Friday, December 28, 2012


I apologize for not updating my blog for some time.  I will try to bring you quickly up to date on summer activities first.
I spent July through September for the most part in Squamish British Columbia.  I consider this area to be the premier destination for North American summer rock climbing.  I'm lucky to have it three and a half hours from my summertime home in Seattle.  It has everything from world class boulder bouldering to amazing multi-pitch trad climbing - all on high quality granite.

Climber on Cruel Shoes on the Grand Wall
   Most of my life I have been an alpine climber and did most of my training for that.  I have taken time to rock climb for only brief periods, and I've never trained specifically for it.  As a result I've struggled to make progress on anything much harder than 5.11+ on a good day.  Before going to Squamish to rock climb
for the summer,  I wanted to learn how to train for it.  I consulted with Tyson Schoene, the coach for the Vertical World team in Seattle.  He gave me week by week training routines during the months of May and June.  In general the workouts consisted of progressively harder endurance and power sessions that took about two and a half hours per day.  At 58 years old I wasn't able to do everything in these regimens without getting injured, nor would I be able to climb as well as I could have if I did this when I was younger.  But I did get stronger.

Grand Wall with The Split Pillar and Sword of Damocles Flake on Left

  By July 5th the wet spring was over and when the sun came out, it did so until October.  During this almost unprecedented spell of dry weather, I journeyed north to try out my body on the cliffs.  Things started slowly as I got accustomed to the movement and placing gear.  By early August I was red pointing 5.11- on long multi-pitch routes like Freeway.  But I ignored one of Tyson's suggestions to keep up my training routines in Squamish by bouldering or going to the rock gym.  It was fun to just go climbing most days with local partners like Geoff Hill and whoever was available mid-week.  By the end of August I red-pointed the 5.12a corner on the Daily Planet, something I hadn't been able to do before. 

Freeway Route on the Tantalus Wall

I set my expectations higher now for a long route like Norther Lights, a 5.11+ to 5.12- route on the North Wall.  To prepare, I went out in early September with Paul Cordy to climb The Alaska Highway, which is the name for the lower half of Northern Lights.  But it was a discouraging outing.  I was weak and incapable of leading anything hard without hanging from my gear.  For the rest of that month I continued to slip to where I now struggled with easy 5.11s. My Squamish time was wonderful, but didn't end like I had hoped.  What went wrong?  I was confused as to why I got so much weaker the last few weeks. 

Northern Walls - Northern Lights Climbs Wall on the Left

I consulted with Tyson once I got back to Seattle and after I explained my regimen he was not surprised by what had happened.  I made several rookie mistakes. 
  • I hadn't structured my climbing time to make sure I was getting a consistent combination of endurance and power training similar to what I was doing beforehand in the gym. 
  • I didn't combine this training with enough rest so that I was ready to send on the days I worked on my hard climbs. 
  • The combination of the above things that led me to get weaker then caused me to lose my motivation. 
I learned that it is possible to work harder but be able to do less.  This is a lesson I knew a lot about for the cardio training I had done for nearly 45 years, but I didn't understand these rules applied to upper body training.  I still have a lot to learn, but maybe I can benefit from this experience and get to a place where I can red point some of my projects before I get too old. 

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