Moments of Reflection: It’s All in the Attitude When in Altitude!

When it comes to climbing, proficiency in physical components such as ability, skills, technique, flexibility, balance, aerobic shape, strength, and so forth is obviously quite important.  However, my attitude, my psyche, or better yet…the Inner Me is also a huge percentage of my game.

December of this year I will officially turn 3 years of age; that is as a climber.  I am so grateful that in the short time I have been climbing, I have accomplished quite a bit and climbed in numerous destinations all over.  That being said, rather than chasing numbers, I have recently been prioritizing on enhancing the Inner Me amongst a few other important things (e.g., continuously advance learning safety and rigging systems, improve technical skills, refine my toe work, move towards being a proficient, well rounded and consistent climber, etc.).

Awesome climbing partners help push through the good and bad days, making every journey worth the trip!

This week I visited Salt Lake City, Utah for work and so I fit in a quick climbing weekend with some really awesome friends.  We climbed at Parley’s Canyon and Cecret Lake.  I learned on this trip that it is not always about hard climbing, checking off the tick list, onsighting, red pointing, but sometimes it is the journey itself that teaches you even more important lessons along the way.

In looking back, here are valuable climbing affirmations I made that will help build a stronger, climbing Inner Me.

I will hear what my body has to say before my ego.  We visited a beautiful crag that was at ~10,000 feet above sea level.  I never thought twice about it because I climb everywhere and anywhere.  But in this instance, for the first time, the altitude affected me.  I was leading a tricky, but what I think is a fairly easy climb, yet I was short of breath and felt weak.  Normally, I gun it and take the chance, and push through it and do just fine.  However, I chose not to red-point that climb, took it easy on my leads, and enjoyed climbing with such a cool and fun-filled crew! In looking back I realized for once my body was talking to me and I listened to it, not something so easy for me to do having been an elite athlete growing up.

This right climbing attitude is just what the doctor ordered, a beautiful send followed!

I will learn to conquer and not be conquered! – My current climbing weapons: smearing, high stepping, slopers and gymnastic/cirque de soleil calculated moves. However, since climbing with Silvia Fitzpatrick from Spain, I have made it a point to become more efficient on all styles of climbing so that, (A) when I climb lines that are more along my comfort zones, I can push the challenge on grade and climb strong, and (B) I can broaden my climbing journey by opening up just that many more options by which I can lead myself.  Well I noticed that the rock and style of the crags we visited in Utah were so beautiful, but highlighted the least of my climbing strengths.  I realized that when I cannot use my weapons, I almost have a ‘duh, how do I climb moment’.  So my attitude helped me get conquered rather than to conquer. I need to have a stronger ‘I am going to do it attitude’ when I take on climbs out side of my comfort zones. Adopting this positive attitude will put me well more than ½ way to conquering that climb!

And this is part of why we take on the journey, for beautiful moments like this….

I will accept less than a ‘perfect 10’.   I was an elite gymnast, and well…by default I am a perfectionist and sometimes overanalyze so I can bank on the best moves through each sequence.  I do a mental salute to the judges, hit it hard, and I only see a literal perfect 10 at the end with a final salute to the judges!  Well…in this Utah trip I realized I am my own judge and need to start defining what is my perfect 10 for that day or climb.  Sometimes it will be an onsite or red point, sometimes its just making it to the top, sometimes its bailing and settling the score next time, or it could be learning a new technique, and so on and so on.  I realize it is important to achieve new heights and push through challenges most of the time, but sometimes I need to fall short (and be ok with it!) as part of becoming a stronger and efficient climber and more importantly, building a stronger climbing Inner Me.  I walked away with not my best climbing performance, but with a much more mature and stronger Inner Me.  Why?  I was able to walk away and accept and love everything I learned from this trip. This is truly a huge milestone for me, hooooooorrrrraaay!

Accept the Journey as it is handed to you and work with what you have.

I must accept the Journey as it is handed to me and work with what I have.  Laura and I visited a cool crag called Parley’s Canyon. En route to the crag I was consumed thinking about the sketchy approach at this crag.  We had already planned contingencies that were safe, but I still let those negative Nancy thoughts take stabs at my climbing Inner Me.  One contingency was finding a well-defined wrap station.  We found it, the hardware looked solid, and as I waited above for Laura to finish and get off rappel, the rope bounced back up and got stuck on a ledge not within reach for Laura.  A man climbing the line next to us graciously traversed over on top rope (TR) and fixed the rope so I could set up my rappel and safely wrap down. We then racked up for a warm up, and as I looked at the line, I kept telling Laura, this does not look like our warm up (later we found out it was an 11c difficult for its grade!).  As Laura made it to the first high bolt, got clipped in, she ran into crux issues, a few whippers later, the ugliest wind storm came in. So we bailed, and packed up.  Then we saw some clear skies way yonder in the horizon, so as quick as we packed up, we racked back up!  We were able to determine the warm up we wanted right next to the 11c. As soon as Laura clipped the first bolt, the windstorm came back for a visit, and raindrops started falling.  When Laura finished, we chose for me to TR (note, I don’t TR nearly as well as I lead, I avoid TR outdoors!) and maybe pull up the rope and walk off. With all my mental drainage, Mother Nature and inability to focus when on TR, I climbed so inefficiently and at the top, I assessed it would be safer to wrap down than walk off.  We packed up and found a gulley to hike out of the crag with, which I think was great because there were lots of small rocks and trees here and there you making it easy to scramble up.  At the end of that excursion, I realized before I left my car, my attitude was not in the right place, so when we ran into a glitch, I let it affect my psyche and climbing performance. I sometimes have to accept that not everything that comes my way is how I want it be, but in the moment, I need to accept what comes my way and work within what I have to help achieve good climbing performance. So in this case, we found a solid approach in and out of the crag and avoided that sketchy approach everyone was talking about, listened to Mother Nature and backed off a harder climb and accept to take a stab at it on a better day, and were able to get on a fun climb. I actually really had a fun time and most of all, had the coolest and sweetest partner to climb with, this element alone is something to be so grateful for!

Final Words of Wisdom  In reading this post, I am not in anyway indicating it is bad to chase numbers, or one should not strive to achieve climbing clean.  Pushing oneself, onsighting and red pointing brings on such amazing feelings of achievement and reward.  However, my goal is not to become a 5.15 sport climber (haha!), but rather be a stellar destination climber.  That is to be able to go anywhere in the world and have the mental and physical skill sets to take on that climbing journey, whether it be sport or trad, single or multiple pitches, steep or vertical lines, and so on.  Regardless of your climbing goal, let us all continue building a strong, happy and healthy Inner Me!

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Moments of Reflection: Climbing and the Inner Me

I am famous for saying, “Climbing fixes everything” because I believe it really does fix almost everything! There is something amazing about the sport of climbing and what it does to the Inner Me. And very recently, I have been moved and inspired by amazing accounts friends have been sharing of what climbing has done for them.  So…what better way to start this week…other than climbing affirmations!  Below are amazing accounts (all anonymous) from folks that have shared with me how climbing has positively affected the “Inner Me.”  Note I made no revisions, as they were sent to me I am posting, so that the energy is pure and organic, ENJOY!

I first started climbing during a very trying time in my life. That first climb gave me such a feeling of accomplishment that I knew I’d make it through anything else life could throw at me. Believe me, life has thrown me my share of curve balls, but you’d also better believe I’ve hit every one of them right back. (and that’s just ONE special thing. 

As much as I love climbing now, I hated climbing when I first started. It was frustrating and painful and scary and I wasn’t very good at it. Previously, when I wasn’t good at something, I never saw a reason to try to keep working at it. But due to my frustration and the time in my life, I knew there was something for me to learn…and so, for the first time ever, I decided to go ahead and work at enjoying and succeeding at something that was very difficult for me. Meanwhile, I was in the midst of clinical rotations and having a difficult time keeping my head on straight. I realized that something I had been working towards for a long time wasn’t something I was naturally good at. So I channeled all of those feelings of “failing” at my future career into “failing” at climbs. As I hit bumps in the road during clinicals, I got better at climbing, which then gave me confidence and perspective to confront my issues head on. Over time, I realized having goals and meeting them is succeeding, even if you’re not getting to the top. So I made a small goal every day at my rotation and when I succeeded at those, I would make bigger goals and reach those too. Needless to say, climbing changed me entirely. It not only made me more confident and easygoing, it has changed my entire way of living life. When I have fear about something, I face it head on instead of shying away. When I am upset, I channel my emotions into climbing instead of self-demolition. When I am going into something difficult, I take a deep breath and do my best instead of not trying at all. Climbing  confronts you with your worst attributes and forces you to overcome them (or you ain’t goin’ anywhere). Life is so much better without all those inner demons holding you back.

I have been always afraid of a lot of things especially heights.  I was one of those guys growing up who did not take any risks and never did anything, I just watched everyone else from afar enjoy life and only wished I had the confidence to do something, anything. After a number of disappointing series of events in my life, my sister was diagnosed with cancer.  I relocated temporarily to help my brother in law and knock on wood, its been 4 years and she is cancer free.  While helping my sister out, my brother-in-law invited me to go climbing at the local gym.  I declined because I am so afraid of heights.  Well I finally went and on my first climb, at 15 or so feet, I pushed off from anxiety and screamed like a girl.  I was so embarrassed.  But someone I did not even know screamed out “come on you can do it!”.  So I did, I finished that route to the top and when I came down I realized my fears made me feel things were far worse than what they were.  I never stopped climbing since and in the meantime while all this was happening, I always admired this friend from afar.  After climbing 6 months, I had so much confidence in myself that I asked her out.  She is now my wife of 6 years and addicted to rock climbing too.  Thank you climbing for helping find the courage from within me!

Climbing is one of my best friends. Best friends are always there for you, right?  When I have a bad day at work, the wall is there for me to curse internally as I push through every frustration out of my system.  When I experience a success in my life, the wall is there for me to push grades I can never climb because somehow that happy energy loves the wall and climbing moves. When I need to push through an impossible climbing move and scream, the wall does not judge me.  When I have elvis legs and have a moment of desperation, the wall is there to show me at the last minute what to do next.  The wall is there to help me push through hard days and good days.  I used to depend on the bottle to do this, but the wall and climbing helped me overcome that.  HELL YEAH!

Doris I know you dont know me but I saw this on your blog FB page.  I just started climbing about 6 months ago and I guess I am in that addicted phase that well hopefully will never end. I just recently went through a tough divorce (not my choice) and have felt lost because I did everything with my spouse. A co-worker invited me to climb and I met a lot of nice people but a few climbers reached out to me to join them anytime to climb.  I left feeling like I had a purpose again, for myself.  My co-worker literally moved a few weeks later so I took those girls on their offer.  6 months later, me, the shyest person in the world with no confidence in herself, invited another newbie to climb and we helped each other out. And since then, I now reach out to people to climb.  I also climbed my first 5.9 clean. May not be a hard grade, but I am not very coordinated and have worked so hard to get this. My climbing successes, climbing friends, and just climbing in general has taught me I deserve to have a purposeful and happy life, I can achieve anything I set my mind on and I can claim a social life even as a shy person.

I don’t have a serious story other than before climbing I was unhealthy and unhappy.  After climbing, I felt stronger, started a lot of other physical activities particularly mud runs and cross fit.  I am not a serious outdoor climber, but I climb once every week religiously.  In short, I am now a happy and healthy person, that is how climbing has helped me.

Thank you all for your contributions, sorry if I could not fit all in this post, but I hope to be able to touch up on climbing affirmations again.  Thank you climbing for making a better Inner Me!

Family Craggin’

You may be wondering, why is this single climbing chic writing a piece on family craggin’? When I started climbing a few years ago, I met this lovely climbing couple and their baby boy.  A group of us climbed together for a whole season and we watched this baby boy go from a few months to being a cute toddler climbing, hiking, exploring, playing with leaves, rocks, and loving nature.  He considers me ‘auntie Doris’.  These precious moments were possible because many of us volunteered to help the couple get out and camp, hike and climb.

That experience touched me so much that another couple in our local gym was expecting earlier this year and I wanted to be a part of their first climbing trip post pregnancy.

Climbing isn’t everything….Tyler gets to dip for a swim too!

Thus we went to the New River Gorge on Easter weekend.  Our expectations?  Have fun and hope baby Tyler can make it through the whole trip happy and comfortable.  We were prepared to leave early from the trip if for whatever reason he was unhappy or uncomfortable. But it turned out Tyler is going to be quite the outdoor enthusiast.  He LOVED camping, did well sleeping in a tent at night, chilled in his Bumbo while we set up for the morning, he napped at the crag, fed pretty much on schedule, flirted with a few of the girls at the crag (just kidding!), and was totally sucked up by nature.  The trip was a hit and after a year break from outdoor climbing, mom and dad had their share of leads (sport and trad) and fun climbs.  As a single climbing chic, I am so happy to have been a part of a precious outdoor climbing experiences like this.  And if you are planning, expecting or are new parents, you TOO can enjoy family times outdoors!  I have been sitting on this piece since April, here are Lisa’s words of wisdom and encouragement from one crag mama to others!

The cutest moment ever

How far into your pregnancy were you able to climb?   I was able to climb until the very end.  In fact, I climbed a 5.10 the day before my son was due!

Do you have any indoor climbing pointers for other awesome climbing ladies newly pregnant or planning to have some day?    Have fun with it and just keep climbing. If you climb consistently throughout your pregnancy, your body will stay in shape and adapt pretty well. At the very end of your pregnancy, your belly will eventually get in the way and force you to climb a little differently, but just climb what you can climb and laugh about not being able to see your feet (or foot holds!)!

Now, your sweet baby Tyler was about 2-3 months when you planned your first climbing/camping trip and the trip was a hit!  What helped make this trip a hit?   Great friends who were willing to help take care of the baby and carry most of the gear were definitely the key for a great first camping/climbing weekend. We couldn’t have done it without them. Other than that, just being flexible, adaptable and willing to give up a climb in order to feed, change or hold the baby is important. Remember, the climbs will still be there the next year, but your baby won’t be a baby for long so enjoy it and capture those precious moments!

A happy craggin’ family

What are the top things you brought that are must haves for babies at the crag and camping?  Patience!!  Lots of diapers, wipes and changes of clothes. I’m not sure if it was the traveling, the heat, or using disposable diapers instead of cloth (probably a combo), but we had major diaper explosions that weekend, which made for some good laughs. A sunhat, sunscreen and Bjorn (or backpack carrier if your child is older) are pretty obvious. The one extra thing we brought that was great was the Bumbo. We used it to sit him on the picnic table while we packed, unpacked, geared up and ate.

Daddy-n-Tyler hammock time

The bridge at New River Gorge

What is something you did not bring that you wish you did?  A CREEK CHAIR! I think that would have been really helpful for breastfeeding in the tent. I really missed having a back. Next time I’ll bring one for the camping as well as the crag.

Daddy getting his trad lead on

Any tips in helping new family craggers pick the right crag? I think most crags can be done with enough patience and planning. Definitely the easier ones (and probably best for the first time or two) have no ladders, shorter hikes and more open areas at the base of the climbs. You do have to be careful, particularly at a top roping climbing area about falling rocks. We decided to go to Junkyard that weekend (a toping roping climbing area at New River Gorge) where my husband had been knocked out with a rock a few years ago, but we were careful where we stood with the baby while there.

If you have any words of wisdom to encourage crag families, what would that be?  Have patience, relax and don’t set too many expectations. I would suggest not going out with a tick list, just enjoy being outdoors with your baby and your friends and be happy with however many (or few) climbs you get on. It felt great for us to be out with our son doing something we loved. Our son loved being outside and we were just happy to be on the rock!

Mommy getting some stemming on

Tyler gets to send a 5.fun with Daddy coaching him

What it comes down to, exercise patience, be flexible, plan well, exchange tips with other crag families and HAVE FUN!  And if you can, make sure to help your local gym family with sitting once in a blue moon at the crag, the climbing community is a family, old and young!

Operation Tyler’s 1st camping/climbing trip, SUCCESS!

I am fortunate to have a number of friends who are awesome climbing crag mamas.  For those who want more information on family cragging, I recommend following my friend Erica Lineberry’s blog www.cragmama.com.  Erica, her husband Steve and beautiful son Canaan share their wonderful crag adventures via her blog.  Be sure to check it out and enjoy.

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Anchors Away!

Lately, I have been very busy traveling all over for work and I have decided to do a weekly reflections post.  So here I go….

I remember when I started climbing, like many, I was hooked!  I knew that climbing had dangers associated to it, but I just trusted anyone and everyone and just was happy to have a party at the crag. I climbed sport because it was easier to get started quick (and truthfully, as much as I am balancing bouldering, trad and sport, sport has a special place in my heart, it does!).  Although I loved all the fun I had at the crag and the sweetest friends ever, I realized something so important after witnessing my dear friend have a climbing accident.  I realized I had no real knowledge about climbing.  I made a promise to myself that the following season I would make learning systems and safety my priority over sport climbing and sending.

That following season I did less sport and a whole lot more trad. Why? In order to do trad successfully and safely, you have to learn about systems, knots, and more!  I decided to partner with a couple and their baby (my crag nephew I love dearly!).  This couple truly are some of my closest friends, but also known for being super conservative, super safe and super knowledgeable.  They obtained a lot of their mentoring in the well-respected North East trad-climbing arena.  On my first trip, I learned how to set up a basic belay anchor, how to belay from above, how to tie various knots (e.g., bow line, clove hitch, munter hitch, etc.), how to rig rappels, and more.  Yes this seems simple, but 1+ year sport climbing outdoors and I knew nothing about these very basic systems, this was all like learning a totally new language.  I realized, these very basic systems are critical to safe climbing.

I also climbed back country in Spain and yet learned more from my mentor Silvia and also had a wonderful opportunity to climb with an awesome friend who has a basic instructor certification, and well versed in trad climbing, she was critical in planning our adventure to get us through El Camino Del Rey safely.

After learning so much from so many friends, I decided to take a formal anchor class. I learned I knew a lot already, but also that I had some habits that needed refining, and learned new things, like setting safe and solid natural anchors off trees, boulders and more.

So with only ~3 years in of climbing, what are my words of wisdom?  I have many, but I think the below 3 are something my traddie friends shared with me and I think are worth sharing especially to newbie climbers.

(1)  Take an anchor building class! Learning is only a powerful gift and with knowledge, even if you never plan on building your own anchors, you can always help your leaders by checking behind them.  You can also climb and know how to assess anchors each time.

(2)   Quick Draws, the new revolutionary anchors, or not!  Sorry for any that disagree with me…but here I go…always use gear for what it was intended to be used.  That means, quick draws were not made to be anchor systems.  If you are in a big group top roping a route, take the time to build a basic 2-point anchor.  I will only now climb on a quick draws if I am the 2nd to follow and clean.  Anything more, you really should get into the habit climbing with an anchor system.  Agree or not, quick draws can hold anyone hanging on the rope, but they were not made to be anchor systems.  If for some reason you have to climb on quick draws as anchors, please make sure the draws are opposing (I have climbed many times behind super strong climbers and have had to correct this, more times than I want to say).

(3)  Get the trad adventure on!  Even if you never want to climb trad, try your best to follow a friend one day, you will learn a lot of valuable systems that sport climbing just will not teach you.

Bottom line, many of us really enjoy climbing, it is the activity that ‘fixes’ everything, at least that is what I say!  Take a stand and make it a point to learn safety and systems in climbing, even if you do not plan on being a leader. A follower needs to be able to jump in and rescue in an emergency situation.

Have fun with peace of mind doing that thing that fixes everything, that is CLIMBING!

For those in North Carolina, I highly recommend taking the Top Rope Climbing course with the Appalachian Mountain Institute, we took our class with our dear friend Danny McCraken, one of the handful amazing instructors with this group (http://appalachianmountaininstitute.com/ami-instruction-2/ami-courses/top-rope-climbing-course/).

The Sky is the Limit No Matter What the Grade!

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Just quick reflection….I took this photo with my cheap camera after a long climbing day in classic Archidona in Spain April 2012.  This picture reminds me that opportunities are endless and the sky is the limit…only two months and I have over 1200 hits on climbingjourney.com!  I have lots of potential fun opportunities, have learned a lot about a lot of new awesome crags and have met some really awesome fellow climbers!

Now time for all of us to reflect….how does climbing identify you? Is it all about chasing grades or about embracing the defying act of just climbing the best that you can no matter what the grade?  Recently I got the chance overseas to climb with some of the best and up&coming climbers out there and none ever talked ‘smack’ about grades (even though they were seriously bad ass phenomenal!) but rather they spoke of their love for rock, what it has taught them and their ability to engage in the beautiful act of climbing…we all need to recognize whether it is a 5.0 or 5.15, what we do is courageous, yet so deep and soulful.  So my words of wisdom?  Enjoy life to the fullest and embrace the blessing of being able to engage in the act of climbing no matter what the grade!

Thanks all for your support, soon I will be working up cool coupon deals….watch out soon, until then, thanks all ad enjoy life no matter what the grade!

 

Adios With Love Mi Espana!

I just spent almost 3 weeks in Southern Spain which has officially stolen my heart! Needless to mention there is…ahem….quite amazing climbing in abundance to choose from, an amazing culture to sulk up and lots of great food and VINO to devour away.  In fact, I lost over 12 pounds on my trip without even trying!

This trip indeed proved to be amazing in that I did not crank super hard stuff 24/7 like I did in November 2011, but I tried getting on climbs that had climbing moves and qualities that I am generally not as good at, which meant lots of lay backs, cracks and overhangs….oh and lots of whippers! I also was an FA on 6 slabby, technical climbs (ok, I lied, I climbed a little my style, my way here and there!) in a small crag that is being developed.  On the lower, I used a small broom and yard tools to sweep up dirt and yank more plants off the wall….this non-green thumb chick got some gardening skills all of a sudden thanks to Spain?!?!  See what climbing does, it teaches you to defy gravity, reach new heights and learn how to garden and bushwhack.

Bottom line, for reflection, I left feeling like a better climber who achieved new heights, experienced new things and grew not just as a climber but as a person. For reflection, how has climbing helped you improve something in your life?  Or what has climbing taught you about yourself?  Something to think about, we can all grow and learn something from our climbing, an amazing sport it is indeed!

And I promise a big review is coming on Spain this weekend with lots of nice beta so that you can start planning your next climbing trip to Spain or wherever you want to make an adventure!

Adios Espana and hello…Utah, Colorado, NY, and Connecticut…oh yeah!

And off I go to mi Espana!

What in the world happened to my pretty climber hands?  Well, that would be me holding on to dear life the first portion of El Camino Del Rey (or Caminito Del Rey) where the via ferrata’s were kind of frayed in some areas.

El Camino Del Rey is translated as the King’s Walkway.  Situated in El Chorro, this walkway was completed in 1905 so that the workers at the power plants could transport materials between Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls.   Today, the walkway is a phenomenon for climbers and tourists, but not to be taken lightly as many parts are eroded or frayed.  I was in pursuit of a crag named Cote, and my partner dreamed of doing this famous walkway…in order to get to Los Cotos, you have to do El Camino Del Rey.  Long story short, we did it (yeay!), hiked through tons of pastures only to find that the river was too high to cross to get to Los Cotos.  However, we made the best of it and took advantage of some of the pretty lovely sport climbs situated in El Camino starting from about 10a/b and on up (hint hint!).

What is the point here?  Just like when climbing in the US, when traveling abroad one must get the beta before hand, a whole lot of it.  For instance, I am embarking a trip to Spain TODAY (yeay) and I know a 60m rope will get me no where, I packed a 70m & 60m (as my ½ rope), tons and tons of draws, slings/beaners to build more draws, and plenty of goodies to build anchors where needed.  A very light rack helps too depending on where one wants to climb for climbs that are known to be run out.

When I visited Spain in November 2011, my friend had negotiated El Camino Del Rey for 2 years and I negotiated the crag of Los Cotos for like a month (LOL), so we were a great partnership.  We noticed so many climbers passing el Camino with a sling (sometimes two) and all were ok, but would not have been in the one and million chance something bad would happen.  As the climbing season begins for many of us, whether local or abroad, be safe, get organized and plan well!

See below our adventures through El Caminito del Rey, when you visit Southern Spain for an adventure, be sure to try it out and if needed, hire a guide!

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