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.