Thursday, November 4, 2010

It’s been a while…

Hey again. I haven’t posted here in a while, a while being like 2+ years. It’s actually too bad, considering a whole bunch has happened in my life since then and I’m horrible at writing stuff about myself or keeping a journal in a leather-bound notebook… And yeah, my memory ain’t that great, either, so I probably forgot half the things I’ve done, am doing, or plan to do… According to my mother, who is a biologist-climber, we start losing brain cells after we turn 18. While it doesn’t mean you can no longer smarten up with age, it may be responsible for our memory loss…
Anyway, I’d like to construct a short summary of what the heck I’ve been up to, mainly focusing on the now, but paying some attention to the past and even the future…

Part 1. A little while back…
I’m done with UNH. Got by BS in chemical engineering and a minor in physics, it’s been about 1.5 years.
Told ya it’d be a short summary.

This one should be interesting since I started writing this on some Thursday night around 10 PM (clearly not so thirsty). I felt like it’s been a very training-unproductive day. Instead of those push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and whatever ups you can think of, I was sitting at my computer, trying to find out what was wrong with my phase diagram. NO, not my face diagram, – a phase diagram. For those who don’t know what the heck that is, don’t bother; keep doing those ups instead (they are better for your face diagram, anyway).
But yes, Delaware. I’m in Delaware, going to school here: University of Delaware, go figure. What am I doing here? Well, it’s a competitive chemical engineering program that I’m proud to be a part of, hence the phase diagram talk. I’ve been here for a bit over a year, took some required classes, passed my qualifiers, doing research now… It’s better than classes, like work with less pay, but I get to pick my schedule, which obviously allows me to climb and spend time with my girl, Jesse. Although, honestly, I’m not supposed to tell anyone this, because as a graduate student you’re not supposed to have any time off, at all…
Me, looking good before kicking a$$ at Ph.D. qualifiers, hehe.
Right, I did title this section “Climbing in Delaware”. It’s kind of an oxymoron because there is none (you can laugh). But I’ve met some of the nicest and coolest people down here who climb and love climbing. And, we actually do have indoor climbing. Here’s what we got here in the DE: Matt, the owner of Delaware Rock Gym (DRG) keeps the place open noon till 10pm (wish it was midnight), and does a pretty good job running the place. People who are obsessive about climbing, like me, are willing to drive 3.5+ hours out of DE even for a day or a weekend trip! (Holla to Jason, Dustin, Derek, Drew, TJ, and other J’s and D’s we’ve got here) Now that’s dedication! Or maybe desperation… I don’t know, I did very poorly on my English SATs and GREs.
Me, sitting on top of Boxcar Arete at the Gunks, NY on one of those escape trips from DE. (Oct. 2009, photo by Dustin Briggs)

Aha! My favorite part, after schoolwork, of course! So, from Newark, Delaware, we can get to the following destinations:
Haycock local bouldering place 1.5 hours
Birdsboro quarry a bit chossy sport climbing spot 1.5 hours
The Gunks, NY trad, bouldering 3.5 hours
New River Gorge trad, sport, bouldering – WORLD class, guys! 6.5-7.5 hours (traffic dependent)
Red River Gorge trad, sport – everyone knows about this one 9 hours give or take
The south (NC, AL, TN) trad, sport, bouldering longer…
I’ve been to Birdsboro once, but don’t think I’m eager to come back, just not enough to lure me in. Haycock, on the other hand pleasantly surprised me with its rock quality, – I finally decided to give it a try after setting for 3 days straight for the DRG ABS comp on 10/23/2010. The conditions were definitely warmer than expected, especially since all of our (Drew and me) skin was spent trying all the problems. Regardless, I ended up doing “Of Mice and Men” (V7) on my 3rd go, flashing “Iron Lion” (V7) with the help from Drew and Matt, and also doing a couple of V4s on my 2nd go… I regret trying “Black Angus” as it’s completely not my style and I tore a layer of skin off my fingers that I didn’t know I had…
Drew Davis trying to repeat “Of Mice and Men” (V7) on a warm October day at Haycock. Thanks for showing me around!
Me on “Fluffy Clouds” (V5), which seems like a legit and safe introduction to outdoor bouldering. Get on this one!
Next on the list is the Gunks, but we’ve all seen and heard enough about it to know what that’s like… I’d rather talk about the New River Gorge!
I love Mike Williams’ new guidebook to that place. Ticking climbs off in there is just too much fun and it’s so addicting. I’ve been lucky with the weather every time I’ve come here, since it’s still climbable in the rain (that’s when I sent a couple of climbs at the Cirque, Endless Wall). This place has so many established 5.12s and harder for me to repeat, not to mention all the futuristic potential that this place has! And it’s impossible to talk to the locals because they’ll tell you to do 5 new climbs for every one that you have already climbed. But yeah, the rock quality is surprisingly amazing even though the cliffs almost look chossy from the distance. Once you start climbing, you just need more, more, more!
I had the luck of several great weekends over the past year, sending the already established hard lines: “Still Life” (5.14b), “Trebuchet” (5.14b), “Proper Soul” (5.14a), flashing “Freedom Tree” (5.13d), “Travisty” (5.13c), “Deep Throat” (5.13c), “In the Flat Field” (5.13b/c), as well as one of the hardest 5.13b/8a’s I’ve ever done in my life: “The Racist”. I also couldn’t resist trying Stephen Meinhold’s project from back when he was still around the East coast, called “The Prow Project”. I was able to do it in just 5 tries over a weekend trip, and called it “Vympel” (5.14a/b). This project was bolted by Doug Reed about 20 years ago, and hasn’t gone till I did it the weekend of 10/03. You can look up “vympel” on wikipedia, and figure out why I called it that, haha. The full description is on I didn’t really expect to finish it so quickly, so unfortunately I don’t have any video footage or pictures of it yet.
And, aside from my love to tick things off in Mike Williams’ guide, I’m also all about projecting some of ‘em open projects and repeating more hard lines. My “Christmas” list of routes I want to do/project is gradually increasing, but here are a few I’d like to get on soon:
The Hoax of Clocks Project (5.14b/c)
The Dihedral Project (5.14c/d?)
Super Pod Project (5.14c/d+)
Full Metal Brisket (5.14d+)
The Chris Linder Project (5.14c/d)
Mango Tango (5.14a)
Mono Loco (5.14a)
McCrayfish and Chips (5.13d)
The Crouch (5.13d)
Jazz Rock Confusion (5.13d)
Satanic Verses (5.13c)
Considering that the hardest line there today is just 5.14b, there’s clearly room for putting the New River Gorge on the world map with hard 5.14c/d, and possibly even 5.15a… and that’s just the open projects that have been bolted! That’s why I’m so psyched here…
A sequence of moves on Hoax of Clocks project, ending up in me falling off the crux moves at the top. At least I’m falling off in style.
And here are a couple more on the Hoax of Clocks project (5.14c?) All of these photos taken by Dustin Briggs.

Part 4. COMPS
Competitions are also a huge part of my life, and it’s easy to do since most of them are on weekends. Last year, they took up many weekends, and this season doesn’t seem different. Something about these makes me climb harder than I would normally climb inside, and I love it! Mammut/UBC/Jason Danforth & Pete Ward comps, the Dark Horse Series, the Heart of Steel, and the ABS Nationals bring the best US (as well as Norway, hehe) climbers together to compete for some cash. Next weekend, 11/6/2010, should be pretty awesome as I expect to battle it out with Rob D’Anastasio, whom I developed a sort of friendly rivalry with. It’s sometimes me, it’s sometimes him, and every time I have no idea who is gonna beat who, and that makes it the more exciting and the more reason to push it in the finals.
Meanwhile, check out this video by David Wetmore of the last comp, Midnight Burn... I can't complain, the setting was right on, relatively small lines for climbing, and kick-ass finals. I don't remember last time I flashed all of the finals problems at a comp!

Midnight Burn 2010: Philadelphia Rock Gym from David Wetmore on Vimeo.

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