The blessed kiss of death – aka Fall had not come the weekend before Rocktoberfest at the Red River Gorge. It was still hot. and humid. mostly humid. We fought the conditions. Conditions won a few battles. The conditions won the war. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t that good either.
The weather report said rain and as promised, it poured. But with the steep routes and tall nature of the cliff, rain doesn’t make much of a difference other than “getting wet on the hike” and sometimes “getting misted at the chains.”
|Where’s the Beef 5.12c at Bob Marley – Photo Mike Wilkinson|
We climbed at Muir Valley Saturday and I was feeling pretty ok. I got on “Mirage” 12c as my warm-up, hanging the draws for my buddy in the group who wanted to do the route. I was pretty surprised. I had flashed the route maybe 5 or 6 years ago, but hadn’t been on it since and with my training, specifically my hangboarding, it felt pretty easy. All of the “bad” holds were definitely much better than the Rock Prodigy Trango Crimp which I trained this summer. I asked my belayer, David, “?Where is the crux on this thing?” “You just did it,” was my response…Boo-Yah! That was a good sign for my climbing for the weekend.
I’m weird and atypical in that I like to warm-up hard. I’ve been climbing for 16? years now and my fingers are pretty strong and I know my limits, so I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone. But…well…I just like to get on stuff close to my onsite/flash limit for my warm-up. I find no value in doing a 5.10 to even a 5.11 to warm-up for a 5.13. A lot of times, the limiting factor for me is skin; I have about 5 or 6 pitches in me in a day and I don’t want to waste them on routes that I’ve already done warming up for my project for the day.
There are a lot of crags for me at the red that are no-goes. As I’ve talked about in the past, what I really like to do in climbing is new routes. I’d rather climb a 5.7 slab then repeat a 12+ that I’ve done before. I don’t know what it is about me, but I just…well..like doing new routes. The problem with the red for me is that I’ve already done MOST of the routes at all the older crags. This makes the new route development a key to my happiness.
At the “Solarium” there were two routes I hadn’t done: “Bundle of Joy” 13a and “Urban Voodoo” 12d. I tried “Bundle of Joy” but wasn’t able to do the last move. I could complain conditions and stuff, but really I just think that I wasn’t strong enough for it. Instead, I set my sites on “Urban Voodoo.”
I went up the route, but fell at the low boulder problem onsite. The climbing here involved a couple REALLY small two finger pockets and a big move. I figured out what holds I wanted to use on my next go, but didn’t do the move. As I typically do with a project, I won’t do the crux until I’m on the go or at least I won’t put 100 percent effort into the crux until…I’m on the go.
If you actually read my blog, I’m telling you – this is really important tactics for getting routes done fast and it really pays off for me. If you know how to do it, and you are pretty sure you can do it, you’re wasting your time doing it off the hang over and over to “rehearse” it. Total waste of time.
Being a route developer, I’ve learned to “not just grab the ticked holds.” I found a decent and previously un-used hold a bit left of the ticked sequence – a good two pad edge. Getting to the hold wasn’t too bad either – with some heels, but a core intensive bump. From this hold, I had to do a big move back to the “official” sequence and I actually did this move once to feel out the body position. The sequence, however, relied on a key left heel-hook that was pretty bad. My Tenaya Iati’s were brand new to me, though they had already earned their street credit on “Mirage.” So far, the Oasi’s have been performed admirably for me, but if my heel blew – or even wobbled a little bit, I was out of the sequence. I would have normally worn the Oasis on anything at the red, but I found the extra stiffness of the Iati’s pays off when toeing in hard on ripples and the heel on them fit my foot like a glove.
|The Tenaya Iati|
Another key-to-sending tip of mine is to shotgun the route. It was chilly (though it felt hot and humid while climbing.) I lowered to the ground, did a good shake, pulled the rope and got right back on. I was essentially trading the pump and fatigue for warm-up and psyche. For me, this trade is usually worth it. I immediately fired the opening boulder problem, bearing down REALLY hard on a tiny two-finger pocket. My hangboard training paid off and the hold – maybe a ½ pad felt like a jug to me and I stuck the good holds. There was a good rest so I walked up to the roof, clipped the bolt, then came back to compose. I wasn’t actually SUPER worried about the first crux, though the roof, I knew, was going to be pretty dicey. And I was really worried about the heel-hook.
I took a deep breath and pulled into the sequence, sticking the shouldery jug crimp I found. I crossed around, pulling over the roof and stuck a so-so crimper. I looked hard at the sketchy heel-hook hold, said a prayer, and slowly placed my heel on. My abs and core tension felt solid thanks to all the abs I’ve been doing. As routes usually go for me, the move was easy. I stuck the next good hold and my heel didn’t move a cm. The shoes re-affirmed their street credit and I did the easy but pumpy section to the chains for my 446th 5.12 lifetime redpoint.
I’ve talked about this in several older blog posts, but I tend to “discover” holds and sequences at the red a lot. Two notable routes are “Tuskan Raider” 12d and “Zen and the Art of” (I’m at work.) 12d. On Tuskan Raider, I found a new pocket in the cheese-pocket section that made the route significantly easier. All of my friends also used that hold last I checked, it’s now the obvious chalked pocket. On Zen, I found a series of ½ to ¼ pad crimpers before the leftward traverse which takes that crux down a notch. I don’t know if I’m just a bad person, but when it comes to climbing routes, I’ve found that “looking around some” instead of just blinding going for the chalked holds has paid off. I don’t feel like I’m cheating – I mean…the holds are there, right on the bolt line. …I know I know….I’m ruining climbing for everyone….
Our second day at the red for the weekend was definitely hotter. I got an email from Mike Wilkinson asking me of he could take pictures of me climbing. Being a climbing photographer, I have limited experience with other climbing photographers, so I was stoked. We sorted out climbing plans and met up at the Bob Marley crag. “Bob Marley” is another crag where I’ve done most of the routes, though my last trip there, I scoped the line “Skinny Love” which is advertised to be the “Tuna Town” of the Bob Marley crag. I found the route to be actually a much easier version or Tuna Town, but still pretty awesome.
Skinny Love -12d starts easy. Really easy – about 50 feet of 5.11- climbing through good holds. It’s a new route, so stuff is still breaking off and some holds are questionable (please don’t blow please don’t blow.) There’s a full on ledge rest after the initial 5.11 section and the stone turns bullet (more bullet at least.) From the ledge, there’s a really neat V3 boulder problem that leads to an almost-no-hands rest. From here the business ensues. A 15 foot power boulder problem on smaller holds, culminating with a big move to a good holds and then a couple “don’t blow it moves” before the jug ledge.
I didn’t get it first go – I missed some holds, but after a long rest and some serious focus, I ticked this one off pretty easily second go. (number 447. I’ve always been an obsessive person.) Standing under the final headwall in the rest, I realized the crux of the route was about the height and angle of our premier wall at the gym here in Charleston. My power and strength were good for my training, I relaxed and fired the rig.
Having ticked off that route, and it being hot, there weren’t any routes that I was super stoked for, so I got on “Where’s the Beef” for Mike to shoot photos. I had already done the route, so I wasn’t worried about falling or sending the route, so I just clowned around some for the photos, trying to do crazy things like throw my feet over my head and stuff. Climbing IS suppose to be fun right? !!
|Brenna Priest at the Gallery – RRG|
|Erica Lineberry at the Gallery – RRG|