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Sunday, July 01, 2007
The summer rock climbing season is finally upon us, and the conditions could not be better. Today is in the 70s, with almost no humidity and just a few puffy clouds here and there. I just got back from an excellent day of guiding at Cathedral Ledge and figured I should crank out my first blog of the summer season. The cliff today was about as packed as I’ve ever seen it. I had a couple guys brand new to climbing to we warmed up at The North End on Child’s Play. It was quiet when we first showed up around 8:15am, but by the time we left at 10:30, a lot of folks had showed up including a 15 person camp group. Hopefully you weren’t planning on getting on Child’s Play or Kiddy Crack, because it looked they were going to be tied up for the rest of the day.
After the North End we went up to the classroom to practice slab bouldering and footwork. It was a pleasure working with Jared and Tom, as they both had a natural aptitude for rock climbing and they quickly picked up on how important it is to position the foot correctly for the best friction.
From the classroom we scampered down the trail to the Barber Wall and across to Upper Refuse. There was only one party on the Barber Wall, but as we pulled around the corner onto the Refuse Ledge we bumped into four parties. It looked like we would be sitting around for a while, but the others all seemed to get bummed out by the crowds and two of the parties bailed. We patiently waited our turn and then headed up behind a couple of young guys from the Boston area. They stopped on the first ledge, and then took the right hand variation, so I climbed on the left and went all the way to the pine tree. On the next pitch they stayed in the corner and we took the nornal line to the right, so we were able to all climb at the same time. It was kind of amaizng but we managed to climb Upper Refuse by two completely distinct lines and we pretty much never got in each other’s way.
Tom and Jared had literally never been on real rock before and had only climbed on an indoor wall once or twice. But they were into it, and doing really well, so I decided to finish the climb on Little Feat, a beautiful 5.9 finger crack which takes you right up to the fence and the tourist overlook. When I told the guys we were going to do a 5.9, they were totally psyched. There are certain individiuals where you can just tell that they want it to get hard, they want to fall, to see where their limit is at. Both of them fell on that last pitch, but they did every move, and one of them only hung on the rope for about five seconds before pulling through. Cathedral Ledge 5.9 on your first day is pretty impressive in my book.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day and of course there were a ton of people on the top to greet us. This is always kind of fun for people who are new to the experience. One minute you’re down on the cliff having this wild nature experience, the next minute you have a crowd of biker chicks cheering like you’re some kind of rock star. In fact, one lady was actually doing some bizarre yodeling thing that sounded a lot like a bad impression of a turkey gobble. This same lady told these guys that they were cute and very fit. It was pretty scary.
I’ve got another week at home and then I’m off to the Cascades to take an Advanced Alpine Course with the AMGA. I successfully passed my Rock Guide exam this past fall, so the Alpine is next on my agenda. The course is from July 8-20th, and we’ll be climbing in the Boston Basin Area, as well as around Mt. Shuksan. I have never climbed in this part of the world, apart from Rainier, and I’m looking forward to both the educational aspect and also the chance to get to know a new area. My experience so far with the AMGA has been incredibly positive. Up until my first course, I had never really had any instuction as a climber, apart from one day with a guide when I first started in the mid 80s. I learned everything I know from trial and error and by learning from other climbers, many of whom were a lot better than me. Let’s just say it was humbling to discover just how much stuff I didn’t know. I learned a lot of new tricks from the AMGA that I have since incorporated not just into my guiding, but into my personal climbing as well. The process now continues with the alpine course, which should be even more difficult than the rock. I promise to check back in afterwards with another report about how it went.
For anyone who is interested in possibly climbing with me some time this summer, here’s a rundown of when I am not going to be around.
July 8-21 AMGA Advanced Alpine Course in the Cascades
Aug.2-25 Exploratory rock climbing expedition to the Prins Christian Sound in southern Greenland.
Otherwise I will be here in the Whites, climbing as much as I can. The season is shaping up to be a great one. Enjoy.