La Mariposa Chica

My brother Trevor and I have always been competitive. As little children, we’d place somewhere in the middle of the pack in schoolyard races from this fence to that one, but we’d come back after school and try to push the time down. If he shaved off two seconds, I’d shave off three.

Two years ago, I was the better climber. I was stronger, more natural, and willing to commit to moves he wasn’t. We’d just gotten serious about this new sport and I was in the lead; the way things were moving, it didn’t seem like he would catch up. Then, in an accident that shook the climbing world to its core, I took a bad fall while buildering and broke my right arm and wrist in a few places. I spent three months during my freshman year in college anchored to the ground with a cast, unable to climb anything other than the ladder to my bed. Trevor took this injury to his advantage— he worked his ass off for three months and built up his strength and technique, and lost all his fear. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.

A week and a half ago, we hosted the first ever Erskine College climbing competition, for which Trevor, our friend Rob, and I set the routes. The night before the comp, as we finished forerunning and tweaking, we decided we needed something hard. Something impossible, for people to look at and maybe waste a little bit of time on, but definitely not climb. T and I set it with Teknik screw-ons and a handful of old pinches and crimps, up the negative, then shook our heads and walked away.

After the comp, the battle was on. T and I worked the route together, crafting alternate beta and belaying each other for thirty minute stretches as we screamed our way up half an inch before collapsing back on the rope. I cracked a sequence that had been troubling us, and could do these new moves much more consistently than Trevor could. For the first time in a long time, it looked as though I would get the first ascent before he did.

This evening, we went down to the wall for club. I worked the moves for a while, trying to link the more difficult sections after the tough sit-start. I was getting closer, and thought I could maybe send the route before the end of the week, if I didn’t obliterate my fingers tonight.

Then Trevor tied in. He did the start, hopped up to the good foot, readjusted his hand on the crimp, lunged out for the pinch, and then— as he was bringing his foot up— slid off the wall. I lowered him, he chalked up, and sat down to try it again. This time he readjusted his grip on the pinch before lifting his foot. After that, he continued to the top and got the FA.

It’s funny how much we’re affected by our competition with those around us. Sometimes T and I are never working the same route at the same time; other times, like these past few weeks, we’re grappling to the last. As I lowered him from his successful climb, I wondered whether I’d still want the route as bad as I did before. Thirty minutes later, I’d set a boulder route that mirrored the moves of the upper section.

We, in the gym and in our everyday lives, sometimes need competition to fuel us. It’s how we perform at our best. With someone to push us, we’re so much more willing to go the extra mile, do the extra push up, write that extra paragraph instead of putting our feet up and pulling up Netflix.

The important part is keeping the psyche after the competition has run its course. If we only define ourselves through the achievements of others, we’ll never live to our fullest. No one respects the climber who only repeats other people’s routes; eventually you have to go find your own. T may have gotten the FA, but I’ll still try to send ‘La Mariposa Chica’ by the end of the week. And if I don’t get it by then, I guess I’ll just keep trying.

The West is the Best

I’ve been off the grid for about 2 months now, just got back into civilization recently, so it wasn’t simply laziness and distraction that kept me from updating this web-log. Now I’m back in town again and ready to throw down the climbing gauntlet. But first, a recap of what’s been going on, because I know how important it is to you. But I’ll summarize, so I don’t get bored.

1) USA Climbing Routesetting Level 1 Clinic: AWESOME!! For those of you who don’t know, my bro and I run our school’s climbing wall and set there, but our supply of rocks is severely limited. So you can imagine my overwhelming joy at the sight of hundreds on new(ish) rocks we’d be setting with. Learned a lot of great stuff; notably, how to slap up good routes in almost no time. Molly Beard was an awesome climber and an even better teacher. I’ll be looking for Level 2 clinics. (Heck I’d probably take the level 1 again if I got the chance.)

2) NOLS: WICKED!! Did Rock and River this summer, the highlight of which was probably the awesome instructors. One on the river section had climbed Moonlight Buttress a couple weeks before the course and had some awesome stories to tell. On the climbing section, the instructor T and I spent the most time w/ was a guy named Roberto Morales, a Petzl athlete who slips up 5.13s like they’re warm-ups. He taught us a lot about hard climbing, and how to get sponsored. He also took us up a crazy multi-pitch that my hands are still healing from. Otras highlights: learned to trad lead and worked on a lot of techy stuff like belay escape, skills that can always use perfecting.

3) Western Climbing Trip: SWEET!! Real quick, cuz I’m getting tired, we climbed at: Vedauwoo, Wild Iris, Sinks Canyon, Moab, Rifle, and then came home and hit up the Red to work Pure Imagination. Was great to try all these different rock types and styles. I learned that I love limestone pockets and desert sandstone.

Alright, well that’s that. I’ll probably throw some pictures in here over the next few days (that is, weeks). Also, check out my athlete profile on facebook. You don’t need a link, you can find it.

Now it’s bedtime.

PCI Clinic

So I’m sitting here on the futon back in my tiny dorm room, drinking orange juice out of a gatorade bottle, trying to recover from this blasted congestion before the Georgia Southern Comp this Saturday. There’s been a lot going on the past few weeks, so I’ll go back a little.

On Friday, Me, T, and our buddy Rob headed up to Climb So Ill in St. Louis for the PCI Clinic with Kevin Jorgeson, Sasha Digiulian, and Dan Woods. About ten minutes into the car ride I felt sickness coming on, so we pulled off and I bought a bottle of lemonade. The rest of the ride up, I self medicated with advil, orange juice, and micro naps. I learned to take micro naps on the cross country van this year, and I swear I can get more out of three minutes of sleep than most people get in nine hours. The drive took a little longer than expected, as we got clogged up in Knoxville, and we got to the hotel around 1:30 am, 13 hours after we left.

We got to the gym about 45 minutes early, because we wanted to hang out, get certified there, and climb a little. After checking all the entrances, we discovered that they weren’t opening the doors until 9:30 precicesly, so we went back to the car until we saw Kevin, Shasha, and Dan drive up together and take their gear inside.

So once it started, we split into 3 groups of 8 based on ability and branched off. Me and T were in Sasha’s group first, which was about how to deal with falling, and how to do it safely. Took some awesome whippers and learned how to fall like a cat. Goes without saying that Sasha’s awesome and incredibly down to earth. We hung out with her for about 10 minutes after the sesh ended and just talked about climbing and school. Good stuff.

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(That’s Rob in the blue shirt, far right. Photo by Greenz Productions.)

Next we went to Woods’s class down in the training dungeon with the 45 degree wall. His whole thing was about training mostly, with a bit of Jorgeson’s insane focus on feet tossed in. He set up some cool moves on the wall and had us run through them. It was pretty darn interesting to see the way Woods thinks; he’d point out where to put your feet on rocks based on how much boot rubber was where. Truly a climber raised on competition, he knows how to read rocks and problems in a way I can barely comprehend.

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(T on one of the Woods problems. He was one of 3 in our group to nail it, even though his feet cut. Photo by Greenz Productions.)

After that we went upstairs to the eyewall and worked with Jorgeson for a while. His focus was on feet placement and balance. He emphasized how to use the wall to maintain balance and force, things he learned on the Dawn Wall. The way he put it: “I literally see the wall as a foothold”. While watching me work a problem, he sternly but kindly reprimanded me for not fully reading the route first, and then told me the sooner I could throw my shoes in the trash, the better. They’re a pair of Mythos I’ve had for three years, that truly needed replacing/upgrading. Afterall, I’m not climbing V3s here. So on the way home, we stopped at Unique Outfitters at Stone Summit in Atlanta and Rob and I bought pairs of Mad Rock Sharks. (Quick review: Brilliant shoes. Almost as good as Solutions but 10 times as comfortable and $60 cheaper. Insanely awesome.) Jorgeson’s crazy, man. Intelligent, well-spoken, and truly a great teacher. PCI is one of the best organizations out there, and such a great way to get expert advice to young climbers.

At the end, everyone hung out and climbed together, and took pictures and signed shit. Woods onsighted a V9 in Sanuks. Jorgeson highballed. Sasha climbed the eyelashes. I’m always impressed at how friendly these superstars are, how excited they are to be there. There’s another PCI Clinic at the beginning of May in northern Virginia, we’re considering driving up for. So yeah, I highly recommend it.

 

New Rocks! New Rocks!

So if you guys read the ‘about’ page, you know that T and I run our college’s climbing club. We’ve been setting routes with rocks that have been in there for like ten years and haven’t been used in like five. Almost every rock spins and two have already broken on us. They all need to be washed.

So imagine how psyched we were when the rocks we ordered arrived. Thanks go out to our faculty advisor, who dipped into the phys ed budget to help us get our hands on these.

New Rocks! New Rocks!

(Don’t ask me why both sets are orange- that’s just the random color they shipped in- but I love it)

The slopers are Teknik and the others are the So iLL starter set. Totally worth the money, I highly recommend them. The So iLL came with holds of all types. If you think they look a little too easy, don’t fear; online they look easy, but there are plenty of ways to turn them to up the difficulty. We’ve got some EP Bubble Gum holds on the way as well. I bought the EP ones myself, and T paid for the slopers, so we can take them with us when we leave and build a home wall.

We didn’t have time to strip the wall, which is what we wanted, but went ahead and threw up three test routes for the club to try next monday. One of them is a total Sharma route up the negative, with 2 slopers and fingertips the rest of the way up.

I just wanted to put this picture on here, in case you guys are as psyched about new rocks as I am.

Rock N Rave 2013

Hey guys, so I’m not gonna waste your time with an inaugural post about “who I am” and “why you should read my ‘web-log'”. If you want the answers to those questions, check out the ‘About’ tab. Instead, I’m gonna tell you a little bit about Rock N Rave 2013, which took place Saturyday night on February 23rd, 2013 at Stone Summit in Atlanta.

So if you guys hadn’t heard about Rock N Rave, it was a huge climbing fundraiser for the Access Fund, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, and the Carolina Climbers Coalition. In attendance were Chris Sharma, Hans Florine, and Kurt Smith on the mic.

Stone Summit

(This isn’t at the time of the event; Just thought I’d throw it in, in case you guys haven’t been to Stone Summit)

So we (meaning my brother, my friend, and I) left from our place in Upstate SC a little later than we probably should have, skipped dinner, and got down to the gym at 7:00, right when the doors were supposed to be opening. Instead, there was a slight delay and so we took our place in the line that had formed outside. Here, we economized our time and taped our fingers, and I slapped a band-aid on my heel, which had rubbed raw from my shoes. We also picked up the first of our swag as some girls handed out Scarpa chapstick, which I didn’t know existed, but works pretty damn well.

Once we got inside, my bro Trevor and I cut ties with Rob, who had to go buy a ticket, and we found a place to stash our gear. T went to have a look around, and a few seconds later he came back with news of Sharma’s location in the building. We smoothly and casually pushed our way through the stream on people coming inside and caught sight of him. I was probably about the fifteenth person to talk to him that night, so he was pretty damn genial and pumped to be there.

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(My official Sharma picture)

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(My unofficial Sharma picture, before I knew the camera was on me. Note the giddiness)

So I shook his hand, told him what an inspiration he was, and got him to sign my chalk bag. He seemed sort of amused by my awe in meeting him. T’s exact words to the big man were “Stoking the Fire, that’s some sick shit, man.”

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(T and Sharma. Later, T got his Solutions signed.)

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(Rob and Sharma, a little later in the night)

So after we took care of that, we gave Sharma some air as he was suddenly swarmed by the rest of the crowd, and did a little bit of climbing (I got halfway up my first 5.12) and silent bidding on some of the sweet gear up for auction. I bid $30 on a certificate for any pair of Mad Rock shoes, and walked away, laughing at my low number. After that, we caught back up with Rob in time for Hans Florine’s presentation on his speed record on The Nose. I can’t say enough good things about that presentation; history and stunning photography and videos. A once in a lifetime oppurtunity I’m glad I was there for.

As things cooled down a bit, we did a little bouldering, and I flashed my first V4 (I know, I suck. But just watch, I’ll be somebody someday). Then I nailed two other 4’s, including one my superior-climbing brother couldn’t get until the end of the night. Finally, it was time for highball bouldering with Sharma. After he fell off the first one a couple feet off the ground, he quit messing around and started crushing. We watched him Sharma-twist off the hardest route a couple times before he finally came back and sent it. To celebrate his victory, he tossed out some Prana Chalkbags, one of which I snagged. So now I have the unfortunate problem of choosing which bag to use- the old one he signed, or the new one he “gave me”.

Before the silent auction closed, T ran back over to make a last minute bid while Rob and I did a little more climbing. It never crossed my mind to go back and check my bid, as I figured the bids would have skyrocketed. I guess what I, as well as the organizers, forgot to consider was that climbers have no money. T and Rob walked away with Petzl hats signed by Sharma for $30, and remember that certificate for the Mad Rock shoes? Yeah, it went for $45. Oh well.

Then the organizers declared it was “rave time” and they handed out glowsticks and shut off the lights. About 1/3 of the attendees began to bounce around to club music and spill their beers on the mats, while the rest (including Rob, T, and me) retreated to the bouldering caves and kept working under the glow of headlamps. Admission: we did try our hand at raving on three seperate occassions. We approached some pretty girls, who danced clandestinely away from us, and then we were hit on by a slightly intoxicated woman who was too old for us by about 25 years. Winded, we returned to less exerting activities.

As the night drew to a close around 1:30 am, we packed up our gear and our signed Sharma posters, grabbed a few bumper stickers, and headed home. We had classes on Monday.

So I think it goes without saying that Rock N Rave was totally worth it for the $25 ticket price, a monster hit. I forsee repeat performances in the coming years, and I wouldn’t recommend missing it.

Oh, one other thing worth mentioning… Straight from the horse’s mouth came word of Stone Summit 2, opening sometime next year. Yeah. And guess what… it’s gonna be even bigger than this one.

Kyle.