Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We Must Make Our First Move Before The Sun Unfreezes The Rubble

Some people just love gear. A lot. And, I guess, they think it's cool to show it off at every opportunity. In general, these people love gear more than actually doing the stuff the gear is designed for. When it comes to climbing, my friend Megan calls these people helmets (though that saying comes from her friend, Christine).

At the gym yesterday I snapped this shot:

Yep, that's a helmet, at the gym. Can never be too careful, what, with all the rockfall coming off the ceiling the gym can be downright treacherous. The said party was also walking around with taped hands and, if I had to bet, there was pro in their backpack. I don't know what motivates these people, where they come from, and what they're thinking. The only thing is know is that they're awfully entertaining unless you happen to get stuck behind them on a route.

Because when you see a party wearing helmets and sporting gear somewhere strange, like the parking lot, the trail to a crag, or the gym, they're going to be bad at actually climbing anything. This may sound pompous, but it's not. I have nothing against gear. I own a helmet myself and use it when necessary. And I don't mind beginning climbers. In fact, I like them and envy their enthusiasm. "Helmets" are a different breed because, in general, they aren't just poor climbers, they espouse an attitude of superiority, usually big time.

Case in point: most of the people that frequent the web sites and There are real climbers there, too, but the masses are the armchair variety that rarely venture outside. When they do, it's with a heavy attitude and often results in an epic. For example, this girl:

you'd think was about to climb. Not so. She's about to begin an hour and a half bushwhack through California chaparral. All of that gear is going to be a major hindrance. Now I don't know her and she may be very nice and have not attitude. I just found this pic as an example. The thing with helmets is that they want to show off their gear whenever possible for some inexplicable reason (note perplexed look from cyclist). My friend Bob and I passed such a party one day on the trail back from a local sport climbing area. They were head to toe in Gor-tex, wearing helmets, harnesses, and sporting a full rack of gear yet were also carrying completely full expedition-sized packs. Bob's comment on what they could possibly be carrying (realize that 12 quick draws would cover them for any route they might climb and it was about 70 degrees outside) was "they're carrying more stuff than I own."

We could chalk this up to inexperience but it's not; it's a style. A helmet lived with us at the Castle for a short time. He had more gear than all of us put together and played with it daily. However, during his six month tenure living with the most motivated group of climbers in the region, and despite daily offers to get out, he climbed one time. My friend Ben recently attended a party of helmets. Upon being introduced, they grilled him about the "type" of climber he was and his ethics. When he responded "I mainly sport climb" he was chided as being light and, essentially, worthless. However, when the conversation turned around to routes that had actually been climbed, it turned out the Ben's wall, traditional, ice, and general scary climb resume was far in excess of anyone heaping shame on him. And, oddly enough, even though he'd already done traditional climbs none of them would ever even contemplate, he was still a punter in their eyes because he also sport climbs.

Down at the creek recently this guy I'd met, Brad, asked Mick and I what kind of climbers we were. When we didn't have an answer he asked us "have you ever met anyone who defined themselves as 'a traditional' climber who could actually climb anything? Of course not. Rear climbers don't define themselves. They just climb and let others take care of that.

But in my mind, we need these people. They are fun to watch, make magazines and web sites tolerable for their controversial "ethical" stances, and buy so much gear that they allow the small niche companies to stay in business developing things that will aid us in the mountains. You just don't want to get stuck behind them on a route.

Yesterday had a little test run. Did 47 routes at the gym. Well, 30 routes and 17 boulder problems. And this gym is huge, so the routes are mainly very long. A couple of fingers are stiff, my elbows tender, my toes were killing me by the end, but mainly it went okay. It all took about 4.5 hours but my friend Mick climbed the first 20 routes with me, all of which were long and 5.10 or 11. We never took a break.

I've only got a few more days to train hard. Today will be an easy ride and longer run. My running has sucked; pretty much all Ratso runs (and even so my bad foot was really stiff yesterday morning). Hopefully, experience will see me through on this one. I'm trying to decide what to do this weekend. I can't do too much or I won't recover. It sort of depends on weather. Winter could hit any day now. Then again, good weather, bad weather, now or later, anytime is good for climbing.


marc said...

currently wearing a helmet and got two good nut placements in my file cabinet while typing this.

nothing really to comment about, just a little sideline cheering for your challenge. i'm most concerned about the lobster tails; beyond that, you should be fine.

i've recently come up with some ideas for my own challenge next may. somehow it will involve my municycle and the number 44 (the list of things "challenging" to me at this point is far too long, so i'll leave it at that).

thanks again for inspiration and good luck with 47, we're all counting on you.


steve edwards said...

Fuckin' a. I've got a slider nut, rurp, and big bro keeping me solid at my desk until today's article is finished. Ratso's steadfast on belay.

Hey, Sat night we're having an Eiger Sanction party, perhaps with a bit of K2 thrown in as well. You and Suzanne should come. I've got Wild Turkey and Oly in stock, you may have to bring your own lobster tails. We can see if my broiler works.


Ted said...

Too true, Steve, too true.

I also love the particular breed of climber that owns 10+ pairs of climbing shoes, and yet still has to buy the next greatest shoe that hits the market.

Anonymous said...

Best of Luck my brother.... may the winged beast of fortitude shit on your enemy.

So in that pic of the chic, isn't that a Helmeted cyclist gazing on? And what of that helmet, Le Stephanois? At one time cycling helmets were as goofy as the climbing lid shown. Now how many do you own? Be honest, this is for posterity.

Just busting your chops as I know you are helmeted up right now trying to find some coffee.

Soon drinking helmets will be all the rage, and you know it.