Thursday, March 29, 2012

Back to my Routes!

It has been two and a half years since I spent a considerable amount of time on a rope.  When I hung up the rope a couple of years back my intention wasn't to stop sport climbing for this long of a period of time.  My goal was to boulder a solid 6 months in hopes of returning the following season with an increased sense of power and understanding of hard movement.  I hoped that the short amount of time away from a rope would help me succeed on my projects that I had failed to due because of the lack of power.  Well, six months turned into a year, and a year turned into just under two and a half years.  I got kind of sucked into the bouldering game and it has been a nice change of pace.  I have learned a great deal about rock climbing and difficult movement through my bouldering hiatus.  Just recently I was stricken with the urge to start climbing on a rope a little bit more.  Thoughts of routes I had tried and failed on in the past started to brew in my mind and I was hooked.  The first couple of days sport climbing again felt heinous!  Luckily I take to endurance oriented climbing pretty well and I started to feel good again within the week.  That was about a month and a half ago and things have been moving forward quite nicely.  I feel like I have a good base and have been concentrating on power endurance more than anything else. I've been trying to get back up to the Red for some time now but it seems that I either get shut down by the weather or previous obligations.  Last weekend though, I managed to get out of Atlanta long enough to get up to the sport climbing mecca that is the Red River Gorge.

Preston, Jonathan, Sarah, and I met up around 10 p.m. after Preston and I finished coaching for the evening.  We realized that none of us had eaten dinner and that all the quick service restaurants in the area were closed for the night.  Luckily we live in the land of Waffle House so we were able to stop at this fine dining establishment to fill up our hungry bellies in just under 20 minutes. So, we were finally on the road around 11 or so.  A great start to the trip, to be sure.  We didn't care though.  Psych was high!!!

Enter the rain.  We hadn't even reached Chattanooga and the rain started dumping from the sky.  Buckets.  Lots of buckets.  Again, we didn't care.  Psych was high.  Six hours later we arrived in Slade, KY.  Buckets still dumping.  We reached the campground around 5:30 a.m. and we quickly set up our tents and passed out.

Skip ahead 3 hours.  The sun was shining and we had awoken from our long slumber.  Psych was too high to go back to sleep so we started the morning routine of coffee, egg and avocado filled pita, and oatmeal.  The breakfast of champions.

The motherload was our first destination of the trip.  The first climbing destination at least.  The Chocolate Factory, my main motivation for returning to the Red, was too close to not go take a look at.  I had spent a little bit of time at this wall almost three years ago when both The Golden Ticket and Pure Imagination were still projects.  I remember flailing around all over the Ticket in the hot, humid June weather wishing for good conditions.  Unfortunately, conditions were about the same that day as they were three years prior.  Warm and muggy.

After a quick look at the wall we were on our way to the Motherload.  Conditions were less than ideal but we had a good time warming up.  Jonathan, Preston, and my buddy Brad all tried their hand at a couple of routes before we bounced back over to the Chocolate Factory.

The Madness Cave - Sarah Bain Photo

Jonathan on Flour Power 5.13b - Sarah Bain Photo

Like I stated previously, my main motivation for returning to the Red were the routes at the Chocolate Factory.  I had my sights set on The Golden Ticket (5.14d) because I had been on it a couple of times a few years ago and had my ass handed to me.  It was totally beyond me at the time and I thought it would be cool to check it out again after 2 and a half years of bouldering.  My first go up the route went well. I managed to do all the moves on my first or second try and figured out some good beta.  I rested for a while before giving it another go.  My goal was to try to make it past the bottom crux at the 4th or 5th bolt.  The crux revolves around two small edges and a big deadpoint to a good hold.  I surprised myself and somehow managed to make my way through this section and found myself at the next bouldery section which involves huge spans between good holds.   This section gave me a lot of trouble a few years back and I only did the moves one time.  The power I've gained from bouldering translated well to this section and although the moves were still at my full span, I managed to link this section into the final boulder problem. The final boulder problem is a hard one.  A hard gaston move with the left hand into an amazing flake feature leads to a fall in move with the right hand.  After this you make a couple of moves up the flake (at least I do with my short person beta) and make a few more powerful moves on edges before you are at the anchors. At this point I wasn't pumped, just really fatigued.  I stabbed at the flake feature with my left hand, stuck it for a split second, but was too worked to keep it together.  I am really happy with how the route went, especially with nasty conditions and lack of sleep.  I feel like I can do the route really quickly now that I have it figured out and now that I have confidence again in my route climbing ability. This route is easily one of the best routes I've ever been on.  The movement is unique, the holds are all comfortable, and its just really FUN to climb on.  Needless to say, I can't wait to get back to this one.  I've been watching the weather religiously hoping for good weekend conditions.

The Golden Ticket 5.14d - Preston Alexander Photo

The Golden Ticket 5.14d - Preston Alexander Photo

The next day we decided to head to Drive By, a crag that I haven't really spent that much time at in the past.  I had my sights set on Supercharger (5.13d) and was able to hook it up with the quickness.  Preston and Jonathan tried their hands at the striking Kaleidoscope (5.13c) and both came close to doing it.  They also tried Dirty Smelly Hippie (5.13b) and Spank (5.13a) coming close to success on both.

Kaleidoscope 5.13c - Sarah Bain Photo

We woke up Sunday and realized that it had rained all night and that climbing was probably not going to work out.  After some deliberation we decided the best thing to do was to hit up Kathy's for breakfast and head home.

In addition to climbing routes outside, I've been spending a lot of time in the gym preparing for SCS Nationals next weekend in Boulder, CO.  I've never competed in a competition like this before so it'll be interesting to see what happens.  I feel like I'm in pretty good shape at the moment so I'm excited to see how the event turns out!

I'm heading back to the Red early tomorrow morning.  Sarah and I plan on waking up at 6 and driving straight to the Chocolate Factory.  Hopefully the weather cooperates and we are able to climb in decent conditions.  Psyched to get back! 

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