Week 2 of training has come to a close, which begs the question, can you train and climb at the same time? In all practical sense, sure, but in reality, you shouldn’t. I went for some “outdoor mileage” and paid the price; I’m exhausted in every respect. But I’ll get to the training part. What was the outdoor mileage? Two new routes on the north buttress of Notchtop in Rocky Mountain National Park, both over 1,000 feet in length.
I was visiting local guidebook legend Richard Rossiter when he showed me a photo he had taken 25 years ago of an unnamed, unexplored cirque around to the north from Notchtop. He was trying to figure out what to name it since no one had climbed in the area before, but the photo was going in his new guidebook and he wanted to identify the area. Here was a photo, full of prominent snow couloirs, stretching down like fingers between sharp ribs of rock and rounded buttresses. And it was visible from Trail Ridge Road – an extremely popular tourist road!
Ice isn’t my main focus anymore, but I knew I had to go explore. They were beautiful and unknown, what more reason do you need? About a week ago I headed in with Mike and due to an over-exaggeration of our fitness level, the snow-wallowing stopped us. I had been training my fingers – not my legs. Still, I couldn’t keep my mind off the cirque. While training in my garage, my focus would weave in and out between Yosemite and the Park. And so I went back in with Drew. I figured out a better, more efficient approach, knew what kind of gear we’d want to take, and how to get down. Everything you want to know before humping 5 miles through the snow to the base of your objective. I had come for a beautiful, yet hidden snow couloir I saw before – one that you couldn’t see until you were literally at the base. It was a cross between Lamb’s Slide and Martha on Mt. Lady Washington. But Drew, the more ice-loving of the two of us, couldn’t take his eyes off the northeast arete on the north buttress. We flipped a coin, Drew won, so we set to it. We linked rocky steps, snow ledges, and ice bulges all the way to the Continental Divide. Pitch after pitch presented different and unique obstacles, ones that I had forgotten how to do in boots and crampons. While descending back to the base, we walked right underneath the snow couloir I came to do – Drew was whooped, as was I, but I was mesmerized and so I decided to punch it up that line too. Totally paying for my lack of cardio shape, I sprinted up the steep chute and back to the Divide. Not too shabby for a guy that hasn’t so much as taken his tools for a walk in nearly five years.
Now for a recap on the training and why you shouldn’t climb and train at the same time. I finished my ARC training and started the strength phase, which primarily consists of hangboarding. I talked to my good friend Adam about strategies on how to find a baseline and he assured me I’d mess it up pretty bad the first few times and not to worry about it. He and the Andersons both had the same sage advice – go super conservative to avoid injury and work from there. That way the gains will feel all that much more amazing and reinforce your positive attitude. So I started the first set – 7 reps on jugs with -20 pounds on my harness, which was accomplished by rigging some pulleys to the wall. Turns out it was WAY too easy. OK, no biggie, I’ll add weight to the next set I thought. Big edge was up next so I added +30 pounds to my harness. Too far, way too far. I quickly saw what Adam was talking about. But during my brief (3 minute) rest period between sets, I thought about my personal grip strengths and weaknesses and tried to dial in from there. By the last three grips (slopers, wide pinch, and narrow pinch), I was pretty much spot on. The goal was to be able to accomplish two sets at each grip, adding weight on the second set of each rep, but basically failing on my last rep. The workout was fairly brief and didn’t feel like much – after all, you’re literally just hanging on the board – no pullups, no switching holds without touching the ground, etc. I did some supplemental exercises afterwards – pullups, pushups, and some free weights. I came inside, stretched, and thought it was insufficient as a “become mutant strong” training regiment.
Next day was a rest day and I felt tired. Day after that I decided to do some “outdoor mileage” and felt totally drained. I was told to skip climbing and just focus on just the hangboard workouts, but if I insisted on climbing outside for sanity’s sake, keep it super mellow. I needed to go outside, especially since it was in the 50s and sunny in January. I moved slow, heavy, tired. I came home and wanted nothing more than to sleep. But you can’t do that with a two year old and an infant, especially when the rambunctious two-year old has as much energy as his old man and constantly jumps into my arms. Ugh, I was exhausted. I fell asleep on the wood floor playing with him around 6:30.
The next day brought another round of hangboarding. Another beautiful day, but I’m committed to this program and these goals, so it’s time in the garage rather than at the cliff. I was actually fine with it – I was too tired to go to the cliff (not that I had that much time to spend away from the family) and I pushed myself on the hangboard to add more weight to each set than last time (the goal to intentionally overload the fingers). I did take advantage of the nice weather and my warm up to add some more problems to the wall to entice more friends to come train. It must be working as the whole family came out to join. Corbin has moved on from the short, vertical panel we have by the house door and on to the 15-degree overhanging sickness. It was great that Erin was able to start to move around a bit too – the first time she’s been able to exercise since giving birth to Adele.
I’ll be in the strength/hangboard phase for a few more weeks – I’ll report back in another week. No outside climbing for me in the meantime though… unless I pick off a few more of those undone lines in Rocky Mountain National Park of course… But for sure two full rest days between sessions.