Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rumney Classics or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Moderates

There are a lot of reasons to climb at Rumney.  Having spent innumerable days there in the fall of my senior year at Holderness, I tend to have a sort of protective, loving feeling toward this schist paradise.  During those crisp fall days, my small group often found solitude at the popular cliffs that feature short approaches and lots of 5.7-5.10 routes.  We frequented Meadows, Parking Lot Wall, and 5.8 Crag.  When we had more time, we ventured to Darth Vader, Jimmy Cliff and Triple Corners.  Those cliffs are special to me, and house several Rumney classics.

I've had the good fortune to bring a handful of people to Rumney early in their climbing careers, and there are 7 or 8 routes that are my absolute favorites.  They're all 5.10a or easier.  You can probably guess what they are.  Here are the top 6:  Lies and Propaganda (5.9) and Hippos on Parade (5.9) at Meadows, Yoda (5.9) and Oby-won Ryobi (5.9) at Vader, and my two all time favorite Rumney routes: Junco (5.8+) and Lonesome Dove (5.10a) at Jimmy Cliff.  Phew, lots of links! Three stellar cliffs, six amazing routes.  If you haven't done one of these, get to it the next time you visit.

The Jimmy Cliff Classics:

Now to the meat of the post.  I truly enjoy each of these routes every time I do them, and I've probably done each one 10 times (more for Junco...).  I don't always climb them well, and I forget the beta to Lies every time, but whenever I clip the anchors on any of them, I'm glad I took the time to rope up and do it.  Sometimes I may be reluctant (like this past weekend and was feeling too weak for Lonesome Dove and too cold for Oby-won), but if I actually do tie in and send, it feels awesome.  They all feature cool, varied movement and perfect rock.  I'd be happy to do all six in a day, then come back the next day and do them again.  Alright, alright, enough already about stupid Junco, you may be thinking.  That thing is like 5.easy, why don't you get strong and send something cool?  I hear you loud and clear, but any hating on moderates within my earshot is wasted breath.

Mileage is what I'm after, and where this rambling post should have led by now.  But don't click away, I'm finally at my point.  While there is certain satisfaction in hangdogging up some 5.badass route, for me, not falling and getting a bunch of 5.8-5.10's done in an afternoon is far more enjoyable.  And in this way, that is climbing a bunch of moderates, I find that I can get stronger and more consistent in my technique very quickly.  Yesterday I felt confident in my climbing (even though I hung the steep part of Yoda) and had a really great afternoon.  Dan and I only climbed three routes, and my fingers felt like wood halfway through each pitch (it was pretty damn cold), but I felt satisfied at the end of the day.  Had I attempted Waimea (5.10d) (I might have, had it not been soaking wet), I probably would have taken a bunch of falls, gotten really tired, and walked away sort of bummed on climbing, as I am sometimes known to do.  

Someone random on Waimea (another, albeit harder, classic)

Instead, I succeeded on some super fun routes, and walked away wanting more (too bad it was freezing and about pour rain).  So my point is this: don't shy from moderates because they're often quite easy; instead embrace them for the sense of triumph you get after cruising up them, the confidence they give you, and daily mileage they allow.  There is a time and place for swinging all over a 5.12 or flailing on a V9 heel hook for three hours while your belayer/spotter starts to cramp up, but that's usually not what I'm after.

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to put down anyone for trying hard routes.  I'm simply stating what entices me more when I think about a day on the rock.  In my case, I have very little chance of making it up anything harder than .10d, so it's much less fun for me to try harder routes.


  1. Disclaimer aside, I feel like this is a continuation of a conversation we've had many a time, and I want to respond. Recently I've talked a lot about getting stronger -- doing hangboard workouts, cranking pull-ups, projecting stuff out of my league, etc -- and obviously progression in climbing entails at least some gains in physical strength. But I've finally realized, and this is basically what you've been saying all along, that technique is way more important to improving my climbing and pushing my limits. Focusing on strength is the easy way out; it's just mindless repetition. But technique takes thought, discipline and planning, and will take you much further, much faster than any hangboard workout (assuming you're not already climbing like 5.13+).

    So I definitely agree: climb all over those moderates, get in as big a variety of moves as you can, and strive to climb a 5.9 with perfect technique rather than dog up a 5.12 pumping out at every bolt. In a way, the lingo of climbing is deliberately misleading or inaccurate; we all want to "crush" climbs and to get "stronger". But the way to improve isn't to get stronger, it's to get more efficient, making a successful send more akin to a delicate tip-toe than a powerful crushing. So keep after those moderates, but don't let yourself fall into routine or the dreaded comfort-zone -- improving technique still requires pushing your limits as much as you can, but with the goal of being able to tip-toe softer rather than crush harder.

  2. I'm not sure how much I buy into this...the notion that you should stick to what you can onsight (i.e. not falling on an afternoon's worth of climbing), though consoling, isn't particularly beneficial for one's overall climbing.

    Everything in moderation boys...

    While I think you can derive a certain skill set with ascents aimed at perfecting movement, I still believe you need to introduce yourself to obstacles. That is, it's perfectly fine to 'work' (hangdog has too many perjorative connotation) a route on the upper end of your abilities.

    Frankly, if getting better is what you're aiming for (and perhaps it isn't, nor does it have to be), it requires a comprehensive approach. Work fuckin hard on getting every move on L&P perfect, but also take a little walk over to Lullu and give her a few burns. You must force yourself to see what lies ahead, in order to know what direction to go.

    What really worries me about the philosophy behind this post is this: "I probably would have taken a bunch of falls, gotten really tired, and walked away sort of bummed on climbing"...that falling is somehow equated with losing or doing badly or having a glum time. Falling shouldn't be seen as the enemy! I've fallen off of nearly every route at Rumney, but the only time I had bad days, were those times when I didn't come down, rest, think, and try again.

    Climbing is beautiful, for me at least, because of falling. Because the rock has been there for 100 million years and will be there for another 100 million. You're allowed to fall, because you can try again. Whereas, If you miss the final 3-pointer of the Champs, you lose, Kobe dickslaps you, and none of the laker girls will give you that climbing, failure is accepted/necessary for progession. Just because you can't do something instantly doesn't mean it's forever unattainable.

    Take DG for example. What makes him the best isn't purely his finger strength (which is crazy), but his tenacity. He works problems/routes literally hundreds of ways til he figures out beta for himself. His visionary skill lies in the fact that he's not dissuaded by falling hundreds of times, but inspired by ascending once.

    So maybe it's that bouldering favors working at your limits, or maybe it's my belief that the perfect beta is absolutely subjective and must be worked out, or maybe its the fact that onsighting 5.4 ladders perfectly isn't my aesthetic, but so long as I'm at the crag, I'll be warming up on microwave dinners AND slicing spanish onions with the hope of being a great chef....METAPHOR

  3. Definitely some good points Karthik. I hear where you're coming from, and I guess I didn't mean for my post to come off as being so one-sided. I fully see the benefit of trying hard routes, and I too have fallen off lots of stuff at Rumney. That's part of the game for sure. What I was more trying to get at though is that mileage days are just more fun for me. What I said about being bummed when falling was maybe not a great way to illustrate my point. Sure, I get bummed when I fall, especially if it's a route I feel very capable of climbing (i.e. Yoda, which I had to one-hang on Saturday). But in the case of Waimea, I wouldn't be bummed just because I was falling, but because I wouldn't have really accomplished anything in my mind, I would have been too tired to even get on Yoda, and it would have eaten up a bunch of time while Reeves had to climb back up there and get my 'draws. Falling isn't the enemy I suppose, it's really all the things that go hand in hand with it. It's just more enjoyable for me to cruise from climb to climb, and cliff to cliff and not find myself in gear cleaning snafus and other silly situations. Fluidity is awesome while climbing in all senses--while moving on the rock, while belaying, while hiking, etc. I feel like my flow just gets slapped around when I have to fudge around some 5.12 for an hour while there are two beautiful 5.8's right next to it. Hopefully this comment has made seems a little nonsensical. gulp.