Inspired by one of my generation’s iconic celluloid gems this post’s title is appropriate as I tried to parlay my send of Gala Gala Happy into Strictly Ballroom. But there has bees no and then. Strictly Ballroom has shut me the fugg down. My schedule for a redpoint on Strictly is now in the lifetime-ish range. Sadly, there’s just one problematic move in ~50ft of climbing – going to, and then from, the low crux Satanic crimp following the route’s signature mono – but it’s truly a deal breaker. Newsflash: f you can’t do the move you can’t do the route. To make things more frustrating, getting to the move is not an issue. Neither is linking from there to the chains. Anyway, progress is stalled.
In more optimistic news, a diversion to Mr. Lee’s two weeks ago has me psyched on Buddhist Palm. I one-fall’d it, second go, having not been back there this season. It felt really good. Steve and Bob made their annual appearance that day so maybe this can be chalked up to good vibes (Bob’s always gushing sunshine). A redpoint could materialize here as Phil and I plan to get back to Mr. Lee’s more in the Fall. I’m also psyched on Terrible Angel. Last Saturday was the second time I linked to TA’s first bolt, first being a couple weeks earlier. Prior to this season, as far as I know, the opening sequence has not been linked since Wills Young did so many years back. The trick has been to pull the first right-hand mono with my ring finger, hit the good left-hand crimp, then switch to my middle finger as I reach to the second mono with my right hand. And don’t work high-step shenanigans. I pull the left crimp with my right foot in the low 2-finger pocket; technique won’t save me here. Switching fingers between pockets is a first for me and I’m psyched that my favorite Fred Nicole quote is coming into play. To paraphrase the Swiss Beast from a forgotten Climbing magazine circa 1990’s:
“One finger is working while the others rest.”
The rest of the route is great; hard, very hard, and great. Phil put together the finishing sequence this season and it’s brilliant. Speaking of brilliant… rad little vid from the surfing world:
I suck at poker because I never play. So I suppose I can’t say for sure that I suck at poker. But anything one can be good at without practicing is stupid. Although, I can think of stuff that’s stupid even if one practices it religiously. Anyways. It is my understanding a poker player can produce an advantage by stashing extra cards up his sleeve. When the time comes this player will augment his hand with a choice card, thereby stacking the odds against an opponent. Using this as a metaphor for my situation with my project at Mr. Lee’s I will say I have no more cards up my sleeve. That is, I’m hosed. I’m playing fair from here on out and the odds are certainly not in my favor. Of all the cards a climber may sneak into his hand while sitting across the table from his big project I have played them all. I suffered early-season volume days to set up a strong taper, I committed twenty-something days this season to dialing in beta, weather throughout the year has been extraordinarily good, weather last weekend was the best of the year, I’ve stayed healthy… All this amounted to about 18-inches of progress on Saturday. Now I’m trying to read my project’s tell and I think he’s holding a straight. Not cool, destiny. Now I’m playing even odds. Buddhist Palm WAS against the ropes. I’ve been laying into him with heavy hands for five rounds. He should be coughing blood but he’s whispering at me through his gloves like, “is that all you got?” And, yeah, that’s all I got. Now I’m exactly where I didn’t want to be. The climbing season’s ticking away and I’m locked in a war of attrition. There’s no hail Mary play in the works. The tactic now is to battle every inch between here and chains – the slow fight; the most tedious and miserable way to send.
I didn’t have super great video of Micah campusing when I posted the last time, which was a shame because he was campusing way hard. Now that he’s laid up in the hospital again he’s found time to forward me this:
That’s 1-5-8 then 1-6-bump-7. There’s been some issue lately regarding proper dimensions on campus boards. The spacing is 22cm. That’s TWENTY-TWO CENTIMETERS (aka: THE STANDARD). Fairness cuts both ways so I will say the rungs he’s on are big, the biggest I’ve ever been on, and they’re huge. I believe this was shot on Micah’s iStoopid so excuse the “quality”.
He also reminded of this:
…and that Dre accomplished the hardest female ascent at Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong when she cranked out Sea of Love (12c) in May:
I hate saying ‘female ascent’ but my thoughts on the topic are not yet fully formed so I will not articulate them at this time. Regardless, Dre is a rad climber and her hair is super long.
Phil and I were at Mr. Lee’s last weekend. Again. Projecting Buddhist Palm. Again. Motivation is proving a rare commodity as I approach this season’s twentieth day of work. Yeah.
I redpointed Hard Boiled (5.13b) yesterday. Rad. Rad that I never have to get on her again. Actually, I had a good time this season. Probably that’s because I was prepared. Last season I spent 18 days trying to redpoint. This season I sent after eight attempts over 3 days. Yesterday’s redpoint happened first go of the day, by far my strongest go on Hard Boiled ever. Success was imminent, each consecutive day way better than the previous, which makes repointing relatively non-stressful.
Details of the final go are kinda fuzzy. I remember hitting the pinch after the crux fairly confidently, knowing this was significant, feeling good but more tired than usual since this was my first time through the crux from the ground (this season anyway), sort of confidently moving through the next few moves until the last, where I almost pitched off backwards reaching to the clipping jug, hitting a wall mid-pull on the final move. Dramatic. I had moved not quickly but efficiently, confidently up to the crux, better than ever before, and rested longer than usual at the second undercling, again at the next 3-finger, at the 2-finger after the crux, and finally at the left-hand sidepull before the right-hand crimp before the clipping jug. Good pace and good resting plan, I felt.
This was not chance. This was the result of good preparation for Hard Boiled. I had lots of time to think about her. Despite the grade, I feel she is uniquely difficult to redpoint – just ask Chris or Bob. Yeah, she’s a bitch.
Today is about 8 months since I got out of the hospital. While I was laid up in those rad reclining beds I thought there would be no way I could climb even near my previous level within the year, that ambitiously 12 months would go by before I even looked at my nemesis of a route again. If ever. And believe me, I thought about Hard Boiled specifically. It was hard not to with Phil and crew bringing her up all the time. So, this was better than I expected, which doesn’t happen often, and rarely is something I’ll feel good about. Congratulating oneself is not good, I feel. Climbing for me, and maybe living in general, is motivated more by an aversion to failure than an ambition to succeed. But I’m concentrating on the positive this time: sending Hard Boiled at all, and especially in such short time, has me looking back at the training I did right, instead of wondering what went wrong.
In other news, I got on Hans’ Bodyguard from Beijing (5.14a) on Saturday. H-O-L-Y S-H-I-T. That thing is way hard. And by ‘way hard’ I mean friggin’ hyper-hard. It’d probably be good for me to get on Bodyguard some more but Phil has me convinced I should start going to Owl Tor again, to spend the rest of the season putting up a new route there. He’s right, I think. It’ll be good to get back to her.
There. I said it. Hard Boiled is not the worst route in the world. But don’t get me wrong; it’s no ‘walk in the park’ to redpoint. More than anything, this new perspective of mine is probably a symptom of my revised redpoint mentality in general. Redpointing is more fun for me this season. I’ve slid in to a groove of sorts that has made pushing myself on routes more bearable. I’ve justified the increased intensity this way: Think about whatever you need to think about to keep moving. If you execute everything right; move fast, stay tight in the cruxes, loose in the easy sections, milk rests if you can, and if you can find that sweet spot in rest time where your breathing comes down but your arms don’t tire too much; accurately hit every hold, hands and feet; and basically do everything you visualize in that mental video where you send the thing… then you might have a chance. Everything comes together in a redpoint. You rehearse it, visualize it, get nervous, and send it. To get on hard sport routes, to push your own limit in this genre of climbing, is kinda stressful. Same as any performance, I suppose. There’s tons to remember and I suspect the folks I look up to, the elite sport climbers of my generation, are especially skilled at finding that perfect mental space that allows them to execute near their physical limit, unencumbered by the psychological impedances most of us struggle to break through.
Anywayz, I got on Hard Boiled four times on Saturday. Ideally, I would have redpointed the damn thing but a productive day nevertheless. The redpoint is imminent. I’m almost having a touch of fun with it.
Shores of Hell (5.11b) – redpoint
White Lotus (5.11d) – lots of falls, this route super sucks
Hard Boiled (5.13b) – lowered after an unexpected foot slip reaching to the first undercling
Hard Boiled – fell throwing out to the right-hand crux crimp
Hard Boiled – fell throwing to the crux pinch
Hard Boiled – fell throwing to the crux pinch, got back on under the 1st undercling to fall again throwing to the pinch, got back on at the 3-finger before the crux to finish at the chains
Sea of Love (5.12b) – bolt-to-bolt, my first time on this
Back on Hard Boiled. That’s right, after 10 months, 1 attempt on my life, 3 pairs of climbing shoes and several dozen training days I am back projecting the most miserable piece of rock I have ever known. Once again, I am bidding for chains on Phil’s Santa Maria abomination, for whose creator I’m sure a special spot in Hell is reserved. Redpoint burns on Hard Boiled are so painful I have to trick myself to keep throwing at holds. Sometimes I imagine I’m on another route. Whatever, I threw myself at it on Saturday to walk away surprisingly not disappointed.
Shores of Hell (5.11b) – redpoint
Crocodile Hunter (5.12d) – just bolt-to-bolted up to the first break
Hard Boiled (5.13b) – bolt-to-bolted
Hard Boiled – 1 fall, throwing to the crux crimp
Hard Boiled – 1 take, at the second clip (big right-hand side pull before underclings), then to the top
Better Than Chips (5.12d) – 1 fall, mysteriously, at the throw
Friday was my first day back to Santa Maria since my hospital vacation. Absent was any kind of prediction for my performance. There was just no way to anticipate how I would feel on moderate sport routes. I’m still looking and feeling atrophied and my lungs are not back to normal. On the other hand, I’m lighter than ever. Wednesday’s weigh-in put me at 158 lbs. Things went pretty well. I redpointed The Shores of Hell (5.11b) feeling good the whole way. Resting mid-route was effective, surprisingly. I was impressed I could catch my breath while hanging at rests. Although, this not a steep route, overhanging maybe 5 ft in 40. Little did I know angle had played a big role. Next, I toproped a 5.9 and 5.10 slab with Mary farther down the Mr. Lee’s valley. They sucked. We finished the day at the Tor. Here’s where angle comes in to play. Power of Eating straight kicked my ass. Maybe I was a little tired, sure, but the way steep moves put me on my arms is a whole other deal. Pulling felt hard. I felt like a little girl, a little girl who can’t pull very hard. Bolt-to-bolting Power was possibly a bit too much for my body. There was some coughing and not so nice stretching sensations around my core. Things were not so bad, however, that I would stay away next weekend. My recovery has been fast. I predict things will go much better in a week. This season’s focus will be to emphasize power (which is every season’s focus). Owl Tor made things clear: get stronger or stay home.