Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fourteen Ten Sleep Revelations

Inspired by Alli Rainey’s 21 Things to Know About Ten Sleep

Arrival in Worland (Photo: Laurie DeGross)
“I’ve decided I don’t like buses,” was the last thing I texted my dad before shutting off my phone for the eight-hour drive from Colorado Springs to Worland, WY. For one, as soon as the doors opened at one of the earlier stops in Wyoming, a tight-knit veil of marijuana engulfed the "Greyhound", a real-life demeantor, or at least just as rancid. Also, everyone on the bus, and especially at the Denver bus stop, was either high, crazy, or involved in a very charged and very dense argument with their ex over child support and custody. To make matters worse, the man wearing a camouflage baseball cap sitting in front of me reeked strongly of sweat and desperation. On the upside, the Greyhound had outlets at every seat and no internet, so I was able to complete six pages of much overdue blogging. And for a mere $61, you really couldn't complain.

I had gone back and forth several times on Ten Sleep. I didn't really have much reason not to go, other than spending less time with my family back home. Still, I was skeptical. For one, the climbing at Ten Sleep was described as vertical and techy, both things I doubted I would enjoy or excel at. Additionally, there was the minor detail of the 30-hour car ride back to CT (still a cheaper alternative to flying). In the end, however, the incredible opportunity won out, 30-hour car ride and all.

Here, in no particular order, is what I learned in my week at Ten Sleep.

Photo: Karen Cydylo
On July 5, 2010, Jen Flemming onsighted every route on the Shinto Wall. On August 8, 2014, my first day of climbing, I decided I was going to onsight every route on the Shinto Wall. Dope Shinto, Left Shinto, Right Shinto, Center Shinto, I would do them all. It’d be a challenge, but entirely manageable, as none of the routes exceeded 12c. I was mainly nervous about adapting to the intricate style. However, the climbing (at least at the Shinto Wall) was very comparable to that of Shelf Road, but easier to decipher. I finished the task at around 7:00 pm, minus three chaussy 5.10s on the right side of the wall, then proceeded to tick off Pussytoes, a notoriously difficult 12d at the French Cattle Ranch (FCR). In all, I climbed nine pitches. Take that, Jen Flemming (:

I had two goals for the trip: 1) Redpoint my hardest route and 2) Onsight 5.13. I also wanted to climb as many classics as possible, which made matters more complicated, as I couldn't devote much time to grade-chasing and projecting. Although I was happy sending a couple 13s early on in the trip, neither climb took very much physical effort, and I knew I could do harder.

The Redpoint
The breakthrough occurred on Day 5, when got my first taste of the Slavery Wall--a vast and beautiful creation, split 50-50 between the opening slab and bulge end. After nearly onsighting The Burden of Immortality (12d/13a), I began to contemplate Burden of My Member (13c), a linkup that traversed left into Gold Member (13d), just below the final crux move of Burden. The traverse itself was considered the crux, although, according to Scott, hanging on until the anchors constituted the true difficulty. You would also have to skip a clip just before the traverse, meaning you were looking at a 30+ foot fall. Maybe I wasn't going to do the route after all.

But I had a change of heart over dinner that night, when Adam suggested replacing the pre-hung draw with an alpine one about double the length. This way, I would be able to clip the draw from below and avoid horrendous rope drag. I decided I was going to do the route.
  
Not even posing on Sleep Reaction (Photo: Karen Cydylo)

Then next day, I headed back to Slavery with honeymooners Kevin and Liesel, who I had met over pizza last night. I had just three climbs in mind: The Burden of Immortality, Burden of My Member, and EKV, a mega-classic 12c test piece.

After warming up on a single 12a, I decided to do The Burden of Immortality bolt-by-bolt in order to hang the alpine draw. Despite the limited warm-up, I felt strong on the opening sequence and ended up climbing the route to the anchors, switching out the draw on the way down. After a 40-minute rest, and against my better judgment of previewing the moves, I hopped on the linkup. By this point, I had the beginning dialed, though I still had no idea what to expect from the traverse. All I knew was there were crimps and pockets and that I could pull on them.

I clipped the alpine and entered the traverse. After going back and forth on my sequence, I made a long left-hand reach to a quarter-pad crimp rail, then came in right to a two-finger pocket, followed by a powerful reach to a decent left-hand sidepull. Somehow, I stuck it. 

Then, somehow, I also latched onto the next few crimps, hung draws, clipped, and even un-clipped to minimize drag, nearly falling multiple times due to the burning sensation crawling up my forearms. The only thing getting me through the climb was the knowledge that there was no second go.

At last I found myself on a shakeout crimp rail just before the anchors. The last few moves were not difficult, though definitely low percentage and heartbreaking if you fell. After shaking out for a few minutes, I went for it, putting my faith in two barely-visible, slopey footholds. When I hit yet another sidepull jug about three feet below the clips, I knew I had made it. I’d redpointed my hardest route to date, 5.13c, onsighting the 13c ending. I felt like laughing and crying all at once, overwhelmed by the send.

The Onsight
On my last day, when I had just about given up on onsighting 5.13, I returned to FCR with Sheldon, who I had just met that morning. After the usual one-route warm-up, I onsighted Blue Light Special (13a/b), Dances With Cows (13a), and Esplanada (stiff 12d). Success!

I took two 20-foot falls. Which isn't big by most climbers’ standards. But, considering this was about double the distance I’d previously fallen, I was quite happy with the progress.

I learned to pee without removing my harness. Thank you, Meg! Instructional photos coming soon.

The canyon and landscapes are stunning. Stunning.



The backyard.

Had to pullover for this one.
The Slavery Wall.
Otherwise, Cigar Pillar.

The weather, however, left some to be desired. It drizzled sporadically on Shinto Day and completely down poured on Saturday (my birthday) each time I hopped on a slab. But the kids sucked it out, never missing a beat to belay. Ultimately, I see this as reassurance in my decision to boycott slab. I also could not have asked for a better birthday present, even if it was a tad damp.

Russian family portrait.

Ten Sleep is a quirky little town. And ghost town on Mondays. It’s pretty great.

The infamous Saloon.


Valhalla--left, FCR--right.




The original Lodge.





Can you spot Mama Moose?

Nowoodstock Bluegrass Festival (can you spot Jose?)


Worland Aquatic Center.
Photo: Laurie DeGross





Camping in a Walmart parking lot (on the trek back to CT) is not half bad! Neither is driving 30 hours cross country. Actually, the whole tent-on-a-mulch-lot setup is rather endearing. For one, there are no wild animals, other than the rabid wave of 2:00 am shoppers. And not having to dig a poop hole in the morning is surely the standard of luxury living.



Being vegetarian is not the end of the world. Laurie and Adam don't like the hassle of keeping meat while camping, so, other than a Slopey Joe at the Bluegrass Festival, most of my meals consisted of eggs, rice or pasta, beans, and vegetables (and lots of avocados, of course). It didn't hurt that Laurie is a fantastic cook and that Adam brought a big bottle of Frank's to give everything a bit of a kick.

Since being back in Colorado, I have cooked two meatless meals, up from zero last year.

On a similar note, don't order steak from the new Lodge. Laurie and Adam asked for well-done, Jose and Karen asked for rare. Laurie and Adam got a well-done, Jose and Karen got a piece of cardboard that was more well-done than Laurie and Adam's cut. When they asked for a re-fire, the waitress brought out a blue piece of meat that was all but mooing. I realized at that moment that I had made the right choice ordering salmon.

Photo: ChefSteps.com


Last food note. Red Bull makes 30+ hour car rides blissful and your blogs twice as long and double the fun. I faced a serious addiction in the following weeks but was able to recover upon returning to Colorado.

Back to the important stuff: In the course of a day, I gave out my cellphone to half a dozen people, all of whom were complete strangers just hours (minutes!) earlier. The climbers at Ten Sleep are such warm, genuine, and good-hearted people, it’s hard not to! Half my time here, I was either hooking up with random climbing groups or third-wheeling with my friends from CT. Either way, there was never any hesitation, any resentment, not even a smidge of aloofness. Between S’mores over the campfire, family dinners, birthday celebrations, 40-minute belays, and rest days in town, I was constantly surrounded by incredible people, and can only count down the days until next July, when I will see them again. Although the climbing here is absolutely phenomenal, it’s the community, not the crag, that makes it Ten Sleep.

Jose Riofrio.


Every night. Sometimes with S'mores.



Impromptu photoshoot at the lake.



"The Honeymooners". Is that a movie yet?


Pizza night at the Saloon.



"Honey, everything fit!"

Call me maybe?


Thank you to Laurie and Adam, for inviting me to this magical place, for the unconditional hospitality, for good wine (even the Pinot Grigio), and for your lovely puppies. To Karen and Jose, for omlettes at the Lodge, for hauling my water and camera, and for fun times in town. To Meg for being equally psyched on the rain and for the birthday lemonade beer (first beer I’ve ever liked!) To Kim and Pascal for campfires and company, for Whiskey Ale and Porto, and for a delightful Mexican candy concoction. To Kevin and Liesel, for letting me tag along and for cheering (and belaying me!) on the linkup. To Kyle, for much-needed chemistry advice and for keeping us up to date on the latest celebrity gossip. To Inga, Allen, and Sheldon, for showing me the shortcut to FCR and for the always heartfelt “Hi Galina’s” whenever our paths crossed. Hopefully they will cross again.

Laurie and Adam.



Jose and Karen, in an equally flattering photo.


Like I said, I’ll be back next summer. This time for two months. I don’t know where life will take me after graduation, but the road is surely going through Ten Sleep.

The ticks.









The family.


The town.
Photo: WeighMyRack.com















Bonus Feature: A Documentation in Selfies. To spare all the poor, overworked teens out there (yes I can now shamelessly make teenager jokes and references) the efforts of actually reading this blog.

The bus ride sucked.






























I was super psyched to climb when I woke up that morning.

Until Laurie informed me our day only started at 1:00, when the cliffs went into the shade.





























The lake was pretty fun.





























But not as fun as the Worland Aquatic Center (I'm frowning because we had to wait over an hour for Public Swim).


Walmart camping is glamorous.



But not as glamorous as riding in a van for 36 hours.



Bella. Always Bella.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Crux Crush Campusing

After a few weeks of trying to sort out all the gifs, my contribution to Crux Crush is up and running! My hope is that the reader-friendly format of the post will take away the intimidation factor associated with the campus board, and encourage intermediate climbers to give the rungs a try.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Summer in Colorado

This summer, instead of ditching campus as soon as my final was more or less finished and flying home to CT, I ditched campus as soon as my final was more or less finished, flew to Richmond for Riverrock, drove back to CT for a few days, then flew back to CO to do a 10-week research stint. This was my first time working a 9:00-5:00, five-day-a-week job. Naturally, there were some concerns about having the time (and energy) to climb consistently. Put softly, I was freaking out that my climbing would just go to shits, especially after such an intense training period just before Riverrock.

Week One was hard. I found myself doing more cardio than anything, because it was convenient to do an hour on the treadmill over lunch break, when I was very much awake and functioning. However, after sitting in lab for another four hours, I’d be completely drained and not really motivated to do much of anything, except maybe sit on the futon and watch Housewives of Orange County. Working was definitely harder than I envisioned it—after all, I could climb all day long and still have the drive to hike, run, or swim afterwards—but having to wait on reactions all day somehow completely obliterated the psyche.

Lab antics



   
The glorious dreadmill!
Week Two, I discovered that my friend Celeste drove past the house where I was staying to go to City Rock everyday around 5:00 pm. She asked if I wanted a ride. I said yes every time. Prior to this, I had never tried climbing everyday (other than a stupid experiment over winter break, where I climbed 10 days straight). What I learned is that by doing low-intensity sessions (i.e. rope climbing), I was able to fully recover for the next day. Unfortunately, this also meant that I couldn’t do campus sessions very consistently, other than on weekends. As expected, my campusing clogged the drain, and I began turning into a self-proclaimed ropes bitch. Though my endurance was still good from Riverrock (and despite discontinuing circuit training), I had 0 power and was bouldering once, maybe twice, per week.

 I wasn’t happy with this outcome. Yes, ropes were starting to grow on me, and the idea of sport climbing no longer seemed so repulsive, but, I was definitely not ready to part with bouldering. Born and raised a boulderer, I swore I would never be a sport climber. Only a sport-climbing boulderer. If that. I decided then to just tough it out and pretend I wasn’t so damn tired from working at the lab. If I just kept myself in denial long enough, perhaps this whole real life/working thing wouldn’t be so bad after all.

I was right. More or less. My campusing increased from once every 7-10 days to once every 2-4 days. Definitely progress, considering I was, at one point, campusing every other day (which, honestly, is a bit much for any climber). I also moved into my apartment and bought a $2300 treadmill for $50 (Craigslist!), which allowed me to do cardio in the mornings instead of at lunch. As a result, I was oftentimes able to sneak out to the climbing gym for a 1-2 hour sesh during lunch, instead of at 5:00. I also began alternating two climbing (training) days with one long cardio day.

Here’s what it looked like:

M
T
W
R
F
AM
30 min cardio

63 min core
40-50 min cardio

63 min core
60-75 min cardio
30 min cardio

63 min core
40 min cardio

63 min core
PM
30 min boulder warmup

30-50 min campus
30 min boulder warmup

30 min circuits
low-intensity ropes
30 min boulder warmup

30-50 min campus
30 min boulder warmup

30 min circuits


  
Latest home gym acquisition
The 63 minutes of core on top of cardio only happened when I woke up early enough (~5:00 am) and on weekends. Bottom line, I was still managing at least one workout a week, a vast improvement from not doing anything the previous month.    
    
Unlike regimented weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays were devoted primarily to outdoor climbing. I made it a point to get out every weekend. With the exception on one black-eye week where I just couldn’t find anyone to go with, I was successful in accomplishing this goal, rainy weather notwithstanding. Some weekends I even managed to do both days. Other times, I’d sneak out during the week. And in the process, I discovered Colorado. I ventured into stunning crags, climbed poetic lines, formed friendships with fun-loving and worldly people. And the funny thing is, I had no idea some of these areas even existed! Fact of the matter is, prior to this summer, I was sure I would move back East after graduation. Now, there are six more variables in this equation.

Six Reasons for Living in Colorado:

6. Elevenmile Canyon
Precursor: I’ve only frequented one wall, the Spray Wall. I’ve also only topped one climb at that wall, though I am planning to return for some unfinished business. However, the one climb, dubbed “Only Entertainment,” was probably one of the most perfect pieces of rock I have thus-far encountered. Artfully polished crimps, consistent up until the very end with two distinct V7 boulder problems, my first of the grade. Enough said.

Stick clip tactics
Post-send posing! (Photo: Luke Rasmussen)

Cutie (Photo: Larry Rossi)
Ticks:
Only Entertainment 13b (5th attempt)

5. El Rito
We actually visited this crag (which actually is in New Mexico, not Colorado) in early May, before I left for Riverrock. Nonetheless, being a mere four-hour drive from Colorado Springs, it is more than worthy of the list.

El Rito does not have a reputation like Rifle or even Shelf. It is relatively unknown, with not much in the 5.13+ range (I believe there are two less-than-stellar 13s in the whole crag). However, what it lacks in difficulty it certainly makes up in quality. More specifically, there is one wall, appropriately dubbed the “Rad Wall,” that is just littered with three-star 12s and 11s. Overhung and sustained, it was the perfect complement to my circuit training, with short sections of more difficult climbing in between bucket jugs. Here, I managed to onsight my first 11d (a peculiar creation called “Bolting Barbie,” for the Barbie heads and miscellaneous plastic body parts jammed in the numerous huecos) and 12a, and flash my first 12b at the nearby Beer Block. By the end of the weekend, I had polished off the entire Rad Wall, save an incredibly long link-up traverse (which somehow only received the grade of 12b/c). It was at El Rito that my friend Larry christened my baby Metolius draws the “Mattels,” a name I have since fully embraced.

Rad Wall pulling (Photo: Larry Rossi)
          
I even offered to carry Larry's pack (Photo: Larry Rossi)
Ticks:
Bolting Barbie 11d/12a (onsight)
Procrastination 11d/12a (flash)
Stroke Me 12a (onsight)
Crack Attack 12a (onsight)
Tecate Two Step 12a/b (onsight)
Stoker 12b (2nd attempt)
Little Kings 12b (flash)
Against All Cobbs 12c (4th attempt)
To Beer or Not to Beer 12d (2nd attempt)

4. Rifle
      
Tony on Hawaiian Two-Foot (Photo: Daniel Brechner)
Of course, no Colorado crag list would be complete without Rifle, the place for crazy-hard projects and sandbagged sends, the definition of classic. Rifle is also my precise anti-style, with barely a dozen crimps for the whole crag. It is blocky, compressiony, endurancy, and hella polished (you have not pulled on polish until you have climbed at Rifle!) In other words, I fully expected to suck at Rifle. I wish I could say I somehow overcame the odds and managed to send every climb I hopped on. Alas, I did not. Though I did completely obliterate the crux on a climb called “The Beast,” by utilizing two barely protruding face crimps that, for some reason, sensible climbers avoid.

The best climbs of the day (I only ended up staying one day due to the fact that I had to take care of a certain $50 treadmill that would not fit through any doorway) were undoubtedly at the Arsenal. The Arsenal is overhanging as balls, with 90+ feet of sustained, gymnastic climbing on polished jugs. Here, I attempted the ultra-classic Pump-O-Rama, a conflagration of jugs with a distinct knee-bar crux, which I am sure would have felt significantly easier with a knee-bar pad. Though I did all the moves it was by no means pretty, or even close to clean. I enjoyed the humbling flail fest, however.

Rifle was a positive experience overall, but I can’t say it is really my “scene.” There are no approaches (picture car rooftop belays), so there are a lot of people—people who want to climb the same climbs as you and have probably projected them much longer than you have. Meaning there are oftentimes climbers on your ass and climbers just dying for you to get off the climb. That, to me, was the single most disillusioning aspect of the crag, not the polish.

Ticks:
None, unless we are counting warm-ups

3. Shelf Road
Onsighting Almost Gothic, circa January 2014 (Photo: Larry Rossi)
I was thoroughly disappointed by Shelf (think bad feet and good pockets) the first time I climbed there, some two years ago. It seemed chaussy, sharp, and nowhere near overhanging enough. At the time, I also had no endurance, and barely even knew what a draw looked like, much less how to hang one. Though Shelf is by no means a summer crag (actually, Canon City is somewhat of a wasteland between June and August), I ended up going more times this summer than I had over the past two years. As such, I finally began to understand and excel at the precise, technical style for which it is known.

Here, I learned several things.

First, I could stay on the wall infinitely long (30 minute PR), so long as there were a couple decent resting jugs or pockets scattered about.

Second, I developed a fairly good intuition for reading routes from trying to onsight so many moderates.

Third, discovered climbing in direct sunlight (Living in America!) is a terrible idea and makes climbing, particularly onsighting, significantly harder. Living in America was quite the train wreck in general, as I completely over-gripped trying to cross clip off a deep mono at the third bolt (only to discover a much more comfortable left hand position seconds later), resulting in a alarmingly numb middle finger. When the numbness didn’t subside, even after a few minutes, I nearly told Larry to take. However, after another minute of deep reflection, and against my better judgment, I decided that taking would just add insult to injury. So I finished the climb, unable to feel any of the right-hand pockets. Naturally, the numbness didn’t cease for the rest of the day, the next day, or the following two weeks. We climbed at the Dark Side for the rest of the day

Lastly, I experienced failure. I have worked on Deeper Shade of Soul (13b) for about four sessions now, and still have ­not managed to link through the crux, which consists of 11 moves, or two stacked boulder problems: a bouldery jug-pocket section into a heinous series of slopey edges and monos. Though I could make excuses, such as that my right hand middle finger is a tad too small to properly jam in the mono, or that my shoes are a bit worn to truly utilize the small left foothold, at the end of the day, I have simply not been good enough.

Ticks:
Suspender Man 11d (2nd attempt)
The Hurricane 12a (2nd attempt)
Heavy Weather 12a (2nd attempt)
Living in America 12a (onsight)
Blank Frank 12a/b (onsight)
Gym Arete 12a/b (onsight)
Levels of the Game 12a/b (onsight)
Tits Up 12b (onsight)
Future Fossil 12c (onsight)
I Been Mooned 12d (3rd attempt)
Houses of Holy 13a (2nd attempt)

2. Clear Creek
Very possibly Rumney’s estranged Colorado cousin! Honestly, I never thought I would see the likes of Orange Crush Crag less than two hours from the Springs. However, between the New River Wall, Sex Cave, and a lone climb called No Evil, Clear Creek certainly delivers in terms of steep and gymnastic. Although I have yet to send a route at either of the two walls, I have ticked off most of the 12s at the Wall of the '90s area. 

View from the Wall of the '90s
Misleadingly beautiful photo of a horrible climb at the New Hipster Wall
Swaggin' wagon
Working Head Like a Hole at the Sex Cave, the perfect rainy day crag (Photo: Zach Wahrer)
All smiles at New Hipster Wall
Ticks:
Wet Dream 12a (onsight)
Monkey See Monkey Do 12b (onsight)
The Reward aka Convicted Felon 12b (onsight)
Soap on a Rope 12c (3rd go)
Ten Digit Dialing 12c (3rd go)

1. Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)
Rope-climbing boulderer, you say? There hasn’t been mention of a single bouldering destination! Fair enough. I haven’t been bouldering very much. Even post ropes-bitch phase. But I went to RMNP. Which very much compensates for lack of the aforementioned.

Here is a brief photo-guide:

"The hike is really not that terrible, especially compared to places like Devil’s Head. The path is basically paved and never surpasses a 4-5% grade. I had nightmares of this hike from the horror stories my friends so kindly bestowed upon me. Yes, two miles is farther than most bouldering approaches. But really, not that bad. Unless you’re Jewels and carrying two unfortunately stacked pads."


"It is freakin’ gorgeous. If you’re having a rough time on the hike, just look around!"





"I managed to chalk up once on Potato Chip (V7) and three times on Potato Chip SDS (V8/9). Borderline bouldering rope-climber. Embarrassing, really."

Photo: Juliana Price
"I did all the moves on European Human Being (V12). It is known as the crimp line in Lower Chaos. I’ve certainly never crimped that hard in my life (it’s only five moves long). My friends refused to pull on it. I had a jolly time and plan to come back in the fall."

Photo: Juliana Price
"I'd make the hike even if Tommy's Arete was the only climb in Lower Chaos."


Check out Jewels on a near send (she went on to finish the climb the following week!)




"The Automator is hard! I know V13 is generally difficult, but wow. Definitely plausible though, with enough time and effort."

Ponytail dab, wouldn't have counted anyways (Photo: Juliana Price)

Ticks:
Potato Chip V7
Potato Chip SDS V8/9
Tommy's Arete V7 (flash)

Now I am off to Ten Sleep (I am writing this on the 8-hour bus ride to Worland) to finish the summer with my longest climbing trip to date. Then New Hampshire to hike Mt. Washington with the family, then Rumney for a couple days (because what’s a whole summer without Rumney?), then finally home. Though my summer may just be starting, I’ve decided I don’t mind balancing work with training. Like anything else in life, it’s just another kink in the fabric. Where there’s a will, there’s a way—you know?