Monday, October 26, 2009

Oktoberfest Bouldering...

I have been getting out to Leavenworth the past few weekends to enjoy the Fall scenery and nice temps. The weather has been a bit rainier than I might have hoped, but all in all the climbing has been fantastic. It has been fun climbing with all of the Leavenworth monkeys, especially my good friend Max Hasson, who has recently started a wonderful blog. Too bad it will forever live in the shadow of NWGranite, but oh well...

Leavenworth and The Icicle from Mountain Home Road

There's too much news to report, so I'm not really going to try and make a full reporting effort. Johnny has recently put up a slew of new problems, the most (only?) repeated of which is probably The Strainer, located around the back of the Green Lung project at the JY Boulders. Kyle O'Meara has also repeated Thunderdome Low for its second ascent and one of his hardest boulders yet. Cortney also just sent The Undercling at Mad Meadows for one of her hardest sends. In the hearsay department, Brian Boyko has made the second ascent of Dave Thompson's 101 Ways to Fling Poo, which has to be one of the best problem names in all of Washington.

Cortney at The Pasture
Cortney on Playback at the Carnival Boulders

The only personal news from this weekend is that I got to do the third ascent of a problem I have been really, really excited about for over two years: Angelina Jolie. This problem was a longstanding project on the Scrambled Eggs Boulder when I first moved to Washington, and over the course of trying it I named it Angelina Jolie because it bears a close resemblance to the famous British boulder problem Brad Pitt. Supposedly the two celebrities are married and are active in tabloid gossip circles. Anyhow, I made some progress on the climb roughly two years ago and became convinced that I would be the one to put it up. I would be my own hero, and my achievement would be lauded throughout the land. Unfortunately, the December snowfall came to Leavenworth before I could taste my crowning glory.

The next spring, Joel Campbell made the first ascent of the problem, which is totally expectable. Joel is a lot stronger and better than me and often does climbs before I can (if I even can). I'm always excited for him, but sometimes, as was the case with this climb, watching Joel send something before I do actually makes it harder - I look at him climbing and think "I can't do that." So I put Angelina Jolie on the back burner and tried other things. Johnny G made the second ascent this spring after an uncharacteristic amount of effort. I tried the route once or twice over the summer, and it felt hard. It is dead-vertical and the holds are poor slopers, so good temperatures and a positive attitude are crucial. This weekend, with the cold, dry weather, I decided to give it another shot. I climbed on it for about an hour on Saturday and re-sussed the beginning moves. I made it up to my previous high point, but it didn't feel good. A tiny foothold down low had broken since I had last attempted it, and it made the rest of the moves feel even harder. My skin was thrashed, and I gave up. On Sunday we returned to the boulder for some more effort, and to my surprise I did it on my fourth try of the day. It was not a very good go. I placed my foot blindly and didn't want to trust it. My skin was thin and every crystal sent a lightening bolt of pain to my brain. As I kept moving, I felt like I was in a constant state of falling off... not solid but somehow not falling either. I got to my high point, from which I was going to move my left hand, and somehow made an unplanned righthand slap for the lip. I missed, but stuck to the wall below the hold, my eyes wide with surprise that I was still on the rock. I bumped up and floated over the lip, elated. This is definitely one of the hardest climbs I've ever done, and is without a doubt the most marginal a send has ever felt. I often think that climbing hard is as much about getting stronger and better as it is about becoming more and more comfortable with climbing on the verge of falling. Climbs that are really at your limit are not going to come with that cruiser, "perfect go" type of feeling - they are going to be thrutchy and desperate and somewhat miraculous. For me, Angelina Jolie is the furthest I've gone in that direction and it felt really good. If you've read this far, I sincerely hope you've also had an experience like that, or will someday... Here are the pics (sorry there's no video - I wasn't going to even try to repeat it):

Angelina Jolie

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