The Change Up

Tim Lincecum (baseball player) has a great change up. He throws it from the same arm slot and with the same delivery as his fastball, and he can throw it for strikes. Opposing batters have a hard time picking it up because it looks like a fastball, except it’s almost ten MPH slower and has a nasty break as if crosses the plate. Timmy uses his fastball to set up batters, then finishes them off with the change. He throws other pitches, too, but it is the way he supports his terrific fastball with a filthy change up that makes him one of the best.

What does this have to do with rock climbing? Not a lot, really, but I like the idea of the climbing change up, of using one discipline of climbing to support another.

Case in point: yesterday I bought a new harness. One of those ultra-light, ultra-thin sport climbing rigs that doesn’t seem like it could hold my body weight, let alone catch a whipper. I have not purchased a harness in some time, and the one I have only sees use routesetting and occasionally rappelling down boulders, which is to say I don’t sport climb.

For the last six years I’ve been exclusively focused on bouldering, and while I have accomplished many things that I am proud of, my motivation has waned some in the last year. I thought that maybe I was done with climbing, that the fire had died and I was merely feeling residual heat.

Then, a moment of clarity. I have been dedicated to climbing for eight years and have traveled across the country to sample the finest boulders in the land, but I haven’t done a multipitch route in Eldo. I’ve bouldered V13 but haven’t led a trad route harder than 5.5. The strategic concept and tactics of sport climbing remain elusive, a foreign language that I do not comprehend. This imbalance frustrates me to no end.

To return to the baseball metaphor: I’ve been pounding the strike zone with heaters and the batter expects more of the same. Time to throw the change up…

So I bought this new sporty harness and booked a trip to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in the spring of 2013. I still need to acquire a rope (suggestions welcomed…) and this thing called ‘endurance,’ but I am psyched. The fire has returned. There is much for me to learn within the realm of sport climbing, which means progression, which means happy times. From there is trad climbing or big wall climbing or ice climbing or mountaineering (but definitely not aid climbing) or whatever. That is the gift of climbing: there is always a new experience, a new adventure. You just have to change it up every now and then.

Leave a Reply