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That's the new record for the fastest climb up El Capitan in Yosemite. The locals were defending their record against outsiders that climbed it in 2:45. The route they are using is The Nose, which is straight up the middle, rated 5.11 with a big pendulum required in the middle of the route. If you've ever seen that rock, then you know awe. When I see that granite monolith, I fancy that I can feel its gravity. It is incredibly massive. If you are not a climber it is hard to imagine going up it with just your body, a few bits of metal and a rope. But it can be done. People used to take 3 days to do this route, sleeping on little portable shelves on the way up, hauling huge bags, and flinging their fecal matter down in paper bags. No more.

I used to be a climber. I got rid of most of my gear but I still have the basics. I took it up in the mid 1980's when there was an extended drought in the southeast, and the rivers dried to a trickle. My boyfriend at the time, JD, taught me how to lead so that we could swap lead on multi-pitch climbs. I remember my first lead, on a 6 pitch, 5.2 climb at Linville Gorge (North Carolina) known as The Prow. I led a pitch that was not even 5.2, putting a tricam under an "eyebrow" of rock every 5-10 feet. I didn't look back at JD, who was belaying. When I got to the top and set my anchor, I looked down and every single piece that I had set in the rock had jiggled out, and they were hanging on the rope in front of JD. It was humbling, because if I had fallen, I would have tumbled down the rock as far past JD as I was above him when I fell. The route was so easy, though, that I would have happily free-soloed it: I had no fear of falling. Later in my climbing career I got much better at placing protection while leading, but I never did fall on lead, preferring to stay well within my abilities. Years later I climbed The Prow without ropes or gear, just for the warmup. I enjoy free soloing more than climbing with all the gear, as long as I am able to feel comfortable on the rock.

I remember one time when we were spending a winter at Joshua Tree, we had set up two topropes on a 5.8 and a 5.9 on a slab of rock that stood immediately over our campsite. While I was on the 8 and someone else from our group was on the 9, a guy came and free soloed the route between our two, a 5.11. He stopped in the middle to retie his shoes. I thought he was a showoff and a dick. I later discovered that all major climbing areas have their local badasses who like to sandbag visitors and piss (figuratively) on the rock.


Jul. 3rd, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
climbing is hard...
thinking about that famous t-shirt I used to see..."climbing is hard, but it's easier than growing up."

the sport itself is so metaphorical for life. Nothing like a little bit of gravity mixed in with human judgement to make things interesting.

invariably, when I talk about climbing with the folks, they ask, "are you a climber?" And I saw, "Look at this body?!? Do I look like a climber?"

What I tell them is that I really enjoy the literature. It is full of ego, decision making (good and bad), and can be used parallel every day life.

I occasionally tell them that I am a caver who uses single rope technique (SRT) to access vertical caves. But to me, that doesn't classify me as a "climber."


Jul. 3rd, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
Re: climbing is hard...
That's a pretty cute theme for a t-shirt. It's totally true, as well. You're right about the ego, too. This effort to beat a record is an exercise in ego.

Cavers and climbers are very different sorts of people. I never was a caver. I did a little caving then gave it up, and started to say "I'll go back underground after I'm dead.". I can see the amazing beauty of caves, and the wonder of following an underground watercourse, but I need the light of day to really feel comfortable....never did get comfortable in caves.



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