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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bikram - hooked to the heat

I’m in trikonasana (triangle) pose. My legs are open 4 feet wide with my right leg bent at 90 degrees over my right toe. My waist is bent over my right leg with my right hand straining beyond my toes. My left hand, fingers straight, shoots out to the ceiling. My glutes are clenched tight, and my chest and neck all thrust upwards to follow my eyes that are straining to look past my outstretched left hand. I’m dripping sweat from every pore, creating small wet spots on the carpet by my yoga mat. I forget the oppressive heat in the room for a moment while I put all my focus on getting the maximum stretch in my body. My muscles are crying for mercy but I have to remember to not let the strain show on my face. For a relaxed face helps keep my breathing in check. A few seconds more, and then just when I feel I can’t hold any longer, the instructor tells us to relax, come out of the posture, and move to the opposing leg.

One of my favorite postures, requires strength and incredible focus.

Whew! I relax for a brief second in between poses but I’m only half-way into the 90 minutes long class. Another posture and then I need to reach down and grab a sip of water from my nalgene. I’m glad of all the water I drank this afternoon to get ready for the intense sweating that Bikram induces.

One of my weakest postures ever - Unlike this guy I can barely get my head below my knees!

Bikram Yoga is quite unlike the other kinds of yoga – such as Vinayasa, Hatha, and Asthanga - that I have dabbled in over the years. Bikram was started by this guy who hurt his knees and was told that he could never walk again. Instead he innovated this new kind of yoga where the intense heat (104 degree F) and a rigid series of postures have helped him, and countless others achieve strength, balance, flexibility, and healthful joints. While the cynic in me still finds Bikram a little gimmicky, I have to admit that I’m getting somewhat addicted to this style of yoga. I really enjoy the intensity of the workout, and in just a few classes find myself breaking new grounds. The other day I found myself being able to touch my forehead to my knees with straight legs – something I have never been able to do before.

A typical Bikram class in progress.

I signed up for a intro membership ($30 for 30 days of unlimited yoga) at which is just 2 blocks from my home. The initial idea was to find an alternative from the limited offerings at Mission Cliffs. While it’s a great perk to have free yoga classes at the climbing gym, the offerings are limited. Now I find myself getting hooked. The one thing I have to be careful of is finding the right balance between yoga and climbing. Climbing is unquestionably my higher priority. Bikram especially, gets me quite sore and then I feel weak while climbing the next day. Yoga though does feel like the perfect complement to climbing and hopefully I can continue doing yoga twice a week during the lean summer climbing months, and then once a week when Jailhouse season sets in during late fall and winter.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day in Tahoe

With reknowned skiing, Tahoe enjoys prime visibility as a wintertime West coast destination. Rock climbing in Tahoe, while not quite as world class, does offer enough variety to offer welcome respite during the (climbingwise) lean summer months. So this past Labor Day weekend Mike, Shane and I, loaded up in Mike's trusty Corolla and made the 3.5 hr trip over. Correction: should've been less than 4 hrs, but with hordes escaping hot weather in the Bay, the drive over actually took almost 5 hrs :( Long drives that get longer to contend with the heavy population density in California, are one of those things that is taking me a while to get used to after my move here from North Carolina.

We pulled up at Mayhem Cove, a nicely concentrated sport climbing area, close to South Lake Tahoe, around 2 pm Saturday. A late climbing start wasn't altogether bad since the crag gets in the shade only later in the day. After (somewhat stiff) .10c, and 11c warmups we made our way to the route of the day - Cajun Hell - a cool blocky 12b that you get to by crawling up a 4th class slab. A cheesy name, but a great route, if coupled with the 12c extension, makes a really classic 13a. Given that I currently lack route endurance, my ambitions that day were limited to redpointing the 12b. I had tried this route a few weeks back on a previous trip and was relying on fuzzy route beta that I could barely remember. Redpointing took 2 burns. My final burn was so ugly as I forgot my own kneebar beta and had to horribly muscle thru some clips in the middle. Made it to the end to clip the chains..whew! Walker, if you are reading this - you do not have to clip the anchors from the shitty undercling. You just need to make two more moves to a jug and then clipping is a breeze. Thanks to Shane for having the imagination, and kudos to him too for making the route look really easy. Mike made good work on the route as well and all of us hope to be back soon to try the entire 13 a route.

Shane making the move out of the kneebar.

I found a great (no hands) kneebar around the 4th clip.

Shane cracks a smile as he rests on jugs.

After average Mexican fare, and really strong margaritas :) we made our way to a well-earned rest. I'd have slept better but for the winds howling all night. We were bivying in the open and I had a fitful time trying to keep my ears and any other body part warm that would poke outside the sleeping bag.

The next day found us climbing at Donner summit. The route of the day was Transmogrifier - an amazing 12d at Roadcut crag - that was created unnaturally by man-made explosives to create Donner Pass road. After a really cold warmup (damn winds again) at Snowshed, we made our way to Roadcut which was mercifully warm in the sun.

I did another warmup on Totem Pile (Shane pictured above on the same route). I was happy to flash it but felt it was quite harder than the 10d given by the Falcon guide. Falcon makes really bad climbing guides by the way so avoid them if at all possible.

I worked Transmogrifier twice on toprope (am I becoming such a wuss?). This route has 3 different cruxes:
  • A V3/V4ish start on slopey crimps
  • In the middle a really bad pinch move in the middle (hardest move for me and the main crux - V4) with really awful feet but you do get a no-hands rest immediately afterwards.
  • Another V3/V4 crux guarding the route at the top.
All 3 of us managed to do all the moves. But there was no time, energy or skin (!) to give it a serious redpoint burn. We packed up around 7 and had an uneventful drive back to San Francisco to get home by about 11 pm Sunday nite.

I was just way too excited about being able to sleep in on Monday given the holiday. With really warm temps we headed to Stinson beach at Marin for a fun day of boogieboarding, swimming, eating (lots!), volleyball and beers with friends.

A great weekend overall.

Mike got this cool shot of me on Cajun Hell with Lake Tahoe in the background.