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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Getting Sporty in the New River Gorge

(Photo: Andy on Call 9-1-1 (5.13a), at the Endless Wall.)

I am sorry. It has been almost two months since my four-day trip to the New River Gorge in West Virginia

I have been slow to post about it.

I really, REALLY liked the New. I will definitely go again. I enjoyed the climbing we did and I'd love to find a way to do more of this style of sport climbing. And though we did some trad, we didn't really get a representative sample of what is available, so I'd like to go back to try some of the crack climbing in the gorge.

Andy and I planned our trip for mid-April, thinking it would be warm enough by then, but not too warm. The weather looked iffy as the trip approached. But Andy and I kept hope alive, and on the eve of our trip a new forecast materialized, and it was a thing of beauty. We were looking at four straight days of sunshine and temperatures in the sixties and seventies.

As I prepared to go to the New, I tried to get myself into the proper mindset. I'd always been a trad chauvinist. I'd never really given sport climbing a fair chance. It's not that I hadn't been sport climbing before. No, I'd had some exposure to sport climbing at several climbing areas, including Red Rocks, Rumney, the Red River Gorge, and Boulder Canyon. I'd enjoyed these areas.

But I'd always been cautious when sport climbing. I'd never truly embraced it, pushing my limits and climbing until I fell. I had been a sport tourist. This time I wanted it to be different. I wanted to go to the New and find out what I could do. I wanted to try hard climbs and maybe even work a route.

Crazy talk, right?

Also hanging like a specter over our trip were Batman and Superman. 

The movie had just come out.

And somehow it had come up in conversation that Andy was the proud owner of both a Batman and a Superman onesie. 

I know this raises some important questions.

Such as:

Why does Andy own superhero onesies?

And why were we talking about them?

I don't know. I can't explain it. Ask Andy.

But at some point in our conversation I suggested that we should climb in the onesies. It would be Batman vs. Superman, come to life! Pure awesomeness. Andy agreed.

I thought we were just kidding around. But as far as Andy was concerned the matter was deadly serious. He took me up on my offer and brought the onesies to West Virginia. Being no stranger to climbing in stupid outfits, I wasn't about to back out of our deal. At some point we would have to put them on.


But not right away.

On our first day, a Friday, Andy and I went to the Endless Wall, the New's most impressive crag. The cliff here goes on for miles, and Andy and I got to see a lot of it when we started out in the wrong direction and went down a random ladder to find ourselves nowhere near our intended destination.

After a bit of a hike along the base of the wall we finally located the climbs we wanted, in the Snake Buttress area.

I started our trip off with a bang by leading Discombobulated (5.11b). I quickly discovered a couple of things:

(1) Ratings at the New are stiff!


(2) Sport climbing at the New requires rather more commitment than I am used to. The first bolts are often high and the spacing between bolts can be wide.

(Photo: I'm starting up Discombobulated (5.11b), crimping nervously to the first bolt. Photo by Andy.)

Discombobluated was a tough initiation into the ways of the New. It starts with a technical thin face past a high first bolt. I nervously made it past this test but then peeled off shortly after clipping, on the very next move up the thin face. From the start of the route I was sweating it out and climbing scared. My head was not together. I was surprised to feel so shaky. I had expected to be a little more relaxed, as I am indoors at the gym.

And of course I regularly climb above trad gear in the Gunks, which ought to be more mentally challenging than clipping bolts, right?

I shouldn't have been surprised. I hadn't climbed a sport pitch outside since I was in the Red River Gorge back in October 2014. And I'd never before chosen to warm up with a mid-range 5.11.

After getting this first fall out of the way I resumed climbing Discombobulated and tried to remain calm-- combobulated, if you will-- as I worked my way up to the actual crux, a roof with some slippery holds just before the anchor. I was shaking (for no apparent reason) as I struggled to commit to the moves, but after a few false starts and some self-exhortation I made it through the crux to the finishing notch without falling or hanging.

My partner Andy, aka Mr. Sport Climber, sent the route without hesitation, of course. He was in his element here. 

Next Andy wanted to check out a 5.12 so we moved over to Bullet the New Sky (5.12a). Here Andy struggled through hard moves moving around and through the overhanging arete not far off the ground. But he eventually got it done.

(Photo: Andy heading up Bullet the New Sky (5.12a).)

As hard as it was for Andy, the route was harder for me. I struggled in several places and got completely shut down at one hard move. In the New, I was discovering, 5.12 is the real thing.

These first routes set a pattern that would be repeated through the rest of our trip. 5.11 in the New would be challenging for me. I would on-sight some 5.11's, and I would have to work at others. I found 5.12's to be very hard and generally would be frustrated, even mystified, by at least one move. Sometimes I could fight my way to the top with some falling and hanging but during our short trip I never got to where I could put together a send on a 5.12. Andy, by contrast, generally cruised all of the 5.11's and had to work a bit on the 5.12's. He sent a couple of them.

(Photo: Look close and you'll find me up there near the finish of Legacy (5.11a). Photo by Andy.)

Over the rest of our first day my lead head improved as I got used to the climbing style in the New. Leading Legacy (5.11a), I was able to keep the irrational sport climbing jitters at bay and I got the on-sight. I really loved this pitch. It has a great roof problem and then a beautiful shallow dihedral with technical moves up to another overhang at the finish.

(Photo: We were alone for the whole morning of our first day in the New, and then who should appear but our NYC gym friends Iwen and Gautam! We had no idea they were coming.)

Andy attacked another 5.12 called New World Order (5.12a), and even took an abortive go at a 5.13a called Call 9-1-1. I worked at the 5.12 for a while and didn't even attempt the 5.13. It appeared absolutely blank to me. 

But the ratings and my abilities aside, I loved the climbing we were doing. I found the routes to be so much more interesting than the sport climbs I'd done elsewhere. While sport climbing in the Red (for example) often feels gym-like, with its overhanging jug hauls, in the New I was delighted to find thin faces, long reaches to crimps, bulges, roofs, and technical corners and aretes. I'd always found sport climbing unmemorable, but not at the New.

We ended our day on an outstanding 5.10b called Strike a Scowl. Along with Legacy, this route was a candidate for my favorite climb of the trip. It features fun moves up a thin, textured face. The rock is gorgeous to look at and through the upper part of the pitch you cling to an improbable stacked flake system. The climbing is reasonable but I sure wouldn't call it easy for 5.10.

(Photo: Andy working out the thin moves on Strike a Scowl (5.10b).)

Around midday we were joined at the Endless Wall by some gym friends of ours from NYC named Iwen and Gautam. We had no idea they were coming, but we were excited to run into them and spent the next few days hanging out near them and sharing some meals together. Over pizza and beer on Friday evening Iwen and Gautam told us they were heading to the crag called Kaymoor in the morning. This sounded good to us so we decided to go there too for our second day.

When Andy and I hiked down to the Butcher's Branch section of Kaymoor the next morning, we found it packed with people. We decided to walk a bit more and found less of a crowd at the nearby Seven Eleven Wall, so we set up there for the day.

This area is known for its collection of 5.11 routes. It seems like 5.11 is the entry-level sport grade at most of the crags in the New. 

(Photo: Andy at the first overhang on Tony the Tiger (5.11c) at the Seven Eleven Wall. To the right of Andy a climber is visible on Scenic Adult (5.11c).)

I was really happy with our day here. Almost all of the routes were fun and they were all quite different from one another. We started with the forgettable (and somewhat dirty) short route Butcher Man (5.11a), but things got better from there. I had to take a few falls to work out the crux on the one I liked the best, a climb called Scenic Adult (5.11c). The route has good moves up and around an arĂȘte, followed by a very exposed and pumpy traverse to the lip of a roof. I thought that Tit Speed (5.11c), on the left end of the wall, was also very tough, with a steep and technical starting sequence, which led to more big moves in overhanging territory. This was the only eleven that Andy had any trouble with, as I recall.

(Photo: I'm climbing Bimbo Shrine (5.11b). Photo by Andy.)

I had better luck with Tony the Tiger (5.11c), a roof climb which seemed easy for the grade, and Bimbo Shrine (5.11b), a face climb that passes a few bulges with steep, crimpy cruxes. 

We decided to treat our third day as a sort of rest day, doing some easy trad in the Meadow River Gorge. I knew that this was not the very best trad area in the New, but I thought it would be nice to see a different part of the region. Most of the routes we did, at the Sunkist Wall at the far end of the gorge, were nothing to write home about, though one 5.9 corner climb called Arachnophobia was pretty nice. It would be worth making a special trip for this climb, if only it were longer.

(Photo: I'm leading Arachnophobia (5.9) at the Sunkist Wall in the Meadow River Gorge. Photo by Andy.)

Andy couldn't make himself take it easy for the whole day. He ticked a 5.12 send on a short, steep sport route called Fresh Boy (5.12a).

(Photo: Andy on Fresh Boy (5.12a).)

It was so pleasant to be in the Meadow River Gorge. The river was always close by. Its clear, cool waters were a soothing presence. I thought the rock in the gorge was pretty to look at, too, with its fiery orange shades. 

The most pleasant thing of all: we were all by ourselves on a beautiful Sunday. 

As we walked back to the road we stopped to look at a couple of the prime attractions of the area, like Mango Tango (sport 5.14a) and The Greatest Show On Earth (trad 5.13a). They seemed far beyond us (or me, anyway) but were impressive to behold.

We ended our day with a beautiful, sandbagged sport 5.10c called Winter Harvest, which ascends a juggy roof and a steep arĂȘte. 

(Photo: Andy on Winter Harvest (5.10c).)

Our fourth and final day was a short one. We had to hit the road at midday for the eight-hour drive back to NYC. We elected to spend our final morning checking out Summersville Lake. We'd heard good things about the area. Gautam said it was his favorite place to climb in the New. It is known for having more entry-level sport climbs than many of the other areas of the New. And judging by my Facebook feed, Summersville Lake is home to everyone's favorite 5.13a, a climb called Apollo Reed.

We got to the parking lot early. We needed to cram in some good climbing before leaving town.

We also had to put on our onesies.

It was now or never.

We hiked down to the Long Wall and found a group of 5.11 sport climbs in a perfect setting right next to the lake. What a beautiful place!

Getting into costume, we assumed our battle positions.

(Photos: Getting into character at Summersville Lake.)

We were dressed to kill. But we hadn't really considered the weather. It had grown hotter each day since we arrived in the New. Even though it was still early morning, it was already approaching 80 degrees. The Long Wall was baking in direct sunlight. And we were wearing long-sleeve flannel pajamas. 

We climbed a couple of the 5.11's, but all I really remember is that I was hot.

(Photo: That's me climbing something. Photo by Andy.)

Wearing the black outfit, I felt like I was in a greenhouse. And the cape kept getting in my way as I reached for draws. 

Oh, the dark side of being a superhero! Who knew?

(Photo: Andy in the spirit of things as Superman.)

It wasn't long before we shed the costumes and moved around the corner to the shady side of the wall, where we found a fun collection of steep 5.10 routes. Grateful for the shade, we camped out here for the remainder of our time. We knocked off all of the tens and then it was time to head out.

Our trip was over. I'm not sure we found the best of Summersville Lake, but we had fun. 

(Photo: That's me, finishing our trip with Flight Path (5.10b).)

I left feeling I'd gotten a great introduction to the New River Gorge. 

I loved it there, and I could see how being a regular at the New would make me a much stronger climber. Just in the course of our short trip, once I got used to the sport mentality, it became very clear exactly where my level was. If I could climb at the New all the time, I would have a virtually endless supply of climbs with which to push my level, one letter grade at a time. Without all the mental nonsense of trad climbing, my work could be focused on the moves alone. And since I liked the style of climbing so much, I wouldn't get immediately bored with such an enterprise.

Would I prefer the New to my beloved home crag, the Gunks? I wouldn't go that far. I still cherish the mental nonsense of trad climbing. Most of the time I still think that's what it's all about, for me.

But there's no doubt that if I had a place like the New closer to NYC, it would make me better.