mountain therapy….. for the most part.

A serendipitous finish to a fine year – fall 2011.

It has been the most wonderful fall on record for climbing.

Last year’s fall seemed insurmountable as it was spent in Sunny Colorado full of sick sends and big walls.  The Southern Sun specials and lone Flagstaff missions added to the indomitable position last fall has in my mind.  Fast forward one year and the last three months haven’t surpassed or detracted from last fall at all, but has won a special place in my heart for a simple reason.  The PNW crags have been open all fall long where seeping cracks, and dreary clouds have been all but non-existant providing favorable conditions for climbers’ desires insatiate.  T’was the fall that Kept On Giving!!!!!!!

I was entirely convinced that after a California trip to the Sierras, and to the Tetons in Wyoming at the end of August that climbing season was over!  We returned to the PNW and encountered our first dose of rain and much cooler temps than we had experienced prior.  I sat in the garage a few days later and sorted out the cams, wrapped the ropes proper and called it good.

Then we got a weather window which found us silly at Sully’s Hangout. A great season for me, I finished up Special K, in fine on-sighting style, thus having on-sighted everything on the central wall that year minus that elusive 12a, Serene.  Nevertheless, I have never been one to chase the grades, as I have always been into long-alpine routes that require endurance rather than hefty-forearm-brazing lactic-acid inducing pump project routes.  But out of curiosity ,I jumped on to Back Door Party (12a) on one of these days, and found it to be highly intriguing and extremely enjoyable for projecting purposes.  So much for a project, I came back the week after, and sent it second try! Used that undercling lock, and the motivation provided by my partner Mirjam and added my second 5.12 to my repertoire.  Again, not one to chase the grades, what a boon to my existence the send was.

A couple of great trips to Skaha were had – both trips yielded great weather and great company – the notable send here was Wings of Desire (11b).  Although many other great climbs were had here, I had never to the point climbed such a benchmark 11b to which all other 11b’s should be placed against.  And on-sighting it was a pleasure since my mind considered letting go with every move, as the lack of training this fall was taking its toll.

Likewise many excellent climbs were had during our trip to Vantage.  But none stood out as much as Jihad (11a), a handsome finger crack which curved its way into freedom.  It had scared the bejesus outta me upon viewing it for the first time 2 years ago, and this time was prey to me climbing it (again out of curiosity) but ending up on-sighting the amicable beast.

Squamish was at its best as cragging took priority and the big walls fell out of favor!  We discovered Area 44 and on our first visit, clipped hundreds of bolts successfully without shame.  Staring at the Tantalus mountains with the sun on our exposed backs, being the only ones at the crag.  Does it get any better?!?!?

Another weekend, we were sure it was the last.   We moseyed up to Centerfold (3p 10c) and I on-sighted the climb and oh what a climb it is.  Apparently a 50-squamish-classic, and well deserved too. Tricky little beast it was though.  Makes ya think!  And after walking down the south side (WORST IDEA EVER – better to rap), we decided, “Hey, let’s do another!”  Feeling good and strong, we jumped on Hairpin (3p 10a) and realized that heaven was on pitch two in the form of better than perfect finger locks.  We rapped the route successfully to a cozy blanket of light clouds enveloped by the setting sun.. ahh…

But what?!?!? Another day in Squamish?!! Yes, a sunny day found us there AGAIN.  By this point I hadn’t been in the gym for months, and my forearms were feeling quite flaccid generally.  But, feeling unusual, I decided to try a climb that I had wanted to project, but never got to it – Crime of the Century. (11c)  Well, What’dya know?  I red-pointed the sucker the second attempt of the day, and I felt better than ever, those locks feeling like bomber jugs! .. Walked over then finished Climb and Punishment (10d), another one of the climbs I had tried in the past but couldn’t manage doing due to weak mind and/or weak muscles, and excess fat?! “But why stop there,” I thought. I had always feared two other ‘easy’ climbs at the bluffs due to anecdotal evidence of people’s demise and deaths while climbing there – Flying Circus/Neat and Cool both are (10a).  So I went to Flying Circus, the sun-ashinen, loaded up on TCU’s and found that fingers are my speciality, laying that very fear to rest.  But Neat and Cool would not go.  I was too scared. Since learning to climb 6 years ago in Squamish, seeing people thrutch over the edge, and Kevin McLanes description was enough to keep me at bay.  Update; 2 days before on Nov4, 11.  I climbed at Burgers and Fries for the first time, and upon finishing there, walked past Neat and Cool crag, and saw nobody there.  My mind was into it, I knew I had to try, and I did.  I led Neat and Cool with trepidation, embracing the rare occasion where not a soul was in sight, froze my fingers in the November shade touching frigid ice-white Granite, stuck a blue C4 before the bulge and On-sighted one of the last climbs that had stymied me due to its varied history.

This fall was fraught with wonders!! Nov6-11, on the day that this journal entry is entered, we even had a day at the Senior Center crag in Deep Cove!

And to think that the season ended at the end of August… shame on me.

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