Sunday, November 21, 2010

The More You Know

You can learn a lot from climbing. The pursuit has lead me to learn about geology, natural history, weather and micro-climates, map reading, western geography, backpacking, photography, video editing, knots, impact force physics, pulley tendon anatomy, the effects of ibuprofen and caffeine on injury and performance, sociology, pedagogy, philosophy, ethics, history, and writing.

So when Alan introduced me to Tom Moulin's new guidebook Southern Nevada Bouldering, which includes a field guide to the animals, and plant communities of southern Nevada, and extensive sections on western geology, and a complete human history of the area, it took me a while before I realized the strangeness and then the appropriateness of each section's inclusion. I've been into reading field guides and geology books for years now, but most guidebooks don't include much of such information. Yet knowing the geology, human, and natural history of an area improves the climbing experience immensely, so why shouldn't they be included?

As I climb at Wild Iris, I notice sea shell fossils and imagine the world during the Paleozoic Era, 480 million years ago, when Wyoming was a continental shelf under ocean water west of the mainland. And I start to feel like the ocean is nearby. When we climb on the Rubber Blanket boulder, or in Torrey Valley, the glaciers that dropped the huge granite boulders and carved out the valleys come to mind. The last ice age ended only a little over ten thousand years ago, and I imagine the mammoth hunters and what the area looked like to them. I notice flowering phlox growing on a dolomite boulder in Sinks Canyon, and think of the "cushion" plants, usually found in alpine tundra, which live on rock by collecting their own mound of soil from particles blown in the wind. Most of this knowledge isn't "useful" for climbing, but the days spent outside wouldn't be as interesting if I hadn't learned this type of information.

Tom Moulin's guide is one of the best guidebooks I've ever had. In addition to the educational sections, the entire guide is done in color with excellent photography of problems and even cool sequence shots. I bought it, and read it. And I'm not even planning to boulder in southern Nevada anytime soon. Though I'd love to.

The more you know, the more you appreciate climbing and the environments that we climb in. Knowledge and experience affect each other in both directions.

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