Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê
johnnyfavorite

the reluctant athlete, part five

Okay, I'm about finished with these things. There is a bit of non-PC language that I wouldn't write again today but I decided to leave it in, since I'm interested in the change in my own demeanor. The first time I posted this my readers didn't know what a "smear" is, so I will explain: that's when you plant your foot on a bare, featureless part of the wall (or rock face) and count on the stickyness of your soles and friction to hold up a certain amount of your weight. Originally posted to USENET on February 6, 2003.

Okay, I LIED. I didn't leave for Florida yet. I got the dates wrong. You may sue me now.

First climbing excursion in awhile, because my cousin has been putting me off. I should go by myself, I did in the beginning, but I haven't felt sociable enough to invade anybody's comfy cliques going HEY WHO DO I HAFTA BLOW TO GET A BELAY AROUND HERE?

It was snowing a little so the gym was pretty well deserted. Bummer. I'm always hoping I'll have an opportunity to make slightly better connections with people, or at the very least get to watch that lithe 22-year-old, who wasn't there. She is very ambitious. Now that I think about it I don't think I've ever seen her climbing a route she suceeded at. Personally I couldn't do that, it would be too disheartening.

So neither me nor my cousin had climbed in like forever and we totally suxx0rated. Which surprised me, because I hadn't climbed in quite awhile the first time my cousin and I went together but that time I felt like I was picking up right where I left off.

For my first route I picked one I've already completed before. About halfway up there's a fairly wide gap between the holds and it starts to go not entirely vertical, angling in towards you. My previously dormant Fear Center was really acting up. Then I had a feeling I couldn't really articulate all that well at the time, but it translates to: oh my god, I'm about to puss out, aren't I. The answer to that was a very emphatic YES, and I had my cousin belay me right back down to earth.

There was nothing earth-shattering about the route or its suddenly non-vertical nature, certainly nothing I haven't done before, I just couldn't make myself do it right then. A very potent reminder that more than anything, the primary weapon in a climber's arsenal is GUTS.

Not being able to stomach as much failure as the lithe 22-year-old, I retreated to a much easier route, just so I could get to the top. My cousin made it up that one as well. "Whew, we're both 5.8 climbers again," I said, looking for the next thing.

It just kills me that, of the two of us, I am the one usually giving the advice. On our next route my cousin looked stuck and I pointed out where she could put her right foot next. She tried that, reported that the hold in question was "sneaky," and looked for another way up. She got tired and had to bail. After she was back on the ground I said "If I had to guess, I'd say you're worrying too much about where your hands are going when you should be worrying about where your feet are going." She gave an unconvincing excuse but maybe she'll think about it. The other thing I had to say was about the "sneaky" small-ish hold: "You have to believe you can support 30 or 40 percent of your weight with a simple smear," I said, which I demonstrated by planting one of my Boreals on a blank space on the the wall. "That being the case, you can use small holds to keep your foot from sliding further down the wall. You were trying to put your foot on top of the hold when you should have been using it as a smear aid." And the half of my brain that wasn't talking was going: "Huh! I didn't know that." Because I didn't, sort of, until I heard myself saying it. Funny how your brain digests things in the background like that.

I figure I should make at least one attempt at my nemesis route on every trip. (This is the one with the four-foot bulge you have to find your way over.) Tonight I called the gym manager over to tell me how you'd go about it. He pointed out a hold on the bulge where you have to plant your right foot "and after that it's nothing but a really hard crank, you have to lever your way up." Ow. I was getting tired just thinking about it. No matter, tonight I was climbing so poorly I couldn't even get all the way to the underside of the bulge without falling off. Another time, I guess.

As we were getting back into our street shoes we were treated to the sight of an 80-pound kid, maybe 13 years old, spidering his way up this REALLY horrible route. The wall angles in toward you at a hostile 40 degrees for maybe twelve feet or so. The kid was getting heckled mercilessly by his friends but wasn't letting it rattle him. He ended up hanging by his hands several times but always found a new spot for his feet, eventually. He went right up to the top with no serious mistakes. I bet he could almost feel us watching him because at the top he swung around and gave us a big triumphant smile, as we smiled back. What do you bet that there's a kid who's not going to be wasting his adolescence on drugs and booze.

Okay, NOW I'm leaving for Florida. So long.
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