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“The mountains are calling and I must go.” -John Muir

Our plane suddenly descended and banked sharply as we prepared to land in Jackson Hole Airport.  I looked out my window on the right side of the plane and our journey suddenly felt much more real than it had seconds ago.  Out that windows, towering above her sister mountains, was Grand Teton.   Holy shit, it looked huge.       I was almost overwhelmed with emotion as it drifted out of my view.  We were really here.

It all seemed like a fantasy back in December when Dave, Matt and I started talking about coming out to Jackson, WI to climb the 13,770ft Grand Teton.   We had just finished a weekend of multi-pitch climbing and camping at Seneca Rocks, WV and we had bigger peaks on our brains.   We all agreed we should do a trip the next year somewhere more ambitious than West Virginia.

We established some basic criteria for our next adventure.  It had to be in the US, it had to be out west and it had to be something none of us had done before.  We thought about doing Rainer or Whitney, but Matt had already done both of those.  We looked and some of the 14’ers in Colorado, but a lot of those, didn’t involve a lot of roped up climbing that we desired.

Then someone mentioned Grand Teton.  Almost 14,000ft, requires class 5 climbing to summit and it’s got a great little airport and fun town right at the base of it.   Sounded like we had a winner.  Plus just looking at pictures of it, it was just begging to be climbed.  So after a few months of research we finally got our permit and booked our flights for Jackson, WY.

Being from the east coast and living a relatively sheltered first 30 years of my life I’d never been on anything higher than 7000ft.  The prospect of climbing a real mountain was making me wild with excitement.   The whole concept of alpine mountaineering was only something I read and dreamt about.   The altitude, the snow covered slopes in July, standing on top of the clouds… it was all going to be a reality.

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The plane touched down and after waiting nervously for our checked bags full of our climbing and camping gear, we managed to find our way to the car rental place. We had about 8 hours before Matt would be flying in from San Fran, so we had a little time to kill.

Downtown Jackson is a weird amalgamation of a town.  In one block you’ll find cheesy souvenir shops that sell trashy t-shirts, a trendy restaurant and a store that sells cowboy boots.  It’s a lot to take in, but it’s got a lot of western charm and the surrounding peaks provide a stunning backdrop.

Dave and I settled in for a lunch at a restaurant we were referred to by a couple of locals called Sweetwater Tavern.  There we enjoyed buffalo sloppy joes and elk melts, along with a couple of nice local IPAs to wash it all down.

Once we were done we crammed ourselves back into the rental Corolla and drove about 30 minutes outside of town to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station to pick up permit and check in at the climber ranch where we’d be staying at that night.

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“If you blow it here, you’re gonna take a ride all the way down the Idaho Express.  Don’t blow it man. ”    The bearded climbing ranger was going over the route with us and was warning us of the dangers of making a mistake on the mountain.  He was referring to a particularly exposed part of the climb and a 3000ft cliff that drops almost completely straight down the mountain into neighboring Idaho.   With his sun bleached hair and wild looking beard, he looked like he could just as easily been working at a surf shop as he could be a climbing ranger in a national park.

“Some 19 year old kid blew it at this spot last year.  He was clipped into the accessory loop in his harness.  He didn’t make it”.

The Idaho Express.

3000ft drop.

Don’t blow it.

Hard to forget any of that, right?   We finished reviewing the route with the ranger, he gave us our permit and we were on our way.   I stopped for a moment to look up at the mountain before we jumped back in the car to head back to Jackson.  I looked over at Dave who probably looked as wide eyed as I did.

“Dave, let’s not blow it up there..”

“Yeah, no shit man.”

 

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 

 

View from the bottom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The airfare is booked and the permit is secured.  So I guess it’s about as official as it’ll ever get;

In about a month from now, me and my buddies Dave and Matt will be starting our climb of Grand Teton in Wyoming.

At 13,775ft it’s the second highest mountain in Wyoming and far and away the tallest thing I’ve ever climbed.  It’ll take us about 3 days to get from the base of the mountain at 7000ft all the way to the summit and back down.  In the process we’ll be doing some high altitude camping and hiking, along with several pitches of class-5 climbing at 13,000ft.  All these will be new to me.  Heck, I’ve never even been above 8000ft before!

I know I’ve been slacking on my posting here lately, but over this next month I’m going to try to write a bit more about my preparation for this adventure, about the mountain itself and of course a recap of the whole thing along with lots of pics and video.  We leave the morning of July 3rd.  Stay tuned for more updates and write-ups.

In the meantime, have a great weekend and happy trails!

“I think we’re in big trouble”

That’s all I could think as Dave and I looked around in the storm that had changed the weather to complete white out conditions.

We were lost. Bad. And completely worn out. We had spent so much energy rushing our way to the top, we had very little strength left in out bodies. It was obvious that we had missed a turn somewhere. In our rush to get back below the tree line we had somehow gone right past our turn. We were now on a completely unfamiliar part of the mountain and it would be getting dark soon.

Nighttime on that mountain could spell a death sentence. It was -2 degrees with gale force winds and the temperature was dropping. If we didn’t get back on course soon, we could be stuck out here all night. Without a tent or bivy sack, without a stove or sleeping bag. A night out here would be disastrous.

If only we could see more than 100 ft in front of us, we could tell which way to go. I was pretty sure we had gone too far west, but how far? If we wandered too far west, we risked heading down the Tuckerman Ravine. Over 1500 ft of near sheer drop off. Going back east meant going back up hill and trudging through waist deep snow. Our legs were so already spent, we could barely walk as it was.

I looked over at Dave. He was just as exhausted as I was. “I have no idea where we are man. This is bad.” We stopped for a few minutes to discuss the situation. We couldn’t stand here long. As soon as you stop moving, you get cold. Plus, we were losing daylight.

Dave decided to head up and east to scout out a new route. Meanwhile, I’d look at the map and try and orient ourselves. I could look as my compass and see our direction, but I couldn’t find a big enough object to use to direct ourselves.   We had to find a way back down soon…..

 

 

 

It was Thursday afternoon and I was on the train heading to new york where I’d meet Dave who was up already up there for the day. He was going to grab me a couple of slices of NYC pizza, hop on the train and we’d roll the rest of the way up to Boston where we’d grab our rental that was waiting for us.

We got to Boston around midnight and I was immediately glad we decided to rent a 4×4. It was snowing like crazy. A weak weather system had gotten hung up on the east coast and was just sitting there, dumping snow all over New England. By the time we got the car and left the rental car office, it was nearly a full on blizzard.

A drive that was supposed to take a bit under 3 hours ended up taking nearly 4 and a half and by the time we arrived in Jackson, NH at the Synnott Mountain Guides Bunkhouse at 4:45am, we were thrashed. We quietly made our way inside to the one room house that featured several beds where other climbers were already passed out. With headlamps on, we found a free mattress and couch to crash out on, which we did almost immediately.

3 and half hours later, our guide Joe came in the door looking for us. We had booked an all day ice climbing class with Synnott Guides, and he was ready to get going. There were no blinds or curtains in the little house we had flopped in on the night before so the bright morning sunlight was reflecting off all that new snow and right through our window. Looked like getting up was our only option anyways.

So we threw on some clothes, test fit our climbing gear and set out for one of the many ice climbing destinations around Mt Washington. After a quick stop at the local Eastern Mountain Sports for a few last minute items and a second stop for a giant cup of McDonald’s coffee, we were at the trailhead, starting the 45 minute hike to Champney Falls.

We got to the falls, which was already covered with other climbers, and setup a top rope anchor. Our guide, who knew we were both rock climbers, took a very hands off approach to teaching us to climb. He helped us get our crampons on and basically just threw us on a wall with ice tools. 10 minutes later Dave and I had both top roped a 30 foot class 4 route.

During the way, our guide would take time to critique our technique or form. Showing us how to get better crampon purchase in the ice or the sound a tool should make when it gets a good stick. By the end of the day we were doing a 60ft class 4 plus route with relative ease.

 

 

 

 

While ice climbing is obviously a different animal from rock climbing, many of the same principals apply.  Smooth, balanced movements are preferred, using your feet to climb instead of your arms, visualizing your route, remembering to breathe…  All key if you want to have successful and enjoyable route.

We both had a blast and by the time we hiked back to the car we felt like the day had opened up new climbing avenues for both us. Too bad there’s not much in the way of ice climbing in Virginia!

We left and headed out to the gear store so Dave could get boots and crampons for the next day’s hike up Mount Washington. Afterward we stopped a local dive bar for some well deserved greasy food and ice cold brewskis, and discussed our big adventure the next day.

After dinner we checked into our accommodations at the Nereledge Inn, local B&B that caters specifically to climbers.  Steve, the owner,  gave us a big, clean room with two comfy beds and promised to have a breakfast ready for us when we were heading out at 6am the next morning.

After we got unpacked, we wandered downstairs to hang out in the common area where there was a TV and a wood fired stove where we met two older guys playing chess. We struck up a conversation and found that they had both been on some pretty seriously climbs, including several winter summits of mt Washington, a 5 week long climb up Denali and even a couple of Himalayan peaks! They told us we’d have a blast on our climb the next day, but to take care to not underestimate the weather on the mountain.

After enjoying several beers and listening to stories and wisdom from newly found friends, we retired to our room. We got in bed around 9:30pm and set the alarm for 5:45am the next day. When we awoke, it’d be time to head off the mountain for the highlight of our little weekend adventure.

 

 

To be continued…..

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

If you are the kind of person who pursues adventure, sooner or later you’re going to be tested.  Your adventurous spirit will be put to the test and you will question whether or not it would have been a better idea to take up stamp collecting instead.   You’ll have to take a step you’ve never taken before.  A step that takes you outside of your warm and happy comfort zone and thrusts you into the unknown.  if you’re that kind of person, you’ll have some of these moments.

If you ever aspire to be a person who climbs outdoors, you will probably have  many of these moments.

Climb with safe people, be a safe climber, and ensure all your protection is properly in place and you’re probably more likely to die in a car accident on the way home.   That’s logical.  But logic has a way of disappearing when you’re clinging to a rock 500ft in the air.  And if you were logical, you wouldn’t be up there in the first place!

You stand there, visualizing the route you’ll take to the next ledge, trying to control your breathing and slow your heart rate down.  But it’s hard when you look down and see 75ft tall trees below that look so small they could fit in your pocket.    Sure is a long way down….  maybe you’ve climbed high enough for the day…

Matt, Dave and I have been planning this trip for weeks.  Matt, my climbing buddy mentor,  is a west coast transplant with some big wall credentials.  He’d been pushing us to take a trip out to the Rocks since we started climbing together in the gym last spring, and Dave and I were more than happy to oblige.   The idea was to take the 3 hour drive out to Seneca Rocks in West Virginia on a Friday morning, setup at the camp ground across the road.  Then, ideally, we’d have a couple days of climbing on the numerous routes all over the rocks there.

Seneca who?  Purchased by the federal government in 1969, Seneca Rocks is one of the best-known landmarks in West Virginia. These rocks have long been noted as a scenic attraction and are popular with rock climbers.

The rocks are a magnificent formation rising nearly 900 feet above the North Fork River. Eastern West Virginia contains many such formations of the white/gray Tuscarora quartzite. Seneca Rocks and nearby Champe Rocks are among the most imposing examples. The quartzite is approximately 250 feet thick and is located primarily on exposed ridges as caprock or exposed crags. The rock is composed of fine grains of sand that were laid down approximately 440 million years ago, in an extensive sheet at the edge of ancient ocean. Years of geologic activity followed, as the ocean was slowly destroyed and the underlying rock uplifted and folded. Millions of years of erosion stripped away the overlaying rock and left remnants of the arching folds in formations such as Seneca Rocks.

The town of Seneca itself, across the street from the Rocks,  is what I always imaged what a little climbing town would look like.   The town center consists of 5 buildings; an abandoned garage, 2 general stores (with restaurants built in) and two climbing stores/guide services.  There’s also a small campground right across the street that’s close enough to allow you to walk right up to the mountain.  What more do you need, right?!

So we pulled into the campground on Friday afternoon, setup our tents and headed over to the Rocks to hike around and check out some routes.  It was a little late to actually do any climbing,  but at least we could scout out some spots we read about in the guidebook and be ready to get going first thing in the morning.

The rock formations are impressive to say the least, especially if you’re an east coaster like myself.   Like a set of jagged teeth ripping into the sky, they’re as frightening as they are beautiful.  Matt was as giddy as a little kid on Christmas, Dave and I were quiet.  “Are we going to really climb that thing?” I whispered to him.   “I dunno man….”
But Matt’s confidence was infectious.  We hiked back to the campsite, got a big fire going, and cooked up a huge gourmet campfire meal of chicken tika masala, palak paneer and white rice (which surprisingly turned out pretty well).  After dinner was finished and we’d enjoyed a few nips of whiskey and some delicious pumpkin beers, we headed off to our tents to rest up for the next day.

Morning sun came and we awoke to frost covered tents and bite of a cold November morning.  After downing some cheap breakfast sandwiches from the general store and a few cups of coffee, we set off for our first day on the mountain.

We started off at about 11am on the eastern side of the south ridge on a relatively easy route that would take us through 4 pitches of airy climbing to the top of the middle of the ridge known as the Gunsight Notch.  From there, we’d take another 2 pitch route all the way to the summit.  Matt, the only one with real outdoor experience would lead the climb.  Since this was a traditional or “Trad” climb, he’d also be setting the protection (in the form of spring loaded cams and nuts) in the wall as he went up.  Dave and I would follow, one at a time, each on a separate rope.

It was slow going all the way up, for a number of reasons.  First, Matt took a lot of time to explain to us what he was doing so we’d pick up some knowledge of lead climbing.  Secondly, because there we’re three of us, we had to stop and wait each time for all the climbers to get to the same anchor point before we could continue.  Lastly, Dave and I were both a little nervous (read A LOT NERVOUS) and it took us a little while to get our climbing rythym going.

But aside from being a little slow, everything was going pretty well.  Then we got to the ledge half way up the route.  That tiny little ledge we had to anchor in on. It was barely the side of small table and the dropoff below was at least 250ft.  We each had to stand up, manuever around the other climbers and then sideways climb across a little wall with nothing below us but air.   It was a little puckering to say the least.

I watched as Matt fearlessly traversed across it, set in a piece of protection and continued on his way up.  A few minutes later, he called down and told me I was on belay and I could start coming up.    I stood up, wiped off my sweaty palms and dug deep into my chalk bag to get a good coating of white powder.   I wondered if there was an easy way for me to downclimb from here.  I scanned the surrounding rock and decided the easiest way, unfortunately, was going to have to be up.  Just had to get past this one piece and it all would be easy after that.

So I took one last tug on the rope, double checked my knot and took a deep breath as I stepped away from the ledge.  I slowed worked from hold to hold, taking only a brief moment to glance down at the air below.   The final move involved reaching across a chimney and planting my foot in a little crack in the rock.  Boom, in the rock and I was across.  I let out a sigh.  It had taken about 3 seconds for me to cross, I felt like i’d been up there for a year.

“You made that look easy” Dave’s words of encouragement entered my brain.   I was already moving up the chimney and heading back up towards Matt.

I had just crossed some kind of a threshold.  Anxiety was gone and its place was calm and serenity.  It was as though someone hit a switch inside of me.  I felt transformed.

After about 4 total hours of grunting up the route, we finally emerged on the top of the Gunsight notch with its spectacular view of the valley below and the true summit less that 100 vertical feet above.   Even though it was getting a little late, summited wouldn’t be much of a problem.  Unfortunately, we got stuck in a traffic jam behind another group of climbers who were taking the same route as us.  Rather than spend time looking for another route and attempting a risky late day summit, we decided to rappel down do some top roped climbing down near the foot of the Rock.

We didn’t hit our goal of reaching the summit, but we still had a pretty awesome day of climbing.  We hiked back down to the car, drove over to one of the two restaurants in town and enjoyed some hot pizza washed down with ice cold Breckenridge Beer.

The next morning, we loaded up our gear again and headed back to try and get on top of the summit before we had to head home.  Once again, fueled by cheap breakfast sandwiches and dark coffee, we decided to take a more direct route on the western face of the ridge known as Old Man’s Route.   This four pitch climb was pretty easy, relatively quick (especially since Matt didn’t have to spend as much time babysitting Dave and I) and got us to the lower summit in about 2 hours.

Once up there, we walked a short traverse to the true summit, a 6 foot wide fin of rock rising almost 900ft in the air with sheer drop offs on either side.  It was frightening, breathtaking and awe-inspiring all at the same time.

After taking a couple of quick pictures and signing the guidebook, we headed back to the lower summit, anchored in and took a 200ft rappel off of the western face of the Rock.  It was one last thrill of the day.  Since we didn’t have a rope long enough for a 200ft rappel, we tied two ropes together (which actually works) and used them both to get us down to the bottom of the western wall in minutes. Once down at the bottom we tied up the ropes and hiked back down to the campsite to pack up the tents and enjoy one last celebratory beer.

As I sipped my beer and stuff the poles of my tent away in the bag, I looked up at the giant piece of quartzite that we had just summited, towering off in the distance.  I briefly thought of how different it looked now that I had stood on top of it.  No longer menacing, but now looking purely majestic in the light of the setting sun.   I tried to think of what next adventure could be, but my mind quickly turned to hurrying home and settling in for a nice quiet evening in front of the TV with my wife. I’ve had enough adventure to fill my spirit for a while.

Dave driving to the rocks. We're running late as usual.

Whoops! We forgot the kitchen sink!

View of the rocks from the campsite

Matt making the fire go

Dave trying to fix his little chair

Campfire coffee!

It's a little chilly out

The gear and the beer!

Hold on little carabiner!!

Matt doing some belaying

View of the rocks. We summited the right hand side of the notch in the middle (The Gunsight notch).

Another view

Dave and Matt looking strong for a second day of climbing

Yours truly standing on the fin of Seneca Rocks.

Dave used this opportunity to Tebow on the top of the rock.

I made it down in one piece! My wife will be so pleased.

Dave being Dave.

Matt. Climb leader extraordinaire!

So what’s the next big thing?  In the near term: NOTHING.  I’m taking a couple of months off of adventuring to catch up on the household stuff, work and just relaxing.  But don’t worry,  it’ll also give me plenty of time to check out new gear, do write ups and reviews and do some other smaller adventures and trips.    Also, it’ll give me time to put together THE VIDEO from this trip.  That’s right, I bit the bullet and bought myself a helmet cam and recorded all kinds of cool footage from the trip.   I should hopefully have that up within the next week or so, once I figure out how to use Final Cut Pro!   In the meantime, I posted a short little raw teaser from the trip below.

Happy trails!!!

 

WATCH THE TEASER VIDEO HERE:

http://youtu.be/4Krt7VYBSeY

I know, I’ve been a bad blogger as of late.  I haven’t been posting and it hasn’t been for a lack of material, it’s really been for a lack of time.  Life’s been pretty hectic lately with work stuff, working on the house, training for the North Face Endurance Challenge, rock climbing and, of course, spending time with my sweetie.   But enough excuses, let me share a recent adventure with ya’ll:

A few weeks ago I got to talking with my buddy Matt, who’s been mentoring me at the climbing gym, about doing some outdoor climbing.  He told me how much different/better outdoor climbing is and the more he told me about it, the more eager I was to get out there and try it.

Now here in DC, we have several places to go climbing outside.   One of the more popular spots is someplace I’m pretty familiar with, Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park.  You’ll remember one of my first posts on here detailed a winter hike me and my buddies did up Old Rag back in February.    I noticed then, as I scrambled up the big crags how cool it would be to someday come back and climb them, I guess I didn’t realize it would be so soon!

So a few Saturdays ago we loaded up a couple of cars and me, Matt, my buddies Dave and Rick, along with my friend Louie who is a gifted photographer who graciously provided the pictures you see below.  The fiance and our dog, Dan, also decided to come along for the hike.
We started off on our 90 minute drive to Old Rag at about 7am under a drizzling sky that occasionally turned into a full on downpour.   We thought that maybe our plans for climbing would be dashed, but after stopping for breakfast and taking our time to get there, we arrived at around 10am to find partly cloudy skies and mid 60 degree temps in the parking area.  We loaded up our packs with water, some stuff for lunch and the ropes and other climbing gear than Matt brought and set off up the fire road towards the summit.

Now, I should note here that there are two ways to get to the top of Old Rag.  There’s a longer, more strenuous hike that’s by far more popular, and there’s the back way that’s shorter, less steep and offers quicker access to more of the climbing routes.  If you want to do climbing at Old Rag, Take Route 231 South past the turnoff for Nethers. Continue south to Route 670 near Banco. Turn right at Syria, then left onto Route 600. Go
past the Whiteoak Canyon parking area to Berry Hollow. The hike starts on the Berry Hollow Fire Road and then takes the Saddle Trail to the summit.

This route, while not usually quite as breathtaking as the other way up the mountain, was unusually scenic and gorgeous on this morning.  The weather, which had pummeled us on the drive in, was starting to move out rather quickly and we watched as the clouds rapidly slipped below us in the valleys and around the mountain peaks.  It was one of the most spectacular hikes I’ve been on.

After about 90 minutes of slow, easy hiking, we made it to the summit.

There, were able to experience the full force of the departing weather system as it blew at us with 50+ mph winds that made standing on the true summit, let’s say, a little difficult. It was pretty cool to get blown around for a couple of minutes but we quickly got down into the rocks get relief from the wind and enjoy a quick lunch before looking around for our destination; The Summit Crags.

The Summit Crags, 100 feet of granite rock face on the Western face of the mountain, is a popular crag with 6-7 different routes ranging from 5.6-5.10.  We chose the Summit Crags, because of their close proximity to the summit and because of the varying degree of difficulty offered by the different routes.  Since it was mine and Dave’s first time climbing outdoors, we thought it best to start with something easy.
Only Matt, Dave and I were going to climb, so the three of us went down to the bottom to check out the rock.  To give you an idea of the scale of the crag, check out this picture with us at the bottom:

We went to the bottom first, to scope out the routes before we went back up top to setup the anchors and drop the ropes down

Once up top, we found a pretty good spot to anchor in and Matt took the next 30 minutes showing us how to set up several different types of anchors.

Now that the anchors were set and the ropes were dropped, we had to get back down.  Now we could walk back down to the bottom, or we could repel.   I had never repelled before and the idea of doing it for my first time down a 100ft cliff wasn’t terribly appealing to me, but I mustered up my courage and offered to be the first one to repel down.

Let me tell you what; when you first lean back over the edge and all your weight it on that rope and the only thing to your back is 100ft of air, you don’t think of anything but how much you love that rope.   That rope, those anchors, your repel device and your hands are the only thing keeping you from tumbling down the rocks.  To say it’s harrowing would be an understatement.

But, like most things, once you’ve been on the rope for about 10 seconds, and you realize you have control and it’s not going to just snap under your weight, it’s tremendously exhilarating.   I probably can count on one hand how many times I’ve felt that overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline.   It was incredible.

Once we were all at the bottom, we started taking turns trying out the routes.  I could write a whole post about how different outdoor climbing is from doing it in the gym, but let’s just say it was remarkable.   While the gym is great practice for it, nothing is quite like being 30ft up on a rock and having no idea where the next hold it at.  There’s no colored tape or neon flavored hold indicating where you go next, you have to be creative and use everything and anything you can find.  It’s harder, more challenging and, ultimately, much more satisfying.

That’s not to say I don’t still love going to the gym.  I do.  I actually like the crowds and the energy and bumping beat of the music they blast.  But man, let me tell you.  There’s nothing like the quiet serenity that you get to enjoy when you make the final move going up a route outdoors and the only sound you hear is that of your own labored breathing.

We spent about 90 minutes climbing while the rest of our party patiently waited for us to finish having our fun.   At about 2pm we loaded up the gear, un-anchored the lines and headed back down the mountain.

If you’re looking to climb Old Rag or another areas outdoors, I highly recommend picking up Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.  It’s a small price to pay for the wealth of knowledge it contains on climbing spots in the DC area.

It was a significant day of firsts.  Mine and Dave’s first time outdoor climbing AND the fiance’s first time hiking up a mountain (she did awesome BTW).   It was even the first time we got to take our four legged friend Dan out for a hike.   As much fun as we all had, I think he was the happiest of all…

Happy trails!

Once upon time, I felt pretty invincible.    No seriously.  There was a point in my life where I had to start wondering if  I could possibly be part Terminator.    Despite being hit by two cars, crashing several motorcycles, falling off of a two story roof, and almost drowning more times than I can count, I always managed to somehow walk away. Being part cyborg from the future to who’s only mission was to find Sarah Connor seemed to be the only logical explanation.

But, like most people, age started catching up with me.  That motorcycle accident left a permanent ache in my back that just never seemed to go away.  One of the encounters with an automobile has left me with some weird foot pain that seems to flare up every time the weather turns.   Any thoughts that I was superhuman started to fade.

Of all the follies of my youth that have come back to bite me, none has been so pronounced as the years I played semi-pro and arena football.  Some backstory is needed here:

I had the desire to go back and play football ever since I got out of high school.  But for one reason or another, I didn’t get serious about it until I was about 25 years old.  I decided to workout, get in football shape and try out for a local semi-pro team.  In the span of 18 months, I went from a 225lb skinnyfat weakling;

 

To a 285lb hulking monster:

Beefcake!!

 

 

 

Gaining 60lbs of mostly muscle took a lot of discipline, a LOT of eating and hours upon hours in the gym throwing up weight.  LOTS AND LOTS OF WEIGHT.    Weight that puts a tremendous amount of pressure and stress on your joints.  Couple that with the impact of slamming into other equally large (or bigger) guys, and you could understand why my elbows would be soaking in ice baths after every single game.

No matter, I got my bumps and bruises along the way, but playing football again was great and I really enjoyed 3 or so odd years that I did it again.  When I was finished playing,  I changed my diet (ie, not eating 8000 calories a day), did more cardio and most of the weight managed to come off pretty quickly.

But the scars of those year of abuse on my body still linger.  This came to light again last night when I was at SportRock getting some climbing in.

Earlier in the day, during my morning routine of doing pushups and situps, I wanted to see just how many pushups I could do in five minutes.  Well, did that just that and 5 minutes later I managed to squeeze out the 115th pushup and run off to take a shower.  I noticed in the shower that my elbows hurt a little bit, and that pain radiated down to my hands, but it went away after a few minutes so I shrugged it off.

Later, at the rock gym, I had just finished my second climb and when I came down my elbows and hands hurt so bad I could hardly get the rope off.  I rested for about 5 minutes and tried to do another climb only to fail half way up because I couldn’t hold onto the grips anymore.

It took me ten minutes to get the rope and harness off and I headed out to my truck to go home.  The ENTIRE way home my arms throbbed with pain.    It wasn’t until I got home and laid down for about 30 minutes that the pain subsided.

Looking back, it was painfully clear that happened.  I inflamed the hell out of my elbows in the morning by doing all those pushups, and then made the issue even worse when I started using my arms while climbing.  I’ve had this kind of elbow pain before when I was playing football and I should have known that I was creating a perfect storm for inflammation.

So it’s a good (and painful lesson) to me and everyone who reads this.  Take care of your body.  Listen to those aches and pains, especially when it’s in your joints.   The older you get, the less forgiving it will be when you decide to be an idiot and overdo it.

I only have this one body for the rest of my life, and it’s got to last me for a while more.  That is, unless they find a way to build me a cyborg body….

 

 

 

Welcome to California!

 

 

I don’t like things I’m immediately good at.   Maybe because there’s so much room to improve when you suck.   Maybe it’s because the bar is set so low that any little improvement is a major victory.  Whatever the case, I don’t mind sucking at something at first.
And I suck at rock climbing.  Suck at it!

 

But that’s okay, because I thoroughly enjoy doing it, suckiness and all.    I went last night to Sportrock to take my belay test and hopefully do a little climbing with my buddy Dave.  I can happily say I passed the test with flying colors and, though Dave wasn’t there yet, I was ready to climb.

I ended up meeting another guy who was looking for someone to climb with.  I told him I was brand new to climbing and that I just passed my belay test not more than a few minutes ago.  He replied “As long as you passed the test, that’s good enough with me”.

And we were off.  Turns out he was a really cool dude who kept giving me pointers and encouragement as I fumbled up some of the easier climbs in the gym.  By the time Dave showed up, I had already a 5.7 route and almost made it up a 5.8+ (for you non-climbers out there, both of those are fairly easy climbs).
The rest of the night was not so successful climbing-wise.  My hands cramped up, my arms got tired and my foot ached.  I only ended up making it up to the top of one more wall.

But none of that really mattered.  I ended up meeting some cool people, I pushed myself further than I have before and I got a good workout to boot.   At the end of the night when I was leaving I didn’t even realize I had been there for 3 hours.   When’s the last that’s happened during a workout, huh?

 

So I suck at climbing.  But next time I’m confident I will be better.  And after that I’ll keep chipping away and getting better yet.  But even if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter.  Because climbing and sucking at it is still better than not climbing at all.

 

 

 

Stuff I’m doing this year:

July 3-7 - Climbing Grand Teton, Jackson WY

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