Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Highballs, loweballs, walls without balls... huh?

Lately things have been getting rough out in Bishop. Routes I would need a portaledge and a string of fixed camps are being bouldered out. Its pretty nuts. Its hard to look at these routes on boulders like the Grand Peabody and really comprehend how tall they are. Mount woodson has Cool Jerk and The Crucible, but these 'moderate' (that word gets thrown around too much) routes aren't even scratching at these 40 and 50 foot monsters. Essentially they are free solo's.

Sort of.

It is inevitable that whenever this discussion rears its ugly head, the writers will say that the climbs are 'essentially a free solo.' The verbage is a bit weird, to me, because the word 'essentially' is a throw away word, like 'basically' or 'kinda.' Why aren't they called free solos (blank)?

Because they aren't. A free solo is an approach, a way of thinking. You go to a route with your chalk bag and say you're going to climb this thing by fair means, that you are making the most stylistically pure ascent (if anyone out there cares) of a route. Nothing taints it - you don't take a small spattering of gear and a few slings just in case and call it 'essentially' a free solo - you go up or you come back down (ideally, those being the only options).

It is no surprise that Jorgenson and Honnold did so well over on the gritstone. That style of highball bouldering is exactly what the Brits have been looking at. Often a crash pad can seem not much worse pro than a nail stuck in an inch deep crack, or a loose flake peppered with 14 micro nuts. The approach is to climb the hardest you can possibly move where a fall might jack you up, but preparing for that fall. The approach to these climbs is that you probably will fall on the onsight, and maybe a few times rehearsing it, so best to live a slightly longer and happier life and reduce that risk some miniscule amount, be it by a few pads and a spotter nailed to the ground or take a cord and some puny peices of metal to wiggle around.

Because of this approach, I would say that the ascents being made (and that have been made, remember, since 1959) are every bit as bold, if not more so, than traditional free solo's. Having that escape, that pad or that rope, can give a false sense of security, and more importantly means that you THINK YOU MIGHT FALL! Its an amazing thing, absolutely. Is it the same thing as soloing the Astroman? Absolutely not. Apples and oranges, or boulders and cliffs I guess.

Bottom line? I'm a wimp and I can't do pull ups.

Weekly Pile #1 - White Maiden's Walkway

White Maidens Walkway 5.4, Idyllwild CA

Why its a pile

Trees. And Bushes. And loose crap. Not to mention its a 5.4 on a route where guys like Glen Dawson were climbing 5.8's. It was hardly a milestone of the era, and most climbers on the Ernie Maxwell trail that are heading that way are reluctant to mention it to other people. With climbs like The Open Book, The Vampire, Sahara Terror and Whodunnit around the corner it hardly seems like a place to spend some some time. Or any time.

Why you should climb it

The sweeping buttress that wraps around the Northwest Recess provides a beautiful line of direction, and the route follows a very obvious line of best fit weaving around some very beautiful and exposed territory while remaining a very easy and fast day out. A great climb to do after you've finished your goal, you get the luxury of large ledges for belays and a large, comfy belay ledge near the top to crack a beer (or four) and enjoy one of the better views on Tahquitz, gazing up to the hinterlands as well as down the valley out the scenic route 74. If you take a 5.6 variation down on the second pitch you get a real classic hand crack, and there's some pretty fun traverse on cruddy-ish rock that puts you up at the steeper business of Long Climb and Constellation with much less difficult climbing. Also, of course, a great first lead. If you don't mind getting stuck. Which you will. Because its Tahquitz. And your only guide is the Vogel guide.

Start in the obvious corner system.

They're ALL obvious corner systems.


Welcome to Because Its Here!

In an effort to put my best foot foward, I'd like first to welcome you to this site and explain a bit what its all about.

The whole premise behind this website is to provide a different look into climbing, which is an art and a lifestyle, not a sport. Somewhere we can ask questions that have real meaning and not empty answers, where routes are experiences to be had with good friends and not put on a resume, a vehicle where a story thirty years past becomes relevant and finds life.

Features you may see here may be familiar, but a closer look reveals that there is more than meets the eye. There is the Weekly Pile, a route so bad its worth climbing. I'll review gear that sucks and tell you what is better and cheaper. I'll tug on some shirtsleeves and get some rad dads to post first ascent stories that are probably unknown by most, probably, maybe, and probably maybe also get a good interview with a dude or dudette and ask them a bit more than the typical "What gets you psyked to send your proj?" Also a first ascent or a new route means a lot more than can fit in a single sentance shout box, and there is a lot to be said about new routes. What do they mean for climbing? This is a good question, and one that doesn't get asked enough.

Maybe I'm wasting your time. If so that works out well, because I'm wasting mine also, and if we waste it together, we can call it 'climbing.'

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yosemite October 1981

It's snowing. All the climbers are huddling in the lodge or lingering as long as possible in the cafeteria over cups of coffee and tea. It is all so familiar to me. I've done so much spacing out in the past years at different places in the world, different mountain ranges waiting for the weather to clear, to go back up, to get out of the tent and start to climb. Or putting idle time in some cafĂ© in Europe or somewhere else along the way. Waiting for the weather to break in the far north, to be flown into some vast glacier range. There have been so many times like this, my mind wandering, to past experiences in my life, to friends long since seen, to future climbs. My imagination is a gift for my life. The climbs to do are creations to understand, not to be surprised. Experience has been my teacher as I have studied the mountains intensely… I am so lucky to have such a life – to have such freedom - not the social and political but the freedom that is my spirit. I don't know where it comes from - the life has been from you - but what is the spirit? There are many climbers as I look around this room – all different – some restless, some new at the "hang" in life. The drives are as different as the people. I am lucky to be able to sit in this room, in the fields, on the glaciers, on the wall. It's empty and yet I'm full.

A letter to Mom
Mugs Stump
28 August 1949; 21 May 1992