Aid-climbing, exams and injuries

Upon checking the date of my last post I just realized that it was March since I last wrote. When I first started this blog, in the middle of my Part 3, my worry was that I wouldn’t be doing anything fun enough/often enough to keep the blog alive. Now I appear to have the opposite problem. I have been far too busy doing fun things to have enough time to sit down and write about them. This is obviously not a complaint, its just that given I can turn a long days adventure into a healthy sized blog post it will require some hard work on my part to be concise about whats been going on over the last couple of months. Here goes my effort.

Firstly I should start by saying that I did get out and have a really fun day of climbing that day back in March that I mentioned in my last blog when discussing the worth of gambling with the weather. And the day before that, the day I sat and wrote the blog, was probably the last day I had a considerable amount of time (at least a full morning or afternoon) at home in the city to sit down in front of my computer and write.

Mostly the weather has been pretty compliant and allowed for a consistent amount of getting out on rock. The season felt like it was  kick started properly (outwith the trickles of fun but inconsistent days squeezed in throughout the end of winter and shoulder season) when the sun gods rained down on Squamish for a whole weekend and Pauly and I took the opportunity to head up to Murrin on Friday night and camp over in the Chief campsite for the whole weekend. With our beds only an hour or so away in Vancouver this is a rare but fun endeavor. The weekend was a great start to getting psyched for Squamish climbing with a mixed bag of Friday evening sport at Pet wall, attempting routes way too hard for me at Quercus on Saturday with the crag developer herself on hand as a trusty rope gun and getting inspired by strong people trying really hard despite my own comparatively flailing attempts. Sunday saw more of our Vancouver crew join us for a relaxed day trying to find available routes in the smoke bluffs. I happily took the rope gun roll myself (if its justifiable to self-proclaim oneself a ‘rope-gun’ on 10 minus?? Yeah I thought not) and enjoyed a mixed bag of off the beaten track ‘bluffs’ routes. A yet to fail mixture of good people, good climbing and general Squamish campground antics of beer drinking and chilling in the howe sound brew pub allowed for a fantastic weekend.

10c thin slab start variation – I fell off! – to a 5.8/9 crack climb at tunnel rock, a slight smoke bluffs backwater but fun climbing away from the crowds non the less

Next unfortunately came my LEED exam. As part of my new job with PW and their admirable commitment to sustainability I am contracted to become a LEED Approved Person (AP) within a year of employment. LEED is a rating system that recognizes standards of green building and in my opinion is a very useful process for dragging the construction industry toward a goal of using resources more sustainably and becoming more environmentally responsible. I feel lucky that PW back the system so proactively.

The first step before attaining my AP though is a simpler but still time demanding exam called the GA. Whilst I am in favor of backing the push toward sustainability I use the adjective ‘unfortunately’ at the start of this paragraph because, lets face it, sitting in to study for an exam kind of clashes with the other side of my outdoor adventure seeking life in a big way. Although I only dedicated a few weekend days and a couple of mid week evenings (for nearly a month) to be able to pass this exam, it definitely felt enough of a burden to feel like I had been set free into the sunshine the month of May brought along when I had finished and passed.

Thankfully I got to celebrate this new found freedom with an imminent sport climbing trip to Skaha over the long weekend. With a half-hearted commitment to doing more early season sport as a means of pushing my climbing early on, I was trying some new training techniques down the wall to prepare, in and among studying. This was helped along with a healthy training psyche and knowledge injection from Duncan and he encouraged me to build some power endurance on the campus board whilst working my weaknesses on the systems board.

The location of the Skaha bluffs, about a 4-5hr drive from Vancouver, in the desert setting of the Okanagan, BC

Unfortunately my stupidly tight muscles and poor posture prevail in my form when trying to train, despite Colleen trying to ‘fix’ me with some superb physio knowledge, This left me going to Skaha feeling like a broken woman from over training and I was hunched with neck and back pain and niggling finger injuries.

Nevertheless Skaha was a fun time and I think the biggest positive I can take from it is that I got back into the rhythm of being comfortable taking falls and giving things a good hard go, despite feeling a little deflated that my conceived efforts through ‘training’ and pushing it were thwarted by injury and this didn’t result in as much success as I’d hoped. It was also awesome due to the great times I had kicking about with the humorous duo of Lenny and Tyler and getting to stay in the secret shack that Tyler had keys to (which meant we could avoid the madness of staying at the Banbury campsite). This brought along some added antics involving trying to fix the shacks plumbing as it presented a new problem to solve each day, requiring yet another trip to Canadian-Tire for plumbing supplies pre and post crag – good banter. We never did get a hot shower though and returned to Vancouver after 4days of dirt-bagging….a fragrant bunch!

Len unimpressed at discovering why the water tank was not able to hold water!

I couldn’t contribute much to the plumbing but my fire building skills were deemed a hit as everyone was keen to warm up the cold shack before bed

Since returning from Skaha and pushing on through in the indoor gym I realised my finger niggle had developed into something more debilitating and I laid off the training immediately, unable to pull on anything hard, including jugs since my finger appeared to be tender to pressure of any kind!

I’ve had a few niggling finger injuries over the past 6-8months and despite this I don’t get any better at dealing with them. Let’s face it, its pretty hard to not get down when you aren’t able to go and do the things you love to the best of your abilities because of injury and I was definitely feeling a little down-beat about this. Especially since I was, at one point, making a concerted effort to do relevant stretches, massage techniques and adjustments to my everyday posture in a hope to loosen my overly tight muscles and gain a better form when training hard and ultimately, prevent injury.

Thankfully Duncan’s relatively recent arrival (late March) in Vancouver brought a new burst of mountain biking psyche back into my life. And even more thankfully you can still fling yourself down trails on two wheels with a bust finger. Duncan’s frustration at his un-cooperative days off induced him to buy a van and suggest some squeezed in adventures (sometimes the best kind!) between finishing work on a Friday late afternoon and starting on Saturday mid morning.

MPV’s are wasted on the school run! We piled the bikes, climbing and camPing gear into the back at Taylor way and hit the road

 

On our first outing in the ‘soccer mum Van’ I met Duncan after work at Taylor Way where obviously the weather turned immediately from glorious sunshine to pish-down rain within minutes of us both leaving our respective workplaces! We felt like the cats that had the cream though when the sun came out again long enough to let a handful of routes in Murrin Park and the Smoke-bluffs to be climbed. This gave Duncan his first taste of Squamish granite and crack for that matter and me the chance to lead some nice accessible routes that would probably otherwise be too busy to get on. It also gave opportunity to realise my finger was up to climbing again, even if it was moderate trad, I was happy enough with that!

Racking up for a couple of routes at ‘Bog Wall’ a small wee car-park crag at Murrin, worthwhile enough between rain showers for sure!

After a successful climbing evening we kipped overnight in the Van and woke early to bag the infamous ‘Half-Nelson’ trail on the mtb’s before most folk had eaten breakfast! By far my favorite trail in BC so far and all before Duncan returned to North Van to see out a shift in the bike shop. Great mini adventure!

For me the weekend had just started too as instead of heading back to the city with Duncan I met Paulie in Squamish for a day of kick starting our aid-affair. Psyched for making some big walling in the Valley (Yosemite) happen at the end of the season we decided we had better start getting in some practice. After ‘warming-up’ on a nice short route at Spiderfly crag in the bluffs trying to work out which end of the Ascenders you put on the rope again, we decided to graduate to the big time – zombie roof!

Since Pauly had aided it before, I went for the ‘on-sight’ on lead and he followed on the Jumars. It was an ordeal to say the least!! I was incredibly slow and pretty intimidated swinging around in my aiders below the huge roof and turning it was a whole other matter of difficulty! But it was a great experience of problem solving non-the-less and thankfully only seemed to wet our appetite for improving and becoming quicker and more efficient. To be fair though, we both agreed that it would be hard not to better our speed ascent record of 3.5hours (2 hours on lead for me and 1.5hrs for Pauly to clean it!)….we’ll be back!

Unfortunately in all the time we had we didn’t get any photos of us aiding the Zombie, but here is a much cooler picture of someone freeclimbing it in much drier conditions than when we got on it, gives quite a good indication of how horizontal and colossal the route is though

Keen to continue our practice as a big-walling team; Paulie and I hit up Leavenworth for the long weekend. I had never been before and was intrigued to climb in a new place over the border on new rock, but even more intrigued to find out what this little American town, whose economy is derived from making an incredibly kitsch simulacrum to a psuedo Bavarian ski-town was going to be like. I can report that Sausage and Laderhosen were a hit, if a little bizarre and Leavenworth is a must for any Vancouver based rock climber.

Leavenworth in all its Bavarian kitsch glory!

Continuing with the theme of honing skills as a big-wall team Paulie and I were pretty psyched for getting in a long day of multi-pitching whilst we were down in the states; to get the change over efficiency dialed and practice leading in blocks. We headed to snow creek wall with the ambition of doing two routes (both of which were about 4-6 pitches long). I started us off on Orbit, the supposed classic 5.8 of the crag with the idea that I would lead the whole route (as a ‘block’) fixing each pitch so that Paulie could jug the line to clean it for practice. All was going swimmingly until some route finding issues on pitch 4 made progress slow and disconcerting. The route ended up having a couple of extra pitches to it not described in the guide but was all-in-all a thoroughly enjoyable outing. If you go to do this route just know that as you turn the corner on pitch four (supposedly the last pitch) to see what was a slightly confusing 80m sea of rock in-front of you, keep going it is the right way despite the guide book’s ambiguity!

The backside of snow creek wall seen from the Valley

Suffice to say the extra time taken to do what should have been a reasonably straight forward route thwarted our ideas of getting in a second long route of the day. We still deemed the outing incredibly successful though as we both learned a lot and above this there was some great climbing on Orbit, just be aware that its challenges, as with most alpine-feel climbing, are not the climbing moves but the decision making and route finding that come with it!

Unfortunately the Leavenworth trip had a sad end to it with me picking up yet another injury – my foot popped on a polished hold whilst I had an awkward yet bomber thumbs down hand-jam in above my head and this held taking all my wait through my elbow. If the pain wasn’t enough of an indicator that I’d done something damaging the crunching noise definitely gave it away.

The week following Leavenworth was an incredibly busy work week and also my birthday. Therefore fortunately I didn’t have much time for adventurous activities and having an elbow injury wasn’t as obviously frustrating as it may have been. It was however quite hard to fully extend the joint and painful to contract again which made drinking beer a little challenging but in birthday spirits I managed to push on through.

Following an entertainingly late Friday-night birthday bbq celebration I had ambitiously agreed to meet Paulie the next morning and head to Squamish to get some more aid practice in. As I careened through the smoke bluff trails sustaining a high blood alcohol content and somehow managing to supress the need to spew I was quitely impressed at our dedication to practicing big walling and actually really enjoyed leading a few pitches of aid – albeit pretty slowly. Although the speed is not increasing too noticebly yet, I have already noticed both Pauly and I becoming much more comfortable and used to being in aid mode which is encouraging – I think I may have found my new hangover cure!

Paulie aiding a pretty damp ‘Elephantitis’ in the smoke bluffs the day after my birthday celebrations

So now with a slowly healing elbow and ever niggling fingers I’m pushing on with the climbing season with slightly different focus. My projects aren’t going anywhere and whilst the desire to go and climb as hard as I can is still burning I am managing to survive on getting out lots on easier multi-pitch (as hard as my elbow will endure) technical slab pitches and progressing with aid practice. In an attempt to convince myself that I’m not too disappointed about having yet another injury, I’ll end by saying its probably a good thing to have to take a step sideways (backwards would be too negative?), re-evaluate some training and form techniques and hit the Valley and El-Cap preparations hard!

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