Sunday, March 24, 2013

New River Update

Well, today was a rest day and the next few will be too given this forecast:

Fortunately the past two days were solid climbing days and I'm quite sore so the rest will be appreciated.

So far the weather has been pretty hit or miss---and mostly cold---but I've still managed to get in frequent climbing days. I'm four days of work into my Rapunzel project and at the verge of cracking it. two days ago I did the crux boulder problem in two overlapping sections. Hopefully I'll be able to piece the whole 8 move sequence my next day on the route. I have the 5.13 opening section fairly well dialed in and I climbed the pumpy but relatively juggy finish the other day without too much difficulty.

If the crux goes down on my next day, it may be game on in terms of switching from TR to the sharp end. That switch is always a bit difficult for me. Not because of the fear or danger associated with lead climbing. Rather, it's the switch from non-commitally working moves to the pressures of actually going for a send. Before every attempt it weighs on me whether I'll succeed or fail. This is a natural part of climbing and overcoming it can be rewarding. Nevertheless, the butterflies in the stomach are never welcome. I'm excited though for this transition and looking forward to giving burns and taking some good whippers. Usually I can overcome the butterflies by just telling myself that I'll go up and have fun on the route because the stone is beautiful, the moves are rad and being above gear is exciting. I try to fully accept the possibility of failure. Sometimes I worry that this attitude might hold me back because "I don't want it bad enough." That said, I go into every section with the attitude that I'm going to try my hardest so hopefully that is enough to make me perform at my limit without the extra baggage of the fear of failure.

This attitude worked for me yesterday on a sport route I was trying out at Beauty Mountain. Several days earlier, I was out there with the guidebook writer, Mike Williams, trying his route Picket Fence 14b. Mike hooked me up with a ton of beta for the cryptic sequences and I was able to figure them all out on my first go. I gave a redpoint burn at the end of that day for the hell of it and got pretty far into the crux sequence before I bungled a move (probably because of a mental mishap). Yesterday I got back on the route unsure of whether I was going to rework the moves or just go for a link. I pretty much just took it one move at a time and gauged how my body felt after each move. Things went well through the first boulder problem and then I found myself midway through the second boulder problem realizing that I had a chance at sending. I kept climbing one move at a time and was a bit shocked to soon be clipping the anchors. It was definitely a cool experience on a cool route. It was also nice to get some exposure to other 5.14s in the area to gauge the difficulty of the Rapunzel project. Check out this awesome video that LT11 put together of some sport routes in the new that includes Mike climbing Picket Fence.

Here's a photo I took of the bridge today with the bad weather closing in. Not really a great shot, but it shows the magnitude of the bridge here which never ceases to amaze me. This bridge is perhaps the most impressive feat of engineering I've ever witnessed. Truly inspiring that we can create things like this.

Hopefully the weather will clear soon and I'll have some good news to report when I post next. Until then, I'll be spending a lot of time huddling indoors, working on my computer, reading, and constantly watching my almost 2-year old who is beginning to earn the nickname "the destroyer." I'll also try to get some more photos of my project to better portray it visually.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beginning my Sojourn in the New

So I arrived in Fayetteville, WV several days ago and will be climbing in the New River Gorge for the next month and a half. I'm super excited to be here and have some big plans. At the top of the list is this crazy trad project I've tried a few times in the past 3 years. I've never dedicated a long stretch of time to this line though so now is my chance.

The project climbs a beautiful slightly overhanging face to a horizontal crack with good gear. Then there's an extremely hard boulder problem that leads to easier 5.12 climbing above. The route is 100% gear and extremely aesthetic. Two days ago I got back on it and gave a few burns. It's still very much up in the air as to whether or not the boulder problem goes, but I think it's feasible. The climbing up to the crux is probably 13b or c with reasonable protection. The crux seems to be at least V12 but perhaps harder. If I can put this all together, it'll surely be one of the hardest gear routes out there.

Psyched to be out here and to have such a worthy project to devote my time to. I'm also excited to try to repeat some of the new classics the locals have been establishing and perhaps scope some other (hopefully slightly easier) projects to do while I'm here.

Here's a photo from the ground of my project. The route climbs the two gold streaks to the bulge above. Then it navigates mostly straight up through a series of steep bulges with perfect positive holds. Overall, the route probably is about 80ft high and overhangs about 30ft. I've dubbed the project the "Rapunzel Project" as you have to climb the golden locks of hair to get the prize.

I was out here for a few days a year and a half ago and put a little time into the route then. Check out this short video Pat Goodman put together of that trip which includes a few clips of me working the lower face on TR.

New River Gorge Projects from Pat Goodman on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for progress as I begin working on this more. Also wish me good luck in having the weather cooperate.

Monday, March 4, 2013

2013 ABS Nationals

Last weekend was the ABS junior nationals which I'm sure was a great show and the weekend before last I was down in Colorado Springs competing in the adult bouldering nationals. This year's field was probably the strongest yet with many seasoned veterans and a host of super-strong graduates of the ABS junior program. Each year the junior events get more and more competitive and the kids coming out of these are mutants. It's cool to see the progression of competition climbing, especially with the looming possibility of joining the olympics, but it makes my job harder and harder each year I decide to compete again.

I probably trained more this year than any past year and it payed off. I finished with my best final result yet and I broke the top ten with my qualifiers result. It's funny, though, for me training is just climbing on plastic as much as my body can handle. Although I'd like to campus and push myself more with supplementary training, it has always led to injury for me. I've found that the best course is for me to climb as many new gym problems as possible, often forcing myself to read them quickly, and train myself to be used to the rapid pace of climbing required in these comps. When you're climbing outdoors, you generally rest at least 5-15 minutes between serious burns (except for quick beta-figuring-out attempts). In the comps, however, you have only 4-5 minutes per problem to get it done and only 4-5 minutes of rest between problems. The pump loads up in your forearms quickly.

In the qualifiers, I climbed the first three problems fairly efficiently flashing each one. Even still, I was quite pumped after the long, steep third problem. I came out to the fourth with intensity, but I think I was lacking a bit of confidence that can be so necessary at times. I got to a hard move on the problem, I faltered. I know I was capable of doing the move and in fact I did it on my third try, but I didn't have that absolute belief in my ability when I was staring down the hold on my flash go. This is the mental aspect of comp climbing that is so essential and separates the best of the best from the rest. I was a bit disappointed that I flubbed the move twice. By the time I stuck the crux move, I was running out of time and was too tired to crank the finishing move. Still I had a good high point and was confident in my performance going into the final qualifiers problem.

The 5th problem was a slab which generally suits my style of climbing. That said, indoor slabs are quite  different than what you encounter on real rock. Generally, when the route setters make these slab problems, they use the slopiest holds they can find for hands and feet. In contrast, outdoor rock tends to be more edgy in nature. Nevertheless, the technique for both requires balance, finesse and good use of your feet. On my first two burns, I didn't trust my feet enough and they popped both times. Often, your feet stick better if you apply more pressure (i.e., trust them fully) than if you just put them lightly on the holds and try to hold most of your weight with your arms. With just a little time left, I was able to sneak through the sequence and top out the 5th problem for a 9th place finish.

Going into semifinals I was confident though slightly nervous and a bit shakey. This didn't help me on the first slab problem where I shook myself off before I could grab the second finishing hold. It didn't help me either that there wasn't a single less-than-vertical wall in the warm-up area to get used to standing on foot holds. The next two problems were challenging for me, but I was happy with my ability to stick the holds I did (of course thinking back I wish I could have done better). The final problem suited my style well and I managed to flash it. All in all, I made some mistakes in this round that I shouldn't have but I was happy with my end result which was a solid 14th place.

The worst part about these comps is that you can't go back and try the problems again. They are up for a moment in time and then gone forever. As I think back through the comp and go over some footage of myself climbing, I just keep feeling the desire to try the problems again and correct my mistakes. One of the things I love about these comps is how aesthetic the problems are. Generally they are striking singular lines and the moves are really fun and interesting. This makes for a great climbing experience; too bad it's so ephemeral. Talking about aesthetics, I think the route setters took things a bit too far this year. I really appreciate the improvements in route setting over the last 5 years... especially the use of volumes. That said, I think the attempt to make many problems appear symmetric is misdirected. Climbing is not about symmetry and these problems just aren't as fun to climb because the problem is held back by a silly constraint. Additionally, I don't think they are as good for the viewers because they are confusing (do you climb it with your right hand leading or your left hand leading?) An occasional point of symmetry is interesting and OK, but it was far overdone in this comp. Routesetters, strive to make every move the coolest you can and don't get caught up in trying to make your problem into a system board (otherwise, great job at the comp).

Here is some video footage I edited together from me climbing in the comp. A few problems are missing but this pretty well captures the important (and mentally painful) moments in the comp for me. With a 14th place finish, I should be invited to climb in the Vail world cup again which I think I'll do. That comp is always fun and a great challenge. Perhaps I can even make my goal of qualifying for semis in that event. It'll be tough this year though because I will be traveling a bunch right before the event and will have less time to train.

ABS 2013 Nationals Recap from Matt Wilder on Vimeo.