Thursday, October 20, 2016

Some Golden Showers (5.11a) With 10,000 Restless Virgins (5.10d)

(Photo: Nancy following 10,000 Restless Virgins (5.10d).)

We are well into high season in the Gunks. I need to get my ass in gear.

I haven't set my sights on any big climbing objectives for quite a while.

During my weekend with Adrian in early October, I saw that it was time to ramp things up a bit. We did many 5.10's in a row and to me they all felt good, solid... even casual. After I cruised up J'Accuse, Nevermore, and Welcome to the Gunks (all of them 5.10b), I realized that I was ready to pick some harder objectives.

So when I met up with a new partner, Nancy, last Sunday, I wanted to pick a 5.11 to attempt. I didn't have a particular target in mind but Nancy was thinking of maybe trying the Winter (5.10d), so I suggested I might try one of the nearby elevens at the Slime Wall or maybe even No Man's Land (5.11b), or the top pitch of Enduro Man (5.11c), at some point.

When we arrived it was quite chilly, and we were content to warm up on some easier classics and work our way down to the Seasons area.

(Photo: Nancy leading Son of Easy O (5.8).)

After we had a couple of climbs behind us I decided to go for the redpoint on Cheap Thrills (5.10c). I'd had to take a hang on this climb on my first attempt, mostly because I'd been so nervous clipping the crux pin that I couldn't calm down and get over the roof. When I'd gone back up on the second try it wasn't so bad.

When I tried it again with Nancy, I decided to do the climb as it is described in the guidebook, as a wholly independent pitch, and not to do it by starting on Alley Oop, as I think most people do and as it is described in the Trapps App. 

I began from the ground and found out that I'd skipped some great climbing on my first visit to Cheap Thrills! There are interesting, fun face moves in maybe the 5.9 range as you work up some shallow left-facing corners before the orange face leading to the roofs. There is gear, too, although it is somewhat spaced out and finicky. I recall one micronut placement at one of the corners and a pink Tricam in a shallow, pebbly horizontal that might also take a cam if you work to find the right spot for it.

Once I reached the orange face I felt totally in control, this time, as I moved up to the pin and clipped it. So far, so good. Reaching up to the good holds over the roof, I calmly backed up the piton with a cam and then just had to execute my beta to get over the roof. It went fine, and seemed like it was over in no time.

Cheap Thrills, done in its entirety, is now one of my favorite tens. It is a thoughtful, challenging pitch. I can see going back to it again and again.

Nancy and I walked on down to the Seasons area, but it was a zoo, as I suppose we should have expected on this peak-season Sunday. We kept on walking to Sleepy Hollow, where I hoped to try 10,000 Restless Virgins (5.10d). This is a very popular and highly regarded ten that I somehow have never gotten around to, until now. 

Things were much more peaceful down at the far end of the cliff, though there were some people here and there. I recognized a climber named Alex, who I've seen at the cliffs a few times. I don't really know him at all but he is the sort of climber I aspire to be in the near future. He tackles the 5.12's in the Gunks and works them, getting the moves dialed and leading them when he can, in headpoint style. He has a video of himself on a Lost City climb called Brave New World (5.12a?), in which he is so smooth, he makes the climb look like a 5.6. I tried Brave New World on TR with Andy in July and while we were able to do almost all of the moves, we were both stumped by the boulder problem off of the ground. If I ever figure out this move, I may try to work the route with an eye towards leading it.

(Photo: Andy on Brave New World (5.12).)

The other week, with Adrian, I tried another "introductory" twelve in the Nears called Eraserhead. This one can be easily set up on TR if you lead Roseland (5.9) or Shitface (5.10c) to the bolted anchor. On Eraserhead there was, again, just one move we struggled with, although this time the crux came pretty high on the pitch, just past a piton. If I could get this one move nailed down I could consider leading this one too.

(Photo: That's me at the crux of Eraserhead (5.12a) on TR.)

Alex was down in Sleepy Hollow with a friend working on two twelves, Future Shock Direct (5.12d) and Bone Hard (5.12b). Both routes looked clean, steep, and difficult. I chatted with Alex about Brave New World and Eraserhead. He had some beta for me on the Eraserhead crux that I'm excited to go back and try.

But I digress. There was no one on 10,000 Restless Virgins; it was wide open. Looking at it, I was psyched to do it. It is a beautiful, natural line up a left-facing flake system, capped by a large ceiling. 

It went very well. The opening flakes are juggy (probably 5.8?) and there is gear available at will. The wall is slightly overhanging, so it gets a bit pumpy as you head towards the roof.

When I got to the roof, I thought the main challenge was finding good rock in which to place pro. There are some loose flakes just below the ceiling, so be careful. I got what I thought was a bomber yellow Alien in a downward facing slot next to the big undercling block.

Once I was satisfied with the gear, it was perfectly obvious what to do. I got my feet up and made the reach to the horizontal above the roof. It was easy to get a good piece in this horizontal, and then one more big reach up to a jug essentially finished the crux.

(Photo: Nancy at the roof on 10,000 Restless Virgins (5.10d).)

I think this route is easy for 5.10d-- certainly it was easier for me than Cheap Thrills. Anyway I was really happy to get the on-sight and to feel so good doing it. It was nothing but fun.

With the day slipping away, I figured I needed to try something harder or it wouldn't happen. We walked over to the Slime Wall and I took a hard look at two short climbs that sit right next to each other, April Showers and Golden Showers (both 5.11a). Both climbs seemed to feature some desperate moves on blank, nearly vertical faces. As I examined the routes it seemed to me that I had a better shot at getting off the ground on the one on the right-- Golden Showers. So I decided to try it.

Nancy tried, gently, to talk me out of it. She'd had a strong partner who took repeated falls on micro nuts at the crux of Golden Showers, and who then gave up.

It sounded a bit hairy, but I was undeterred, for some dumb reason. How hard could it be? After all, I'd just waltzed up a climb that was supposedly only a single letter grade easier. The climbs had completely different styles, but still... the guidebook said it was PG and I was sure to figure out something, I reasoned. So I racked up and threw myself at Golden Showers.

The very first move was hard, and height-related. There is a wide horizontal at about chest level and then a blank gap to an obvious little left-facing corner above. Stepping onto the wall, I managed to stand up, just so, to reach the key hold. But I was already shaking, and I floundered with my feet. I nearly popped off but eventually I found a toehold of some kind and stepped up to a horizontal seam where, trembling, I got some gear.

Then it took another tough move to get up to the next horizontal, where I placed two tiny pieces. And another thin step up and left to a semi-rest, where again I could get some placements. I stuffed the thin crack with everything I could here-- two small nuts and a C3-- since I believed I was now facing the crux climbing. I thought the placements were good, but everything was quite small. As I looked up, I could see the next stretch was very blank, with one possible slot for a micronut a few moves above me.

Every sequence on the route so far had been challenging and I was feeling pretty rattled. I found it difficult to commit to stepping above the gear even though, on an intellectual level, I was pretty happy with what I had. The gear seemed so dinky, the possible footholds were so desperate, and I had to step up and balance myself with my fingertips against the edges of a tiny vertical seam. It was frightening, even though I knew that I was not in any real danger at all. 

I tried to move up, but with the gear at my knees I couldn't commit to going further. The move seemed too unlikely. I dropped down on my gear, which held just fine. I repeated this same dance several times, trying to build up some courage. But I never got any further. I didn't want to take a real whipper. I decided to give up. 

I could see that from my stance on Golden Showers I could easily traverse a bit left and take April Showers to the chains. And although April Showers is also 5.11a, the only 5.11 move is right off the ground. Thus when I moved left to join the route I had to do just one 5.10 move up a crack before I found easy climbing to the finish. 

There is some very good climbing on my accidental 5.10++ link up. Call it Golden April? It avoids the hardest bits of both climbs. And the gear is reasonable. Try not to blow it right off the deck!

Having now done half of each of the "Shower" climbs I want to go back and do both of them again. If I can unlock the move off the ground on April Showers then that route should be a snap. And maybe if I can get to my previous high point a bit more calmly on Golden Showers I can get through the next couple of moves and complete that one too. Even though it is "only" 5.11a I will be proud when I can lead Golden Showers. It is a head trip for sure. I found it humbling.

When I got back to the ground, after all that, Nancy suggested that No Man's Land would probably be easier for me than Golden Showers. And I think that's true. Though I've not done the climb, I expect the roofs on No Man's Land would be hard, but not mysterious. Golden Showers is more of a steep slab, a mental strength exercise. It is outside my comfort zone and has more to teach me, I think.

(Photo: Nancy on Art's Route (5.9).)

I hope to get back to the Gunks at least a few more times before our season is over. The big news for me is that Adrian and I are going to spend four days in Red Rocks next month. It's been five years since I was there and I am a completely different climber now. We have some big stuff planned and I can't wait to see what we can get done.

Friday, October 14, 2016

2016: The Year In 5.10, So Far

(Photo: That's me on Never Never Land (5.10a). Photo by Adrian.)

5.10 is the premier grade at the Gunks. Everyone knows this. I sometimes refer to the Gunks as "Our Little 5.10 Paradise."

Just take a look at the guidebook and you'll see why. There are so many star-quality tens.

As I've worked through the various 5.10 routes, I've come to realize that the quality of the 5.10 grade at the Gunks runs even deeper than you might guess from reading the guidebook. The supply is all but bottomless in the Gunks, going well beyond the obvious classics. Sometimes it seems that lurking around every corner is an unheralded 5.10 that turns out to be awesome.

Over the years I've done many of the obvious tens. And lots of non-obvious tens. But still there are gaps in my 5.10 resume. I'm always trying to do new routes, and I love climbing 5.10 in the Gunks. As 2016 has progressed, I've tried to fill in my 5.10 gaps.

(Photo: Alec confronting the huge Wishbone roof (5.10+).)

One way in which I've been filling in the gaps is by climbing at Lost City. By tradition there is no guidebook for this part of the ridge. Lost City is known for its hardman top-rope scene, but I have discovered over the past few years that the area isn't just a place to get thrashed on 5.12's. It is also a 5.10 leader's dreamland. Lost City's collection of well-protected, leadable 5.10's is world-class.

You want roofs? In Lost City you'll find the amazing overhangs of Wishbone (5.10+) and Stannard's Roof (5.10-). If you like face climbs, try Texas Flake (5.10+?), or the beautiful Resistance (5.10+), which might be my favorite single pitch of 5.10 in all of the Gunks. Lost City also has steep, technical climbs like Lost City Crack (5.10-) and Black Crack (5.10++), and still others I have done but which I can't put a name to, like the fun roof climb just to the right of Agent Orange, and the one that follows the rap line just to the right of Stannard's. And there are more great Lost City tens, I am certain, upon which I have yet to stumble.

(Photo: Andy following my lead of Resistance (5.10+).)

I have gotten the send on most of these Lost City tens, though not always on the first try. I achieved the on-sight on the Wishbone Roof last year, which I was very very happy about. Both Lost City Crack and the ten next to Agent Orange went fine the first time I tried to lead them this past spring, but they weren't technically on-sights since I'd followed them before. Others, like Stannard's Roof, I've had to redpoint after messing up at least once on the lead. I was proud to send Resistance in 2016, after previously failing. Black Crack-- a real toughie-- frustrated me twice this summer. I need to go back in cooler weather to get it, finally.

(Photo: That's me top-roping Texas Flake (5.10+) in January 2012. Photo by Adrian.)

I've also tried in 2016 to hit some new tens back in the more familiar terrain of the Trapps and the Nears. 

Though I've really improved a lot over the last few years, I am still not above failing on a Gunks 5.10. I am always hoping for the send but I am still more than capable of misreading a sequence, botching my footwork, running out of gas, or just getting scared. When I try Gunks tens, I win some and I lose some.

In May I was climbing with Andy and decided the time had come for me to try Stirrup Trouble (5.10b). The starting move off of a block and onto the face had always scared me off. You have to get on the wall, place gear blindly over your head, and then make a thin move up to a jug. If you fall here and the cam blows, the landing will not be pleasant.

But everyone says the route is a great classic. I had to give it a shot at some point.

I'm sorry to say it didn't go well. I stepped up onto the wall but I couldn't commit to the move. It was impossible to judge the quality of the gear up over my head. I had no idea whether it was good or bad. I kept stepping up and then stepping back down to the starting block. Eventually I decided I wasn't feeling it and I gave Andy the lead.

He confidently stepped up to the blind cam we'd placed, and then slotted a nut under pressure, looking a little bit shaky. I was impressed that he got the nut in, but I didn't have time to tell him so, as he promptly fell on it! The gear held. Then he stepped back up and the rest of the climb went fine.

(Photo: Andy past the spooky start of Stirrup Trouble (5.10b).)

As I followed Andy's lead of Stirrup Trouble I wished I'd been a little bit bolder. The moves were all reasonable. This one goes in the redpoint queue; I have to go back and try again to lead it. It is quite a climb. It's so in-your-face right off the deck, and then the great sequences just keep on coming all the way to the very end.

(Photo: That's me at the crux of P-38 (5.10b). Photo by Robbie.)

I consoled myself that day by getting the send on P-38 (5.10b), the route next door. I'd previously failed to get a clean lead of this climb on three separate occasions, always barn-dooring off at the last hard move before the climb gets easier. This time, I hesitated at the move once again, sure I was about to go flying for the fourth time. But eventually (helped by some verbal encouragement from my friends) I made it, planting my toe as precisely as I could and carefully stepping up to the jug.

Now I never have to do P-38 again!

But I probably will. It is a quality climb, with a good crux right off the ground and then awkward moves up the crack. It is a different sort of ten.

On Memorial Day weekend I was out with Alec and Liz, a climbing power couple who've now moved west to conquer desert towers. Despite the sweltering, humid weather, we attacked some harder climbs down at the end of the Trapps at the Slime Wall and Sleepy Hollow. After Liz started us off with Wegetables (5.10a), I took a go at Tennish Anyone? (5.10c). I'd done this on TR once before, but I couldn't remember anything about the climbing.

(Photo: I'm leading Tennish Anyone? (5.10c). Alec is belaying. Photo by Liz.)

It is an interesting pitch, and I get the feeling it doesn't get done on lead all that much. Most people do it on TR after leading Wegetables. Tennish is a safe lead. There is a committing move to get up to the crux overhang. At this move I placed a nut over my head. It seemed solid but it was tiny. The gear for the crux is great: small Aliens and nuts.

I didn't get Tennish cleanly. I'd like to blame the heat. At the crux you have to move to the right, at the lip of the roof, on some poor holds. The feet drop away beneath you. I managed to move to the right but then got flummoxed trying to step up and out. After falling, I worked it out. It is another one for the redpoint queue. It is a quality climb. The crux is good, and similar to my Lost City nemesis Black Crack.

As the summer of 2016 dragged on endlessly, I didn't get too many chances to climb in the Gunks. On one day in late August Gail and I were in the Trapps, looking for something in the shade, when we came upon Size Matters (5.10c). Seemed worth a try.

(Photo: Gail at the crux of Size Matters (5.10c).)

On this one I got the on-sight. There is a hard move right off the ground. You can't protect it, but the fall would be only a few feet. Once you successfully get on the wall, there is good gear for the crux above. The hard part is literally a single step to the left with smeary footholds and crimpy fingers, under a sloping roof/left-facing corner. I was happy to put a send in the bank, for once, but it was no big deal.

As October approached and summer showed no signs of fading I started to wonder what happened to my year. I had accomplished a few 5.11 ticks in the spring but since then I'd done precious little. I'd had some good days at Poke-O but I hadn't exactly torn the place up. In the Gunks my success rate had been decidedly mediocre.

But the weather was finally cooling off and I felt like the time was right for me to start hitting it again. I was pretty much injury-free. And I was feeling very fit, as I'd been religiously doing an Insanity program (much too boring to talk about) and I'd lost several pounds.

I had a Gunks Sunday in late September planned with Gail. I thought it might be productive to head down to the area in the Trapps around Never Never Land (5.10a). Gail had been urging me to lead Never Never Land for years. I had been on it twice, on TR, and hadn't particularly enjoyed it. I thought the crux move at the bolt was desperate and greasy. Also, I thought the route's techy, thin face climbing wasn't my strong suit. I recalled thinking "I hate this climb" as I worked my way up the face.

But it had been years since I'd tried the climb. Maybe I'd feel differently now? I used to be all about the roofs but in recent years I've become much more comfortable with thin face climbing. And, as I thought it over, I realized that there were a bunch of other 5.10 routes near Never Never Land that I'd never done. Why not check them all out?

When Gail and I got to the area, we found the Never Never Land wall besieged by a large group. So we shifted gears and moved a bit left to try Cheap Thrills (5.10c), which was new for both of us. I decided to start (as most people do) by doing the first couple of moves on Alley Oop (5.7) and then moving up and right to the orange face beneath the crux two-tiered overhang.

The guidebook describes Cheap Thrills as having a committing move before the upper overhang. 

I found out that this is an understatement. It is pretty scary.

(Photo: I'm at the first tier of the two-tiered overhang on Cheap Thrills (5.10c). Photo by Gail.)

The climbing up the orange face to the roofs is very nice. Then there is great gear at a horizontal below the first tier in the overhang. After placing two cams, I did a little exploring and figured out how I was going to move up to the next tier. And then it was on. I made the move and found myself fully extended, with two fingers in a pocket just beneath the upper tier and my toes at the level of my gear. There was an old piton off to the side but I couldn't clip it without making another delicate step to the left. 

Carefully I moved left, using crimps for the hands and smeary nothings for my toes. I admit I was shaking pretty badly as I clipped the pin. It wasn't easy, but I got it done-- I did NOT want to fall! Once I had the pin clipped, I was very relieved, but I had to work to calm myself and shake off the flop sweat. I was still clinging to little crimps, with crap for the feet, and I had to get over the big roof!

There were good holds above the overhang, thank god, but there were a few different ways one could approach the roof problem and I tried a couple of them before getting worn out, admitting defeat, and dropping down on the pin.

So much for the on-sight.

(Photo: Placing gear to back up the piton on Cheap Thrills (5.10c). (Click on the photo to enlarge.) You can see where the last gear is, beneath my feet. Photo by Gail.)

Once I rested a bit, I stepped up again to the pin. It was so much easier the second time. Then I backed up the pin with a cam and got over the roof without much trouble.

Cheap Thrills has good face climbing followed by a very good roof problem. It is tough for 5.10c! The idea that it is the same grade as Size Matters seems a little silly. Even though I didn't get the on-sight, I was gratified that I really went for it. I intend to go back and get it soon. It is now at the top of the redpoint queue.

And by the way, if you try Cheap Thrills and decide you can't commit to the move up to the pin, it looks like it would be pretty easy to escape left along the good horizontal to Alley Oop's finish.

(Photo: I'm heading up J'Accuse (5.10b) after slinging the tree. Photo by Adrian.)

It was two weeks before I got back to the Gunks, on Columbus Day weekend. I planned to climb with my old buddy Adrian. We were going to have two days in which to play, which is extremely rare for me. I suggested we go back to the Never Never Land area and that we do EVERYTHING. I was feeling good and wanted to go for it.

After we warmed up a bit on Saturday, I went at our first target, J'Accuse (5.10b). This is Never Never Land's less-popular sister climb. It looks unsafe from the ground, since it begins with a blank face, with no apparent gear, below a high bolt. But I knew that people often protect the opening moves by girth-hitching a sling around the small-but-sturdy tree right next to the wall. I found it easy to shimmy up the tree and attach a sling just above the tiny branch.

With this unusual gear in place, I started climbing. The moves were fun and well-protected. And it went well. I got up to the bolt, clipped it, then made a couple of thin moves to where the climb eases off. It's all great climbing and once you get gear above the bolt there is good (if spaced) protection to be had for the rest of the way. I really enjoyed the climbing style and was proud to get the on-sight. This route isn't easy.

(Photo: Adrian at the bolt on J'Accuse (5.10b), leading it through my pre-placed gear.)

After we were done with J'Accuse, I figured Adrian would lead Never Never Land. But since he'd already led it a couple of times before, he offered it to me.

It was time.

And it too went off just fine. I think this climb is a tiny bit dicey right off the deck, since there is a hard move past the first horizontal, and the slot for gear is shallow and flaring. I got an Alien that I thought was probably okay. But I'd use caution in the early going. After the first hard moves, there is good gear and a bolt, plus two or three pitons, along the way. I felt that overall the protection was good.

(Photo: That's me on Never Never Land (5.10a). Photo by Adrian.)

And I enjoyed the climbing too. I was struck by how similar Never Never Land is to its neighbor J'Accuse. This shouldn't be surprising, since they are only a few feet apart from each other. But I can't understand why one of them is so much more popular than the other. To me, J'Accuse is the better climb. Both routes have cruxes that are similar in difficulty and style but the one on J'Accuse is more pleasant: it isn't so slippery and polished. 

I came off of Never Never Land on a high, and I wanted to keep it going. I decided we should do Nevermore (5.10b), a climb which starts up the first fifteen feet of Triangle (5.9-), but then ventures to the right on a blank face and then up through a bulge. The initial climbing on the face is 5.8 R, but the 5.10b crux above is well-protected.

Adrian is not a fan of unprotected 5.8. His position is entirely reasonable. I respect it. But for some reason I seem to thrive on runout 5.8 climbing, so I was happy to give Nevermore a try.

(Photo: I'm just past the runout 5.8 part of Nevermore (5.10b). Photo by Adrian.)

Again it went well. The initial runout when you leave the Triangle blocks is unavoidable. There is no gear on the face. You can place a piece at the Triangle blocks but if you fall from the first moves on the face you will slam sideways into the blocks. But you can test the holds before you commit to stepping out there and once you go for it the moves are reasonable. It isn't too long before you can get some gear.

There is also a good slot for pro right before the crimpy crux, which goes up and left through a bulge. It is good climbing but relatively brief, after which you wander to the right past some scary detached blocks before moving up to the Never Never Land anchor.

I was psyched to put away another on-sight ten, but in the final analysis I didn't think the climb was that great. The good climbing was over quickly. I might go back again to try the variation in the Trapps App called Never Better, which moves left after the crux instead of right and adds some additional difficult face moves into the mix.

As we finished Nevermore, we decided to head off to the Mac Wall for some climbs that Adrian wanted to do. And, honestly, I had every intention of doing whatever Adrian wanted to do for the rest of the day. I was pretty happy with the day so far. But then as we walked down the carriage road I could see that Welcome to the Gunks (5.10b) was just sitting there, open.

I felt ready. I had to do it. Adrian was fine with it.

(Photo: I'm between the first and second roofs on Welcome to the Gunks (5.10b). Photo by Adrian.)

This was another 5.10 I'd always been afraid to try. The climb features several roofs, but the mentally challenging parts come in between them, on poorly-protected slabs. I'd done the route on TR all the way back in 2010, and about all I remember is that on that occasion I fell a lot. The climb seemed hard and scary. I posted at the time on mountain project that my hat was off to anyone who would lead this thing. 

But now? I wasn't worried. I took the rack from Adrian and dove in.

I thought the initial slab was kind of heads-up, with non-trivial moves and no gear. Then the first roof was well-protected and really fun. At slab number two (the 5.9 R section) I thought the big move to a jug was reasonably safe. The next move after that, to some slopers, is where you want to be careful, for the sake of your ankles. But it didn't seem like a big deal to me, and before I knew it I'd placed gear and surmounted roof number two. I was still waiting for the route to seem hard, but it only got easier after that. The final two overhangs were nothing but fun. And I loved the ease of lowering off of the new bolted anchor.

(Photo: Adrian at the first roof on Welcome to the Gunks (5.10b), with a couple of raindrops on the lens.)

I'm not going to lie: I felt amazing after leading Welcome to the Gunks. It was my fourth 5.10 send of the day, and all four of them were on-sights, or climbs I did on top-rope so long ago that they might as well be on-sights. It was one of my best days on the rock. Gotta love the high season! 

On Sunday morning we awoke to misty rain. It quickly stopped and Adrian and I headed to the Nears. We took it easy for a good part of the day, but eventually I wanted to try something new and interesting.

We selected Disney Point (5.10d). This variation on Disneyland (5.6-) goes left when Disneyland goes right, and heads out a diagonal rail under a huge roof. When you reach the "point" at the end of the rail, you have to figure out how to get up onto the face above.

(Photo: I'm up atop the cliff, waving, as Adrian climbs Disney Point (5.10d). He is about to embark on the crux flake, out to the point.)

As I led up Disneyland and turned left to approach the roof, the route appeared more and more intimidating. But when I got there, it didn't seem too bad. I was able to place gear halfway out the traverse before committing to the moves. 

Once I decided to go for it, things got pumpy in a hurry. As I heel-hooked out to the point, I had to hang in there to place a piece. And once I was satisfied with the pro, I had to diagnose the exit. Unfortunately I went the wrong way at first. I was able to hang in, shake out, and try again, but by the time I found the slopery exit holds I ran out of steam and fell off.

(Photo: Adrian headed into the crux section on Disney Point (5.10d).)

It was my first fall of the weekend. I wasn't too upset, though I'd almost had the send in the bag. After falling, I started the whole sequence over again from the beginning and I got through it without a problem. So I sort of got the redpoint right then and there, although I didn't hang out to place gear on the second try. I still have to go back and do it cleanly in one go from start to finish.

I loved Disney Point. It is short, but it is also as exciting as climbing gets. The route is a hidden gem, buried in the guidebook as a one-star variation.

(Photo: That's me, feeling dog-tired at the end of our weekend but knocking out one of my favorite tens, Birdcage (5.10b). Photo by Adrian.)

With autumn finally upon us, I am really excited about what's to come. I feel good and I'm climbing better than I have all year. I haven't really picked a "project" for myself but I'm sure something will soon present itself. 

Until then, there are still plenty of tens, both new and old, with which I can pass the time! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Finding Inspiration at Poke-O Moonshine

(Photo: That's me on C-Tips (5.10c).)

I've been searching all year for my next big thing.

In 2015, my goal was simple. I wanted to attack every 5.10 climb in the Gunks that I'd ever been afraid to try. The choices were obvious, and they fell like dominoes over the course of the year. For me it was a dream season, including many ultra-classics, and I tacked on my first trad 5.11's to boot.

This year it hasn't been quite as easy to figure out "the way." There are still plenty of legendary targets left for me in the Gunks, of course, in the 5.10-5.11 range and beyond. I've continued to go after them, and I have managed a few 5.11 ticks so far this year. I knocked off Carbs and Caffeine (5.11a) back in March, and in June I got the send on a tricky face climb called Cars That Eat People (5.11a) out at Lost City.

But I don't want 2016 to be the year in which all I did was to climb the easiest 5.11's in the Gunks (as awesome as that is). I want to improve, to become a climber with broader range. And to do that I know I need to get out of the Trapps and the Nears and climb at other crags.

To that end, I've been trying to get around. I've climbed more at Lost City (it really is different!) and committed to doing more sport climbing. And recently I've made a concerted effort to climb in the Adirondacks.

One day in June I was to meet up with my longtime partner Adrian, who has been living in Montreal. He's made the long trip from Canada to the Gunks to meet me on many occasions, and once in a while I try to return the favor by heading north from Brooklyn to meet him on turf which is closer to him. The issue for me is that I can seldom take two days in a row, so for me to go the Dacks, even on a weekend, involves an "alpine start" very early in the morning and then a long drive home at night. If I get up early enough I can get in a reasonably full day of climbing, along with the nine or ten hours of driving.

When I was planning to meet with Adrian in June, the summer heat provided enough motivation for me to make the long drive. It is always at least a little bit cooler up in the Dacks. So Adrian and I planned to meet at Poke-O Moonshine, the big cliff which sits just off of the Northway at exit 33.

We'd both been there on several occasions, both separately and together, and we'd done a lot of the easier classics, like the FM (5.7+), Gamesmanship (5.8+), Bloody Mary (5.9+) and Fastest Gun (5.10a). I've enjoyed all of the climbing I've done at Poke-O. The routes tend to follow vertical crack systems but seldom involve pure crack climbing. The terrain is often steep, but slightly less than vertical, with technical, slabby moves and seemingly blank sections requiring commitment and creativity. The difficulties tend to be continuous and sustained. Especially on the multi-pitch routes, the climbs have an adventurous feel, with route-finding challenges and loose sections requiring a heads-up mentality.

Fastest Gun in particular really opened my eyes as to what the harder climbing at Poke-O is like. And I loved it. I also found it very challenging and I wanted to get better at it. I always felt sandbagged at Poke-O-- everything seemed hard. I thought that if I could learn the ways of the granite at Poke-O, I would feel more confident on my toes at other granite areas like Cathedral Ledges, Cannon Cliff, or Yosemite. 

On our hot day in June, I hoped to find other multi-pitch tens like Fastest Gun on which Adrian and I could struggle and find some adventure. We settled on Mayflower, a three pitch route that looked doable. The first pitch-- the hardest one, at 5.10c-- is entirely bolt-protected and we found it to be in the shade. How bad could it be? The second and third pitches were both 5.10 as well, but a little bit easier. I figured we'd be fine.

We got our butts kicked.

(Photo: Adrian confronting the blank, clean streak that is the first pitch of Mayflower (5.10c).)

Adrian tried leading pitch one and found the climbing extremely thin and tenuous, up a lonely clean streak on this dark, dirty wall. He worked his way up to the third or fourth bolt, but after several falls, he decided to take a break and offered me the lead, pronouncing this thing way harder than 5.10.

Upon taking over I sketched my way up to his high point with the security of the rope above me, and then proceeded to fall repeatedly where Adrian had given in. Finally I worked out a sequence and was able to lead up to the top of the pitch. This pitch is hard!

(Photo: I'm coming up pitch two (5.10a) of Mayflower.)

Our first pitch had taken a long time, and we still had two to go. Adrian resumed leading on the 5.10a pitch two and he got it cleanly. Following the pitch, I enjoyed the interesting face moves on clean rock. 

Now it was my turn to lead pitch three, which features an airy, hanging dihedral. This pitch, rated 5.10b, isn't the hardest one on the climb but the guidebook suggests it is the money pitch.

I was nervous and struggled in the early going, moving up and right off of the belay towards the open book looming above. After taking a hang I figured out how to get into the dihedral, and once I clipped a bolt on the left wall I breathed a sigh of relief.

(Photo: Heading up pitch three (5.10b) of Mayflower.)

But my stress was actually just beginning. I found as I moved above the bolt that the (dusty) rock at the back of the open book was crumbly. I managed to place a nut but I didn't have a lot of faith that it would hold if I tested it. As I continued to make the delicate moves up the open book, with plenty of air beneath my feet, the lone bolt started to feel very far away. By the time I got to the top I was well into do-not-fall territory.

I was psyched to reach the anchor. I was exhausted, but happy. This was a quality route in which (typical for Poke-O) the interesting challenges just kept on coming, one after another.

(Photo: Adrian emerging from the rope-eating Mayflower dihedral at the top of pitch three.)

I thought we'd finished with Mayflower but it wasn't finished with us. We rapped off of the route with my double ropes tied together. When we got down we found that the ropes were hopelessly stuck. Luckily we reached the ground in a single rap, so we weren't trapped on the wall.

We tried every which way to free the ropes but nothing worked. The struggle went on and on. At some point I looked at my watch and realized we'd spent our whole day on this one route. I had four or five hours of driving ahead of me and here we were, still dicking around with my ropes stuck on the cliff.

Adrian had a spare rope back in his car. We could go get it, and climb back up to free the ropes. Or we could ascend the stuck ropes with prussiks. Neither option seemed terribly appealing to me.

Eventually we left the ropes behind. I'm not proud of this decision. We didn't clean up our own mess. At the time, I was tired and I couldn't bring myself to make the effort to get the ropes down. I was willing to write them off. The ropes were in pretty good condition but they were at least nine years old. I was considering retiring them anyway. And Adrian thought he might be able to come back and get them the following weekend, though he didn't end up making it.

After a week or two a climber from Montreal retrieved the ropes and returned them to us. So the story has a happy ending. I got my ropes back and the good samaritan got some beer out of the bargain. But the ropes were hanging there for a while and they got quite bleached in the sun. They are definitely retired now!

Our misadventure on Mayflower made me hungry for more climbing at Poke-O. I felt like we'd been spanked, and I knew we could do better. I resolved to go back, but the opportunity didn't come for me until after Labor Day. I made the trek up there on a Sunday in early September, and liked the climbing we did so much that I took a day off from work and made the drive again on the following Thursday.

During these two September days I tried to figure out how to better climb these Poke-O tens. I made some progress. As always, for me I think the biggest challenge is psychological. I've found out out that I can do every move on these climbs, but I need to feel secure in the knowledge that my toes will stick or I fail in lots of ways: I rush, I over-grip, I refuse to commit.

(Photo: That's me in the early going on Cooney-Norton face (5.10b).)

I got things off to an inauspicious start with the Cooney-Norton Face (5.10b). This route has great climbing all the way, with cool moves up a shallow stem box followed by thin face climbing past two bolts. I felt insecure on my feet as a leader on this pitch, pressing the stems way too hard and clutching madly at whatever holds I could find. I wore myself out and, after hanging, offered Adrian the lead. He then led up through my gear and finished it.

Trying the route again on top rope, I thought it wasn't exactly easy but it was all there and it went fine. On TR I could easily stand in the stems, releasing both hands. If I'd relaxed like this on lead I would have been okay, I think. As I moved up on TR I found out that I'd given up on the lead one move from a jug and a good rest, which was infuriating. I will go back and send this route. It shouldn't even be a big deal.

(Photo: Adrian on Macho (5.11a).)

Adrian and I threw a top rope over Macho (5.11a) and while neither of us sent this one, either, I felt like this was where I finally started to find my way on Poke-O face climbing. I loved the moves on this pitch, and by the time we were done I started thinking this was a Poke-O 5.11 I could come back and send on the lead, though I might like to figure out my placements on top rope first. The positions are balancy and above the initial bolts the gear might be a real challenge to place.

(Photo: I'm stemming it out at the crux of pitch one (5.10a) of the Snatch.)

On our second September day we tried another ten called the Snatch (5.10b). This route ascends a left-facing corner for two pitches. It gets four stars in the guidebook but I wasn't expecting much, since I couldn't recall ever hearing anything about it.

It turned out to be an awesome route. Both pitches are really good. I led pitch one (5.10a), which wanders up a blocky face to the main corner system, and then ascends the super-cool technical stem corner until a ledge with an anchor appears on the left. I was happy to get the send, for once, as I led up the challenging corner to the belay without incident. Things were looking up.

(Photo: Adrian at the crux of pitch two (5.10b) of the Snatch.)

Adrian (who, it should be noted, was allegedly fighting a cold) started up the 5.10b pitch two, and got into the weeds pretty fast as he confronted the overhanging jam-crack crux on the right wall of the corner. After a couple of hangs he got through this section but then the difficulties continued with more thin moves up the corner. At one tough move Adrian decided he'd had enough and we did another hand-off of the lead. I lowered him back to the belay. Taking over, I too had to hang in the crux jam crack but then sent it the rest of the way. I felt okay about it. Like pitch one of Mayflower I thought this pitch was pretty darn tough for its grade.

(Photo: I'm doing some of the hardest bits on C-Tips (5.10c).)

We also took on C-Tips (5.10c), a bolt-protected line up a bulging, black face. From below it appears to be utterly blank. I took the lead again. I told myself to think of this as a 5.11 sport climb. No big deal. There are bolts!

But I was still a bit nervous after I clipped the second bolt. The third bolt seemed very far away, the slab beneath me was very close, and the next holds were so, so small. I was afraid I would hit the slab if I fell, so I called out "take" and took a hang.

Immediately I kicked myself for giving up. I resolved to go for it. And then everything went fine. This climb is full of beautiful sequences. After the hardest moves, around the third and fourth bolts, the angle of the wall kicks back a little and the climbing becomes a bit easier. I marvel at the vision of the first ascensionists, who saw a route here on this featureless face.

(Photo: Adrian leading Group Therapy (5.9).

Late in the afternoon of our weekday at Poke-O, Adrian and I decided to dial it back a little and do something more casual. We ended up picking out a link-up of the first pitch of Group Therapy (5.9) and the second pitch of Discord (5.8). It doesn't appear that these climbs get done all that often despite a recommendation in the guidebook and their convenient location right where the approach trail meets the cliff.

Neither of these pitches is fantastic but both are quite worthwhile. Adrian led Group Therapy, a route with some face moves over bulges which lead to a slab finish. The rock is good and all of the harder bits are well protected by bolts or solid gear placements. 

I took the lead for pitch two of Discord, and this pitch provided some full value Poke-O adventure. The crux came right away, after I stepped to the right from the belay and had to commit to pulling over a low roof and into a right-facing corner system.

(Photo: That's me fooling around past the initial roof on pitch two of Discord (5.8).)

Once I grunted my way past the (dirty, crumbling) overhang, I had to confront twenty feet of corner climbing with an off-width crack at the back. I'd just placed my largest cam beneath my feet, to protect the initial crux, and it looked like I'd have no gear big enough to place anything again until I reached the top of this corner. 

Luckily the climbing was pretty secure and easy. Cramming my foot and leg in the crack, I made sure there was no way I could fall out and inched my way up to the top of the corner, where I was relieved to find solid gear. Then a fun traverse under another roof and a final layback corner led to the belay.

(Photo: Adrian coming up the final bits of pitch two of Discord (5.8).)

Adrian got to the top of Discord and announced "that pitch was crazy!" I certainly thought it provided a bit of everything: route finding, questionable rock, fun moves, technical problems, spice....

In the end I think Group Therapy/Discord is a fun 5.9 linkup-- for the 5.10 leader.

The three days I've spent at Poke-O this year have been a challenge for me, and I've really enjoyed getting schooled on the routes at this big cliff. I've still only experienced a fraction of what the place has to offer and even as I sit here typing I'm racking my brain trying to figure out when I'll get another chance to go back.

By the end of the third day I started to feel like I was really getting the hang of the climbing there, which surely means I'm ready to have my butt kicked by another Poke-O multi-pitch route.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mac Wall In-A-Day: A Non-Birthday Challenge

(Photo: I'm getting ready to fire the roof on Star Action (5.10b). Photo by Andy.)

Over the past few years I've gotten to know the Mac Wall pretty well.

The wall is stacked with classic 5.10 climbs. For a long time I was intimidated by several of the routes, but as the years went by I eventually climbed all of them (except for Water King (5.10d R), which no one ever does). I'm most familiar with the hardest ones, since I had to work to get them clean. A few of them I've only done once or twice, and one of them-- MF Direct (5.10a)-- I've only followed.

Last year, after I finally sent Coexistence (5.10d) and Graveyard Shift (5.10d), it occurred to me that I might be ready to try to lead all of the tens at the Mac Wall in a single day. The challenge would involve these climbs:

Still Crazy After All These Years (5.10a)
Interstice (5.10b)
Mother's Day Party (5.10b)
MF Direct (5.10a)
Men at Arms (5.10b)
Try Again (5.10b)
Coexistence (5.10d)
Star Action (5.10b)
Graveyard Shift (5.10d) and
Tough Shift (5.10a).

Ten tens. It is quite a list! Some of them are hard for 5.10 and many of them have some serious moments.

I thought this would be a good challenge for me because while I believed it would be difficult, it didn't sound utterly crazy. I was inspired by the day on which those guys did 30 pitches of 5.10, but I needed a more realistic objective, something that seemed within the realm of the possible for ordinary humans like me.

Still, leading ten 5.10's was much more than I'd ever tried to do in a day. I didn't know if I'd be up to it. I could really be dogging it by the end. Maybe at some point I'd get exhausted and become too frightened to keep leading these hard climbs.

This wasn't a "birthday challenge," exactly. I wanted to do it when it was still cool out. My birthday is in June. But as 2016 got going I couldn't seem to find a time to do the challenge. As we got into June, I decided to call it a birthday challenge and just to go ahead and try to do it on my next day out.

Andy and I were planning to climb on one recent Sunday. The high was supposed to be around 80 degrees. This was not ideal but I figured it would have to do.

I asked Andy by email if he would be up for belaying me on my Mac Wall challenge.

Andy was an instant supporter.

"Challenge accepted," he wrote.

Here is my pitch-by-pitch account of our day:

1. Try Again (5.10b), 9:00 a.m.

It is already warm when we arrive at the cliff. I had hoped to start with MF, but we find it occupied. No big deal. We move over to Try Again (5.10b) and get ready to begin.

I decide it makes sense to start on the right side of the wall. I want to get the hardest climbs out of the way first, while I am still relatively fresh. And since Try Again and its neighbor Coex are popular, it seems like a good idea to get them done now, while they are open.

Racking up, I feel very nervous. I know I can do all of these routes individually. I worry that I will be overwhelmed by ten in a row. I have to be careful not to let myself get so tired that my judgment becomes impaired.

I'm not that concerned about sending them all. Of course I want to send as many as I can, but I know I have a good chance of falling on Coex and maybe Graveyard. They will be hard for me no matter how well I remember my beta.

I want to avoid falling to the extent possible, to avoid wasting both energy and time. The goal is to get through all ten routes.

Shaking off the jitters, I start up Try Again. It is hot in the sun but I feel good all the way up to the crux. Thinking that I remember my beta, I clip the pin and go for it.

(Photo: Andy at the crux of Try Again (5.10b).)

The crimps above the roof feel greasy in the heat. This roof is hard! I fumble trying to place my toe. I can't hang on and I fall.

I change my approach and "try again."

I fall again.

I had hoped to send this climb. But now I've fallen twice, right out of the starting gate. Maybe I'm not feeling so great today?

With new resolve I go back up and try my original beta again. Success! I am over the roof, where I find a nut placement, right in front of my face, that I've never noticed before. The thin step to the right after the roof feels much more secure with this nut in place. I'll have to file that away for future reference.

Andy cruises the pitch as the second.

2. Coexistence (5.10d), 9:50 a.m.

I've had a slow start, and I expect this second pitch to be the toughest of the day. But I think I remember what to do. I believe I can get the send on Coex. I know I can.

(Photo: I'm starting up Coexistence (5.10d). Photo by Andy.)

I'm still very anxious. Nevertheless I climb smoothly all the way up to the roof. I place my crux gear, clip one of the pins, and shake out. I think I'm in good shape. Once I feel rested, I commit to the moves.

But it just doesn't feel right. I can't make the move I've rehearsed in my mind. I step up and down, up and down. Something is off. I can't match my hands where I usually do it. Finally I take a hang. 

Failure number two. This is becoming a pattern. And I'm wasting precious time.

(Photo: I'm confronting the crux on Coex. Photo by Andy.)

What am I missing? Staring at the holds, I realize I've been grabbing the wrong feature with my left hand. I've become blinded by a faulty memory-- a slave to bad beta.

I sail over the roof. It feels easier than Try Again.

Grrrrrrrrrr. This was a missed opportunity. I really should have sent Coex.

Andy has never been on Coex before. He struggles a bit but ultimately gets the top rope on-sight.

3. Men at Arms (5.10b), 10:40 a.m.

I am expecting this one to go smoothly. It is one of the easiest tens at the Mac Wall. And this is a good thing because I do not intend to fall on Men at Arms. The gear sucks.

(Photo: Andy almost finished with Men at Arms (5.10b).)

It goes well. I really like the climbing on this route. But there are moves of 5.9-ish difficulty all over it that are above so-so placements. After the upper crux move (above a tiny nut) there is a significant runout before you can get a piece again. I am not happy to be so far above my gear. 

Whatever. It is over and done with. I finally have a send in the bank.

Andy follows the pitch with no issues.

4. Graveyard Shift (5.10d), 11:30 a.m.

This is the most tense moment of the day for me. As I prepare to start Graveyard Shift I realize that of all of the demanding climbing at Mac Wall, the thing that scares me the most is the initial 5.8/5.9 runout over a bulge on Graveyard Shift. I have never come close to falling here but I have found that my fear of this section never goes away. Staring up at it fills me with dread.

(Photo: Andy at the scary bulge on Graveyard Shift (5.10d).)

I swallow my emotions and start climbing. The bulge goes fine. But then I blow it once again at the well-protected crux. I forget about a drop-knee move that I usually do when I reach above the roof. I correct my footing mid-reach but I slip off just as my fingers are touching the hold.

I'm learning that it might be better to have no beta than to mindlessly try to execute the wrong beta.

I finish Graveyard feeling depressed. This day is not meeting my expectations. So far I am one for four. I am a bundle of nerves, sweaty, rushing, making lots of mistakes. Am I really going to soldier on through all ten climbs? I am officially sucking.

Andy follows the pitch cleanly.

5. Star Action (5.10b), 12:44 p.m.

Now that Coex and Graveyard Shift are behind me, it is like a great weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I FINALLY relax. Star Action goes beautifully and I really enjoy it, more than I ever have before. I sail up the face to the roof, barely have to lunge for the good hold, and make the mental-crux move to the left with no worries. It feels great, and gives me a much-needed boost of confidence.

(Photo: That's me in the early going on Star Action (5.10b). Photo by Andy.)

I am amused to see Andy struggle, for once. He's done everything cleanly so far, and has previously led Star Action when the crux was wet! But this time he can't find the holds and ends up throwing wildly for the jug above the roof. Of course (Andy being Andy) he sticks the dyno, but it ain't pretty. It's easy to climb like that when you are on top rope! I'd like to see him try it that way on lead.

6. Tough Shift (5.10a), 1:25 p.m.

I'm not worried about Tough Shift at all. It has a reputation as a dangerous climb but I know the runouts are in relatively easy territory. I've done it before and I am certain it will be fine.

It goes perfectly. I carefully negotiate the tricky starting crack and then the runout upper face feels free and easy. It is a great pitch. This is actually my first complete send of Tough Shift. Last year when I led it I struggled in the opening crack.

(Photo: Andy about to move left onto the runout face at the end of Tough Shift (5.10a).)

Andy cleans it with little effort and we head to the left side of the wall.

7. MF Direct (5.10a R), 2:24 p.m.

I am cruising now. We are past the halfway point and I feel strong. The weather has changed. Clouds are rolling through, threatening rain but also bringing a pleasant, cool breeze.

I've never led this route before. But in the past when I've followed it I have checked out the gear, and I think I know what I want to place.

It goes down easily. I believe with my special gear beta the route is safe, and not R-rated at all. Here is the beta, if you want it: I get a purple C3 in a tiny vertical seam after the first hard move, and then a bomber blue Alien at the thin horizontal a couple of moves higher. After that it's just one more move to the chains.

(Photo: Andy on MF Direct (5.10a).)

Andy follows MF Direct quickly; it is our fastest pitch of the day.

I like MF Direct. It has a couple of big moves to great holds. It is casual, and barely 5.10. I think the original 5.9 version is more fun.

8. Mother's Day Party (5.10b), 3:00 p.m.

I feel like I'm floating now, everything is clicking. I love this pitch. It goes like clockwork. I place two pieces before each of the cruxes and then I fire them off. Great moves and two very different, interesting sequences.

(Photo: I'm just past the first crux on Mother's Day Party (5.10b). Photo by Andy.)

I would climb this pitch any time but to my mind it is actually the most R-rated pitch on the wall. At the first crux you are going to go splat on a ledge if you blow it. There is no avoiding it. And there is good pro for the start of the second crux but by the time you make the last big move to a jug, your gear is ten feet below your ankles. The fall would be huge. The climbing is relatively soft for 5.10b, in my opinion, so if you're solid then all is well. But this route is not to be undertaken lightly.

(Photo: Andy at the upper crux on Mother's Day Party.)

Andy takes his first and only fall of the day on Mother's Day Party, when he gets puzzled in the flakes at the first crux. Perhaps he's getting tired? He goes right back up and, grabbing the jug, curses himself. Hey, nobody's perfect.

9. Interstice (5.10b), 3:50 p.m.

The end is in sight. We are taking our time now. We pause to support a leader named Ryan who is taking his first run up MF (the 5.9 version). He sends! We cheer.

(Photo: Ryan on MF (5.9).)

The cliff has gone into the shade and conditions could not be better. I am loving life.

Interstice, like Mother's Day Party, has perfect rock and two interesting, very different cruxes. It is as good as any other route at the wall but I never see anyone leading it. It is thought to be somewhat run out but in my opinion it has just enough gear, exactly where you need it.

(Photo: Andy at the first crux on Interstice (5.10b).)

I climb the route without a problem, standing up carefully against the blank slab at the first crux, and quickly cranking through the second crux bulge after placing bomber tiny pro in the left-facing corner. The final moments heading up and left to the Birdie Party bolts are a little bit heady, but are probably no harder than 5.8. Not a concern. Such a good pitch, from start to finish.

Andy follows cleanly but remarks that it might be a challenging lead.

10. Still Crazy After All These Years (5.10a), 4:45 p.m.

We've reached our last route. I climb it joyfully, without a care in the world. I don't feel tired at all. There is one 5.8 move above the second horizontal where the pro (green Alien) is suspect. If you fall here and the piece blows, you will hit the ground. So it is important to climb with caution in the early going. Otherwise the gear on the route is great.

(Photo: I'm inspecting the holds at the start of Still Crazy After All These Years (5.10a). Photo by Andy.)

The last time I led this route I hesitated at the crux crimps but this time I dance right past them. It doesn't even feel like a crux. The route as a whole is quite nice, with consistent 5.8/5.9-ish face climbing similar to Higher Stannard (5.9-) and Birdie Party (P1 5.8+). Some of the holds are a little bit sandy. It is well worth doing.

(Photo: Andy bringing it home on our last route, Still Crazy After All These Years (5.10a).)

Andy likes the route too, says it feels pretty casual.

And that's it! We are done. We call it a wrap at 5:30 p.m.

*             *              *

In retrospect, I feel reasonably good about how the day went. I started off pretty shaky, and failed on some routes I should have sent. I might have done better if I had saved the hardest routes for later in the day, when they would have been in the shade. Heat and direct sunlight make such a huge difference. But if I'd saved the hardest climbs for later, I might not have been so relaxed on the easier tens, so who knows whether things would have actually gone any more smoothly.

On the positive side, I eventually settled down and sent seven 5.10's in one day-- six of them in a row, one after another. I've never done anything like that before. And I have to try to keep in mind that the whole idea of doing something like this is a sign of my improvement as a climber. The notion of doing this challenge would have seemed completely insane to me just a short time ago. Two years ago I thought I would never have the guts to try to lead Coex. Just last summer I felt the same way about Graveyard Shift and Tough Shift. So much has happened over the last year or so. I feel like a totally different person.

I was surprised at how strong I still felt at the end of the day. Andy felt fine too. As we walked out we started talking about trying to do twenty tens in a day, with each of us leading ten of them. I think the chief obstacle would not be endurance, but time. We would need a relatively long day and we'd have to make a concerted effort to go faster than we did at the Mac Wall.

I think it is possible for us. I do think it would be far less casual than our Mac Wall day, and might become something of a deathmarch by the end.

In other words: it sounds fun!

I am grateful to Andy for supporting me in this little project and sacrificing his day for my goals. I look forward to belaying him all day on a siege of twelve 5.12's or something. It could happen. We'll have to wait and see.