Training Journal – Bouldering, Trad: 7/8/19 – 7/14/19

Lower key than last week. Felt tired earlier on and wanted to make sure I got more work done for writing, as I didn’t do much during the trip to Vermont.

Monday
Rest day.

Tuesday
Pull up workout.

Wednesday
Arms, shoulders, chest workout.

Breaking in the new shoes!


Thursday
Bouldering at Berlin Boulder. Did some easier stuff.

Friday
Rest day.

V3 problem and the last of the day.


Saturday
Bouldering at Rose Ledge. Sent two V2s and a V3. Worked a V5 and made up my own V3 (a variation of the V5).

The Diagonal


Sunday
Trad at Crow Hill. Led my hardest grade, The Diagonal, 5.8+ (but according to commenters on Mountain Project is closer to 5.9/+).



El Penon de Ifac – Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach


What I’m working towards: My objective is to climb the Diedra UBSA in Costa Blanca, Spain in November, an 8 pitch, 5.10a PG13 mostly sport route. This trip and objective is sponsored in part by the American Alpine Club + The North Face’s Live Your Dream grant.

I first came across the Penon d’Ifach, the massive limestone block that emerges from the Balearic Sea, while researching climbing in Spain last year. The striking outcropping has stayed on my mind since.

The grant is designed to help you “level up” your skills in a specific and measurable way. For context, I started climbing more seriously in 2018, and had only done about 30 lead climbs (in the 5.10 range) when I applied. I chose this route because it combines skills I’m keen to develop: Multi-pitch climbing, traditional climbing, anchor building, and endurance (suggested time is 6-9 hours). The goal date allows for six months to incrementally develop my technique and know-how.

So far this year, I’ve: Begun leading on trad, increased time on rock (as opposed to the gym) bouldering/ sport/ trad, practiced anchor building, did one multi-pitch (albeit a short one) and practiced belaying from top.

The longer-term dream is to do big alpine climbs in the Wind River Range.


Goals for July:

  • Days outside: 15
  • Sport leads: 30
  • Trad leads: 10
  • Multi-pitch: 1
  • Grade aim: 5.10+/5.11- sport, 5.6-5.8+ trad, multi-pitch 5.8-5.9 range
  • Focus: Lead more routes, push grades (project a few 5.12s), easy multi-pitch routes, bouldering
  • Stretch goal: Send V6 outside

Progress on July Goals as of 7/14:

  • Days outside: 8
  • Sport leads: 0
  • Trad leads: 3
  • Multi-pitch: 1

Goals for 2019:

  • Lead 5.11c/5.11d comfortably (sport)
  • Send a 5.12a (sport)
  • Lead 5.8-5.9 trad comfortably
  • Send a V7 outside
  • 100 days of climbing outside
  • Lead 300 routes on real rock

Progress on Year Goals as of 7/14:

  • Lead 5.10+ comfortably (sport)
  • Lead 5.6-5.7 trad comfortably
  • Send V4/V5 outside
  • ~31/100 days of climbing outside
  • ~42/300 lead climbs on real rock



Photo sources: La Marina Plaza

Ryan Wichelns on Becoming a Freelance Outdoor Writer

The sweat was mounting on Ryan Wichelns’ brow. His breath was labored, his hands tiring, his vision narrowed. Like his summit push to Mt. Brooks in Denali National Park in whiteout conditions, what lay ahead was unknown. 

He talks calmly about it now, but he probably gulped a few times before sending. It being an email to the editors of Backpacker Magazine containing his first ever story pitch. He says he dashed the submission off for fun, an inconsequential story idea that he didn’t expect much of. 

As happens with unexpected pursuits, that throwaway email changed the direction of his life.

I don’t buy his telling though. Ryan seems like the kind of meticulous person that would carefully analyze each word to make it sound just right; that plans week-long excursions to Alaska to undertake a “technical first that links five peaks in a remote part of Denali National Park.” He strikes me as a planner with an affinity for spreadsheets.

Either way, as with many of his climbs, he’d end up scaling this new trajectory with quick progression: He’s the editor of Eastern Mountain Sport’s goEast blog, has written for Outside Magazine, Backpacker, and Alpinist, and he’s fully supported himself through writing for over a year.

That’s not a normal course for a young freelancer. 

Ryan in his element. Photo source: ryanclimbs.com


It started with a trip to Arcadia… Rhode Island. 

“Arcadia is probably the only place you can backpack in the state,” he chuckles. Rhode Island being all of 37 miles wide by 48 miles long.

Backpacker bit. Ryan was now a writer.

“It taught me a valuable lesson, that you should focus on a niche. Certainly, not a lot of people were writing about obscure trips in RI.” His idea stood out and they took a chance on him.

One small trip, one small act, one big life-altering outcome.


Ryan is at the dawn of his writing career but is already one of the rare species to make a full-time living off it. 

As my editor at goEast, I was curious to learn more about his own path, and to see what advice I may be able to glean from someone a few years ahead of me on this journey. In our call he shared some tips for breaking into freelance writing.

Advice on How to Become a Freelance Writer

Find a niche: 

“This might be the most important thing,” Ryan declares. “There’s a lot of competition and it’s not easy to dive in if you’re pitching yourself as just another writer,” he says.

Anyone can be just another writer. What makes you stand out? What can you write about better than most others? What special angle can you provide? Find your expertise and make yourself valuable with it.

A niche can often be identified by thinking creatively. Start by considering what you already possess, such as local knowledge (which tends to be overlooked), a combination of distinct perspectives (maybe via your upbringing or education), or a particular interest you have.

“For me, it was somewhat accidental and somewhat forced. My niche was in the Northeast. Backpacker didn’t have a ton of people writing about that, but they needed the content,” Ryan offers.

Know the publication you’re pitching to:

You need to understand the publication in order to appeal to the editor.

How does the story you want to pitch fit into what they publish? What is the format or structure of their stories? Are there any gaps in their content? 
Familiarize yourself with their articles, try to understand the reader, and think like an editor.

Ryan at Pico de Orizaba. Photo credit: Lauren Danilek


Write about what interests you:

Ryan studied journalism in college and was the editor of the school paper, yet it wasn’t until he started writing for Backpacker that he saw a future in the pursuit: “The thing is, I never enjoyed writing all through high school… and while it was rewarding to work on an investigative piece [at university], I had more fun writing about the outdoors,” he shares.

Now when he considers potential articles, he evaluates whether it is interesting to him personally. If he’s excited by an idea, it will likely come through in the pitch and the piece.

Relationships matter:

“My first editor at Backpacker took a chance on me. I give her credit for a lot of my success,” Ryan says from the onset.

“After awhile she was giving me assignments, put me up for a job with the [Outdoor Retailer (OR)] Daily. She recommended me for all sorts of press trips.”

The relationship they developed, the trust, and Ryan’s ability to deliver led to an abundance of future opportunities. 

Network. Or, go where the people are:

In a digital world, face time (not the app) matters.

“Going to OR and working for the Daily was the best thing I did for my outdoor industry freelance career,” Ryan notes.

Outdoor Retailer is a beacon for the industry in the U.S., attracting gear companies, athletes, media, and others involved in the space. As a reporter for the daily paper that runs during the duration of the show, Ryan was able to meet editors and writers at other publications, gain leads for stories or pick up products to test, and receive invitations for press trips.

Pitching:

The bread and butter of getting in the door of a publication is the pitch, an “elevator style” presentation of a story idea with the hopes that it intrigues an editor.

The aim for a first story is just that, get a story. Any story. Ryan suggests pitching something more formulaic, such as a a round up or a short interview—in a magazine, look to the beginning sections (often known as the “Departments”) and shy away from pitching a feature.

From an editor’s perspective, it’s easier to take a chance on a new writer with something simple. It’s uncommon for editors to accept a big feature idea from a new writer without a demonstrated history.

“Once I see someone can do [a simpler piece], it becomes far easier to take the reigns off and let them do something more from their own judgement,” Ryan shares. After you have established a relationship with the editor, try pitching a slightly larger idea, then build from there. 

I’ve found Tim Neville’s, The Art of Travel Writing ebook from World Nomads, to be a wonderfully helpful beginner guide that features a detailed “how to pitch” section.

Ryan and pals on their Mt. Brooks expedition in Alaska. Photo source: ryanclimbs.com


A long and bumpy road:

Of course, a word of caution: This path takes time. 

From most accounts I’ve read, years of dedication are required before freelance writers are able to fully support themselves from writing alone. Often this path begins as a part-time thing, they have savings, or there is a very supportive spouse.

But if you can make it work, you can achieve creative flexibility, get paid to go on trips, and work from wherever you have internet access (at least intermittently). 


Ryan has earned his career, step by step, much like his increasingly technical climbs after years of training.

And where one person goes, another is likely to follow; seeing an example acts like a green light for others. If you are pursuing a freelance writing career, or thinking about it, good luck–and consider doing what Ryan did, just keep moving forward.


You can learn more about Ryan Wichelns and read his work at ryanclimbs.com.


Feature photo of Ryan on Mount Rainier, from his website.

Training Journal – Bouldering, Trail Run, Hike: 7/1/19 – 7/7/19

This was a really fun week as I spent most of it traveling and bouldering through Vermont. Included was a stay at a new campground where several impressive boulders are just now being cleaned and developed.

I enjoy bouldering for the solitude/ space it confers, but am also aware that it is not the most direct way to improve at leading sport. I may try to be more intentional about the ratio of climbing, maybe aiming for a 2:1, bouldering:sport balance. My main concern is I’m not able to work on endurance on outdoor boulders as easily as I can through other means.

I have begun mixing days with a run/ hike and bouldering and finding that the muscle and energy systems don’t really overlap, so I can do both without noticeable negative effects to either activity.


Monday
Stretching, foam rolling. Pull up work out.

Tuesday
Bouldering at Rumney. Sent The Whale’s Tail (V4+) and Ahab Calling (V3).

The Gem boulder at Kettle Pond, Groton State Park


Wednesday
3 mile trail run around Kettle Pond in Groton State Forest.

Bouldering afterwards on The Gem boulder. Worked a few V2s and V3s.

Thursday
Bouldering in Bolton, VT. Worked a V6, some overhanging stuff.

Working “It’s Complicated Being a Wizard” (V6) in Bolton, VT


Friday
Hellbrook Trail up Mt. Mansfield, a 3.7 mile hike with 2,683 feet of elevation gain.

Bouldering at Smuggler’s Notch in the afternoon. Sent Primate (V3), Workout Traverse (V3), among other easier ones.

Saturday
Rest day. Stretched and foam roller.

Sunday
Bouldering at Lynn Woods. Worked Dean’s Problem (V6), Phat Lip (V4).



El Penon de Ifac – Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach


What I’m working towards: My objective is to climb the Diedra UBSA in Costa Blanca, Spain in November, an 8 pitch, 5.10a PG13 mostly sport route. This trip and objective is sponsored in part by the American Alpine Club + The North Face’s Live Your Dream grant.

I first came across the Penon d’Ifach, the massive limestone block that emerges from the Balearic Sea, while researching climbing in Spain last year. The striking outcropping has stayed on my mind since.

The grant is designed to help you “level up” your skills in a specific and measurable way. For context, I started climbing more seriously in 2018, and had only done about 30 lead climbs (in the 5.10 range) when I applied. I chose this route because it combines skills I’m keen to develop: Multi-pitch climbing, traditional climbing, anchor building, and endurance (suggested time is 6-9 hours). The goal date allows for six months to incrementally develop my technique and know-how.

So far this year, I’ve: Begun leading on trad, increased time on rock (as opposed to the gym) bouldering/ sport/ trad, practiced anchor building, did one multi-pitch (albeit a short one) and practiced belaying from top.

The longer-term dream is to do big alpine climbs in the Wind River Range.


Goals for July:

  • Days outside: 15
  • Sport leads: 30
  • Trad leads: 10
  • Multi-pitch: 1
  • Grade aim: 5.10+/5.11- sport, 5.6-5.8+ trad, multi-pitch 5.8-5.9 range
  • Focus: Lead more routes, push grades (project a few 5.12s), easy multi-pitch routes, bouldering
  • Stretch goal: Send V6, send 5.12

Progress on June Goals as of 7/7:

  • Days outside: 5
  • Sport leads: 0
  • Trad leads: 0
  • Multi-pitch: 0

Goals for 2019:

  • Lead 5.11c/5.11d comfortably (sport)
  • Climb a 5.12a (sport)
  • Lead 5.8-5.9 trad comfortably
  • Send a V7 outside
  • 100 days of climbing outside
  • Lead 300 routes on real rock

Progress on Year Goals as of 6/16:

  • Lead 5.10+ comfortably (sport)
  • Lead 5.6-5.7 trad comfortably
  • Send V4/V5 outside
  • ~28/100 days of climbing outside
  • ~39/300 lead climbs on real rock



Photo sources: La Marina Plaza

Josh Cook: On Developing Crags, Self, and the Next Generation

The drill whirls about in place, boring into the soft limestone. Fine grit clouds kick out at the edges of the hole, puff, puff, puff. The walls echo with the ricochet of millions of years of solidity grinding back into individual particulates. Water droplets sizzle on stone from sweat trickling down forearm and dripping off at the wrist. 

The man at the helm is Josh Cook and he is bolting new sport lines. He’s an English teacher at an international school and he’s developing the first sport crag in Škaljari, Montenegro. 

Škaljari, Montenegro
Škaljari, Montenegro. Photo courtesy of Josh Cook.


Josh never thought he’d end up in Montenegro as a mis-fit kid in Denver, CO. 

When he told people he was thinking of going, the response was generally the same: “nobody knows where it is.” He continues, “That’s already cool. Anytime you hear of a country you don’t know anything about, then it’s very enticing. You know there’s something special there.” So off he went.

This type of adventurism is easy for him now—motorcycle trip across the Himalayas? Backpacking in the Andes? No problem—but things were different when he was young. It’s not that he was a misfit, it’s more like he felt mis-placed. 


Josh grew up as one of the few white kids in school. Not that he had a problem with it, he just stood out. Then he got a scholarship and was one of the few lower-income students in a fancy private high school. Not that it was an issue, he just didn’t quite fit in. Then he wanted to be a climber. Not that it should have been too difficult, but there weren’t many of those around.


At last, climbing was a place where he felt he belonged. He started when he was 6 and was obsessed by 16. Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: Morrison bouldering area. You know the drill.

At 18 he took a year off to travel the country and climb. He started in Yosemite. To boulder. Mis-fit as he was.

Josh in his element from a young age
Josh in his element from a young age. Photo source: On The Move


If you’re wondering how an inner-city kid from Denver ends up in Montenegro, you have to start with Yosemite. 

Yosemite Valley is an international port of call for climbers. In 2018, over four million visitors came through from 33 countries. Most come in the summer and it can be a madhouse. Especially for an 18 year old out on his own for the first time.

“I’m driving in and it’s just packed. There’s one way traffic, all these cars, rangers everywhere. I’m looking for Camp 4 and I can’t find Camp 4. At that point, it was briefly named Sunnyside Campground so I’m not seeing signs for Camp 4. I finally pull over then realize [I’m here and] you have to have to wait in a long line to get a campsite, and you have to share it with other people. I’m learning trial by fire, this whole rigamarole,” Josh recalls.

He continues, “I squeeze into Site 17 and there’s these scruffy, complete dirtbag-looking climbers. The youngest was maybe 5 years older, the oldest was probably 10 yeas older. I go, ‘oh, uh, I have to share this site with you guys.’ And they just stare at me.” The climbers were non-plussed but helped him unload nonetheless. 

Josh stayed a month and they got to know each other. They became friends. Turns out they were die hard trad climbers from the Welsh tradition. As they would go off to climb big walls, away for days at a time, Josh would be there wrestling pebbles. 

They couldn’t believe he was in Yosemite just for bouldering. Josh couldn’t believe they were climbing those walls. They opened his eyes to a larger world.

Josh's friend, Tania, bouldering in Kashmir
Josh’s friend, Tania, bouldering in Kashmir. Photo source: On The Move


One day, one of the guys hung back. 

“Neil goes, ‘I’m gonna take a rest day and boulder with you,’” Josh reflects. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘oh trad climber, he won’t know anything about bouldering, hopefully he can keep up with me.’”

Josh continues, “We’re at Curry Village, warming up on opposite sides of the boulder. He walks around to where I am, and I present what I’m working on. I was just flailing on this thing, it was like a V4 or something. When he got on it he flashed it. And not only that, he did it with such grace and ease that my jaw dropped.”

“I realized at that point my world of climbing had been all about the media and the value of recognition. [Basically,] you were a nobody if you weren’t in the magazines or at the competitions or whatever it was.” 

Of course, Neil wasn’t in the magazines.

“No one knew who he was,” Josh laments. “But he was the best climber I ever met, ever seen climb.” Back home he was known as a Dark Horse. “The best climber you’ve never heard of,” he says.

Neil still pops up from time to time in mentions, but not features.


That interaction changed everything for Josh. Neil and friends loved climbing for all that it was, and they climbed all that was available around the world. They didn’t seek notoriety, they simply did it for fun and self-improvement. 

“I really came to respect that, doing everything to the best of your ability, climbing all the different styles and disciplines, and to do it humbly. Not trying to seek attention,” Josh shares, admiration ringing in his voice.

“That shifted how I thought about my goals: to become more about being the best that I can be, and to not let it be about ego… I want to know that I can dedicate myself to challenging tasks and become better at them through the learning process,” he sums up.

Josh applies much of his lessons learned in climbing to his teaching pedagogy. 

He explains, “Teaching fits a lot of the same characteristics: constant problem solving and decision making, performance under pressure, mentorship, refining weaknesses, measuring growth and skill development (in the students and in myself), the list goes on.” 

And he teaches because in his words, “I influence the lives of youth, hopefully for the better. I help make them critical thinkers, lovers of literature, and attentive writers. I give them opportunities to be good people and work with them through the process of creating their own paths.”

He encourages that the beauty is not in the big send, but the progression towards the goal: “I describe this process to my students as: attempt, failure, reflection, refinement, and attempt again (repeat… forever). The signs that we have done that well, that we are conscious and attentive to our experiences, are what we call improvement. That awareness of our experiences is also just good living, I think.”

Josh motorcycling through the Himalayas
Josh motorcycling through the Himalayas. Photo source: On The Move


Josh has bopped around, having taught in Peru, Bhutan, Japan, Montenegro, and soon, Colombia. Wherever he goes he welcome new people into climbing, develops a local area, and finds connection through the sport.

“As you live this itinerant lifestyle, intentionally drawing away from people, it [can] prohibit you from being a part of community,” Josh says.

He goes on, “I found recently, because I’m always living everywhere, my community is climbers that I meet. It helps me feel connected to something larger.”

Climbers tend to be roamers and travelers, perpetual motion in new lands. It sounds like he’s found where he fits in.



You can read some of Josh’s writing on his blog, On The Move.

Training Journal – Bouldering (Hammond Pond, Gloucester), Trail Run: 6/24/19 – 6/30/19

Lower key week. Bouldering, a trail run.

Monday
Foam rolling + pull-up routine.

Tuesday
Walk with the dogs + chest, shoulders, arms, core.

Wednesday
Hammond Pond bouldering.

Photo by @jaredheathphotog


Thursday
Bouldering at Thee Boulder (V4/V5), big ol’ crack. New skillset (hand/ fist jamming), hard on the body. Left bruised and bloodied.

Friday
Rest day.

Saturday
Trail run with hill repeats (hiking).


Sunday
Bouldering at Thee Boulder (V4/V5), big ol’ crack. Really did a number on my body, as a carry over from Thursday.


Feature photo by @smellybagofdirt



El Penon de Ifac – Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach


What I’m working towards: My objective is to climb the Diedra UBSA in Costa Blanca, Spain in November, an 8 pitch, 5.10a PG13 mostly sport route. This trip and objective is sponsored in part by the American Alpine Club + The North Face’s Live Your Dream grant.

I first came across the Penon d’Ifach, the massive limestone block that emerges from the Balearic Sea, while researching climbing in Spain last year. The striking outcropping has stayed on my mind since.

The grant is designed to help you “level up” your skills in a specific and measurable way. For context, I started climbing more seriously in 2018, and had only done about 30 lead climbs (in the 5.10 range) when I applied. I chose this route because it combines skills I’m keen to develop: Multi-pitch climbing, traditional climbing, anchor building, and endurance (suggested time is 6-9 hours). The goal date allows for six months to incrementally develop my technique and know-how.

So far this year, I’ve: Begun leading on trad, increased time on rock (as opposed to the gym) bouldering/ sport/ trad, practiced anchor building, did one multi-pitch (albeit a short one) and practiced belaying from top.

The longer-term dream is to do big alpine climbs in the Wind River Range.


Goals for June:

  • Days outside: 10
  • Sport leads: 40
  • Trad leads: 5
  • Multi-pitch: 1
  • Grade aim: 5.10+/5.11- sport, 5.6-5.8+ trad, multi-pitch 5.8-5.9 range
  • Focus: Increase experience with leading, push grades a bit (try a few 5.11s), easy multi-pitch routes
  • Stretch goal: Send The Buttermilker (V7)

Progress on June Goals as of 6/30:

  • Days outside: 11
  • Sport leads: 22
  • Trad leads: 2
  • Multi-pitch: 0

Goals for 2019:

  • Lead 5.11c/5.11d comfortably (sport)
  • Climb a 5.12a (sport)
  • Lead 5.8-5.9 trad comfortably
  • Send a V7 outside
  • 100 days of climbing outside
  • Lead 300 routes on real rock

Progress on Year Goals as of 6/30:

  • Lead 5.10+ comfortably (sport)
  • Lead 5.6-5.7 trad comfortably
  • Send V4/V5 outside
  • ~23/100 days of climbing outside
  • ~39/300 lead climbs on real rock



Photo sources: La Marina Plaza

Of Walking in Place on the Crawford Path

Screeching trees and silent birds. Wind gusts blot out all beyond the chatter in my head. I am a cone cut off by walls of thrashing air. We are a skipper within a rushing sea, we are pods against the current, we are looking down on the world. Eyes watering.

For the next hour my ears ring with an acquired tinnitus. Emergency radio broadcast signal or post-concert hum. Chili at 10:40 and a muffin with “blueberry filling.”

“I’m tired.” “Oh me too. “Do you have to walk back down?” “No.” “Lucky.”

I lunch at a table with a view out the window that shows sky but censors everything below the sill: undulating mountains, rolling silhouettes that fade from deep blues to whites as they drift away and fall off the edge of the earth. I can’t see them but I can sketch the angular pop outs from the contours I traced with my legs on the hike up. Families gather by the glass to snap photos.

Overlooking the Lake of the Clouds



Today it’s just me and travel, me and conquest, me and stringy cheese catching in my beard. I dab my face with a paper napkin after each bite.

The air inside is stuffy and cold like a dirt cellar. I want to bounce but my body has captured the mind and I fade from the room daydreaming of sleep. 

I take my time. The passing of the clock means little beyond accumulated fatigue, or recovery in this instance. There’s no dark to beat back, no deadlines.

On the way down an older gentleman in a yellow wind jacket is battered about in the gales. He teeters on each landing, catches himself and readies for the off-balance maneuvering of the next step. He reminds me of a circus clown on stilts performing an exaggerated expectant tumble. He lets me pass.


Mount Washington ensconced in clouds


Mounds as distance markers, wind as companion, clouds as serpents slithering over crests and shadow monsters crawling on the granitic carpet. A free market landscape of vastness and motion. 

I wonder, what if I moved the world back with each step instead of pushing myself forward over its surface? How would that change things, to know you remained in place? It’s not that different than the lived experience, I decide, to feel as if everything revolves around your center of gravity.

Instead, what if you could experience the world barreling through space, or rotating on its axis? Would you feel enlarged, battered, guided by outside forces?

I’ve also heard walking described as controlled falling. 

Descending uphill, I see dots in the distance that become human presence. Approach, smile, pass, approach, smile, pass. Each is a sample of tenderness or grief or tension or levity. How are there so many emotions on the trail?


Bounding up a boulder field towards Mt. Washington


An old man in a green AMC shirt works the lodge with a gaggle of a younger generation who giggle lots, fall into summer flings, and play pop music loudly from the kitchen. 

The younger male attendant gives cleaning orders to the predominantly female staff, which consists of soapy water on floor for mopping and is met with gaiety in fulfillment. He moves to the window overlooking the west side of the ridge, a friendly companion sliding up on his right as they gaze out and talk of yesterdays ascent. They sneak intimacy in public view. She kissed him by the bathroom door, out of sight. I wonder what the old man does for companionship.


I wasn’t going for style points today, or hygiene; I’m hoping the clean boxers and shorts mask the day old damp and miasma that comes from climbing and no shower. 

Some couples have full on matching dead bird kits: raging red, athletic cut, sunglasses atop head, uniformed to showcase they are on the same team. We talk about the wind.


I got my summit photo


No Everest lines here, but plenty of eager train-goers who paid the price of admission for a summit push and mob the sign declaring top. “You should let someone who earned this view through brawn take a picture,” I think to myself. 

They are accustomed to standing on an escalator for their chance at cherry pie, elbowing about for a shot, of what I wonder? What does getting to the peak of a mountain under mechanical means mean to someone of able body? “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” and other such silly messages we display. 

Mostly I’m annoyed that people push through while I wait my turn, then take so long for photos commemorating a cheap thrill. It’s a bit like a trophy for showing up, or paying your way into Harvard. 

But maybe that’s because I relish in movement, of covering distance on my own accord, of seeing where you end up under motive power. The journey is me, the reward is my own. If I just wanted fast kicks I’d go to an amusement park. Oh curmudgeonly me…


The drive home is a route I’m getting accustomed to. Weekends at Rumney: climbing up then down, careening up then down, emotions up then down.”

Some people say they get depressed after sending a big project, “post-send blues” they call it. It’s a low after a long, hard push: of achievement and the release of emotional toil. These goals become a driving force in their life. Once achieved, there’s an overriding sense of not knowing what’s next, of what you are, and why you exist, to some extent. Mountaineers who spend 3-5 months in the Himalayas talk about re-entry to home life with similar complexity. 

I don’t experience this, but I have a micro-lull come Monday. The come down is like withdrawal, I imagine. 

Partly I feel utterly free on a good day of climbing. All concerns vanish and I wade in an ocean of unconcern until I get back. Climbing helps me reset and recalibrate. It’s a step back that let’s me see things with clear eyes, like emptying the cache in your browser and not getting guided suggestions on your every query. The history vanishes and you can attune yourself to what’s important now. 

Until next week.



Photos by the author.

Training Journal – Bouldering (Hammond Pond), Sport Climbing (Rumney), Trail run: 6/17/19 – 6/23/19

Had a lot of fun climbing at Rumney, then a big hiking day (out-and-back to Mt. Washington via the Crawford Path). I’m doing more projecting on hard sport climbs, and beginning to see what my limits are, where I need to focus time and attention in order to improve my climbing.


Monday
Bouldering @ Hammond Pond. This is the closest bouldering to home, so it will probably be my main jam for awhile.

Worked a handful of problems in the V2-V3 range, and easier stuff including some traverses. The puddingstone is a mixture of slick cobblestones which polish easily and sharper crimps. Odd amalgamation.

Tuesday
AM: Trail run.

PM: Chest, shoulders, core exercises.


Wednesday
Bouldering and some easy free solo/ high balls @ Hammond Pond. Fingers weren’t feeling great so the problems I came to do weren’t working out. Moved to easier problems and some 5.3-5.6 crack climbs.

Thursday
Rest day.

Friday
Stretching and foam roller.

Projecting on The Caged


Saturday
Climbing @ Rumney.

7 leads: Arugala Arugala (5.9+), The Maltese Falcon (5.8), Oby-Won Ryobi (5.9+), Yoda (5.9), Milktoast (5.10d), The 5.8 Crack by the Road (5.7, trad), Hippos on Parade (5.8+)

Project: The Caged (5.12d). Was able to get through the first four bolts pretty smoothly, then the crux… Tried 5-6x, wasn’t able to figure it out.

Sunday
Craword Path, out and back up to Mt. Washington. ~16 miles and ~5,000 ft. of elevation. Did it in 9 hours and 20 minutes (with rests), closer to 8 hours of moving time.



El Penon de Ifac – Parque Natural de Penyal D’Ifach


What I’m working towards: My objective is to climb the Diedra UBSA in Costa Blanca, Spain in November, an 8 pitch, 5.10a PG13 mostly sport route. This trip and objective is sponsored in part by the American Alpine Club + The North Face’s Live Your Dream grant.

I first came across the Penon d’Ifach, the massive limestone block that emerges from the Balearic Sea, while researching climbing in Spain last year. The striking outcropping has stayed on my mind since.

The grant is designed to help you “level up” your skills in a specific and measurable way. For context, I started climbing more seriously in 2018, and had only done about 30 lead climbs (in the 5.10 range) when I applied. I chose this route because it combines skills I’m keen to develop: Multi-pitch climbing, traditional climbing, anchor building, and endurance (suggested time is 6-9 hours). The goal date allows for six months to incrementally develop my technique and know-how.

So far this year, I’ve: Begun leading on trad, increased time on rock (as opposed to the gym) bouldering/ sport/ trad, practiced anchor building, did one multi-pitch (albeit a short one) and practiced belaying from top.

The longer-term dream is to do big alpine climbs in the Wind River Range.


Goals for June:

  • Days outside: 10
  • Sport leads: 40
  • Trad leads: 5
  • Multi-pitch: 1
  • Grade aim: 5.10+/5.11- sport, 5.6-5.8+ trad, multi-pitch 5.8-5.9 range
  • Focus: Increase experience with leading, push grades a bit (try a few 5.11s), easy multi-pitch routes
  • Stretch goal: Send The Buttermilker (V7)

Progress on June Goals as of 6/23:

  • Days outside: 9
  • Sport leads: 17
  • Trad leads: 2
  • Multi-pitch: 0

Goals for 2019:

  • Lead 5.11c/5.11d comfortably (sport)
  • Climb a 5.12a (sport)
  • Lead 5.8-5.9 trad comfortably
  • Send a V7 outside
  • 100 days of climbing outside
  • Lead 300 routes on real rock

Progress on Year Goals as of 6/23:

  • Lead 5.10+ comfortably (sport)
  • Lead 5.6-5.7 trad comfortably
  • Send V4/V5 outside
  • ~21/100 days of climbing outside
  • ~34/300 lead climbs on real rock



Photo sources: La Marina Plaza, Rumney photos via @ryan_rezendes