Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Switzerland, realizations

                                                                       My home in Chironico. The Fiat Panda


A person can learn a lot about themselves through different experiences in life. Travel, relationships, achievements and failures all play an important role for development. I’m no different I suppose. I recently went on a trip to Switzerland, a place I had always dreamed of going. Before the trip, I had spent 11 weeks training harder than I ever had for bouldering. Hard problems usually take me a long time to complete if I’m not prepared. I tried to offset this normality by prepping my body and mind to send the climbs I always craved  when I watched those videos of my heroes on these amazing rocks amidst the old world setting of the Swiss Alps. I felt pretty confident going into the trip that I was in the best shape of my life and ready to take down my hardest climbs ever with the quickness. What I took from the trip was beyond my expectation but perhaps had not much to do with rock climbing. I got to take a good look at who I am as a person and a climber. I’ll start with the facts. Grade-wise, sending-wise, this trip is not going to impress anyone. I did many problems from 7a to 7c. I had a typical epic trying to send Unendliche Geschicte 1. This climb, which is the first part of the Never Ending Story took me 11 days, over the span of 2 weeks to complete. In my personal style, I fell at the last move 46 times in the link before a beta change got me a victory send. The send was on the last day and last try before a snowstorm blew in and shut down Magic Wood for my trip. Afterwards I visited the Chironico area in Ticino. I mean, I don’t even know what to say about Switzerland. I had such high expectations and they were exceeded further than I could ever imagine. Giant and majestic mountain ranges shrouded in waterfalls and striped cliffs were everywhere. The rock is very quality, the lines are aesthetic and inspiring. The food is great. People are very kind and very smart. The villages are very old world. Entire towns are made of real stone. The streets, homes, roof tops. Old fountains run water that you drink from everywhere. Wandering these paths left me feeling like I was walking in another time. To say that I was in awe would be an understatement. I always wanted to see this place and never thought it would happen, but here I was, right in the middle of a dream. On this trip, I came to some serious realizations about who I am and what I do. In the beginning of the trip, I felt like a typical obsessed boulderer. I just really wanted to send those high numbers. I wanted to perform well. I wanted to live up to everyone’s expectation. Mine, my sponsors, my onlookers. When this didn’t happen right away I found myself landing in depressing state. I felt like I failed on the trip. I didn’t prepare enough, I didn’t train hard enough. As a boulderer who focuses on goals and projects, it can tend to take me to a dark side. It is here that I find myself trapped in a black hole where everything feels like a disappointment. At the start of this trip, this is where I was. Wondering what I was doing out here. Waking up everyday cold and wet. I wanted to quit, go home, be a normal person. This feeling set in like a dark cloud. Then I started walking through the forest. I looked around at where I was. I realized what I had done with my life. All the beautiful places I had been, all the great people I got to connect with, and all the adversities that I had overcome. I stopped, laid down and stared at a blue sky with clouds moving over me so fast. Then I smiled and laughed at myself. All the good things about my life were realized in this moment. The experience I have being a traveler and a boulderer is so great. Comparing myself to others or thinking that climbing hard equals happiness were foolish thoughts to have. For me, in climbing there is something much deeper going on. It’s the place where we drift further away from our comfort zone and draw closer to something special.  I thought back to a time many years ago when I saw rock for the first time. I was just a clueless kid walking in a forest of giants that had been there centuries before I showed up. I thought back to this time when I just roamed around til I saw something that drew me in. The climbs had no names, no grades, no stars. They were simply what I wanted to scramble at that particular moment. That feeling, that’s a good thing. Remembering this time was great. I got back there again. We get lost over time. I listen everyday to people talk about “ this problem is cooler than that one”, or “ that guys not that strong”. I hear people playing favorites, downgrading, bagging on everything. I realize now that I am nothing like those people. Bouldering has a much deeper meaning for me. I can’t describe it really. When I climb, I feel like I’m in a bubble. It has a very religious feeling. As if I’m doing a dance that pays respect to these large god-like objects that have brought so much joy and meaning to my life. It’s a true passion. An undying love. On this trip, eventually I realized that this is who I am. I can’t be too pious about it I suppose. On the surface, I do strive to challenge myself by doing hard climbs, I make videos, I have an 8a.nu account and sponsors. But, this deeper facet is why I do this. When I imagine the perfect day of climbing for me, I close my eyes, hear beautiful music and imagine myself walking alone through a forest. When the wind blows, leaves fall from the trees, filling the terrain with an array of decorative colors. I walk and walk and walk, and then I see it. That rock that stops me in my tracks. I smile and know that it’s time. This is a very sacred practice to me. My new goal as a boulderer is to always keep this close to my heart where it belongs. 




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Welcome to the Future

I'm in Switzerland, doing my thing, having an epic through one problem at a time, when low and behold I saw this. Working with these guys was a real pleasure and it is awesome to see how it came together.



Time In The Pines: Welcome To The Future from Deep Roots Media - Dane Henry on Vimeo.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Swiss Bound

Ever since I saw that old Dosage with Dave Graham in Switzerland, I always knew that I wanted to go there. I'm a real sucker for magical scenery and that place looks like it has the goods. Since then I have seen so many more videos of this beautiful country. Can't get over how cool it looks. Well, now I'm packed and ready to go. In a few hours I shove off for my first European adventure. Going solo. My focus??/ hmmmm GGG I'm not sure...uh .....BOULDERING!!! So much to do, so little time. My first stop, I was thinking some place magical, maybe in the woods....hmmm ;). I'll come up with something I'm sure. As you can see from the pic, got my favorite pad, my backpack, camera and an assortment of electro goodies. I'll be taking pics and maybe even a video or two. Now I just need good weather and strong abs. So crazy I'm about to go to Europe finally.



It seems like dreams are just that, dreams. But when you take action, they become real. It starts with one small step, then another, then another. Soon that destination you thought was so unreachable is under your feet. I can confirm that you don't have to be rich, educated, tall, or even all that lucky to make these kind of things happen. But you have to believe and you do have to move towards it. Making shit happen is a great feeling. No matter what we're talking about. To anyone out there with dreams, remember to believe and move. Whatever your pleasure, your adventure awaits. Now get some!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Aloha 2014

        The older I get I feel like any minute now this bouldering stuff has to get boring right. But it really never does. I've taken my mind off projecting through the heat the past few months and instead focused on training for one of those bucket list type trips. I'm psyched to say that I'm finally going on my first trip to Europe for climbing. Spending a chunk of time in this part of the world has always been a dream of mine. After years of talking about it I realized you just have to do it. I know that Europe is a big place but I decided that Switzerland is the place that I've always wanted to see the most. So I'm going there pretty much solo with a loose plan. I hear it rains a lot so I'm preparing for the worst weather, but my greasy fingers are staying crossed. If the bouldering gods could grant me 45 days of sunshine, 15 mph breeze, and 55 degrees ( I really should practice my metric) then only my short legs can stop me. I'm extra excited about this trip. The boulders look first rate and everything else does too. Castles? cheap gelato?  And CHOCOLATE! Holy crap. The list of problems I have memorized from countless swiss video binges is too big to print. I honestly can't wait for this trip. But I will have to for a few more weeks. Consequently, training is hard, and that will end soon too.
      In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of backpacking and bouldering outside of training. I can't seem to get off the new stuff. I've been testing out the new bouldering guidebook from our local dudes Dave Hatchett, Frank Lucido, and Jon Thompson. So far it's been getting me to all the right stuff. A few of the great ones I've done lately are Electric Chair v10, 2nd ascent Platinums; Entrance Exam v10, 2nd ascent? Benwood; Ashy to Classy sit start v9 Kirkwood Lake ; Grand Design v6 Kirkwood lake. All these are so sick. I'm having so much fun with access to all this new stuff. If you haven't checked out Lake Tahoe Bouldering Guides : South and East Shore Edition, then get it. In Tahoe, you can locate this new guide at Sports LTD in South Lake Tahoe, at the Sports Exchange in Truckee, Alpenglow in Tahoe City, or High Altitude Fitness in Incline Village.

         More recently I've been working on the video of my latest trip to Desolation. After Lake of the Woods, I knew I was ready to step it up to the more burly hike. I decided to go to the coolest destination I've found in Desolation, Lake Aloha. I've been going there every season for a few years now and it is still one of my favorite trips. Backpacking and bouldering combined. For me there's just nothing like it. When I'm out that far in the wilderness doing my favorite thing on earth, superficial thoughts are harder to come by. I get in this zone with the simplicity of it all. I realize that this is what I do, and I love it. Enjoy the video peeps.


 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Desolation: Lake of the Woods

    The warm weather turned hot for climbing a few weeks back. After a series of frustrating attempts to get through it I decided to stop for a bit. Instead of sweating off of holds I know I can climb through, I started to train. With my upcoming first trip to Europe, I figured I wanted to feel in somewhat shape. So I've been training. But motivation is hard to come by after long hours at work. I do what I can. When I'm psyched to do it then it's better.
    Since I don't train on the weekends, I became interested in hiking back into my favorite place to spend time in Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness. The season for backpack bouldering is on. My dilemma was where to start. Years ago I heard rumors of a group in Strawberry that was going backpack bouldering to Lake of the Woods. Supposedly there were boulders there. A year later I hiked out with a friend but was not used to long approaches. Even though I hiked there that day with no weight I was so exhausted by the time I got there that I had no strength to explore. Even then I recall seeing a few random nice boulders here and there. This first trip this season I decided to start there.
      I was working all week and then getting off at 530 and training til 8. Somehow in there I managed to pack on Thursday, work all day Friday to scramble my stuff and got to the trailhead at Echo Lakes. I randomly took the boat taxi to the other side, eliminating about an hour and ten minutes of hiking. At a hefty price too. The boat ride one way was $17. It was extra with all my gear. Yikes. When it drops you off at the other end, the trail climbs gradually for about an hour through rocky, uneven terrain. I could barely make it years ago. This time I cruised it with about 50 lbs of gear. After the climb you wind through a series of wooded areas and meadows through flat, easy trail. Eventually you end up above the destination at about the hour and half mark( if you take the boat ride).  From above, you drop down to the lake where right away you see brilliant gray rock. The stone is so clean there. Slippery with good, solid features. I looked for a campsite right away. I was on the north and east side of the lake. On that side it is regulation that you stay in a marked campsite. As I past a few marked ones they were all taken. Then I saw this one next to an awesome cube shaped boulder with orange rock. It was all mine. As I wondered where the other boulders might be it became obvious that there was a lot just around my camp. So lucky. Total solo. Beautiful forest. Camped in the boulders. They weren't too tall, and that suited me fine since I was so far out alone. The problems were sick. I could tell a lot of them were either done or yanked on years ago. There was a few bunchy ones that I may have got the FA on but all lines were sick. It was supposed to be a normally hot weekend. But thunder showers brought clouds and light rain to keep things cool, while the alpine wind dried the rocks instantly. It was quite surreal. Sunday I woke up at 5:30 am to catch a sunrise over Lake of the Woods. It was a very brilliant moment I was lucky to catch on camera. Pyramid Peak reflected off the lake so hard it looked like there was sky and mountains above and below. I did a bit of climbing after the camera batteries died. I repeated all the lines I had done the day before to keep them fresh in my mind. With thunder crashing overhead,  I decided to hike out since the skies began to look dark gray. The moment I started to walk the rain began. It was actually a nice touch for the decent to the parking. It kept me cooled off really nice. Since I skipped the boat taxi on the way back it was 2 and half hours to the truck. By the time I drove back to the house it was a torrential down pour. I hiked out just in time. My legs were killing me, I got a steak, a beer, and some ice cream. It was one of the coolest trips of the summer for me. Desolation is a really special place. Amazing scenery, exaggerated features through a landscape that is literally just rock and water. I love it out there. This first trip got me fired up. I foresee more of these  in the near future. Bouldering hits home closer for me when it is in this setting. You live out there for a bit, walk around and when you see a rock you like you, climb it. It feels real.

 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Been Awhile But I'm Still Alive

After that last post I'm not really sure what happened. I know that a bunch of mosquitoes came out, the temps got really warm and I went back to work with authority.  It's been a busy summer indeed for me.  I decided when the heat came on that perhaps training was a smarter way to spend my time. For a person with the extra sweaty hands like me, climbing hard problems is impossible once the temperatures get past 75 degrees. On the upside I get plenty of aerobic type excersise at work. What I do involves a lot of running around up and down stairs, then up and down ladders. Basically in a state of constant movement. Everyday I get out of work I go home and train for about 2 hours. Next thing I know it's 9 pm and I haven't ran errands, done paperwork, showered or cooked dinner yet. This is my life everyday of the week until Friday. Friday, I get off work and go straight into the woods. And that's where I stay until late Sunday. Then the process repeats.  It's a hard busy life. But I love it.
     I wish I could climb for a living and dedicate every ounce of my life to it. Unfortuntely I gotta earn my way sometimes and for me that time is summer. Which is perfect because it is just too damn hot anyways.
     There is just too much info to discuss for now in this blog post. This is mainly to motivate everyone with some more climbing video action. It's been a while but here's a couple to keep some fresh psyche through the summer.
     I'll be doing a more in depth blog post soon about my recent solo exploits into the Desolation Wilderness. Til then, keep your psych through the heat.

Monday, May 5, 2014

8 Ways to Avoid Injury

   There's nothing worse for a boulderer than getting hurt. Sure, our feelings get constantly hurt in this sport. Usually it's the frustration of falling on that last move for the 100th try,  or when a freak rainstorm comes in on the big send day, or when some gym rat tells you that the problem you worked on for the last two seasons is actually as easy as tying your shoes. These emotional pains can be brushed off by climbers because let's face it, we're fucking tough! On the daily, we deal with razor blade crimpers on wet skin, being 20 feet over talus on fuzzy lichened holds, and countless other mental battles that are handled on a regular climbing day. Cool, we're covered....but what about those other hurts: the physical ones that keep us on the couch instead of at the rocks. As boulderers, we brutalize the shit out of bodies. We crank ourselves up overhangs by the tips of our fingers and the points of our toes. Once in a while, you're gonna get messed up. A good question is how do I get these injuries to piss off. Well, once you're injured, time and rehab can be your assets in the healing process. But, the best thing you can do is to try to avoid getting to that point.  I'm talking about preventative maintenance.
     I've been exclusively bouldering for 15 years. Especially in the first 6 years, I learned a lot about injuries. When it came to getting hurt, I was an expert. In those first years, I injured almost every finger, some of them twice. I've had torn ligaments in both knees, compound dislocation in my right ankle, sprains on the left ankle, elbow tendinitis, bicep tendinitis, pulled hamstring, pinched nerves, rotator cuff injuries, strained abs, bruised instep, tweaked wrists, and corneal abrasion ( see One Eye Willie at the Beavers). In the beginning I was quite the case study. I loved climbing so much that I just could not stop, and therefore could not stop getting hurt. After the first 6 years ( and I don't know why it took so long) I decided that I did not like being injured. It sucks. You wanna climb and you can't. I realized that I was going to find the common denominator of my injuries and use it as a blueprint to avoid them. So over the next few season I came up with some tips to decrease the likelihood of having to get benched. Again, these help to keep you from getting injured but know that even though these tips will help, anything can happen at anytime. From my experience though, here are 8 tips to help keep the odds on your side while climbing.

#1. CRASH PADS:    Ok, I know what you're thinking, "way to go Captain Obvious, crash pads huh? no shit sherlock". Well here's why I mention it.  Every boulderer I see does have a crash pad yes. Not every climber uses it properly or even uses it. Just to clarify, a pad is not a fashion requirement of bouldering. If you don't put it under you when you climb, then it's a total waste of energy carrying that awkward thing up to the crag. When you put your crash pad under you make sure that you will land in the center of the pad, getting a spotter to assist you is very helpful. Make sure there's no seams in the pad. This is important. All of my ankle injuries were from gaps in the pads rolling my ankles. Keep your legs in tact and use those crash pads. There are many to choose from. Here's my favorite one.
many pads out there, this is the one I rock


#2. DRINK WATER:    Pretty basic but very overlooked. Your tendons, hell damn near the whole body is made of mostly water. Every time I injured a finger, I drank no water that day. Every time I've heard a climber injured his finger, he had no water that day.  This might be coincidental, but better take another gulp just in case. According to experts, you should have drank about 20 oz of water 2 hours before exercise, 10 oz just before, and drink about 8 oz every 15 min during your activity. No need to get the measuring cup, just make sure that you keep taking a drink of water about every 20 min while bouldering. It helps a lot. 
                                                soda or water before climbing, do the right thing!


#3. The NIGHT BEFORE :  Just a quick note of something else that helps. If you're sending that big project on a Monday, chances are Sunday's decisions could be influential. So make good choices the night before climbing. Some important things to do would be to eat well ( no double cheese pizza topped with fried chicken, that's post send :) , don't get crunk ( instead of beer and whiskey try WATER), and  get plenty of sleep. Sometimes these little things can make a big difference. 

#4. WARM UP: This is the step that I see skipped the most. I seen many climbers warm up for their v6 project by trying v8s with cold muscles and no stretching. WTF!! When I am at my best, climbing arguable v13s. I usually warm up for an hour. I do about 4 v0 - v2s, then I do about 5 problems v3 -4. Then I'll do a v5, v6, then do moves on my hard project starting with the easiest sequence and ending on the hardest. It's a slow process but gets your mind and your body ready for the intensity you're about to put it through. So don't be afraid to warm up. Besides, it's one of my favorite parts of bouldering. It's the only time I feel like I'm easily moving on rock. It's the high point of the day usually so skipping it is not an option for me. If you don't like being hurt, I suggest you do the same. 

#5. PATIENCE:  A virtue and an asset for healthy climbing. This one just helps a little compared to the others but don't write it off. If you're climbing and the weather sucks, patience. If you're climbing and you feel tweaky or not that good, be patient. If you're grabbing spragged crimpers over and over and getting too excited to stop, calm down, breathe deep and use........patience. Remember, the little things. 

#6. REST :   This one is sort of the better half of the previous. I could have included them together but what sounds better? 7 ways to avoid injuries or 8, you get an extra for free. SO, REST. This means rest between go's , full on rest days between hard climbing days and the dreaded full on big yearly rest for up to a week or two.  Resting between goes is a great idea if you're trying to send. How long is up to you. A general rule is to rest 5 min and then one minute for every move you just did. Adjust this as you like it. There's is also the rest days. Bodybuilders recommend resting a worked muscle for 2 to 3 days between breaking it down. Climbers, having little patience (see rule #5), may have to tweak this ( and maybe tweak something else). Then, of course it is recommended that once or twice a year boulderers take off for about 2 weeks to let your entire package recover. I just did this step after my road trip. It was fun, I got to pretend I was a normal person who just watches TV, works, and doesn't do shit with their lives. It was awesome but sure glad that's over. Climbing becomes double exciting after one of these. So remember, REST, it's not just for pussies, it's for hard asses that think being hurt can suck it!
                                          during the big rest, don't be afraid to regularly pass out into mid day


#7. AWARENESS OF THE TWEAK FACTOR:  Ok, here's a stretch but another tip none the less. Once in a while we end up trying a boulder or exercise that has a tweak factor, i.e., inverted sprag underclings to offset gaston rose move in a full on Egyptian-bout-to-tear-my-ACL- drop knee. Problems with weird holds, shoulder moves, and screwed up drop knees should be handled with extra care. You don't have to avoid them, but be aware that they are extra risky. Listen to your body when on these climbs and know to walk away before it's too late. Keeping your sessions short on tweaky shit is a good idea. 

#8. THERABAND:  This is the last piece of advice I got. Much of my tendinitis and rotator cuff problems went away with the use of this simple tool and other resistance exercise. It's a basic concept, take a muscle that you use in climbing a lot and work out the opposing muscle. For example, push ups and triceps will keep your biceps healthy, theraband resistance will keep the shoulders good, ab work outs help out the lower back and so on. There are many exercises that help keep your climbing parts strong and injury free.  You can  check youtube for instructional videos on different resistance exercises. There are lots and lots. Just type " theraband " in the youtube search engine. I must say that this one tool has helped a lot with my rotator cuff issues and has a been a personal lifesaver. You should do these exercises about 3 -4 days a week for about 15 - 30 minutes. Doing them as a warm up before climbing is also a good idea. 

Well, it took me many years to get this list of rules in my head. After the 30th time in a row I got injured climbing, I decided to come up with a protocol that helps decrease this dilemma. And, while anyone can get injured at anytime, following these methods will help keep the odds in your favor. I hope this post helps shorten the learning curve. So, get out there, be smart and climb safe.