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.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cloud Nine with a Chance of Snow Pellets

We had an amazing weekend of climbing. Still floating on cloud nine, I'm trying hard to temper the feeling just enough to not crash if it fades. And maybe - just maybe - I can keep it simmering on the low-burner to hang onto this goodness for longer than usual.

Sara and I headed down to Smith Rock this past weekend for our second Solo in Tandem outing. While a 12+ hour drive might seem excessive for a 2-day weekend, to me its a small price to pay. Its so refreshingly good to be out there. On the drive back to Bend after climbing Saturday, we both agreed - Smith is one of those special places where we can actually let go of everything that constantly buzzes in our minds 24/7 at home.

Driving down, I was a little worried; rain had been predicted for Saturday. In hindsight, I need to remember that a 30% chance of rain in the high desert is different than a 30% chance of rain in Seattle. What precip that we did get came down in the form of snowflakes and snow pellets - against a backdrop of blue sky and blazing sun. We danced between wearing puffys and wool hats to just jeans, tanks, and sunscreen. That's a battle I'll happily fight again, especially considering it poured at home all weekend.

Heading towards the Marsupials
For whatever reason, its hard to always feel like "me" at home. Its nice to unbury that girl I've hidden under the weight of the day-to-day in places like Smith. The vibe was good, we were surrounded by a great group of friends - new and old. Sending our hardest leads for the season, Sara and I both climbed strong and with calm.

But unfortunately, she got sick. So what started out as a great "tandem" weekend turned "solo" half way through. I wasn't sure I wanted to go solo. But Sunday packed it up and set out with a good friend who's a guide and the woman who flew out from Oklahoma specifically to have him guide her on Smith's warm, orange rock for 5 days. Watching a newer climber learn to use her balance, her feet, her power, was so exhilarating. Do new climbers know that watching their discovery gives us who've been at it for a while bit of renewal for our own love of the sport?

View from the top of the Cave Route
We're home now and its raining tonight. Down booties and fuzzy sweatshirts are the fashion statement in the little green house as we attempt to stave off the cold, kick colds to the curb, and heal slightly shredded fingers. After a 5am wake-up this morning, the effort of the work day has drained me. But it doesn't matter. That feeling is still simmering, I'm at my center having reconnected with all the little parts and pieces of myself, fingertips to toes. Not that I ever lost any of those parts, but sensation kind of disappeared, numbed by the stresses of work and house and life. Being out there, so focused on my projects, with good people I trust, I was given the gift of space and an opportunity to breathe. I couldn't have found that alone (I certainly couldnt have climbed alone). And there's the tandem; I needed that group of friends to have those specific moments to reconnect with the happy, free, eyes-wide girl inside. Its nice to know she is still there even if I lose her every now and then.

Cloud nine. Floating on cloud nine.