off to a good start

Day 2 of Owl Tor season was also my second day of the year on Better Than Life. I basically did what I wanted to, which was climb from the ground to the hueco at the fifth bolt. I’ve got my eye on Strictly Ballroom this season and I know no amount of training will be too much. This is the time to push hard on routes selected to prepare me for the work ahead.

da routes:

  1. Power of Eating (5.11d) – redpoint
  2. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (5.12a) – redpoint
  3. Chips Ahoy (5.12d) – redpoint
  4. Better Than Life (5.13c) – 1 fall after clipping the fifth bolt at the hueco
  5. Shatter Hand (5.12d) – fell right after the last clip, then worked out the top moves; not my favorite route
  6. White Cougar (5.12b) – fell at the long move after the last clip, then worked around at the top; this route is not brilliant (I’m sorry, Steve – don’t hate me cuz you’re beautiful)
  7. Anchor Punch (5.12a) – redpoint
  8. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You – redpoint

the crankmuffin conspiracy

Climbing nuggets need a name, so I took action:

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Urban Dictionary

But it seems the old garde at Urban Dictionary had other plans:

Thanks for your definition of crankmuffin!
Editors reviewed your entry and have decided to not publish it.
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Urban Dictionary
A crankenfrank’s (crankenstein’s) biatch. See also: crankenstein
Obviously that crankenfrank’s crankmuffin has a humongous badonkadonk.

Not cool, editors.

It was me and Phil at the Tor Saturday. We’ve really come full circle. After an uncharacteristically populous season at Santa Maria’s finest crag, it is Phil and me, once again, as the keepers of the flame. Yeah, I said it – you all let a good cliff down – Elhanan, Andy, Justin, Micah, Andree, Skip, etc… Don’t think the Tor didn’t notice. You played right in to her hands and now she laughs. Who now will send her projects? Feel bad.

I had a good burn on Better Than Life, which made me feel pretty good about the first day of the season.

da routes:

  1. Power of Eating (5.11d) – redpoint
  2. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (5.12a) – redpoint
  3. Chips Ahoy (5.12d) – redpoint
  4. Better Than Life (5.13c) – 2 falls. I took first at the fourth bolt, so that’s from the ground to just before the throw to the hueco. I’m pleased with that for day one.
  5. Shatterhand (5.12d) – A bunch of falls. This route still sucks.
  6. Anchor Punch (5.12a) – A bunch of falls. At this point, I’m done.

if rad routes were a minute, the Tor would be an hour

Today’s post title is courtesy of Brian Spiering. Inspired by The Temptations’ The Way You Do the Things You Do, Brian’s instinct to connect a powerfully emotional song with a collection of routes typifies the Owl Tor pathology – which I’m positive will lend it self to a rad conjunction (ex. path-Owl-ogy). I’ve not had a relationship last as long as my infatuation with the Tor. And infatuation is a horribly inaccurate word for it – more like conciliation. So yes, I fell on Atreyu this weekend, two more times. I was so pissed I got on Better Than Life and one-falled it from the long two-finger pocket. That eased the pain a little of what would otherwise have been a thoroughly disappointing day. Then I did some work on Rubble, ate a delicious ribeye, and hiked in to Pine Mountain. Not the most pleasant 2 hours of my life but worth the experience, Pine Mountain’s 6.5 mile approach left me fairly knackered Saturday night. Bosco was not knackered. In fact, I don’t believe Bridget’s dog has ever been knackered or ran at a speed less than full-throttle insane. Fed a strict diet of Kibbles and crystal meth, Bosco’s energy level is frightening, and his effortless skill at connecting paw to scrotum is astonishing. Micah and Bridget also enjoyed the bouldering Pine Mountain offers – just not as much as Bosco. And I frickin’ loved it. All the exercise and altitude kinda wore on me but the time I spent on a couple classics in Pine’s near-alpine setting made the whole deal more than worthwhile. But I’m not going there next weekend. Unless they open the road.

loads of climbing this weekend

This weekend was a seriously rad climb-athon. Owl Tor Saturday, Echo Sunday. Actually, the Tor kinda sucked because I put in 3 more burns on Atreyu (5.13b) and was spit off 3 more times. But Elijah, wasn’t Saturday the seventh day this season you were slapped off the last move of Atreyu? Why yes, I believe it was. No one’s more bummed than me, believe it – I would like very much to send that route straight back to hell. It’ll have to wait. It might have to wait a very long time if the weather turns, as typically happens in January. And honestly, I wouldn’t mind that much. For letting Atreyu get in my head like this I deserve to spend a couple months thinking about what I’ve done, or not done. My relationship with this route has grown out of control. It subtly planted this seed of doubt between success on Hard Boiled (5.13b) and redpoint ambition for Strictly Ballroom (5.14a?). If not for Atreyu, I might be generally content with my climbing progress this season, or be feeling good about my recovery from last year’s hospital incident. If not for this one unresolved item, I could be strutting around with an unbearable arrogance about me. So thank you, route from hell. Thanks for keeping me grounded in thoughts of my own inadequacy. Perhaps everyone should have an Atreyu in their life. Or maybe I should change it’s name to White Whale. What I should really do is get my ass to the chains so I can quit whining.
Enough. Sunday was rad. Sunday was truly a rad climbing day. I gave Echo Cliffs another chance. My last visit to this gem of the Santa Monica hills was with Phil, like 6 years ago, as I was going through this odd condition with one of my arms where any climbing whatsoever made it instantly pumped and effectively unusable. Well, I hated the place anywayz. We got on Buried Treasure (5.12d), which I thought, along with the crag in general, sucked in an indefensible way. Specifically, the hike sucked, the rock sucked, whatever work was done to manufacture the routes sucked, and it was too hot. On my return visit, it was still hot, but I saw the place in a new light. The hike still sucked but the routes I got on were brilliant. And I felt pretty good. Daniel Kovner and Jaime Neilson showed me around. As I know from bitter experience, climbing with folks you like is half the fun. Dan and Jaime, whom I met for the first time that day, are super rad. After warming up on some OK-ish 5.10d, we got on No Remorse (5.13b). SUPER RAD. Dan sent the thing last season and looked proud on it Sunday despite his recent return to fitness from an elbow dislocation. After watching Dan’s moves, Jaime and I bolt-to-bolted it. Then I got on a second time to one-fall it. Well, kinda one-fall it – in an effort to not pee my pants at the top, I two-fingered the cold shuts to clip the rope. I know, I know. As if I hadn’t climbed to exhaustion already, Jaime gets on Immaculate (5.12a), flashes it, pulls the rope and hands it to me. So I gotta flash the thing or I’m thinking Dan and Jaime will figure out I’m this turbo-wanker. So I flash it. And leave my last ounce of dignity up there. We finished the day on Shiva (512c). Again, very rad route. Cleaning it: not so rad. I would like to get back on her when it’s not dark. I would also like to scramble the 45 minutes back to the car with a headlamp.
Maybe Saturday’s Tor session wasn’t a total loss. I put in some good Hilti work on my new route: 4 new holds, like something the lord made. Progress on this new testpiece is going swimmingly.
Oh yeah, and Andy cranked. He decided not to flail with me, opting instead to send both No Skill (5.12c) and The Natural (5.12c) for his first time. Success like that is rare at the Tor. She’ll remember Andy’s indiscretion, for which we will all pay.

day 6 on Atreyu – that’s right, 6

Owl Tor was visited Saturday by Phil, Andy, Skip, Andree, and me. Having dominated Power of Eating (5.11d) a couple weeks ago, Andree applied her attention to Auto Magic (5.12a) for her first day of legitimate redpoint burns on this new project. Perhaps though, “project” is not the right term. That would presume she spends a significant time rehearsing for the send, but having seen her on it Saturday I don’t believe that will be the case. Skip focused on Power and had a good day of it. In typical fashion for new patrons of the cliff, he doesn’t realize how close he is to putting it all together for a redpoint. He’s got stacks of strength from building a proud bouldering résumé, meaning he’s got the hard part handled already. Andy got on The Natural (5.12c) and No Skill (5.12c), both looking well within his striking range. And Phil got on Atreyu (5.13b) three times with me before moving on to laps on a few other routes. The focus of my day was three burns on Atreyu. Three burns for three falls at the crux. It’s a couple days past ridiculous for how much effort I’ve invested in this redpoint. First go I wasn’t even pumped, threw confidently for the crimp but didn’t even touch it. Second go had me barely on the crimp, unable to hold it longer than a moment before spitting off. I was all over that crimp for my third attempt but couldn’t hold on, knowing even before the throw my arms were ready to throw in the towel. My focus each burn was to relax, to stave off pumped arms all the way to the final crux move, which got harder each successive burn. But despite the day’s resultant failure I feel good about my fitness. These were my three best burns on Atreyu, ever. My focus on route-wide fitness, the kind of endurance one must have to climb powerfully for entire sequences, has stimulated some gain. I’m more comfortable on routes of this grade. I now climb at a pace between calculated movement and pump-racing speed. To finish the day I put five new bolts on my new line. And now I know, that’s no small task. New-routing is apparently enormously painful. Phil asked which was more tiring, putting in burns on my project or bolting the new line – honestly, it’s a toss up.

more failure, please

I failed 3 more times on Atreyu, spit off at the crux thrice. Not very rad. Then I spent about 2 hours making 1 hold on the new route. There was failure all around at the Tor Saturday. Justin had at least a couple fits after peeling off the top of Power like 6 times. Phil did some easy laps and had fun probably, redpointing 7 routes and falling on Auto Magic mid-eighth. So maybe Phil opted out of the failure-athon. That’s OK, I failed enough for the both of us.

Déjà vu

More falls on Atreyu. I got to fall 3 more times at the crux. And since Phil forgot to bring the battery for his drill, I didn’t do any work on the new route either. All in all I’d say it was a pretty productive day.

Micah, Andy and I went to Green Dome the next day (hence the photo). It was OK, blew Andy’s mind.

already more than I expected

My third day on Atreyu and it’s feeling exactly how I didn’t want it to – like a project. I’m giving it 2 burns a day so that I have time at the end to work on the new route I’m building at Owl Tor, so I’m sure I could have made better progress on it had I focused. It’s still amazing. That frickin’ throw at the end is spitting me off every time. It’s like rolling the dice every burn.
da routes:

  1. When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (5.12a) – redpoint
  2. Anchor Punch (5.12a) – redpoint
  3. Atreyu (5.13b) – fell after the last clip
  4. Atreyu – fell at the long throw

video evidence

I got some videos of Andy and Micah sending stuff at Owl Tor last weekend. Footage from these first two is a little shaky because my legs were falling asleep in my harness. And the wind was blowing me around kind of a lot. To get these angles is somewhat involved.

Micah redpointing When the Sea Doesn’t Want You (5.12a):
Micah on The Sea from Elijah Ball on Vimeo.

Andy redpointing Anchor Punch (5.12a):
Andy on Anchor Punch from Elijah Ball on Vimeo.

Andy redpointing Auto Magic (5.12a):
Andy on Auto Magic from Elijah Ball on Vimeo.