Archive for the ‘Bouldering’ Category

Fall Down, Go Boom

How is it that I can climb rocks that are 30 stories high and never get injured (knock on wood), but I hurt myself doing the most benign things?  4 years ago I pinched a nerve in my back while picking up my cell phone, and this summer, I bruised and bloodied myself when I fell as I was vacuuming the pool.  I am a walking calamity.  I bruised and scraped up the back of my leg, scraped up my right hand, and bent the pole that attaches to the vacuum.  Awesome. 

Fortunately, I made a fool of myself after I went running and climbing that day, and bagged another first ascent. 

I tend to take the summers off from climbing, especially August, because 1) the humidity makes it a rather uncomfortable experience, and 2) I need some time to recharge my batteries.  I was trying to avoid the time off this year, as I would really like to make a breakthrough in my ability to climb harder stuff, but between the weather and my own lack of motivation, I had once again have been without vertical movement for about a month.  While having so much free time was nice and, for the most part, relaxing, I am happy to be back at work, so that I can continue to finance my training.  (Oh yeah, and pay some bills and generally feel like a productive member of society.) 

We had been plagued by some decent storms for a few weeks, including the outer storm swell from Hurrican Bill, and as such, the park still had some significant muddy patches…you know, the kind of mud that can steal a shoe.  That day, it was just dry enough to get on the rocks, though, and I made another attempt at a project in the Cove.

I finally nailed the sequence (and, sadly, it’s much easier than I originally hoped and thought).  Free Wave (V1).

I am of mixed opinions about my climbs there.  On the one hand, there is plenty for the average climber to do there, which is appealing, as most places that I have been to don’t have a lot in the easy range.  On the other hand, I feel as though the climbs, and area as a whole, lack a certain legitimacy because of the lack of a signature, hard problem.

I am sure that this can and will be remedied by someone…but I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a small part of me that hopes that I am able to fulfill that need.  Call it ego or whatever.  In the end, however, as long as my friends are able to enjoy the climbing there, I will be happy.

Until then, I am going to reflect on my own luck and clumsiness.


All Apologies

I feel as though I owe Chuck a bit of an apology.

In my post regarding climbing style and ethics (“The Gray Zone”), I used two friends to illustrate differences in approaches to style and ethics.  Unfortunately, I think I may have mischaracterized, or at least over-generalized his approach to climbing, and may have unwittingly insulted him somewhat.  If I did, I owe him an apology, Chuck being one of my closest friends.

A better summation of Chuck’s overall stance towards climbing (and to life, really) is that he is concerned with people’s motivations for their actions.  For instance, his abhors the notion of “secret crags” when the reason for keeping crags a secret is to maintain an elitist ideal, as an act of exclusion.  He especially gets steamed when people brag about their secret areas in public, but are quick to get all hush-hush.

Here is where I feel I need to qualify something about the bouldering development at Pennypack.  I was attempting to keep the crag “secret” in so far as to keep the imaginary “masses” from overrunning the place.  (I realize that this would probably never happen.)  True, there was some element of ego in this as well, as I was looking forward to bagging some FAs, but by the same token, anyone who I knew was welcome to go there and get the beta.  And frankly, anyone who asked was welcome.

He also has no issues with restricted access at crags, provided that the reasons aren’t something that he considers “silly”.  By his own admission, when the reason is “silly”, he gets heated by the lack of control.  I can feel his pain on this issue as well.

Generally speaking, Chuck has pretty moderate views when it comes to climbing.  He sums it up best this way:

I really just enjoy climbing for the movement, the subtleties, the strengthening. I enjoy climbing for climbing. If I’m climbing 5.7 or I’m climbing 5.10, I’m still enjoying myself. The attention on grading, I feel as gone too far. Do I need to know what the grade of the climb is in a Sterling ropes Chris Sharma advertisement? Will it sell me the rope better? I don’t care that he’s on something rated 5.14 for a rope advertisement. I care that the rope will arrest my fall and allow me to climb another day.

I hope this clears things up, buddy.  Let’s hit the Gunks.

Biohazard Level 2

I swear, the park is practically a hot zone, what with all of the poison ivy growing in there.  As soon as I got home, I immediately stripped down to the undies and went through a decontamination procedure like I had been bathing at a Superfund site.  This is how much I don’t want to get poison ivy again.

I was getting a touch of cabin fever, and I hadn’t been working on any bouldering projects since my last outbreak of Chinese rot, so the plan, initially, was to head out and repeat some of my recently completed problems today.  I think I may have overdone it on the hand board the other day, and my deltoids were a little tender, so I decided to hop on the bike instead and see if I could scout out some new rocks.

The problem with finding rocks there is that the terrain is rather deceptive.  One, there is still significant foliage this time of year, obfuscating the features of the terrain.  Two, the terrain can play tricks on your eyes, making it appear as if there are rocks where there are none, or making it appear that there is nothing when there is climbable rock available.  Even if you find some rock, it is nearly impossible to discern the angle of the stuff; for instance, today I thought I saw a nice section of 20 foot high rock sitting on the other side of the river from where I was biking.  I back tracked to cross and see it more closely, and it turned out that it was simply an exposed slab, not even worthy of a second look (from a climber’s perspective).

There was a little success today, though.  Right off the bike path, there is a nice-sized boulder covered in graffiti.  Aesthetics aside, there looked to be at least one problem on a steep, overhanging section, and several problems on the slab side.  It has a great top out and easy access to get down.  The only thing that worries me is the drop on the overhanging section…I think that at least one more pad is called for while the problem is being worked out.  The nice thing: there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of that God-forsaken itch weed near by.

It was during the excursion to the other side of the river on the ride back where I found myself engaged in battle with the poison ivy insurgency.  I hadn’t planned on getting into the brush today, but the appearance of what appeared to be rocks high enough to possibly top rope on was too good to be passed up (the results being what was described above: shite).  The last time I was there (about a month ago), I came home with a case of poison ivy that required a dose of prednosolone and constant Benadryl, and only finished clearing up last week.  This time, I immediately doffed the offending clothing and used liberal amounts of Tecnu to rid myself of that evil plant.

Tecnu is awesome.