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September 11, 2008
In spite of the fact that we all get old, everyone likes to think that they are just the same as they were when they were younger. We think we can do the same things, lift the same weight, ride the same hills, climb the same routes. For some things we can, for others we cannot. Sometimes it's a major shock to the system when we are faced with reality.
I went out a few days ago with a couple whom I have known for quite some time. They are a little older than I am, almost 61, and they climb quite well - better and more often than me in fact. We wanted to go to a place that is not crowded so we decided to go to the aptly named Hidden Crag on Cathedral Ledge. It's a small area located almost directly below the Barber Wall, on the far left side of the cliff. It and the area just to its right, the Morning Glory Wall, was developed one summer 5-6 years ago by George Hurley, Peg Immell and Mona L'Heurx. I've written about it before and led most of the routes there. It's an especially nice place to go on a hot summer day because most of the routes are in the shade.
On this day we decided to try the 3 routes from right to left on the Hidden Wall; Aretably Short (5.10), Mighty Mite (5.7) and Son Of A Pitch (5.9). Joe did Aretably Short first. He did well on the start but had a little trouble unlocking the crux, remarking that he found it difficult for a 10. When I seconded it I found it harder than I remembered. But hey, I don't climb that many 10's these days. I've only led Loose Lips and Rapid Transit this season and I have both pretty wired, so it's not a good comparison.
I decided to do Mighty Mite next. It's only a 7, so it should be no issue - right? I offered it to Joe's wife Judy, but she declined because it was overhanging and she is still recovering from shoulder surgery. She did remark that she didn't see the gear. Having led it a few years ago I did remember that it was pumpy, but seemed to remember that the gear was good. I started up and in fact it was a pump, but I found plenty of gear as I went. I put in probably 4 pieces all the way up to below a nice stance which was right at the final bulge leading to the 2 bolt anchor about 10' away. I stood around for several minutes looking for something to protect this final couple of moves, but just didn't see anything. There was a bit of a place to step up to the right and I could see that was the way to go. However, I just couldn't see any way to protect the move. Hmmmmmmmm.
About this time Judy called up; "I don't like the look of this." I looked down at her and realized that my last piece was about 12 feet below my feet. In a calm voice Joe then pointed out that a fall from there was almost certain groundfall. I wasn't afraid, but now I was a bit concerned. I don't know about you but when my belayer is concerned, I start to get concerned. That said I was at a great stance and felt confident. What to do?
I kept looking for a place to put in some gear, but I just couldn't see anything. Uggggggh... Then I seemed to remember that when I led it before I was with George and there was something about feeling it was short on gear at some point. Around this time Joe called up to ask if I would mind if he walked around to the top and dropped me a bite of rope. I looked around a bit more for a placement and not seeing one I sighed and said; "Sure."
Joe wandered up the gully to the left, found a place to lower off a tree and in just a couple of minutes he was directly above me by the anchor. As he was tying himself off I was still looking around and spotted a tiny horizontal notch just to my left. I pulled out my trusty purple Metolius cam and low-and-behold it fit. Not perfectly, but OK. I gave it a couple of yanks and it actually seemed somewhat solid so I clipped my rope into it. About this time Joe dropped me a piece of his rope. What to do, what to do? One one hand I thought that the Metolius may hold, on the other hand there was this rope right in front of me. I looked up at Joe, looked down at the previous piece of gear 12' down, and decided what the heck - I tied a bite into Joe's rope an clipped it to my harness. I told him not to take any slack out of his rope, stepped to the right and up and padded to the anchor. Sheesh.........
So, am I a getting to be a wimp in my old age? I dunno...maybe. Was it all in my head...probably. The only thing I can say is that I guess I have reached a point in my life where I do not want to have an accident like that. It's one thing to have something happen that is unpredictable, quite another another to be able to prevent something and choose not to just to prove something to myself or someone else. At this stage of my life I don't feel as if I have a heck of a lot to prove.
PS - After I rapped off Joe led Son Of A Pitch. He found the crux moves to be in the middle and pretty stiff for a 9. After the last bolt you get to the same stance where I was, but you have a bolt to your left and a lot higher than my last piece. He fiddled in my Metolius and did the same moves I made to the right & to the anchor. Nice job Joe!
PSS - We three talked about Mighty Mite and decided that we didn't feel it was a 5.7 for 5.7 leaders and it probably should be rated an R. If you decide to do it, be aware. Your mileage may vary!
An old and dear friend sent me a link to an article on tetonat.com regarding use of chalk for climbing. The supposition is that in fact it is on no use. I've heard this argument over the years and felt that it worked for me, so who cares. However this was based on a study done at the Perception Action Laboratory, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham England.
Here is the conclusion - "Is chalk a myth or an absolute requirement of the sport? Chalk can help to dry wet, sweaty or greasy hands and, therefore, can potentially improve a climber’s grip. However, any trace of the chalk will decrease the coefficient of friction. Therefore, chalk is not a sine qua non for a good performance in rock climbing. Is it a myth? For the coefficient of friction, largely it is. Is it useless? Possibly not, as a psychological support, although the exact magnitude of this support remains to be evaluated."
You can read the initial link here. Or you can evaluate the full paper by downloading the PDF here. I think it's worth a little time to have a look.
Do you live or hang in Burlington Vermont? If you do and are looking for something fun to do on Friday night come by the Red Square club on Church Street. My band Sounds Clever & the Valley Horns are playing there this Friday night (September 12) from 9-12. Red Square is a great club with wild & crazy people. Here's what they say about it:
"Live music, no TV, good times, crazy people, even crazier staff, cozy nooks & crannies, a night to remember (or at least TRY to remember). Come in your speedo or tuxedo ~ everyone is welcome. There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet."
If you can make it, come by and say HI! I'm the old guy playing bass....
The cooler it gets, the fewer the bugs. We almost had a frost last night, Wednesday, so the bug population is down today. No bets on the state of the mosquitoes in the deep woods, but here by the cliffs it's not too bad. And in a week or two all those nasty buggies will be gone. Enjoy...
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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