Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ersatz Climbing

Everyone I know who's a climbing addict has times when they're jonesing and can't get a fix. Work, lovelife, family obligations, overuse injuries(let's not jinx it by mentioning the 'other' kind)..... These things get in the way; for the dirtbag livin' it up on the road, and even the sponsored ones. I am no different.

So, when I'm not on the cliffs, I sometimes need a substitute. For some people, the gym fills the need. It did for me, when I first started climbing, but presently my schedule and cash flow allows for no plastic pulling. I haven't been to a gym in six months, and I think it was at least a year's hiatus between that and the time before. And.....well - a gym line is to real rock as a blow-up doll is to a real man. It just doesn't do it(I'd make the girl doll analogy but I have the feeling any guy reading this would...disagree.).

For me, the sub's been through reading. I discovered the climbing forum nearly immediately after my first day climbing, and have been in a co-dependant relationship ever since. It can get ugly, but there are such good times in between...

As any forum junkie discovers - after a while it can become bland and repetitive, similar topics, reincarnated over and over. At least on
some sites....

And then there's the glossies - Climbing, Rock & Ice, Gripped, Climb, Urban Climber.... And, of course, there's Alpinist, though this book defies being lumped with others; it's high quality stuff. When those fail the general outdoors journals like Outside, National Geographic Explorer, Backpacker.... And as things get dry in town, I'll turn to Outdoor Photographer and other rags that have some relation to my adventure hobbies.

I have used all these dru...products, to scratch the itch. Nothing hits like a road trip, but sometimes the road gets less traveled. You know what I mean?

Climbing books? If you think you're better than the ADHD-addled magazine mooch, you're in denali. Ummmm...was that a fruedian slip, or was I just trying to be funny? But what I meant was - it's all the same. Getting straight. Because to the climbing junkie, life seems somehow less lifelike when too much time's elapsed between our last run.

I've run the gamut, and one thing that proves to me I need help(in the form of more climbing, dammit!) is that I recently purchased a laptop computer. My desktop is in rehab(a long term program, I fear, and he may not survive), and I made this decision so I could use it on the road, to blog...D'ya think my blog is just another outlet for my compulsion??? But! The thing is....when I got the laptop, when I realized the newer technology meant it has a dvd player, my first thought was "climbing videos!"

Yeah....I'm a sick one. And perhaps you identify. But if you're reading this far and thinking "I'm not like that. I don't (fill in the blank).", I can tell you it's not the quantity; it's the quality, and what it does to your life. If you just spent the last five minutes of your time here...maybe it's time you took Step One. Yes - admit you are powerless and get out there and get on it! Learn to live with your addiction. It's the easier, softer way.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

"Oh No! Not Oatmeal - Again!"

...and there was Marty, staring at me as I scooped the stuff up like we were about go head out for a seven day trek with food for only three. He looked as though he might heave, and when I asked him if he was ill, he told me that he couldn't stand even the thought of oatmeal anymore.*

He'd eaten so much in his years out there that even seeing someone else partaking set off his gag reflex.

Poor guy; it's hard enough getting food of any sort down first thing out of the tent for most people, and here he was - cutting a staple of the trade out of his diet.

I asked him to try a bite, thinking maybe time would have healed something, and he reluctantly agreed. His spoon hadn't lifted a quarter way from the bowl to his mouth before a noticeable lurching of stomach occurred..... He was telling the truth!

*Though this retelling is basically accurate, some poetic license may have been taken.

Well - It's a trouble, isn't it - the oatmeal quandary? Here's a food well suited for the trail; a hot breakfast to warm one's core, and a source of fiber - heaven knows that's times. And yet, it's a food that brings up childhood memories of the unhappy ilk, or remembrances of meal after meal of the same on a rained out back-country trip. Marty's not the only one I know who hates oatmeal.....

If you're truly a lost cause, may god have pity on you as you stave off death eating cardboard-y, past-the-expiration-date glop bars. But if you're just a little...bored...with your oatmeal - I've got you covered.

There's a few things to consider about the food. First - those instant 'just add water' packets are not what I consider adequate, although I admit I've found a brand (365 Organic Oats & Flax) that's not so bad. Beware one of the top ingredients is cane juice(sugar), but I find it to be less sweet than the more well-known brands.

"Real" oatmeal is what the name says - oat meal. I like McCann's Steel Cut. But it's something like nearly an hour cooking time. When either time or fuel use is an issue, that's a problem.

Perhaps soaking the oats overnight would soften them and reduce the cooking time; I've never tried it.

There are a few "in-betweens," like Arrowhead Mills Seven Grain Hot Cereal, that are less processed than the instant varieties but not the basic product, and that's an option. But the time/fuel element is really the outweighing factor, even in car-camping, for most people. So, usually it's the easier, faster way that people choose, and I can't argue with that.

So - the trick is to dress up that hot morning meal, or fake it out entirely. I've found a delicious(and fast) alternative to the instant oatmeal packet is to simple use a choice granola in substitute. There are so many excellent options out there that you can pack a few different types and have variety. It has a long shelf life, and so long as you seal the packages...travels very well. Plus, the stuff can do double duty as an afternoon snack - lots of people already carry a baggie on the trail to graze along the way.

I prefer a granola that has nuts included, and that gives extra nutrients, and I also like as close to raw as possible - not those clumped by some sweetener varieties. And...I also try to stay away from the corporate brands; granola is an easy mom & pop type op, and a great opportunity to support you local business; just look around, and I bet you'll find some small manufacturer within a few hundred miles of yourself.

Take that granola and toss it in a cooking pot. Add some milk(or dried milk and water), turn on the heat, and in the same time as it takes to heat that instant crap - you've got a much more palatable and nutritious food ready to eat. Or, just heat the liquid and stir it into your bowl of dried granola, for a crispier texture and still heat your insides when the temp is cold on the outside.

Whether it's a granola-based breakfast or a variation on traditional oatmeal - add-ins are what makes the difference. Before I give my cooked apples recipe...well - I might forget, so I'd better do that now....

Take an apple(here's a chance to use the "less attractive one of the bunch - maybe you carried him in your pack all day yesterday and didn't get to consume, and now that apple's looking like he's been in the boxing ring for a round or two), and cut it up.

I don't care how - slice fat or slim, cube, dice, whittle away or hack attack with your plastic camp knife - it doesn't matter to me. Put the apple pieces in a small pot, add sugar and some butter(an easy way to add some fat in your diet), and simmer until it's hot(however soft you prefer, whether it's just heated and still crunchy, or practically apple jam. Yummier - add brown sugar. For the road, I use a granulated form since it stores well, not hardening into a rock.

Maybe you believe white sugar is the devil.... If that's the case, substitute honey(add water to create a syrup) or another sweetening agent. Or just use apples and water; doesn't matter. The point is that you're concocting a warm delicious topping to get more fuel in your body for a day out adventuring and spruce up what might otherwise be a bland breakfast.

So - you've cooked those apples down. Simply pour over the top of the oatmeal/OM substitute and dig in.

Another way that I have come up with to add nutrients and flavor/texture to gruel-type foods is to stir in dried nuts, fruits and/or berries as the meal cooks. I like the added crunch and taste of roasted almonds, which tends to be a nice contrast with the pudding-like texture. If, in fact, it's the texture that skeeves you when you think of the stuff, this might just be your salvation.... The dried fruits also pull second shift as part of your grazing snack later in the day.

Blueberries or cherries are my dried fruits of choice, but the options are really unlimited. If they(or you) make it, you can add it. Banana, apple chips, mango - whatever. I put them in right away, because I like them to be fully soft in my finished meal. Note: you will get a blue-tinted mixture with blueberries, not that there's anything wrong with that....

One other option, and this is definitely a throwback to the Chocolate Malt 'O Meal from the 1970's, is to add cocoa to the mix. Not, mind you, crappy Swiss Miss or other instants. I mean - real cocoa. The kind that costs you, stuff that hasn't been processed to a powder form. I am out right now, so don't have the suggestion off hand, but if you look in better markets, you'll find it. I've never had this, but I imagine that, mixed with banana chips, it might be pretty damned good!

And that brings me round to something else! That excellent cocoa goes nicely into the coffee pot, for cafe mocha, a superbly luxurious beverage for a pick-me-up on a cold afternoon at the crag. Just bring along the Jet Boil, or other lite stove and small pan, and get to it. Keep in mind this stuff needs to steep in hot water; it's not a 'stir in at the last minute' sort of ingredient.

Is it hot cocoa with a kick, or coffee with a chocolate kiss? That's up to you, depending on the ratio you use. Keep in mind that real, good, cocoa has caffeine in it. This is not your toddlers drink; you will feel the difference.

So, as you can see - when I pack for a road trip or short jaunt to the Gunks, I try to pack items that can go for more than one use. The fruit compote can top french toast, or make it thick and spread on a bagel. The dried berries can be cooked similarly to make a fruit compote too. The granola, nuts and dried fruits are your trail mix.

When I met Marty, the guy from the start of this story, I didn't know any of this stuff. If I had, perhaps things would have turned out different that day; maybe he'd be reborn and once again join the fold of those who imbibe.

And the one other thing I 'll mention before hitting the "post" button is that - if you DO use the longer-cooking oats, and you think you can eat the stuff two days in a row, or more..... make a bigger batch and stow the leftover in your cooler. Next day, all you need to do is heat, and eat.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

No Climbing For YOU(I mean, for me)!.....

How could I have said no? My client, who rarely goes away, asked a month ago if I could do a dog sit for her blind Cairn Terrier, Cali. I knew it would mean a weekend stuck in the city - away from my Gunks home away from home - and no climbing. But I heard that stupid little voice ("Be a good girl, Terrie") reminding me how lucky I was, with my luxe dirt lifestyle(definition to come at some point in a future post), and how well I understood the need to get away. What sort of person would it make me, in denying another that luxury?

So - while you all are out there being weekend warriors, taking road trips or out living the life - I'll be here waiting. Waiting for next weekend, for my next road trip(Halloween SushiFest in the desert!) waiting for April First of next year, when - if all goes to plan(plans that haven't even been laid yet) - things will be changing on this Sucks In The City Grrrl's life.

Ahhhh...pre-reminiscing.....I'll just keep that in my head for now. But, I suppose, with the fall season started, it's time to look at the already-been-had part of this season(which is what's propelling me to take actions to change, as you'll see....).

2007 marks only my 4th year climbing, but I've been lucky. Being self-employed has, at times, given me a lot of freedom to travel and take extended weekends. But this year, it seemed like it stalled out on me.

Returning from my spring trip out west, I found myself in yet another micro-financial crisis(I say micro, because the amounts involved were a pittance compared to what many others would require to feel the squeeze. But when one lives on a cash basis, relying on zero credit, the reality of one's cash flow is a little more clear). At the same time, my newly hired assistant bailed after having worked with me for only a month. With the summer slowdown coming, I knew it would be impossible to hire a new person (But now fall is here - Craigslist Want Ads - here I come!).

So I was stuck doing the weekday work(thank you Nicole, my weekend assitant!). Which meant I finished my work week at 3pm on Friday, and had to be back for Monday....grrrrr. In comparison to last year, when I had my van and could drive whenever I wanted, and was taking off Thursday night or Friday whenever, and could come back some time on Monday....well, you do this math. The answer to the equation is "2007 season = Sucks!"

Well.....not really. I mean, I have been upstate nearly every single weekend since May(late start this year due to weather). I think I missed 3 weekends in total.

Alas - my most regular climber partners were AWL(Absent WITH Leave). One was in Europe for the summer, and the other was tending to her newborn baby. Having been out of the "blind day" partner loop, I found it difficult to locate partners to climb with, and found myself taking plenty of hikes instead. It was so bad that I even considered creating a faux username ar and pretending I was a newly arrived to the area woman..... Don't laugh! When I started climbing, each time I posted for a partner, I had scores of replies, from guys who had tons of experience(and appreciative of them all, I remain, for through them I learned climbing ethics).

Add to the mix that I dedicate Sundays to trail work. Though my time available at the cliffs has decreased this year, there's just no way I would think of giving this up. I know this season has been an anomoly, and that change is on the way.

So......this year has been a low-impact climbing season for me. I have led only a handful of routes this year and the only "first" that I achieved was taking a lead fall onto a nut (P1 crux of Frog's Head).

In comparison to moments like the lead I took on Bitchy Virgin, this was fairly a non-event.

So - autumn is here - and I have been besieged with so many request for partners that I can't fit them all in. I've got to make up for lost time! I still lead 5.5, still find myself deferring to others when they want to lead, and still give the world's most patient belay while wondering why it's sometimes not reciprocated....

Let's hope the rest of this year brings me many pitches to climb, good leads, and an improvement in making sure I take my share in partnerships.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gunks Fall Season Has Arrived!

The e-connection of my computer's still funked, but at least now I have exhauseted all hope of doing a self-fix..... Resignedly, I'm packing the thing up and taking it to the shop this afternoon, where I'm expecting to receive a diagnosis of "fried modem" or something similar.

In the interim..... Despite a slow start on Saturday(morning climbing called on account of rain), the day did an about-face around 10am and a splendid "feels like autumn" day stepped forth. Though it had been raining steadily since late night Friday, the cliffs hadn't even gotten wet. Must have been the direction and angle the precip dripped. Nature had thrown a curve ball in the team's favor and the backside of the Trapps got a nice watering, while the front side stayed cool and dry to the touch. Climb on!

Plenty of people out there, too. Teddy couldn't move ten paces without someone from his fan club stopping to say hello and shake his paw.

I flailed lightly before slipping into the void of "the move" on Shockley's Ceiling. Luckily, I brannish a pair of prussiks like a cowboy does his pistols. Embarrassing - but true.

Still, it was a good day, and later we headed into town for the John Bragg slideshow - first entertainment event of the season. Beautiful pictures, incredible scenery, fun stories - If you missed it, you missed a good one.

The event was in support of the Gunks Climber's Coalition Rescue Fund, and $800 was raised.

Perhpas even more valuable.... was the announcement updating us on the status at the Rosendale Water Works.

If you don't know, this is an area that came into the spotlight a short while back; bouldering has been going on there, to climb what is allegedly(I've never been, nor spoeken to anyone with firsthand knowledge) world class third class..... Word was spreading and whispers of access issues arose in the mix.

Something had to be done....

The GCC has been working with the Mohonk Preserve and Open Space Institute on acquiring this land, and a Letter of Understanding was signed last week. So far as I have seen, the Open Space Institute gets things done, and if all goes as hoped....the Gunks 2008 season will be seeing an incredible new venue for serious bouldering.

I like to boulder, and even though I climb less than V0, can't wait to see how this pans out. Hopefully, many of the area boulderers will be interested in stewardship for this new locale, and will avail themselves of the considerable amount of work that will go into developing and maintaining the space. The Rosendale Water Works will be part of the Mohonk Preserve, which excels in educating preservation ethics, so the place should become a crowning gem in the US bouldering scene.

In other news - when I recently spoke with guidebook author Dick Williams about his progress on the lates edition(updated guidebook to the Near Trapps), he said the writing had been completed!

This was no small task, as the man personally (re)climbed most of the existing routes in order to insure as accurate a book as can be made, while putting in many new routes at the same time. (We joke, a while back, that when he'd written in the earlier guide not to bother with sections of the cliffs duew to loose and dangerous conditions, that he was actually trying to deflect interest because he hadn't been able to snag all the FA's he'd been eyeing!)

Of course, parts of the Nears ARe known to have loose, chossy sections and Williams, in his climbing research, safely trundled rocks that were ready to roll as he came across them. This made for slower progress with his book work, but it's of incredible benefit to our climbing community, and something most of us will never even be aware of. Thanks Dick!

The book has been(or is soon to be) handed to an associate who will put it into Quark for editing, and Dick is going through his picture collections to decide which photographs wil be included in the new guide. He expects the book to be available in stores early next year, in time for the spring season of 2008.

Though many will lament the sure to be expected production that might aptly be called "Gumbys at the Gunks" to quickly run through the Nears, the publication will certainly be a most welcome one by the majority. Not only will many existing routes that have not been included in previous editions come to light, but also variations and linkups, along with new lines put up since the last edition. As happened with the release of the Trapps guide a few years ago, the Gunks will suddenly seem bigger, as people explore lines they'd previously been walking past unawares.

I also heard that the Adopt-A-Crag Skytop CleanUp, which I mentioned a few posts back, went very well despite a rainy day start. Volunteers filled five large bags of trash, the majority of which consisted of plastic water bottles left in situ by hotel guests and day-hikers visiting the property. One need only think about this in juxtaposition to an average Peterskill CleanUp day to comprehend the difference in mindset between those committed to the area(such as climbers and dedictaed hikers) and the person for whom a daytrip to the outdoors is their adventure of the year.

Keep in mind that the next Adopt-A-Crag event will be on October 20th. This is a great way to meet others from the area, give a little back, and get involved.

As well, the New Paltz Film Festival takes place on Saturday, October 6th. There are plenty of events the whole weekend too. Kick off the weekend on Friday night with a slideshow at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center. There's a bagel breakfast and climbing clinics on Saturday at the Trapps, the Film Festival that evening, and another slideshow (or film?) at Rock and Snow on Sunday night.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

We Interupt This Program....

....My internet connection is totally fuxed at home. So - pardon the delay in the continuum. Grrrrr.....

The good news is that in six hours I head off for a weekend away from city life, internet connections and dealings with problems of the urban kind.

Next week, I'll somehow figure this out and try to catch up!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Road Trip Pre-TR

Busy, busy, busy...I have photos to edit, catalog, email, and post for the Goddesses on the Rocks event I talked about here.

So, instead of making an all-inclusive "here's what happened" report, I'm breaking it down into segments.

The plan was to Amtrak to Boston, where my friend Cheryl would pick me up. We'd stay the night at her place(a very nice little arts& crafts-y bungalow she's got, though I'm not sure if technically it's a bungalow. But I love built-ins and simple, beautiful wood trim, and the place had the original in place.). The next morning, we'd pick up person #3 from he airport, head to a campsite near North Conway, and get in a day of climbing on Friday.

Then, the Goddesses event for the weekend. And, as you may recall, I had no plan as to my transportation back....but obviously, it has worked out, and I am back home, being bombarded with the anxieties and troubles of city-living in the age of advanced technology. yesterday, my AOL service was FUBAR - that should be in 96-point type, by the way - yesterday. SO messed up that I spent more than 6 hours in attempts to diagnose/repair, with less than 15 minutes of that involving human tech support(an epic unto itself, but luckily I saw the route would not go early on, and bailed before committing past the first few moves..... GRRRR).

The train ride - This was stylee mass transport, in my book. I had a few options. Take the Acela, which is supposedly that ultrafast ride.... But at twice the cost, with only a half an hour shaved off in transit time, I felt it was a rip-off, and declined. Maybe there is something I missed that makes it worthwhile....I couldn't say.

They also offered an upgrade from coach class to business on Amtrak. Now, I consider myself a luxe dirtbag, so I automatically rejected the "upgrade" without even checking the price.

Locally, I'm used to taking Metro North to the Gunks, with my dog. I get the stink-eye if I take a seat(they're for 2-leggeds only, apparently) and so I ride in the open section for baggage and bikes, using my cooler for a seat, with Teddy curled around me somewhere nearby. simply having a SEAT is an upgrade for me, so I didn't think I'd mind the coach class train ride.

Well - Let me tell you something! I don't know what business class Amtrak offers, but Coach service has butt width seats and leg room enough for the biggest touron venturing cross country. Plush, clean better than any airline seats, in my experience. I settled in comfortably, and the only distasteful item was that the guy across the aisle was yammering into his cel phone for he entire first hour of the trip. Funnily, his big, oft-repeated topic was how "so and so" suffered from narcissistic personality disorder....

Finally, he got off the phone, and soon after got off the train, and I was left to the quiet of my inner thoughts while I watched the northeast corridor glide past as the sun headed round the horizon.

The drive up next morning, from Boston to New Hampshire, was a highway cruise, but since it was my first trip in the area, I was very happy enjoying the changing scenery as we entered mountainous ranges. Very pretty land, and as we drove the smaller roads the next few days, I saw many wonderful old homes, barns and outbuildings. Another few weeks and the foliage color-shift will make such a trip one to relish.

We camped at Covered Bridge campsite in the White Mountain National Forest.. The campground seems nice, I think, though I don't know what other options are available in the area. It had large, quasi-secluded sites that were clean(in fact, it appears someone comes in with a rake in-between tenants), fresh, cold water that comes from a hand pump down the road(there's something to be said for manual labor in exchange for subsistence). Best of all - there are huge logs set across the roadways, at about 8 feet off ground level, thus stopping any RV or monster-tired truck in their tracks.

Apparently, we were pegged as undesirables from the get-go by the campsite host though... Within a few minutes of our choosing a site and unpacking, he drove up in his golf cart and told us to slow it down in our driving. When we returned from our climbing session in the early evening, a form-letter list of Rules to be Broken was tacked under an item on the picnic table. I'd tented on foliage, it seems, although what I'd actually staked my claim on was the same surface that covered the rest of the tent area(gravel). It did have a carpet of dried leaves, but I honestly wasn't anywhere near putting up on the forest dirt ground. Ahh well... I am not one to piss off the guy in charge of my accommodations. So, I quickly moved my tent.

We then set out to begin our evening meal, and as we were doing so, a car that happened to be the same make and model as ours came careening down the road(that means they were going a little faster than the posted fast-idle posted speed limit). As I saw them pass our site, I told the girls "Watch - we're going to get blamed for that one!"

Sure enough! The host came Barney-Fifing down the road in hot pursuit! Off course, he'd had to get off his chair, call his wife/deputy and into the golf cart beforehand, so it was a few minutes later that he screeched to a halt in front of our site.....

I called out an apology for my tent, but was cut off with an officious "I TOLD you not to drive so fast in here!"

Well! My site mates weren't having any bully bullying them around, and they let him have it! Cheryl EVEN pointed her finger at him while declaring "That wasn't us!"

Luckily, she deflected the situation by explaining the look-alike vehicle and adding something like "We get into enough trouble on our own without having someone else's trouble added!"

He laughed at that one and that was the last we saw of the sheriff while we were in his town....

Climbing - Cheryl took us to a lesser-known crag to climb that day, so as not to lessen our experience with the Goddesses event if we'd be going to Cathedral or Whitehorse Ledges the next few days. She chose a slab area called Lost Horizons, which was just a short ride away from our camp area.

The hike in was...vigorous. At least it was for me... The heat and humidity added a level of exertion, but nobody else in the group(we'd met up with some others of Cheryl's friends) suffered as I did.

I don't know what happened, but after a few minutes, I was having some difficulty in my hike. I had stupidly left my full rack in my pack, not wanting to leave it in the car, which was parked along a busy-enough roadway. I fell back to the rear, and later took a short rest. Continuing on, I felt overheated again in another few minutes and had to stop.

By that point, we were a few minutes away from the crag, and Cheryl(enduro-woman, as you'll see in the photos below) had already gotten there, dropped her pack and returned. She offered to take the rope I was carrying, and I gave no resistance.

I decided to take it easy for the rest of the approach, no matter that everyone else was moving more quickly. But then, a steep section came up, and I found myself feeling a little light-headed. I sat down on a log, thinking it would be a short rest and suddenly I was accosted with a full on attack of dizziness and nausea.

Wow! It was bad. I truly thought I was going to pass out and throw up. So, I put my head down between my knees and waited as wave after wave rolled through my body.

Not sure what was causing the thing, I came up with the idea that I must have had my first menopausal hot flash, and when I tried that excuse out on the others(most of whom had already been there/done that) they didn't buy it..... But, they were good-natured about me and my excuse for physical unfitness. It WAS, I will admit, "that time" of the month, and it was generally agreed upon that the humidity, the semi-stiff approach, my pack weight, and the iron loss probably was what did it. Kindly, the "maybe a few sit-ups once in a while" suggestion was not offered as a remedy for repeat occurrences....

So - I survived, though I didn't feel so great, and was careful to be safe once we began climbing. The crag is a slab that rises into routes that range from 5.4 to about 5.8(so far as I know). The trail at the base is simply a footpath where rock meats dirt, and the angle of the slope continues downward, so any trips or stumbles mean down you go, only to be stopped by the forest of trees.

We climbed about 5 routes, with everyone getting a shot on all if they desired. The easiest routes were simply walk-ups, where no real route-finding is required other than the obvious(Go upwards). But the first bolts were up there, and then there were some run-out sections.

I chose to lead a route that was purported to be 5.6, a grade I'd stand by. And that first 25 feet of slab definitely did keep me on my toes(well, actually not, for I pasted as much rubber as I could get). The thought of coming off, and the awareness that the fall wasn't simply to the cliffside trail but onward and into the woods.... made for a sporty feel.

The first bolt passed and I breathed my relief sigh and continued onward. I don't recall feeling any worry about runout on the route, and the climbing was not too difficult(I lead Gunks 5.5). But the anchor! Oh my.....

I have heard of suspect anchors, but this one was definitely a runner for the title of Miss Manky Anchor. Not bolted, by the way. It consisted of a natural bridge-like bit of rock, with a shallow tunnel under it. The width of the bridge was maybe 8 inches or so, but the rock quality was pure, disintegrating as you watch, choss. It had the consistency of sandcastle material with some pebbles added for texture.

At any rate, the climbing was fun; I do like slab. And the route did require some skill in finding the best path, plus it had two crux-y spots(the first before the first bolt).

Still - I nicknamed this crag the "Green Acres Crag." It seemed every route had something....."off" about it. My lead was the awful anchor. There was a route that appeared to have a HUGE run out with groundfall potential from 60 feet up. It was an illusion....The missing bolt was actually in situ. It just happened to be several feet off the natural course of the route.

Another line had anchors placed at a point where a 60-meter rope meant the belayer had to climb 15 feet off deck(easy 5th class moves) to gain the belay stance. It WAS a nice little dish, although the space was tight for leader/belayer to start out on. Nowhere to anchor the belayer, so the leader had best not come off....

And it seemed that someone had made some effort to clear the slabby face of years of lichen. Except the clear spots tended to be in between where the bolts were placed! The routes tended to go straight through grainy lichen patches, making the routes feel as if peppered with a little local spice.

At any rate, it was a fun day, out climbing with a group of women in a quiet setting. We saw no other people while we were there.

As we drove back to camp, Cheryl stopped just after passing through the campground's namesake covered bridge. She wanted to show us what she called a Party Trick. Now, before you peruse the pictures, I should mention that earlier in the day we had been talking about training regimes (Of which, I volunteered I had none).

Cheryl, on the other hand..... did tell us that one of her endurance exercises includes doing repetitions of pull-ups to exhaustion. The thing is to do 5 pull-ups in a minute, and repeat each minute until incapable. So, you do 5 and then have the "rest" of the minute to rest.... Next mintue, same thing. starts out with lots of rest time, which lessens as the reps build up.

Cheryl does this for.....45 minutes.

....I know.

So - the party trick consists of climbing, hand over hand, up this iron guyline, and then exiting through the pretty window on the bridge.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

She did it in one shot, taking probably about 10 seconds, fully locked off the entire way.

What a sicko!

ADENDUM: 9/14 - I just remembered.... When I climbed with this hardwoamn the first time, it was in JTree on April of this year. She had told me that the day before she and some other chicks had gone to the legendary Gunsmoke to do some bouldering.....

She, having never been there before, and being newish to rock climbing, looked at the traverse(from the overhanging end) and....seeing no feet.... had one of the others boost her to the holds. And she proceeded to CAMPUS the traverse fully to the corner. Clean. Onsite.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Extreme P&S Photography.....

A few posts back I mentioned one of my "Great Finds," Orion Magazine, and talked a bit about some of the quality work presented. One of the articles, entitled "Drive-bys", inspired me to follow the leader...

The piece was about photographer Dewitt Jones and one of his shooting styles; that of simply allowing the camera to capture nature in motion, while he was in transit. No manipulation of the camera, no framing shots and setting up compositions. The antithesis of the shooter's dogma.

Of course, these aren't your average out-of-focus blur shots.... The man's work is quite wonderful, and I hope that if you haven't already clicked the Orion Magazine link above, you'll do so now.

While I don't pretend to be anything near an accomplished photographer, I do like to try my hand, and a few weeks ago, while walking the cliffside trail in the Nears, I was reminded of this serendipitous style. I was in a mood where I felt the structured shots I was looking for weren't happening, and so it was with a sense of delight that I made a few basic manual adjustments to my camera settings, and took off down the trail, to see what I might ....see. Or something like that.

Here are some of the captures I later found in my files.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My camera is a very basic one, with just a few options to go manual, and I didn't really play around much at all. I am hoping to get my first dslr soon, and since I expect a period of frustration while I learn how to get what I'm looking for, I think I'll be revisiting this genre.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Road Trip!(Just a Quickie)

I'll be disconnected for the next coupla daze, on a short climbing trip. It's about damned time. My last trip was way back in the end of April, for the Supertopo SushiFest.

This time, I'm headed up to Boston where I'll meet up with a climber I met ON that April trip! We're going to Sterling Rope's
"Goddesses on the Rocks"
women's climbing workshop, up at North Conway, NH.

This will be my first time in that area, and I'm looking forward to seeing the place. We will head up a day before the event and get a day of climbing in. Sport climbing...if I understand correctly. Do you think I'll succumb, or will I stick to my traditional roots! I dunno, but I'm looking for fun and pretty sure I'll find it.

My friend will be participating at the event, and I am volunteering. I'll be a go-for to whichever group leader I get tagged up with; looks like I will have either Intro to Climbing or Beginner Trad. Either way, it will be a great chance to encourage women to get out there and get at it.

My friend has another person coming for a few extra days, and....I am not sure how I'm getting back home....since I have to travel on Monday, and they are staying in the area. Well.....I'm sure it will somehow work out that someone from the GotR event is headed south....right?

The next Goddesses event is September 29-30, at the New River Gorge. Info on the link earlier in this post. I can tell you these events are fun and a great way to network with other women climbers. And an easy way to get to see a new climbing area!

See you next week!

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NY Times Front Page News: "$(-)!^, But Not in the Pot - Pack It Out!"

Normally, I don't notice the news as it appears in papers and other media; I get my news from help me) and Supertopo(where, at least the "top stories" don't all boil down to teenaged-boy homophobic attitude railings within 20 posts). But I am a dog-walker, and the summer season has ended. Pepper and Mocha, two cute-as-can-be Havanese, and their family have returned to their posh UWS home from the summer city exodus, and I am back on schedule with their 8am P & P (Poop and Perambulation).

I had to be up and at 'em at eight, but apparently the Pepper/Mocha People had forgotten vacation was over, and I found the front door locked. I quietly knocked, expecting the HUGE Barking Brigade to begin.


Eventually, I rang the bell, and it took two more rings, and about 10 minutes before a fresh outa bed Dad opened the door. I guess the girls will be late for school today....

At any rate, in the interim, I tried to amuse myself, and noticed the morning paper at my feet.

I hate looking at front page news. It's propaganda, no matter which viewpoint you come from. Ben Franklin probably cries himself to sleep at night, up in heaven, at what hath been wrought to the press' freedom.

And so....I scanned the page, just for something to do. I had plenty of time....they were really z'ing away in that house. Even the dogs didn't wake up! Below the crease(where news without corporate sponsorship can occasionally be found), I saw an article entitled "No More Privies, So Hikers Add a Carry-Along". Probably my eye was first caught by the photo, of real earth, but I'm able to process info fairly quickly....

Anyway - the story's about the removal of toilets on Mt. Whitney and how, instead, hikers are being given poop bags, in order to reduce the cost/grossness/cleanup labor associated with the traditional park tourist's commode.

I think it's an interesting idea, though of course fraught with plenty of political sidings. We've all heard about the legendary $2500 toilet seat purchases our government makes. How much do you suspect we(taxpayers) are shelling out per WagBag?

First hit on the search engine gives me a retail price of $1.85 to a little over $2 per bag. How much you wanna bet our "official designated procurer" has contracted a near or higher unit price than that for industrial quantities? Maybe; maybe not. But probably.....

In the article there's a quote where a lady says “There are so many indignities on the trail anyway. And people do that all the time with their dogs in the city.” (Aha! A link to my lead-in paragraph! Dogs.....).

Indignities? What indignity is there, on the trail? Do you think she's referring to being one of over 300 people who will trammel the same wilderness highway in a single day(as the article mentions? Sure gives new meaning to the term "Parkway".....).

Or maybe she means the way US citizens get double-billed for actually using lands they already support? Wonder if the mining and timber companies pay an entrance fee when passing national park boundaries.....

I dunno, but I get the feeling not(I mean, the 'indelicacies' thing). I suspect she refers to the possibility of actually having "the world" know your shit might stink, just like everybody else's(or at least everybody who eats processed foods with stink-producing after-affects).

Anyway - there's a video included in the article, where a Times reporter is talking about a changing environmental ethic. I have dialup service, so that's off-limits to me. But it might have some interest to you.

Personally, I like the idea of people taking more personal responsibility. But I can't help but imagine the repercussions. People won't want to carry their crap out(the horreur!) and so they'll toss the poop bags("Bombs Away!"). The term "Mud Falcon" is part of Big Wall lexicon; I wonder what these olive drab birds will go by....Keep your eyes open - "Outside Magazine" will probably clue you in sometime in the next year or so...).

Or, people will leave the filled MicroSquatPots right where they squatted...Unsealed, most likely. And then we will be paying yet again, for the professional picker-uppers to go in and remove the hazardous waste - at how many dollars per hour?

Oh...I could go on, and perhaps you have something to say about it. I'd be interested to hear other's takes on the issue. Feel free to post a comment below. If discussion gets going, someone can start a thread over on my discussion forum.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Teddy Gets His Picture Taken by a Pro

This weekend, I was walking down the carriage road and ran into some people I'd met a few weeks ago. As usual, I would have walked right past them, caught in my own little world.... Someone stopped me and asked if I'd seen the pictures of my dog from the Trapps Boulder Clean Up Day I'd attended back at the end of June.

Well - I hadn't seen those pictures, and since I knew this man was a professional photographer - I certainly did want to! He gave me his card, and I put it safely in a pocket within my own camera case, so I wouldn't lose it. When I returned home yesterday, I couldn't wait to see Teddy's famous picture, and of course, I thought he looked adorable.... Don't you agree?

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~photo by David Toth~

But the cool thing was that I discovered all these great pictures that the guy, David Toth, took from that day. Like this one!
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~photo by David Toth~

David has an album of shots from that day on his Flickr account, and I hope you'll click that link and take a look.

He's also got plenty of great bouldering photos posted to the site. Here's the Main Page.

And finally - I'd like to put in a plug for the man, since he's a pro photographer for hire.... He does weddings, among other lifestyle shots, I see when looking at his web site, David Toth Photgraphy. How cool would it be, to have someone who knows how to shoot great climbing shots taking your wedding pictures while the two of you are 3rd-classing it on your wedding day!?

So - do take some time today, if you're feeling it, and have a look at David's work, and pass the links on to your friends(or simply send them a link to this blog entry by clicking the Email button below!

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Wanna Go To SkyTop(and Not Pay the Ginormous Fees)?

Everyone knows that climbing at Skytop has been unsanctioned (or off-limits, if you don't know what that means....) since the mid-nineties. Well, maybe not everyone, but at least most locals and people who've visited the place. Or have considered coming. Or might in the future, or have talked to someone who thought about coming.... Might as well be everyone!

And most of THOSE people people are aware that the start of the 2007 climbing season saw a hallamrk in history, where Skytop became officially available to the...masses....again.

Well, at least the masses who could afford a two-night's stay at the Mohonk Mountain House and a guide fee "adjusted slightly upward," to defray the costs of coordinating guests with the activity, I suppose.

Jealous? Wishing YOU had the guts to just sneak in and reach for the Skytops routes? I THOUGHT so!

Well - here's your chance.... Read the bulletin below, and sign up now!*

On Sept 15th and Oct 20th, 2007 Two Adopt-A-Crag Days Scheduled

Note: This text was directly lifted from the Gunks Climbers Coalition site.

The Gunks Climbers' Coalition, in cooperation with the Mohonk Mountain House, is pleased to announce that our first Adopt-a-Crag event this year will take place at Skytop on Saturday, September 15, from 9 AM to 1 PM. We are seeking twelve volunteers on a first-register, first-served basis (the number is limited by insurance restrictions) to collect litter in the talus apron around the crag. Send an email to: to register for this event. More details will be provided once your registration is completed.

In cooperation with Minnewaska State Park Preserve, we will also be holding a second Adopt-a-Crag day of trail maintenance and micro-trash removal at Peter's Kill on Saturday, October 20. Click here for more information.


* I didn't specifically say, in this post's title, that you could climb. Just asked if you wanted to go!

I know, I know....You may be mad at me for "making" you read this post, all just to announce an opportunity to volunteer with your fellow climbers. I'm sneaky that way.

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