This season I guided exclusively using a New England Maxim 9.9 70m bi patterned dry rope. I used this rope for over 40 days of guiding and climbing in the Catskills, the Dacks, and new Hampshire. The rope was primarily used on water ice with a handle of days on alpine snow and a few mixed climbs on top rope. Primarily used on moderate to easy ice I used on alpine snow, ice routes rated WI2-5 with a handful of mix climbs. For context I have used Sterlings: velocity, nano and ion ropes for the past few years both guiding and for personal climbing.
The Maxim was noticeably different from the get go. It’s a sharp looking golden bi patterned rope. A number of people remark how good the rope looked aesthetically and asked me who made it. The weave pattern is distinct but not too loud. I found the rope to be firmer in handling and felt like it was built stronger and more abrasive resistant. On wet days the Maxim did a solid job shedding water. At the end of the day coiling the rope at the end of the day was never a problem. it was damp but not dripping wet.
However when coiling the rope one of its two draw backs is apparant. The Maxim 9.9 is heavy. It is the heaviest rope I have ever used. Though its called a 9.9 it feels more like a Sterling 10.3 or a Mammut 10.5. Its weight is a draw back on approaches and when climbing. You feel the difference. You feel the weight when trying to move fast on a long multi-pitch snow gully and that’s a notable limitation. This rope is better for single pitch cragging than multi pitch climbing. It’s better for those looking for a heavy workhorse not a lead line.
The other draw back is belaying. Belaying on the Maxim 9.9 felt more like a chore. The rope felt weighty and challenging depending on the belay device I was using. Generally I belay with a Gri Gri 2 or a Petzl Reverso 3. My clients are often using a simple BD ATC. While the Gri Gri 2 worked fine I found belaying w. an atc or my r3 more challenging. The rope is simply to fat to work well w. the devices. the BD ATC XP or the ATC guide worked best with this rope. And though you can do a munter hitch on the rope it needs a bigger biner to run smooth.
After a full season of ice guiding I feel like it still has much life left in it for the spring and summer. The rope did get about 10 feet cut off of one end after a client core shot it with his ice axe but other than that there is nothing but minor wear and tear. Less wear and tear than I’ve experienced with other ropes with similar stats.
overall i would highly recommend the new england maxim 9.9 to my clients and fellow outdoor professionals. Its an excellent single pitch ice cragging rope and I think it would work well during rock season too.
Check out this post by Ryan S. for an excellent review of ropes: http://bigfootmountainguides.com/2013/01/22/some-thoughts-about-rope-diameter-and-durability/
There’s a bunch of dynamite community events happening in
the Gunks during Columbus day weekend. That is next weekend, rocktober is here and yes its a busy weekend and there will be crowds of climbers on the classics but worth the trip for all the funness to be had. The leaves are changing, temps are perfect and the Brauhaus will soon have outdoor seating.
Here’s a list of fun stuff for you to do. One food tip for the weekend – get pizza or mexicali blue and take it to the events over the weekend. The Brauhaus is best on Friday nights. If you absolutely have to eat there on a Sat or Sunday plan on arriving before 5pm and order your meal w. your biers.
Friday – Eiger Dreaming
Friday night at the Mohonk Preserve Visitors Center there is a free
slide show by Ranger Frank Tkac & climber and photographer Jason Beaupre. If you pick one event to come to this is the one. It’s two local climbers who dream big. Support them and the Mohonk Preserve doing free events.They will be discussing two different climbing trips on the infamous
Eiger. 7pm sharp!
Saturday – Climbing Porn
reel rock tour at SUNY New Paltz on Saturday night.
For tickets check at RnS. The Chin, Ozturk & Anker film covering their ascent of the Shark’s Fin on the 6,310 meter Mt. Meru, in India looks like the highlight http://www.chestnutmtnproductions.com/newpaltz/nphome.htm
Sunday – Gear Swap
Sunday night is the annual gear swap at Rock and Snow. Bring your
climbing, outdoor: hiking, camping cloths and nick knacks trade, sell,
give away. www.rockandsnow.com
Over the weekend many of the guide services offer free clinics at the
Mohonk Preserve. You should come check all of them out. I will be
teaching them for EMS this year. I don’t have a list of the offerings from the other services but here is a list of the ones I am doing. Please sign up to these and all the other cool clinics in advance at Rock and Snow:
Saturday 10/6 Intro to Alpine Climbing
Time: 9am to Noon ( 4am start by request)
Meet: Kiosk as the case of Ken’s Crack in the Trapps
Max: 6 people
Description: How to move fast and efficiently in the mountains, rope
management, proper gear, lots of other tips and techniques.
Saturday 10/6 Top Rope Anchors for Women
Time: 1pm to 4pm
Meet: Kiosk at the base of Kens’s Crack in the Trapps
Max: 6 people
Description: Be able identify a properly built anchor, knots, and
setups. Men are also welcome to attend
Sunday 10/7 Glacier Skills Basics
Time: 9am to Noon
Meet: Kiosk at the base of Ken’s crack in the Trapps
Max: 6 people
Description: organizing an efficient rope team, glacier travel
techniques, crevasse safety.
Sunday 10/7 Top Rope Anchors for Women
Time: 1pm to 4pm
Meet: Kiosk at the base of Kens’s Crack in the Trapps
Max: 6 people
Description: Be able identify a properly built anchor, knots, and
setups. Men are also welcome to attend
Did I mention all the clinics are FREE! Socialism free! Come out and support me and the other
services. Say hi. Bring donuts and Italian flags. We’ll talk climbing. We’ll talk who this Columbus guy really is. Remember sign up at RnS ya heard.
In June 2012 I spent five days alpine guide training with Jeff Ward and Larry Goldie from North Cascades Mountain Guides. This was my third trip to the Cascades and fourth alpine climbing trip in the past 5 years. I had been looking for some time to expand my skill set and further myself as a climbing guide. I am not the first person to say it but I will repeat it if you want to be a better guide surround yourself with great guides. I got a recommendation from my climbing buddy Ryan @ bigfootmountainguides.com to contact Jeff. Jeff had been one of Ryan’s instructors during his AMGA Alpine course and he said he was an exceptional teacher. Being gear nerds, Ryan also assured me that Jeff has his systems dialed in to perfection. I am lucky to have a great community of friends to garner professional and climbing beta from and after talking at length with Jeff I felt training with Jeff and Larry would be perfect fit.
I guide in the Gunks in upstate, NY. I have the opportunity to live in an exceptional area that is ideal for learning how to rock climb. The Gunks are a front country climbing area with easy access. At its tallest point the Gunks is about 300 feet tall and has a lifetime of climbing routes of varying grades. While the Gunks doesn’t have Grade II or III climbs many routes are complex and demand a skill set beyond the AMGA SPI. I am privileged to teach many technical classes at EMSCS and I also teach many introduction to rock climbing course. During the winter I teach ice and basic mountaineering skills in the Catskills. At EMS I work with some remarkable people. Actions speak louder than words so I don’t wanna get all effusive but I love guiding with team of people around me. Being a guide, teacher, instructor means having a commitment to getting better at your craft. And I want to get better. I don’t want to coast in my labor of love. I want to expand my skill set honed and developed ice climb and rock cragging. Every summer I look to bigger mountains in the Cascades. When people think of alpine climbing they most often think of climbing outside of the US. But the Cascades are the Alps of the US. From “roadside alpinism” in Washington Pass, to complex multi day challenging and big un’s like Rainier and Mount Shuksan. Its a magical place that is an ample training ground for bigger objectives. It’s no surprise that the AMGA teaches many of its alpine courses in the Cascades. I may be more than a few steps away from taking that course but I am committed to take steps in that direction applying what I learn to my guiding.
What it takes
What does it take to be an alpine guide? Many people will say to be an alpine guide you need to be the consummate badass. You need to lead hard in mountain boots and carry a freaking heavy pack loaded up with food, sleep gear and a rock rack. And its true – try leading or following wet 5.6 with a 25 pound pack on in 40 degree temperatures. Dude it’s freaking hard. Others might posit your non-climbing technical skills and point to your snow science, compass and GPS skills while still others will remark that you need cardio for days to guide in the big mountains. I think all of these are true. At the most basic you need to have a passion for climbing and hunger to learn. You need to climb. You need to have excellent movement skills at all the mediums: rock, ice and snow. But all these are skills you learn, apply, learn apply, over and over again until there both second nature. And perhaps most importantly you have the comfort in applying the right technique at the right time.
Growing up in Brooklyn far away from the mountains I learned to be self sufficient and take care of myself. Not having the best parents (have you been following my blog?) I learned how to parent myself. I am good at operating as a self contain being. This is a strength and a weakness. Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot because of this though. I am not good and admitting how challenging climbing is and I’ve struggled to advance my movement skills to the level I would like to be and can be. All guides. Heck all climbers talk about wishing they had more time to climb but its a little deeper than that for me. I need to put myself out there more and ask for partners and utilize the great community i know I have. I am not good at failing in front of my peers. And failure is a good thing. learning to fail is a good thing (tip hat to http://www.gymjones.com). I try to absorb this knowledge but its hard. I fail at this and its a real weakness. I think it can be hard because of how climbing is a physical body centered thing and as women it’s hard to have our bodies critiqued, analyzed and dissected in a freaking sport. I remember the first time a climber, an average sized 5.6 male climber about 140 pounds said to me “how much do you weight?” How much do I weight. F.U. I thought. Climbers sometimes get D-‘s in social skills. On bad days I wonder if I’ll ever be able to gain entry into the AMGA RIC, the IC or the Alpine discipline. I wonder if I got too caught up in a romantic dream of being a climbing instructor. Perhaps I started too late in life. Add a few injuries into the mix, and well, I wonder. Oh man climbing is for real though. Alpine climbing is very real. I am drawn to the complexity of alpinism. its purposefulness. Alpinism or alpine mountaineering is DIY climbing. You are the safety net. You keep you safe. You gotta do your homework. You gotta go into a new trip with all your ducks in a row. Alpine climbing isn’t about the summit but everything that gets you there. I like that a lot. If its easy I don’t want to do it. If it looks like we might fail. I’m in. I want to struggle. No half measures. I want to earn it. Alpine climbing means dealing with more failure than success. It means being patient with yourself and knowing when to pull the plug and knowing when its the right time to push onward.
How Does Mentoring Work?
Many climbers learn to climb from their friends. Some learn from their partners. Often their romantic partners. Others suggest there is an informal mentoring process in the climbing community. All of this is true but there are great limitations to these models. In short these models don’t take into account how age, class, gender, race, sexual orientation play in building the climbing community. Oh boy, I hear what your thinking, Carolyn is some commie left wing college kid. She’s lost me here. Well. sorry if I did but I suggest you continue reading and come along for the ride.
Look go to a climbing event and look around then go to Brooklyn and look around. Worlds apart. I’m a pretty privileged kid from Brooklyn but still the lack of diversity in the climbing community is intense. I recently went to a metal festival with one of the very few blue collar guys I know in the climbing scene and it felt like home. It was seeing a reflection of my childhood, neighborhood staring back at me. This is an experience I never have when climbing. Our lives are rich and different and that’s actually….okay. We can work with this. If we are committed to making a mentoring model that works for people. Yes mentoring is great. But mentoring, like climbing, too often takes place amongst younger gentlemen climbers with some money to burn and doesn’t include many pink collar ladies from BK. It’s not surprising that one of the powerful experiences I’ve had in the climbing community was at the wonder Chicks Climbing (www.chicksclimbing.com). Climbing weekends that foster young women climbers should be our entire communities responsibilities. Real mentoring requires a structure. Programs like Chicks and New Hampshire’s Kismet Rock Foundation (http://www.kismetrockfoundation.org/) have the abilities to bring together professional climbers with people new to the outdoors. Kismet does remarkable work. They might disagree with me but I do not see this as typical “do good” charity work, I am not into charity. I do this work because I love my people. And my people include the poor and working class from Bed Stuy in Brooklyn to Manchester, NH. This is real work that must be done to change the world we live in – our little climbing world and transform ourselves in the process.
The kind of mentoring I am looking for is specific to my goals of advancing my skills as a climber and guide. As an SPI instructor looking expand my skills but not yet ready to take more advanced programs with in the AMGA I think hiring more experienced guides, working w. a structured program and getting solid feedback is a smart way to go. I think also guides should look to there companies to do more of this work as well. Perhaps that’s another blog entry. Anyway going into the course I asked some general questions but more or less kept it simple. What I wanted to work on was:
a) Moving efficiently on 3rd and 4th class rock and snow.
b) short roping and short pitching on 3 and 4th class rock and snow.
c) snow – dialing in my movement skills and protective systems.
d) route finding and navigation. – using books topos, compass, GPS.
WHY THE CASCADES
It took me 22 hours to get from upstate NY to Mazma, WA. It was long trip. Traveling is hard on the body to travel that long, eat well, sleep a little and be ready for my first day. My first two days were climbing alpine rock. We climbed Southern Early Winter Spire and the Becky Route on the Liberty Bell. Graded 5.4 (the Southern Arete) and 5.6 (the Beckey Route/SW Face) the technical climbing wasn’t necessarily the crux. The Southern Early Winter Spire is the highest peak of the Liberty Bell group in Washington Pass. It includes, the North Early Winter Spire, Concord and Lexington Towers, the Minuteman Tower & the Bell itself. Its a marvelous area to hone your skills with managable approaches and interesting climbing that requires a variety of skills.
Being mid June on routes best done in September meant dealing with cold temps and potential bad weather. on the long snow approaches Larry and I went over the little details that can make all the difference in managing an alpine route. For example caching gear – crampons, ice axe, trekking poles means you don’t have to carry a heavier pack than necessary. Climbing with the right rope. We used a 50m 9.2 can save weight but also enable you to make key rappels in a efficient manner. Using approach or even rock shoes on classic “boot routes” was invaluable. As well as keeping detailed notes on all the gear used, technical cruxes, the time it took making key transitions was all very helpful. After guiding me up the route and back down Larry had me guide him through the some of the sections utilizing short roping and short pitching on 3 and 4th class rock and snow. I can’t say enough of how inspiring and helpful this was. Having not taken the RIC my short roping experience has been limited. There aren’t many applications in the Gunks a few in the Catskills.
On our second day temps were in the 30s, it was cloudy with a dusting of snow. Climbing in my full winter kit is not the weather I usually rock climb in. I was definitely outside my comfort zone. 5.6 crux’s suddenly become wicked crux-y when wearing mountaineering boots on polished slabs and little gear add a part of gloves and 5.6 moves become 5.8 moves. Larry again brought me up and then it was my turn. This was more technical route with more exposure and varied terrain. I felt great bring Larry up and significantly guiding him while down climbing much of the upper section. Key was client and guide safety at all time. The environment was a great one and Larry did an awesome job of enabling me to ask questions and also figure some things out by myself. We utilized many terrain belays and lower systems that were new to me. And learning not to descend sideways (my go to) but instead face out was challenging. And while I have a lot of confidence in descent techniques the new terrain – often steeper than you think with less opportunities to plug in a solid cam was new.
Take Me to the River
When I initially put together this trip with Jeff I really wanted to do a bigger alpine objective. I figure 2 independent days combing with a 3 day overnight would be a well rounded training excursion. Two years earlier I climbed the Torment Forbidden Traverse with Ryan Stefiuk and I felt a similar objective would be necessary for me to truly make this a great trip. Here’s where the romance and desire to climb and the need to learn sharper skills parted. In the days before my trip to Washington I started to think about how much time I’d spend hiking and cooking versus learning guide specific technical skills on a multi day trip. Because it was early season I also wondered what it would be like getting hammered by bad weather, failing to summit x or y peak and being wiped out from the effort. The goal of this trip was not summits the goal was to learn as much as possible. After discussion my thoughts with both Larry and Jeff we made the decision to run the five days without a big overnight adventure.
My third day was out with Jeff Ward and I had heard a lot about him from my peers. I wanted to make a good impression. After two long days I was feeling a little worked. Being a single student learning a whole many new skills is a big challenge. There wasn’t any time for me to turn my brain off and “just climb.” At the same time you realize the stamina and competence you need for the AMGA Alpine Course. I was going to give it my all and do my very best on my first day. I ended up falling into a freezing stream. On my third and fourth day Jeff and I attempted routes including Cutthroat Peak that required immediate complex stream crossings. Having been to the Cascades and hiking in the catskills in winter I’ve built my share of bridges out of downed trees and moved many boulders to boot. On day three I slipped and fell into the stream for a minute but long enough to get soaked up to my chest.
Prior to coming out Jeff had recommended I bring two pairs of light or lighter weight boots on the trip. I, of course, chafed at this suggestion to carry more weight but I ended up bringing both my ice and my summer alpine boots on the trip. This enabled us to make a quick trip back to my hotel. Change and get back out there. Having a back plan is always a good thing and Jeff and I quickly formulated a good one.
Driving back out to the mountains outside of Mazma picked an area and began practicing short roping and short pitching on snow. Leading Jeff up we practiced me catching his fall on the short rope or making a split second decision that the “client” has too much momentum, dropping the coils in my hand and self arresting. (SEE Emilie’s great video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r42vLVfMtk8). Having a near 350# dead-lift may have helped me because I caught every fall but two. Not bad for my first attempts. When then practiced a variety of techniques for building deadmen in the snow, using 1 or 2 tools or snow pickets for anchors. Under the supervision of Jeff I feel like I dialed in my skills and received invaluable feedback. Similarly my last day in Mazma we had a shorter day working on transitions in a local sport climbing areas, managing lowers, rappels and more lowers while keeping the clients safe and in the system. There’s something to be said about going on the sharp end in front of a climber and guide you deeply respect and having them critique your skills. It wasn’t always easy but I think it was immensely helpful.
We planned on climbing the Southeast buttress on Cutthroat Peak. The night before Jeff and I worked on a trip plan that included breaking down the elevation, plan for white out navigation, and compass bearings. Like a lightbulb going off I was thrilled to be incorporating compass, GPS and map reading skills in my tool bag. Jeff and I made a good effort of finding a safe approach but were again stymied by the early season conditions. The streams were high and the ability to cross them didn’t make sense. Our back up plan was Lexington Tower which ended up being the most challenging day of my trip.
On my first three days in the Cascades, despite the overnight temps, the snow on the approaches was soft enabling us to get away without using crampons the majority of the time. The approach to Lexington ended up having hard snow, icy in sections, and was steeper. Snow is a complex medium you can screw in a bomber 19cm ice screw nor slot in a perfect DMM nut. Jeff gave me the challenge of guiding him safely up the approach and I savored the task. It was important for me to make every step count but also move quickly and efficiently. After first hiking toward Cutthroat and now the longer approach to the base of the rock section on Lexington ended up working me and taking us past noon. The 5.7 rock section was by no means the crux but there was some large loose rocks and interesting moves. This being an up and over required me to carry all my gear on the route. After finishing the rock section we approached what I would call the “crazy knife blade-y ridge.” Jeff led up and over and basically lassoed a pointy part of the ridge. There breath taking view and bug nuts exposure on this part of the traverse. Following I felt gripped and nervously made my way across and then down climbed a section to the raps down. I was scared and tired from the days in the mountains and learned a quick lesson about my limitations there. The raps down and long descent back to the car turned into a night at the brew pub in Whitney where we ate burgers and tasted many fine lagers and ales.
Do I want to be an alpine guide? I am taking it one day at a time. Working with Jeff and Larry was an affirmation to my love of climbing, my love of alpine climbing and my hunger to learn more of my craft. Looking at myself and giving a no bullshit assessment I don’t know if I can become an alpine guide. I’d like to guide in more complex terrain. I am also 44 years old. I need to be a better climber. I need to work harder. And I like living close to my hometown of Brooklyn. I love my community of friends, climbers, politicos and metal-heads. All of this matters and makes me a whole being. Becoming an alpine guide means making great sacrifices and commitments to the craft. It takes time and money, leaving loved ones, you best puppy and having a semi-stable income. It means stepping up on every level of your climbing ability. I think my five days working with Jeff and Larry have had a impact on my professional develop. The AMGA RIC is 10 days. So is the first stage in the alpine discipline. I am taking steps. They may be small but they are firm. I will do the work. I will put in time. I will try. I do know I want to take the AMGA Rock Instructor. I’d like to take the Ice and Alpine Course too. What i need to do is put in the work to earn the right to be in it. there’s no short cut. There’s a path. It helps to know how to read a map. I need to find my way. Existential hand wringing has no place in the discussion.
There is more than one path to get from where I am to being a more proficient alpine climber and/or guide. The AMGA has a concentration of skills and knowledge and has created a fantastic process where advance guides are constantly learning and honing their skills with young guns and experienced guides across the world. Working IFMGA guides Jeff Ward and Larry Goldie was a tremendous gift. They gave me their time and created a environment for me to learn. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, she not busy being born is busy dying.
FMI on Jeff and Larry: http://www.ncmountainguides.com/
“it’s like a morgue”
“it’s a conga line”
With 11 dead in a few short days and the season just getting started Everest is once again in the news. climbing is dangerous. high altitude mountaineering has a particular set of hazards and dangers. Many people will never attempt Everest but they will try other big mtns: rainier, longs peak, kilimanjaro, Denali, Aconcagua, Mt Blanc, etc. Everest is getting an enormous amt of media attention right now. And climbers are getting framed as being stupid & reckless. This is the dominate narrative in the mainstream media and it is quite simply silly.
It’ll be worth sussing out the details after this season is over and we have time to process things. Many experienced climbers and guides have decided this is a bad season while others equally experienced have gone ahead w. there efforts. What role the conditions played in these tragedies and what human factors occurred will take time to examine.
Lastly a word about crowds. I don’t like crowds on or off the mountain. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY a borough of 4 plus million people. Yet I live in the Gunks one of the busiest crags in North America. Many climbers have been posting the conga line going up Everest and suggesting that they would never ever never ever put themselves into such a crazy crowded climbing situation. The crowds on Everest certainly make aspects of climbing this mountain less than appealing. Still Gym climbing and sport are the fastest growing trends in our sport. And ironically there’s a false safety in both that can lead to tragic climbing accidents. Still gyms are packed to the gills on weeknights yet people still manage to crank on their projects. Ditto Rumney and other sport crags across the US. And people enter ironmans and marathons, go to disneyland and rock concerts, rallies and weddings. I’m making a small point here but simply trying to say no one likes the crowds. I am sure everyone wishes they could climb the mountain alone or in their small expedition. But if you want to complete the Boston Marathon or climb Everest you somehow manage to bite the bullet and deal.
In the meantime read Freddie Wilkinson’s excellent op ed in the NYT’s and talk amongst yourselves.
This was originally posted on Facebook on April 10, 2012. I am in the process of writing a piece on community, mentorship, healing and taking care of each other. Therefore I felt it would make the most sense to repost here.
My Ma always said death comes in threes. In a trifecta of blackened misery I lost my aunt, my mother and my uncle mike. afterward I was alone. Seemingly spaced out to engender some kind of emotional healing I lost all three to heart attacks. the only difference being my aunt, diagnosed with cancer died in the hospital on the day the doctors were supposed to release her. I’ve written elsewhere of the specifics of there passing. It feels…repetitive to do so again. The late night phone call from the hospital explaining my aunt being brought back to life despite a DNR order. That phone call bleeding into the police from the 63rd precinct informing me of my mother’s death. Then two years later me calling my uncle to plan out Easter dinner together only to have the NYPD again on the other end of the line informing me that my uncle was gone and I was alone. Identifying bodies. the white noise of condolences and care. The knowledge that there is no wall to punch. No sound you can make. No amount of crying. or hiding in your bed that will take away the pain you feel. The days and weeks. The months and the years. The decades after each loss ate at me wondering why there wasn’t more time. Why there wasn’t a chance to connect, reconcile to share a simple meal. To be held in my mothers arms and perhaps once to have not smelt her whiskey breath.
warning: this is raw. this is written in pain. this is angry. I don’t want to fuck you up. It’s going to talk about some people we know and love. I’m going to say some things that we usually say behind closed doors. the time was now for me to write these words but it may not be the right time for you to read them. please take care of your keep reading or not.
your angry. that’s understandable. its part of the grieving process. you feel survivor’s guilt. you feel alone. it gets better. these feelings. this weight. it too shall pass. SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP. I am so fucking sick of self help blogs. Positive messages. Healing tips from assholes who don’t know how to suffer. if your looking for answers go to the church of TRITE SELF HELP move along now. I am not here for you.
Stick with the facts. that always helps. Sgt. Joe Friday character on Dragnet used to implore female witnesses to provide “Just the facts ma’am.” On Friday March 30th I woke up to find Joel Olson had died in his sleep the night before. He was 45 years old. A father of two sword fighting star wars loving boys and a lovely daughter Nile who I met when she was just an infant. Joel and his wife Audrey were together forever. And it feels like just yesterday (not 1993) I was visiting the Twin Cities and meeting Joel for the first time in the Blast house. Joel playing Motorhead, wearing, well a Motorhead t-shirt. These were familiar touch stones for me as I was clearly so over my head talking to the committed anti racist revolutionary activists I was meeting that weekend. Joel had a way of making people feel welcomed. And important. To this day I have a hard time pronouncing Foucault name or remembering why the Grundrisse was important or the details of Black Reconstruction. But Joel he wanted to know my thoughts on all of them. He wanted to know what a kid from south Brooklyn thought of his politics. Especially if I disagreed with him. Joel wanted to know what I thought and he listened. hard. Joel always surprised me. He was an ardent vegetarian while I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around why I would want to stop eating meat. A metalhead a scholar who had a deep respect for a musical genre and its fans most leftist can not stand. I remember entering Audrey and Joel’s home in Flaggstaff after a climbing trip to Red Rocks. His boys were having a crazy chaotic sword fight in the living room, with toy assault rifles and plenty of other non-PC toys. But his boys were great listeners for their ages and asked me many questions about climbing. I also go to read bed time stories to them each night and they welcomed me into their home like a deeply trusted blood relative. Joel’s boys were a lot like Joel. And now he’s gone.
I might have gotten a handle on Joel’s senseless passing in the days afterward. I might have started to feel okay. But then I heard H. was also gone just four days later and I felt my heart break. I first met H. at a wilderness first aid class at the Mohonk Preserve. I told everyone in the room I was new to the area and wanted climbing partners especially for ice. H. became my first ice partner. When friends in the city think about what it was like from a goil from BK moving to a rural climbing mecca I used to tell them about H. H. was a lil bit of Sex in the City meets Dora the Explorer. She had an unbounded hunger for exploration. for adventure. for climbing. And perhaps most of all for love. H. simply wanted to be loved.
I can handle anything. I am fighter and a survivor and all that other bullshit. The days since then haven’t gotten any better though. Within 24 hours I heard of another suicide of a mutual old school political friend in Toronto. One of his last acts writing a tribute to Joel. And that same day after deciding – FUCK IT ALL, I’m going climbing I headed to the Trapps only to find dozens of K-9 units, Staties, and helicopters searching for a missing woman suspected of suicide. Eventually her body was found at the base of Millbrook, a long 4 mile hike from where she left her car. I wonder how long she thought about it before she jumped to her death. How long did she think about her friends, family, former lovers, old friends. And she thought no one is there for me. no one loves me.
I just decided to stop talking about all this death after H. Its all just too fucking much.
My therapist used to say, “how big is your pain? describe how big it is” And my pain is big. Its K2 on a ugly day big. Its crushing 18 wheeler big. Its no air in my lungs big. Tell me to breath? Tell. Me. Take a deep breath. Keep breathing. GO FUCK YOURSELF.
Look I’m not passing judgment. I am not even opposed to suicide. I am just so fucking angry. I am so fucking angry. Do you have any idea how hard people go it? How alone and without support people feel. It fucking kills me to see someone take their life and give up fighting. You know there was no rest in their last moments. No solace in their choices. Peace? Fuckin’ peace so you jump off a cliff. When exactly does the peace hit you? Before or after you hit the ground?
The scariest thing about all of this death is the fear that maybe we’re missing something. H. had had a challenging recovery from a knee injury. Many friends struggle with injuries that take us away from our communities. And having been injured over the past year myself I wonder, “are all my climbing friends really my friends?” Are we really building a different kind of community with our recycled $500 jackets, our blogs and facebook posts bragging about how great we are, instagram photos taken of bourgeois toys and talk of buying locally ad nausem. Don’t get me started with this pathetic self help feel good consumerist bullshit. The level of narcissism in our culture is toxic and it is pervasive across professions. hobbies. whether your a yuppie hipster in williamsburg or a self absorbed climber. Perhaps alone in the mirror we all ask am I taking care of myself? Is this life going the way I want it to be? Am I loved? Do I even love myself? Do these folks have my back? Love me? Get me? Oy. Maybe I’m just dwelling on the negative. Maybe I am not looking at how the loss of Joel and H. can maybe bring us together. Make us treat each other a little kinder. See the bigger picture.
If you get a chance you should read more about Joel’s life and his work as a scholar and an activist. Joel stood with people. He didn’t run across the globe trying to save people. Or give charity. He sought to stand along those facing oppression and build another world. Many will say, I wish H. knew all she had going for her. I wish she knew how many people loved her. Admired her. Were jealous of her adventures and thought, man she has it all. We are all only human. Anger makes a lot of sense. But life is just not always fucking fair or fucking easy. And good people die alone and in despair for no reason at all. People go unloved. You know that’s right. And people never learn how to love themselves. People struggle and fight and claw and believe that there is a chance. We are left making sense of this world. We are left to stand with each other. There is another day. And I can’t promise you its any better than what’s come before. But there is a chance.
Every Spring in the gunks there are tragic seemingly avoidable climbing accidents in the Gunks. Sometimes newbie mistakes sometimes it is not. Sometimes its an obvious mistake. other times its quite complicated and there are no easy answers. These accidents leave families and friends destroyed and a community looking for answers. If you know me you know I do not make fun of other people. I have zero tolerance policy for bullshit judgment. I don’t whine and complain about noobies in the uberfall. I don’t bitch and moan about carpet baggers taking over the Gunks. I can always go out to Millbrook, Lost City or Bonticou. Nevermind the freaking Daks. Or If I don’t like it I stay home and watch a movie. I’m also not the type of person to interject myself in other people’s climbing business. I don’t tell people how to solo 4th class gullies. I don’t critique the way strangers rappel. I don’t tell people what to do. It’s not in my nature. I’ve never considered myself a libertarian but in the climbing world that’s what I am. I believe people have a right to go out and climb. I think they should do this with a combination of more experienced friends, local community mentors, a clinic here or there and some professional instruction but I fully support people finding their own path. In a personal 1 on 1 type of conversation I will suggest options but I don’t interject myself in other people’s biz.
Still a recent death at the cliff has shaken many of us to the core. Instead of obsessing over hearsay and half truths we want to do something pro-active. Local guides are putting on a series of clinics every saturday night in the uberfall. They do not take the place of actual instruction but can help clarify questions intermediate climbers and beginners might have. check it out:
Climbing info/Blogs of note:
Repeat Offender, Burkett Needle:
The following is a news article I wrote about the occupy wall street movement happening in NY, across the country and in your city. I’m a climber. I’m a guide. I am a working class goil from Brooklyn. Sometimes I blog about climbing and sometimes there are more important things than climbing.
Drawing inspiration from Occupy Wall Street: October 1
Commentary by Carolyn Riccardi |
New York, NY – In a city of nine million people, protesters aren’t supposed to shut down a major traffic artery on a Saturday afternoon. But on Saturday, October 1, Occupy Wall Street did just that, blocking the Brooklyn Bridge and sending a loud message to the bankers and politicians from Wall Street to Washington D.C. to California that a new day is at hand.
Saturday was Day 15 of Occupy Wall Street, a 24-hour living protest in the shadow of the World Trade Center, surrounded by City Hall, One Police Plaza and the headquarters of banks and finance. Thousands of people have been gathering every day despite a persistent rainy September. What started out as a call by radical youth has steadily given rise to the participation of the transit workers union, Black nationalist organizations, grandmothers, students, teachers and other forces. Many question what the heck Occupy Wall Street is. With the claims of being leaderless and without demands, I can relate to that question.
It seemed part street theater held together with duct tape and crazy glue. Yet a funny thing has occurred on the streets of New York. Inspired by political uprisings in Cairo, Greece, and Palestine there is a rising politic that is pissed off at our rising unemployment rate, the burning awareness of the boot of the NYPD on people of color communities, endless expanding wars, and the execution of Troy Davis. While the effects of the festering economic crisis brought people to occupy Wall Street on September 17, that and many other injustices keep more people coming.
If the call to occupy lower Manhattan was heeded by youth first, the state murder of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia shook many to the core who were already frustrated by conservative policies coming from the White House. Many peoples’ hopes rose with the election Barack Obama, only to have hearts grow twisted and heavy as now he rallies the forces of US imperialism and corporations like JP Morgan since taking office.
In a dreary rain I was pleased to see hundreds of people grow to a couple of thousand as the day progressed. This is impressive on the 15th day of a round-the-clock protest action. The people’s loud speaker announced a march in the afternoon with an unclear direction or goal. But once people began to move up Broadway towards City Hall it didn’t seem to matter.
After going to political protests for a couple decades it’s easy to wear a skin of cynicism, but the pure energy of the crowd inspired all of us. People on the street smiled and cheered. Horns honked from every side street, and as we marched the rain stopped and the day got crisp our voices got louder. We arrived at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge and many marched legally onto the walkway while others began to block traffic and head towards the roadway. Police were ill-prepared to handle the growing militancy of the demonstration. And as a cop gave warnings over a loudspeaker, you could tell people were marinating over the heavy choices at hand. One. Two. Ten. Twenty. 100 people began to chant, “take the bridge, take the bridge!” And we did.
After protesters marched strong and blocked the road, the police regrouped and eventually arrested over 700 people. As people organized support for their jailed sisters and brothers, news of protests actions in many other cities were also on people lips.
Work needs to get done. It’s time to step up and into the fray. Occupy Wall Street. This is now.
Here’s the link to the article: http://www.fightbacknews.org/2011/10/2/drawing-inspiration-occupy-wall-street-october-1″>
WARNING: for the next 6-7 months I will be posting blogs, status updates, poems, gear reviews, trip reports, photos, stories, and articles about WINTER. Winter, Ice climbing, snow climbing, new hampshire, the catskills, the daks, etc. Winter climbing here, there and everywhere. Now, now I’ve been very disciplined ’bout summer-all frakking summer long. time is coming. T minus 7 weeks and counting.
Think I’m too early: http://neice.com/2010/11/right-on-schedule/
Winter friends is coming. So say we all.
Did I suggest I am lovin’ summer? Impossible. Summer suxs. SUMMER is NOT WINTER. It’s hot, humid, hot and humid, wet and gross, its well….summery. Somethings gotta be different. New tattoo? New Anthrax cd? New Mastodon cd? What, what ? The big news I’m guiding full time. And I am lovin’ it. This spring and summer I transitioned to working full time as an EMS Climbing guide. In the past I split my time between the office, or the box as we affectionately call it and the cliff. But in practice I was in the box far more than the cliff. This summer I am out on the cliff 3-4 days per week and it is awwwwwwwwwwwwwwesome.
What’s great about guiding I can think of two things. One introducing people to the world of outdoor climbing and the magic of the gunks. Show ing folks the best climbs and watching them challenge themselves, face fear and succeed. From children to seniors, lil kids to cynical Manhattan hipsters – put em’ in a harness, get an orange brain bucket on there heads and some (somewhat) uncomfortable shoes and off we go. Noobs aren’t cynical. they aren’t obsessed with only climbing 5.10s, 3 star routes or High E….yet. The other thing that I’m loving is teaching technical climbing courses. This summer I’ve taught top rope set up courses, learning to lead and glacier skills and crevasse rescue course. I feel incredibly lucky to be teaching at this level and to feel competent and solid instructor. And it’s a great balance between the total noob in the Rock Climbing 101 course and the more advanced climbing looking to summit Rainier or Denali. I am getting to use my brain, the work is physical and emotionally satisfying too.
The other great thing about this summer has been crossfit. After training off and on at crossfit the past 2 years I’ve tried re-dedicated myself this spring and summer and the results have been steady. First I have to say I feel lucky to have a fantastic coach Peter Nathan. Peter is an experienced athlete and coach drawing on decades of training and competing most recently in the national crossfit games out in cali this past July. But what I have also found at my gym is a sincere cadre of goils and guys who show up and do the work. And do they work. We grunt, sweat, cry, suffer and dream crossfit. we, together, are trying to better ourselves as atheletes and as people. the sincerity and commit at my gym is remarkable. its a low drama results oriented gym and I can’t recommend it enough.
Now there’s some criticism out in the interweb. Some of it more thoughtful than others. Folks jokingly call it cult-fit and speak of group think, etc. Most of this is easy to debunk once you get beyond the hype. One thing that is striking is people who join crossfit – to loss weight, advance in their sport, try out a new kind of training – if they make it past the 3 month mark kinda love it. Its a good program. A very good program. Its accessible. You COULD do it at home. It’s not about secret formulations, weird machines and gyms that are really meat markets for the socially awkward.
And it kinda transforms many people who walk through the door and stick with it. It becomes a revolutio of the body and mind. People stop wearing overpriced sneakers and buy 20 pro keds. folks change their diet. they go paleo, primal, zone or just start eating right. the experience change and start thinking and start wanting to be healthy ALL THE TIME. Should you have a critique of crossfit? Should you think outside the box? of course and I’ll have to write more about that at a later date. Things I would like at crossfit: longer workouts, more running, more running, more strength training AND a greater emphasis on endurance training and more cardio work. Crossfit does have sealfit and crossfit endurance but neither has turned its methods to the climbing community like Gym Jones and others have.
I have work to do myself. I am in the shallow end of the pool and have much more work to do. I need to link my training more clearly to my sport goals of being a strong climber with great endurance. I would like my workouts to build towards trying to peak as a climber once in the late summer and again in mid- Feb during the height of ice season. I’d like to devote all of my training towards those two points. further developing workouts that reproduce some elements of the climbing skills and form. Most often climbers particularly rock climbers suggest MORE CLIMBING as the answer to everything. But that’s not my sole focus as I am drawn to the larger mountains and particularly winter snow and ice climbing. And there are programs like the Alpine Training Center in Colorado, Mountain Athlete in Jackson Hole, Wy and Gym Jones in SLC, Utah that I am paying close attention to and trying to learn from as well.
In the meantime the results:
1) Deadlift PR: 326# – july
2) Deadlift PR: 331# – aug
3) clean and jerk PR: 113# (2x) -aug
4) backsquat PR 200# 2 X – aug
5) front squat PR 139# – aug
5) Local personal benchmark run: 6.6 mi @ 59:58. – july
6) 500m Row: matched PR of 1:39 – may
7) 2000m Row – 7:53 (first attempt at the 2000m row) – june
8) unmeasured: I am not longer doing modified pull ups. my pull ups aren’t great but they are soooo much better. And I am getting better every day. Ditto I don’t have a bench press max but I can do 2 sets of 5 @ 105# which is an advance too from last year.
If you’ve been following my progress this is week 23 OVERALL. But it is in the past 12-14 weeks of solid training – 3-4 days of crossfit per week plus guiding f/t that I have made most of my gains.
Finally thoughts: I still miss winter but this summer’s been pretty cool.
Where do you find out more about GUNXCROSSFIT: Gunxcrossfit
and of course: www.gymjones.com