Sunday, June 24, 2018

Climbing, currying and shitshowing!

Me and Goose on top of the Chief

All photos posted here are from Goose's cellphone. I can possibly never ever get so good with selfies!

I was sick, and by sick I mean unwell (not the 'sick' in climber's lingo!). My voice was hoarse, throat sore and paining, feeling weak and panting for breath every few steps/moves uphill. Yet, even if it started and ended that way with me being in a bad physical state, it turned out to be a great day with one of my acquaintance back from Florida - and now hopefully more than just an acquaintance, a buddy rather! Climbing together does that, I guess, weaves a bond to say may be.

So it was Goose's probably last day in Squamish and hence I decided not to buckle up under my illness. Thankfully, my mind played a stronger role than my body in the decision making and I did not regret it a little (truthfully, may be a bit for just a few hours after I woke up for the next day).

So Goose drove all the way from Jacksonville, Florida across the USA doing some wonderful things enroute and now finding himself in Vancouver/Squamish on the last leg of his trip. The weekend before the climb, we had climbed together, but did not share the rope and that's when I planted the idea of taking him up the Chief the following weekend. He thought about it and gleefully accepted the invitation. This was to be my third full length climb up the Chief in the past two months.

Goose starting up the 5.9 pitch of Butt Light

However, a week later, unfortunately I was unwell and under heavy weather. But, I did not want it to ruin our plans. I knew I was in no physical condition to lead the route, yet I forced myself to believe I could. There is a distinction between being an doer and an enabler. Often the former being a prerequisite for being the latter. This time, the enabler in me coaxed the doer into believing the climb could be done.

Well, so I somehow gathered myself at 4.30 am that Saturday morning, still asleep, groggy and barely audible when I tried to speak. Made a hot cup of coffee, something warm to soothe my throat. Sat in the car, drove towards Squamish and after a failed attempt to secure a campsite, roped up and ready to go at 7.30 am at the base of Calculus crack - a 6 pitch 5.8 on Apron.

Goose apparently has to pull on piece the previous weekend when he climbed St. Vitus's dance (a five pitch 5.9) and so I checked with him if he wanted to do it again and clean. He jumped at it and just breezed past the first two pitches. I followed, huffing and puffing and panting as I pulled up on the Baseline ledge on top of pitch 2. I thought I will have to lead the next one, when he offered me to lead everything. I did not think twice and gladly took the offer. At that point I was just focused on completing the climb and being a good belayer to let Goose up his dream of climbing Chief.

I do not regret not wanting to lead that day a bit, for multiple reasons - one being Goose was super happy to do all pitches clean; second as I realized later that day, I could barely speak, let alone be loud with my climbing calls - off belay, you're on belay and so on. It would have been a nightmare to communicate with Goose from the top of the pitch had I lead any. As a follower, I could hear him clearly and all he had to do was start pulling the rope as soon as there was any slack in it once I was on belay. So we essentially climbed the 14 pitches that day without any communication at all and it worked out perfectly well.

Pitch 4 of Calculus crack

The climbing party above us on Calculus

Ledge traverse on Butt Light

The only pitch I regret not leading was the 5.9 Memorial crack, which was one of the best pitches for me on the climb. I felt so relaxed and comfortable even with a 10-12 lb backpack on it. I do not remember doing it so smoothly the last time I climbed it a couple of months back. I will go back and lead every single pitch of this climb when I repeat the route in the coming months with my wife and a visiting friend from India.

We finished the climb at around 2.30 pm, hiked up, spent some time on the true summit of Chief, packed up and started our hike, run rather, downhill. A good 8-hour climbing day.

We drove back to Vancouver, did some grocery and apparently I prepared one of the best Thai curries that Goose had ever had!

An interesting incident I would like to mentioned here that has nothing to do with Goose, me or our climb. On top of pitch 3 on Calculus crack, we saw two soloists cruising up on the route. They had a conversation that went something like this -

Dude, it's a shitshow up there on Calculus. I will go and solo something else. You sure you want to do Calculus?

The other guy nodded, to which the first guy said something and wandered away from the route.

Now, to give you the context, Calculus crack is one of the easiest route on the Apron. So, it sees a lot of gumbies and newbies on the route who spent way longer on the route than they should. But, I guess that's how everyone grows in the sport. At this point in my climbing curve, I am no gumbie with trad climbing, and I am a very decent in sport climber and boulderer. So I do not have a reason to take his comment personally. However, I know that I was a gumbie in all disciplines at some point in my life in all of my pursuits - climbing and beyond - everyone is. And assuming the soloist who grumbled about the shitshow wasn't a born superhero, he must have been a gumbie at all things he did including climbing when he got started. Then why this air of elitism when you solo? Why the slow learning curve of someone else must be called as a shitshow? I know that soloing is dangerous and needs a clean passage with as little distractions as possible and when you face a bottle neck on the route, you have every right to be concerned. But, my take on this is somewhat different - just because you decided to eschew forms of protection and rope on your climb doesn't give you the right of passage over other climbers. It's a public place and you are in queue. If you start soloing behind a party, you are not entitled to any special licenses over others. The fact that others usually give you right of passage is a goodwill on their part - its a gesture for the safety of soloist and you must have the ability of weaving through the shitshow you encounter on popular routes. If you don't have that ability, practice and learn it. Or, better yet become a better climber, grow some balls and go solo harder routes where you won't find the shitshow. Just remember that soloists aren't elite. Be polite first and respect others.

Happy Goose!

Coming back to the main topic of this blog - all in all, it was a wonderful day - climbing as well as cooking. The next morning was a nightmare for me though - bouts of coughing, severe headache, body ache and weakness - a true shitshow! ;-)

Addendum: A week before I had the privilege of hosting Goose, Alex and Katie from Jacksonville, FL also were in Vancouver. I was great to have them here. Likewise for you Kate. Although we did not do any multipitching together, we did get to boulder and spend some quality time together!