Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Weekend That Was

The Fine Line Between “F**K” and “F**K YEAH”

If you read The Daily Stoke’s report from last weekend; you should have come away with the impression that I was especially stoked for this weekend. With last weekend’s major theme being defeat, I was ready to put it all on the line in order to come out victorious this weekend.
Friday afternoon found me in my usual state of staring at the clock, waiting for work to be over. This is obviously counter-productive because it makes the time pass even more slowly. Time did however (as it inevitably does) pass and I found myself making the familiar drive from Chicago, to the Lake.
Chasing the sunset West over the Illinois plains has become a meaningful metaphor for me. Every time I see a sunset these days I am filled with the twin notions of freedom and joy. This phenomenon has developed in me over the course of several years of driving West out of the city towards the Lake, the setting sun, and the freedom I so enjoy on my weekend escapes. This phenomenon is further strengthened during my return journey to the East when I can see the setting sun in my rearview mirror and along with it the waning thoughts of the Lake and its enduring status as the place in the world where I feel most happy and free.
Now I find myself sitting in my camper writing this report on Sunday, watching the tiny raindrops accumulate on and then evaporate from the camper window, trying to avoid the inevitable return to the city and all its entrapments. Today has been a lazy day for me, some reading, some eating, some mild camper maintenance, and now the writing of this report.
Saturday morning dawned, bringing with it blissful sun, mild temperatures, a gentle breeze, and the hopeful expectations of the climbing day to come. If one were to paint a picture of the most idyllic day possible for climbing that picture would mirror Saturday perfectly.
The pre-climbing routine passed easily. The weather radio predicted that the rest of the day would be as perfect as the morning; the teapot whistled to a boil; the rack was sorted and the packs were packed. Coach stopped by, Jamie and Randy text-messaged and all agreed Old Sandstone was the place to be. Coach headed there, and Jamie and Randy agreed to meet us there. Ron and I stayed at the campground and waited for Chuck. He arrived and we all headed for the crag.
The parking lot was nearly full, but we knew three of the six cars were “friendlies,” so we parked and started up the trail. Upon arriving at the crag we found a relatively crowded scene, but our group was certainly the dominant force, with most of classics already setup. I skipped the requisite socializing at the base and hurried to the top – so that I could setup Pacific Ocean Wall (5.11d), I was after all a man on a mission. The setup went quickly, because I have become fairly intimate with it over the past several months having worked the route on and off for that time.
My climbing day began with a quick warm-up on the easier variation of Gargantua (5.9). It went well, and I felt fairly strong, so I decided to dive right into my project. My first burn went as expected, carefully picking my way through the thin climbing leading up to the first crux where I fell as I was trying to remember the foot sequence I had worked out. I thought, “No big deal, I’ve got a lot of day left, and it was just my first burn, and man these new shoes are killing my feet, I'll just lower off.”
My second burn went nearly the same, although I felt like I botched the lower, easier section of the route. I again made it to the first crux, botched the footwork for too long, and by the time I was situated was out of gas. Although on this burn I did a little more research, because I had my older more comfortable shoes on. I still could not recall the exact sequence I had worked out in the past. I started to feel tired and weak, so I lowered off, knowing further progress would have to wait. Upon reaching the ground I could feel the all too familiar pangs of defeat beginning to creep into my mind.
I rested a while, and did some socializing, then started on my third burn. I climbed smoothly up to the lower crux. Then not-surprisingly I fell off while trying to pull through; despite nailing the footwork. My feet hurt (damn the new shoes again), but I “batmanned” up the rope so that I could work the upper crux moves, and found nothing there but demoralization. Not only had I forgotten the lower crux, but apparently the upper crux as well. “F**K!” I thought, this route is never going to go, so I lowered to the ground. All but defeated I untied form the rope, and removed my shoes in disgust.
More rest, and more socializing found me belaying Terry on Tarantula (5.10b). This happens to be a close neighbor to Pacific Ocean Wall. Everyone seemed to be losing steam and I found myself contemplating leaving without taking another burn on P.O. Terry topped out on Tarantula (which he completely hiked), and as I was lowering him asked if me if I was going to take another burn on P.O. I responded with something to the effect of, “I guess I might as well, at least I’ll get stronger.”
So began my fourth burn, an unmotivated attempt, only meant to increase my strength. I tied in, velcroed my comfy shoes on and started up the route. Easy and familiar moves lead to the base of the scoop. Then match hands on thin incut rail, left foot on slopey hold out and around the corner, stand up. Both feet on good edges, lean in, no hands rest, shakeout, chalkup. Both hands to low crimps, left foot sloper, right foot crescent patina, then stand it up – slowly. Left hand up, right hand up – chalk left, chalk right. Left foot high, right foot down, then work the right foot up slow and catch an edge. Okay, leg-press with left leg – left hand reach, come on reach, okay, got the rounded corner above the lip. Right hand to the good crimp, both feet up – chalk left, chalk right. Right foot to smear, left foot way out to corner – breathe. Right hand to Gaston, left foot to center, right foot to left foot, left foot high on the smear on the corner, left hand up, pull hard, left hand up again, thumb-catch, come on stand it up, right foot good edge. “Holy shit I’m through the first crux.” I allow myself to think for a second. One more move to the rest. Right hand up, left foot up, right foot up, breathe, chalkup, most importantly don’t blow it now.
Okay, left hand up, left foot up, right foot in the invisible seam, and right hand up. Then left hand again, right hand, right foot, left foot then right hand again, only one hard move to go. Pull, then left hand to sloper, now bring the right hand over to match. “Oh F**K I’m losing it, bear down.”
This is the moment where all the foregone calories, the daily weighing, the tons of iron moved in the weight room, the miles running, biking and swimming – the months of dedication and discipline – right here is where I meet the task at hand or come up wanting. “Bear down.” I repeat.
Right hand match, that is all there is, got it, “F**K YEAH.” Now keep it together, left hand to jug, right hand match, establish your feet. Right hand into horizontal, left hand match, left foot up, kneebar. Find the good holds, standup touch the lip, and relax you just accomplished your goal.

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