Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Best Post-Climbing Footwear Ever is More Awesome than You Think

They aren't soled with sticky stealth or otherwise rock-tastic rubber. They dont snug tight with laces or velcro. There's no aggressive down-turned camber. These are straight up classic western boots with a modern twist of style and color. I spent the big bucks last fall on a pair of Ariat Boots hoping to find ideal jeans/skirt/dress footwear. What I ended up with were beautiful purple Showbabys with round Fatbaby toes followed shortly thereafter by Sara's hot-as-hell pink Rodeobaby Rockers. Now... 2 pairs of cowboy boots might seem like a lot for one Little Green House and you're probably wondering what this has to do with climbing so here's the secret: These are THE ultimate post-climbing shoe option. And with two climbing girls in the house we each need a pair, of course.

After a good day on Silent Running, Darrington, WA
These boots are some of the most comfortable, supportive footwear I have ever worn. That they are shiny, sassy, versatile and PURPLE and PINK! is bonus. Well, so what, you say, they're cute but why are these the best post-climbing footwear? Honestly, I prefer flipflops. And my goal is to wear them May through November. Most years I don't make it that far and some mid-summer days in Washington just aren't that warm. But when barefoot just isn't an option, these boots provide a fully covered flipflop feel, but with more support and a style that looks better with a kickass skirt on the way in to the B&G for a G&T.

I have a narrow foot from the mid to the heel, but a wider ball and when I step my arch turns to mush which makes my feet tire out fairly quickly without good support. The width of the round toe Showbabys fits my foot best, but the more classic toe of the Rodeobaby's is also comfortable for all day.

Both pairs of boots are built with Advanced Torque Stability Technology (aka ATS(r)) which is a fancy schmancy way of saying the footbeds of these boots are constructed to provide support and help with better posture. All things I need, especially after a long day in not so comfortable rock shoes. Ariat claims this type of construction also helps reduce fatigue, which I'd support - I can wear them all day without getting achy.

The no-slip rubber soles feel secure and stable on slippery rock at trailheads (or on frosty grass fields while walking Maile the Great). I've come unprepared to hike at the spur of the moment and ended up halfway uphill doing just fine on loose dirt and rock with these boots.

The leather has maintained a well-kept, undistressed look with a little shoe polish help despite the dusty, dirty, muddy conditions I've put them through. They've also been comfortable post-climb in Nevada's foot-swelling desert heat, the City of Rocks in June, and in Washington, well, anytime. I wear them after climbing, all-day at work and they even dressed up my brown wrap dress just fine last year at the AAC's annual "black tie" dinner. Could I ask for a better pair of boots? No.

Yes, I'll be getting a new pair his winter. 3 pairs of boots, excessive? Borderline but some fanaticism is worth it. Y'all git yer own pair now, ya hear?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Less Adds Up To A Lot

Room with a view.
Did we get lazy, or did we realize we were on the wrong road to our respective happy places?

Its really not hard to cross that first possibility off the list. Spend 5 minutes in the Little Green House and, other than the occasional night to veg out and watch Alias, there are few nights during the week that aren't filled with activity and even fewer weekends not packed to the gills.

But every action is a choice. So when did we start choosing to not stay our course of "crushing"? Did we get lazy making excuses because we were just too busy? Maybe it was that tough day back in Leavenworth this spring that left us both a little ego bruised and fearful. Or maybe it was individual personal muck that emerged in spring that - if I can speak for Sara too - rattled nerves and found its way through the cracks to our softer selves. Maybe, over time and with the new perspective we gain each day, we simply realized a number is not what makes happy. (does this sound redundant? I'm sensing a theme here...)

I would like to make a bajillion dollars, but the decent salary I'm paid for a position I worked good n' hard to earn at company I really enjoy working for is more important than any higher paying alternative.

Sure, it would be great to have a bit more stretching room in the Little Green House; at 768sq feet, its smaller than most people's kitchens or garages. But its cozy, comfortable, easy to clean!, has a kickass gear-age, and friends and family feel welcome to come over..whenever.

And yes, I wouldn't mind a couple extra inches to my 5'4" frame, but I duck less often under low tree branches, fit easily on planes, and never feel put out when someone else claims shotgun first.

Maybe less is more? Maybe less = happy...?

Its been a long time since either of us posted. For this first one back, in some ways, I wish I could report that we did make it up Outer Space, Lovers Leap, The Perch and are on our way to the Creek. But we didn't do any of those things. Instead, for me, the summer was filled with plugging gear into 6's and 7's at Smith, finding a new edge in the Sawtooths on a sketchy 4th class boulder field before we even made it to the single pitch of 5th class, and laughing and cursing through my first experience of finishing a climb in the light of a headlamp. It included bailing off of a number of sub-6 routes for milkshakes and pedicures instead. And taking a good friend up his first multipitch route and down his first rappel. All of these, with new climbing partners. Nothing was part of that original plan. And it was all really, really good. So good, it was better than I'd planned.

With fall just beginning, there is no end to good days of rock in the near future. I'm currently in Chattanooga and am eager to try the rock here though I dont anticipate getting on anything above an 8 or 9, sport. Whatever the number, I will be happy and count it as a success as long as its like all those other experiences this summer its somewhere near five point fun.

Monday, May 9, 2011


A couple of Thursdays ago, Teresa and I sat down in the living room for a family meeting. Up for discussion were our weekend climbing plans. The calendar said "Squamish - all on gear" but I was still struggling hard to want to climb at all. The weather forecast wasn't great. It was a long drive. We'd both been burning the candle at both ends, and were wiped out from work and life.

And, this time -- like a year ago when we were making the go / no go decision from a tent in the pouring rain out on the Pacific coast after precious more than two and a half hours sleep -- Teresa pulled the plug on her proverbial camp mat and we packed for Squamish.

The blow was softened by having friends to stay with in Vancouver who helped our weekend feel a lot less like a typical climbing trip and a lot more like a vacation (Thank you, Jason and Ludvina -- the weekend was SUCH a treat). The blow was also softened by the prediction of marginal weather, which reduced our objectives from "all on lead, all on gear" to "climb something" which suited my state much better.

Here's a few of the photos, with more to come.

A highlight...

Starting up Starchek, a run-out, bolted 5.9 at Cheakamus on an airy arete above the river as a party of three. Jason lead the first pitch, then at the belay, Teresa's bold and my pretend bold agreed to swing leads on the next two. Before we'd really thought through the implications, Jason set off to link the next two pitches, then anchored in and pulled up his lead rope.

We wondered, as we got situated for our swinging leads up the next two pitches, if Jason -- our teacher / friend -- had orchestrated that to leave us all alone for a couple of pitches together.

Teresa rocked out the second pitch despite some slabby goodness (her favorite) and exposure (not her favorite) and runouts that she cruised with total calm. I took the third pitch complete with a heady long runout. They were our first multipitch climbing pitches swinging leads, and we both did -- objectively -- great. We got some awesome coaching on anchor technique from Jason, and then Teresa styled the last pitch. It was a lovely warm-up for what turned out to be a lovely weekend.

My last trip to Squamish was marked by a neighboring party's gear-ripping groundfall. One of my climbing partners for the weekend was wilderness medicine trained, and she ran the scene until the pros arrived to orchestrate a helicopter evac.

It's been a long winter of not much climbing after a long last summer and fall of not much climbing. I am not in climbing shape -- mind, or body -- and that's all there is to it. But our recent weekend in Squamish was a blast. I loved the climbing. I even loved the runout lead (once I was safely clipped in to the next bolt). I loved the variety of the routes that we did on toprope ... chimneys, full body movement kind of blocky crack climbing, juggy cracky burly goodness, and a perfect hand and finger crack that helped me remember why I fell in love with crack climbing and started acquiring trad gear and facing my trad gear fears in the first place.

When I feel down on myself for being fearful about gear climbing, and for doubting my ability to keep the commitments I made to T for this summer, I can pep talk myself all I want -- and the bottom line is, it might take me some time to get back at it.

But after wondering aloud a few weeks ago in Leavenworth if ... "Maybe I'm just not a climber anymore..." Squamish helped me remember that whether I lead or not... whether I am "a climber" or not... whether Teresa and I make our goals or change them... what really matters is that I still love to climb. When I take the pressure away, when it's just me, a rope, a great belayer, and a perfect crack or a fun chimney, it's just climbing and I just plain love it.

Yesterday I visited the UW Rock with a friend. I haven't bouldered at all lately, and the routes on the rock have a reputation for being greasy and difficult. Even with an out of shape body, and less than 100% hands, I was in absolute bliss. Climbing even a little, with a bit of sun, fresh air and good company, I was reminded, again, that climbing can be just plain fun. It can be unscary.

And today, I woke up with the tell tale sore obliques, delts, and lats that come with a good little bouldering session. It made me ache to boulder, more, which comes as a surprise even to me -- but a welcome one.

It reminds me that there are seasons to climbing, when I don't do it year round. And this is the beginning of my season, and it's going to have ups and downs, and the downs are worth the bliss.

I stopped in to see friends at the Seattle Bouldering Project tonight to see the progress of their build out -- the last time I was there, the place had been gutted and the climbing walls were only a vision and a drawing. I left with the first member card they issued and am looking forward to their grand opening on May 20th (with hopes of a few sessions before that, if all goes well with their final inspections).

The next few weeks will be a bit of a break from Solo in Tandem... Teresa's on the road for work and then a vacation, and I'm staying closer to home. I'm going to focus on having fun climbing with absolutely no pressure... to see if I can get my body and head back on track through not trying, instead of through trying. Teresa's going to have her own adventures. And when we're both back in town, we'll sit down and plot out the plan for the rest of the summer.

And in the meantime, I can't WAIT to boulder.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The "No Bullshit" Zone

Sara on Twin Cracks @ Classic Crack Wall
This weekend in Leavenworth, Sara and I poured our sweet, winter-softened hearts into the rough, unforgiving, still nearly-frozen granite hoping to find some answers under our raw, abraded skin. We've come to a point on the journey toward reaching our climbing goals where kitchen-table ideals aren't matching the gritty, sharp reality of climbing on real rock. There is no room for fluff. On rock, your in the "no bullshit" zone.

As I stepped into the weekend, I realized its not a matter of can we achieve what we've set out to. We're both strong, competent and, while one of us (*cough...thebrunette...cough*) needs to dust off the cobwebs and remember to manage her tools so as not to be a junk show , I have no doubt we can "succeed." Yes, training and practice help, but strength is no longer the question.

Earlier in the week, questions of our success as a partnership had seeped into my mind. Did we both want the same thing? Could we support the other's dreams without sacrificing our own personal ones? Questions of finding common ground in our climbing partnership flickered in the back of my mind as we drove along HWY 2. Its not that we don't get along. We seem to ALWAYS get along. We get along when we disagree. And we even support one another as we both are learning how shoot it straight and call a best friend we care very much about on her shit without fear of retaliation. We even get along when we're on the receiving end of that calling out of shit.

Slabtastic! Barney's Rubble.
But, despite our similarities, appreciation for each others differences and strengths, care for each others vulnerabilities and fears (especially on rock), I wasn't sure we would make it. We seemed to suddenly want different things for Solo In Tandem.

But then we actually got on that rock. Over the course of the weekend, we placed pro for the first time of the season and got well-deserved sun burns.

I got panicky sewing machine leg on left-trending twin cracks, felt magic on slab, and grunted my way up awesomely angry and wonderful crack that will satisfyingly require a few weeks of healing.

Bestie Climbing Partners
Sara blissed out on a gorgeous twin crack (that same one that caused me panic), had her own mental battle on a bitch of a slab, finessed another with the skill of a ballet dancer, and pushed herself to giggle-inducing limits.

We had lots of time to laugh and soak up the late-day warmth as the sun inched to the horizon. We giggled while working like crazy to start the little fire that could. We offered encouragement and beta, "pulled the weight" when the other needed a mental or physical break, geeked out over Via coffee and ridiculous sleeping bags. And each found our own moments of euphoria. It was in those moments that we realized that our partnership isn't doomed.

 Phew! We are great climbing partners, which is a lucky thing to find in a friend who is also a bestie. We simply needed to remember that, while we do climb well together, each of us has slightly different ambitions and strengths. There's no room to pretend that we dont. Most of the time, it works out. But it's also ok to call big differences what they are and come up with alternate plans so that we can both accomplish our own dreams.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sometimes more solo than tandem

Teresa and I are planning a training weekend in Leavenworth this weekend... a crack here and there has started to show. I’m struggling with motivation in a big, big way. Partly, I’ve been so enjoying my time doing alone things... at my own pace, without having to keep up with anyone else. Alone things feel so different than climbing... climbing has, pretty much, always been about trying to keep up with someone else, or accepting the role of leader and the sometimes welcome pressure of setting the pace for someone else to keep up with.

With Teresa, I really feel that we’re capable of being peers... we climb about the same level; we have a solid base of skills and a really solid grasp of common sense and problem solving; neither of us has to lead or follow; and we have a crapton of fun when we’re out there just the two of us. We just make a really, really good team. And even so, we still have some differences that we are working to reconcile.

I’m struggling to find a place of partnership that is not me doing this for Teresa; that’s not me making commitments or choosing routes or taking trips or climbing pitches because I know that’s what Teresa wants. I’m struggling, hard, to find a place of partnership that is motivated from the inside... to make a commitment to Teresa to join her for routes and trips that I’m genuinely stoked about... that, when we pull the plug on the camp mats at 5am, I’ll be up and at ‘em and ready to climb, rather than laying there wishing for rain.

Partly, I don’t feel like I’m as connected to the “ambition” organ that seems to power most climbers. Climbing is scary and blissful, for me. For me, the baseline is that basic human organism’s natural “WTF” over tying yourself to a rope and setting off up up up something. That’s the baseline at which I can operate right now. I’ve been able, at other times in my life, often motivated by other peoples’ wants and needs, to push myself to accept a higher level of fear in order to achieve someone else’s goal. Once in awhile, I’ve found that motivation and ambition in myself, to achieve my own goal -- although, it’s not lost on me that those times have mostly occurred when I’m climbing with people with whom I do not have a relationship … when I’m a climber and the other person is a belayer and I don’t have as much sensitivity to his or her feelings or needs as I do when I’m connected to my climbing partner by more than just a rope.

I want to climb, I love to climb, but at the first hint of external pressure or expectation or even a request for a baseline commitment from a partner -- which are all a necessary part of climbing for all of us who choose roped routes -- I retreat a little. I feel those familiar sense memories of moving with someone else’s tide -- not because of them, but because of my lack of experience moving with my own -- and hear the voices in my head, of “suck it up,” and “do it for me,” and my own saying “ok, I’ll lead if you want me to,” and the worst, “I don’t care, I’ll do whatever you want.” I feel the unwelcome mix of fear and exhilaration that feed some peoples’ souls, and that leave me just plain exhausted.

The last couple of years, I have become a lone wolf in more ways than I realized. I’m most content, now, in my adventures that are solo -- or -- when the stakes are so low that my partners are not depending on me for their own success. When I get to decide based on my own internal measures whether a certain risk is worth taking, or not worth taking. Maybe that’s just laziness... an excuse. I don’t know. But I do know I’m not the world’s greatest climbing partner right now.

I hate the question, “What does this mean?” because I don’t particularly think there’s an answer... I think that any particular thing that we ask that question about just is, and it’s not about what it means. This quiet day at the kitchen table, I find myself asking... what does it mean for me as a climber, that I want to go have some fun climbing in beautiful places with good friends, and to be outside and push myself in my way, at my pace, but not push myself at someone else’s pace or subject myself to external pressure? What does that mean for me, as a climbing partner?

I guess it doesn’t mean anything. I guess it just is. I guess I will continue to communicate as honestly as possible with Teresa (and my other climbing partners) about what’s going on with me... about where my soft spots and wounds are, and about what I’m genuinely stoked about and what gives me more pause. The funny thing is that it’s not the harder, longer, more committing objectives that give me pause... those are the weekends I’m completely stoked about. It’s just hard for me to get motivated about our training trips, because I know how much adrenaline I burn during those training weekends that aren’t an objective; I know how much fear I face; I know that the prioritization of pushing ourselves vs. having fun is a little bit different for me and for Teresa.

Or maybe, Teresa is right, and we’re both saying the same thing just in different ways when we talk about our training weekends. Maybe I need to quit my yapping and rock climb.

So, we’ll practice this weekend. We’ve got iffy conditions and a plan for two days of climbing (with a compromise stop off to ski a few runs on the way home). I imagine that all this personal angst will be for naught... that we’ll get out there and remember just how much fun we have climbing together. That we’ll each get a little scared at some point, and we’ll help each other through it like we always do. That we’ll find our bliss and come home tired and banged up and happy and remembering why we climb -- individually, and together. And then we’ll pull out the calendar and the guidebooks and start making the ticklist for our next adventure.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Peanut Butter = Climbing Magic

Peanut butter - along with avocados and watermelon - deserves its own food group. I love the stuff. I'm a "grazer", my body functions better with snacks than with big meals and, while I hope to be babelicious on the beaches of Spain next month, I cant resist peanut butter ever, and especially not when I'm out on high-exertion outings. It sticks to my ribs, keeps me from bonking, and eliminates having to eat sugary processed foods. Here are two of my favorite home-made power snacks:

Date thingies
Loni's Date Treats (from a dear friend/kickass climbing inspiration. take one guess what her name is, smartypants)
* 3-4 dates
* Adams crunchy, stir-required, peanut butter (its magic!, has only a few ingredients, and doesnt contain partially hydrogenated oils like most already-mixed PB)
* Pecans

-Slice dates in half, lengthwise
-Spread a small, tsp-sized blob of PB into the inside "reservoir" of the date
-Break a pecan in half, lengthwise and press it into the PB. Voila!
-Store in a baggie or mini-glad tupperware
A bit of healthy sweetness and protein packed into nutty, long-lasting calories = yum

T's Balls of POWER! (shout it, you know you want to!)
* Packet of Jay Robb's chocolate protein powder (or whatever kind you like)
* Honey (i tried it with molasses cause i was out of honey last time; not bad, not great)
* PB (of course)
* Chocolate chips

One ball down, one to be rolled. Delish!
-Dump 1/3 to 1/2 of the protein powder on a plate
-Scoop a small tbsp blob of PB onto a spoon. 
-Use a finger to make a li'l dimple in the PB blob
-Squeeze a tsp dollup of honey into the dimple
-Smoosh 6-12 choc chips into the PB
-Fold outer edges of the PB around the honey/chop chip center so it makes a little ball
-Roll the ball in the protein powder
-Wrap it in a mini-square of plastic wrap
-Put it in a small, snack-sized baggie 
-Depending on the outing/trip duration...i'll eat 1/day on a rock trip, 2+/day climbing Rainier - these saved me on Rainier. Dump remaining protein powder in your oatmeal. 
-FREEZE YER BALLS! (this is key esp. if you're climbing in a warm place - it helps them keep their shape instead of becoming a mooshy - but scrumptious - mess) 
Packed with rib-sticking goodness; slow-energy-releasing protein and some fast-acting, natural sugars

(reposted from a full story on Outdoor Women's Alliance. read more there!) 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And, the video version... Smith Rock, April 2011

Cloud Nine with a Chance of Snow Pellets from Sara Lingafelter on Vimeo.

What I learned from trying to make a little video with Teresa this weekend:
  1. We giggle. A LOT.
  2. We cheer each other on. A LOT.
  3. Maile is the star of the show.