Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joe's Valley - End of the Innocence

As I mentioned in my previous post, the highlight of my trip to Joe's Valley was putting up a new climb in the right fork. I found this problem while hiking around with Cortney during a rest day, and I was back the next day to rappel down and clean it. I have only rarely cleaned problems on sandstone, which is an interesting process in itself - I didn't have to clean lichen or moss, I could break loose holds off with my bare hands, and I had to make more careful decisions about when to stop brushing. I was back to try the climb the next day, and I quickly did the top out and most of the moves on the sit-start. The day after that was supposed to be a rest day, but I was too excited and by late afternoon I had dragged my pads, camera, and fiance back up the hill. I sent the line from the sit start in a couple of tries, and I was elated. Good job me!

End of the Innocence

I named the climb End of the Innocence a) because Don Henley's cheesy but awesome 80s song was strangely stuck in my head, and b) because I spent a lot of the trip thinking about innocence and maturity as they relate to climbing.

During the first several years that I climbed, I eschewed grades and became increasingly scornful of people who seemed like they were "chasing" something in their climbing, whether it was the next grade of difficulty, an FA bragging right, or the petty verification that comes with measuring up to someone else. I saw this achievement-based view of climbing as shallow, and its rewards superficial, fleeting, and corrupt, like candy.

The next stage of my relationship with climbing started when I moved to Washington. I developed climbs, wrote the Central Washington Bouldering guidebook, and finally climbed as hard as I thought I "should" be able to. Though there was no liminal moment in which I ostensibly changed, I drifted perceptibly from my carefully-formed ethos. Grades became okay if people had an appropriate attitude about them, and I became more accepting of extroversion about areas and achievements. I started seeking out climbs that would push my limits, I wrote the guide, and I talked openly about grades. I even started blogging! I was eating the candy in moderation, and everything was great, except for a few toothaches here and there.
I think these changes had lots of positive aspects, and I am proud that I have shared my knowledge and passion for climbing with others, "for the good of the sport." But when I arrived in Joe's Valley, I felt a toothache starting again. This was my fifth trip to Joe's Valley, and I was hoping it would be the trip I finally did Trent's Mom, The Worm Turns, Jitterbug Perfume, and all of the other stunning lines I first ogled back in 2003. But my fingertips were cracked and peeling, and I had to spend several days climbing moderates and taking it easy; after a few days, I wrote off the possibility of doing a "hard" climb. This was dispiriting at first. I wanted to know that I was a good climber and to return home with a Halloween's bounty of hard climbs that I could humbly spray about. But I ended up having a really positive trip anyway because I made a conscious decision that I was going to spend my time in Joe's doing the things I love: going "star chasing" in the guidebook, supporting Cortney's climbing, and walking around looking for new rocks. The fact that I found a beautiful problem to clean and climb made the trip far more rewarding than a hefty tick would have. Vegetables!So why "End of the Innocence?" Essentially, because I realized on this trip that I am no longer innocent as I relate to climbing. Innocent is a funny word, but I think it is apposite, and I don't use it negatively. Almost all of the people we encountered on our trip were relatively young and strong, and had the excitement and drive that comes with progressing up the Vermin scale for the first time. They lived in Boulder. They hadn't yet sensed any limit to their opportunities or abilities, and climbing represented a doorway to a new and better world. They were "innocent." For the first time, I could identify this, but I couldn't identify with it. I've been climbing for almost 10 years, I've already churned the numbers (with injuries, I've done it more than once), and climbing and I have had our share of rough times. I've also fallen in love, gotten engaged, and started an exciting career. 30 is no longer an abstract concept. It's not that I feel washed up, I just feel more "mature" about how I approach climbing. My eros for climbing has metamorphosed into agape.

Those are the things I was mulling over in Joe's Valley. I initially intended to present these thoughts solely as an explanation of this one climb's name, but after writing them down, the climb seems inconsequential and my own experience fades into the background. I think it's important that climbers question our own motives, our own goals, and our own ideals in climbing so that we don't get blindly drawn into the reductionist conception of climbing presented to us by our hyperplastic climbing media. This is especially true of boulderers. We consume the geologic pop music of the climbing world, and it's easier for us to fall prey to the belief that redemption is just one supersaturated V14 pantomime away. I'm not going to try to flesh out exactly what I find rewarding about climbing; I won't paint the lily. But climbing does bring to life concepts like nature, adventure, problem solving, beauty, and focus. And it is fun. All of my memorable experiences in climbing have originated from within, and any value added by grades, competition, or publicity has long since faded away.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Here's a video of the climb. In case you haven't guessed, I didn't grade End of the Innocence. It's a "medium." In hindsight, agape would have been a more saccharine name, but oh well. Have fun out there... I know I will.

(open in Vimeo for HD quality)

Directions: End of the Innocence is in the right fork. Park as for Maxipad and No Additives, and walk roughly 100 meters back down the road towards town. End of the Innocence is the curved uphill arĂȘte of a large boulder roughly 80 meters above the road. I started sitting with two low pockets on the left face.

Finer points: Where you park, there is a power line pole across the creek; End of the Innocence is roughly directly across from the next pole back towards town. Also, there is a medium-sized round boulder about 10 meters above the road where you begin the hike; walk around the right side and straight uphill from this boulder, and you will hit the bottom of the End of the Innocence boulder.

End of the Innocence from the Road

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