Tuesday, October 27, 2009

At Crag Full of Dynamite with Dan

This Sunday Dan took some time out of his busy schedule and we went climbing. This was technically his second time climbing ever -- the first time was bouldering at Lizard's Mouth a couple months ago.

He'd picked up shoes before our last outing, and last week I'd outfitted him with a helmet and harness package. Hilariously, he was most excited about the chalk bag!

I threw the climbing gear into the back of the Porsche and we drove up Gibraltar road to West Camino Cielo and Crag Full of Dynamite. CFoD is where, just over a year ago, I'd done my very first lead, and it's an uncomplicated spot, with zero approach and routes whose top anchors you can see. However, I did not remember quite how crappy the rock was. In any case, I instructed Dan on the basics of lead and TR belaying, commands and all that good stuff, and then led "he who double-crosses me and leaves me alone, he knows nothing about Tuco, nothing", a 5.7. It was harder than I remembered, mostly because of rock quality. It seems the more experienced I get, the more perturbed I am by chossy rock. In any case, Dan jumped on it and did really really well. He had all the normal issues with not knowing how much to trust friction and how exactly to use the shoes, but he's got mad balance, and a clear head and he made it to the top. His Achilles tendons were bothering him at the end, but he totally escaped the standard beginner issue of over-gripping and pumping out. I then led up the Ecstasy of Gold, the 5.8 that's two routes to the left of Tuco, and Dan followed about half of it, with a harder start than I'd done. Pretty damnn good for a beginner.

We had a really good time. We were in the shade, and there was nobody there but us, and we took it really slow and easy. I only wish we'd taken pictures...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Replacing the harness, completing the rack & outfitting the man

This month has been one of climbing-related expenses, and it's a little scary how much money has gone into this.

After much hand-wringing I decided to replace my years-old Mammut harness with a BD Chaos. I tried it out at Owen's this weekend, and it's fantastic for sport climbing, but, obviously, the real test is going to be trad multipitch.

I also decided it's time to start building a more respectable rack. Technically, I have everything I need: #1 and #2 C4 camalots, a series of 7 forged friends, a set of nuts and pink, red and brown tricams. But the forged friends are a bit ... shall we say antiquated? And until now I've been relying on Ben's gear to supplement my camalots, nuts and tricams. So it's time to replace the forged friends with something actually usable. To that end I've ordered camalot C4s in the #0.3-0.75 range. I'll need a #3 at some point, but for now I can use my largest friend for that.

Finally, I wanted to outfit Dan with rock climbing gear, so that he'd be able to belay me and follow on basic multi-pitch. So I got him a harness package and helmet. I'm super excited about teaching him!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Owen's River Gorge, version 2.0

I spent this Friday + weekend climbing at Owen's River Gorge with Ben. It was my first time back since last winter, so I was really looking forward to this visit. I've been training both endurance and strength in the gym, and climbing alongside some phenomenally stylish people, so I think my technique has improved a great deal, too. My objective this time around was to convince myself I'm a solid 5.9 sport leader, and maybe try to probe my limits on lead a little. I succeeded at the first, but not the second. Oh well, next time!

Here's my ticklist for this trip. Everything was onsight, on lead, casual, except the very last route on Sunday, which was clean on TR.

Friday: High Seas (7), Crowd Pleaser (8), Clip Jr (6), Welcome to the Gorge (9)
Saturday: Enter the dragon (8), China Doll (8), Heart of the Sun (9), Drill Sergeant (8)
Sunday: 5.8 not in my book, at Solarium between Sendero Luminoso and Menace II Society, Child of Light (9), Low Octane (9), High Octane (10d, TR)

Low and High Octane are variations on one 40-50 foot route, really, and they're a little obscure, so I want to call particular attention to them. They're at the Pit Stop area, in the Lower Gorge, at the top of a sand/scree slope. The sun never sees these problems, so they're good for hot days, and they see very little traffic. Being a no-chalk climber myself, I was especially excited to find these problems completely un-chalked, totally virginal. I led the 9, Low Octane, which is the variation on the right. It has some wonderful balance-y moves. Then we toproped the 10d, which is really a slightly longer boulder problem start, on the left. I think it's overrated as a 10d (indeed, the new edition of the guide may have re-rated it, I don't know for sure), since I wouldn't rate it more than a V2. In any case, I TRed it clean, and given that I was able to shake out at big juggy holds, I think I would have no problem leading it. So it can't be 10d. Either way, great problems, both of them, on great, un-slimed rock.

This weekend was a blast!