Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Reticent Hardman

I'm bold, I'm bad,
Only the mountains know who I am, The Reticent Hardman.
I slip through spray with skill and cunnining,
My climbs would deserve a Golden Piton if I were in the running.
But I'm not, for my ego, small and pure as it is,
Holds off on reporting climbs, small or big.
Most only know me by a secret avatar name,
I get on the net and declare actions lame.
It wasn't a first ascent and its not as hard as you said,
I did it back in '79, every pitch led.
I'm sick of the boulderers, slack lines and bowls,
Big numbers, hard sends, it's out of control.
I saddle up to my keyboard and turn down the lights,
This ranting post could take all night.
Tapping away at lettered keys,
I pen an electronic message designed to take posers out at the knees.
Rotten WI4 and scary 5.10,
I'd like to see any young gun repeat these ascents.
Bolted 5.12 and Mwhatever make me sick,
Stuck in my ways with no chance to improve is what makes me tick.

This fun little poem is a stance against the judgement of certain climbers in our community. They claim to rise above "spray", all the while playing climbing police and reveling in their hardness...all behind a fake name and a computer screen. I'm not losing sleep over it, rather just having fun with the idea. Ego is a central issue of hardcore climbing, whether we like to admit it or not. I struggle with my ego contstantly, but I never deride the efforts of others or claim my style to be "the way".

Monday, January 4, 2010

Base Building

Blue cold water drips off the fang of ice and winds its way down the shaft of my axes. I swing over the bulge, trusting the feel of my pick’s bite, my tools invisible in 6 inches of new snow. Two distinct crunches and my feet are positioned. I stand tall and mantle. Tapping up lower angle ground towards the belay I feel the buzz of exhilaration. A relative beginner on ice, the energy of discovering upward movement through sheets of frozen water fills me.
Max on the season's first ice: fat 'n easy on The Goatee
The last few weeks have been a frenzy of swings and kicks, snowy hikes, and moderate alpine climbing. I call it base building. I remember one of my early mentors, Taylor Roy, telling me I should do every 5.11 at the crag before trying a 12a. Build a foundation through habitual action and experience. Essentially climb everything you possibly can so as to engrain the feeling of upward movement into your deepest being. The movement becomes a part of your natural reaction to the vertical world, making those daunting steps between grades less significant. And so for now, I am swinging my axes at any good, bad, pretty, or ugly ice that will support my weight. Every time my tools are wielded I become increasingly comfortable, my technique more focused and sure.
Max on Chair Peak
When I drive through the canyons near my home I strain my neck to check the progress of those ever changing sculptures of hard water. Each day they take on a different shape and beauty. When a climb looks ready we swing the car to the shoulder, tighten our boots, and shoulder our packs. A beginner’s nervousness grips my throat just the way I like it. Before long we hang our weight from tools, placing total trust in those metal extensions of our arms. Every day I feel less separation from the ice I climb, my gear becoming a part of my body, allowing me to tune into the intricacies.
Chair Peak fun

Yet as much as I love waterfall climbing, it is no end all for me. My focus lies in high peaks and alpine adventures. Learning to climb ice is the next step in my development as a mountaineer, filling the empty spaces of my skill set. A peek out my front door shows rain and slop. Heavy snow falls in the high places. But when it clears and stable conditions return (they will, they must!) it will be time to take the experience of the past few weeks and apply it to the winter’s goals of hard peaks cloaked in their toughest armor.