Monday, January 25, 2016

My First Mountaineering Trip

Willey's Slide
Yesterday I went mountaineering for the first time with a class through Salt Pump.  It was a lot of fun, I definitely learned a lot of new stuff, and when I got to the top of where we were climbing and looked down I wasn't even a little nervous either.

I packed for the trip on Friday night, knowing myself enough to know that I wasn't going to be able to wake up enough to make sure I wasn't missing anything the next morning.

After a quick meeting at Salt Pump me and my climbing partners headed out to North Conway in New Hampshire, to meet our guide, Jimmy, and borrow gear from Cathedral Mountain Guides.  Quickly we were back on the road, on our way to Willey's Slide.

Our view of surrounding mountains!
First part of the day we learned the basic stuff, like how to use crampons, how to use the mountaineering axe, self-arrest, ice tools, etc.  We had beautifully calm weather, with next to no wind, and cloud cover, it was perfect for a first time mountaineering.  Considering all the snow the rest of the east coast has gotten in the last few days we were very lucky.

We did get to do some low-angle ice climbing, as well as learn a bit about running belays (AKA Simul Climbing), and eventually went almost all the way up what you saw on the left side, in the first picture.  It was an all around amazing experience.  With proper layering I wasn't cold most of the climb, except my fingers because I was wearing the fingerless gloves convertible mittens for my gloves.  Let me tell you, swinging an ice tool with numb, tingly fingers is extremely difficult, I do recommend better gloves.  I think I will probably leave my down jacket on while climbing next time, and maybe lose a top base layer instead.  In just my base layers, fleece, and shell I was a bit chilly, even when climbing.

Me, super psyched to be outside climbing for the first time!
We went up, and then hiked down a trail through the woods instead of going down on the mixed ice and snow, it was the easier way to get down.  Walking through the deep snow made me appreciate being so active normally, because though it was a bit tiring on the legs I ended up being the only one, other than our, guide who wasn't sore afterwards.

It was a fantastic trip, and now I'm just really psyched to get back onto the ice.  I'm planning on going Thursday morning back to Willey's Slide to tackle the middle section of just low-angle ice with my co-worker, Zack.

No matter what I know I'm going to be getting outside more this winter.  Usually I avoid the snow and cold like the plague, this year I think I will be able to enjoy it more.  Today I even went on a short winter hike to a waterfall near my house.  As amazing as it is to go out and find big adventures there are also small ones close to home, that is something I need to remember when the "wanderlust" sets in.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rock Climbing, Getting Stronger

Those of you who have read my blog may know that I've only really been climbing since July.   July 23rd was the day I learned how to belay and actually started technical (with safety gear, ropes, harness, etc) rock climbing, it hasn't even been quite six months, yet.

If you know the grading scale for rock climbing you'll know a 5.10 is a fairly difficult climb, one that definitely takes quite a bit of technique and strength.  While I've done a couple of 5.10a's and a 5.10b or two in the past tonight I topped out on my first 5.10c.*

Back in August or September I was shadowing an Intro to Climbing class, the teacher was having the lone student belay me for practice, he suggested I get on a 5.10b or c, saying it was his favorite climb in the whole gym.  Not knowing the grading scale very well still I hesitantly agreed.  After a dozen or more falls getting under half way up the wall I quit.  Had I known then that climbs only stay up for 12 weeks or so I would've made more effort to get up that one.  On the other hand, I'm glad I didn't spend a lot of time on that.  I bouldered a lot in my first couple months, which helped build up strength that I need for all rock climbing, I'm not sure I'd be where I am if I hadn't spend so much time bouldering.

I do believe that working at Monkey Trunks help me get over my heights fear enough to get me rock climbing successfully.  Plus the autobelay I tried once or twice while setting up the rock wall there gave me a little taste.  Another thing that made it easier for me was dance.  Movement-wise I make more interesting moves with more high feet, and pressing off lower holds with my hand rather than pulling myself up ever if possible.  The flexibility I earned from dancing all these years definitely helped me progress faster than I would have otherwise.

Overtime I accomplish something new while climbing I think one step closer to my goals.  I climb a slightly harder route than I've done before, and I become more and more inspired to get better and go to the next step.  The next step for me is ice climbing.  Which I will post more about when it happens!

Now I am able to do every type of climbing Salt Pump offers; Bouldering, Top Roping, and Lead climbing, all within six months of climbing.  My fingers, and forearms still get sore after a couple days in a row of climbing, but I feel stronger after every session.  I have a couple of friends who I climb with often now, I'll be moving outside soon for some winter climbing, and then outdoor rock climbing this spring.  I've got a wonderful support group of people who want to get better, and want me to get better.  The rock climbing community remain some of the most supportive, friendly people I've met, possibly the most supportive and friendly community I've ever been involved in.  If it's available to you, I highly recommend climbing, even if you don't have the strongest upper body, or if you're scared of heights, or any other reason you might have for not climbing.  There are rocks pretty much everywhere, go climb some.

*For those of you who don't know: 5. means fifth class, it's part of the "Yosemite Decimal System" the grading scale we use in the USA.  The second number tells you how hard it is.  Once you get to 5.10 they add letters, just to make it way more confusing.  5.11a is harder than 5.10d but easier than 5.11b.  Once it gets to d it goes to the next number grade.