Friday, August 24, 2007

I Got Good Guidance

Like so many people, my first "climbing" experience was in a rock gym. While it was sublime, it didn't take all that long for me to understand - clearly - that there was climbing(as I was "doing"), and there was "climbing" (as in....outside, or rock). Later on, of course I realized there was yet another kind of climbing (as in the crap-my-pants, 'GottaGettaPieceAndThere'sNoPlacement-AAAAGGGHHH!!!! Save me, Jesus!' run-out kind of climbing), but let's not get too far ahead of the story.....

Just as with "their," there" and "they're," the three "climbing's" may be spelled the same, but everyone except those still in Phase I (gymboree) understand that's where the similarity ends.

In the spring of 2004, there I was - no shit - stuck solidly in Phase I and knowing - with an aching, all-encompassing, kind of knowing - that I had to go out there and get it, if I wanted to climb for real. I desperately wished for some other gym members to take me to the Gunks. I knew they went up there; I could hear them making plans as the week rolled along towards Friday. But I was too intimidated to ask to be taken out. I do carry a card in the "Why Would Anyone Want Me" club, unfortunately, and that self-centeredness has cost me dearly.

One of those costs ended up being that of paid guides, who I hired to elevate my status from "gymboree" n00b to "Potential Hazard" (to the safety of my climbing partner, that is). All joking aside - I had incredibly rewarding experiences every time I went out with a guide, and I think I have a deeper respect for ethics and style than I would have gained on my own. Since, oftentimes new climber's are desperate to get out there, they might be apt to rope up with those who really are just a few steps ahead of them on the path. Some even latch onto another adventurous soul with the same lack of experience, and head for the hills.

I consider myself very fortunate, for having put myself in the hands of guides for the various "rite of passage" events in my early climbing daze (typo intentional). My first time climbing outside was with a guided group, and on the second day, I made seconded for the first time, following a guide. No welded nuts and over-cammed pieces for me! My first real road trip, to Seneca Rocks, was with Marty Molitoris, who operates Alpine Endeavors, a well-respected service up near the Gunks.

Marty goes with a low guide to client ratio, and he had brought along one Nick Sisk, who had guided and dirtbagged at Seneca years before. Nick was my personal climbing partner on that trip, and every time another group of climbers came along the trail, it was like a reunion of old friends. Everyone knew Nick.

When Marty mentioned the other areas he holds guiding permits at(an extensive number of locations across the US), and I heard the word JTree(yes, one word), I signed on immediately. Again, Nick came along as my one-on-one partner, and during that marvelous 10-day trip, I learned he had spent some years out there, dirtbagging as well.

Nick's specialty seemed, to me, to impart the values of old-style ethics. Because of him, I learned that a campsite was marked "reserved" simply by the presence of a fuel canister on a picnic table, or an overturned Crazy Creek chair anchored in the parking spot.

So much more, of course, and I'll go into greater depth on my next post. It's time for me to get packed and head out for a weekend at the Gunks.

Have a great weekend, have fun and be safe!

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