Owl’s Lair

After last week’s post about ratings, I found myself at Owl’s Lair on Bizarro day. The easiest route we did, The Bad (a fun and well-protected corner/crack until the top where it becomes an easy and unprotected face climb), was nominally the hardest at 5.8. Meanwhile, some of the supposedly easier routes we did like the 5.6 Erebus (a fun and well-protected chimney/flake until the top where the route apparently ends just below a head wall) and the 5.5 Serendipity (a route whose difficulty varies according to your faith in smeary stems) were challenging. The most challenging was The Good, which I had the sense to set up a TR on rather than try to lead. I could tell it was one of those short, steep routes where you spend the whole time stressing about making yourself safe and by the time you feel safe, the climbing is all over. My assessment wasn’t wrong.

It was a nother gift of a day and I guess everyone else was over at Main Cliff because we had the place to ourselves. What a treat. Hope there are a few more of those left in the season.

with John, Dawn led all
Serendipity, 5.5
The Ugly, 5.7
The Bad, 5.8
The Good (TR), 5.8-
Erebus, 5.6

October 29, 2010   Posted in: Ragged Mountain  No Comments

What’s in a number?

Would a route by any other rating be as hard?

I haven’t climbed at Cathole in years, and by years I probably mean 10 of them. There was only one route I could remember having anything to do with and that was Pegasus. I knew it was one of the Connecticut classics and remembered it as being about 5.7 and not too bad, but the new Falcon guide I was carrying called it 5.8+ and 5.8+ is hard, harder than I’ve ever led in Connecticut.

After John and I had warmed up on Pink Elephants (unexpectedly difficult, as I’m not an off-width fan) and Golden Book (more pleasant than anticipated), I had to make the call as to whether we were going to wait for someone to drop a TR on Pegasus or if I was going to lead it. Reasoning that the gear was good and that 5.8+ was within my range, though it might cause me to pause and fret, I tied into the sharp end.

I kept waiting for the 5.8+ moves, but they never came. It climbs like the 5.7 I remember it being before revisionist rating struck. With good gear always in reach, I made a stressless ascent. John sailed up it nicely too.

What’s in a number is a whole host of thoughts but no reality. Pegasus, the route, is the same whatever number we stamp on it. Pegasus, the experience, varies according to my expectations and actions, which I allow to vary based on that number. Because the rating was acceptable to me, I chose to lead it. Because the moves were easier than I had anticipated based on the rating, it was a successful, pleasant experience. But the choice and the judgment were based on thin air–someone else’s opinion of how I ought to feel.

Obviously it’s necessary to take the rating into account to some degree when making choices (for the sake of safety), but using it to form an entire spectrum of expectations, which later become judgments, is counter-productive to enjoying the moment. The route, by any other number, is the same if I, by any other number, take it for what it is.

Dawn led all
Pink Elephants, 5.5
Golden Book, 5.6
Pegasus, 5.8
Block of Ages, 5.5
Elegant Monkey, 5.6

October 20, 2010   Posted in: Cathole, Connecticut Crags  No Comments

A little local action

I don’t climb locally very often, so sometimes the gear and the moves feel iffy, but Saturday everything seemed to be flowing (aside from a few minutes stuck at the crux of Wishbone).  John kept his head together following Knight’s Move and did some wild offwidth, gaston moves on Vector. I saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and we rescued a bunch of webbing off the top of Vector.  A good day.

with John, Dawn led all
Wishbone, 5.7
Vector, 5.8
Wet Wall, 5.6
Carey Corner, 5.7 (TR)
YMC, 5.9 (TR)
Weisner’s Slab, 5.3
Knight’s Move, 5.4

September 27, 2010   Posted in: Connecticut Crags, Ragged Mountain  No Comments

So sweet

That first pitch of Erect Direction is probably one of the nicest pitches in the Gunks.  It’s a shorter, less strenuous, less sustained version of Double Crack and, except for the shorter part, I think I appreciate that about it.  Erect Direction P1 offers stress-free fun.

This is the time of the year when the Gunks feel perfectly delicious.  Nothing could be finer than great rock, great weather, and great company.

with John, all led by me
High E, 5.6
Airy Aria P1, 5.8
Carbs and Caffeine P1, 5.9 (TR)
Erect Direction P1, 5.8
Moonlight P2 (5.6)

Teeny tiny me leading Erect Direction P1 and even tinier John belaying at the bottom

Belaying from the top of Erect Direction P1

September 20, 2010   Posted in: Gunks  No Comments

Cathy visits the Gunks

I asked Cathy what her favorite route was and she picked rapping Madame G’s in the freak hail storm.  Yeah, it was memorable.  We were finishing Madame G’s as the thunder got serious.  We knew we needed to get down fast or get soaked, but I’d assured Cathy that people didn’t die from lightning strikes at the Gunks and the worst that would happen was we’d get wet.  The occasional bolt of lightening touching down in the valley below was saying otherwise.

The rain started just as I was about to launch over the edge on rappel.  It came towards us quickly in a visible wall of mist.  Going down seemed like the right choice.  In fact, as I rapped over the lip and got under the overhang, I called up to Cathy that it was better down there – somewhat protected.  Then, seconds later, the hail started.

As I rapped, the hail, and the rain as well, kept coming down harder.  The hail was about pea to marble sized, which hurt.   The rope and I were soaked before I hit the intermediate rap station.  When I took the rope out of my belay device I was shivering and jittery and I lost control of the ends.  I could see the rope ends moving and knew Cathy was testing it to see if I was off but I didn’t want to call up to her to rappel until I a) regained control of the ends to at least give her a fireman’s and b) decided if she should really join me at this crazy, unprotected stance.  I was thinking maybe I should duck into the side of the wall and wait it out there while she found cover in the trees but I couldn’t talk to her because of both the noise and the fact that turning my face up towards her meant getting smashed in the eye with hail.  Thank God for helmets and for having them on.

I managed to grab the rope ends and went ahead and yelled Off Rappel since she was clearly working on rappelling whether I thought it was the best plan or not (and honestly there wasn’t really a better one).  She came down in a hurry and we pulled like mad, trying to spot the pattern change on a rope that was almost black with water.  Suddenly mud and leaves started coming down the face in a torrent.  The rain must have washed out the top.

Cathy let me do the final rap first since I was the one shivering violently.  I struggled to hold the brake with one hand while fishing the rope out of the gully with the other.  It might have been a good day for a rap backup, but spending even an extra thirty seconds putting it on and taking it off was unendurable.  The gully had become a muddy waterfall but luckily only my feet needed to be in it.  At least I was out of the path of the water running down the face.  Once I was down, Cathy wasted no time joining me.  On the ground we were met and muddy but relieved.  I was sure glad the rope pulled clean .  The week before it had gotten stuck at the top of the gully.  What had been an easy solo up to retrieve it then would not have been possible now.

Then nearly as soon as we got the rope coiled and our coats on, the hail stopped and the rain let up.  By the time we hit the parking lot, the sun was back out.  The carriage road was covered in downed leaves and pellets of hail and there were cool spots along the walk back where the temperature felt almost frosty.  We were glad to have a car full of dry clothes, shoes, towels, and even bedding with us (It was the last day of the trip and we’d checked out of the hostel that morning).

Definitely a rap to remember.

Bunnissima, 5.6 (Dawn)
Horseman, 5.5 (Dawn)
Classic, 5.7 (Dawn)
City Lights, 5.7 (P1: Brien, P2: Dawn)

Disneyland, 5.6 (Dawn)
I’m OK, You’re OK, 5.9 (TR)
Akiddleeativytoo, 5.7 (Brien)
New route, 5.8 (TR)
Far From the Madding Crowd, 5.8 (TR)
Live and Let Die, 5.8 (TR)
Layback, 5.5 (Dawn)

High E, 5.6 (P1: Cathy, P2 & 3: Dawn)
Madame G’s, 5.6 (Dawn)

September 14, 2010   Posted in: Gunks  One Comment

Pinnacle of Perfection

A beautiful day, a breath-taking view, one great partner, and a few nice moderates.  Thanks to the Yale Climbing Club for sharing their guidebook and the rock with us.

Herbarium, 5.5
First Crack, 5.4
Third Crack, 5.7+

September 7, 2010   Posted in: Connecticut Crags, Pinnacle  No Comments

John’s first day at the Gunks

Atop the Madame G's buttress waiting to rappel

John’s taken the belay class at the gym and climbed there twice so it was time to let him have a taste of real rock.  The way he took to the crack at the gym–executing a backstep foot jam move I’ve never actually seen before–suggested he’d be a natural, and his total lack of regard for his own body points to a future career as an off-width climber.  

He climbed Northern Pillar in style and got most of the way up Shockley’s Ceiling.  Thankfully Brien and Dave were at the belay with him when it turned out he couldn’t finish the roof.  They graciously did a partner swap and John got to finish the day on Shockley’s Without.  Since I’ve never done Shockley’s Without, he’s now one up on me.   

Add to that a couple of hairy rappels (imagine doing Madame G’s as your first ever rappel) and he had full value for the day.  On the way home he was ruminating about how he could have made it over the roof if he’d only done this or that different and I thought: a climber is born.  He’s already got a climber’s conscience too–worrying that people will see the photos and assume he made it over the roof.  I have a feeling it won’t be long before he’s making me look bad but, more importantly, he’s already making me feel good.  It’s fun to have fresh eyes and fresh enthusiasm for a long time favorite place.  

On Northern Pillar

One heck of a first rappel

Approaching the first Shockley's belay

At the first Shockley's belay.

Launching into the roof. Note the nice foot jam.

All squashed up and nowhere to go.

Dangling in space - a big surprise on your first day out.

September 4, 2010   Posted in: Gunks  No Comments

Farley with the folks

Went to Farley with Dan and Christine and Eric and Jack. I’d tell you what we climbed but I don’t really know. Much of it I’d done before but there was a 5.12 roof to the left of a 5.8 which I hadn’t (for obvious reasons). The approach to the 5.12 roof was supposed to be 5.10 but I found it harder than that, or I’m just out of practice. The 5.12 roof itself wasn’t going to go but the first bolt was very clippable and the falls were all clean from there so I took a couple. Christine was the only one to get up it clean. Eric took the biggest ride.  The batteries in the camera died while I was taking the nine millionth photo of one of us on that route, so all the photos are of that route, but we did climb other things.

August 14, 2010   Posted in: Farley Ledge MA  No Comments

Climbing with the Colorado folks

High E, 5.6 (Dawn & Steven)
Bonnie’s Roof, 5.8 (P1: Tom, P2: Shelly)
Pink Laurel, 5.9 (Dawn)
Classic, 5.7 (Tom)
Jackie, 5.5 (Steven)

August 12, 2010   Posted in: Gunks  No Comments

Thursday with Todd

Birdie Party, 5.8 (P1 & 2: Dawn)
Interstice, 5.10 (TR)
MF Direct, 5.10 (Todd)
Mother’s Day Party, 5.10 (TR)

July 15, 2010   Posted in: Gunks  No Comments