there is a particular 5.7 at a wicked angle that i like to start off with. not too hard, but you have to remember to keep your knees bent and not do too much of the work with your arms, so it's a good place to start making myself pay attention to technique.
the second route of the night is the best time for challenges. right now it's my 5.8 "project" route that i've tried several times. very few holds and a really wicked incline. i got farther than i ever have but my strength and resolve gave out. kevin can outdo me on anything unless i apply sheer guts, so he predictably got a lot farther than i did, to within one hold of the top.
then i decided i wanted to do that awful 5.8 that i just barely made it up last week, the one that nearly killed me. i couldn't remember how i'd done it the first time, other than having my back wedged in a corner and sliding my way up, and it did indeed come down to that again. kevin got up it as well but cheated on a few holds.
i was pretty wrecked after that. doing that wicked 5.8 route was the first and only time i've managed to tire the muscles in my legs worse than the ones in my arms, so i consider that progress. kevin was in particularly fine form and managed to get up a couple more hard routes that i didn't even attempt, because i didn't have the energy.
there's this guy named mike who had been fumbling around the gym without a partner the whole time we'd been there. i used to see him a lot, but he disappeared for months. the gym was as dead as i've ever seen it, there was absolutely nobody else for him to bum a belay from. so i asked him if he wanted to climb with us, since i was more or less done for the night anyway. he reluctantly accepted, going up an easy 5.7 with us.
there's a 5.9 on the "bumpy wall" that neither kevin nor i have ever been able to climb. kevin pointed out where and how we get stuck, and asked mike if he could show us how a guy might go about it. we almost couldn't get him to try, he insisted he wouldn't be able to do any better than we did. i knew he was sandbagging. i've seen that guy go up some wicked hard routes. after finally convincing him to try, he was able to do it like it was nothing. he smeared his way past the hard part where we always get stuck. inspired by mike's success, kevin went next, and damned if he didn't make it up also! d00d! they talked me into trying it, but i just didn't have the strength for the hard part and i fell off.
i was done for the night. i was prepared to belay mike if he wanted to climb some more, but a friend of his showed up that he wanted to talk to. kevin left shortly thereafter. the boy scouts, who had been trickling in by ones and twos, reached critical mass. i think there were about 70 of them, which is really too many for our rather small gym.
i was enjoying watching the boy scouts. i'm guessing their ages ranged from nine to fourteen. they can get away with a totally different climbing style because they are so light. i noticed that they were critically short of belayers, a bunch of boys were milling around antsy. dave had come in to help out and i asked him if it was okay if i took a turn, and he said he would love to have the help.
so that's exactly what i did, for an hour and a half. i usually had a line of kids three or four deep waiting to go up. i tried to assess their abilities and steer them to a part of the wall that would be right for each kid, and gave them all the usual tips: smear with your feet to make small holds more useful, support your weight with your legs instead of with your arms, and so on. their skill levels ranged from atrocious to gifted. i've never belayed anybody as light as those kids, and it's a lot easier for the most part, except when it's time for them to come down. gravity doesn't like them very much so they always descend slower than i'd like, even when i'd completely let go of the rope with my brake hand.
still there weren't enough belayers, lots of scouts milling around antsy, and mike was still talking to that friend of his. i tried to convince him that he should be belaying scouts up the wall, pointing out that he could talk to his friend at the same time, but he acted like he didn't even hear what i said. way to return a favor, pal. you lose one kharma point.
so in a way, that was my best night of all: an hour and a half of exercise and another hour and a half of belaying kids. it was fun! i'd do it again in a heartbeat.