Tuesday, December 22. 2009
Fear and Comfort
I stood on the dance floor, wondering what I was doing. In answer to Brandon Flowers' poignant question: I am most certainly a human.
A lame human at that.
I had been invited to a dance/swimming party at the local rec center, and thought "what could I lose". In all reality, nothing. Especially since I made Jason pay for my entrance fee. At first I gave it my best shot to try and be normal. I moved my body rhythmically to music to somehow make an impression. This lasted about 20 seconds. Then I got distracted by the red and green lasers, and started to think "What color does red and green light make again?", which I pondered for a few minutes while the party went on around me. "Hey, dance" she said. Oh yeah, that thing we're supposed to do. I moved around some more in very Caucasian fashion until I noticed how incredibly cool the strobe lights were. This sucked me in for much longer than the lasers.
They weren't normal stroke lights, oh no. They were LED strobe lights, each with a set of red, green, and blue LEDs that could strobe at various intensities.
"Why aren't you dancing?"
"You know those strobe lights are probably capable of producing over 16 million colors?"
If the dance floor was designed to get people together based on the merit of how much control you have over your extremities, I was definitely breaking the rules.
"Evacuate the dance floor" was sung over the speakers. I obeyed. It was like cosmic bowling without the bowling, and now that I had analyzed the lighting system, I had lost interest. Jason had disappeared into the crowd long ago, likely he was on a quest to make people feel awkward. This was a favorite hobby of his.
I went to the lobby and did some people watching for a while. Laying on a couch on the outskirts of a crowd was far more comfortable for me than standing in the middle of one looking like a chimp wearing people cloths.
Jason came by and told me of his adventures in weirding people out.
All in the name of social experimentation. I decided to do my own experiment.
If social norms make one uncomfortable, the logical thing to do is break those social norms.
Jason's experiment involved a very active approach of going up to people and making them feel awkward (with hilarious results). Mine was far more passive. I made people come to me.
The dance was taking place on half a basketball court which was divided by a large curtain. The other half was vacated. I went to the empty court, used the symmetrical markings to find the exact center of the room, laid down, and watched the lights spill across the top of the curtain and dance on the ceiling. Who would ignore me, who would inquire, who would try to make me feel awkward?
I had quite a bit of time to myself, which was fine. But eventually they came. First were two guys who came and danced and skipped around me. I was not surprised that this was the first communal reaction, an act of superiority. Were they trying to make me feel self conscious? I raised my right hand, stuck out my pinky finger and thumb and twisted my wrist. This was enough to show they they weren't going to succeed and they left.
Next were two girls who walked over slowly and asked "Are you okay?" Honestly I hadn't considered that I might seem hurt or somehow sick. I mean, I chose the exact center of the floor to lie on. I said I was and they asked what I was doing, to which I responded "Watching the light show". They left before I could ask them if they wanted to join me.
Then came the girl that had invited me there. She ran across the room and before I knew it she was on the floor next to me. A fair response I suppose. She knew enough to not ask if I was alright. Jason came at some point and ended up a few meters away at a skewed angle. The girl's friend came too and they ended up doing push-ups or something. I had created a strange little world inside this sphere of social normalcy.
As I left, I saw the two girls that had come by earlier peek around the corner at me. Seems in all my passivity I was still able to shine brighter than the stars of the dance floor.
Since mid-week I had the plan to go ice climbing for my first time the next morning. I got home late, and organized my gear. I went to bed at 2:30 and got up at 6:30 so I could get to the Bridal Veil parking lot in Provo canyon by 8AM to meet my partners. I was early. Happens.
The thermometer screamed 16*F and I threw on another layer before exiting my warm jeep. Once a few of my partners had shown up, we stood around for a while waiting for a 5th. I threw on another layer. He never showed.
We made our way up to the climb, Stairway to Heaven. There was a guided group going up to the same area to teach the basics of ice climbing. I was glad that I had worked my way in to the outdoors community so I could avoid this for the time being. A few experienced partners that like you is all that you need and I had proven my fortitude in the past in other mountaineering pursuits. The waterfall was frozen mid-cascade so that it created a perfect beginner area with a walk up to a flat area about 1.5 meters wide on average that sat between the bottom two levels of the waterfall. This allowed for climbers to walk up and set toprope anchors without needing a leader, making for a great beginner area. But the 7 or so pitches above were great for those more experienced to get away from the crowded bottom.
As an experienced climber, I was able to help with the logistics of setting up toprope anchors. It was a new experience to chip away at the ice to try and find the bolts anchored to the rock beneath. I found a few and set up an anchor on them, while another in our party set up an anchor by slinging an ice column (that was later backed up by a screw attached to another column). We had two ropes to climb on. Suddenly a leader came up over the edge of the ice. I asked him how long the lead took, and he said a half hour. Wow. We talked and I said it was perfectly okay if he shared the anchor. Turns out he was the one who put the bolts in, so that seems fair. I rapped off the rope, which didn't quite reach the ground, and downclimbed a short step to reach the base of the falls.
As we took turns, I first belayed someone on one of our routes so I could watch his technique. He made it up the route in style, strengthened the anchor with a screw, and I lowered him off.
I tied in and took my first steps up the vertical ice, trying to remember everything I had "book learned" and put it into practice. Some of it pretty contrary to rock climbing such as "keep your heels down". I worked through the bulgy cauliflower ice which made for some fun climbing, and moved on to a more blank face. I scanned it with my eyes for good tool placements, sank them in a few millimeters, and pulled off, moving my feet up. And keeping my heels down. Lots to remember when it's not natural yet. I made it up without falling and was lowered off.
I spent some time talking to Matt about climbs we've done, or intend on doing. About why we do this. About how cragging and waterfall ice is to hone our skills for routes we want to do to summits. Good to see I'm not the only one who has that philosophy on climbing.
I went up one last time, after picking the right pair of gloves. I started to feel solid and get in the swing of things. Toward the top I was in a small indent, a few feet wide. I kicked my feet in about 3 feet apart, placed my tools above me. All 4 points were solid. I took a few moments to take it all in. I looked between my legs and the ice to see Matt on the other end of my rope, 50 or 60 feet below. The steepness was boggling, and the newness of being held up there by points on my feet and in my hands was outrageous. I smiled. I felt no fear. I laughed to myself and vocalized to no one how awesome this was.
I came down and realized how tired I was. I thanked them for letting me climb and went off home to take a nap. All in all an awesome, comfortable day in the mountains. Funny how backwards my comfort level is.
Posted by Ammon Hatch in Climbing, Ice, Life, Single Pitch, Toprope at 12:28 | Comments (0)
Sunday, June 22. 2008
Down low, the holds were solid, up the main shaft of the pinnacle. It was easy climbing, low 5th class, maybe even 4th class. Gaining the top of the pinnacle required going over a small overhang, and smearing my body on the sandstone mushroom top. The move was awkward at best. Overall the climb to the top of the 15 foot high pinnacle was rather easy, and took all of 30 seconds. As I stood there, my legs started to shake a bit. The fear and doubt, the good sense that I neglected to feel a minute before, was flooding in to me. Getting down would not be so easy.
Continue reading "One Slip"
Posted by Ammon Hatch in Bouldering, Climbing, Life at 14:25 | Comments (0)
Wednesday, February 20. 2008
Not the Salt Lake City Marathon
Well, since i posted about wanting to run the SLC marathon, I have done quite a bit of thinking. And that thinking has led me to decide not to run the SLC marathon. I'll pretend I haven't mentioned this before, just for fun.
Why though? It would be so much "fun". Here's why.
Continue reading "Not the Salt Lake City Marathon"
Posted by Ammon Hatch in Climbing, Life at 23:39 | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 14. 2007
Crescent Crack - Crescent Crack Buttress (LCC)
It was such a beautiful day outside, we needed to get out. So when Char came over and said "What are you doing inside on such a day as this" (paraphrased), I said "Let's go climbing". So, we did. We threw some gear together and took off up Little Cottonwood Canyon. I wanted to climb Crescent Crack, a climb I (am/thought I was) familiar with. It was my first TRAD lead back a few years ago, so I figured it would be a good place to get back to. My climbing went fairly well in some fashions, but not so good in others. A few things I did well were that I remained very calm on lead, something I was rarely able to do in the past. I took things a lot more slow than I did in the past. I used to try to rush through the climb, over gripping my holds, and losing strength. Also, I was a lot better at keeping my cool at the protection placing times. Instead of thinking with emotions "dang, if I fall before I get this piece in and clipped, that's gonna suck" which is generally a bad thing, I thought "You're in a good solid stance, so take your time and look for a good placement. That looks like a good spot for a nut. Yeah, that's solid. Should I use a draw? Hmm.. a longer runner might be better to prevent rope drag from popping the piece."
This is fun...
Anyway, it was good. However, halfway up the second portion of the climb I decided to call it quits and build an anchor and let Jason finish leading the pitch. So, he lowered me and I belayed him up to my anchor on top rope. He then Led the rest of the pitch and set a real anchor. Then, he belayed Char up from the top. She did pretty dang good for her first time.
So, I've lost the will to write much more, so... it's over
Posted by Ammon Hatch in Climbing, Lead, Outdoors, Single Pitch, Trad at 18:14 | Comment (1)
Saturday, March 25. 2006
Bushwack Crack - Gate Butress (LCC)
Windy day. Really my first time back out this year. Went to Moab and goofed off, but my head game is still in disarray, so I didn't climb really.
Went up with Jason and Jordan. Lars met us up there. When we got there, there was a group of 4 climbers on the climb, so we sat around and socialized. They finished, and another two climbers came up as we were starting. Very nice, we had some good convesations. Jason led up. It was a kinda sloppy lead, but not overly. Jordan toproped it, and Lars went up. Next I went up. Done better on this crack, and definately done worse. Clean greenpoint (if there is a point to the greenpoint...), only sketched a little. Got some good bleeding going on my un-caloused hands. When I got down another climber had come up. He was just hiking with his wife and kid, but wanted a run, so we let him. We offered him use of a harness. He declined and tied in using a bowline knot. Perfectly safe for toproping, but not in the least bit comfortable if one were to weight it. He didn't. He made a clean ascent and at the anchor called off belay. This is normal if you're wearing a harness and are cliped into the anchor. He wasn't. He was just standing in a tree. Jason took him off belay and he proceeded to pull up slack as if he were rigging a rapell... which he was. But with no harness or belay device rapelling can be tricky. He took it with stride and wrapped the rope over his shoulder, between his legs and around something else... a technique (the dulfersitz) i've read about and attempted but never seen done so well, on such vertical terrain. He was obviously someone with a lot of experience and was very comfortable in the vertical world. When he got to the bottom we exchanged pleasantries, and Jason asked him his name. He was none other than Tony Calderone.
Tony Calderone is a local climber who deserves respect. He has many first ascents in Little Cottonwood and elsewhere. He wrote the guidebook to City of Rocks Idaho. This was his first climb in a few years as he is fresh back from Iraq. But this is not yet why I'm posting this.
On July 12, 2003 I was at Bushwack for my first time with Spencer. Spencer seemed to always have a story about Tony Calderone, because they climbed together on occasion. Jason was even there once. The climb directly left of buchwack is a face with a few chickenheads and not much else. Spence said Tony bolted it on lead (yikes). I asked him yesterday, and sure enough he had. We talked more after we knew who he was. He asked what Spence was up to these days. 1 year, 3 and a half months after he died in a car accident we still had someone that knew him, though not very close, that didn't know he had passed on. I've told several people about him since it happened, but they didn't know him, but it was a very strange experience to tell someone that knew him that he was dead. Someone Spence would tell us about, and I had never met before. Then through a coincidence we randomly met up at the base of a climb we had both climbed with Spence.
Jason went up again as he knew his lead was sloppy. Good clean toprope. Fun day: the climbing was good, but the other stuff was really great.
Posted by Ammon Hatch in Life, Single Pitch, Toprope, Trad at 09:54 | Comments (0)
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