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Friday, October 24, 2008

Dry, yet slippery!

In the dying light of the day, I'm on my my last route, Rappin' Boyz, a cool travery 12A at the part of the crag known as the Hood. I am horrendously pumped after blowing up sequences for the majority of the climb, but I just clipped the last bolt and I am just a few feet shy of the end of the route. Caaan't give up now! I continue fighting past a couple of greasy pockets and then I'm in sight of the anchors. I have to cross my right hand around to a sideways 2 finger pocket and step my left foot on a slabby ledge. Easy enough it sounds, but when I actually attempt to gain purchase, my foot, it keeps slipping. Desperation. I try in vain to press my left foot harder, but it won't stay. In the meanwhile my arms are contorted with lactic acid, and then I can't hang on any more. My fingers explode out of the shallow pockets, and whoosh, I take a 25 foot whipper. As I fall through the air, my immediate reaction is shock - wow I was so close to sending this rig! - then dismay as I realize my failure - but ultimately I just start laughing. The slick limestone of Mt Charleston claims another one. I can blame the slippery, polished rock all i want, but its really my footwork that is pathetic for words. An entire summer spent mostly climbing indoors, and a desk job that I commute 3 hrs every day for, does not a good climber make. Gym climbing, Mt Charleston is definitely not. This crag requires delicate footwork and a steep learning curve. Stuff that wasn't in my ammo bag for on a quick weekend climbing trip. But hey, I'm still stoked to be here, Mt Charleston is beautiful, inspiring, and a great getaway for a cube farmer like myself.

A mountain of limestone....delicious!!

Mt Charleston is one of the several climbing areas, in the rock wonderland know as Las Vegas. On the latest leg of his never-ending climbing trip, Walker decided he wanted to spend some of the fall, sport climbing around the Southwest. I invited myself onto his trip, showed up at the Vegas airport bright Friday am, and left Walker in charge of the rest of the logistics. I did bring a spanking new Charleston guidebook with me (a very generous gift from my gym buddy Tom) that I drooled over during the plane ride. After procuring foodstuff (thank you Trader Joe's for being everywhere for us), and a quick 1 hr drive from the airport, we found ourselves under a sunny sky, at 8000 ft, high above the Vegas desert, parking at the trailhead. Soon we were warming up on a popular 10d. There was a 12b extension that I tried but failed. For the 2nd warmup we hit this cool traversy 11c with jugs, pockets and pinches. Walker onsighted it ofcourse, while yours truly hung all over it. Damn footwork again. Climbing here made me feel like I needed a climbing 101 course and learn to use feet all over again. Just need more outdoor mileage I guess. The day did get better and we got on a 12a, and two different 12c's. Jazzmatazz the 2nd 12c was pretty cool. I made it all the way to the last 10 feet, but was stymied by the crux guarding the anchors. Just couldn't figure out the finishing sequence. I lowered and we decided to save any remaining energy and skin for the next day.
Oh dear, what should I climb next indeed? Walker in deep perusal of the guidebook.

We bivied in a primitive but free camping area by the trailhead. I've gotten lazy of late and avoid pitching a tent unless its butt freezing cold, and if the chance of rain is minimal. So I just bivied in the open, and slept really well on Walker's big Mondo crashpad.

Bivying next to the car. Check out the space blanket setup around my pillow to keep any cold winds at bay!

After a huge brekkie of eggs, veggie chorizzos and potates, we found ourselves back at the Hood. The highlight of the day was Straight Outta Compton, a super classic 12d and the first route at the Compton cave. Also the easiest route here which snuggles next to some of the big bad 14s that this crag is rightly famous for. I did every move except one which required a strong right heel hook which I was afraid to use because of a nagging knee injury on my right leg. Walker did get a good redpoint burn, and barely missed the send. My last route of the day was the one that I described in the intro to this post. Time to head out of the crag.

A climber on Straight Outta Compton. The photo doesn't do justice to the steepness of the cave. Wildly overhung the whole way, at one point I found myself completely horizontal.

My 3rd and final day we decided to climb at Red Rocks Canyon. Red Rocks is quite amazing, beautiful sandstone, and 20 mins away from the Las Vegas strip. We had a great day climbing at the Pier wall. We did a lot of pitches of mostly 11s and this one 12b that I almost snagged a 2nd try redpoint. It had a crimpy v4ish boulder problem in the middle. I was able to do it off the hang, but fell on the redpoint. Oh well, another climb to come back for. The 11a and 11c on this wall -can't remember any names :( - were really fun. This wall is a good place to get in shape. All the routes are right next to another, enabling lap burns.

I had a 7.45 pm flight to catch. But we were exhausted way before. We grabbed a quick dinner and Walker dropped me for my Southwest flight. Tired but content I made it back to SF uneventfully. Walker, thanks again for taking care of things.

These quick trips are like little appetizers. They tease my taste buds just enough to make me realize how I long for more time in the outdoors, visiting some of these amazing, beautiful climbing areas. Looking forward to the next weekend already!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lovefest and Jailhouse

One crazy weekend!

We climbed at Jailhouse today. The first day of the season...yay! A break in weather called for lows in the 70s this weekend and a few of us decided to head out there for day a trip this Sunday. To maximize the cool early morning temps, we headed out Friday night itself, bivied close to the crag, and were up pulling into the parking lot at about 8.30am. Alas, there were folks way more hard-core than us, and we were greeted by 4 other cars with their occupants who were already warming up yonder at the cliff. No worries though as I did recognize most of the cars and I was looking forward to seeing old faces.

The last time I was here was in early May and I was a little nervous about having lost some fitness. I have mostly bouldered all summer and I was not looking forward to slogging my way back to route shape.

Turned out that I didn't do so badly. I barely remembered the moves on the warmups (they are hard at 11d and above), but I got thru them. I was a little wishy-washy about finding the right project, but ended up getting on Fugitive, an uber-classic 13a. I had gotten on this maybe a year ago, but had to lower after just a couple of bolts as I was not feeling well then. So I didn't remember much, but I have definitely seen a lot of people projecting this climb, as it is indeed quite popular. I was happy to do all the moves on the route (ofcourse after handdoggin' the hell out of it!), which were indeed just as fun as others had described. I'm getting psyched on working on this climb.

I'm happy that Jailhouse season is back. I had a few climbing trips this summer but nothing too exciting in the last couple of months. Last weekend at Tahoe I flailed on another project. Jailhouse is pretty hard as well, but atleast the latter feels more enjoyable :)

I didn't take my camera up to the crag today, but did take a few pics at Lovefest yesterday. A few of the 'PG' ones for your entertainment :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Saxophone and the Veena

Yeah, those are two of my favorite musical instruments. While they belong to very different worlds, last night was a rare treat where I got a chance to see them being played together.

SFJazz is a bright jewel in the busy San Francisco music collage. Besides year round events, each October kicks off the annual SF Jazz Festival, "where for 3 weeks in the fall, the city by the bay is the jazz capital of the world" (USA Today).

While jazz is an intrinsically American school of music, the last decade has seen a spurt of creative experimentation of jazz with other genres of music. The opening event for the SF Jazz presented the fruits of one such blend with Indian classical. Prima facie, Indian classical music belongs to a very divergent style....with an ancient tradition rooted in old world ragas, religion, and a very Eastern philosophy to music. But think beyond that you and realize, that Jazz and Indian classical and any other musical genre, are ultimately... all music. And as long as you bring a ready mind and open ears, you will be entertained.

And so I was. My friend and I didn't have tickets and were at the back of this very long line at the box office to buy el cheapo tickets (prices ranged from $20-120) However we lucked out big time when we spotted this middle-aged gentleman trying to get rid of 2 tix for his friends who couldn't make it. He sold us prime Orchestra $60 tix for $30! Nothing like finding a good deal to make an excellent event even better ;)

The 2nd set far overshadowed the first. There were long tabla and sitar jams, with the percussion and piano thrown in for good measure. There was an Indian vocalist as well. I don't profess to recognize any of the ragas, he did sing extremely well. I was blown away when the veena started playing. I wish I had paid more attention to Indian classical as a kid, because I was quite riveted. Sometime in the middle we had 3 saxophones going on at the same time, interspered with the banjo and the dholak. Quite a jugalbandi!

I'll be back next year.

A shout out to SF Jazz for showcasing such creativity!