Thursday, March 31, 2011

Running and Homo Sapiens


There are two things which are absolutely primal.  We human beings have been doing them for thousands of years.  We could not have survived without doing these things.  The first is running.  I’m sure you can guess what the second thing is.  But you need a partner for that.  You can run alone.

I am always surprised at people who say they can’t run.  Everyone can run with some practice.  All children run.  At what point did you grow up and stop?  If it has been a long time since you have been running, the key is to start out slow.  As soon as our early ancestors could stand on two legs they began running.  They ran for hunting, to escape danger, and to travel long distances.  It’s hard to believe that sometime in our recent history, we got to the point where people avoid running at all costs.  Even today, running is absolutely vital.  Whether trying to make it to class on time or escaping danger.  You will not ride an elliptical machine away from someone attacking you!

Today I went for my first training run for the marathon and wrote out a training plan.  Usually the more detailed the plan is, the less likely it is to be followed.  I will let you all know in a few weeks how it is going.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Time to dust off the bike


Today I finally went for a bike ride.  I have been waiting for a nice warm day with plenty of sunshine.  It never came so I just went out today.  It was 23 miles to downtown Annapolis and back.  The cold wind in my face felt great, the cold wind blowing through my shorts not so great.  I can’t wait to get a nice long ride in… maybe this weekend?



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's on my rock climbing rack now?


A rack is an ever evolving thing.  If your rack is not moving forward, then it’s standing still.  Pieces get lost, stuck, and dropped.  New gear comes out in all it’s shiny goodness.  It must adapt to the climbs of the day.  It must be organized for maximum efficiency.  This is my rack, there are many like it, but this one is mine. 

I welcome questions, comments, and criticisms.



One set of Black Diamond Micros, one set of Black Diamond Stoppers, several booty nuts, and one set of Wild Country Rockcentrics.  Racked on Wild Country Astros or Omega Pacific Dovals.



Black, green, and grey CCH Aliens.  Blue and Yellow Metolius Master Cams.  Racked on Wild Country Astros.



Black Diamond C4 from .5-3 racked on Wild Country Astros.


Omega Pacific Link Cams full set racked on Wild Country Astros.



Camp Tricams from .25-2 and a Black Diamond C4 #4.  Racked on an Omega Pacific Doval and a Wild Country Astro.



One dozen Wild Country Helium quick draws.



8 single length “trad draws” made with a 24 inch Black Diamond nylon runner and 2 Wild Country helium's.  2 double length draws made with a 48 inch Black Diamond nylon runner and 2 Wild Country Helium's.

First experience with the Silent Partner

I read this somewhere…
“Roped soloing is twice as dangerous, three times the work, and four times as scary...”
This Sunday I was planning to head out to Buzzard Rocks for a day of slab climbing.  I was supposed to meet people at 6am, which meant waking up at 4:30 since I was almost an hour drive away.  In hindsight, it’s not a good idea to stay up until 1am watching Star Trek: TNG when you have to wake up early.  I missed the alarm and in a moment of spontaneity I went out to Annapolis Rocks and played around with some roped soloing systems. 
Snapshot 1 (3-22-2011 9-54 PM)
I bought a Rock Exotica Silent Partner a few weeks ago and never got an opportunity to try it out.  I bought it because I am planning to move to somewhere with some close climbing, and I want to be able to get out on the rock anytime without looking for a partner.
Snapshot 2 (3-22-2011 9-55 PM)
I ended up leading 3 pitches with Silent Partner.  I also top-rope-soloed 4 pitches with a Trango Cinch.
Note: Although the Silent Partner is designed for roped soloing, the Cinch is in no way shape or form recommended for roped soloing by Trango.
My thoughts:
  • It works.  It feeds great, it will catch you if you fall, it does everything that it’s advertised to do.  Generally you can’t feel the difference (vs. a belayer) while climbing.
  • It’s peaceful.  There is nobody to talk to, no sounds but the ones you make.  You go at your own pace whether fast or slow.  You climb when you want for as long as you want.
  • Properly backing yourself up is a royal pain in the a**.  If you do it by the manual, you spend close to half the time messing around with backups.  Pretty soon I realized that I’d rather not be climbing than climbing with these annoying backups.  I guess it depends on your personal sphere of risk.
  • It is very difficult to clip the rope to pro above your waist.  This is probably something I shouldn’t be doing too much anyway.  But getting extra slack is difficult.
  • It’s slow.  Everything takes longer.  Just making sure it’s all rigged up correctly eats up time.  In addition you have to make a bombproof anchor at the bottom as well as the top.  You have to do everything yourself without a partner to help out – including carrying the gear in yourself.  You have to climb every pitch twice, and rap every pitch twice.  However – much like everything – practice will get you faster and better.
  • You definitely can’t climb as hard as normal.  It takes extra time to clip the rope when leading.  Also the confidence wasn't there to "go for it".  This may improve with practice.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you f*** up you’re on your own.
The Silent Partner is a great tool, but is one of many.  It is not to replace climbing with partners.  I plan to continue exploring the many different realms of solo climbing.

What's the rush?

This is an awesome post from Will Gadd.

It seems I have been hearing about lots of falls on ice lately.  I hear a lot of stories from people who came within an inch of falling but managed to pull through.  Alternatively, I hear about people falling and coming away without a scratch.  This negative reinforcement is a very dangerous thing.  Lead climbing on ice is a serious activity and should be undertaken only by those with solid bodies, minds, and technique.  Two out of three won't cut it.  With luck, you could be climbing for the rest of your life.  Why rush it?  There is simply no good reason to jump on lead your first ice season.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Harrisburg Marathon, 238 days and counting

Just registered for the Harrisburg Marathon!!!

I'm doing a marathon in a different city every year. I'm going to train harder, longer, and better this year. I am not going to have a chest cold 2 weeks before race day. I am not getting leg cramps at mile 15. 238 days til the race.... its on now!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What motivates YOU to climb?

If you knew you would never climb any harder than you do now, would you keep climbing?

Is it the journey or the destination?  I hate to get all  philosophical, but I have to wonder.  I met a man once who had been really into climbing and then he completely quit.  If you ever go on eBay and look up climbing gear you know what I'm talking about.  It's the people selling off a whole rack at once.  He told me that he realized he would never climb 5.10, so he took up cycling instead.

Ask yourself:

Do you have just as much fulfillment from climbing something easy versus pushing yourself?
Do you train for climbing with non-climbing workouts?
Do you prefer to climb with people who will climb at a certain difficulty level?
Do you ever feel like you should be better at climbing considering the amount of effort you put into it?
Did you jump into lead climbing and trying to do climbs much more difficult than what you're ready for?

I'm not trying to "diss" anybody!  We all climb because it's fun!  But why is it fun for you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Annapolis Rocks

I had a short but fun day at Annapolis Rocks.  If there's one word that sums the place up is ROOFS.  Plenty of big and small roofs for everyone's enjoyment.  It's near Frederick Maryland.  Enjoy the video!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail bit by bit

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,181 mile continuous footpath extending from Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine.  The AT is a popular trail for hikers all year long, but every year a select group of people decide to thru-hike it - walk the entire trail.  This can be a life changing experience.  They spend 5-6 months on the trail, spending time alone with their own thoughts or hanging out with other hikers.  Many people also hike the trail in sections, they are called section-hikers.  These people either have no wish to spend 6 months hiking or can't because of other committments.  In either case, it is no easy task to walk 2,181 miles.

Ever since I knew what the AT was, I wanted to hike the whole thing.  One day I will thru-hike the trail, but for the moment I am section hiking it.  To date I have hiked 260 miles - I have a long way to go!  Actually the total number of miles I have actually walked might be double that.  I usually do out and back hikes, where I hike the same section on the return trip.  I have also repeated several sections that I liked.

trail running on the AT

On the trail people bring camping gear, and can generally stop and camp at any point (although sometimes not legally).  It is far easier to stay at the shelters though.  These are located 5-15 miles apart and provide a nice place to camp, without having to set up a tent.  There are downsides to staying at the shelters though.  For one thing there are mice, and you must protect your food from them.  For another, it can be noisy if there are other hikers there.

Typical shelter

I am always amazed at the people I meet on the trail, they are from all walks of life.  However, when they are on the trail - they assume another identity.  Thru-hikers have trail names and will introduce themselves with their trail names on the trail.  In fact, many thru-hikers don't know their hiking friends real names.

Turtle and Trailbug

My own hike of the trail has been a mixture of traditonal overnight backpacking, day hiking, and trail running.  I can usually get the most miles in trail running, often doing 20+ miles in a day.  However there is just something nice about staying overnight on the trail.  Relaxing by a campfire after a hard day on the trail, that is what backpacking is all about.

The AT is blazed with rectangular white blazes.  If you want to hike the entire trail, just follow them and don't stop until you get to Maine!

If you would like to do a hike on the AT I suggest you get a guidebook.  The one I recommend is called The AT Guide.  It has all the logistical information on the trail that you need.  And remember, hike your own hike!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A great day at the Reflector Oven, Old Rag Virginia

Last Sunday I got out on rock for the first time this season.  For the record it had been 3 months 20 days since I last went rock climbing.  I did not get out on plastic, or bouldering, or any kind of rock climbing.  Actually I did go ice climbing 2 times for a total of 6 pitches.  I joined up with a group from the Potomac Mountain Club and we loaded up my car with 5 people and headed for Old Rag Mountain. 

Old Rag is part of Shenandoah National Park and is near the town of Sperryville Va.  To get there you want to park at the Berry Hollow trailhead.  Then you take the dirt road uphill.  There will eventually be a turn on the right onto a proper trail.  You continue up the trail - steeply uphill - until you get to the summit of Old Rag.  You will pass two day shelters on the way.  Once you get to the sign pointing out the summit, you have to keep going on a meandering trail through, over, and under boulders.  Eventually you start heading downhill again and you will find yourself among the forest once more.  Then you look for a trail heading downhill to the right, which is near a 3 trunked tree.  All this takes just under 2 hours.... if you know where you are going.

Strawberry Fields 5.9

 Once you get to the base of the cliff, you should immediately stand back in awe of Strawberry Fields. It is an awesome looking hand crack that stretches on straight up through a very blank wall.  This might be the best hand crack in the states of Virginia and West Virginia combined (yes including the New River Gorge).  The grade is 5.9, but it's more of a super sustained 5.8.

Report to Sickbay 5.10c
Our group was quite large and there were many leaders among us.  I can tell you that I'm probably the dumbest of them all because nobody else decided to get on Report to Sickbay for their first climb of the season.  It goes at 5.10c, and was wet, awkward, and difficult.  I had quite a time at the crux which was to exit the chimney and get out on the crack above.  However once again I did prove that with a good belayer I can pretty much get to the top of anything.

Later that day I decided to re-climb it again on top-rope to at least prove to myself that I could do the moves in sequence.  I made short work of it the second time.  When will I learn to not warm-up on the hardest climb of the day?

One last thing, if you go to Old Rag to do some crack climbing, please tape up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nylon slings, why did I go back?

This year I've decided to go with nylon slings for trad climbing.  I bought some Black Diamond nylon runners which are cheap and will do the job fine.  What I had been using previously were the "shoestring" Mammut 8mm slings.  These are the ones that everyone has, and there's a good reason, they are very light, compact, and strong.  I had 16 of them which I wanted to see if I could sell.  I tried asking around and nobody wanted them.  It turns out people don't like to buy used climbing gear.  So I put them on ebay and sold them all in one day.

Nylon Pros:
1. cheap as hell
2. much better elastic properties
3. the ability to tie knots and connect slings with hitches
4. can substitute for cord when making friction knots (kleimheist and autoblock)

Nylon Cons:
1. weight
2. bulk

In my mind the pros far outweigh the cons.  For most trad climbs I only carry 4-8 slings so it was a pretty minimal weight gain.

Here is what DMM says about Nylon vs Spectra.