Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Weird. I know I posted a TR of our ice/rock climbing trip to CO/UT last March, but I noticed that it's not in my blog. How odd. I'll have to dig it up and post it because I had some pretty sweet photos and it was a pretty awesome time.
Anyway I know I never make non-climbing/food related posts, but goodness I can't believe it's stil only Wednesday morning. Short (12) hour day today, then a 14, then a 9 and then a 7 and then zoooooooom I'm outta here. Dacks time. If I make it that long. At least I'm at the hospital all day today. I can't take 8 hours of retail more than 1 or 2 days in a row!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Aw, heck, I'm tired, sick and have vet school apps to work on, but I just need to post what I did last weekend before I forget!
Saturday: wedding at the Gunks. Rainy morning, got nervous for the couple, turned out to be sunny and beautiful, if a little chilly. Awesome party with great food and lots of great wine provided by Jen (who has a new wine store, but I need to get the link for that so I can post it), lots of fun with horseshoes and a live band, too. Sunday morning went to the Near Trapps and started with Joe doing White Pillar; watched a sport climber from France cruise Harvest Moon because the chimney start of White Pillar looked too scary (no pro!) for him. Then we went down and Joe did something, I don't know, maybe I'm OK-You're OK; it was OK I guess. Unremarkable, apparently, because I have no recollection. So then we went alll the way down and while Greg and Mike did Lean and Mean, Joe did Up In Arms which was sweet. It is a beautiful diagonal hand crack in an overhanging face; strenuous while it lasts but all too short. Not that I wasn't grunting by the end. Then I went and did Mainline with Mike belaying me while Greg belayed Joe on Mac-Reppy. I tried to do it in one pitch, but at the roof, I had second thoughts when I considered the slabfall potential and the fact that Mike couldn't see me; Joe throwing a tantrum the next route over didn't really help my state of mind. So Mike came up, then I went up and cruised the beautiful second pitch. I see why it is a classic climb. It was getting dark by then so we headed back but decided to stop and do Honky Tonk Woman. I talked Joe into letting me lead it. It's supposed to have decent pro if you're good at placing it, but I guess I'm not. It's got a bolt, and I got a marginal (body weight?) small wire and an OK (but not super inspiring) yellow TCU besides that through the harder stuff, but it went pretty well all the same. After you pull a couple of moves above the crux, the climbing eases off considerably. I finished it with a traverse left to the top of White Pillar (stay low and use the finger crack for your hand rather than the rail above. It's got better feet). My kind of face climbing, but hey, it was a 5.9, one of my few at the gunks. Monday I was deathly ill, but after following Joe up a warmup on City Lights, I did Twisted Sister which is 5.8+PG in Swain's book. I would call it 5.7+G/5.6R 1st/2nd pitch. I did it all in one, so basically the second pitch, since I'd used all my small gear down low, I was free soloing on licheny rock with a lot of rope drag. The climbing was pretty easy so I never really felt sketched out, but I definitely took my time. The last move pulling over a block with all the rope out below me was really really strenuous. I followed Joe up Rock & BRew after that, doing the opening crux entirely differently from him, and the belayed him on a few other something or others. I could barely keep it together, really; my nose was dripping like a faucet and I couldn't stop sneezing. I drove back that night and I've been working 14 hour days the past two says which isn't so bad until the 2 hour total commute and all the vet school stuff I need to get done is factored in. Then it's Aya + cold + stress + no sleep. Yahoo!!!!! Oh, AND I have a flat tire. And no time to get it fixed. Grand!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

King Wall, Sunday 9/9

Originally uploaded by Aya_K_Alt.

So I took the photo a second too soon, but this was anotehr whipper in progress. I love the cloud coming through! It was a wet, wet day. Thought Monday was going to be a washout, too, when it dawned as misty and miserable as Sunday did. We took a drive up to Poko just to show the boys, though, and as we were pulling up, the clouds broke and the sun came out. Sweet! We figured we'd take a look and see if the rock was dry - it was - so we sent them up Gamesmanship, while Joe ran up the Sting. We then sent them up Bloody Mary in a single pitch, and while they were on that, Joe gave me a choice between a bolted route called Casual Observer which he'd bailed off of the last time he'd tried to lead it and Fastest Gun, which I'd previously followed but not led. I was feeling a little ambitious because looking athe route, it seemed manageable; Joe told me he figured that it was 5.10ish and so I grabbed some draws, and few small cams and set off. There was definitely a lot of whining and a lot of squealing; a lot of fuck I'm pumped fuck I need a rest oh man I still have to climb that far to get to the next bolt oh god can't I just lower here, but eventually, after slipping off while downclimbing to a rest under the third bolt (I thought that was the crux), I grunted my way through the climb. It's very cool, climbing a steep face on the ubiquitous dacks squarecut edges, then traversing left over a huge gap to another face up to a roof, then chimneying up between the wall and a jutting flack, and finally shooting up twin bulging cracks to the anchors. Jim Lawyer gives it a 5.10b in the new book he's working on, but come on, I'm not leading Dacks 10b so I'll call it just 10. It was bolted, sure, but the only other 10s i've led were bolted, and they were either out west or at Rumney and so hardly count. Probably the lead that most drained me physically, but with such well spaced bolts, it wasn't much of a mental lead in that regard. We went down and did the first pitch of something (I followed in my sneakers) and then Joe led the first pitch of Pilgrim's Progress, whcih I thought was marginally easier athn Casual Observer. I led it with Joe's draws in place (cheating) and it was pretty much no problem until the last move. That move rocks you right onto your foot with only bad, slopey little ripples on top of the bulge to hold you up; clipping risks knocking you off balance. I'll be honest; if I'd had to clip my own draws to the anchor bolts that move would definitely have taken me far, far longer than it did.

King Wall

Originally uploaded by Aya_K_Alt.

Maybe a route called Kingdom Come? I didn't check the book or whatever. It's wicked overhanging, at any rate. Draws clipped to the bolts hang a goodly way away from the wall, and the wall stays dry even in a good soaking shower. That's why we were up there on Sunday, in fact. Personally, I was a bit too tired (NOT hungover!! Really!) from the wedding the night before to bother giving it a go, but I watched the boys from Seneca take a few good whippers. It was kind of fun to watch the clouds rolling through as we were there, too.


Originally uploaded by Aya_K_Alt.

Chimney start to TR, at the Spiders Web. The other climb we did on Satruday before the wedding. I did it entirely differently; no chimneying required. I faced the other way and used holds on the face that Joe's back is scummed against for my feet. I don't think I'm tall enough to stem across there like that anyway!

Slim Pickens

Originally uploaded by Aya_K_Alt.

This is Slim Pickens, a crack/corner at the Spiders Web in the Dacks. Mostly the web is a bunch of overhanging, beautiful cracks, but this one is a bit different in that it goes up the corner, turning into a stemming problem. Mellor rates it at 5.9+; realistically I'd drop the +. Either way, Saturday morning before the afternoon wedding we went to, but after the 7AM rainstorm that I thought would make the day a washout (can you believe the blue skies?!), I led it. No problems. Not to toot my own horn, because let's face it, it's only 5.9 and it's mostly an exercise in stemming, which as we all know is mostly footwork, which as we all know is apparently my forte, but all the same, I've only led a handful of other 5.9s on gear before (They Died Laughing over in NH and Wasp and No Glow down at the gunks) so it was pretty good to get up there so easily!

So I've done a bit of travelling and a bit of climbing, but I don't have many great pictures, so really it's not too exciting. The stuff that should have been exciting turned out not to be, anyway. At the end of August, Joe & I drove down to Bedford, PA, where my family was having its annual reunion. DSC00483.JPG
My father rented out an entire 520 acre sheep farm, and the whole situation was pretty sweet. We had our own bedroom and bathroom right off the porch with the hottub. Apart from the three straight days of pretty hardcore partying with my family (my cousins, my uncles, my aunts... all of them outdo me by far! I was good for one night only!), the highlight was probably the day we went golfing at the Bedford Springs Resort. $140 a round- but Arnold Palmer was there. I don't even need to get into the round we played; that would take ages. I was winning until the 13th hole though, when the heat and lack of sustenance finally caught up with me and I lost it. We got back around dark (we'd started at 2PM) and the round involved, apart from Arnold Palmer, a lot of balls lost in the rough, and my cousin's husband hitting a kid in the face (he was hidden up a hillside behind a tree!).

At any rate, on Monday morning we closed up the house and took the two and a half hour drive down to Seneca, WV. We arrived a little after noon, in the heat of the day, and pulled into the parking lot to grab a quick bite to eat from the cooler (grilled corn, homemade refried beans, chilaquiles) and then proceeded to lay on the picnic tables and watch climbers. And watch, and watch, and watch. It was just too hot and humid out to contemplate much else. At some point when the sun started going down, we headed over to the Southern Pillar and Joe somehow found his way up a 5.8, Block Party. The rock is orangey, blocky quartzite that basically looks like you took Madame G's and turned it on end. Either way, I think it was a 5.8 *wink* *wink* and pretty strenuous; I don't think i'd have led it. The air in the little amphitheater was stifling so we quickly ducked out, grabbed some pizza and crashed in the back of the truck.

The plan for the next morning was for me to lead West Pole, 5.7+ while the west face was in the shade in the AM, then Joe to do Madmen Only, 5.10, and then to duck to the east face in the afternoon for me to do sometihng else of my choosing. The stairmaster nearly killed me and I was about ready to call it quits right then and there. I must have lost 2 liters of water in just the walk up alone, nevermind my gimpy knee. At any rate, West Pole was a mega classic moderate, going through a couple of roofs before finally arriving at the top. I did it in one short pitch and one long one; the only difficulties were at the first roof. Not so much because it was difficult but because Joe freaked me out with horror stories of people crashing back into the slab below. I got a pretty bomber nut slotted in though and there were no worries.IMG_2758.JPG

Madmen Only didn't go quite so well for Joe. After we rapped down, we scrambled up and across the gunsight notch and he got racked up. The cursing started almost immediately thereafter. The startled looks from the Johns Hopkins students across the way shortly ensued, and finally I noted the father and small child looking up the telescope at the base at us. Really, his little tantrums have to be heard in person, so I won't reiterate it. After he got through the difficulties down low (mostly consisting of figuring out how to get atop a sizeable, really friendly looking block, the true deviousness of which I didn't fully appreciate until I tried to move after the big sigh of relief I breathed when I grabbed the huge incut jug behind it), he ran into more problems up high. A traverse move across the face was to bring him to the anchors, but he didn't have any gear to protect it. He clipped in, untied, lowered the rope and I sent some micronuts up to him. Sweet! The move takes you to a hole that goes fully through the fin that forms the north peak, which is only about two feet thick at that point and quite loose. In a word, scary! Screw it, I pulled on gear. We were basically done after that climb; we'd taken too long and gotten caught in the sun. We scampered back down, took a dip in the swimming hole (passing a little girl who said hey, we saw you climbing! saw, or heard?), and finished the day with a quick run up Judgement Seat (5.10). Joe redeemed himself on that climb!

Breakfast the next day is amusing, as I listen to a woman at Yokum's start in on a loaded topic: religion. She starts off by announcing that last summer, she worked with an atheist. He was a nice boy, mind you, but an atheist. She was just waiting to get into it with him, though, of course, to be a simpleminded as to be an atheist to begin with, she wasn't expecting much of a fight. After all, no atheist, with all their supposed genius, had ever been able to answer he one question: Rainbows. God said that he made them as a promise that there would be another flood. So if God said he put the rainbows in the sky for us, and we have rainbows, how can you explain them if you don't believe in God? I have to admit, her logic is impeccable. At any rate, with some good toast and eggs in us (btw, in WV you put msustard on your breakfast eggs and sausage. Not ketchup), we set out climbing. Scary as the rock quality at the top of Madmen Only was, it was NOTHING compared to what we encountered on our climb the next day: Circumflex. The route (5.9) climbs through a huge, circumflex shaped (go figure) roof on the Euro Wall. From the ground, it just screams PLEASE CLIMB ME! (upside down v-shaped roof on the left wall in the photo)

The approach is not bad, though it's described as exposed and scary in the book, and I settle down at a tree at the base. I'm not quite feeling up to this. Good thing. From the getgo, it's "5.9 MY MOTHERFUCKING ASSWIPE!" and it degenerates from there. All angular blocks that are slippery and slope in the wrong directions, the climbing is never secure, the gear frequently sucks (the potential for a 50 foot whipper is very real) and it's all terribly exposed. Fine. What was going through my mind? The whole climb is on the Euro Wall, which is basically a big, 4 foot wide fin that's detached from the marginally wider fin of the North Peak and all overhangs slightly. The whole thing could go! After what seemed like hours, with a lot of cursing (and maybe some pulling on gear - I didn't see it!), Joe got to the top and I started up after. It went ok for the most part, though I was scared to even weight the rope when I couldn't loosen a yellow TCU (it seemed like whatever Joe was anchored in to at the top couldn't possibly be secure and I was afraid!). The crux roof, just to the right of the apex of the circumflex went ok; I think I got some intermediate crimpers that Joe didn't. I tweaked sometihng and my index finger goes numb to this day, but no biggie. The scariest part was the top - the 4 foot leap across the gaping chasm of No Dally Alley. Even with the top rope I was a good ten minutes of hemming and hawing. I can't even imagine what Joe, with all the rope drag of a 180 foot pitch behind him and NO gear (he even used his gear sling as a draw) was thinking.
I don't have the mental energy after FOLLOWING that climb to contemplate leading something, so we decide to hightail it out of town. We stop by to say hi to Tom Cecil, who tells us he reckons that Circumflex has been climbed 20 times (a little exaggeration perhaps??) and gives us some kudos, a couple of t-shirts ( and sends us on our way (can you believe the man's enver climbed in the Dacks??). We drive the rest of the afternoon and get to the Dacks that night where we hope it will be cooler. I've got one day left of vacation (Thursday) and I want to get some good climbing in. It is unfortunately not much cooler or less humid, but we try to catch some shade in the Nears. It's midweek and the cliffs are empty except for us and the dogs. IMG_2795.JPG
Since I didn't get my crack fix at Seneca, we figure we'll walk down to Eastertime Too, which I have not climbed. Figured that another party is racking up for it as we arrive. The only other party at the cliffs. Ah well. I head up Boston Tree Party instead, and am stymied for a bit at the thin face moves once you pull around the roof. Me? Stumped by face moves? (remember, I was puzzled by the opening moves on the first pitch of Son of Easy O a few weeks earlier)... what's going on?? Eastertime Too presents no difficulties, and is a very nice, typical gunks crack: A lovely, jammable crack with a multitude of face holds that make the crack almost extraneous if you're not a crack climber. Joe sends Good Friday Climb, which is nice, too, and on our way out I scamper up Grease Gun Groove to finish off the day. Not too shabby for an 11AM start and 4PM finish.

Then it's back to the city with me; I spend the following weekend (labor day) working at the hospital and then on my vet school exams. Fun times.