Monthly Archives: August 2013

Journey vs. Destination and Whatnot

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to summit Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have spent somewhere near 150 days bouldering in the Park and had never more than glimpsed the famed peak from the confines of the talus fields I enjoy so much. So under the cruel tutelage of my co-workers/besties, I hauled myself up the Cables and enjoyed a hot espresso at the summit. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.

At any rate, the highlight of the day was watching a party attempting the Casual Route up the legendary Diamond. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind has lurked the notion of ascending that clean triangle of alpine granite, and seeing its pristine face close up rekindled that desire. I have done approximately zero multipitch alpine trad routes, so I have a lot to learn before attempting any route on the Diamond, but the goal is set.

While it was a good feeling to stand on top of Longs with a great group of close friends, what was most interesting was how much I would have preferred to take a more difficult route to the summit. Or, rather, the Diamond is so much cooler in my mind, probably because it is more difficult and definitely because it looks more badass.

That thought got my mind churning over my motivation for climbing and why I have dedicated my life to it for nine years. I enjoy the social aspect of climbing, bouldering in particular, and I definitely enjoy getting out into the quiet hills and seeing marmots and stuff but, ultimately, I am motivated by difficulty and the necessity of pushing myself to grasp at success on difficult lines. Which isn’t to say I want a big number attached to a climb, though that is always a bonus. Rather, I do not feel fulfilled unless there is some amount of suffering, pain, anger, failure, blind rage, and/or frustration involved in the overall process. To me it is not about being on top of a climb, it is about getting on top of a climb (that’s what she said?). If it was always easy what would be the point?

Judging by the amount of folks on Longs in shorts and sandals and the wide array of body types visible under those shorts and sandals, it is safe to say nearly anyone is capable of hiking to the top. The route we took was not difficult, nor was it easy; frigid, soaking wet alpine 5.4 is absolutely no joke. But I didn’t have to learn anything, didn’t have to make any adjustments to my technique or approach, didn’t have to go to that primitive place in my psyche where the body takes over and the mind is only an observer. Those are the moments that keep me motivated, keep me working towards the overall goal which is…I dunno, to get to the top, or something.

Longs story short (ha), next summer I am going to try the Casual Route. Someone is going to have to teach me about building belays and placing cams and hauling haul bags and things of that sort, and I’m going to have to confront the abject terror I feel towards non-bouldering methods of climbing, but that is the point. Even if I have to rappel (fortunately I do know how to do this…) off the first pitch and never make the summit, the whole process is one that will challenge me and put me outside my comfort zone and, hopefully, progress my overall climbing ability.

Unrelated note: someone please teach me how to trad climb…

Risk Assessment, Death, and Bees

Corey ‘C-Dog’ Carver here. I hate bees. I hate them more than tailgaters, corn, and a pen with ink that does not write all combined together. Let us be clear that “bees” includes all manner of stinging, flying insects. Bees have forced me to bail off climbs and cry like a three old year whose bed underneath is occupied by The Fangman. I find routes that climb near bees to be risky business, and risk assessment is one of the main priorities for rock climbers.

I was primed for a fantastic summer: Clear Creek Canyon, Ten Sleep Canyon, Devil’s Tower, and possibly bouldering in RMNP. I was climbing well, hard, and smartly. Then I crushed my ankle. “I’ve done this climb before, I’ll just boulder up and preclip the first draw for you, bro.” Not only did I miss the draw on the first attempt, my right foot blew and after a 10’ drop to uneven rock, I had a grade 2 sprained ankle and some “crunched” bones (according to the doc). I made a poor assessment of the risk. As a consequence, I took almost four weeks off and three more to return to form.

We do a dangerous sport. Hiking through forests that may contain bees, traversing a ridgeline with a thousand foot drop to one, or both sides. Skipping clips to find that perfect jug to get a rest on. Thinking two pads will be enough for a 20’ ground fall. Or, God forbid, trusting a ridiculously small hook on an even more ridiculous edge (aid climbing). Even putting on a harness or lacing up your shoes is an exercise in whether you trust your life and health to your gear, partners, or yourself.

As a coach, I work with my team helping them realize their goals and understanding the danger inherent to the sport of rock climbing. They all understand the risk, but do not understand they can get hurt and hurt for good. It is as if only other people get hurt. This attitude is why I got hurt. Having never been seriously hurt, the danger was very distant to me and I became complacent. It is human nature to become complacent when we live, eat, and breathe climbing. Then I realized something:

Rock climbing in itself is not inherently dangerous. Human nature is.