ...up... ... ...and up... ... the horn that's "NOT A F&CKING HORN!!!" "Holy Crap, holy crap, holy crap." All I could think of was the word "down-climb." This wasn't what I thought it was. Certainly, the hold(s) up on the now-known un-horn were good. In fact, I'd call them jugs in the gym, but they were right above that slick, blank face with no feet and I didn't have the strength or endurance to campus up to holds that I knew nothing about. So I down-climbed again, rested, thought about what to do, and went back up just to see what else was up there.

This attempt gained me yet more knowledge of the holds above. Yes, the holds on the right of the crack were good, but they didn't form a horn and were above a slick face without good footholds. So I tried the left side of the crack and found some great holds out there. But all of these holds left me way too extended to grab any positive friction under my fingers. I wanted to just let my feet swing out so that I could get them even higher and, thus, lessen the extension of my body. But I felt the entire time that if I let my feet go that I was going to swing out with them, so I down-climbed again. And went up again. And down-climbed again. And went up again, and down-climbed yet again. Each time I learned more and more about the holds above the roof, but none of them inspired confidence.

By this time, three things were running through my head: 1) I was getting damn tired from hauling myself up and down each time, to the point that my left arm was wasted from all the work I was doing; 2) that it was getting rather warm doing all this work in the sun, which I was extremely grateful for because I was worried that 50 degrees in the 'Gunks wouldn't be as warm as 50 degrees at QQ felt, and; 3) this type of roof was exactly the kind of roof that I had climbed once in Scotland when I dislocated my kneecap. Because of the angle of my body extension, I was nervous about blowing my knee so high up on a climb. After much struggle, I turned around to "Ratherbe", who was being a great partner on belay, and asked, "do you want to give it a go?"

I looked at her as she sat shivering in the shade. "S-s-s-surrrrrre. Ifff yo-yo-you ddddon't wwwanttt it. Ar-r-re you s-s-sure?" "Jesus," I thought, "here I am flailing away in this beautiful sunshine and I've left my partner stuck in the shade."

Knowing that I should have quit a while ago, I made the decision that she needed to get up and move, even if the route was difficult for her, too. I down-climbed all the way to the belay station, we switched off belay and she climbed up to the roof. I really hoped that she got this, because I wanted some success to come of the day, and I wanted her to be rewarded for sitting dutifully in the cold all the while I struggled. She made three very gallant attempts, even getting her feet up over the roof all three times, but she was never able to trust her hands well to move up from her high-point. Each time she went up, she fell. Finally, after her third attempt, she down-climbed and went up to the left on the escape route (Shockley's Without) and we finished there.

I told her after I came up that I felt a lot better about climbing with her after going through such struggles. She was patient, she tried the route herself, we worked it together, as a team, and let each other do what we each had to do in order to to finish the climb. This one climb built a lot of trust, and I was glad to have felt that trust because it was the same trust that I had with "Jello". Good partners are difficult to find, so one should never dismiss moments of good effort and the accompanying response in the face of failure. If there is comfort in effort and failure, then there will be glee in success.

Descent - Ordinarily, I will tell you about descents, but I can't remember what we did. In any case, Shockley's Without ends in a different spot than Shockley's Ceiling, so the two can't be compared (though the rap stations may be the same, I can't say for certain that they are). However, I am sure that we did it two raps, despite climbing with doubles. (Maybe if "Ratherbe" remembers then she can comment below).
Minty (5.3) - 3 Pitches - build your own anchors: Greg led

If you'd like to read about a particular rant that I have regarding the 'Gunks guide books, then click this link. Otherwise, continue on, just don't expect me to tell you where the route is, because it's too damn difficult to do so.

Pitches One and Two climbed together - total of 180 feet (120 then 60 respectively) - Greg led - The day didn't get any better for me. I was rusty. I hadn't led trad since I was with "Tattoo" in Red Rocks the previous November. Time, it turns out is something of a memory deflator. This route did not kick my butt by any sense of the imagination. It's a 5.3 for crying out loud, but it was dripping wet with mud and slime, especially in the chimney, and I forgot some of the basics that I learned last year and was hoping to progress upon this year. Oops.

Anyway, find a large boulder / block that is leaning against the cliff, and start on the right-hand side of that (the right-facing corner). Head left once up on the corner to a pine tree (the first one you'll come to if you fade left from the start). Belay here if you want to split the route (about 120 feet). From there, climb the chimney and then out left onto the face below the next tree that is diagonally left of the first tree. It is easy climbing with jugs for the hands and feet at every turn, even if it is absolutely disgusting when wet.

Anyway, what were the mistakes that I made? Well, I'll just list them off because it doesn't make sense to explain them all: poorly placed pro, poor rope management, poor route reading, forgetting how to use my Reverso to belay the second, not figuring out a better anchor that would have been way more equalized without possible extension problems, forgetting how to tie a prussic as my rappel backup, and forgetting that I hate rapping over roofs. Let's just say that I did a much better job the next day, but that I totally butchered my management technique, and that was far more frustrating than not being able to get over a 5.6 roof problem.

Descent - We descended from the top of the second pitch, and were able to rap all the way down with two double ropes.

With that, Saturday's climbed had ended, despite the fact that "Ratherbe" somewhat eagerly pointed out an empty classic route on our way back to the parking lot. But I was finished for the day. My left arm was still sore from Shockley's, and my head was eating at me for screwing up so many things on Minty. We continued back to the car where we found a dry spot to set up the stove, cooked some rice and chicken (the Greg-"Jello" climbing classic dinner lives), ate watermelon and grapes, and waited for "Cracklover" and "MW" to arrive.

When they did arrive, they joined us around our "table" and chatted while we ate. We told them about our events of the day, and I came up with three excuses for why I didn't get up Shockley's Ceiling: 1) I didn't want to stress my kneecap and dislocate it; 2) I hate all things roof and prefer all things crimpy and; 3)... ... ... I had actually forgotten what my third excuse was. That left a little awkwardness in the conversation. It was akin to a comedian leading a great joke into what should be a fantastic punchline, and then forgetting the actual punchline. Speaking of which, here's a joke for you: a man has 100 bricks to build a, never mind.

Anyway, we went back across the bridge to Slime and sat on the lone, see-sawish plank bench to converse before going to bed. It was a subdued and yet lively discussion the same. I think the vigor of the content was there, but we were all tired enough to not have the emotional or mental capacity to actually act the part of vigorous chatters. Among our conversations were: why people blog; three types of people from Maine (rednecks, normal, and from away - with a nomination for hippies thrown in); what makes the Mountain Woman sandwich so good (hence "MW"'s nickname) (something about eggs, bacon and a special sauce); and whether or not it is cool that "Cracklover" "turned his girlfriend on to Mountain Women" (yes, it is cool, just in case you're a bit daft).

It wasn't until after we had all gone to bed when I realized something and shouted out, "I wanted the onsite! That's my third excuse for down-climbing and not falling on Shockley's." A bevy laughter erupted from another tent, and then we all went to sleep (well, thanks to the bedtime story that "Cracklover" was reading. It turns out the characters were compassionately enamored with each other. I never would have guessed!).

Sunday awoke with the promise of sunshine and warmth. "Ratherbe", "Cracklover", "MW", and I decided to meet near the route called Andrew (near Arrow and Limelight). "Ratherbe" and I had breakfast (butter rum muffins...mmm!) at the car while "Cracklover" and "MW" took off to grab the famous Mountain Woman sandwich and some breakfast at the deli at the bottom of the hill. After breakfast, "Ratherbe" and I headed down to Andrew to get on some potentially dry and warm rock. But before I get to that, I want to point something out to "Jello", if he's reading.

Last year, "Jello", "Captain Obvious" (formerly known as "Softspeak"), and I climbed Easy V (the left facing corner to the right of Arrow and Quiver). But when we got to the top of the first pitch of Easy V, we couldn't find the second pitch. So we walked all the way around to the right of the ledge and climbed what we thought was the second pitch of Easy V. It turns out it is the second pitch of Andrew. Oops.

Anyway, we got to Andrew and noticed that it was sopping wet. It looked similar to the polished rock on the shoreline of Maine, just after high tide has released the earth below it. We looked at our options. Neither of us really wanted to do Easy V again, and there were people on Arrow. Also, we had heard that Arrow was wet on the second pitch, so we decided to do Limelight (5.7) instead.

Let me be clear about something, though, the weather was supposed to be in the upper 50s with lots of sunshine. It was now 10am and there wasn't even a hint of sun or warm weather anywhere. In fact, the wind was ripping across the cliff such that "Ratherbe" climbed the first pitch in her down jacket. Let that sink for a moment as I remind you that my fingers and toes don't do well in the cold. To be more clear, my thermostat in my house says 70 degress - and I'm cold. Now imagine what 50 degrees with wind and no sun does to me.
Limelight (5.7) - 2 pitches - build your own anchor

Pitch One (5.6-) - 80 feet - Greg led

I saw "Jello" climb this last year with "German" while "Captain Obvious" and I got our minds blown by the last move on Arrow. "Jello" liked the route, and recommended it to me, as I did Arrow to him. Unfortunately, we never got a chance to do either route. Since "Ratherbe" had led the first pitch before, and I neither pitch, I took the first pitch. It starts on a ledge about 10 feet above the path and in between Annie OH and Arrow (to the left of Easy V - I know, there goes my rant in my other post, but hey, what the hell else am I supposed to use if there aren't any other reasonable points of reference?). Basically, follow the face up to the large, right-facing corner / flake and climb the flake / face to the top, finishing at the second of two large trees that can be used to belay from. I want to warn you, however, THE PRO HERE FOR BUILDING AN ANCHOR SUCKS - make sure the tree is still sturdy, because it is the best anchor you're going to get. The lower tree is probably a more sturdy tree, but it makes for a terrible belay station because of how the rope travels over the edge of the rock (it is more to the left from the climb than the upper tree is). If you don't feel safe running out the flake section, bring extra large cams. Otherwise, enjoy the wonderful four-finger edges and safe liebacks. This really is a great climb.

Pitch two (5.7) - 100 feet - "Ratherbe" led

This route starts about ten feet to the right of the belay tree, and follows a ramp up to the right, so that one ends up being basically above the belay tree and below two roof sections above. "Ratherbe" disrobed for this section (come on! Get your head out of the gutter! She took off her down jacket out of the fear of it ripping. SHEESH!), and started to climb against the cold, hard rock and the bitter wind. I, on the other hand, had my unintentional revenge handed to me. While I left "Ratherbe" shivering on Shockley's the day before, I was left to belay her up pitch one and then pitch two right after (i.e. - two straight pitches of inactivity). I was so cold that when I finally started to walk again, my feet never thawed to the point of having feeling until we got back down. Again, my fingers still hurt from this climb, and I wrote this at 9pm later that evening.

The second pitch to be sure, especially under the weather conditions. Not only was the pro lacking in some spots (the percieved cruxes, no less), but this was thin 5.7 climbing. In fact, it felt way more like 5.9 climbing to me. But, that might have been because I couldn't even handle the triggers on the cams that "Ratherbe" placed. Seriously, I had to leave the gear clipped in while I cleaned because I was so afraid of dropping the gear. It was actually painful to clean the cams. I couldn't hold on to anything. Each move for me was accompanied by a loud grunt or yelp of pain. The rock felt sharp against my fingertips just as much as my fingers felt numb and were without feeling. I know that this is contradictory, but it is how I felt. And the wind didn't help either. If there was no wind that day then I might have been OK. But it was raw, so raw that I recommended that Limelight be our only climb of the day.

Descent - Limelight ends at a bolted rap station that goes down Annie OH right beneath the rings. One can rap from there to the tree below, and rap again off that tree over Annie OH to the ground. The benefit of this is that rap is right there. The downside is two-fold: Annie OH is a popular route that one cannot see from the belay station (i.e. - you're dropping a rope potentially onto climbers below) and; feeding the rope slowly over the edge has the great potential to knock a bunch of tiny debris over the edge (pine needles and pebbles). There is enough of a gap between the ledge and the tree to not really be able to avoid the debris, and there is enough small debris to make it annoying to the climber on Annie OH.

One could also walk right toward Arrow and rap from there. The benefit of this is that one is less likely to catch a climber too much mid-climb when one drops the rope (you still can't see the climbers at the bottom of the second pitch on Arrow). Another benefit is that if the rope does interfere with a climber, the potential to annoy that climber is low, as the only place one cannot see at the bottom of the first rap is the belay ledge. The disadvantage is that Arrow, too, is a very popular route and a little less safe to walk to (it is down over a thin ledge where one slip would mean the end of you).

It turns out that there was someone climbing Annie OH when we rapped down, but they were toproping it, and so we cared less about getting in their way than if the person was on lead. We packed up our gear and headed home when we got down. It was a lot warmer in the parking lot when we arrived at the car. It was even warmer still when we went back to pick up the tent. All the parking lots were loaded with cars, as people were trying to take advantage of the seemingly beautiful day. We started to have second thoughts about leaving because we thought that maybe the weather was turning for the better after all. But as we pulled out of the lot, we noticed the wind was still blowing and that folks were still belaying in their down jackets. Even when we stopped in New Paltz for food we felt that the air was still a bit nippy. I think it was a good decision to leave when we did. The drive home was relatively uneventful, and we can safely say that we got enough of a workout and still didn't overdue it in the end.

All in all, I can confidently say that this was a very productive weekend of climbing, even if it was cold and raw. We never did see "Cracklover" and "MW" after they left for breakfast, but that was OK because we didn't hang around much after we finished Limelight anyway. Still, I think I earned "Ratherbe"'s trust a bit more than before (we had never climbed trad together before), and she definitely earned mine. This was a good step toward learning each other's systems and preferences before we go with friends to Yosemite in June. I feel good about the weekend, but not about the weather. Now if only I could find my weatherman hunting bow. Hmmm...

For pictures of the weekend, click here.