Friday, September 7, 2012

New post about some old times

What up gang!

Sorry its been so long.

Been a bit busy. My wife and I had our first child. A little crusher named North.

He now boulders harder than me which is impressive and sad, seeing as he's only 4 months old and can campus my projects.

Anyways, I thought I'd come out of hibernation with a post about my first climbing experiences and all the fun mistakes I made in the beginning.

The reason I thought I'd write about this is I was having a conversation with a friend in my Tea Shop about funny things new climbers do. I was telling him how I was in a line up in a local cafe waiting for my sandwich when a guy walked in behind me wearing his harness with his climbing shoes clipped to them. I really wanted to take a photo but thought that would be awfully rude.

Anyways this conversation got me thinking about how I started and how I was a total noob (for the record I didn't know what a noob was until recently when I was called one by these guys in a database class).

I started climbing kind of different than other people, or at least I think it was different. I was treeplanting one summer just after high school when I met a guy named Dan Gable. We were all sitting around the drying tent one afternoon on a rest day. And like any camp job we were just passing time chatting and telling stories. Well I got it in my head that everyone has a special skill.

So Dan jumped up and said he could do a one finger pull up. I was unimpressed not knowing if this was difficult or not having never thought of such a thing before. Well he ran back to his tent and came back with a sling and wrapped it around one of the cross beams. He jammed his middle finger in and pulled a one finger one arm with no warm up. We all clapped and I asked if he had worked at this or what. He said he climbed and after a couple years of climbing he could do them. Well I stuck my finger in the sling and tried to hang from my finger with little chance of hanging let alone being able to pull. I was impressed. Everyone else tried and no one could hang from the sling.

My unique skill of being able to cover my nose with my tongue just got me pitying looks.

So a couple of weeks later Dan said he had found a place to boulder and invited us along on another rest day. So we all piled in to his beat up station wagon and went to see what climbing was all about. As we rolled into Slave Lake, Alberta I was waiting to pass through town and see the massive wall that we would scale. Instead we rolled up infront of the local bar. 

"I thought we were going bouldering?" I asked.

"We are and we're here." Dan said seeing the next question forming in my head.

Dan pulled out his chalk bag and climbing shoes and walked us around the side of the building. On the far side was a stone mason wall covered in cobble Stones. He then slapped on his shoes and traversed his way across. I wasn't impressed and stood watching while he went back and forth. After a while he came down and invited me to try. Well I grabbed a couple of the big cobbles, pulled my feet off the ground and stabbed at the next closest big cobble only to slip and land on my feet. 

"Well that's stupid" I said and walked around to the front of the bar and headed in for a beer.

Dan came and got me when it was time to leave and I stayed quiet on the ride back to camp. I didn't go with Dan on anymore of his day climbing trips which were back to bar or to a tree that Dan had nailed pieces of wood to.

That should of been the end of my climbing career. But I agreed to go to Lake O'Hare with a friend to see his girlfriend so we traveled by bus at the end of the planting season. While he was off spending time with his girlfriend I wandered around the lake. I came across some fairly large boulders and tried to scale them in my running shoes. It was a surprisingly good time and helped pass the time while my friend got reacquainted with his girlfriend.

After we left Lake O'Hare we head for Calgary where we visited the local MEC store. I walked over and talked to the guy infront of the climbing section. Telling him about my experience in Lake O'Hare he told me that buying climbing shoes would make the whole thing more enjoyable.

So under his wise advice I purchased the best shoes for a beginner. His words not mine. A bright red pair of hightop climbing boots. Ridged and two sizes two small. It would take me five minutes to pull them on and I could only wear them for about 30 seconds. But under the guys advice I soaked them in  water and walked around in them as long as my feet could handle. Then I placed tennis balls in them and put heavy books and rocks on them to help stretch them out over night.

I was pretty impressed with my climbing shoes and after seeing some other people at the MEC leave with their climbing shoes clipped to the side of their backpacks I copied this as well. I caught the next bus back to BC to visit my girlfriend in Victoria.

After getting to town I went to the local outdoor store and asked and if there was any climbing in the area. They directed me to a cliff on the side of a beach called Flemming Beach.

In Vancouver, before heading over to Victoria, I stopped at Valhalla Pure and bought a crashpad. It was the first Green "Flash" pad. This was before they were known as Flashed.

I went out for my first day of real rock climbing. I had climbing shoes and a crash pad. I felt like Columbus discovering the New World. Sure others had been here before but I was about to put my stamp on the climbing world.

A couple of things happened on my first day. One, I learned climbing shoes aren't the secret to being a good climber, and two, don't believe a sales clerk just because they work in a certian section doesn't mean they know anything about what they're selling.

Flemming beach was impressive. It was tall, it was long and had holds covered in chalk from one end to the other.

I set to work on the closest part of the wall to the parking lot, didn't want to miss an inch as I planned to scale the whole thing before the afternoon was over.

What I learned was climbing at Flemming beach was hard! And my feet were killing me. As I climbed a couple moves and fell off, a couple other climbers showed up. Man I was nervous.  In every other sport I've ever done people are a bit elitest. Playing basketball as a kid and into college kids that were new to the game were basically invisible to me. I understood quite quickly I was a punter. And these guys were good. Quite a bit better than me in fact.

As one of the climbers seemed to climb up and down and across the wall with grace and ease I could only dream of being able to accomplish such a feat. My fears of rejection were quite high. But a friendly smile and a hello were given when he looked my way.

After a little bit more struggling he came over and asked if I was new to Flemming.

I said yes and he offered to show me some problems that would be my speed.

After trying some of the problems I had a small taste of success. And I believe he was comfortable enough to ask me a few questions.

I told him I was new to climbing and in fact today was my first day of "real" rock climbing.

He asked about my shoes? What was the deciding factor in my purchase of my high top Free Climbing boots.

I said I just bought what the guy at the store told me to get.  Well he said it would be better to just take them back and return them for a more comfortable shoe and maybe something that wasn't high topped.

He also told me that the "Flash" pad I had bought was about four inches to thin to really be of any use for bouldering and that I may of been ripped off because he thought they probably poached the foam and sold me a single layer of closed foam.

I was a little despondent but psyched I'd made a climbing friend. I don't think I knew at the time that climbing would become a life long passion but that first day at Flemming Beach got me pysched, even if the other guy who showed up was some super old guy who told me I should spend the first few years just climbing slabs.

I ignored him... Might of not been bad advice in-retrospect.










15 comments:

Obviousjesus said...

hey. I read your post. It was good. Glad I liked it on the Facebook already. You should probably keep updating.

Matthew Moher said...

friggin' I want high tops! they should bring them back (or are we the 'they'?) anyways it'd keep people from rolling ankles punting off topouts like I almost did today and outta the ER. More room for GHB overdoses and stuff.

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Scott said...


It was a surprisingly good time and helped pass the time while my friend got reacquainted with his girlfriend.


Didn't we break-up?!