A Positively Great Summer
At the recommendation of a friend, I have been reading the new Jerry Moffett book, Revelations. In it, Moffett talks about how reading Lanny Bassham’s With Winning in Mind helped him to change his self-image and think more positively about himself in order to succeed in competition climbing. One of the selections Moffett quotes states that
The mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If you are picturing something positive in your mind, it is impossible, at the same time, to picture something negative. And, if you have a negative thought, you cannot, at the same time, think positively.
In addition to Moffett’s story, I have seen the effects of a positivity in three different scenarios this summer at the crag.
Last month, my family and I took out friends who were beginner climbers. When it was my son’s turn to climb, he moved much more confidently than he had at the beginning of the summer. When I spoke to him about it, he could not really identify what had changed; he simply felt good on the rock. A couple of days later, he led his first sport route. Both he and I were much calmer than I had anticipated, for we both knew that the climb was within his ability and that he was capable of leading.
He placed his feet well, focused on the moves, clipped efficiently, and cruised to the top.
This past weekend, Matt, a fellow guide, and I met several Central Rock Gym members to Rumney for a day of climbing. Working with groups presents a challenge as climbers have different abilities, comfort levels, and goals. This group, however, maintained a positive vibe throughout the day. When a climber performed well on a specific route, the climber carried the success to the next climb. A few times, a climber struggled but did not dwell on the negatives. Instead, they focused on the upcoming route and climbed better.
People volunteered to belay each other and supported the person who was climbing at the time. When it began raining midway through the day, we stopped for lunch and waited for the rain to pass. Rather than grumbling about the delay or of getting wet, we spoke about the previous climbs and the possibilities of the next few routes.
By the end of the day, I was amazed at how many climbs each person had completed. The positive energy remained present throughout the day.
A few days ago, I made it over to Cathedral Ledge with my friends Matt and Brendan. Between a nagging shoulder injury and other time commitments, I have had less time to pursue some of my own personal climbing goals. We started the day on Funhouse, a classic 5.7 crack that takes you to the midpoint of the cliff.
As I followed Matt and Brendan, I felt like I was moving well and starting to get into a rhythm. At the base of Upper Refuse, I opted for Black Lung, a slightly harder variation to the first pitch of the route. The moves felt good and the gear went in easily; before I knew it, I was at the anchor. After we topped out, we headed to the North End to avoid the sun, and I saw that one of the climbs I had been thinking about was in the shade. The previous day, I had thought about it and wondered if I would be able to do. It had been some time since I climbed it and even longer since I led it. As I stood at the base, I visualized the moves and saw myself pulling the crux. After a few minutes of contemplation, I racked up.
The finger locks felt secure and the footholds felt good.
Right before the crux, I felt my right foot start to slip, and I plugged in a cam, which I instinctively reached for. Then I stopped. I returned my hand to the crack. The mind can focus on only one thing at a time. I consciously chose to shift my attention from grabbing a piece of gear to resetting my feet and slowing my breathing down. Something positive in mind leaves no room for something negative.
Looking up, I saw myself doing the moves. I brought my feet up, reached for the next hold, and fired the crux. Matt told me later that he saw me start to reach for the draw and almost said something. He didn’t need to. My trust in his belay helped me focus on the moves rather than thinking about the fall.
In each of the three situations I discuss in this blog, the positive outlook by both the climber and the belayer helped the climber succeed. Newer climbers can create an atmosphere where experienced climbers can succeed and vice-versa. I have seen it numerous times this summer and over the years, and I hope to help foster those positive experiences in the future.
Widely used by climbers and bikers for years, Julbo performance eyewear is starting to make its presence more widely known in the suburbs of Boston where I teach full-time.
Over the past few months, it seems as though I have had the same interaction four or five times with different people. I would be standing, wearing my Apple Green Julbo Stunt glasses with the Blue Spectron 3+ lens, and waiting for my kids’ bus to arrive. A friend or colleague would stop to say hello and then comment on my glasses.
“Whoa, that’s quite a color,” he or she would say.
“Try them on,” I would reply. After hesitating for a moment, he or she would comply.
“Wow! These lenses are awesome! They don’t make it too dark. What kind of glasses are these?”
For almost two years now, the Julbo Stunt has been my go-to glasses for numerous outdoor activities – climbing, biking, hiking – or for simply walking around town (or bus-stop). These lightweight glasses wrap around your eyes, leaving no large gaps so that no matter which way you move the lenses protect your eyes. The GripNose and slim GripTech temples wrap around snugly, but not too snugly, to enable the glasses to stay on your face when climbing or biking. In addition, the Stunt fits comfortably under a helmet for a long day of climbing or biking without hurting behind the ears.
The lenses are fantastic! When climbing on the slabs in the full sun, I barely notice them but remain thankful that I am not squinting from the glare off the rock. While fighting the reflection from White Mountains, the blue Spectra 3+ lenses, never making it too dark. In fact, on a recent trip to Tennessee, even though it was slightly overcast, I put my Stunts on to keep the small gnats out of my eyes and could still see small footholds just fine.
Alex rapping down in style
While I try to be careful and take care of my sunglasses, because I am using them for activities like climbing, my Stunts have endured their fair share of mileage. Nonetheless, these glasses have taken quite the abuse and have held up through it all. If you are looking for a pair of performance glasses for the upcoming spring and summer, I would highly recommend the Stunts.
Every year, each season takes its own shape and form. This past ice season started earlier than I had expected, and I got in more ice days than I had in previous years. As the season nears its end, I was psyched to get in a few more enjoyable days with solid people.
I had the pleasure of working with an REI group on President’s Weekend. This course is listed as an introductory to ice climbing, but most of the individuals had rock climbing experience, so we were able to hit the ground running.
Tori picking a good route
On day one, they pushed themselves on the shorter but stout routes in Franconia Notch in sunny, 40-degree weather. We left the puffies in the bag, shed the layers, and took out our sunglasses for the day.
Henry starting up
Sehrish getting into the steeper stuff
They climbed so hard on the first day, I wondered how much they would have for day two at Kinsman Notch. They kept going. They applied and refined some technique we showed them and they made it up the harder climbs.
Nav and Meg at the top of their respective climbs
Every group has its own personality and bonds together in its own way. The individuals connected quickly, and their instant comradery was impressive. They offered belays without hesitation, took pictures of each other, and offered verbal support the entire weekend. The purpose of these weekend excursions is two-fold: to introduce/develop the ice climbing skills and knowledge and to have fun. This group accomplished both.
The next day, I took my two children ice climbing for the first time. We decided to get an early start at Kinsman to ensure that we would beat the crowds and get the route we wanted. Unlike the previous two days, the colder Monday temps resulted an icier approach. Instead of moving quickly up the trail with few layers on, as I did the day before, I moved more deliberately and spotted the kids at the many sections that had become slippery.
Watching my two young children battle both their fear and the ice, I marveled at their persistence and tenacity. Some of their struggles, like kicking their feet in or pulling the tool from the ice, are different than older climbers, but task of managing of fear remains present in us all. Seeing the juxtaposition between the two groups and the way each managed his or her own fear and excitement was quite insightful for me as climber, a guide, and a parent.
This recent warm stretch is melting most of the ice, resulting in a canceled trip this weekend and marking the end of my ice season. Fortunately, the rock season is around the corner. With more of these warm days, it might arrive early this year as well.
3:11…I rolled out of bed. My alarm was going to go off anyway in about a half an hour, so I didn’t think it made sense to try and fall back asleep. After making some coffee and gathering my gear, I headed outside when I heard Art’s truck pull into my driveway.
Last year the day after Thanksgiving, I was rock climbing. Christmas day, in fact, my wife and I climbed at the 5.8 crag in fall conditions. Today, we were headed to Cannon for the classic ice climb the Black Dike.
We were the first in the parking lot. Excited, we packed up and headed down the trail. Our headlamps shining the way, I noticed that Art’s headlamp was brighter than mine. He told me that he had changed the batteries the night before. Hmmm…when was the last time I changed the batteries in mine? Two minutes later, I realized that I should have done the same when my headlamp went out. Luckily, Art had a spare in the truck. We dropped our packs, picked up the spare light, and headed out again.
Over the years, I have hiked up the talus field, wondering which of the many paths to choose. This morning, however, I had the luxury of simply following Art’s footprints. Periodically, I would instinctively reach my hand out for a rock only to see Art’s mitt print, which felt reassuring. I couldn’t see the cliff initially, for the darkness and clouds shrouded its face. I wondered what John Bouchard was thinking when he first ascended the route, ropeless. For some, The Black Dike serves as a test piece; for others, it serves as a classic climb that people do every year. For me, I was planning to follow it for the first time. Over the years, I had seen it while I was rock climbing at Cannon, and it looked loose – blocks teetering on another – nothing in that area looked secure. My friend RJ once told me that winter at Cannon was safer because all the blocks were frozen together. I reminded myself of this theory as we neared the cliff.
By the time I had arrived at the base, Art had already stomped out an area, put on his harness, and was sorting through some gear. I tried to move quickly but deliberately. Looking up the route, I saw the line, but I had no idea of the conditions. I saw snow and some ice and hoped that we would make it to the top. I put Art on belay, and before I knew it, he was off. Moving smoothly through the lower section, he placed a piece and traversed out to the right. Before I knew it, he had set an anchor and put me on belay.
By the time I reached the anchor, I had knocked off some of the rust. The picks went in ok, but the feet needed some work. After clipping in, I looked up and tried to figure out exactly where the line went. When Art took off for the next pitch, the leader of the party below us started his way up. Art brushed snow off several places. Then brushed some more. Then some more. I looked down at my snow covered pack that was hanging from the anchor and smiled. I cleared some of the snow from my pack and myself. Luckily, I was nice and cozy wearing the hoods of the Mammut Ultimate Hoody and the Broad Peak Jacket. The former I would wear during the climb, the latter I used to stay warm at the belay.
Mammut Ultimate Hoody
Mammut Broad Peak Jacket
Art placed a nut, moved left, provided some beta for me, and worked his way up to a corner. The leader below me anchored to my right, and before I knew it, I was on belay. As I climbed to the stopper, I tried to remember what Art had said. I had a vague recollection, but I felt out of balance as I adjusted and readjusted my feet. I brushed some more snow from the rock ledges and found the flat surfaces of the rock. The party below me gave words of encouragement, reminding me of how supporting the climbing community can be most of the time. I took my time and moved past the awkward section and into a snowy corner. I turned around to see a perspective of Cannon I had never seen before. Snow covered the usually teetering blocks and talus below. The scene looked serene, a word I never thought I would use to describe this cliff. The light mist hung in the air, and I knew not to linger too long, for the weather could change quicker than you might think.
The nook for the next belay provided some shelter, and we stopped to refuel and hydrate for the final section. Art moved through the final pitch stopping periodically to place a screw or a piece of pro. He warned me of the sections that were steeper than they looked (I thought they looked pretty steep from where I was anyway).
When he pulled the rope tight, I took down the anchor and began to climb. Despite some awkward sections, I found movement quite enjoyable. I could hear Alex’s voice remind me to use “small, ticky tack feet” as I worked my way up the steep sections, which required precise feet and encouraged purposeful and deliberate movement. For the thin sections, I remembered Tim’s advice and tapped one of the picks with the other tool and delicately moved my way up.
Near the top, I even used an armbar to wedge my way up an off-width section. I hooked deep into a crack and felt a decent sized rock shift and begin to pull out. “Of course,” I thought, “what would a trip to Cannon be without at least one loose rock?” By the time I had reached the top, I felt elated about finishing the climb and slightly disappointed that the climbing was over.
We ate some more food, coiled the ropes, packed our gear, and headed down the trail. We reached the truck and headed home. Later that night, I reflected upon the day. Many friends had spoken about the climb for years, and some even suggested we climb it, but the timing never seemed to work out. While I had tried not to build up the climb for fear of being disappointed, I had wondered for years what it would be like to climb it. I am pleased to say that it lived up to the hype.
To start the ice season climbing the Black Dike in November is encouraging. I am excited for the coming months and the adventures that lay ahead.
Get out there and take advantage of the season. I hope to see you out there!
With the fall sports season coming to a close, the Milton Academy Outdoor Program brought a group of students to Whitehorse Ledge to sample some of the finest slab climbing in Northeast. The initial colder autumn temperatures and wind did not discourage the crew from testing their skills on climbs like Standard Route, Wavelength, and Sliding Board.
Thanks to our friends at Mammut, the guides, outfitted in The Ultimate Hoody, stayed warm and comfortable. The Ultimate Hoody was perfect for such a day: the Gore Windstopper material blocked the wind; it breathed well, particularly as the temperatures changed throughout the day; and it enabled us to move freely for climbing, belaying, and rappelling.
Some students, who were trying multi-pitch climbing for the first time, focused on the basics and took their climbing experience to new heights (both literally and figuratively). Going higher off the ground than usual can be intimidating for newer climbers, but the students trusted the systems and relied on their technique, reinforcing the skills they had worked on for the past few months.
The veteran climbers, on routes like Wavelength, reached new heights, executing moves further from the ground than usual. After completing their initial route in fine fashion, they headed over to Echo Roof to climb some more.
At the end of the day, the group stopped in town for a quick bite. Physically tired but mentally recharged for the coming week, the group headed home. Thanks to all the students for their energy and enthusiasm and to Kendall for organizing all the logistics and making the day happen.
For whatever reasons, I am harder on my harnesses than other types of climbing gear. After a few seasons of regular use with my Mammut Togir 3 Slide, I decided to purchase a new harness even though the Togir seemed to withstand more abuse than other harnesses I have used in the past.
The tie-in protector, a small piece of plastic connected to the lower webbing, helped minimize the damage from regular use, and the belay loop was only slightly frayed. Since it still had some life left, I figured I would ease the old harness into retirement while breaking in a new one.
The Togir 3 Slide in its new color: Pine Green
Pleased with the fit and the adjustable leg loops of the Togir 3 Slide, which made it easier to use with the wide range of clothes for both rock and ice climbing, I purchased the same model. The same functions that I enjoyed of the original version remained: the buckles made for simple and fast adjustments, the downturned plastic gear loops made it easy to clip and unclip gear, and the padding provided enough comfort without feeling too bulky. In addition, the harness has loops so that the climber can clip on four ice screw carabiners for the winter months.
A few subtle enhancements, however, left me even more impressed. Mammut added just a little more padding on the waist belt near the enclosure, making it more comfortable. At first I thought that it felt better because it was a new harness, but when I compared the waist belt to my previous one, I realized the slight difference. The belay loop is a little longer and rotates more easily so that the climber can spread out the wear and tear from the carabiners rather than using the same section of the loop. Like the other Mammut harnesses, the Togir contains the indicator technology to alert the climber if the belay loop is too worn down. In addition, the gear loops are shaped differently so that the carabiners do not stack together down at a certain point. This improvement has made it easier to unclip gear.
The Togir 3 Slide is a solid all around harness that has endured a good deal of mileage over the years. It’s a true workhorse and one that I am looking forward to using more and more in the coming year.