From The Owner

Patience on Darkness

Stick clip the first bolt; breathe; tie into the rope; put on my shoes; breathe; apply liquid chalk and air out my hands to let the liquid dry; breathe. For the last 3 seasons (Fall, Spring, Fall) this had been my routine out at Smith Rock prior to climbing my project. A fist bump to my friend Cameron completed the routine and I was ready to climb.

Darkness at Noon had been my single focus out at Smith Rock for the past 3 seasons. That means that for the last Summer, Winter, and Summer once again, I did nothing but train so I could be strong, flexible, and mentally capable to climb a new level of difficulty for me. The route is rated at 13a, which is a respectable grade among climbers but sometimes even more at Smith Rock where impossibly small holds and long stretches of technical climbing with sparse protection is the name of the game.

To lead climb and excel at Smith rock at almost any grade, you need strong fingers, a very developed sense of balance, and a psychological game that you can count on under the crushing pressure of potentially long falls. As the grades get harder, the more you're required to draw on these skills; but it's not uncommon to have to tap into these skills at lower levels. Darkness at Noon is no exception. 100 feet of vertical to gently overhanging climbing with relentless small edges and pockets, feet the size of pebbles (in the hardest sections) and the potential for some long falls in various portions of the route make for quite an adventure for those that decide to climb it. 

The route is perfect. It can be seen from as far away as the parking lot of the park. Even those that have no interest in climbing it are drawn to the aesthetics of the route, outlined in white polka-dots that seem like a cruel prank on an otherwise flat surface. I don't remember exactly when I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to attempt to climb the route. I know I greatly underestimated the effort it would take to be able to complete the route, bottom to top, with no falls. 

Photo by Nicole Wasko, @nicole_wasco

Photo by Nicole Wasko, @nicole_wasco

I know that I'd been in a rut prior to setting my sights on Darkness. I'd been working at developing AnitGravity Equipment into a successful shop, 6 days a week non-stop. My climbing (among many other things in my personal life) had suffered as a result. I felt sluggish in my movements. I'd gained weight and I felt heavy and out of shape. Worst of all, I was climbing without any real inspiration. Gym sessions were mediocre at best and my overall grades outside had dropped considerably from my last big climbing trip where I'd successfully climbed several challenging routes; two of them were 12d, just a letter grade below what Darkness was rated.

I was in need of inspiration and Darkness at Noon not only provided inspiration and motivation, it provided (as I would learn three seasons later) one of my biggest learning opportunities. To pick a project route, is to pick something challenging enough that it will take you anywhere from several attempts to, sometimes, years to finish. I've had many projects in my climbing career but none that ever took me more than a month or so to finish. These projects were usually just a bit outside my (then current) level of fitness so it didn't take long to develop whatever I needed to see the route to completion. I was starting Darkness from quite a low point and would need a serious level of commitment and dedication to training just to be able to physically do the hardest sections of the climb; let alone put all the moves in 100 feet together in succession with no falls.

Patience. If I had to reduce everything that I gained from completing this route into one word, that word would be, patience. My friend Jordan touched on it during a brief conversation after I'd completed the route and we were all sitting at the base in somewhat disbelief at the completion of my project. He posed a question-statement in reference to the patience it must have taken to gain the skills necessary to complete the route. The memories of the past year scrolled back in warp speed to my very first cycle of training. I put together a program for myself and a few friends based on the Anderson brothers' training manual and enlisted the help of my friend Cameron to teach us supplemental exercises that would complement the climbing workouts. For the next 14 weeks of that summer, we trained mercilessly. Patiently constructing our workouts week to week, month to month. We analyzed, revised, and documented everything to see progress. From patience, sacrifice was born. As results became more evident, I stripped away a little at a time, all that was unnecessary or worked against my progress. By the time the fall season hit, I was back to climbing close to what my peak level had been a couple of years before. I began to put in serious work on Darkness driving out every Monday (my only day off) to meet Cameron and work on our respective projects.

That first Fall season was not enough to complete the route but significant gains had been made and I was fully committed to the process. I was testing my climbing abilities beyond their limits and found that I had more within than what I'd previously thought possible. The route was encouraging me to develop an acute awareness of balance to make things less about power and more about efficiency. By pointing out movements that were near impossible for me to make do to inflexibility, I was encouraged to practice exercises that would help with hip flexor and hamstring flexibility. The potential for long falls encouraged me to further develop my mental game to keep comfortable under pressure and still be able to move through my sequences despite the possibility of stomach-turning falls throughout the route. Throughout this entire process patience was required because none of these lessons could be rushed and progress could only be made on the route once I'd developed what was lacking thus holding me back.

When the fall season came to a close the route had not yet granted me access to the anchors. I'd made progress on two thirds of the route in pieces but I still did not even know if I had what it took to pull through the moves that guarded the top of the route. In the winter when training began again for the upcoming Spring season, I redoubled my efforts. With the help of my training partners, I committed to an even harder 2nd season. I'd cut out most alcohol and sugar; the difficulty of climbing workouts went up with the added gains from the previous season; the supplemental exercises that Cameron put our training team through became more targeted and more vicious as our tolerance grew; eating habits became more targeted. By the end of the season, I'd dropped from 167 lbs. to 160 and that feeling of fluidity and lightness returned to my climbing.

Juan Rodriguez from AntiGravity Equipment, taking a whipper on Darkness at Noon

Juan Rodriguez from AntiGravity Equipment, taking a whipper on Darkness at Noon

Spring season started in April and I couldn't wait to see what progress I could make out at the park. For 3 months I would wake up at 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning and drive out to Smith to meet Cameron. We'd warm up at our leisure at an almost empty park, and then get to work on our respective projects. We'd make attempt after attempt on our routes until our finger tips and will power gave out, then headed out to The Depot for food and make the three-hour trip back home. I'd get home around 9 or 10 pm, shower and fall asleep ready to work through the week and get back out there again the following Monday. Patience.

Half way through the second season, I'd finally made it to the top of the route in pieces. I knew then that I had the ability to complete all the moves on the route. I struggled in several sections and my movements often felt like desperate attempts to clutch at nothing on the wall, but I'd been to the top and that meant it was now possible. By the end of the season, I was able to link the entire route to within about 20 feet of the top in one single push. It was at the last 20 feet of the climb that the final sequence on small, sloping edges and delicate feet would send me rocketing down preventing me from reaching the top in a single attempt.

Spring season came and went. Summer was just too damn hot to climb at Smith but offered 4 excellent months of training. If we'd made the workouts targeted before, they were damn near laser-sighted this time around. I had data now and that made all the difference. Circuit training was added to our supplemental exercises. I dropped an additional 10 lbs. and often hovered between 150 and 153 lbs. My friend Jess Blackmun helped me add a stretching routine that would allow me to touch my toes for the first time in years. I was dying to crush outside at Smith but there it was again... patience. It would be too hot for me to make any serious attempts on the route until October, which was perfect because we'd started the training cycle so my friends and I would be in peak shape for that month.

October 2nd was my first official day of working on Darkness since the Spring. I did my usual routine of getting up at 3 and arriving at 7. I knew I'd find Cameron rocking out to metal music in the parking lot. It was pretty cold still, enough that we had to break open some hand warmers on the way down the trail. After warming up, the sun came out and temperatures were borderline too hot. Once the shade hit at 1:30 with a little bit of cloud cover for good measure, I tied in, did my normal breathing routine and cast off, anxious to see how I felt on it for the first time. To my surprise, I reached the anchors with only 2 rests by weighting the rope. It was evident that the third season had provided massive gains. I was able to go through all the sequences without too much effort. I climbed steadily and uninterrupted except for the two sections in which I had to rest on the rope due to fatigue. The cruxes (hardest parts of the route) were difficult but the movements came with relative ease and didn't feel at all desperate. I was able to reach the anchors 3 times that day. Not without weighting the rope, but I knew that I'd done everything I needed to be able to complete the route. Now it was just a matter of putting all the pieces together in one single go. 

Juan Rodriguez of AntiGravity Equipment, working the moves on Darkness at Noon

Juan Rodriguez of AntiGravity Equipment, working the moves on Darkness at Noon

On October 7th, The Circuit hosted their annual bouldering competition, The Portland Boulder Rally. A second group of friends dropped into the training cycle during the summer to be ready for the comp and we all went together to compete against others in our respective categories. I woke up at 8am that morning, got ready, warmed up, and arrived at The Circuit at 10:30. Half an hour later, the comp was on and I was in full competition mode having the time of my life with my girlfriend, her family, and all my friends! I stuck around for the afternoon session to watch the rest of my friends compete and we all got together at one of their apartments to watch the finals. Later that evening, my girlfriend and I met with other competitor friends at the Wonder Ballroom for three hours of music and entertainment before heading home to sleep at around 12:30. The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and Danielle and I were on the road to Smith by 5 to meet up with Cameron for a day of project-ing.

I had a feeling. All week I'd had this feeling. Even though the previous day was filled with physical activity and late-night festivities, I still had this feeling like I was ready and I had a good shot a completing my hardest project to date. The day was on the hot side. I knew early on I'd have to wait for the afternoon to provide shade. I warmed up climbing sporadically through the morning. By the time 1:30 rolled around I was ready to give an attempt. I was nervous but it was a good kind of nervous. Something like a race car waiting for the red to turn green. I knew anything was possible, especially success. My friends gathered around to watch. Cameron stick-clipped the rope to first bolt so I could climb the first 18 feet protected. After completing my normal breathing and fist bump routine, I placed hands and feet on the wall and began to climb.

The movements came effortless. They fluidity was one of a sequence rehearsed over 3 seasons. 3 seasons of hard work; workouts I didn't want to do; food I didn't always want to eat; drinks I passed up; sessions climbing with my friends that I didn't participate in; exhausting day trips with 6-hour drives; most of all, the fluidity in my climbing came from 3 seasons of patience. Patience while learning, failing, and trying again. During my climb, every move was controlled and precise. The pace was marked by a metronome-like breathing pattern. The only time I stopped is when I reached the pre-determined rest points on the route. The best thing was that I was in complete control mentally. I felt perfectly comfortable on every single move, no matter how small, or how reach-y. Nothing ever felt desperate. I relished in the entire process, having time to look around and enjoy the surroundings; the view from 50 feet up, then from 60 feet up and again from 80 feet up.

Though I had a half a dozen friends there to back me up, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Even passer-by's dared not a word. All I could hear was my breathing. Then, the moment of truth was in front of me in the form of a tiny right-handed edge about the width of half a pad on three of my fingers. For the left, a horizontal pocket big enough for three fingers that you had to move to perfectly in order to latch the tiny lip. I made the move calmer and with more strength than I'd ever done before. There was that feeling again. I was now just 15 feet from finishing. Two more moves and I would officially be higher in one single push than I'd ever been before. I made those two movements and the two movements after that. Two power yells later I was within spitting distance of the chain links at the anchor station. I latched the second to last hold and a split second later I grabbed the final hold just beneath the carabiners connected to the anchors.

I let out a cry of success that rang through the entire park. The sound was matched by cheering from all my friends below and immediately the echo that followed was not an echo of our cries but the sound of the entire park cheering as well. Even those that couldn't see what was happening or had no idea what had just been accomplished, cheered. In that moment, an entire park cheered together in unison for the success of one individual. That invoked a feeling of unison and faith in humanity that spread to the core of the marrow in all my bones. Strangers from one end of the park, through the center, and clear to the other end cheering for the success of another stranger. It was the definition of catharsis. Yeah, you bet there were tears. They'd been patiently waiting for their time as well.

In the end, I know that 5.13 is no headline-worthy accomplishment. Kids as young as 15 have been able to complete Darkness at Noon. After 5 minutes of fame no one but myself and maybe a few close friends will care or even remember. The reward is not the completion of the project. The real reward (like so many things in climbing) lies in the benefits you reap as a human being. When you take on a project (whatever grade or route that might be for you) and you put in the time, the effort, the patience, you grow as a human being. All the things that are required of you to complete that project change and directly affect you and your view on the world as whole if you choose to pay attention. The lessons imposed on you in order to surpass something that you couldn't do before are directly applicable in your daily life and in your interactions with other people. Because of that route, I made a new friend who later became a vendor for my store. I met Justin Brown of Rhino Skin Solutions, who also happened to be working on that route. This project inspired me to become a better teacher and to research new and updated ways of training. This route forced me to work harder than I'd ever worked for any goal in climbing. When things in my personal life or my business were less than ideal, I had this route to look forward to and kept me focused and sharp. If the commitment I made to this project inspired even one person to attempt their impossible and in turn they inspire someone else to do the same... well, that is 100 times better than clipping those chains any day. But I'll take the win either way!

Photo by Nicole Wasko, @nicole_wasko

Photo by Nicole Wasko, @nicole_wasko

Huge thanks go out to everyone who cared enough to ask how the project was going and listen to me rant my responses for close to a year. To all my friends that supported me in training and to those that joined in and trusted me with their training too. To my buddies Steven and Missy for all the encouragement. Especially to my friend Cameron for all the exercise routines and patient belays staring at my butt for session after session wondering when we were finally gonna get out of "The Office" and climb something else. Go Team SW/AG!

 

 

 

You just don't understand

My mom and I on one of her visits to Portland. We had late night drinks at Radio Room.

My mom and I on one of her visits to Portland. We had late night drinks at Radio Room.

Sometimes, just to hear the different responses, I like to ask my friends how their parents feel about them rock climbing.  By the time I turned 20 I had come to accept climbing as my thing. I accepted that it had become more than a hobby. I knew if I applied myself I could do something with this sport but I didn't know yet what it could be. I did know that I was the happiest when I was climbing all the time. Sadly, this sometimes led to many disagreements between my mom and I. The disagreements stemmed largely from my decision to put climbing ahead of anything else including work.

Back then, I think my mom struggled very hard to understand that climbing could be anything beyond just a form of exercise to pass the time. Furthermore, what little she did understand about it seemed somewhat pointless to her. In her mind it made little sense to tie into a piece of rope and see how hard and how risky you could make it for yourself to get to the top of something. It didn't help that most of my extended family felt much the same way. In their minds what I ought to be doing was looking for a stable job that could provide enough income so I could get married and start a family. They struggled very much to understand this climbing of rocks like some lizard out in the sun. No one in my family did this. If you were an adult not going to school, time for extracurricular activities or sports came after work and family. To make matters more complicated, the only thing my family new about climbing was Mt. Everest. You couldn't even begin to explain the purpose of other disciplines like bouldering, trad or sport climbing. If I wasn't planning on being paid to lead some expedition to climb Everest then I obviously didn't know anything about climbing and so whatever I was doing must be ill use of my time. 

I admit, my know-it-all attitude as a young man made it really hard for me to not take offense. I was incredibly fortunate that my mom struggled so I could live in a country where the opportunity to make a dream happen actually existed, but I often felt wounded and misunderstood. It was hard for me to conceptualize that culturally, things were simply not done this way for a variety of reasons; not because my mom didn't have dreams of her own. I'm sure there were things my entire family dreamed of doing, but the means to make dreams happen were often not available. There is so much poverty in Mexico that the majority of folks just don't have the luxury of being able to take a chance on pursuing a dream. You have to survive and you have to make sure that your family survives and to do that it can mean having to work as soon as you can. You're encouraged to start a family, among many reasons, because they're your best support group for later when you are old and you can't work and so while you're able, you have to work as much as you can to make sure you can provide and give them the best opportunities so they can find even better work to repeat the cycle. 

So you can imagine how difficult it was for my mom to hear that I wanted to go away for any length of time to sleep in the dirt, eat on a budget, shower 3 times a week and wash clothes twice a month just so I could climb rocks. What kind of future was that for her son? How could I continue to leave paying jobs after only a few months of working? Who would hire me when I got back? What if I got injured? How would I ever meet anyone and how would I ever maintain a healthy relationship with this nomadic lifestyle on a shoestring budget?

I don’t expect you to understand anything. I know you think what I’m chasing’s a petty dream. But this is what I’ve always wished for and wanted.
And if I could I would show you, I promise.
— Unknown Prophets
Photo booth picture circa 1992

Photo booth picture circa 1992

It was around the time I was 22 or 23 I had made up my mind that I was going to Thailand on my very first international climbing trip. I researched the price of my ticket, got a bit of information on the best area to climb, researched the day to day costs and began to save money. I knew at some point I would need to let my mom know I'd be going on this trip but I held off as long as I could because I knew when the time came, it would be one of those uncomfortable conversations. I remember whenever talk about climbing led to one of these upsetting misunderstandings I would put on a pair of head phones and listen to a track called "I don't expect you 2 understand". I would play it over and over again to drown out the blues after an argument. I felt like the lyrics spoke directly to my predicament of taking a chance on a dream, even if those closest to me didn't offer the support I needed. 

I was working a temporary job for a call center helping customers come to terms with outrageously high utility bills. My mom didn't care that it was a temporary job. She was delighted that I had employment. Never mind the confines of the life-draining, drab and grey cubicle I called a workstation. Let's ignore the fact that no one that worked there ever came in excited to start the work day evidenced by the lack of smiles and surplus of attitudes that filled the rows and rows of cubicles that made up the call center. I was dreading the thought of having to break the news but I couldn't avoid it any longer. I had nearly enough money to buy the ticket. I finally changed the topic of conversation and told her what my plans were. Silence. Then concern, which quickly turned into something just short of panic. Next, what seemed like a verbal tirade in the form of questions; Who did I know there? Did I even speak the language? Was it safe? Who did I think I was; some sort of rich kid that could just leave a job at will to travel the world? What would I do so far away where no one could help me if I got in trouble? The conversation heated quickly and it wasn't long before we were shouting over each other to get a word in. We were both experiencing the same feeling only for completely opposite reasons. We just didn't understand each other.

I imagine that back then, my mom's own life experiences were so drastically different from mine, that it made it impossible to consider each other's points of view. I didn't have a clear picture in mind of what it was that I wanted let alone the vocabulary to convey why it was so important. I speak perfect Spanish but because I didn't grow up in Mexico my conversational Spanish, in a way, is a bit off. It's almost... too formal. It's the reason people in Mexico can tell right away that I'm not exactly from the area. My Spanish lacks the inflection, humor, and fluidity that gets picked up from growing up in Mexico. Sometimes people are surprised to know that English is my second language because I speak without an accent and it's so much easier for me to express myself. At times during conversations with my mom I often feel like I can't faithfully convey my feelings in their entirety when I try to explain how important rock climbing is. It's hard to describe other than it just feels very formal when I communicate. So I was left unable to effectively explain anything beyond a gut feeling that what I was doing was the start of something prosperous for me. It's not lost on me that possibly my mom's own life experiences could have been generating her concern for my well being. The only traveling she'd done to a foreign country was to the US, with my brother and I, and due to the nature of our immigration status, we were not treated very hospitably. Needless to say, our two points of view strongly contradicted with one another.

Not longer after, I bought my ticket. Months later I went on that trip. Every year after that I went to a new international destination at least once a year. A curious thing began to happen between us as the years went on. With each year that I got more and more involved in climbing, I also began to find ways to demonstrate the positive effect it was having on my life. It isn't always easy for my mom to understand but she could tell that I was truly happy; that I was staying out of trouble; that I had many friends that were also interested in the same things I was. She saw that I wasn't lonely and that my friendships were with people that cared about my safety and well being. Later when I started working in climbing gyms she saw that I could also earn a living at this if I applied myself. Conversely I also began to soften my attitude and understand the value of stability both in my personal life and my profession. It became easier to understand her concerns and to consider her opinions a genuine regard for my well being and success.    

My extended family still doesn't quite get it. I suspect they never really will and I'm okay with that because they get the most important part, that I'm happy. They certainly understand the value of having your own business. That is, after all, part of the American dream. So, even if they don't understand all the benefits that I get from the climbing scene, they understand that I'm self-employed and giving it my best. It also makes it easier for them to understand stories about dangling on the ends of ropes in different places. They understand it's for the good of the business and so it's easier for them to encourage me even if they don't completely understand the purpose. They still think it's super weird and poke fun at the ridiculousness of it all but it's in good fun and I know they are happy for and proud of me. 

Mom and I, 2012

Mom and I, 2012

As of late I get lost in thoughts of repeating cycles. It occurred to me that back then I was in a very similar position to my mom in her early 20's when, much to her family's disapproval, she left the predictable outcome of a life in Mexico in search of something better with two very little boys in tow. She traveled far to a country where she didn't know anyone, where she didn't know the language, far away from anyone that could help her if she got in trouble. She left her studies and possible careers behind. Though the cycle is very similar in many ways, it's also different. In my 17 years of climbing I've traveled farther than my mom could've ever dreamed of, and seen things most people in my family never will. Not like some rich kid who leaves steady employment at the drop of a hat but rather as an individual making his way in the world, many times in the company of my best friends. The success of the shop now bridges the communication gap that used to seem impassable. Now, much to my enthusiasm, what was once the source of my mom's fears is now the source of her pride.

On this Mother's day, I'm so happy to be able to reach out and thank her for all the lessons, all the patience, and all the encouragement. Much of my success and my ability to push forward draws from my mom's own strengths, challenges, and experiences. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have such a strong woman to set an example for me. I can only hope that through my friendships, climbing adventures, and now my shop, I can show her how much her inspiration means to me.

For Maricela, with love!

AntiGravityEquipment.com

Cut Me Some Slack

Photo by Corie T., @insatiabletourist 

Photo by Corie T., @insatiabletourist 

This post is inspired in part by a photo that my friend Corie posted on her instagram feed, @insatiabletourist. The photo caption read "I guess this is how the cool kids belay nowadays". The picture showed a young climber belaying someone who was out of the frame on a route in the area known as Overboard at Smith Rock. The young man in the picture was at least 10 feet away from the wall with enough slack out that it hovered just inches above it's own shadow before lazily arching its way at a diagonal angle towards the wall, up to the presumably unsuspecting climber; What we call a Hero Loop. As I looked in disbelief I was reminded of an uncomfortable situation that happened while I was climbing in Clear Creek Canyon. It also got me thinking of other similar situations where something dangerous was happening and how sometimes I felt comfortable saying something, and sometimes I just chose to walk away. 

The particular event at Clear Creek Canyon happened like this: I was nearing the end of a long climbing trip up the west coast of the United States. One of my last stops was Colorado and it happened that a good friend of mine, Adam, lived in Denver. Adam opened his house to my climbing partner and I, and offered to take a day off to show us around Clear Creek, a big local climbing area minutes outside of Denver. 

After nearly 5 months of climbing on this trip with a month left to go, Adam deemed me in shape to try a route he'd been working on at an area called the Wall Of The 90's. His animated descriptions of techy edges and bear-hugging cruxes on vertical terrain had me both intrigued and terrified in equal proportions and he swore the hike wasn't too bad either. Done deal. I was up for the challenge. 

At the Wall Of The 90's, I was a kid in a candy store. Beautiful lines, from vertical to overhanging, were at our complete disposal. We were the only 3 at the crag, so we had our pick of any of the warm ups before getting down to the business. After a couple of runs on some fun 10's and 11's, I was ready to be shown the project. The route was called 10 Digit Dialing. Due to its popularity, the heavily chalked holds easily spelled out the vertical path to the anchors. I remember the route not seeming very tall which could only mean that to receive a grade of 12c it would have to be pretty burly in its short distance. 

I tied in and went for the onsight attempt and though I could distinguish which holds to grab, the crux near the top proved to be a boulder problem that was both hard to read and as strong as I anticipated from the ground. I remember it was just as Adam had said, "it's like wrestling with a refrigerator!" referring to some compression moves. I did not onsight the route but after a few tries I cracked the cryptic sequence to the crux and asked to be lowered down so I could rest and try again. 

What an amazing line. A totally unsuspecting introduction that involved climbing over a couple low angle ledges to fun vertical terrain, slowly led you into thinner edges with more technical sequences until a surprise buildup of lactic acid in your forearms was met by a thin and balance-y crux within a few feet of the anchor. Cruel beauty. 

After a good rest, and some mental preparation I was ready to try again. I sent the route on my second try, pumped about the quick victory on a tricky but aesthetic line. After cleaning the anchor, as I was lowering down, I looked back to see a pair of climbers approaching. One was tall and thin, the other, shorter and stockier. The shorter climber congratulated me on the send. He said he'd been able to see the line go down on his hike over. He'd been project-ing it for some time and thought today felt like it might also go down for him. 

Still feeling the fatigue in my forearms from grappling with the ice-box crux, I sat down with my friends to watch the pair attempt the line before moving on to climb other gems in that area. 

First up was our friend of shorter stature. Built a little like a wrestler, I got the impression he might be a bit more comfortable with the power moves that comprised the crux. After his silent partner put him on belay, he tied a quick knot into his harness and began gliding through the opening moves and then through the mid section of the route. He had a good, uninterrupted flow through the line; they way you do when you have the moves so committed to memory, you can do the sequence in your sleep. He fell right at the first moves of the crux and all of a sudden everything changed. Frustration immediately manifested in the form of a temper tantrum just short of kicking and pulling of hair. Though that type of attitude can be embarrassing; I reserved judgment because I know what it's like to work on something for a length of time and not get it despite your best and most perfect efforts. It feels like the very universe may be conspiring so you can fail. Rather than contempt, I felt empathy for the guy. 

After a bit, he got back on, worked on the crux sequence and lowered back down for a rest. His taller, more reserved climbing partner tied in and waited to be put on belay. With a look of frustration fastened to his face, the first climber produced a GriGri and put his partner on belay. I remember they hardly exchanged a word between the two and after a brief safety check, the second climber was off on his onsight attempt.  

Now at this point, the belayer had paid out a generous amount of slack, evidenced by the coils that piled up between him and his climbing partner. It seemed a bit much to me considering the first bolt wasn't very high up but sometimes it's hard to tell how much is enough and it's pretty easy to take in the remaining slack once the first bolt is clipped. What was of more concern was our new acquaintance's positioning once his partner left the security of flat land. 

Rather than spot his friend to the first bolt, his hands were placed on either hip like he'd just ran a hard mile and needed to walk it off. Head down, presumably still irritable from his earlier attempt, he appeared to have zero concern for the other end of the line. 

I suspect a belay from this far back it would not be possible to give a soft catch. If the climber were heavier, there is the risk of pulling the belayer forward and off balance. 

I suspect a belay from this far back it would not be possible to give a soft catch. If the climber were heavier, there is the risk of pulling the belayer forward and off balance. 

His climbing partner was focused on the task at hand and the controlled movements through the opening moves on his onsight attempt suggested he had climbing experience. I was kind of waiting for him to look back down so he could make eye contact with his belayer and possibly get him to redirect his attention back to the belay, but he clipped the first bolt and remained focused on the task at hand.  

We heard the familiar click of a closing carabiner gate and that same sound seemed to call the belayer's attention back to his device. His hands quickly changed positions from hips to belay device and a silent sigh passed through me unnoticed. 

With the initial amount of slack in the line, the climber had no issues clipping the first draw and continued climbing uninterrupted on his way towards the second bolt. When the belayer dropped his hands from his hips to his device, what my friends and I had expected to see was a retraction in the excess slack, which would result in a safe and normal fall should our nimble-climbing friend make a mistake. Instead, horrified, what the three of us saw was the belayer paying out an additional 5 or so more feet of slack into the system, and returned his hands right back to his hips.  

I didn't need to confirm with my friends that what I was watching was reckless endangerment, but the look on their faces and silent mouthing of WTF confirmed my opinion. With the climber's attention firmly focused on his climbing, he had no idea of the unnecessary danger his partner was putting him in. There was enough slack in the rope, that he was easily able to clip the second and third bolt without the possibility of being short-roped. 

Trying my best to give the benefit of doubt, I had thoughts going through my mind like, "this terrain is still pretty easy, maybe he knows his friend's skill level well enough to know he won't fall here" or "maybe they've climbed together long enough to be comfortable with that type of belaying" but I wasn't really buying into any of my own excuses. It went against things I'd been taught early on about a commitment to safety. 

After he clipped the third bolt he was beginning to enter the more technical terrain and I thought, "surely he'll put him on ACTUAL belay now?"  No. He proceeded to pay out another arm length and a half of slack and returned his hands to his hips in a Herculean pose of apathy.

The silent anxiety in our group felt like a herd of cats ready to pounce. At this point if the climber fell with that much slack out, plus rope stretch, plus more slack from pulling his belayer into the wall, he'd surely be looking at a ground fall from halfway up the route. Even if he got lucky and stopped just short of flat land, the fall would be hard and it would be unpleasant. 

Again, hands went from hips to belay device and he paid out another 2 arm lengths of slack. His hands went back to his hips and he actually (I'm not kidding here) surveyed the land from left to right. 

That was pretty much it for me. His partner was close to the crux now and I didn't (couldn't) watch any more and I knew I wasn't going to say something so I just started packing up my gear. My friends apparently thought the same because they followed suit immediately. The curiosity did get the better of me while packing up though and I looked up in time to see him grab the GriGri after his partner called for a take at the crux. We left shortly after and once out of earshot began to talk about the woulda-coulda-shoulda's. 

Stuff like that happens all the time in this sport though. Sometimes it's just lack of skill and experience. Sometimes it's just plain lazy negligence. Whenever ethical situations or situations concerning safety like this happen at the crag, the part that bothers me most is when I get a feeling like I can't say something. This usually happens when I get the impression that pointing out the safety issue will be received as confrontational. To add to the issue, there's so many variables that can produce a variety of results. For example, I feel like most people would maybe appreciate it if you let them know that they may have forgotten to lock a carabiner but have you ever tried telling a seasoned old-schooler he should probably wait to roll that cigarette with one hand after his partner comes down? 

Recently at Smith on Morning Glory Wall my group and I were climbing next to a well-meaning couple out for a day of cragging. One was teaching the other about climbing but within minutes it was clear neither had the experience to really be out there cragging on their own. They were both tied in to either end of the rope on 5 Gallon Buckets the same way you would if you were multi-pitching. Failing to flake the rope, they encountered an overhand knot half way through the rope while one was lowering the other. Overlooking safety checks, the belayer's carabiner was loaded backwards with the ATC being clipped to the anti-crossloading end of a Metolius Gatekeeper (meant more for a GriGri than an ATC); the carabiner was also left unlocked. Thankfully, they were really receptive to suggestions on ways to correct their mistakes but the situation left me feeling anxious. If you've ever seen someone get seriously hurt while climbing, you know the feeling.  

But that day at Clear Creek, something in me told me to keep my mouth shut and mind my business. I think it happened after I saw him take a fall on his project. His reaction made me think he wouldn't take kindly to someone telling him how to belay. So, I kept my mouth shut and minded my own business and opted for calling it a day instead. It's happened a few times since then and I always feel conflicted about it after. I've discussed, at times, with my friends about the effects of good mentoring early on in your climbing career. I'm not trying to portray Officer Safety who's never done anything compromising. I often climb without a helmet, though I own one. I posted a recent photo of my girlfriend climbing on Portland Oregon Climbing Community's FaceBook page and someone commented "Helmets save lives". When I read the comment, I thought, yeah, they do. I own one, I should probably be better about wearing it. I do appreciate people taking time to point out good ethics and safety in climbing, especially when I was first starting out. They became fundamentals for me and I try and do my best to pass that on when I can. There have certainly been times when I've been lax about things like safety checks and there's nothing like climbing with a beginner who's been taught correctly to remind me not to get complacent. 

It's been said many times before in other writing. The growing popularity of climbing has made it easily accessible to the masses. More than ever we have to be careful about how the new generations are introduced to the sport especially during the transitions from indoor to outdoor. Taking the time to learn the proper way to do things and to get your information and training from trusted sources can help save your life and your partner's. Teaching others when one is still very new to climbing concepts can lead to serious consequences. For those of us that have been climbing a long time, the second we adopt an attitude where we think we know all there is to know and no one can make a suggestion, we've closed ourselves off and possibly increased our chances for equally serious consequences. 

A belay with arms folded and this far back from the route might make it hard for some to concentrate through the runouts on Middle Aged Vandals. 

A belay with arms folded and this far back from the route might make it hard for some to concentrate through the runouts on Middle Aged Vandals. 

I feel like the idea here is not to strive for perfection. As human beings it's guaranteed that we will make mistakes. We'll always find a reason to justify cutting a corner. It's about HOW we react when someone calls attention to a potential safety hazard. Equally as important is our approach when someone is negligent about safety. I like to think that most climbers out there are well-intentioned. It does no one any good to embarrass or chastise someone for committing mistakes. We can still make a choice to ignore or acknowledge the advice given but at least there's pause for thinking about the situation. As climbers, we are a special group of misfits with like-minded passions for community and adventure and being open to giving and receiving constructive criticism should be part of our culture because none of us want to see one of our own in a bad spot.

Week 12: Power Endurance

Wow, I can't believe 3 months already went by and now it's finally time to see what 12 weeks of training can do for a regular dude out at Smith Rock. Power endurance training continued this last week and I was fortunate to be able to make it outside for another 2 amazing days of cragging. 

We'll get to the workouts soon enough but as I wrap up the training blog posts this week I want to take a moment to thank my SW/AG friends for all the help and support that we've all given each other throughout the last 3 months. If you've been following the blogs week by week you'll have read about some contributions to the training as time went on. These contributions came as a result of my friends also being interested in training and wanting to contribute some help along the way. 

Missy Apple started training with us because she wanted to work on developing her psychological game as well as her physical abilities on roped routes. At the beginning of the training we spent a lot of time finding and getting to the root of all her fears and we all pitched in to keep her motivated through her psychological cruxes. Despite tremendous pressures to overcome Missy has shown commitment and determination to overcome her fears and is always willing to get outside with us no matter how early the starts or how many round trips we make. Missy is also one of the most supportive in the group and during the 12 weeks of training she would constantly remind us of our progress if we were feeling down or would go as far as to slug us in the arm if we were being irrationally hard on ourselves. Brightening up even the most boring of endurance days, her sense of humor and selfless attitude towards her climbing partners was a tremendous help to the team. 

Meghan Austin's ability to commit to a regimented training program first time out was amazing. Training with your significant other can be a daunting task but Meghan's determination to succeed and desire to see the both of us progress to a new level made for the best training partner you could ask for. Already being a pretty fit woman, once Meghan hit her stride in the strength phase it was incredible to see her progress. The first time she caught a dyno in one of the highball areas of the gym we put it on our social media sites and got over 1000 views. I knew then that her determination was going to make her unstoppable through the rest of the training. Meghan Austin shared a very valuable contribution to my training in particular when it came to supplemental exercises and nutrition. I generally dislike almost any exercise that isn't climbing but whenever I didn't want to do any of the core workouts or lifts, she would be there to push me to finish at least the entire first rounds and later in the training to finish the entire workouts; Even on hot days when our clothes were sticking to our skin and we didn't want to move an eyelash. Later, Meghan kept us both healthy with easy to cook recipes full of nutritious ingredients and lots of flavor. 

Last on our team is my friend Cameron Apple. Though I have a love/hate relationship with his workout designs, I'm convinced that his torture creations went a long way towards keeping us injury free and gave us incredible functional strength that easily applied itself during the different phases of our training. Starting out cold turkey 12 weeks ago, I could barely complete a single round of his routines but even during this early stage I knew that if I kept up with them the rewards would be worth it. Thanks to his routines the team saved a lot of time and energy on what now seems like pointless traditional exercises. Seemingly endless sequences of unconventional core and opposing muscle exercises using mostly bodyweight and kettlebells kept the overuse injuries at bay, kept our bodies in a constant state of adaptation, and made us stronger on and off the rock for sure. Like Meghan and Missy, his supportive attitude and commitment to the training made him an invaluable part of the team especially when it came to getting outside. 

 So that's the team for this training cycle. Just about a 3rd of the way on their first cycle are our friends Steven and Veronica. Once they finish up towards the end of this year we'll all be back at it again to be in even better shape for Spring climbing with all of Team SW/AG. Below is the final workout in the Power Endurance phase. Starting this weekend we will all be working on our respective end goals. I'm excited to see what happens as I start work on Darkness At Noon. 

Monday: Rest Day and skin care. 

Tuesday: Core Workout. Using the Parallettes- Pass through's x10; L Sit Lifts x5; L Sit Hold for 30 sec; Hangboard- Toes to bar x10; 50 Mountain climbers; Hangboard- Hanging Negatives x10; Russian Twist x60. 2 rounds. 

Wednesday: Route Intervals. Warmed up with 4 routes on lead, each one progressively harder and practice falls at the anchors. Next was a boulder ladder consisting of V2 x4, V3 x3, V3 x2, V5 x2. 15 minutes rest. 

Next I picked a pumpy route with about 30 moves. I climbed the route once on lead and timed myself. I rested double the time it took me to climb it. I was able to complete 6 full laps on lead averaging about 1.5 minutes climbing and 3 minutes rest. 

Thursday: Core and Opposing exercises. Bike warmup for 2 min, steady pace. Single-arm Kettlebell fun (reps # is on each side)- Swings x10, Cleans x10, Overhead Press x10, Racked Squats x10, Rows x10, Windmills x5, High Pulls x10, Racked Lunges x5. Plank hands to elbows x1 min, 1 min rest. Repeat kettlebell circuit. 1 min Side Plank each side, 1 min rest. Repeat kettlebell circuit but cut reps to 5, 1 min rest. V Ups NO REST- Hold w/ hands at knees x30 sec, hands over head x30 sec, with hand pumps x30 sec, hands at knees while alternating knee tucks x30 sec.  Skin care for sure after this workout.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Laps at French's Dome. My warmup up consisted of 2 laps on Silver Streak. The previous weekend I had completed 3 full laps with no falls on lead on Crankenstein. This time I did only one lap on lead and moved up in difficulty on a route called Pump O Rama. I was able to complete 3 laps on lead without falls on this route and that's when I really started to feel like I might have a fighting chance once I started to work on the 13a. 

Final lap of the day on Pump O Rama 

Final lap of the day on Pump O Rama 

Monday: Laps at French's Dome. After a long warm up on several of the easier routes at French's I managed another 3 laps on Pump O Rama. This time I lead the route the first time. The second and third time I lapped it on top rope but I timed it and double the rest time to simulate indoor training. I was able to complete all 3 laps with no falls and shorter rests! 

Supplemental Training: This week Meghan and I got ingredients for delicious Veggie Tacos. We cooked up brussel sprouts, onions, peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms in a pan with a bunch of seasoning and in about 15 minutes we had cooked vegetable wrapped up in corn tortillas ready to eat. For a second dish, we baked some salmon and bought a large container of mixed leafy greens and packed salmon salads for lunches. 

Veggie Taco Mix 

Veggie Taco Mix 

And that wraps up my training for 5.13. Now the only thing left to do is go out and send that rig! I hope you guys had fun reading the blog posts and maybe even found some useful information that could help you with your goals. The blog posts have served as a kind of accountability log and I've enjoyed sharing the successes, aches and pains of the training life as I went along. For sure training for any kind of project requires a big shift in mentality and I owe a lot of inspiration to keep going to Meghan, Cameron, Missy, Steven and Veronica and of course the rest of Team SW/AG who in one way or another always shows support. As always, thanks for reading and drop by AntiGravity Equipment if you get a chance to say hi. 

 

Week 11: Power Endurance

Only a couple of weeks left to go before entering the peak sending phase and I'm feeling pretty good about my climbing outside. I'd been curious to see how quickly the indoor training would adapt outside and though I've yet to visit Smith, I have been getting out to local crags on the weekends to practice power endurance on the rock. 

Training outside is great for somethings but not so great for others. Indoors you have the flexibility to create sequences in infinite varieties tailored specifically for the result that you want to achieve. Outside however, the routes can be so varied, it can be quite hard to find that perfect line or lines that will get you the right amount of fatigue needed to properly execute a power endurance workout. Luckily we have this awesome little crag called French's Dome in Zig Zag and it has quite a few routes that mother nature designed as if she had power endurance in mind. So, when the opportunity to climb outside was available, that's where I headed. 

Because Power Endurance workouts can be so taxing, these weeks have less climbing during the week and more climbing during the weekend. The difference is the volume is greater and more concentrated on crushing the endurance out of your fingers and arms so the extra rest is definitely needed. My friend Cameron made sure that laziness didn't have a chance to set in though, and also designed some crushing workouts to perform on opposing exercise days and core days. See below. 

Monday: After a 24 hour rest day from Saturday's attempt to climb Infinite Bliss, I headed out with Meghan Austin to French's Dome for a late afternoon power endurance session. In my haste to make it out to the crag on time, I forgot to pack enough quickdraws for Meghan and I to both do laps on routes of our choice. That mistake would cost me during my sets but it would also highlight the kind of shape I had been training myself into. 

I belayed Meghan on a couple of warmup laps on Straw Man. She wanted to try redpoint burns on Silver Streak (aka Dirty Deeds), her first 10b. I led the route twice as a warmup intending to leave the draws up for her redpoint attempts. Silver Streak is one of those routes that is a good indicator of climbing fitness. If it feels super pumpy I know I'm not in as good a shape as other times but if it flows and feels manageable to the chains, then I know I'm off to a good start. On this day, it felt easy and flawless; A perfect warmup. 

Meghan tying in for her first redpoint attempt of the day. 

Meghan tying in for her first redpoint attempt of the day. 

After Meghan took a lap on it, I searched my bag for more quickdraws so I could begin my power endurance set on Crankenstein, 11c. As I'd mentioned before, I forgot all the extra draws back at my place. With only 3 extra draws it was going to be impossible to lead without having to take some draws down on Silver Streak. I asked Meghan to clean the first 3 on her route and with 5 draws I set off to climb my route. I ended up being able to climb the entire thing by back cleaning and bumping draws up the route on lead without falls. On my way down I cleaned 3 draws so Meghan could re-lead her route and we went back and forth like that until we had each taken 3 laps on our routes. I completed Crankenstein back cleaning on lead 2 times and the final time I fell at the last bolt just a few moves below the chains. Success!! 

Tuesday: Core workouts! Cam's gut wrenchers consisted of the following- Mountain climbers (opposite knee to elbow) x50; Around the Worlds (33lb plate) x40; Turkish Get ups with 5 windmills at the end of each one (using 20lb dumbell) x10; Hollow Rockers x20 followed immediately by Hollow Hold x30 secs. 2 rounds if you don't pass out first. 

Wednesday: Power Endurance indoors. I started the workout with 15 minutes of endurance and 10 minutes of rest. Next was a Warmup Boulder Ladder consisting of V2 x4, V3 x3, V4 x2, V5 x2. Next I spent about 20 minutes working on a dynamic V6 mini-project followed by 15 minutes of rest. 

Power endurance: Linked bouldering circuit. At Stoneworks we have various hold specific circuits set about the gym that are perfect for power endurance training. I chose to work on a crimp circuit that also had a long crimpy boulder problem that ran along the same wall. I started on the on the boulder problem which traversed left. When I reached the end, I climbed back a few holds without coming off and climbed into the crimp circuit which traversed right. I set the timer at the start of the circuit and by the time I fell off some 32 moves later I was at about 2.5 minutes. I timed my rest for 5 minutes (double the time on the wall) and when the timer went off I repeated the set. I was able to complete 4 cycles slowly decreasing from 32 moves down to about 28 by the time I reached the 4th cycle. The decrease in volume was due to forearm fatigue increasing with each set. 

Thursday: Rest Day! 

Friday: Core and Opposing Exercises. This workout is the one that had me the closest to losing my lunch. Bear Crawl down and back x1; Lateral Bear Crawl down and back x1; 30 sec on the airdyne at 85 rpm's; Heavy Swings with 70lb kettlebell x20; Heavy Racked Carry with 55lb kettlebell down and back x1 on each side; Heavy Swings with 70lb kettlebell x20; Deadlifts with 70lb kettlebell x20; Knee Tucks on hangboard x20; Heavy Swings with 70lb kettlebell x20 (shoot me now!); Windshield wipers on hangboard x10; 20 sec on the airdyne at 85 rpm's. I completed the second round green to the gills. A third round was not happening. 

Saturday: Dawn Patrol! Meghan and I left at 3am to meet Cameron and Missy at Area 51. It was our first time there. Just after dawn we were racked up and ready to warm up. It was great to get the four of us out there at once and to see the progress we've all made during these last 11 weeks. Meghan redpointed her first 10b, a pumpy route called First Contact. Missy kept her lead head together through a technical slab, something she's been consistently improving on during her training. Cameron and I set off to try his mini project, Resistance is Futile. I came within two moves of on-sighting and managed a tenuous send on the second try.

Shortly after we had to leave so I could open AntiGravity Equipment for business, Cameron texted to let us know he sent his first 11c. I think he's made the most progress out of the four of us considering he started 11 weeks ago at routes in the mid to high 10's. 

The prize for sending his first 11c? Cameron got a whole bag of cinnamon gummy bears to himself.  

The prize for sending his first 11c? Cameron got a whole bag of cinnamon gummy bears to himself.  

Sunday: After closing AntiGravity Equipment on Saturday night. Meghan and I drove back out to Zig Zag to camp with Cameron and Missy so we could get another alpine start on Sunday; This time at French's Dome. It was definitely a lot of driving but commitment to the climbing shop and commitment to the training regimen dictated that this was the only way to fit in both. Sunday morning we had the crag to ourselves for a part of the morning before climbers started showing up to escape the hot weather and enjoy the beautiful day.

After our warm ups we all got on our power endurance routes of choice. This time with enough draws, I was able to lap Crankenstein 3 times in between Cameron's attempts. With the draws up, I felt like I had energy to spare, enough to do possibly 2-3 more laps if I'd had more time. I'm looking forward to getting back out there and trying laps on Pump O Rama and seeing if I can push that power endurance level farther. 

Camping at near the river at French's dome. A nice fire, awesome friends, and bag of Oreos.. what more do you need?

Camping at near the river at French's dome. A nice fire, awesome friends, and bag of Oreos.. what more do you need?

Additional Training: This week Meghan helped me prep two more nutritious recipes to help bring the weight down a couple pounds and encouraging a healthier food options. Even though is it was super hot out this week, I insisted on a chili recipe because it's easy to cook in bulk, has tons of protein and is easy to pour into containers and transport. 

Meghan's Chili recipe with steak, ground beef, beans and loads of veggies. 

Meghan's Chili recipe with steak, ground beef, beans and loads of veggies. 

The other recipe was baked chicken breast, cut up and added to a salad mix. I put dried cranberries in mine and add some cashews in there for crunch instead of croutons. For dressing I use a balsamic vinaigrette and that's about it. So far I've brought the weight down to 165 from 170, though I think that's largely due to decrease in beers and snacks. 

After intense workouts I'm still doing ice baths for my forearms, hands and elbows. Still using the Flexbar for opposing forearm muscles. Water intake is doing well. I gave up on stretching but on the plus side, I'm relatively pain free in my arms for once in my climbing career. Next I'm going to work on getting better sleep and picking out my fight song for Darkness At Noon!  

 

Week 10: Power Endurance

Part of the final phase of training involves a little more attention to diet. 

Part of the final phase of training involves a little more attention to diet. 

Finally, my last and favorite training phase... Power Endurance! With only 3 weeks left to go before work on the actual project starts, it's time to put all the previous phases together into what hopefully becomes smooth-yet-crushing technique. As the weeks have gone by I've definitely begun to see many improvements in the gym that have me feeling super confident when it comes to plastic. Still, I get these bits of nervous tension when I wonder if the training will respond the same way outside.

The drawback to training for the majority of time indoors is that I haven't had a ton of opportunity to apply it on real rock. There's a part of me that wants the hardest of routes to feel like 5.9's but the prudent part of me knows how unrealistic that fantasy is. Getting better through training doesn't make harder routes easier (in the sense of the word). It just makes you better at managing your most difficult terrain. I just get antsy thinking that I'll soon be getting on that dream line and maybe it won't feel easy or manageable. Still, I know I've invested a lot of time and effort into preparing and it would be a waste of my efforts if I didn't push past my comfort zone. As it gets closer to game day, my friend Matt Lapworth would say "fuertes a muerte" (strong to the death). 

The power endurance workouts for the next 3 weeks are designed to mimic climbing long sections of routes near your limit of endurance for a sustained period of time. By forcing yourself to adapt to the stress you will be increasing the length of time you can climb while your forearm pump increases. If designed right, the workouts are short, brutal, sprints of maximum effort for your little digits and forearms. My favorite! 

Monday: I started the workout with 15 minutes of endurance and 10 minutes of rest. Next was a Warmup Boulder Ladder consisting of V2 x4, V3 x3, V4 x2, V5 x2. Next I spent about 20 minutes working on a dynamic V6 mini-project followed by 15 minutes of rest. 

Power endurance: Linked bouldering circuit. At Stoneworks we have various hold specific circuits set about the gym that are perfect for power endurance training. I chose to work on a crimp circuit that also had a long crimpy boulder problem that ran along the same wall. I started on the on the boulder problem which traversed left. When I reached the end, I climbed back a few holds without coming off and climbed into the crimp circuit which traversed right. I set the timer at the start of the circuit and by the time I fell off some 32 moves later I was at about 2.5 minutes. I timed my rest for 5 minutes (double the time on the wall) and when the timer went off I repeated the set. I was able to complete 4 cycles slowly decreasing from 32 moves down to about 28 by the time I reached the 4th cycle. The decrease in volume was due to forearm fatigue increasing with each set. 

Tuesday: Core workouts from Cameron. Lateral Crawls down and back; Plank Touch Protocol forward and backwards; Side V Ups x40 (20 each side); Seated Compressions; V Up- hold hands at knees 30 sec, hold hands over head 30 sec, hand pumps at knees 30 sec, hold hands at knees while alternating knee tucks, 30 sec. Rest 15 sec between each hold. Repeat for 2 rounds total then shrivel up and cry. 

Wednesday: Repeat power endurance training.

I started the workout with 15 minutes of endurance and 10 minutes of rest. Next was a Warmup Boulder Ladder consisting of V2 x4, V3 x3, V4 x2, V5 x2. Next I spent about 20 minutes working on a dynamic V6 mini-project followed by 15 minutes of rest. 

Power endurance: I started on the on the boulder problem which traversed left. When I reached the end, I climbed back a few holds without coming off and climbed into the crimp circuit which traversed right. I set the timer at the start of the circuit and by the time I fell off some 32 moves later I was at about 2.5 minutes. I timed my rest for 5 minutes (double the time on the wall) and when the timer went off I repeated the set. 4 sets total. 

Thursday: Rest day! 

Friday: Core workouts mixed with opposing exercises from Cameron. Reptile crawls in one direction and inchworms back to the starting point x2. Kettlebells- Single arm swings x10; Mountain climbers x25; Clean-Squat-Press with kettlebells x10; Russian twist x60, Single led deadlift with kettlebell x10; V Ups x30; Power step ups x40. I was supposed to repeat two rounds of this workout but lately I had been getting quite a few dizzy spells throughout the week and I wasn't able complete a second round without feeling a little sick to my stomach so I cut it short. More on this later. 

Team SW/AG rappelling down Infinite Bliss

Team SW/AG rappelling down Infinite Bliss

Saturday: Climbing outside. For months now, some of us from Team SW/AG had been planning a trip to the Washington National Forest to attempt a 23 pitch sport route called Infinite Bliss on Mt. Garfield. Saturday was our day to try and send this rig. Due to route finding treachery and water shortage, we were only able to complete 11 pitches before making a very wise decision to retreat. Blog post on this to follow. 

Sunday: Rest Day. 

Additional training: Now that I am getting pretty close to finishing up with the training, diet and weight control have become a thing to keep an eye on. For this part of the training I asked for help from Meghan Austin, my girlfriend and main training partner. If you've seen Meghan around the gym or occasionally working at AntiGravity Equipment, you know she's a pretty fit lady. Why just the other day, a lady at the grocery store complimented her on her guns while we were shopping for recipes. 

Eating healthy isn't a chore for me but coming up with stuff to cook is. My days are so busy with running my shop, a second job, training and helping out with my teammates' training plus regular life stuff and unfortunately my diet suffers from proper nutrition the majority of the time. I asked Meghan to help me with two healthy recipes a week that I could cook in bulk over the next 5-6 weeks to help me keep a healthier diet and help me drop a few pounds. Coupled with a step up in the reps and exercises that Cameron helps out with I'll be down to fighting weight in no time. 

This week Meghan and I got together to cook up bulk recipe of quinoa, lentils, and veggies with chicken as well as a bulk recipe of tabouli. We were able to buy up enough groceries to feed the both of us for the week and we spent less than 50$ between the two of us.  

Thanks for following the training blog and for supporting AntiGravity Equipment your local westside climbing shop. Be sure to check back over the next two weeks as I finish up the training and start work on my project out at Smith Rock. 

 

Week 9: Power

Over two months of training is behind me now and actual work on Darkness At Noon is just about on the horizon. This last week of power training was a bit interrupted because of my annual trip to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Even with the midweek work vacation I still managed to get a couple of strong workouts in. I'm really seeing the the pieces come together now during the long bouldering sessions in the gym. I'm eager to see it all connect over the next 3 weeks of power endurance but at the same time, the butterflies set in when I think about getting out to smith to actually start work on the project. 

Sunday: Last day of Campus Training

Warmup: 20 minutes of traversing on the wall. Rest for 15 minutes

Warmup Boulder Ladder:  V0 x4, V1 x4, V2 x4, V3 x2, V4 x2 (trying to select different types of problems on different types of terrain for a good mix). Rest for 10-15 minutes. 

Campus Training: Four sets of matching ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched, then lead with the same hand and match the other hand for a total of 4 rungs matching once again at the top. Alternate the leading hand each set. Next was four sets of basic ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched and go up one rung per hand for 5 rungs and match at the top. 

Monday: Opposing exercises! This one had me turning a slightly greenish color due to the Airdyne torture. 

Airdyne- 25 sec at 85+ rpm, 1 min rest x6 (try not to puke). Kettlebell swings 70lbs x5; Single leg deadlift w/ 55lb kettlebell x10 (5 each side); Plyometric pushups x10; Cleans with 35lb kettlebell x20 (10 each side); 2 rounds total on all the lifts. 

Meghan Austin was my apparel advisor this year at OR. 

Meghan Austin was my apparel advisor this year at OR. 

Tuesday-Friday: Team SW/AG boarded a flight to SLC to look at all the awesome new stuff that is going to be available for next year. AntiGravity Equipment has been growing slowly but surely and with many key products already in the shop, this year the focus was on the most innovative products and lots of really nice technical clothing. Though there was next to 0 climbing done during the week, Power Training switched from the physical to the ability to power through like a proper adult after a few days of partying with all our friends in the outdoor industry.

Saturday: I was back at AntiGravity Equipment in time to open the shop after landing in PDX early in the morning. With some makeup work to do, after sorting out some business stuff I went right into a Limit Bouldering workout followed by a core workout and an opposing exercises workout. 

Warmup: 20 minutes of traversing on the wall. Rest for 15 minutes

Warmup Boulder Ladder:  V0 x4, V1 x4, V2 x4, V3 x2, V4 x2 (trying to select different types of problems on different types of terrain for a good mix). Rest for 10-15 minutes. 

Limit Bouldering: After a 15 minute break I picked two problems that would normally be above flash level. I sent the first problem in two tries which really showed me the training was paying off. At Stoneworks they use a color system instead of the V scale for boulder problems and it's pretty rare that I can send an orange problem let alone complete one in two tries. Next I headed to the highball area for another dynamic orange problem. This one was not as difficult technically but required some serious commitment to a final dynamic move at the top of the 18ft wall. After 4 tries, I wasn't able to finish the problem but did notice a better command of all the holds on the problem which pointed to another benefit from the training. 

Core: Parallettes- Passthrough's x10, L sits x5, L sit and hold for 30 sec; From the hangboard- Hanging Knee Tucks x15; Mountain climbers x50; From the hangboard- Windshield wipers x10 (5 each side); Repeat! 

Opposing Exercises: Turkish Getups with shoulder presses x2 (one each side); Offset Plyometric pushups x20 (10 each side); Power Stepups hugging 33lb plate x20 (10 each side); Deadlift using 70lb kettlebell x10; Seesaw Row using 25lb dumbbells x20; 2 rounds. On the second round I couldn't do the Plyometric Pushups so I just did them offset on the ground. 

And that wraps up 3 weeks of Power Training. The next few weeks will be spent on the computer filling out endless spreadsheets with all the new climbing gadgets I want to bring into AntiGravity Equipment and on the last phase training before working out some sort of schedule to try and redpoint my first 13 at Smith. Be sure to check back for more training updates next week! 

 

Week 8: Power

Working on perfecting the campus technique in the gym. 

Working on perfecting the campus technique in the gym. 

The second week of power training is done and with one week left to go I'm starting to see some things come together. This week was much better than the first week of power training in the sense that I felt like I was back in touch with gym climbing. During the endurance phase the climbing was unrestricted because I didn't have to follow any tape during the long sets on the wall. Strength was more about time spent on the hangboard so there was even less climbing involved except to warm up. Getting back to the confines of taped boulder problems had me feeling a bit out of sorts with all the rules but I really feel like I hit a great stride this second week. 

On a few days in particular, I felt that familiar feeling of having everything flow really smoothly during bouts on boulder problems. It's that great feeling that you get when you feel like you have complete control of every hold you touch, nothing feels desperate, and all your movements feel precise. It's during those days that I feel like all the sacrifice is worth it and it kick starts my motivation to stay focused for the duration of the training. 

If you've been following the blog then you're no stranger to the creative workouts designed by my friend Cameron Apple. These have been especially key in the training process. Besides somewhat normal aches and pains I've been able to stay relatively pain free and definitely injury free throughout the process. These last two weeks he's introduced various exercises involving kettlebells and I have to say, they have been some of the most punishing but some of the most fun workouts so far. I also feel like I've seen a big improvement in my ability to withstand the core exercises. I can't always finish them without rests but for the most part I have enough in the tank to at least finish the workouts completely now. There's been noticeable improvement in my hip flexor strength which has been a major weak point for me and over all I feel pretty damn fit in addition to the climbing. 

Friday: REST DAY!! 

Saturday: Due to a quick trip to Las Vegas to see my family, I traded my outdoor bouldering day for Monday's campus workout since I wouldn't be able to do that while I was away. There was some opposing exercises to do that day too but due to a wedding reception at the gym, there wasn't enough time to do those. 

Warmup: 20 minutes of traversing on the wall. Rest for 15 minutes

Warmup Boulder Ladder:  V0 x4, V1 x4, V2 x4, V3 x2, V4 x2 (trying to select different types of problems on different types of terrain for a good mix). Rest for 10-15 minutes. 

Campus Training: Four sets of matching ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched, then lead with the same hand and match the other hand for a total of 4 rungs matching once again at the top. Alternate the leading hand each set. Next was four sets of basic ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched and go up one rung per hand for 5 rungs and match at the top. 

Although a little hard on the elbows, I've been feeling pretty well in control of these exercises. I don't think I'm quite ready to go down in width of the rungs but maybe next season. 

Sunday & Monday: REST DAYS! I headed down to Las Vegas to watch a concert with my mom at the Brooklyn Bowl. Whenever The Offspring come to town we always meet up to watch the show. We've been doing that together since I was 13. There's a cool origins story about that HERE

Integrating some high-ball bouldering in the Warmup Boulder Ladder routine 

Integrating some high-ball bouldering in the Warmup Boulder Ladder routine 

Tuesday: Supplemental exercises from Cameron.

Opposing Exercises:  Bike warmup 1 min. moderate pace. Single arm kettlebell exercises (5 each with each arm)-  Swings, Cleans-Presses, Clean-Squat-Presses, Bike 1 min. moderate pace. Repeat 3 times! 

I had core this day as well but I felt like I'd ran backwards through a cornfield so I pushed core to the next day. 

Wednesday: Core! Hollow Hold 30 sec; Hollow Rockers x 30; Plank- Knee to cross elbow touches x 10 each side then Pike; Side Plank holding weight- 30 sec. each side; Seated Compressions- Starting with hands at hips, hands by knees, hands past knees x 10 each then backwards until you reach hands by hips again. Great for the flexors! Repeat the entire routine a second time. 

Thursday: Campus Training again. This time I tried something called Max Ladders. 

Warmup: 20 minutes of traversing on the wall. Rest for 15 minutes

Warmup Boulder Ladder:  V0 x4, V1 x4, V2 x4, V3 x2, V4 x2 (trying to select different types of problems on different types of terrain for a good mix). Rest for 10-15 minutes. 

Campus Training: Four sets of matching ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched, then lead with the same hand and match the other hand for a total of 4 rungs matching once again at the top. Alternate the leading hand each set. Next was four sets of basic ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched and go up one rung per hand for 5 rungs and match at the top. 

Max Ladders: Medium rungs. Start matching on Rung #1, R hand up to Rung #5, L hand to Rung #7, match. Repeat leading with the left hand. Next, start matching on Rung #1, R hand up to Rung #5, L hand to Rung #9, match. Repeat with the left hand.  

Friday: Core! Using the bench- Knee Tucks x 20, V Ups x 20, Side V Ups x 10 each side; Heavy Rack Carry with kettlebells along the length of the shop down and back; 50 mountain climbers; 1 min. plank- 30 sec. hold, 30 sec activators from hands to elbows. Repeat the routine 3 times! 

That wraps up the 2nd of 3 weeks of power. 8 weeks of training total and getting closer and closer to tying it all together to see if I can send my first 13 at Smith Rock. I wanted to share a little bit about the gear that I've been using during the power training. For shoes, I've been really happy with the Atomyc from Red Chili. I've been using Unicorn Dust from Friction Labs during the bouldering and campus sessions. You can find these and a bunch of climbing gear at AntiGravity Equipment of course. 

Supplemental training: Cameron has incorporated kettlebells into the latest routines. I don't sell those at AntiGravity Equipment but he had me order a 35lb and 55lb kettlebell from Rogue Fitness if you're interest in which type we're using. He also brought in his own 70lb bell to share. 

Learning to rack the kettlebell properly for cleans and heavy carries. 

Learning to rack the kettlebell properly for cleans and heavy carries. 

The campus training and long bouldering sessions have been some of the most punishing on my elbows. I talked at length with a friend about the benefits of ice and heat for recovery and I put that to the test this week. After any hard climbing workout, I go home and fill up a container with ice and water and submerge each arm for 10 minutes. I found that it keeps me 100% pain free at least half a day before typical workout soreness sets in during the recovery. In addition to that I've been trying hot/cold cycles in the shower to help with overall recovery, circulation, and a reduction in inflammation from training. 

Next up is a trip to the dollar store for a bigger container so I can completely submerge my arm. 

Next up is a trip to the dollar store for a bigger container so I can completely submerge my arm. 

Check back on the shop's blog next week for the final power phase before moving to the pump-tastic power endurance phase! 

 

Week 7: Power

Time to build some hurting bombs! 

Time to build some hurting bombs! 

Finally... back to climbing! Even if it's in the gym, at least it's actual movement on problems instead of monotonous traversing or mindless hanging while the seconds tick by on the stop watch. After finishing up 2 weeks of Base Fitness and 4 weeks of Strength, I'm happy to be downstairs once again relearning to climb difficult sequences on plastic.

The power phase consists of some pretty long training days moving over various types of boulder problems focusing more on difficult moves than actually completing the problems. A new addition to the training regimen is the use of a campus board; something I've always avoided in the past for fear of finger injuries (same as the hangboard). 

The first day of the first week of Power had me feeling out of sorts. It had been a month and a half since I walked downstairs from AntiGravity Equipment to Stoneworks to boulder. Prior to, I'd just been traversing moderate terrain for endurance or as a warmup to hangboarding but not much else. I expected to crush everything I touched and instead I found myself climbing somewhat awkwardly and falling off a lot of things. When it was time to use the campus board, I approached pretty timidly and even though I was able to complete the workout, I left feeling pretty humbled and with some very sore fingertips and elbows (from introducing a new exercise and not from tendonitis). Here is the week's workout. 

Friday: Endurance for 20 minutes. Warm up boulder ladder- V0 x4, V1 x4, V2 x4, V3 x2, V4 x2 (trying to select different types of problems on different types of terrain for a good mix). Rest for 10-15 minutes. Hard Bouldering- Worked on a couple of boulder problems that felt like V5-V6 in the highball room. 

Campus Training: All done on the large rungs. Four sets of matching ladders in which you start matched, then lead with the same hand and match the other hand for a total of 4 rungs matching once again at the top. Alternate the leading hand each set. Next was four sets of basic ladders in which you start matched and go up one rung per hand for 5 rungs and match at the top. 

Saturday: Opposing exercises from Cam. Lateral Crawls down and back, Hover Crawls down and back for warmups. Weighted Cossack Squats x4 each side. Plyo-Pushups x5. Power Step-ups with weight x5. Chair Dips with weight x5. Deadlifts with kettle bell x5. Repeat for a total of 3 rounds. 

Sunday: Rest Day! 

Monday: Was supposed to be a hard bouldering day but I had some friends that wanted to practice some skills outside and another friend who wanted to break in all the new gear she purchased at AntiGravity Equipment. So, I took a personal day and we all went out to Smith Rock so they could practice their skills. Truth be told, I think my body was still in shock from the first day of bouldering coupled with Cameron's workout so I was glad for the extra rest day. 

Tuesday: Core! From the hangboard- Hanging Knee Tucks x15; Inverted Negatives x5; Pass-throughs using parallettes x10; Russian Twist x60; V Ups x30; Superman hold for 1 min. Rinse and repeat with no rest between tucks and negatives on the second round. Pure Misery. I was able to get through the whole workout except for the second Superman, I just couldn't stomach it... see what I did there? ;) 

Wednesday: Endurance for 20 minutes. Warm up boulder ladder- V0 x4, V1 x4, V2 x4, V3 x2, V4 x2 (trying to select different types of problems on different types of terrain for a good mix) This time I took longer rests between the harder problems in the ladder. Rest for 15 minutes. Hard Bouldering- I selected 1 hard boulder problem just above flash level to work on. I picked something steep with dynamic movements in it and sent it in 2 tries. Felt like a V5-6 maybe?

Campus Training: Four sets of matching ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched, then lead with the same hand and match the other hand for a total of 4 rungs matching once again at the top. Alternate the leading hand each set. Next was four sets of basic ladders (2 on the large rungs, 2 on the medium rungs) in which you start matched and go up one rung per hand for 5 rungs and match at the top. 

This time I felt a lot more in control. My approach had a lot less nervousness and I got a bit better at deadpointing but still managed to wreck my fingertips on the last few sets. 

Thursday: Core! Plank- Elbows, hold for 1 minute; Activators from elbows to hands for 1 minute; Hands, hold for 1 minute. 15 second break between exercises. Repeat once more without the breaks. FML. Side Plank- Elbows, 1 minute each side. On hands, 30 secs each side; Active hip raises from hands 30 sec each side. 15 second break between exercises. Repeat once more without the breaks. FML. Finish with 1 Turkish Getup followed by 5 windmills and reverse the Getup, x5 on each side. 

Supplemental training: I switched up to heavier lift workouts designed by my friend Cameron for this phase. He focused on fewer exercises comprised of compound movements with fewer reps and more weight. I also took care to ice my elbows and fingers after every workout because I definitely felt them speaking up after campus workouts. 

Taking care of skin on my fingers has also been a priority. I've been getting some questions at AntiGravity Equipment about what all that entails. Mainly it's just filing down calluses and tiny flappers so they don't have a chance to develope into big painful tears that require tape or time off to heal. I even started stocking Skin Files and ClimbSkin from Friction Labs at the shop to keep me motivated to take care of the finger tips. 

As always, feel free to ask any questions about the training on the shop's social media outlets or better yet, you can always drop by AntiGravity Equipment and see the training set ups that we use. Thanks for reading!  

Week 6: Strength

Applying some of that new finger strength out at Lost Rocks

Applying some of that new finger strength out at Lost Rocks

This week I finished up the strength phase and about the hit the official halfway mark as I move into the first week of power. 

Last week I had a bit of a pity party after kind of a rough week. I realized that I had a ton on my plate and it was affecting my mood which in turn affected how I was feeling about training at the moment. I had a really good training day over the weekend with my teammates though and that helped me to realize that I can lean on them for a little motivation when the going gets tough so I can keep the big picture in site and stay inspired as well. 

It's not always possible or easy to be a self-motivator so I'm lucky to have Team SW/AG around for those occasional pick-me-ups. Instant results don't often have a place in training and it can be hard to see gains especially if all you've been doing for a while is training and not yet applying it to any routes. Or worse, you can see some results and get tempted to scrap the rest of the season in order to run out and send a bunch of mini projects instead of committing to the long term goals that were set at the beginning.

Saturday: Due to rain the previous days I headed over to PG for a change of scenery and had a killer workout with Team SW/AG. Because the grades are on the courteous side, I bumped up the endurance grade to 11a. I climbed about 8 pitches or so feeling extremely satisfied with the level of endurance through the entire workout. At the end, Meghan, Missy, and myself all got together for a core workout led by Cameron, the master of pain himself.  

Core: Hollow Hold 30 sec to 30 sec of V Ups x 2; 20 Side V Ups into side plank for 30 sec both sides; Using the Parallettes: Pass Throughs x 10, L Sit Lifts x 5, L Sit hold for 30 sec total time under tension. 

After that whole workout, I rushed up to Beaverton to open up AntiGravity Equipment. It was still early enough in the day that business hadn't quite picked up so I took advantage and got my hangboard workout in while still warm from the earlier gym session. It was time to go up in resistance today too. I was in such a great mood from my earlier session I couldn't wait to crush the board! Much to my amusement, my attitude helped me through one of my best workouts yet. 

Hangboard workout #6: Jugs with Body Weight; Index Middle Ring +7.5 lbs; Medium Edge +7.5 lbs; Medium Pinch +7.5 lbs; Middle, Ring -35 lbs; Large Edge +7.5 lbs; Wide Pinch +7.5 lbs; Middle Ring Pinkie -35 lbs.        

Sunday: Opposing exercises. Hindu Pushups x 10; Cossack Squats x 20 (10 each side); Chair Dips x 10 with 10 lb weight added; Curl to Shoulder Press x 10; Hamstring Bridges x 10; Repeat 3 times. 

Monday: Rest day! 

Tuesday: Final hangboard workout. I also went up in resistance for yet another personal best! I started with 20 minutes of endurance to warm up then moved on to the board. 

Hangboard workout #7: Jugs with Body Weight; Index Middle Ring +10 lbs; Medium Edge +10 lbs; Medium Pinch +10 lbs; Middle, Ring -32.5 lbs; Large Edge +10 lbs; Wide Pinch +10 lbs; Middle Ring Pinkie -32.5.        

Supplemental Workout: After another great hangboard session I finished up with an opposing exercise routine: Walking Lunge into a Single Leg Deadlift x 10 each leg; 3 sets of single arm: Shoulder press x 10, Lateral Raise x 10, Front Raise x 10, Reverse Fly x 10; 20 Push Up to Elbow Knee Touches x 2; Single Leg Squats x 20 (10 each side). 

Wednesday: Core workouts by Cameron again (the lift workouts are also designed by Cameron). Standing Band presses x 80 (40 each side); Around the worlds with 25 lb Plate (10 each side); Active Side Plank x 20; Hollow Rockers x 30; Rinse and repeat. 

And that wraps up strength training. Later this week I move on to POWAH!! I'm definitely looking forward to this next phase because it looks like it involves a lot more climbing although the length and intensity of the sessions are intimidating. It will also be my first time using a campus board so we'll have to see how that goes. 

I have to give a big shout out to Meghan, Cameron, and Missy for keeping me motivated this last week. There are so many external factors that can make or break a training day which can quickly spiral downwards if you don't have the support. Many of my other teammates are also to thank for all the times they drop by AntiGravity Equipment and comment on the blog or want to join in on the workouts. When together, Team SW/AG is like a big ball of motivation. 

Check back next week for the first week of Power Training for 5.13. Thanks for reading and supporting a local climbing shop.  

 

Week 5: Strength

Another crazy week of training has come to an end. This one right on the heels of another outdoor trip, this time to Lost Rocks in Klamath, California. As I had mentioned in last week's post, it wasn't an ideal time to take a trip this early into the training. However, Lost Rocks and Squamish were already planned before the training started plus the fact that I really wanted to go because I put everyone up to it to begin with. 

Even so, I arranged the training in a way that I wouldn't have to miss more than one hangboard workout last week and this week so the damage wasn't too bad. The training however, is definitely not very fun at this point. In fact, I find myself questioning sometimes if 5.13 is even worth it considering the amount of sacrifice that has to happen in order see if I'm even strong enough to send. 

Though not as boring as endurance training, hangboarding is still pretty uninteresting to me. I hate watching the seconds crawl by as I hang from my fingertips in 10 second intervals only to watch the same seconds fly by in double time during the rest periods. It's mildly amusing to see the progress on paper but I'm chomping at the bit to get outside and climb whatever I want. Still, I started this thing and I intend to see it through but it's not without its psychological challenges. 

Saturday - Monday: Training came to a screeching halt as I caravanned with 26 other friends from Team SW/AG and headed to the california coast for 3 days of bouldering, swimming, and flat out fun! I climbed whatever I wanted (which wasn't much), drank too much good beer, and laughed till I thought I might pass out all in the company of the best crew ever.

Bouldering at it's finest.... Click HERE for climbing photos from the trip

Bouldering at it's finest.... Click HERE for climbing photos from the trip

Tuesday: Tired, heavy, and sunburnt, I woke up and hit the ground running to catch up on life on hold. Just because I go on vacation doesn't mean AntiGravity Equipment does. Taking 3 days off is like taking a week off when it comes to shop stuff. I was glad to have a full rest day to catch up on some tasks before returning back to training.

Wednesday: Back to hangboarding. I meant to get my workout in at about midday but I was still slammed with catchup work and the shop was busy with people shopping for some of the new gear that had arrived in the previous two weeks. Late into the day, I started with 20 minutes of endurance. After a break it was time to jump on the hangboard. Since I'd progressed twice in a row with resistance I kept the workout the exact same as the last time to make sure I really mastered the new level. 

Hangboard workout #5: Jugs with Body WeightIndex Middle Ring +5 lbs; Medium Edge +5 lbs; Wide Pinch +5 lbs; Middle Ring -37.5 lbs; Large Edge +5 lbs; Medium Pinch +5 lbs; Middle Ring Pinky -37.5 lbs. 

Thursday: I was supposed to do opposing muscle exercises on Wednesday but I ran out of time so I pushed them to this day and added them to the core routine that was on the schedule. Opposing exercises were as follow: Squats followed by a Burpees in a pyramid - first 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5; Reptile Crawl back and forth along the hallway upstairs (about 20 feet each way); Single Arm Chest Press- 4 sets, 10 reps per arm; Glute/Ham Bridge- 3 sets, 20 reps.

On to core: Plank Complex 20 each- hands, elbows, shoulders, toes; Turkish Getup (to standing) followed by 5 windmills, then reverse the Turkish Getup- 5 sets each side; Another Plank Complex 20 each- hands, elbows, shoulders, toes and right into 50 mountain climbers. After 15 minutes of whining I picked myself and my pride up off the floor and went back to work. 

Friday: Rest day and time to catch up on posts. Not the best training week but there were two solids days of effort. As for the rest of the week? All the fun I had with my friends was worth the break in discipline for 3 days. Back to the straight and narrow for now though. 

Supplemental training: Last week I had mentioned trying to be more conscientious about adding some healthy stretches into my workout. Yeah, I pretty much did none of that this week so rather than add a new thing to work on, I'm going to try and force myself to start stretching. On the plus side, I've been doing good on the water intake and that's something I had a hell of a time with in the past too so maybe there's hope. 

Hangboarding has also done a number on my fingers by creating nasty calluses and little tiny flappers. Every few days or so I take a nail file to my calluses and sand them down and trim any little flappers back to make sure I don't get any skin tears that could mess up my training. I've never paid much attention to the skin on my fingers before so it's definitely kind of a weird thing to sit there and file them down. 

 

 

Week 4: Strength

Flying the AntiGravity Equipment flag at The Grand Wall Boulders. 

Flying the AntiGravity Equipment flag at The Grand Wall Boulders. 

I'm just about a quarter of the way done now! I finished up yet another week of strength. This one had a few modifications in it due to a birthday trip to Squamish and the upcoming 4th of July holiday SW/AG trip to Lost Rocks. Definitely not ideal in the middle of strength week but these were planned trips that I couldn't (and didn't want to) back out of. Still, I managed the schedule so that I didn't have to miss more than one hangboard workout during week 3 and week 4. 

I'm not that thrilled about working out on the hangboard but it is pretty cool to see improvement from week to week by tracking the results in my log book. Even though I don't feel super motivated to just hang on a board for a 30 minute session, I do get to thinking about how much more in control I'll be on the crimps on my project. If I can get through a minute of hanging on crimps, I wonder what it will be like when I can also use my feet.

Last week ended with a birthday hangboard session on Friday. That same morning my friends and I drove up to Squamish to climb granite for the next 3 days. There was no official training but the weekend went like this: 

Saturday: Half day of bouldering in the forest under the Stawamus Chief. The second half of the day a few of us drove back to Murin Park to climb a few trad lines on the Sugar Loaf wall. 

Phil keeping it casual on high-ball

Phil keeping it casual on high-ball

Sunday: We took a trip up the Smoke Bluffs to climb trad lines all day. By all day I mean 2 routes because A) the place was packed and B) most of us are sport climbers and lack the necessary skills and refinement to climb cracks an place gear without freaking out and peeing a little bit.  

Veronica escaping the shadows at the Smoke Bluffs

Veronica escaping the shadows at the Smoke Bluffs

Monday: We drove up to Cheakamus Canyon to clip bolts. Ah, the joys of familiar territory! Slightly overhanging granite pinches and edges just minutes from the parking lot. Infinite bliss. 

Meghan cranking at Cheakamus Canyon. 

Meghan cranking at Cheakamus Canyon. 

Tuesday: A complete rest day and much needed after climbing and the long car ride from the day before. 

Wednesday: Core. I have to say, I'm seeing some improvement in this area as well. I'm able to finish a few of these on occasion now! 15 Knee tucks (hanging); 5 Inverted hangs on the hangboard and a slow release back to standing (negatives); 40 Standing band presses; Seated on the bench: 20 Knee tucks; 20 Vups; 40 Scissor kicks (no rest in between); Later Crawls 10 on each side; 20 Windmills (different than the traditional ones I was thinking of. I had to skip these because I couldn't remember how Cam likes to do them and he didn't get back to me in time because I guess he had to pay attention at work or something.) 

Rinse and repeat. 

I write a lot about the my friend Cameron helping me out with workouts. The legend himself; responsible for all the ab and conditioning sessions. 

I write a lot about the my friend Cameron helping me out with workouts. The legend himself; responsible for all the ab and conditioning sessions. 

Thursday: Hangboard workout #4. I started with 20 minutes of climbing on the autobelay and rested for about 25 minutes while I set up everything I needed to work on the board. I must have some form of dyslexia when it comes to my logbook because the whole time I was reminding myself not to mix up the Middle and Ring for Middle and Index and 3 sets into the grip I realized I had messed up again and had to start that set over. When I got the fingers right I used the wrong pocket.... grrrrr. Then I mixed up the order of the Wide Pinch and the Medium Pinch but I still had a good workout and made improvements in every area. So here goes: Jugs with body weight; Index Middle Ring +5 lbs; Medium Edge +5 lbs; Wide Pinch +5 lbs; Middle Ring -37.5 lbs; Large Edge +5 lbs; Medium Pinch +5 lbs; Middle Ring Pinky -37.5 lbs. 

Everything that shows 5 lbs went up by 2.5 lbs. Middle Ring went down from 40 lbs of counterweight to 37.5 and the last grip stayed the same. The rep count was 10 secs hanging and 5 seconds resting with 3 minutes of rest in between grips. Overall I felt the most solid on this workout than on any other and it was actually rewarding to see the numbers change in the logbook. 

Friday: Conditioning. I was actually supposed to do this on Thursday but for some reason I didn't catch in on the calendar. Cam came in to work out and reminded me I had conditioning to do but I had already cooled down so I pushed to the next day. The workout is as follows: 25 Squat Presses; 15 Resistance Band Pushups; 10 Lateral to Front Shoulder Raises; 10 Split Jumps (ugh); 15 Chair or Ring Dips; 10 Rotational Curls (Pronate up, Supponate down); Repeat 3 more times. 

Supplemental training: Did much better on my water intake this week. Still icing, still using the flexbar. I feel pretty good about adding a new thing to work on for the following week. A few months ago I hurt my upper back during a session. I went to see my friend and PT Amy Benton at Therapeutic Associates in downtown Portland and she told me I had a very stiff thoracic spine. There are a lot of vertebrates back there that should be moving independently and mine don't. Big sections of my spine move together as one and when I pulled a particular move, a big chunk of my thoracic spine twisted and then failed to go all the way back into place, causing excruciating pain in my back and shoulder blades. 

Amy taught me some really good exercises consisting of rolling patterns and stretches to open up mobility in my upper back. During my recovery I was really diligent about my exercises and after a few weeks had made significant progress but once I was better I pretty much quit doing them. I really struggle with flexibility and I know that the older I get the more limiting and damaging is to my body so I'm going to make a bigger effort to incorporate the exercises she gave me into my routine. I figure I could start with those and slowly add some other stretches. 

Hip flexors are a major limiting factor for me and both Amy and Cam have been helping with different techniques to help me improve in this area as well. Mountain climbers performed slowly and seated compression are just a few ways my two friends have been sneaking strength and flexibility into my routine and for that I'm really grateful. 

As always, I hope you enjoy the blog post. Feel free to drop a line or comment on anything in the post in any of the shop's social media outlets. AntiGravity Equipment is on FaceBook and on Instagram. Nick Powloski shared an interesting article on forearm and wrist strengthening in Week 3's post on FaceBook. Check it out! Remember to drop by AntiGravity Equipment if you're in the Beaverton area and say hi!

Week 3: Strength

I survived the monotony of endurance training and I'm so thankful I was in decent enough shape that I didn't have to do 4 weeks of that. This week I transitioned into strength training which means a lot of time building up finger strength on the hangboard. The hangboard is something that I don't have a ton of experience on, mainly because I never received any formal instruction on how to use it for training and I know it can be a really quick way to a finger injury. I guess until recently I never really thought I needed to train on it specifically; Probably because before I opened AntiGravity Equipment I had a lot of time to climb outside and go on extended road trips and I just built up finger strength naturally out on the rocks. 

After careful review of the strength section of the training manual, I felt comfortable enough to start my 4 weeks of training. In addition to the hangboard and the core workouts, I had my friend Cameron help me with a few exercises for opposing muscles and general conditioning that I could add to the mix. There's not much outdoor climbing during this phase so the extra exercises have helped to round out my training day and keep me healthy and balanced. 

I'm going to go ahead and detail the week's hangboard workout and supplemental training but it's worth mentioning that you need to be cautious if you're new to hangboarding and plan to try it out because as I mentioned earlier, it can very quickly lead to finger injuries if used incorrectly. The week's workout consisted of these: 

Saturday: This was supposed to be my official first day of strength training. We had a crazy party at the shop for all the June birthdays the night before and there was no way I was going to get a quality workout in so I opted for an extra rest day and pushed the exercises to Sunday. 

Sunday: I started the day with 30 minutes of low intensity endurance traversing. I rested for about 20 minutes while I got things ready to start the hangboard workout upstairs near the shop. The hangboard I used is the Rock Prodigy Training Center. If you're local and you're interested in picking one up, I stock it at AntiGravity Equipment. Since it was the first workout, it would mostly be trying to establish a baseline by which to track improvements for future workouts. The routine was to go through 8 different grip styles; 1 set per grip; 6 reps per set. The reps consisted of 10 seconds hanging and 5 seconds resting (on the same grip). After 6 reps, I had 3 minutes to rest, and then I could move on to the next grip. 

I started with the Jug holds and 20lbs added to my harness. I would later learn that this was a key mistake as it tired me out too early and set a bad precedent for the rest of the workout but hey, live and learn. 

Next was Index, Middle, and Ring fingers with 5lbs of weight added to my harness. Same mistake. 

Next was a Medium edge and this was where the first sign of trouble started to show up. On my last rep I fell off with a second to go. It doesn't sound like much but I knew I should've felt way stronger on a medium edge with just body weight. 

Medium Pinch followed and on my 6th rep I fell off with 3 seconds to go. I'm usually pretty strong on pinches but I was definitely too tired to finish the set and I was regretting the additional weight at the start of the workout. 

Next up was Middle and Ring finger pockets. This is where I made my biggest mistake. I read my abbreviations wrong and did the set on my Middle and Index fingers. I found out I'm really weak in these two fingers really fast even with 40lbs of weight subtracted through a pulley system attached to my harness. I only got through 5 reps with longer rests than what was prescribed. 

From there I moved to Large Edges and I was was able to complete the full set with just body weight. 

I completed all 6 reps with body weight on the Wide Pinch but it was touch and go on the last rep as my hands slowly creeped to the edges of the pinch. 

Last up was Middle, Ring, and Pinky fingers. Another mistake here, but not quite as big. I just used the wrong pocket but I managed to complete the set with 40lbs of counter-weight on the pulley system. And that was the end of the hangboard workout. 

I finished the workout with the following opposing exercises designed by Cam: 

Lateral Crawl x 20, Hover Crawl x 20, lateral raises, front raises, reverse fly, and shoulder press all x 10, chair dips and kick-backs x 10, hammer curls x 30, and repeat all the lifts again. Finished with 20 Burpees. I used really light weight for all my lifts, 10lbs.

Monday was a core day: Plank for 1 min, followed by 40 elbow/knee touches, 30 sec break and repeat. Side plank 1 min with 20 hip swivels, 30 sec break and repeat. Seated compressions I did a little modification on; with wide legs I did 10 reps of the following: hands on hips, hands by knees, and hands just past knees, back to hands by knees, and back to hands on hips followed by 30 sec rest. On the repeat I did it with legs together which was slightly easier.  40 chair dips followed by 40 squats. Cam's instructions were "Ass to grass! Hold onto something like a door jam if you can't squat deep!" I can't, so I did. 

Tuesday I started with 20 minutes of traversing followed by 20 minutes of rest. The hangboard setup went a little faster with previous knowledge. When I was ready to start I did the same workout as Sunday but with modifications to the weight: Jugs on body weight; Index, Middle, Ring on body weight; Medium edge on body weight; Med pinch on body weight; I still confused Middle, Ring for Middle, Index and only completed 4 sets with 40lbs of counterweight; Large Edge with body weight; Wide Pinch with body weight; Middle, Ring, Pinky with 40lbs of counterweight. Overall it was a much better workout and know that I know all the mistakes I know which holds I can add weight to for the next round. 

The opposing exercises from Cameron were as follows: Tabata warm up on the bike- 30 sec on, 20 sec off x 4 with RPMS above 80, 1 min rest. 30 split jumps. Regular, incline, and decline pushups, 10 each. 30 single glute/ham raises (which I skipped cus I didn't know what they were). Repeat the tabata workout. 

Wednesday, core: Lateral crawl into hover crawl x 20 each side (my wrists were acting up so I skipped this one). 50 mountain climbers, slow trying to get my knees between my arms. V-ups 30 sec touching knees or toes. Russian twist 30 sec. 50 mountain climbers. Hollow hold for 30 sec followed by 20 hollow rockers, rest 30 sec and repeat. Superman for 1 min. 50 mountain cimbers.... agony. 

Thursday is a full rest day!! Well kind of. As I was getting everything in place to leave four days, there was plenty to be done.    

Friday was my birthday and my present to myself was to get up extra early and head over to AntiGravity Equipment to get in one last hangboard workout before the trip to Squamish, yay! This time I made sure I had all mistakes corrected and was properly set up to crank. The workout was as follows: Jugs on body weight; Index, middle, and ring with 2.5 lbs added; Medium edge with 2.5 lbs added; Medium Pinch with 2.5lbs added; Middle, Ring fingers with 40 lbs counterweight; Large Edge with 2.5 lbs added; Wide Pinch with 2.5 lbs added; and Middle, Ring, Pinky with 37.5 lbs counterweight. By far the most accurate transitions in my hangboard workout! 

Supplemental training: As you can see, Cameron helped with me an additional weight training routine. I keep the weight light and he keeps the reps high and focused on opposing muscles and some leg exercises as well as interval training. It's enough to make you puke but I'm getting used to the idea. I still keep icing after workouts, still keep using the FlexBar for opposing forearms muscles. I was doing really well on the water until the last couple days so instead of adding something new, I'm going to keep working on drinking enough water throughout the day. 

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy the blog posts and other information on our site, consider dropping by AntiGravity Equipment for a visit! 

Week 2: Base Fitness

Wrapping up one of the final days of endurance at French's Dome. 

Wrapping up one of the final days of endurance at French's Dome. 

Alright! The base fitness phase officially ended yesterday. The outdoor mileage part of it was awesome of course but the monotony of climbing up and down, up and down, traversing back and forth for 20 to 30 minute sets at a time in the gym just gets to me. Now that it's over, i'm excited to get into the next phase of training but let me give you the rundown of my workout for the last week. 

Saturday I slept in and headed down to PG to climb indoors. My goal for the day was to climb 10 pitches on their 60 ft walls, 10c and down. I started the session with some fall practices on lead. I focused on reaching the anchors and letting go without hesitation. I grabbed the rope on my first attempt, a habit I'm constantly working on getting rid of. On my subsequent falls I made sure to concentrate on a long exhale through the fall which helps me to not grab the rope. 

I led all 10 pitches taking a fall at each one of the anchor finishes to continue the fall practices. My skill set for the day was to focus on steady and rhythmic breathing through each climb. The point of the skill set is help me stay focused and avoid a narrow field of view. It also helps to keep any anxieties in check. I wasn't really worried about becoming anxious climbing anything in the 10's and down, but practicing breathing skills helps to make them habit for when I get on harder stuff that does bring up anxieties later. 

Last week I missed a core workout that I had pushed to Friday because of a busy day at AntiGravity Equipment so I made it up after I had finished my 10 routes. If you remember from last week's post, Cameron from Stoneworks helps with the core workouts. This is what he had planned: Lateral Crawls - 10 each side, Hover Crawls - 10 each side, Bear Crawls - Forward, backwards, sideways, V Ups - Hold with hands at knees for 30 sec, Hands over head for 30 sec, Hold with hand pumps for 30 sec, Hold with hands at knees while alternating knee tucks for 30 sec (15 sec rests between each V Up), Russian twists - 30 sec x 2, Repeat the crawl patterns, Hollow rockers - 30 reps x 2. 

The crawl patterns really suffered from poor form the second time around due to some wrist pain, but I was actually able to get through the workout this time (barely). I still felt like I wanted to puke, particularly after the V Ups. 

Sunday was Outdoor Mileage day! The plan was to go to French's Dome with Meghan and crush 8 moderate pitches on lead. My skill set for the day was to focus on open hand gripping. After turning my alarm off instead of hitting snooze, we were off to French's an hour and a half later than we had originally planned. Wired on a tiny cup of coffee (I'm super sensitive to caffeine) I got us to the dome in an 1 hour and 15 minutes. At the time there was only one other party of 3 at the crag but after only 3 pitches, more people started showing up. I ended up climbing 3 easy routes near the bottom of the dome somewhere around 5.8, and then I took 3 laps on the very enjoyable Silver Streak 10c, and I finished up with two sprints up Straw Man 5.8 before heading back to open up AntiGravity Equipment for business. 

Meghan cruising her way up Silver Streak. 

Meghan cruising her way up Silver Streak. 

Monday was an active rest day, that meant a core workout. I dreaded seeing what was on the calendar for the day but I opened it up while at a park in SE Portland and got Meghan to join me in the agony. Cameron's workout was as follows: Plank from elbows - 1 min, Lateral crawl - 10 each side, Plank from hands - 1 minute, Hover crawl - 10 each side, Plank touches 20 each - Hands, Elbows, Shoulders, Toes, 20 Lunges each side, 30 pushups - 10 regular, 10 incline, 10 decline, 20 Side V Ups into 30 sec side plank x 2, rinse and repeat! 

Oh hell no! I barely got through one set of planks and crawling patterns. My wrists were still pretty sore from Saturday and because the crawling patterns require you to hover through the movement, my triceps were also killing me. I can't even remember the last time I did lunges so it only took minutes for my legs to feel like they were being stabbed by vicious piranha teeth after I'd completed the set. When it came time to repeat the workout, I skipped the crawling patterns, skipped the lunges, and the side V Ups. I felt pretty light headed and I'm sure I must've looked a tiny bit green from the whole thing. 

Tuesday it was back to endurance training. I started my day with some fall practices with Meghan at Stoneworks. Then I did two traversing sets of 30 minutes each all around the gym. My rest time between the two sets was 20 minutes. My skills practice during the sets was focused on rhythmic breathing. 

Wednesday is normally an active rest day but this week there was an extra day of endurance. Cameron and I got to the gym at about the same time. I opened up the shop upstairs but it was pretty quiet so I decided to join him for the endurance session. We both did a first round of 25 minutes of traversing around the gym. The skills practice for the day was to focus on straight arm climbing. After a 15 minute break we started our second and final set for the day. 15 minutes into my 25 minute set I ended up having to stop early to help a new member pick out a harness and shoes from the shop so I didn't get to finish the second set in its entirety. That's ok though, I had a really happy customer walk out with fresh gear excited about getting into climbing. 

There was a core workout scheduled for today as well. Meghan dropped by the gym to join me. The workout was to be done on a hangboard or bar if you were somewhere other than the gym. Here's the agony: Dead hang - 30 sec, Tuck - 30 sec, L-sit - 30 sec, 20 Knee tucks, 10 L-sits, 10 Tuck to L-sits, 20 Side tucks. Short rests between exercises, 2 minute break, then repeat! 

I actually got through this one; With troubles but I got through it. Mainly the L-sits are really hard for me because I'm so damn inflexible. My hip flexors are super weak and it's hard for me to hold the L-sit with perfectly straight legs so I have to cheat and bend a little bit.

Thursday was my final conditioning day and last day of Base Fitness. Meghan joined me for the workout and we started the day with fall practices in the gym a few hours before I had to open Antigravity Equipment for business. After fall practices I did 20 minutes of endurance on one of the gym's auto-belays. I rested for 10 minutes or so and finished with another 20 minute set of traversing. My abs were killing me from the previous day's workout and my calluses were super sore from the hangboard. My skill set for the day was to practice precision in my footwork with quiet feet. 

Friday, finally, a day of complete rest! Except for the water balloon fight and kegger we're threw in celebration of all the June birthdays!  

Team SW/AG after an epic water balloon fight! 

Team SW/AG after an epic water balloon fight! 

Supplemental training: I'm still icing after climbs and still using the FlexBar to balance out my forearms. Next week I'm changing to the green colored bar for more resistance and more sets. The new thing I added for this week was more focus on hydration. I'm terrible about drinking water and I know I don't drink near what I'm supposed to each day. For hydration, I'm working on drinking a liter and a half of water each day by keeping a water bottle around at the shop that I can fill up. 

Next phase is strength training! Thanks for following along and feel free to drop me a line with questions or comments anywhere you see a "comments" section on our social media pages. 

Week 1: Base Fitness

Early morning training at Ozone with Meghan and Team SW/AG 

Early morning training at Ozone with Meghan and Team SW/AG 

Earlier this month I got around to reading a copy of The Rock Climber's Training Manual. My climbing has definitely been impacted by the amount of time I have to invest into the shop but I'd heard that the book presented an efficient and systematic way to train and get results in spite of a busy schedule. I read the book cover to cover and found it aligned with a lot of things I knew to be true about training and challenged some things I'd been taught in the past in ways that made sense as new data and advancements in training techniques become available. 

It had been a while since I felt like I was pushing my limits and the last noteworthy route I'd attempted in some time was Darkness At Noon at Smith Rock. I was drawn to the line from the first time I saw it and had finally attempted to work on it in 2015. My attempts on the line were not very committing but still, I liked the style of route and definitely thought it was a worthwhile project suited for some of my strengths. I gave it a slightly more committing run in 2016 linking a few promising chunks but was still pretty far away from any serious red point attempts. I knew it would take serious dedication for me but I also knew, at the present time, projecting couldn't really be a priority because the shop required so much attention. For the time being I kind of just put in on the shelf. 

This year, things are running a bit smoother and getting closer to autopilot. With the help of my friends I decided to commit to a training season guided by the information in the book to see if I could redpoint in the Fall. As a form of accountability I decided to blog about the next 17 weeks of training and maybe the information could be of some use to others out there as well. Here are the details of my first week of training. Thanks for reading! 

Phase 1, Base Fitness

Saturday was an outdoor mileage day. The goal was to climb 8 moderate pitches on lead outside but Saturday was supposed to see triple digit temperatures. To beat the heat (and the crowds) my friends and I got to Ozone (a local crag in Camas) at 5:30 am. By 11 am I'd successfully climbed 8 pitches 5.10 and below and got out of there before the sun reduced me to a puddle of chalky mud. With my workout done for the day, I headed back to AntiGravity Equipment and had the whole rest of the day to take care of shop stuff. 

Sunday was another outdoor mileage day but because I stayed out late at a concert the night before, I opted for sleeping in and visiting an air conditioned climbing gym to beat yet another day of triple digit heat. Planet Granite in the Pearl District has walls about 60 ft in height so it wasn't too far off from climbing normal pitches outside.  

My session started out with a few warm up routes and fall practices on lead. I was definitely feeling a bit sore in the forearms and toes from the day before so I welcomed the shorter indoor pitches. The goal for the day was to do 6 moderate pitches on lead, which I did, on terrain ranging from slabby to very overhung. I finished before 12 pm with enough time to get back to Beaverton to open the shop for business. 

Monday was an active rest day. That meant I had to set aside time to work on core. I hate working on core. It is absolutely a struggle to get motivated for an ab workout which makes it hard for me to get motivated to put together something effective. My friend Cameron is a core workout wizard and can perform some incredible feats of core strength using a variety of equipment at our local gym. From body weight, to rings, to hangboards, he can seemingly design endless torture sequences for your mid section. Naturally, he was the guy to go to for help with my active rest day workouts.  

The core routine for the day was as follows: Lateral Crawls 10 on each side, Bear Crawls forward, backward, and lateral, Planks on elbows 1 min. hold, Activated Planks (elbows to hands) 1 min, Plank on hands (top push-up position) 1 min. 15 sec breaks between exercises, rest for 1 min, repeat without rests. Side Plank, elbows 1 min each side, on hands 30 sec each side, active hip raises from hands 30 sec each side. 15 sec break between exercises, rest for 1 min, repeat without rests. Hollow Hold for 30 sec, Superman 30 sec, repeat 1 time. Pure cruelty. 

I was not able to repeat the exercises a second time without rests and I had to do the hip raises from my elbows but I'm hoping to build up and improve. 

Tuesday was supposed to be an indoor endurance day but because of some physical therapy treatment for strained brachioradialis I had to push the workout to the following day. 

Wednesday was back to conditioning. After getting all my chores done with AntiGravity Equipment I headed downstairs to Stoneworks to meet my friend Missy for an endurance workout. My first set was 25 minutes of moderate traversing with active rests. I used stems as a last resort if the pump was really setting in. The second set was 25 minutes of top-rope climbing. I picked a vertical wall with a good variety of holds and ignored the tape. I kept a pace that had me working at about 30% focusing on good techniques and active rests. 

Cold Pack therapy on the ol' elbows after workouts will hopefully keep any inflammation at bay. 

Cold Pack therapy on the ol' elbows after workouts will hopefully keep any inflammation at bay. 

Thursday was conditioning day again. I definitely felt tight in my forearms from the day before which should have been an active rest day. I met up with local climber Meghan for my first 25 minute roped session. Same wall as the day before using the same workout. It took me a little bit to warm up to the climbing because of the soreness from the previous day but after about 8-10 minutes I was flowing through the movements. After a 20 minute rest to help out some friends who needed gear up at the shop, I finished my second set by doing 25 minutes of moderate traversing sticking to vertical and slightly overhanging walls. 

Friday was a free day with nothing scheduled. Because the physical therapy appointment pushed everything back by a day I wanted to do my core workout on Friday but I had too much work to do between my regular job and the shop so I put off the core workout for Saturday since the rain was going to keep me indoors. 

Supplemental Training: There are so many things that I need to work on outside of climbing it's overwhelming at times. Flexibility, diet, water intake, sleep, opposing muscles, stretching, etc. For supplemental training I decided to try and focus on one new thing a week that I need to incorporate into my training season and try my best to make it a habit. 

Moritz getting his FlexBar on! I have the Red and the Green to help with opposing exercises for my forearms. 

Moritz getting his FlexBar on! I have the Red and the Green to help with opposing exercises for my forearms. 

This week it was icing and forearm exercises to stay balanced and avoid tendonitis. On every climbing day I would wrap up my workout with forearm exercises using the FlexBar (red) and then using a cold pack from the freezer to ice my elbows. Ice therapy is key in reducing inflammation and studies have shown it can help speed up recovery.  

That wraps up week one of training, 16 more to go. Thanks for reading, if you have any questions on any of the workout days, feel free to get in touch. Comments on AntiGravity Equipment's Facebook page are always welcome and may benefit others with similar questions.  Week 2 goes up next Saturday! 

Queremos Punk!

My mom at the Portland Boulder Rally 2015

My mom at the Portland Boulder Rally 2015

It's mother's day and I thought I'd share one of my all time favorite stories about an unconventional bonding experience I had with my mom. 

When I became a teenager I went through some experiences that pretty much made me insufferable for a good period of time until I moved away and found out what real life was like. My mom, however, took it in stride and did the very best she absolutely could. As a single mother with 3 kids, a full time business, and all odds against her, she will forever be the person I admire most in all this world. 

I was around 13 years old when my immediate environment began to have an adverse effect on me. It was also about this time that my best friend Mike introduced me to all kinds of new music, one of them being the Alternative Punk genre. I still remember the first time he came over and played Smash, by The Offspring at my house one night. We played it downstairs in the living room after my mom had gone to sleep but I was sure my mom was going to overhear all the F bombs and we'd both be grounded. I was completely consumed with the fast guitars, the profanity (of course), but most of all with the message that I was getting from the music. The message screamed everything that I'd been feeling, everything that I was tired of, and it told me that I didn't have to put up with any of it. That I could, in fact, if I wanted to, do whatever the hell I wanted and no one had a right to tell me different. It was OK to be different, go my own way, I could be Hispanic and skateboard, I didn't have to be a gangster just because I was Latino, I didn't have to do whatever everyone else was doing just to gain acceptance, and to hell with anyone that disagreed. 

Well, not long after my best friend had introduced me to the world of screeching guitars and double-bass drums, I heard on the radio that The Offspring were coming to town to play an outdoor show. I was first in line the day tickets went on sale. My mom agreed to let me go only if Mike's mom let him go and because for some reason we didn't go get tickets together I was tasked with picking up tickets for the both of us at a local grocery store. I remember rushing home, golden tickets in hand, to get on the phone and let him know we'd be going to the show. Turns out, for another reason I can't remember, he wasn't able to go after all. There was no chance on earth she was going to let me go by myself. 

I wasn't going to miss my favorite band and my first real concert ever. The only shows I'd seen before that were The Ninja Turtles on tour at the Thomas and Mac Center when I was like 9 and a Weird Al concert I went to with Mike at The Aladdin Casino. My mom made us take one of her work walkie-talkies so we could check in (the O.G. cell phone). I told my mom the situation expecting her to tell me if Mike wasn't going then I couldn't go but instead she said I could still go. It was like that scene in the movie where something unbelievable happens and the record comes to a horribly nasty halt after an ear-piercing scratch. I could still go? Yup, I heard her right. At least the first half of what she said anyway. I could still go.... with her. 

Yeah right! Imagine that? I was already as far away from cool as you could possibly get and now my mom was going to chaperon me at my first punk rock show? Did she secretly have a death wish for her first born baby boy? Death was of little concern to me after a second of deliberation. I was going to see that show. Plus I thought once my mom got there she would hate the scene and maybe she'd want to leave and just come back and pick me up after the show was over. Fine, it was settled, we were both going to the show. 

My mom and I enjoying some time at Cathedral Park 

My mom and I enjoying some time at Cathedral Park 

On the day of the concert I threw open the door to our apartment crashing into everything rushing to change into the most alternative clothes I could find (jeans and a shirt) and went to see if my mom was ready. Looking back now, nearly 23 years later as I recall this story, is how I remember my mom being the best mom she could possibly be to me and my siblings. Turns out my mom didn't want to embarrass me at all. She wanted me to have a really good time and it was not lost on her that going to a "cool" concert with her teenage son was probably not the most popular thing that could happen to me at the moment. So, she went out and got a special t shirt that she thought would more or less blend in with the crowd (it had a big gangster low-rider on switches, but what did she now), a cool pair of black jeans, she rolled up the sleeves on her shirt, and put on a black baseball cap with some kind of bedazzled broach pinned above the bill. You couldn't get further from punk rock but you couldn't get closer to my heart if you'd reached into my chest and touched it yourself. 

When we got in line for the show, absolutely nothing from that point on went as I'd imagined. My mom was excited to be there. She was curious about everything and had endless questions to which I had only half the answers for like did that little kid's parents know he died his hair apple green? And how'd people manage to sneak marijuana past security? And why did security open up all water bottles and smell them first? She wasn't mad, or disgusted, or even scared. She was just taking it all in and trying her best to understand this never before seen piece of American culture and we were having a good time together. I felt more like I'd come to a show with an older friend. 

The opening band was halfway into their set. My mom did not approve of that tattooed girl band on stage. The Lunachicks were rocking out to fast punk and using blow up rock guitars to make obscene phallic gestures but still, my mom wasn't pissed, just kind of in shock. The band wrapped up their set and we watched roadies wheel things on and off stage. I stared hard at all their tattoos and couldn't wait to be old enough to get my own. We experienced our first sound check and before too long, just before dusk, The Vandals took the stage. 

I'll never forget how they quietly assembled together front and center. They didn't greet the crowd. They didn't look at each other. The lead singer approached the mike, band members took to there instruments and in the blink of an eye, vocals, guitars, and drums all started at full blast in perfect punk synchronization at double time tempo. It felt as if everyone but us knew what was happening, and what was happening was an enormous mosh pit and my mom and I were square in the middle of the human tornado. I remember I saw my mom's eyes go as big as headlights and before she could scream out in a panic I wrapped my twiggy arms around her in a bear hug, picked her up, and backed us out to the perimeter. She could not understand how such a huge fight could break out for no reason and I had to explain to her that the tornado of knees, elbows, tattoos, and bald heads wasn't a brawl, it was a pit and this is what happened at punk shows. I was pretty much ready for her to take me by the hand and start leading me towards the entrance of the field, far away from all this American madness, never to let me attend another concert as long as I lived. Instead we just stood there half-listening to the music and watching the spectacle of pushing and shoving and dust-kicking that was happening in front of us. She did not want to leave. My mom was having an incredible time. 

Tickets to see the big show 20 years later! 

Tickets to see the big show 20 years later! 

After the set was over it was dark. The main act was taking the stage next and we could feel the charge in the atmosphere. The outdoor arena was now packed with hundreds of people. Sound check took a long time rolling out all the equipment and my eyes were glued to the stage so I wouldn't miss a single opportunity to spot the band. I was temporarily unaware of anything (even my mom) except for the stage and then? Pitch black. All the lights went out and the crowd went into a deafening roar of whoops and hollers, hand-claps and whistles. The band would be taking the stage any second now and I was going to get to watch them. Suddenly, my arm shot out in front of me and I was being dragged by the wrist parting the crowd and leaving a wake of people as I went. My mom had a firm grip on my wrist and she wash pushing her way through the crowd until we made our way to the very front of the stage. She put me in front of her to protect me from the weight of the hundreds of bodies slowly pushing against us like a human tide. There we were pressed up against the guard rail just a few feet away from the enormous stage when the lights popped back on flooding the arena with light. I just about turned inside out when The Offspring took the stage. As excited as I was I couldn't believe that my own mom had gotten us to the front of the stage, that she actually wanted to be this close to see the main act, and that we were about to go through this once-in-a-lifetime experience together. I'd never felt so close to my mom, even after all the things (for better or worse) that we'd been through as a family, as I did at that moment in time, seconds before the band took the stage. I felt so cared for, so loved and understood in those precious few seconds that I couldn't tell which feeling was more overwhelming, the anticipation of the show or that I was going to share it with her. 

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.
— William Makepeace Thackeray

We stayed at the front of the crowd for the entire set. We yelled; we hollered; we pushed; we shoved; we threw crowd surfers over the guard rail at security guards and we enjoyed every second of every note of the entire set. From that moment on, no matter how much we fought, no matter what else was going on in our lives, if The Offspring came to town we would go to the show together. The concert became a place where, for a few hours, we were equals. We were more like friends almost and we could understand each other despite our often colliding differences. When I moved away to Portland, The Offspring toured through Seattle and I flew my mom up to watch the show. We shared hot dogs and beers; it was the first time I had a drink with my mom. Recently in 2014, 20 years after the release of the album Smash, they did a special tour in which they played the entire album. I bought tickets for my mom, my sister, and myself and we had a hell of a time watching the band play in Las Vegas at The Joint. I remember walking up the stairs to the balcony seats so we could get a good view of the set. I looked back down the stairs to make sure she was behind me and her eyes were welled up with huge tears and a sort of half-smile on her face. I knew what she was going to say before she said it. We couldn't believe how fast the time had gone by but here we were once again, full circle, watching a tornado of knees, elbows, tattoos, and bald heads as our favorite band blinded and deafened us with a spectacular punk show of lights and guitars. 

For Maricela with love, Happy Mother's day

My mom, my sister, and I at The Joint inside The HardRock Hotel waiting to see The Offspring

My mom, my sister, and I at The Joint inside The HardRock Hotel waiting to see The Offspring

Chapter 2. So there I was...

Climbing at Twin Gates

Climbing at Twin Gates

Just squirming in my seat at a local restaurant in Yangshuo, China. I kept shifting from side to side every few seconds. My hands looked to be folded in my lap but upon closer observation you could tell they were really pressed against my stomach. I was seconds away from breaking out in light perspiration. I couldn't concentrate on what the group around the table was talking about much less the card game that I was in the middle of playing. All I could think about was how bad I needed to go number 2! 

The establishment had a couple of restrooms for patrons located on the second floor. They actually weren't very far from where we were sitting but the problem had nothing to do with going the distance. The problem had to do with the style of the toilets in mainland China. At the start of my trip I had flown into Hong Kong where I stayed for 3 days while waiting for my visa to come through. Presumably due to 156 years of colonization by the British, the room in my hostel and nearly every other place I used the facilities in Hong Kong had western toilets, which I'm very much accustomed to. Asian squat toilets, like the ones found throughout all of mainland China are a completely different animal and take a considerable amount of focus and careful execution for a westerner not familiar with the technique. 

As luck would have it, the apartment that I rented just minutes from downtown Yangshuo had a very comfortable western toilet. So I did my best (quite successfully I might add) to hold my important business matters until I got home. But on this day, I was in a bad way. Maybe I had one too many dumplings. It could have been the whole chicken I ate with plastic glove-covered hands. It couldn't have been the BBQ pork steamed buns I packed for lunch during my climbing day. It might've been the 4 beers that I had while playing cards that got things moving. It certainly wasn't the soft-serve cone I had from McDonald's (the only place to get ice cream) on my way to the bar. What ever the case, I had to see a man about a horse and neither were going to be waiting for me at my apartment. This was a mobile visit. 

Now for those of you that have never seen an Asian toilet, let me use the illustrious brush of vocabulary to paint you a mental Van Gogh of my nightmare. Picture a recessed rectangle in the floor of the bathroom. Take one end of it and pinch it just a smidge so that it looks tapered on one end. Make a circle as big as you can with your hands and cut out a hole about the same size on the wider end and make the ground slope a little so that the liquids can run down into the hole. That's your basic Asian squat toilet. Upgrades? You bet! Some have little cutouts in the shape of feet near the edges for precision. Deluxe models may have a handrail available if the toilet is established near a corner, but all across the board (as the name implies) you have to squat. There is no seat on which to vacation those rosy cheeks while you ponder life's mysteries at your leisure. 

Oh so you crossfit and squats are no problem? Yes, I can hear your judgment. Well the joke's on you because holding a squat for as long as it takes you to release the chocolate hostage is but one of your problems. Ok, so you walk into the stall, you assess the scene of the crime, you align yourself with the target but you can't engage the enemy until you decide what you're going to do with your pants. Obviously you're going to drop your trousers but how far? If you go all the way, there's a good chance that the bottom of your pant legs will be soaking up a puddle of wee wee from the last westerner with bad aim. You can go George Costanza-style and take them completely off but most places don't have a hook so where do you put them? If you pick the first option and you can manage to keep them off the floor you still have to be careful with your aim while you and John duke it out and then there's the question of what do if number 1 wants to follow. Squat and tuck or stand and about face? Oh, did I mention that most restrooms in China are BYOTP? Who wants to walk around all day with a pocket full of double quilted Charmin?

All my attempts to avoid making a grumpy were in vain. No amount of squirming, wishing, praying, or Lamaze breathing was going to deflect the inevitable. When it felt like I'd reached the point of no return, I bolted upright with the quickness of a rake when you step on the business end and I made my way to the staircase leading to the bathroom on the second floor. I can't really say I walked over. It was more like a tenuous cross between a clenched shuffle and a mozy. Every step up was like being in front of a ticking bomb with a pair of wire snips trying to decide whether to cut the red wire or the blue. When I finally reached the top of the stairs I was faced with two closed doors. My heart sank. If it had hands I imagined it would've lightly rested a finger on my bowels in a pushing gesture that said "dare me?".

I tried the first door and it opened with what I imagined to be a glowing flood of white light emanating from the frame, bestowing early forgiveness for my soon-to-come transgressions. I shuffled in, closed the door, and reach for my belt in a beautifully coordinated movement of perfection. And then, the last remaining neuron in the thinking part of my brain fired a hail Mary that screamed "CHECK FOR TOILET PAPER!" Of course there was none. Cruel world. 

I rip open the door step out and try the next room. Open! There's toilet paper! And then I look at the squat toilet. There, on the shallow end of this pee-stained porcelain nightmare is a fecal delinquency of elephantine proportions. Oh the horror! Someone (presumably a westerner) had most definitely done it wrong. Oddly enough, the trauma from the scene of the crime had temporarily overridden my need to go so I could deal with the more immediate threat of embarassment. What if there was someone else waiting to use the toilet? No doubt they would be forced to think that the nightmare on Elm street was of my own volition. Yangshuo is a pretty small place. I couldn't very well be running around crushing limestone while everyone murmured about my inability to properly use the toilet. I had to get out fast and undetected! 

I cracked the door open enough to spy into the little loft. Convinced no one was waiting for the stall, I dashed out, slammed the door behind me and flew down the stairs hoping I didn't run into anyone on the way. I ran out of the bar (forgetting to pay my tab) and flagged down the first motor-bike taxi I saw. I gave him an extra 10 yuan to get me to my apartment at top speed. After 4 flights of stairs I reached my front door, my bowels already anticipating the relief just beyond the door. I reached the bathroom, ripped off the lower half of my clothing and then.... 

There are no words in the human language to describe the comfort of my own bathroom on that tempestuous evening. I never did learn to properly use the squat toilet. I just made sure I had plenty of TP in my climbing pack at all times and a Costco-sized bottle of Imodium readily accessible.  Below are a few photos from some of the epic climbing I did in Yangshuo. 

   

Into the Fold

Back in the day! Before there was SW/AG there was The Rock Squad. Pictured here are original members after the DLUX climbing competition at Stoneworks circa early 2000

Back in the day! Before there was SW/AG there was The Rock Squad. Pictured here are original members after the DLUX climbing competition at Stoneworks circa early 2000

Imagine you are 13 and you're content with your life. Maybe not ecstatic, there's things that could be better, but for the most part you're doing pretty well all things considered. You're about to make some changes as you get out of middle school and into high school and you're a bit nervous but also excited to move on. Your teenage crush is responsible for the smile on your face. Imagine you're going through all these things and many more on a walk home. It's hot outside, summer just started. Imagine you know the way you're walking home because the route you're taking goes right by your school. Imagine that you have no reason to worry about anything. 

As you walk past the school and through a housing development you see two kids walking in the opposite direction on the other side of the street. One of them is bouncing a basketball. Imagine you can hear the basketball, its bounces echoing in the street. It's the middle of the day but the streets are completely empty. No one is out on their front lawn. No one is driving by. 

Imagine them closer now. Close enough to distinguish facial features. One of them keeps the basketball bouncing as they walk down the street. Then they cross the street to your side. Imagine a lump the size of a tennis ball lodge in your throat. You can't stop the anxiety from building. It's quite possible you can see your heart beating through your shirt. Imagine every nerve ending in the pit of your stomach come alive like chambered bullets attached to a hair trigger ready to fire and in a fraction of a second the weakness in your legs lets you know everything about this day is about to end horribly wrong and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. 

As you are about to pass each other on the sidewalk time slows down to 3000 frames per second and a fear washes over you that seems to last for an eon. And then it happens. Without a single cause or provocation you are attacked. One of them swings a wide hook that connects with the corner of your mouth. Two knuckles make contact with the lower part of your nostril and the force of the impact rocks through you. Suddenly you feel like a cheap folding lawn chair. Thankfully the sudden shock prevents you from really feeling what has just started happening. Imagine you almost go down but you maintain just enough control to stay on your feet. As you double over, numb from the shock, the other boy kicks you square in the mouth. Now imagine the rubber on his over-sized basketball sneakers rudely presses against your lips, pushing the soft skin flat against your teeth, and then past them as they shatter. Imagine you can taste flecks of granulated bone on the surface of your tongue. Imagine you find a fraction of a second to run the tip of your tongue on what is left of your front teeth. What you experience is jagged and uneven. Imagine the taste of iron in the back of your throat as you generously swallow blood and bits of teeth. Finally, imagine that you suck in a breath so you don't pass out from to the shock. When you take in that first breath, you feel pain for the first time. It feels as if someone stuck a handful of syringes in your gums and pressed up on all of them at the same time. Imagine the roots of your teeth are exposed. Imagine that your self-worth is in as many pieces as your teeth. Imagine that for the rest of your life, you will always be self conscious of your smile. 

Imagine that every bad experience you've ever had since birth up until this point is conceivably forgivable. But this? Imagine this is your tipping point. From here on out you grow up with immeasurable amounts of mistrust. A shadow of doubt is cast over all your experiences. Everything is suspicious and everyone is suspect. You fight to get away from anything and everything that even remotely feels like a threat often including things that aren't. You grow increasingly distant from your family. Over time you develop a heightened awareness of all your surroundings as a means of survival for the dangerous situations your decisions often land you in. Imagine that everything you do, how you dress, where you hang out, what music you listen to, who you make friends with, is all carefully analyzed and then meticulously selected as a means of preventing what happened on that walk home from ever happening again. As a result, imagine that you are now on an island in a very rough sea and you've come to believe that the only person you can truly count on is yourself.  

Pain is a great teacher, but most of us would rather learn some other way. We think happiness comes from a perfect childhood and avoiding mistakes. We don’t like that patched up feeling that comes with each survival. We would like to be seamless, no patches, no scars. Cherish your hard-won depth and understanding. Some pain is required for the journey. The gifts you seek are often disguised as problems. Patches bring strength, whether on our knees or in our hearts.
— Jennifer James
SW/AG celebrating Alex's 21st birthday at a neighborhood bar! 

SW/AG celebrating Alex's 21st birthday at a neighborhood bar! 

If you can imagine all this maybe you can begin to grasp the idea of what climbing has done for me as a means of personal growth. It contradicts every ugly thing I came to accept as truth about the world and the people in it. It challenged every negative aspect I had about myself as a person. Probably most importantly, it reintroduced a sense of safety and security back into my environment. If you can imagine the consequences of the psychological trauma from that summer day and what they did to shape my personality as a young man then maybe you can begin to understand why climbing isn't just something I do, it's more like something I live. Sure at times it's a sport to me but more often it's a way of life; a life preserver that I hold on to so that I can make sense of everything around me. 

SW/AG playing laser tag to celebrate Erin Gentry's birthday. 

SW/AG playing laser tag to celebrate Erin Gentry's birthday. 

I have such a profound feeling of gratitude for climbing and all the people I meet that are involved in it. Most people might be surprised to find out how tightly I hold on to all the experiences and encounters that I live through and I do everything I can to commit them to memory. Nothing is trivial. Those rare moments when I have brief but meaningful conversations about life with my friend Rachel, dancing to songs with words with my friend Thanh, witnessing the unconditional generosity put forth by friends like Christina and Leon, taking in the energy and motivation I get from training with Cameron and Missy, every time I'm invited to dinner at Steven and Veronica's house and I'm greeted with the most earnest hug, recalling a decade of adventures with my friend Erin, candidly recognizing just how intelligent and talented people like my friend Cameron K. are, observing the care that goes into teaching classes from Brett, coming up with ways to make the gym and the shop an even better experience for our guests and friends with Matt, watching horror flicks over pizza and the stiffest rum and cokes ever with my friend Skyler, spending time with my nephews at the gym, holding all my friends' babies, watching their families grow over time, shooting the breeze with Bob and being able to finally go out for a beer with his kids now that they are old enough, inspired by my friend Bill's success and his uncanny ability to understand business, and the list goes on with every single person that's in our group of friends and even those that aren't directly in our group but are a part of the larger collective. I repeat, nothing is trivial and I hold on to all of it. 

A very special SW/AG NYE 2015/16!

A very special SW/AG NYE 2015/16!

SW/AG during a Halloween party at Fawn Brown's house. 

SW/AG during a Halloween party at Fawn Brown's house. 

Imagine that I hold on to this lifestyle in a way even a vice grip would envy because it is here that I feel accepted, I feel allowed to contribute, I feel allowed to lead or follow, I feel allowed to make mistakes. It makes me feel like I can trust once again without prejudice like you do when you're little and the only thing that is important is that you feel the security and love provided by the people around you. I feel a sense of safety that comes out like a tremendous 16 year long sigh of relief. It's a feeling I can't get enough of. It's part of the reason I love getting everyone together in big groups, I just never had that type of experience growing up. I want to harvest all that positive energy that I get from all my climbing friends, package it up and give it away to everyone else I come in contact with because it's so healing. It allows me to experience what it's like to be naturally kind without feeling like it's a weakness to be exploited for amusement or personal gain from those around me. It allows me (and this is important) to be forgiving of myself. 

SW/AG just before an epic 3 games of laser tag for Erin Gentry's birthday. 

SW/AG just before an epic 3 games of laser tag for Erin Gentry's birthday. 

If you can relate to any part of the previous paragraphs, then you can understand why this shop is something unique when compared to anything else. You can begin to understand why I say this feels like a vehicle for a movement, fluid in ideas contributed by our individualities free of judgment and open for all to experience. You can begin to understand the impact we have and why each person is essential to the group. You can see how the sense of belonging and acceptance that we receive is returned to others. You may think that when you come here you are merely engaging in a form of exercise while you're socializing, that your're starting a new hobby, that you're just purchasing equipment. For those that stick around, you realize that you have found a place where your contribution as an individual matters because you matter. You have something unique to offer that no one else can duplicate and you will come to realize that you can make a difference the way all my friends have made a difference in my personal growth. 

A big percentage of the SW/AG family during Christmas Boulder Joust at Stoneworks. 

A big percentage of the SW/AG family during Christmas Boulder Joust at Stoneworks. 

Chapter 1. So there I was...

...Holding a quickdraw in my hand, right in front of my face. It was as if time had stopped and everything around me was still. The ocean, it's small white-capped waves, frozen in perfect little pyramids in my peripheral vision. No wind to be felt, flora and fauna were without any perception of movement. Even the sticky humidity seemed to be suspended from existing in real time. In fact, the only thing that seemed to move was my head as I stared unbelievably at this quickdraw I was holding in my hand. 

Do you remember that scene in the Roadrunner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote comes to a screeching halt in mid air just as he overshoots his trajectory past the edge of a cliff? Remember how he sort of looks down, then looks up at the camera as if to say, "really guys, really?" Yeah, that's pretty much this moment in real life. As I looked at the quickdraw, I had a very lazily moving thought cross my mind. Like an airplane dragging a banner across a bright blue sky. That banner, in bright red letters, read three words. I messed up. 

Let's back up to gain some perspective on this curious scenario. Time-stop, quickdraw, cartoons, what does it all mean? I shall, (dramatic pause....) explain. 

I was in Thailand, down south in the popular climbing area known as Tonsai. I was a little over a week into my 2 week trip that turned into a 3 week trip because I missed my original flight from PDX. But I digress. The important thing here, is that I made it. I was in the company of a friend who didn't actually enjoy roped climbing all that much as it turns out. He was happy to sleep in until whenever and then maybe join in for a route or two and pretty much just take amazing photographs the rest of the time. I was OK with that. It just meant I had to make new friends to climb with and because I didn't want to climb in weather that felt like being stuck in a world championship Finnish sauna, I had to get up at first light to try and get a few burns in during the very short window of tolerable weather. 

So at what was probably around 6am in Thailand, I would peel myself up and off my bed like a fruit roll-up, walk out of my bungalow which was tucked back in the beginnings of the jungle, avoid a giant Komodo dragon-like lizard, brush away Halloween-thick cobwebs with colorful spiders the size of my palm, greet folks in Thai that were attending to all the bungalows, and marched my way down to the beach like a lone wolf stoically waiting to give any solo climber The Eye, which is the universal signal for "wanna rope up?". 

This guy was always hanging around just off the trail to my bungalow. 

This guy was always hanging around just off the trail to my bungalow. 

On this particular morning a super tall, bald, long-beard-in-a-skinny-braid viking shows up to the beach. Gear in hand, we exchange the universal signal and introduce ourselves. I can't remember his name or where he was from. He was European and his English was heavily accented. He wanted to explore routes on a section of the beach I hadn't yet been to but there was one problem. In a Thor-like voice he proclaimed that we wanted to climb 7a. I quickly did the conversion from the French grading system into the Yosemite decimal system and came up with a pouty frown. 5.11d. At the time of the trip I was climbing 11a's at best. Dang! I really wanted to get my send on, so I told him I was up for a project anyway and I assured him I had the skills to at least hangdog the thing and so off we went side by side looking like the climbing version of Schwarzenneger and DeVito only he was bald and I wasn't overweight or balding. 

We followed the coast line on white sand, round a bend, and ducked behind a wall of greenery. Before us stood a massive limestone head-wall that exited the mouth of a small cave maybe 12ft in height. The mouth of the cave had a few lines of newborn stalactites only a few feet long. When he spied the line he was after, he politely asked if I wanted to go for the onsight. Pshhh, duh! Step aside tall, bald, muscular son of Oden! I got this.  

I studied the start, which involved getting onto the closest stalactite by means of a campus move into a scissor lock and then surfing out onto the head-wall via mushroom-knobs of tufa, some crimps, blah blah blah, long runout, some pockets, GULP! Rewind. Long runout?! Dang. I reversed my mid air pantomime and made sure I was reading the line correctly. Yup, moves for days, then blank wall for who knows how many feet above the last clip, then, pockets again near the next bolt. 

I looked up at climber Thor and he looked back at me as if to say "puny mortal, for why are you came if you are not sending?" I grabbed the rope, tied in, and went for the lead. 10 seconds later... shut down. I couldn't reach the start holds. I was too short. I looked up at climber Thor. Same look. I almost asked for a boost but out of sheer embarrassment I think I go-go gadget-ed an extra inch and managed to latch onto the nipple of the bottom of the stalactite and clawed my way up into the scissor lock like a mouse straddling a tree trunk. Take!

5 minutes later, I was on my way out onto the head-wall, grinning away as I calmly showed the god of thunder and sport climbing how we do it in the PDX, what, what! So, there I was, I clipped the last bolt before the runout and then as I clipped and passed the last bolt I had one of those Alex-Honnold-on-the-ledge moments of unadulterated panic. Oh HELLLLL NO! Retreat, down climb, bail, I'm out! Back then, my mental game was basically non existent so as to cause moments of panic under stress so intense you'd think I'd turned into Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element! 

No way I was taking that fall! One of the side effects, when I have a panic attack on routes, is magnification of the potential hazard. In this case, what would probably have been a normal, clean fall on overhung terrain looked to me to be certain death as I would surely plummet hundreds of feet below until I made direct contact with the beach below and I wound up in the shape of a bloody, human Oreo. So, I began to down-climb. The fact that I remember reaching the lower bolt in less than 4 moves suggests I was just being a big pansy but that's not the point! I was scared. My tunnel vision would not let me see anything beyond the perimeter of that shiny, life-saving quickdraw. It's nylon dog bone calling out, "grab me, I'll save you!" And grab it I did. 

And that, brings us to the the beginning of the story. That Wile E. Coyote moment I was describing earlier? In the midst of my stupid, overreacting, blind-driven fear, I reached down to grab the quickdraw by the dog bone and mistakenly grabbed it by the carabiner that was clipped to the bolt. As a result, the quickdraw became unclipped and I was now frozen in a single second of time looking at the draw in my hand and wondering why it wasn't on the wall. 

That second came to an end. And when it did, I really did take the whipper I was so desperately trying to avoid. To make matters worse, the well meaning heir to the throne of Asgard realized I was down-climbing and began to take in all the slack which resulted in an all but static catch that projected me towards the head-wall upon reaching the end of the fall. My left foot struck that stupid midget stalactite on the start of the route and slammed my foot back as if I was to touch my shin with the tops of my toes. I stuck my hands out to protect my face and bruised the hell out of the heels of my palms. Instantly my ankle swelled to the size of tennis balls on each side. It felt as if I was going to split the leather in the climbing shoe from the swelling. 

After  3 days of limping around the beach on crutches I decided to enjoy the rest of my time in Thailand drowning my sorrows in copious amounts of ice-filled glasses of Thai liquor on Kao Sahn Road, a famous backpacker road in Bangkok. My climbing partner left for home shortly after the accident and I was stuck there because my dates changed after I missed my original flight. I had lots of time to contemplate what had happened. I feel as though I learned some valuable lessons. 1) A good head game in climbing can keep you calm and safe in desperate situations. Make plans to work on it as often as you work on your physical capabilities. 2) The way that Wile E. Coyote quickly recovers from those falls is complete horse poop!  3) Be realistic about your abilities. It's good to push yourself but you want to do it in a way that's safe and not embarrassing or hazardous. Especially when you're a mere mortal in the presence of Nordic Gods.. or whatever.  

An impressive view of some sea-side walls during a day trip to a favorite dive spot. 

An impressive view of some sea-side walls during a day trip to a favorite dive spot.