Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Climbing's About

It was nice to have some coverage of the Dawn Wall in the news.  Some widespread recognition of climbing as the amazing sport and lifestyle that it is.  But it got a lot of people, even climbers, asking "What's the meaning of climbing?"

Meanwhile my recent climbing days made it quite clear to me, that climbing is mainly about going climbing.  It will never truly be a spectator sport (no matter how many people start watching it) and the best climbing writing, film, or photography won't ever mean that much to people that haven't tried it.  

On the other hand, everyone that goes out climbing can experience the exact same exposure, pump, fear, exhilaration, sense of accomplishment, and connection to nature that the pros do.  And everyone who gets out there can find out what it's really all about.  

So here's what climbing's been about for me during the last few weeks.

Making it work.  Even in the cold. 

 By wearing as many layers as it takes.
 Exploring new places,
 new moves,
 and not giving up until every option has been explored.
 Getting back on a rope.
 And sharing boulders with friends.
 Tromping through snow,
 to climb warm in the sun.
 And thinking about where else might be fun.
So I hope that you've also been getting out.  Reminding yourself, what climbing's about.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Everybody Loves Red Rocks

This year for the holidays we met my family at Las Vegas, and spent four days of the family trip bouldering at Red Rocks.  Kraft Rocks was busier than I've ever seen it, but other than one aggressive dog that should have been kept on a leash, all of the people were well behaved.  On the busiest day that we were out there I'd estimate that there were one hundred other boulderers also out there enjoying the weather.  But no music was playing, no one was littering, and one boulderer walked off (and returned with) a wag bag toilet kit.  I didn't see any chalk on the off limits boulder, and litter wise Kraft was the cleanest I've ever seen it.  Parts of Las Vegas and I-15 northeast of the city was a different story.  How can people let things get so trashed?  The air pollution in Vegas, Salt Lake City, and on the west side of South Pass here in Wyoming were also disturbing.  So my take home from the experience was that society has some issues to solve, but that bouldering areas can handle people alright if people do the right things.

And sometimes it's nice to have some people around.  Sierra had plenty of pads and encouragement for her "Monkey Bars" V2 send.

And I climbed "Vino Rojo" V6.  It's such a fun climb, but I doubt I would have even gone for it without the pads, spots, and beta offered by the other boulderers there that day.

Joe climbing "Vino Rojo" right after I did.
And it was fun for everyone to meet the friendly dogs like this one.
Our dogs weren't so friendly, so we had to keep them leashed the whole time.

We spent the last couple climbing days out at Windy Canyon.  On the first day we saw four other boulderers.  We were really impressed by the stone at Windy Canyon.  Even the no star warm ups are really nice.

Ashley on a very fun V3 with perfect stone.
Later that day we were lucky to meet Mike and Liz at "The Sting."  It's one of the best V4s anywhere, and by combining our pads we were able to make it safe enough for Mike, Ashley, and myself to top it out.

"The Sting"
On our final day at Windy Canyon we didn't see any other boulderers.  We warmed up on a crimpy line called "Handsome Boy" V3/4.  It's good, but it looks better than it climbs.
We were especially impressed with "Fritz Problem" V6.  It only gets one star in the guide, but it's an amazing sloper problem.  Ashley managed to do it, and then I tried so hard to do it too.  Unfortunately trying harder doesn't always help with slopers, and by the time I figured out my top out beta, I was too tired to execute it.
Those were the highlights of the climbing portion of our trip.  And I considered encouraging boulderers to spread out, and see the great areas outside of Kraft that Red Rocks has to offer, but then I reconsidered.  Kraft is where you want to go, and there isn't any good reason to go anywhere else until you've climbed out Kraft.  Kraft might seem crowded, but forty people can visit the Monkey Bars boulder, and if they don't spread out too much, and pick up after themselves their impact will be unnoticeable.  Forty more climbers at the more pristine areas like Windy Canyon could have an impact. I think concentrated numbers at a few boulders might actually be the best scenario for the Red Rocks environment in the long run.
But I don't want to end this post with a bunch of hand wringing about bouldering's impacts on the land.  It's there, but it's minimal in comparison to most other pursuits, and also in comparison to the joy that bouldering brings.  I was surprised to see so many other boulderers at Kraft, but we had a great time at Red Rocks this year, and the other boulderers were having a great time too.  It was a fun way to spend our holiday,  I'd do it all over again,  and I drove home feeling hopeful.

Happy New Year!