Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Climb like a girl!

In other news, climbing season is officially in full swing. We haven't been to the rock gym since April, and Jim and I are both proudly sporting the battle scars of climbing on real rock. I look a bit like a kid who's just started to run - my knees and shins are all bruised and scabbed from my recent ascents/attempts of several climbs featuring burly roof problems.

Historically, roof climbs were the source of much angst for me. Jim loves them, and being that when he has a reach of close to 8 feet, rarely finds himself unable to reach a hold. I, on the other hand, can reach about 6 1/2 feet, which often leaves me "short" [pun intended]. As such, I have to figure out another way to get through the crux, often making several more energy burning moves along the way. On hard climbs [5.10+ and up for me] I find that I pretty much get one shot to pull the move and if I hesitate or get the sequence wrong, I'm done - subsequent attempts, even after hang dogging and resting my arms are completely futile.

But I have been successful lately on some pretty spicy routes, and that seems to be feeding a new passion for the once dreaded roof climb. I am especially a fan of routes that require at least as much finesse and technique as they do brawn to get through. Sometimes my small stature proves to be an advantage as I can walk my feet way up so that I'm pretty much crouching under the roof, rest, then lean out or over and stand up to reach the next hold. This is far less strenuous than just trying to grab the next hand hold and pull myself over with just my arms, not to mention the fact that I often cannot reach the "next" hold. The best part is that occasionally it will get me through something that will shut down climbers much taller and stronger than myself. Those moments, combined with the huge confidence boost in my climbing ability combine to form the candy that keeps me coming back for more.

Monday, May 26, 2008

First Harvest of the Season!

We enjoyed our first harvest from this year's garden last week. The planter box in our front yard was planted with wild mustard greens, wild kale, and wild lettuce seeds back in February when it seemed the last frost had passed. The long, cold winter made the seedlings grow very slowly, until the recent spikes in temperature we've experienced here in Portland. The temperature neared 100° F less than two weeks ago, then dipped back in to the 50's this past week. But the brief warm spell made the mustard and kale grow like crazy and we were able to harvest enough to make a nice sized batch of braised greens for the two of us. Unfortunately, we had another unseasonably hot day this weekend, and now two of the mustard plants have bolted... It has been delightful, however, to watch them grow into such a lush and delicious bounty. Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy the mustard for a few more weeks before they all go to seed. I am hoping next week we'll be able to get our first salad from the garden.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stop junk mail and save some trees

I hate junk mail. It seems to come from everywhere. Whether you buy something online, register a business, buy a house, or even buy someone a gift (!), chances are good you (and the recipient of the gift!!) will end up on a mailing list (or 10). By far the most effective way I've found to get rid of postal junk mail has been to sign up with www.greendimes.com. Not only do they contact all the mass mailing houses, they also allow you to sign up for removal from specific catalogs and register everyone in your household. In fact, I've gone one step further and registered a couple folks who haven't lived here for years, but in whose name junk mail continues to be delivered. As new catalogs appear, I go online and update our account and everything gets taken care of. It's been about 18 months since we first signed up and it's working like a charm. In addition to reducing the number of trees that turn into junkmail, Green Dimes will also plant trees on behalf of everyone who signs up. This is one instance when convenience aligns perfectly with doing something great for the environment.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Spring Thing 2008

Almost every year, many of the climbers of the Northwest travel down to Smith Rock State Park in Oregon and perform a full day of trail maintenance. More than a simple litter pickup or tree planting (although we do that too), this is back-breaking work to construct safer trails on the steep slopes of the park.

Given the delicate desert landscape, having trails is a good way to join both the community and the climber crowd together to promote the park. This little park is a jewel of geological history and of course - it has awesome climbing routes.

The work parties started at 8 on Saturday and spread out across the park, each under a lead that directed the action. The supplies are carted or trucked to the edge of the park or area, but the majority of the work is bucket-brigade or simply walking with a heavy rock, putting it in place, then getting another.

But when the day progresses, finally wrapping up in the early afternoon (the hot afternoons shut everything down), the trails look amazingly new. These events are a great way to meet new climbers and catch up with old friends.

Also, the bolts that have gotten notices about being ready for replacement are all checked and replaced. This is especially reassuring, as the rock qualities at Smith are touch on any fixed gear, due to the high thermal expansion cycles of the desert and the rock actually being a "welded tuft", a form of petrified volcanic ash.

These pictures aren't a great way to capture Smith's expansive vista, especially from the top, where the majority of central Oregon's lower Cascade mountains are visible across a green blanket of farms and small towns. I believe Oregon to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, but you'll just have to take my word for it. No picture would suffice.

Smith Rock is located centrally in Oregon, not far from the larger town of Bend. It gained popularity in the 1980's as "this birthplace of American Sport climbing", which is to say, some local climbers cleaned the loose rock , bolted the walls into very tough routes, and invited the world to try the climbing. The entire process was bumpy in a few ways, including getting a community used to a new tourism feed in their area, and getting a climbing world used to a few "new school" techniques of putting a climbing route on a wall without always starting from the ground each time.

Many times, routes were so difficult that they demanded a series of "practice sessions" of small sections until they could all be linked up into a single, highly gymnastic sequence. This was new to the world of climbing, where a more mountaineering atmosphere was the norm ever since "traditional climbing" broke into a sport of its own decades prior. During the 1980's, "sport climbing" sought to create or find routes that didn't achieve a goal height, attain a peak, or adhere to a crack-based, naturally protected route. Instead, stone anchors were drilled into the wall and thus every face, however devoid of features, become yet another "project". When records for difficulty appeared at Smith (5.14b), it finally attained status world-wide as a place to visit on every climber's list.

We climbed later that day, in the shadier areas, then met up again that night for a party of beer and burritos. A slideshow, a few movies of some outrageous climbing from around the world (shown by attendees of the party) and the highlight of the evening, an auction and raffle of some great donated gear. This year, a huge amount of gear seemed to appear from some new sponsors.

We're very happy and thankful to get an opportunity to join in with our friends and help make a park a bit prettier and a lot safer for everyone to enjoy. I recommend anyone who has time to visit that park, and a few others, here in Oregon. And if you can find a way, throw some donated labor into your community. It feels great.