Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Goals experiment: The Prow

It's common knowledge that most climbers don't like to talk about their future goals. Honestly, I don't really understand this. I guess talking about your goals feels a little too exposing, for some. Or maybe the fear is that it will set you up for failure. The fewer people who know that you intend to climb something, the fewer people you will need to explain your failure to. Maybe some are just frightened of jinxing themselves? I can't say. But I do know one thing. That shit is boring.

Crux pitch of The Prow (it can't be that hard...girls can climb it!)
Photo from
We aim to push the boundaries here at the Bailure Blog -- climbing norms, societal expectations, and even good taste. So we decided we'd not only talk about our dearest, most closely held climbing goals, but we'd also like to lay them out in detail on this blog for all to see and judge.

For our first experiment, we decided we'd give you a gift, dear reader(s?). We're going to offer up one of our longest-held, most sacred free climbing goals for your scrutiny. Dan and I have been talking about onsighting one of Cathedral Ledge's tespiece climbs, The Prow, for over a year now. We think we're capable, and we're going to give it our best effort.  We hope to post a few times on this blog in the weeks leading up to our attempt, in order to document our training and thoughts on the upcoming climb (but no promises). Then, of course, we'd like to do a trip report or after-action debriefing.

Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory
We realize that by posting this, we're opening ourselves up to a lot of criticism. In essence, we're calling our shot, Babe Ruth style. We're going to walk up to The Prow and onsight that bitch. We understand that we may get exactly the type of crude, malicious invective that only anonymous internet posting can deliver, according to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. But, we hope we'll receive thoughtful, incisive commentary instead. So, feel free to engage in this experiment. And that's exactly what this is, an experiment. We'll see how it works out. In the meantime, check back for possible pre-game posts about this classic New Hampshire route.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A collection of movements and a pair of testicles

What makes a man a man? Luckily, we've had the answer to this question since 1998, when the Dude summed it up so nicely: It's being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost ... along with a pair of testicles.

But what makes a route a route? Can a climbing route be more than just a collection of movements over rock and ice, or is it exclusively the sum of its parts?

Well, I think that depends on the person who climbs it. After all, it's people who create routes. Without the individual's experience, a route would be nothing more than just a series of movements. But when you add the human element, a route can become so much more. Take for instance New Hampshire's classic alpine route, The Black Dike. After three winter climbing seasons, I finally had the opportunity to climb this route in late February. To me, this route was much more than just three pitches of moderate rock and ice climbing in a stark alpine environment.
Black Dike in condition, February 2012
(photo taken from

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old Ragged

When I started climbing 5 years ago, I liked how it brought out the best in me.  I liked how it drove me to bed early, how it inspired me to eat well, and how it stripped my focus to a crystal edge.  Climbing still focuses me, but I've become more comfortable, and have allowed my other life--real life--to encroach upon my climbing discipline more and more.  This weekend my "comfort" reached a new level.

The plan was to join Andre, one of DC's finest trad climbers, for a day on the granite of Old Rag in the Shenandoah Mountains of VA.  To prepare, I planned to get a light workout in on Friday night, have dinner with Laura, and get a solid night of sleep.  Nope.

Friday we said goodbye to someone I've worked with for the last 5 years.  He was a boss, colleague, and friend.  What started as a farewell happy hour at Matchbox gained momentum until there was no jumping off.

My alarm went off at 6:15am Saturday morning.  "Why do I have an alarm set on a Saturday?  That's ridiculous."  Then it all came back.  Andre would pick me up in 15 minutes.
"What have I done?"

In a stupor, I filled my climbing pack, and jumped into Andre's waiting car.  Part of me engaged in conversation about our coming day, and another reeled in horror.  "When did I go to sleep last night?"  "How did we get to Cleveland Park from Rockville? Right, we took the metro, but Grosvenor Station was closed, wasn't it?  We rode a shuttle bus?"

On the rolling, curved roads at the base of Old Rag I became overwhelmed by nausea.  Andre kindly stopped the car and stood aside as I retched coffee and fruit.

Thank goodness for the hour and a half approach hike.  Thank goodness for the redemptive, cleansing therapy of long slow cardio.