Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doing the same thing, expecting different results

Haffner:  The Perpetual Checkdown Day.
Easy cragging...

I am part-way into an abbreviated ice season with an already diminutive amount of quality climbing.  Over the past two seasons I’ve climbed four quality ice routes:  Unholy Baptism, Redman Soars, Mean Green and Goatsbeard.  In the alpine realm it is a wash with a few quality local ascents and one solid trip to Alaska balanced against a lot of waiting, taking the tools for a walk and one lousy trip to Alaska.  I’m climbing the same grades on rock today as I did three-years ago.

After doing a cost-benefit analysis, it just doesn’t add up.  I’ve invested untold amounts of time, effort and money over the past three-years but haven’t seen the benefits.  That being said, I have had a lot of fun days repeating routes, mixed climbing, cragging or alpine climbing on easily tackled objectives. 

I’ll admit it; climbing isn’t just about having fun for me.  For me a big part of climbing is pushing perceived boundaries, working toward goals and doing things that I previously thought impossible.  There are easier ways to have fun than climbing which often, is at best, only fun after the fact.  Though I suppose diminishing returns should be expected, the balance is in the red. 

I’m sure I’m to blame. 

I haven’t changed my modus operandi in years though I haven’t progressed in essentially any facet of my climbing in the same period.  I climb the same rock, ice and mixed grades as I did a couple years ago and I’ve made no changes.  I convinced myself that people who were progressing or were having more successful days in the alpine were just lucky or in a better position.  Either may have been true at times but still I did nothing to change my station.  I have fallen into a rut and somehow I had convinced myself that I could keep doing the same things and expect different results. 

People make difficult choices all the time and those regarding climbing amount to the easiest among these decisions.  I’ve made choices that have pointed me away from maximizing climbing and I don’t regret them.  The dilemma is not about regretting the life decisions I’ve made.  The problem is that I have failed to allocate the time and effort I have available toward climbing in a way which is gratifying and reinforces what I love about this sport.

I’m breaking the cycle this year and I’m going to try something different.  I am refusing to take the consistent check down days and I am going to work harder to ensure I have higher percentage alpine days even if that means fewer days in the alpine and more at the crags.  I need movement and challenge somewhere even if that means climbing fewer days or climbing more rock and less ice (or visa versa).  I need movement and change.  At the very least I need different results wherever they take me…

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hunting Goat

This past week is possibly the first time that the route Goatsbeard in Mazama, WA formed as a complete ice climb.  The first ascent involved rock climbing and direct aid to reach the start of a partially formed pillar on the second pitch.  Needless to say it was in more favorable condition this week with mostly fat, soft ice.

Rumor has it that Goatsbeard may have received a second and aid-less ascent somewhere in the interim between the first ascent and last weekend when its first repeat was claimed.  That party also claimed it to be the longest continuous waterfall ice in North America at 420m.  We climbed the route in five pitches with a 70m rope.  I might be rusty and perhaps I forgot to carry a zero but that doesn't seem to add up to anymore than 350m. After climbing four rope-stretching pitches and one 50m pitch we estimate Goatsbeard's length as approximately 320m (given its wandering nature and use of the rope in anchors).  

Regardless, there is no prize for second place (or fifth or sixth in our case) and there are much longer climbs but not in Washington.  While it is one of the better climbs at the grade and length that I've climbed what makes it unique is because its local and elusive.  I feel pretty lucky to be on one of the half dozen or so teams that have completed this route.

Blake getting ready to "bring the psyche" at the base.

Looking down the first pitch at a cave on left side of first crux pillar.

Blake leading out on the third pitch.

"Crushing mind demons" on the last pitch.

Follow ice to trees, go back down the same way.
The climb as we did it:
P1 70m to a belay cave on left of crux pillar.  
P2 50m to a rock belay on large snowfield to right of climb.  
P3 70m to snowfield and belay in alcove on the right.  
P4 70m to a cave belay to the left.  
P5 70m to the trees.