Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The First Day of School

Colin and I had our first day of big wall school as it were on the University Wall in Squamish.  In addition to being our introduction to wall climbing systems, it was also my vertical bachelor party.  Thus, we took along some excess weight mostly in the form of beer.  We learned a lot about how to rig a haul, haul the pig, set up and live on ledge.

More than anything I learned that I like free climbing a lot more.  Don't get me wrong, I completely look forward to spending some time on El Capitan climbing routes that largely go free with long sections of aid or even some of the easier aid routes.  However, considering that I already don't have enough time to climb, I'm not convinced that I want to spend any of it learning to hang from increasingly sparser and poorer protection.  That being said I do enjoy that aid climbing puts you in amazing positions and with all the luxuries and comfort of the ground.  It's quasi-vertical camping.

Slab-hauling to the base of the U-Wall

Colin cleaning the first pitch... looks like a better free pitch than aid!

You can tell you're new at wallin' when you take a picture of easy hook placements....

Big Wall cuisine

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Lessons From History

After repeating the Beckey-Chouinard on South Howser Tower I spent some time looking through pictures of my original ascent.  I'm struck by this picture from my original ascent which was taken at the base as we changed into rock shoes.  Specifically, I'm amazed by how big this pack is (35L and filled to the brim).  What could I possibly have taken?  More specifically, what should I have left out?  To answer this question I'm going to compare and contrast the two ascents packing list.

2005:  Full shank climbing boots, ice axe, crampon (half set), camelback, food, rain pants and jacket, puffy jacket, soft shell jacket.
2012:  Approach shoes, ice axe, crampon (half set), camelback, food, rain pants and jacket, puffy jacket, windbreaker, sil tarp or sleeping bag.

Looking about the packing lists, is I actually brought MORE gear on the second ascent but somehow brought a pack only half the size.

I'm sure most of us have passed somebody on the trail with a massive pack for a short trip and thought "What did they pack?"  Here's my theory:  It's not the necessary items that make the difference its all the non-essentials that alter pack weight and size.  The massive caveat being that doing without a "necessary" item will obviously make a difference.  For example I brought approach shoes instead of boots which saved space and weight, and worked given the conditions. Also, we could have done without the sleeping bag and sil-tarp for our planned bivy but would have frozen in the predicted rain.

For a 1-1.5 day climb, aside from basic clothing and whatever gear you're forced to carry over, how much junk could you possibly need?  You'll need a couple liters of water (plan on being dehydrated by the end), about 8-10 bars, headlamp, gloves and hat if its ends up being colder than anticipated, blue bag for mid-route deuce, 20 feet of rap tat and that's about it.  I would advocate for leaving the ten-essentials at the base and only taking what is needed for upward and downward progress and survival for the interim between the two.  Streamline your packing by taking care of tasks ahead of time.  Instead of bringing sunscreen make sure to lather up in the morning and leave it in camp.  Forget the extra batteries, make sure to put a fresh set in before every big climb.  In fact forget anything for which "extra" is written down on the packing list.

A good objective is use everything that you bring on a route and when you get down to the base and say you've done that, then you know you packed well.