Sometimes Training Just Sucks

Well, someone had to say it.

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You know all those insta pics of your fave looking tone and fresh after a 5-hour session at the gym? Whenever I see those I can’t help but think: you have been doing this 4 days a week since you were 7, aren’t you sick of it already?

Catch em on the right day I’d bet the answer is yes. Because sometimes training just sucks.

I’ve been in the gym training for spring climbing. In a few weeks I am headed to the Red and after that, I’m off to Greece for tufa climbing on the island of Kalymnos. No matter how hard I try, my bf will not let me forget that both of those places are made up of primarily 70 ft overhanging climbs. Although I think of myself as a route climber, I’m definitely not a strong climber on steep walls.

Through the years of climbing, I’ve taken a leisurely approach to training. Basically what that means is that I *didn’t* train during my first 3 years of climbing. I just climbed.

As my goals became loftier (mixed climb The Nose in October?) I began to realize that I could no longer take a back seat approach to progress. I had to train. Which meant less fun and more work. Which is how I got here, whining about my sore arms on the internet.

Usually, when I get to this place in any passion (the part where you have to put real work in) I give up on it. Then I look back and think, what would it have been like if I had given that my all? This time I decided not to do that. I decided to throw myself into it. You know what I realized?

Somedays I don’t want to see another climbing pic on Instagram.

Somedays I want to officially retire from climbing.

Somedays I’d rather eat a mayo sandwich than put my hands on another piece of sandpaper-coated-plastic.

Somedays I’d rather give up.

But through this process, I’ve realized there is a difference between training and doing. Sure, training is boring and gritty and frustrating and tedious and, did I mention, boring? Somedays training sucks.

But do you know what doesn’t suck?
Being able to climb more than 2 pitches on a trip to Greece.

You know what else doesn’t suck?
Results.

Perhaps climbing ONLY the overhang every gym session from now until April (read: forever) isn’t that fun, and it isn’t that glamorous, but if it gets you to where you want to go, if it gets you out there doing the thing you love doing,  it just might be worth it. The grit gets you to achieving your goals in the end.

And that most definitely does not suck.

So here’s to 5 more weeks of perpetual pump.

B

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I Filmed Myself Bouldering and Here’s What I Learned

So the year is 2017. And I have just started to like bouldering.
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I started climbing a couple years ago. Most of my time was spent top-roping at Adventure Rock (my home gym) in Brookfield. One thing I always loved about climbing was how easy it can be to measure progress. In one year I went from struggling on 5.9 to sending 5.11. And then? I plateaued.

For most of 2016, I didn’t get much stronger as a climber. Simply going to the gym and putting time in on the walls wasn’t cutting it anymore. Climbing became more frustrating as time went on because I became increasingly more annoyed at my lack of progress. So in 2017, I set some goals: Send a 5.12 sport route, send 5.10 on trad, and learn to love bouldering and training.

So far, I’m really siked on my progress. I’ve managed to commit to 3-4 gym sessions a week  (barring a forearm injury and a comp injury a friend so kindly called “jack-back”), I’m climbing harder boulders, and I’m(literally) inching my way towards climbing 5.12 in the gym.

But here’s something I’ve noticed: It can be really difficult to know where you need to improve. So more-or-less by accident, I ended up filming myself bouldering yesterday and I gleaned some interesting information. Here’s what I learned from watching myself boulder:

  1. I need to climb smarter
    To put it simply, I’m burning myself out with some of my movements. Lack of precision and carelessness in my movements builds up fatigue over time. Although this may be more important on a sport route, it’s also really important for me in bouldering because strength is not my greatest asset as a climber.
  2. Work. That. Core.
    Yep. I need more core strength. It’s starting to look like 1 ab workout a week isn’t going to cut it. Bouldering is ALL about core. It shows in my climbing, and it’s even more obvious in my hands because they take on the stress when my core can’t keep up (hence my recent injuries).
  3. I get into a bind. A lot.
    I don’t spend a ton of time reading projects before I try them. I think this can result in a waste of energy. Sometimes it’s hard to think of new approaches to twisty problems but I think a lot of energy could be saved by learning to read routes a bit better.

Overall this was a really fun experiment. I’d love to try it again in the future and see how I’ve progressed! Getting stronger has been really fun (since I finally feel old enough to have a healthy attitude about it). In some ways climbing goals can seem silly, or just unimportant in the grander scheme of things, but it’s definitely helping me push my mindset and my athleticism in a new direction.

Give this a try, and let me know the results in the comments!

Three Knots You Should Know Before You Start Climbing Outdoors

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  1. The 8 Knot.
    This knot is an essential climbing knot. Most likely, you know how to climb an 8 knot if you’ve climbed at your local gym. This is generally the first knot climbers learn when they learn how to belay and rope up. What most new climbers don’t realize is how vital this knot is in outdoor climbing. It can be used on a bite to clean anchors on sport routes, and it can also be used in a bind if you need a safe knot for anchor building, or protection. This knot tightens as you load it, which makes it incredibly safe. It is often used as a master point on belay anchors because its such a sturdy knot. Its an important knot to remember because if you have nothing else you always always have the 8 knot in a moment of desperation or second guessing. Its the most important knot in your arsenal. You should know how to tie one like you know how to tie your shoes.n_clovehitch1-3-653x349
  2. The Clove Hitch
    “Just hitch it!” someone shouts above you as they tell you to tie a piece of gear to the rope and send it up to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in this scenario, uncomfortably trying to remember just how to a hitch works. The clove hitch is an incredibly versatile knot because you can tie it mid-line on your rope, and its adjustable. This is a big deal for setting anchors. Generally hitches are used to link 3 points on an anchor or to send carabeeners or gear to another person. I’ve used this knot countless times to make myself more comfortable on a top belay. Once you have you PAS in direct to your anchor, you generally cannot (and should NEVER) adjust it. So if you are too far away from the anchor, you can hitch yourself closer if you’ve misjudged distance. Its also essential on climbers where you have more than two climbers on a rope and both people need to go in direct to an anchor. This goes on forever! This knot is so important to know. Its a quick tie, it adjusts, and its safe, so its can come in handy if you need something quickly that requires little hassle.tying-a-butterfly-knot
  3. The Alpine Butterfly
    The butterfly is a knot that is important for multi-pitch climbing. It allows you to tie in safely mid-line. This works especially well if you are climbing with more than two people. I did the entire climb on half dome on a butterfly because one of my partners was tied into the bottom of the rope. Its an easy knot to learn, but it takes practice to do it quickly and efficiently. This is a good one to practice over and over with a bite of rope anytime you have down time.

 

WMN of Camp 4: Sybille Hetchel

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Some climbers we hear of constantly. They are the face of every climbing magazine, blow up your twitter feed, and practically have their own section of Rock and Ice. But some climbers accomplish amazing feats and remain basically nameless to the wider climbing community. This is Sybille Hetchel.

If you happened to read my earlier article you might know that Sybille is one half of the first female ascent of El Capitan. Her and Bev Johnson completed the climb in 1973. You probably don’t know that Sybille still climbs and has climbed on and off for much of her life since.

Hetchel started climbing in the valley in 1971. Before that she had very little experience climbing outdoors. She quickly befriended Bev Johnson and under her teaching began to master the skills needed for Big Wall climbing. The two of them ascended El Cap in 1973.

Sybille has lived in the valley on and off since those years. At one time she volunteered in the valley, lived, and climbed. Eventually her position was removed and she was forced to leave the valley.

In 2013 Hetchel returned to the valley. At nearly 60 years old, she still worked on difficult free climbs in El Cap. One of these climbs included an ascent of the Nose in a day, a feat that has only been achieved by 2 other people in climbing history. So far her attempt has been unsuccessful, but its still an incredible goal.

Sybille Hetchel is a living legend. She is proof that climbing life and big goals can be set no matter where you are at in life. She’s one of the big reasons the sport is accessible to so many women today. Thanks for being rad and still sending Sybille!

 

 

Local Interviews: LORA LANGOWSKI FEMALE CLIMBER EXTRODINAIRE

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Local baddass and climbing legend Lora Langowski sat down with me in our kitchen to answer a few questions about what makes her so fantastic. From trad climbs in Yosemite to leavin the boys at home Lora has got the low-down on how to climb hard and stay rad.

B: How did you get into climbing?

L: The first time I tried climbing was in a climbing gym in California. It was really fun but I was moving a week later. I wanted to find a place to climb back home. There was a Groupon for Adventure Rock so me and my coworker signed up for a 6-week trial and I never stopped! #whereyouradventuresbegin

B: What do you think is your biggest accomplishment in climbing so far?

L: That’s tough. Probably the moment when I realized I knew enough to do things on my own (like set anchors, etch) without having dudes feel like they needed to tell me what to do.
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(Lora in her natural habitat- our kitchen) 
B: What is your current goal in climbing?

L: My winter goal is to get on a more strict training regimen and stay strong for outside climbing season comes back around.

B: What advice would you give to new female climbers who are just starting out?

L: Find a partner who you enjoy climbing with and who is encouraging. Someone you can have fun with. Don’t worry about how well you think you’re doing or some shit like that. Have fun. If you enjoy it, keep doing.

B: I want to talk more about leaving the boys at home…

L: Yeah

B: Sometimes that can be hard, because boys know how to do the stuff

L: Yeah, I don’t know why their the ones who’ve gotta..ya know…

B: What do you think is the best way for women to learn outdoor climbing skills without relying on dates or boyfriends? 

L: Go to the gym, find some girls who look like they know what their doing and just put yourself out there. Most people, if you are willing to ask, are probably willing to teach you. You want to make your fellow ladies empowered.

B: Do you think that women are a bit more obligated to take on the role of mentor because their are so few of them?

L: I don’t think that its like a standard feeling that everyone feels. I enjoy helping other people and teaching other people things. But I don’t necessarily feel like I’m the one approaching others, but I am willing to take people out and show them how to do things. I think it can seem intimidating to approach women who you think are good climbers to help you out, but once you do you realize they are cool and its not so scary.

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B: On your recent trip to Yosemite what was your favorite climb?

L: Definitely Mungenilla. I spent all summer honing my trad climbing skills so I could do this climb by myself. After a summer of climbing and getting scared I was able to do it and work through all the scary parts. It was rad because I had my BFF with me the whole way!

B: Thanks for talking with us Lora, you’re rad!

L: You’re rad!

B: See you around the kitchen

L: Yep, see you around. Probably be holding a cat or two.

 

 

WMN Climbing: Finding a Climbing Partner

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Climbing naturally lends itself to finding a climbing partner. This is an aspect of it that can be intimidating for a lot of people. One thing I’ve noticed a lot around the gym and at the crag is that very often when women climb its with boyfriends or husbands. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that. But finding a female climbing partner can be incredibly beneficial in many ways.

Women face a lot of the same setbacks and advantages when it comes to climbing. Climbing with a female partner helps me gain beta on certain climbs that I couldn’t regularly. I climb with my boyfriend too, but he climbs in a totally different way than I do. One time we were climbing in the Red River Gorge and he tried to give me beta on a move I was struggling on. His beta made the climb so much more difficult that I had to rest. This rarely happens with female partners because they climb much the same way I do. Its also incredibly fun (and important) to have a climbing partner that climbs at your level. This automatically builds patience into the learning process for outdoor climbing. If you are both very safe and aware of the risks, it can help that both partners need to learn practice the same skills. This way one person isn’t always setting the anchors and the other person never learns. Mostly, its just really fun! In the last few decades its become more commonplace to see all female climbing teams, but before that it was almost unheard of.

When I first started climbing I found it incredibly difficult to find someone who would show me the “ropes” (pun intended) of outdoor climbing. Setting anchors for top-ropes, learning gear, and reading guidebooks were all things I had little to no experience with. These are things that are very difficult to teach yourself. For the first two years of climbing I was primarily an indoor climber for this reason. That was until I met Lora.

Lora was one of the few women I knew who could set a top-rope anchor and who had a set of her own climbing stoppers. As we continued to climb through the season, Lora began to learn more about trad gear. By October, Lora had led her first route in Yosemite. A 5.6 called Mungenella. Climbing in an all female team is a really great feeling. Here are a few ways to meet women climbers in your area.

1. Find a climbing group.
Most gyms, especially in big cities, will be a meeting place for all kinds of groups. In Milwaukee we have the Women’s Climbing Collaborative . I’ve noticed many groups use Facebook pages over websites. Don’t be afraid to ask the front desk staff if they know of any unaffiliated groups that meet at the gym. Odds are they probably do!

2. Use Meetup
Meetup is an excellent tool for meeting new people. To meet other climbers on Meetup, sometimes you have to get creative. In Milwaukee there is a group that focuses on outdoor adventures (kayaking, cycling winter camping, even hiking to Mount Everest). Often they will have a small Meetup at the gym.

3. Sign up for a class.
Classes are an excellent way to meet a climbing partner. Why? Because odds are the person you are meeting in a class is around the same level of climber as you are. It always helps to have a climbing partner who pushes you and challenges you and is learning some of the same things you are. If you are just starting out find a intro belay class. Gyms often offer a variety of classes where you can easily meet new people!

4. Ask someone to climb with you.
This is the scariest option but this is also the way I’ve met almost every one of my climbing friends. The most surefire way to meet a new person at the climbing gym is to ask someone climbing on auto-belays if they want to be belayed on something. I’ve never been turned down! This was how I met my climbing partner, how I ended up going on my first bouldering trip outdoors, and why I know how to trad climb! Every one of those scenarios started with me being asked, or asking someone else, if they would like to be belayed on something at the gym. It is a very low pressure way to meet someone and it almost always makes it so that you have a new friend to climb with.

Hope these tips help a bit! Good luck!

 

The WMN of Camp 4: The One and Only Lynn Hill

 

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Those who climb with me know that I am a Lynn Hill fan.

Sure, it could have been her free ascent of the Nose in El Cap, or the fact that she was one of the first to send Midnight Lightning (one of the era’s classic and challenging boulder problems), or the fact that she continues to climb interesting and challenging routes to this day.

But if I’m being honest? It was her height.

 

As a gradeschooler I loved sports. I played basketball, volleyball, and soccer. I dreamed of someday being on a college team. Even back then, I was small. I knew I was small. I made up for my smallness by trying as hard as I could. This worked for a long time but as I grew older, it stopped working. By middle school the dream of playing on college teams had faded. I didn’t see even one woman in the sports world who looked like me. Every player who was successful was tall. Every player who was short was picked last. Thus my sports career came to an abrupt end.

But then I started climbing and I learned about Lynn Hill.

When I first began to climb I feeling certain that hard climbs must be done by tall people. That is what I had come to expect. And the hardest of all climbs? Those had to be done by men. The top accomplishments in most sports are done by men. But not climbing.

Lynn Hill, who stands at 5’2″, accomplished one of the greatest feats in sports history. At 30 years old she would become the first person, male or female, to free climb the historic Nose climb of El Cap.

The Nose is a historic route. More than once in its history it was thought to be unclimbable. The first attempt was made by Warren Harding in 1955. He was unsuccessful. Royal Robbins came back with a team to make the first ascent of The Nose in 1957. In these early days of climbing, climbers used gear that was hammered into the rock to climb on. They did not put hands and feet to rock like climbers do today. So slowly but surely Royal Robbins and his team placed ladders and ropes to ascend the route. This type of climbing is called “aid-climbing” and it takes days if not weeks (and sometimes months) to complete one climb.

Decades later, when free climbing became the newest and most interesting challenge in rock climbing, The Nose was again thought to be unclimbable.

In 1993, Lynn completed the first free ascent. Using only hands and feet and trad climbing gear, she worked through the intense pitches of the Great Roof and the Jardine Traverse to become the first person to complete the project. Her first ascent took 4 days. A year later, she came back and completed the route in 23 hours. It would take 4 y ears of another person to come close to climbing the route. It would be 10 years before Tommy Caldwell would break her time record. To this day, over 20 years later, the route has only been completed by 4 other climbers. Only one has done the climb in a single day.

Lynn Hill is arguably one of the greatest athletes in human history. Few know her name but that doesn’t mean she isn’t embedded in the hearts of many climbers. One of the most powerful facts about rock climbing is that one of its most fantastic feats was accomplished by a woman. Perhaps not directly, but I see this impact everywhere I look in climbing. Women at my gym regularly out-climb the men. One of the strongest climbers I know was out-climbed by his own sister. For this reason, climbing is a place where men and women have the floor equally. Where they face the same challenges and set backs. Women may have to work harder to gain the muscle strength that men can attain more easily (just due to sheer lack of testosterone in the body) but women DO compete. Thanks to Lynn, we have an example of just how powerful 5 feet and 2 inches can be. Her legacy lives on through the women I see climbing. For that, she is my own personal hero. A constant reminder of what can be accomplished through discipline and dedication.

Cheers to you Lynn. And thank you.