It is Groundhog Day ... again. In honor of the movie (and the holiday), I have five suggestions for how to break out of your climbing and hiking deja vu. From the gear that we use, to the goals that we set for ourselves, a repeated outing is given context by these things. Although we are to some degree trapped by the fact that the Gorge is only so large and that there are a limited number of crags within an hour or two of home, we don’t need to feel like Bill Murray’s character waking up every day to the same bars of Sonny and Cher: “Then put your little hand in mine/There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb.” It is possible to expand the universe without leaving the confines of its boundaries.
|The author considers the merits of eating ice cream on a saddle |
during a summer climbing road trip. Photo: Andrew Barnes.
Use someone else’s gearWe all get used to the gear that we employ: our cams, our pack, our tent. This breeds familiarity, and frankly it makes our lives easier. Setting up your personal tent in a downpour takes only moments because you have done it a thousand times before. Plugging your gold Camalot into the hand-jam-sized crack becomes second nature. Every so often, I get the opportunity to climb on a partner’s gear such as during my most recent ice trip to Hyalite. I have climbed on Petzl Nomics since they were first introduced; my partner had brought a pair of Trango Raptors. Midway up The Dribbles, right before the WI4 headwall pitch, I asked to use his tools. The first couple of swings were awkward. The ice axes felt weirdly imbalanced. To compensate, I turned to using better footwork and looked down instead of up. The features of the ice curtain were transformed. Blobs appeared that I might not have noticed before, and I stepped on them gently, like they were features on a rock climb. In the minutes that followed, I climbed a completely new route with improved technique.
|John Sharp investigates up-close the elusive (and viviparous) |
rubber boa on the approach to Goode Mountain.
Photo: Jonathan Barrett.
Climb at an odd time of day (or year)“You know what I want to do?” Jarred asked me. Frankly I couldn’t guess, given his proclivity for provocative ideas. “Climb Dod’s Jam in the dark,” he said. In the dark? Why? When pressed, he didn’t have an answer really, something about the moonrise over the Bonneville Dam. Because I acquiesced, two weeks later I found myself face to face with a bushy-tailed woodrat, otherwise known as the infamous snafflehound. It’s eyes were glowing spheres under the light of my headlamp. He (or maybe she) tried to squeeze its shivering body into the fissure at the back of the “bird’s nest” belay stance. The moon had not yet risen over the cliffs of the Gorge, so beyond the wan circle of light, it was exceedingly dark: a hold-your-hand-two-inches- from-your-face-and-not-see-anything dark. Typically when I stem up the off-width corner on that climb, the exposure rattles my nerves a little. The climbing isn’t very hard relative to some of the sequences on the rest of the route, but there is something about the way that feature pitches ever so slightly towards the river that normally makes me sweat. That night, though, I didn’t feel any trepidation. I could turn my light towards the Oregon side of the Columbia and view only a wall of black. I carefully pasted the rubber of my shoes against the wrinkled edges and moved upwards with uncommon confidence because I could not see. Three months later, Jarred and I found ourselves finishing Young Warriors in the dark after attempting a multi-route link-up. As I belayed him up onto the final ridgeline, I turned my headlamp toward the remaining slabs and cracks. A familiar set of glowing eyes looked back at me in what must have been disbelief. Or perhaps it was annoyance. What was the little bugger thinking? Maybe: Oh! Not this guy again!
Bring different food
|Knowing that a little levity can ease a tedious activity, |
Andrew Ault takes the time to posedown mid-slog up
Mt. Adams. Photo: Jonathan Barrett.