After looking at Mike Doyle’s hands on Friday, I think someone should change the name of Master Blaster, to Mister Blister. ha ha. But seriously Mike did an excellent job for a ‘sport climber’, and call me crazy but I would even say he was having fun. Nice moves boy.
On Friday Myself, Mike and Lauren Lee went back out for another go on this inspiring Zion free route. Lauren looked by far the strongest and we all knew she had the best chance, but for me, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen. On my first burn it hurt so bad I couldn’t focus on what I was doing, the swelling in my knuckles looked like raw steak. Mike and Lauren felt the same way, but they made good progress nonetheless. On her second try of the day (fourth overall) little Lee ignored the pain and jammed her mitts into the crack over and over until before she even knew it, she was dangling from the lip. A quick rest and another 20 feet of 5.12 brought her safely to the anchors, next year she’ll be teaching clinics on how to put on a proper tape glove, ha ha ha, the girl has got mad skills and she’s only now starting to unlock her potential, keep your eye on this space.
As for me, I FINALLY got my left ring lock to feel the way I wanted it to. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was watching Lauren, maybe it was watching Mike, maybe it was just ‘about time’, because up until that moment, the question of “IF” was still lingering long and hard. It could hold or it could slip, I felt I was at the mercy of a leprechaun, as though my performance was based on a stroke of luck and nothing more. I wrapped my knuckles and squeezed my thumb, the lock held, my feet stuck, and I jumped for the final pot of gold with a big grin on my face. It was 6 seconds of joy.
Mike had two good burns as well, but never managed to link the climb. To this day he can’t figure out if it’s the size of the crack OR his relatively low pain tolerance that kept him from the top, it certainly wasn’t a lack of strength or endurance or stamina or technique or desire or passion, so what was it then? He’ll be back one day, I know he will.
Details: It’s funny, because I spent last Saturday and Sunday teaching crack climbing techniques at the Red Rock Rendezvous and when the topic of the dreaded ‘Ring Lock’ came up, I simply told everyone to avoid them at all cost. Climbing should be fun and if it hurts to the point where it’s no longer fun, just stop. In my mind it’s always been that simple. Just stop. Lower off, downclimb, whatever, but there is little need to go through so much pain and discomfort if you’re not enjoying it. Ring locks are a different size for everyone, for me, it’s red metolius, for others, it’s going to be orange and/or black, and then there’s the ‘inbetweens’ too. Steep crack climbing is more size dependent than any other type of climbing, what’s a jug for one, is the worlds most impossible hold for another. I think that’s why I like it, there’s no ego involved and the grading system matters the least. Crack climbing sometimes seems more personal and more experience oriented, while sport climbing alone can often be based strictly on a performance level.
So what would I tell my clients now that I just sent 70 feet of Ring Locks? Probably the same thing. If you’re not having fun, just stop. When I tried ‘Tricks Are For Kids’ in Indian Creek, I hated it. I hated doing the same move over and over again. I was bored. I was sunburned and I was dehydrated. My feet hurt, my fingers hurt, my ankles hurt, my elbows hurt, and I had 100 feet or more to go, to me, this was total exacerbation, so I stopped and came down. The return on investment was NILE, ZERO, NADA. However, on Master Blaster, it was a fine line between pain and pleasure, the moves were unique enough that I wanted to stick them, the crack was so beautiful that I wanted to climb it, the setting was serene and temperatures were perfect. It’s something I just can’t understand, how can we feel things but rarely put them into words. How can we love one person and yet not another? And Why am I willing to suffer for one climb but not all climbs? Somewhere in there, the pain is no longer agony but a quenching solace of sorts. I won’t even try.
Guess who’s hands???