A Picture Worth a Couple Words

13086900_1380917238600640_4530416548864178415_o (1).jpg

This whole trip to Smith Rock was about capturing one picture: the picture on the cover of the Smith Rock climbing guide book. The more I climb these days the more I want to capture the experiences of being on the rock. I want people to feel the exposure high above the ground, to grimace with me in the finger cracks, feel the awe of beautiful scenery, and share in triumph at the top of the mountain.

We had no idea what getting this picture was going to entail, but adding this goal to our climbing just added an extra dimension of awesomeness.

So we looked at the topos, did the research, and concluded that it was out of our league, but we were going to do it anyway. The last pitch was harder trad than I had ever done, and the rest of the climb was barely within my ability, and the romanticism of the project was too much to pass up. Even the route name: Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, was a sign that we had to push the limits.

IMG_4636.JPG

Before I knew it, the rack was biting into my shoulder, the metal was clinking against my thigh, and I was leaving the ground with thunderous excitement. The sun was basking us in power. As I looked up at the monolithic rock towering above us, I could not wait to be a speck on the exposed face high high above.
This piece of rock was impressive. The shadowed face way above looked down on me like a parent, and I was the feeble child clawing my way to the top.

At the top of the second pitch I thought we were going to quit.

The climbing was hard. A plethora of curses floated up to me from my follower. I had just climbed on this rock a week prior but my partner had not. It's takes some mileage before your feet remember how to stand on nubbins the size of a pea. The rock was spitting him out like sour milk, but he kept coming. He churned past each crux and cloved into the anchor, breathless. I was ready to setup the rap-rings, and head back to the ground. I had already said "good game."

Nonsense! Ryan was ready to tackle this thing even if it took him to the vet. I said vet because he had just become a beast, and we would need an animal doctor.

I'm pretty sure I was shaking on the fourth pitch. The sun had gone behind the hill and an icy wind was kicking up. I don't know if I was quaking from the excitement or the cold. The fourth pitch was a beautiful line up slightly overhanging flakes with only awed spectators hundred of feet below. As i pulled through the crux and traversed over air to reach the next chains, I felt the last euphoric thrill of the climb.

I slowly froze at that fourth belay station. I wasn't smart enough to bring pants, and sitting on that exposed arete the wind started thrashing hard. The blood drained from my fingers, my toes were going numb, the freezing wind was ripping through me, and I was ready to be done with this climb. 

The final pitch was the crux pitch, and I think I could say I was miserable as I hobbled off the belay ledge. I plugged a cam with frozen fingers and prepared myself to pull the roof crux. I heaved over the bulge and reached high for a rattly finger jam. I desperately reached for my gear and wedged myself insecurely between two slabs. The wind was roaring and trying to pull me off the rock. I yelled breathlessly in anger and fear, cursing the wind and the cold and my own anxiety. I placed my gear, crossed my fingers, and yelled "TAKE."

I hung on the rope, Ryan groaned from the harness constricting his nether-region, we were both in pain. I wasn't sure if this was fun anymore. "Last pitch" I had to remind myself. I pulled, flailed, and jammed my way up the crack. I climbed like a human being recovering from a stroke, but eventually I heaped myself onto the ledge with the chains. I pulled on them like a prisoner trying to break free, and I caught my breath.

When Ryan gained the ledge with me, the last thing we wanted to do was re-climb that pitch and get pictures. It was some kind of self-abuse, but in retrospect it was our penance to get the photo. We set up the top-rope and I rappelled down. We hauled that camera up 600 feet, we couldn't leave without using it. I climbed/ cheated my way back up the rock, and he shot me with tired fingers. 

The top of the rock wasn't the vacation we hoped for. The wind gustedlike a monster and we had to leave quick. After many difficult rappels, the rope getting stuck once, and some sketchy down-climbing, we were high-fiving with bloody and black hands on the ground. It did feel good. We were rewarded by walking back to camp next to Tommy Caldwell, wondering if he could tell how badass we just were. 

Written by Kyle Sherby

Photos by Ryan Thompson & Kyle Sherby

Adventure Awaits

Photo: Ryan Thompson

Photo: Ryan Thompson

There is a fine line between adventure as a hobby and adventure as a lifestyle. Over the past few years, I have observed the growing emergence of individuals who feel “called” to the outdoors as a lifestyle.  In the eyes of most, it seems irresponsible, maybe even slightly ridiculous. What about the pursuit of security, a career and the elusive 401k? They seem like polarizing dreams. I often experience this internal whisper that speaks of getting outside, climbing a mountain or jumping in the car and driving somewhere epic with no plans of immediate return. But what about my job, responsibilities and everything I have worked so hard to build? Is it possible for someone to simultaneously pursue both the logic and order of responsibility and the freedom and spontaneity of a life on the road? I recently caught up with avid climber, philosophy grad and friend, Kyle Sherby, to discuss this beautiful tension.

Dirt Bag Diaries

The term “Dirt Bag” has such an interesting and distasteful sound, yet thousands identify with this subculture of adventurers. Climbers, backpackers, road trippers and lovers of nature often hear “Dirt Bag” as a badge of honor; one who has weathered life on the road and is loaded with heaps of stories to tell. With Kyle having the repertoire and history of living this lifestyle, I was eager to hear his take on the allure of living out of a truck, chasing difficult crags and eating couscous for meals on end.  As the stories unfolded, it was clear that he was speaking out of a place of passion for something he believed in deeply. This wasn't just a weekend hobby for him or to take photos for Instagram, but something he was willing to make immense sacrifices for. I felt compelled to ask him about his greatest fear. For someone who climbs super exposed, run-out, thousand foot multi-pitch crags, I could think of dozens of potential fear inducing scenarios. However, after a brief pause, Kyle revealed what scared him the most: regret. It wasn't the possibility of falling or being caught in a vicious lighting storm while camping out in the desert, but it was living without taking the risk of pursuing his dreams. What if that risk leads him to a crossroad in the future where he is left asking questions and wondering what else he could have done with his life? The possibility exists and sort of seems certain, but I believe most of us often wonder what we are meant to do with our lives. For someone who grew up in a wealthy family and has multiple college degrees, Kyle has come to realize that money can't purchase happiness or fulfillment. Happiness comes from pursuing what you are passionate about with tenacity and boldness, no matter what that may be.    

The Line 

What I know to be true is that every individual is unique and on their own journey in life. It is highly unlikely that most people would find the same satisfaction and pleasure in climbing a tedious, granite slab at Sugarloaf like Kyle, but adventure wears many different hats. It can look like going on a bike ride on the river trail and getting caught in a downpour or taking your 2 year old to the park and experiencing wonder through their eyes, but I believe its important to stay open to the transformation these experiences offer. It is our choice to either engage in the world around us or simply let the hours tick by without being present to these awaiting opportunities. As my friend Kyle stated, “it's easier to fall into routine rather than be bold and take risks”. So as the whisper inside you gets louder, I must ask, what adventure is awaiting you?

Sneak Peak

Favorite Climbing Parter: Jen King

Local Spot: Trinity Aretes or the Shredding

Favorite route at the Shredding: Spread Eagle or No Quarter

Biggest accomplishment: Epinephrin at Red Rocks

Road Trip Essentials: Jet Boil, Oatmeal, a good book and most of all, great company!  

Biggest expense on the road: Gas

Resourced used the most for finding great climbing spots: Mountain Project

 

- Adventure Awaits by Alex Wittmer

Expansion Project Update

Friends,

Shasta Rock Club needs your help. We have less than 3 days left on our crowd-funding campaign (ends March 20th at midnight).

Our heart is to bring transformation to Northern California through the vehicle of climbing & fitness. Check out our video and please contribute to our project. Let's do this together! Click the link to contribute. 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shasta-rock-club-expansion-project/x/13220975#/

Why is Climbing beneficial for Kids?

When I began climbing I often found myself wondering whether I was wasting my time. What on earth was climbing good for anyway? At the time I didn’t see all the benefits; all I knew was that a new part of me came alive every time I approached the wall. As a climbing coach and river guide I have often asked myself how these activities benefit myself and my students. Through the years I have found the benefits to be both diverse and numerous.  

On one level climbing is a fantastic mental and physical challenge. It is a puzzle to be solved with both the mind and body. Climbing problems are unique because climbers of different heights and overall body types have to climb the same route.  It helps you to develop an understanding of patterns and unique sense of spacial awareness. Furthermore, it provides a distinct type of physical fitness. First, climbing increases muscle and bone density; it strengthens the muscle rather than simply expanding muscle mass. It is a full body exercise, requiring more lower body strength and control than initially anticipated. It likewise requires great control and helps develop controlled movement and flexibility.  

On a whole other level, beyond these initial benefits, climbing offers what one of my previous instructors refers to as a “microcosm for life.”  It is an environment where kids not only develop mental and physical strength and endurance, but have the opportunity to develop character traits that will impact their entire lives.  Climbers, young and old alike, are forced to overcome obstacles.  Whether these obstacles are the physical challenge of a new climbing problem or a fear of heights, climbers are constantly faced with a new challenge to overcome. Overcoming different challenges requires decision making and helps students to develop self-confidence. Rock Climbing becomes the practice field for life; students can learn how to make decisions and overcome obstacles before they enter into marriage or the work force, helping them be better equipped and adjusted.

At Shasta Rock Club we seek to incorporate each of these areas into our programming, but even more so we have found that climbing can be an avenue through which kids learn to accept themselves. It becomes a “love language.” Kids learn that while they might not be able to climb a problem the same as someone else, they can still climb it their way.  It is a mental and physical exercise tailored to challenge students without crushing them.  At Shasta Rock Club students learn how to be distinct individuals with their own unique climbing style in the context of a larger team and community. It is a privilege serving our students and helping them to grow into their true and full identities.

For more information on our Kid’s programs, please check out the programs tab on our website. We hope to see you and children at Shasta Rock Club here soon!

by: Hillary Kline, the newest addition to the SRC team

Cold Weather Climbing Tips

Photo: Benjamin Goodpasture // Climber: Christian Lablanc // Red River Gorge // BOHICA 5.13b

Photo: Benjamin Goodpasture // Climber: Christian Lablanc // Red River Gorge // BOHICA 5.13b

Cold Weather Climbing Tips


It happened too fast for me. The temperatures raced straight pass comfortable to frigid, my down jackets are draped over armchairs around the house, and I'm suddenly craving cookies and chocolate by the fire. These are all ominous signs that Winter is coming. While some precipitation is good for the rest of the state, we poor climbers are left with our hands in mittens waiting for the next opportunity to climb. Fear not my friends! Although this weather makes it much more difficult to climb, the adventurous among us will still find rocks to pull on. I have made a few excursions out into this unkind weather, and I have learned a few things to make the climbing manageable.

Here are my 6 cold weather climbing tips:

1. Layer the Belayer
Dressing warmly enough can't be stressed enough on a cold weather climbing mission. The constant struggle you will face is keeping your fingers and toe warm. For climbers, this is the worst adaptation of our body during cold weather. It becomes a challenge getting through the next crux when you are shoving meaty finger popcicles onto ledges, praying that they are doing what your brain is telling them to do. Neither will you be able to stand on that small foot jib because you will get no feedback from your frost-bitten toes.

Wear TWO pairs of gloves and socks. I wear a thin pair of base gloves and my snowboarding gloves over them when I am belaying or hiking. The mistake I often make is wearing thin cotton socks when I hike up, and my toes are numb before I even put on my frozen climbing shoes. Lastly, wear a beanie under your helmet. There are a number of arteries and veins along your brow to your ears that will dissipate a lot of heat if not covered up. Furthermore, having a good wool base layer under your climbing pants will keep the rest of your body warm more than you realize. 

When climbing a multi-pitch, make sure to bring everything you need up the climb: clip gloves to your harness, wear your jacket, and shove socks in your jacket pocket if need be. 

2. Blow into your shoes
You are full of more hot air than significant other has told you. Putting on a warm pair of climbing shoes is a magical experience in cold weather. Huff and puff, like the big bad wolf, straight into the toes before putting your shoes on. The extra few degrees of heat feels profound after your toes have been flailing around in the elements. 

3. Get down with down
Not only is down the warmest insulator, but the most compressible. You can shove it into the empty space of your pack before leaving just in case things are bit colder than you anticipated. I have worn two down jackets and looked more puffed up than Ralphie from A Christmas Story, and I felt no remorse about it. The only caveat: try to keep down dry. It does not perform as well when wet, so bring a hardshell if you expect precipitation. 

4. South facing is essential
During these cold days you must chase the sun. A 60 degree sunny day can feel like a Summer day in Redding or a Winter day at the North Pole. The direct exposure to the sun can make a 50 degree day a climbable one. Not only is the south face important for sunshine, but it dries the rock more quickly. A south facing crag can be dry 1-2 days after a rain (depending on wind) if the exposure to the sun is adequate. Most topographical maps are oriented Northerly, so find the walls that have climbing on the south side, unencumbered by tall trees or shadows.  

5. Think twice about chalk. 
For most people, chalking up before a climb is more of a psychological crutch than friction aid. Studies have shown that hand friction is actually better WITHOUT chalk. However, chalk makes a substantial different when your hands are sweaty. This is why we chalk up: to dry out our hands. For cold weather climbing, sweating isn't really a concern. At a certain temperature, our hands no longer sweat, so our friction co-efficient is at its highest. This is why climbers like Daniel Woods attempt their projects at night with million lumen lamps illuminating the rock: they want sending temps! If you need to chalk up to climb...just because, go for it; just remember that you will lose some friction.

Another good point to keep in mind is that your shoes will be less sticky than you are used to. Shoes are designed to work optimally at the temperature your hands stop sweating. This means the rubber is going to be more firm. This firmness should help performance, but you may need to apply more pressure to your toe to get the same stick you are accustomed to.  

6. Windy day stay away
An often over-looked weather prediction is wind speed. A sunny day in 65 degree weather may be unbearable if you have cold winds in an alpine environment. One of my favorite websites is www.weatherunderground.com. Although wind speed is a very unreliable factor, you can generally anticipate more wind on low pressure days. Bring a shell to throw over your jacket and eliminate the precipitating heat loss from wind trying to sneak into your britches.

If you can manage to stay warm, and stay psyched, cold weather is really the time to see optimal performance. Get out there and send my friends!

Written by: Kyle Sherby, a long time Shasta Rock Club member and current team member who helps with route setting and outdoor climbing events. 

Bouldering

Bouldering is rock climbing in its simplest form. I love that it is accessible and available for anyone motivated to learn. It requires the least amount of gear: rock climbing shoes, chalk bag and a crash pad. No rope or harness required for this style of climbing. You can go bouldering anywhere outdoors where there is solid rock and at most indoor rock climbing facilities like Shasta Rock Club. 

Bouldering focuses on linking difficult movements together that create a "boulder problem", a defined route, up the rock face. These movements can be very dynamic and athletic at times, or very delicate and balanced. To be well rounded at this sport, one must learn to be both physical and mentally sharp at problem solving. It's great practice for learning technique and movement on the rock while building strength and endurance for other types of climbing.

This type of rock climbing has often been misunderstood, as it differs in scope compared to climbing tall 30 to 1,000 ft cliffs. But therein lies the beauty- bouldering is both intense and challenging, precise and nuanced, which equips climbers with the necessary strength and confidence to climb bigger rock faces & mountains. 

In my experience, the quintessential attraction to bouldering is the shared experience of problem solving and friendly competition that results as a group of climbers attempt a boulder problem. The reasons for its popularity are clear: its an affordable, accessible, community-oriented activity that promotes health and fitness. 

If you are new to climbing, bouldering is a great way to get started. Climb on!

Photo: V4 Patio Arete - Boone, North Carolina circa 2003. 

Success on Mt. Shasta

"Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he never dreamed of when he first made the decision." - The Alchemist - Pablo Coelho

What is success? Who gets to define success? How do I become successful?

I recently posted the question, "Who wants to climb Mt. Shasta this year?" Many people responded with a "YES, I'm in". This enthusiasm caused me to reflect, and stirred my curiosity, wondering how others will experience their adventure. 

On June 16, 2014, I summited Mt. Shasta for the first time. For me, success looked like setting one goal, saying many "yes's" along the way, and letting the journey unfold.

Over the course of five months, my training included ice climbing & back country skiing in Montana, backpacking in the Trinity Alps, snowshoeing in Lassen National Park, many long bike rides, hikes, & runs around Redding. In retrospect, my decision to climb Mt. Shasta attracted opportunities that I didn't anticipate or know would present themselves. I just kept saying "yes". 

The success of my larger goal began in those moments of preparation. Not to mention how many unforgettable memories were created in the process with friends in the outdoors. Success became about simply showing up. Getting out of bed earlier than before. Choosing to make time for a solid run. Meeting friends in other states to charge it for a few days. Knowing I was training my body and mind for greater endurance. 

During the climb (15 total hours), I experienced the benefits of being mentally and physically prepared. I have vivid memories of how present I felt as I ascended, joyfully present, in fact. It took my full focus and energy, but I didn't feel strained. I realized my sense of success in summiting that day was the sum of hundreds of small decisions made along the way. 

Maybe for some, the commitment to attempt a massive challenge is motivation enough. But what I discovered was that commitment grows by consistently saying "yes" to what's in front of you each day. As you begin planning your climb up Mt. Shasta or another peak, consider afresh what "success" really means to you - I believe it will boost your sense of adventure and thankfulness in the process, not just your satisfaction with the climb itself. The summit will be icing on the cake. 

 

Mt. Shasta is a serious mountain - Please get educated and prepare before attempting any climb up Shasta. For more info on routes, weather and avalanche conditions visit these sites:

Shasta Guides

Shasta Avalanche Center

Mountain Project