My girlfriend wakes up every single day around 5 am, brews coffee and folds herself into a breathing pretzel for 2 hours. Gawd! It makes me feel like such a sloth when I finally roll out at nine. That’s four (4) hours of extra life she’s able to squeeze in before breakfast. So once or twice a week I get up with her and enjoy the most spiritual time of day. This morning however, I got the sudden urge to go climbing.
Eldorado Canyon is one of America’s most historic climbing destinations. Its quality, accessibility and concentration make it one of the finest climbing areas still to this day and new testpieces are being discovered and climbed annually. Ever since getting rescued from the top of the Naked Edge in January ’04, it has remained on top of my ‘favorites’ list. Just 15 minutes outside of the Organic Subaru capitol of the world you will find the small village of Eldo, nestled nicely in the center of the front range.
This morning I managed to get out to the crag before 7am and conditions were perfecto. Last week, the British Airlines lost my rope, harness and gear so the day took form of a soloing mission. I ran two laps on the Bastille and on my way down I saw a beautiful steep face dusted lightly with chalk. It’s hard to say how difficult it was, I only made it halfway up and down climbed. In fact each time I encountered a hard move, I climbed up, pondered it, downclimbed and rested, went back up, stuck the move and pondered the next hard one, even fondling the holds for a second or two before reversing back down safely. Although on any roped session I would have commited myself fully the first time and likely made it to the top with no or little consequence. Whether it be 5.10, 5.11, 5.12 or 5.13 I won’t know, but because I had no idea of the grade or the sequence, I climbed with a much higher state of awarness. My brain buzzed, my nipples stiffened. I didn’t make it up today, but that is the joy of onsight soloing, it HUMBLES us, VERY, VERY FAST.
I once read a quote by the legendary John Bachar that peaked my interest, he stated that traditional climbing only has one rule, “START FROM THE BOTTOM”. Most of my hardest climbs have been done with some top rope, or pre rehearsed sessions. This is what sport climbing is all about. Whether on a bolt or on a nut, it’s practiced climbing and then (ideally) done in one big routine, and voila – a redpoint. A pinkpoint being when gear has been preplaced, and I heard a new term the other day, Greypoint, when the climber leads up, downclimbs and goes again on TR. (it is clearly NOT worth noting, but to protect my precious ego I will say that with all my climbs, I try to scamper from the ground to the top while placing all gear on lead, a ‘personal best’ I suppose) Hell – even Cobra Crack was climbed in a sporty redpoint style. Anyone can climb these routes if they wanted to, there is little or no danger in failing and the moves are doable. When Ethan Pringle, Paul Robinson and Daniel Woods learn to trust gear, they will repeat these routes with relative ease, in mere tries. Take for example Steve McClure’s brilliant effort on Rhapsody, which he calls a “sport route”. But please lets not confuse HEADPOINTING with REDPOINTING. HEADPOINTING is where people climb R/X or X rated climbs on top rope before the lead. This means if they fail, they just might die. So they practice, practice, practice and practice some more as not to allow that to happen. Clear?
I always thought John Bachar had a valid point to his “The Devil is a Hangdog” t-shirt. But I find so many styles of climbing to be fun and relativley harmless, I think I will continue doing what feels right to me. I’m a hangdog at heart.
This is not the first time I have tried to solo a hard route onsight and it will not be the last, but tomorrow I will go out again at dawn and have another peek before the burning inferno begins, (which if you live in Boulder happens around 10am) so get out, enjoy the early rise wherever you are and feel the wind on your face. You will not regret a single second of it, I promise you. And if you happen to see a goofy looking climber without a rope, going up and down, then back up and back down, pay no attention, they are merely trying to expand. From the ground up. Wink.