We are back in Santa Barbara (actually, we’re back in Berkeley now, but I began this post in sunny Santa Barbara).
We woke up early enough to catch sunrise in Zion National Park before charging through Arizona and Nevada. California, especially Santa Barbara, was a sight for sore eyes. The cool breeze tinged with sea salt wafted through our rolled down windows. We were definitely ready to be back, which is always refreshing on a road trip. Often you leave a place before you feel ready and that’s always a bit unsettling. It felt really good and really right to be back.
After 1 year, 2 months, and 17 days, our road trip had come full circle- our first stop when hitting the road last year was Santa Barbara.
I was incredibly happy that Spenser agreed to go back to Arches and Canyonlands. It was definitely a bit out of our way from Joe’s Valley to Santa Barbara, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! I can assume that I will be by these places again later in life, but what if I’m not. Better to not assume, I think. 🙂
Over a year ago when we started this road trip, we had different goals. I think a year ago, we would have argued to pass up these sights just to get to the next climbing destination. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when our road trip mentality changed, but it was likely when both Spenser and I began to ride a getting-hurt see-saw. When you get hurt on the road, either you start to look long term, or you head home.
We started getting hurt, so we finally stopped to smell the roses- mostly to make ourselves feel better. But, it really turned out to be the best medicine. The road trip could not longer be solely about climbing if our spirits were going to stay high.
So what’s the road trip about now?
Amanda Palmer really helped me come up with the answer to this…
Spenser and I spend a lot of time together- you end up running out of conversation. Also, the long open road is more conducive to sleep rather than chatter. To cure the doldrums, we love listening to Podcasts when driving. As we were passing through Nevada, we starting listening to Giving it Away, part of the NPR Ted Talk Radio Hour. The whole hour is a great listen, but Miss Palmer really stood out.
We saw Amanda Palmer perform live at The Crucible Fire Arts Festival in 2009. She was a bad-ass chick with a great voice and interesting sound, but that’s about where the impression ended. Her Ted Talk was something else. Watch:
Amanda’s talk reinforced what was our road was about for me: making connections. What Spenser and I remember is the connections we make with the blokes we meet along the way. We have (surprisingly) recently only realized that this is what our road trip is about.
As Spenser explained in his last post, the greatest challenge of being on the road for us is that we now find ourselves without a home, in the conventional sense. Our home becomes the old friends we visit and the new friends we make along the way. Each person we make a connection with becomes encompassed in our definition of home. We create a home and a family from these people in each place that we visit.
Without these people there would be no family, no home. So, on to Amanda’s other huge point – helping each other. Why are we (people, in general) so ashamed of “hand outs”? We are terrified to ask for something for fear of being rejected, or worse, owing someone something. We have been trained to be independent. Amanda pointed out that people like helping- remember the fuzzy feeling you get when you receive a smile as a thanks for something as simple as holding the door open for a stranger?
I hate asking someone for help. It’s a feeling that I need to overcome, realizing that every family we make along the way wants to help (and be helped). It’s time to follow in Amanda’s footsteps and “ask without shame” and also give without regret. When Amanda’s band’s record sold “only” 25,000 copies, she was dropped from the label. Instead of being distraught, she asked her fans to help pay for the records and it was an immense crowdfunding success. Now that is bad-ass.
How Tao of her…
Now to leave you with a few quote to live by from The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”
“You’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.”
In the next post, Spenser is going to talk about what is what like being back in SB for him and some of the new climbing development going on… Including new routes put up by THIS guy:
Until our last day of climbing in Red Rocks, Las Vegas, I hadn’t bouldered since December 21st. That was the day I somehow fell from the pinch on Saigon Direct, missed the pads, and cracked my heel in two. I wanted to use the forced rest period to address another injury of mine, that being chronic tendonitis of the right elbow, or medial epicondylosis if you’re inclined to use specific terms. Nearly 4 months and hours and hours of physical therapy later and I cannot say that it’s gone. I can say, however, that my condition has improved, and I am now back to trying hard.
Except for a couple of days of sport climbing, I didn’t climb in Bishop after the foot injury. Three months later, As a reintegration to movement, Evan Ludmer and I did a little bit of trad climbing in Vegas, ticking the incredible classics Epinephrine and Sour Mash. At this point, my elbow wasn’t really hurting, but still made the crepitus-like noise that it has been making all year. I figured that keeping the climbing to a vertical 5.9/5.10 level would be okay, and it was. I decided to try some easy bouldering.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’m using grades to discuss relative strength within one person (me). It is not my intention to use grades as ego markers. They are brought up here only to illustrate a point, and in our idiosyncratic sport, grades are the best approximation we have for a standard rubric.
For the first couple of days back on the little rocks, I set my expectations low. V5 was the limit, but I found myself having trouble with V3’s and V2’s, particularly when smaller holds were involved. Day two of bouldering saw myself at the Monkey Bar boulder, perhaps the most traveled little boulder in all the land of Nevada. I had spent so many days watching people climbing on the numerous classic steep climbs that it was hard to resist trying myself. Suddenly, there I was underneath the starting jugs of Monkey Bars (V2). I began to literally monkey around. The sensation was incredible.
Still, I had a long way to go. That day saw failures on Hyperglide (V4/5) and The Pearl (V5). At my peak, I’d flash them both, but I couldn’t even move past the second hold on The Pearl…in fact I barely latched it in the first place. My elbow felt fine, but my finger strength was not up to the task. Not even close.
No worries, I thought. Joe’s Valley, with its friendly holds, “my style” climbing, and soft grades would surely be the springboard. On our first day of bouldering, I went with Will up the Left Fork to Vikki’s project from last season, Big Cheesy (V5). I remember this one being easy-looking when I filmed her. We both managed to do it first try, but I felt, well, weak. The next day, Poseidon (V8) managed to thwart us both. A move that normally would feel easy – a big sloper slap off a gigantic jug – felt very hard, and I stuck it only once. Then, neither of us could do Frosted Flakes (V5), though I know from previous experience that this is a very hard problem for the grade.
A bit later, we met some new friends at the Food Ranch, Katie and Niko of The Morning Fresh. Niko had just done Resident Evil as his first V10, though immediately one could tell that he’s got a lot more double digit rigs in his future. After managing a quick ascent of Bring the Heatwole (V7), we went to Eden and G2-07, awesome problems that go at V10 and V7 respectively. I knew Eden would shut me down, not only as it was much harder than anything I’d climbed in so long, but because the crux revolves around a small, slopey crimp, which is my exact weakness. I didn’t expect G2-07 to be quite so tough though, and though I managed all the moves, linking felt damn-near-impossible.
Still, I was having fun. And I am, even if the numbers don’t show it. When I was at my peak, I could walk up to most Joe’s Valley V7s and give a good flash burn. I did a few V11’s, some V10’s, and many, many climbs in the lower grades. Now I am struggling to do V7 and V8. The other day I got my ass handed to me by a couple of V6’s.
I’m not frustrated. No matter what, it’s climbing, and even if the climb itself is a no-star breaky turdpile, it can still be fun. Furthermore, I want to emphasize that I don’t really care when I get to XX grade. The biggest reason I want to climb harder things is that cooler climbs tend to be harder. Or maybe I should say: I want to climb everything, and the only way to do that is to get strong enough.
And I almost forgot the silver lining!
The best part of recovery is that one improves very quickly. Remember that, two weeks ago, I was unable to do The Pearl…nay, I was unable to even conceive of doing The Pearl! Now I know I could. Strength returns fairly quickly. Also, given that all expectations are thrown out because I frankly have no idea how hard anything is anymore, I have the chance of surprising myself by doing a move that I didn’t think my out-of-shape self could pull off, or better yet, doing climbs I think are too hard.
Basically, I get to throw out all my old expectations, particularly those revolving around grades. Seriously, not many people get this opportunity.
At the same time, though, I am somewhat concerned. I am old. Earlier this trip, I turned 28. I am no longer a dirtbagging college kid whose spare time went to climbing and whose spare money went to gas, bagels and the $2 per night camping fee. I can no longer eat terribly and feel no ill effects. I can no longer drink hard, sleep little, and still climb hard(ish) in the morning. And when I get hurt, I can no longer think of it as something that will, with just a little bit of time, fix itself. Now, there is no guarantee that I will return stronger than before. Is this a bad thing? Sure, if all I cared about was sending V2^4. But few are the little boys whose dreams of greatness aren’t eventually crushed, and by now I have no illusions of being the world’s best in the little world of climbing (especially after watching Daniel Woods not climb Lucid Dreaming). Instead, I have dreams of once again feeling strong and confident in the moves that I can do, and of climbing as many new, interesting, and beautiful climbs as possible.
And who knows. If I take care of this issue now and start training hard, I just might see myself at the top of some lifetime projects. The Shield: I’m looking at you.
As soon as I walked into the Food Ranch this morning, I realized I had made a mistake. Since popping a pulley, I’m keeping my hands off the boulders for the next couple weeks. I tagged along yesterday and snapped some photos while the gang went bouldering, so I thought I would go do some work on the computer today.
Now, I’m alone upstairs at the Food Ranch and it’s really depressing. I should be outside. Why am I not outside? I made that mistake again. When given the choice between hanging indoors versus outdoors for the day, I chose indoors.
Oof, what a fool.
So today, I challenge everyone to learn from my mistake. If you have the chance to be outside, take it. If you don’t think you have the time, make it!! I’ll leave you with the lovely musings of John Pels from Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (click on the link to be able to read it a bit easier on the site).
Spenser just called and is coming to save me from my Food Ranch prison! Yes, going outside! …Might tweet about it 😉
The day after the Luminance session, I was standing underneath Grandpa Peabody with a sea of people. Josh, Mark, Max and Steve were all looking into topping out Evilution, myself and a few others were trying to get to the lip, and several people were watching. Elliot, who was with us at Luminance, had been top-roping the old-school Dale Bard solo Transporter Room (5.12ish). Shortly before the sun went down, he stepped up and calmly waltzed up the climb.
There is a nice crimp rail at about 20 feet that Elliot got to and stood on, hands-free. Then a couple of dicey slab moves followed. We, the spotters, were somewhat nervous, of course, but he was solid enough to make the entire climb seem almost trivial, as though going through the moves were pure formality. It was inspiring.
A few days later, I read confirmation in Wills’ blog that Elliot had succeeded in putting up a new line to the left of Transporter Room, called The Elevator. Elliot told me he was working on yet another new line. I asked if he wanted to get video of his send, and he eagerly agreed to letting me film him.
On Friday, December 21st, I jugged up a line and filmed Elliot as he cleaned the holds and worked the moves on toprope. The crux comes at about 20 feet or so, involving some tiny holds and hard-to-see feet that are needed to pull around the bulge and onto a scooped slab. He fell many times attempting the crux, but it was his last day before heading back to Santa Cruz. As the sun set behind Mt. Humphries, he stacked pads on the bush underneath the fall zone and pulled into the double kneebar that starts the route.
Elliot made it through the easy opening sequence without incident, then launched into the crux involving a long pull-thru on a small right hand crimp to a bad sloping left-handed edge, a tiny little nipple for the right hand, and dicey high-steps on hidden footholds. The crowd held its breath, and as Elliot hesitated, someone said “you got it, man.” His foot slipped a little. He was 20 feet off the deck in freezing cold conditions.
He reset his foot and stepped determinedly into the scoop that marks the end of the hard climbing, letting out a a few words of relief mixed with triumph. ZAP was thusly born. (Soon we’ll have a video featuring the new route) Elliot later said that hearing the one reassuring comment from the ground was a big help.
The next day was a cold one in the Buttermilks, but having watched plenty of hard climbing and having rested for two days, I was ready to try some things. Vikki and I warmed up at the Shrimp boulder, where we met a Frenchman named Jeff. He was obviously pretty strong, and the day was looking good. After a good warmup including a repeat of Saigon, I convinced him to spot me on Saigon Direct.
Saigon Direct is an obvious highballer’s testpiece, with big moves between pretty good holds high up in the air. The boulder’s prow is tall and proud, with an incredibly enticing pinch-brick sticking out at around 16 feet or so. The landing is flat, but the fall-zone is quite large given the height and unpredictability of the fall.
On my first try, I got set up for the big move up to the pinch, but backed down since I’d messed around far too long on the relatively easy opening sequence. I rested, then pulled on and got to the big brick. It felt good. I chalked my left hand and brought it in to match, anticipating the foot-shuffle and the final crux, a big right-hand move around the corner.
At that moment, both my feet came off as though someone hit a switch: at the same instant, and totally unexpectedly. I had time to say “Oh Shit!” and spot my landing as I swung out from the wall. At the apex of my swing, I either dropped off or slipped off (I’m not sure), and fell.
Jeff had just moved the three pads away from where I landed, and my feet hit the ground with a loud crunch. My knees buckled, and I rolled onto my back.
There’s a moment when someone takes a fall where those watching tense up, the spotters panic, and the climber assesses his injuries. Even a small fall occasions this group reaction, and for good reason: ankles have been broken from 2 foot falls. In my case, I immediately knew my heels were bruised. Imagine standing on a basketball hoop and jumping to the ground, in tight-fitting climbing shoes.
I wanted to immediately reassure everyone. It’s a weird moment. All eyes are on you, and the last thing you want to do is make everyone panic. I said I was fine, my heels were probably pretty bruised, but I’d be fine in a few minutes. I limped over to the pads to rest, and to let my heart stop fluttering.
Five minutes later, my heels still hurt. More distressing was the fact that trying to put weight on my left foot, even five or ten pounds, was impossible. It felt like my tendons were pulling directly on the bruise and making it worse. After about fifteen minutes of denial, I came to the realization that I would not be climbing the rest of the day. Vikki packed up our stuff, and I put an empty crashpad on my back and hopped on my right foot back to the car. We spent the remainder of the day at a friend’s house, icing my foot and shooting the breeze.
I woke up the next morning in pain. My heel throbbed and no amount of squirming or elevating would help it. Ibuprofen took the edge off, and we went into town so that Vikki could work a shift from the new Black Sheep. It was apparent that my injury was a little bit more serious that I’d hoped, and we went to the ER. X-rays were inconclusive, but a CT scan clearly revealed a broken calcaneus.
The nurses were wonderful and the doctor was quite friendly. There was even a climber named Ryan working there, whom we’d met at the Zoo recently. Mammoth and Bishop are accustomed to these types of injuries, so I knew I was in good hands. I was sent on my way with a splint on my lower leg and a prescription for Tramadol, which I didn’t even need.
A few days later, I saw Dr. Robinson, a climber, skier, and orthopedic surgeon. He told me that no knife would be required, and that I’d be able to bear weight in a few weeks’ time. It might be a year before I’m totally 100%, but that I could climb on a rope that day if I wanted…just no impact on the foot. He also gave me a removable Aircast, which is much more compact that the splint I had and which allows me to shower properly. Most importantly, he wrote me a note to take to the DMV, which provided me with a handicapped parking permit.
So of course this is a bummer. I can’t walk. I can’t carry anything. I can’t climb. I feel totally useless, as Vikki is forced to take up the slack. Besides that, Bishop has so many projects that I am close to completing, but I’ll lose the best part of the season and much of my strength as I recover. The good news, I suppose, is that I’ll be forced to properly rest my right elbow, which is still giving me a lot of trouble. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise?
Feeling down and freezing our asses off, Steve, Angie, Max, and the two of us loaded up Bert and drove down to Vegas for warmer temps, a change of scenery, and to hang out with the plentitudes of other climbing friends who are also in Sin City for the holidays. Yesterday I got the pleasure of crutching around the Kraft boulders and back into Gateway Canyon, a couple miles’ worth of tough terrain. Today I sit in a friend’s apartment taking a rest, letting the chafing in my armpits subside. Tonight, we party down for the New Year. Tomorrow, 2013 begins. I’m not sure what it’ll bring, but I do know I’ll have more time for video editing!