It's that time of year when you want it to be warm and sunny, but Momma Nature isn't co-operating. Instead it's cool and wet. It might not be pouring, but there's more drizzle than sun, and the rock is persistently wet.
In the past I've spent my time and energy wishing for sunshine, but this year something has shifted inside of me. Instead of wishing for sunshine, I find myself wondering why I used to bother. It's not like wishing for sunshine will make it so (although that would be an awesome superpower). Whether it's the regular meditation and yoga or something else, I've realized that wishing for something I can't control just leaves me feeling unhappy. Not exactly how I want to feel.
So what to do instead?
Embrace it! One of my long-term goals is to get into alpine climbing. Mountain weather is notoriously fickle, and one of the things holding me back from bigger objectives is the fear of what happens if the weather turns wet? Well, Juneuary seems like a perfect time to find out.
Adventure #1. Climb in the rain! I don't want my first encounter with wet rock to be on lead high in the mountains, so I figured that a local cragging session on wet rock was in order. A friend with similar goals was keen, so we made plans to set up a top-rope and test out our various shoes on the wet rock. The climbing was less than stellar, but we had a grand time (have you ever seen the "beached whale" rock climbing technique performed?) and learned a few things:
Wet moss is really slick.
My alpine running shoes don't stick to wet rock very well, and the wiggle room around my toes doesn't help with precise footwork.
Mountaineering boots stick somewhat better. They also make for comfortable foot jams (if the crack is big enough) and edge really well (I was able to stand up on a single granite crystal).
When you don't trust your feet, climbing becomes much more arm and strength intensive. There was a lot of high stepping and mantling involved as I moved from large hold to large hold.
Adventure #2. Explore the alpine. This was a biggie for me. I like knowing what I'm getting into, and the unknown is scary. But learning only happens when you venture into the unknown, so venture we did.
There's this alpine rock route that we want to do, so the first part of our adventure was to find out how long the approach would take. (~2.5h)
The second part was to see if we could return via the ridge, instead of retracing our route down the steep access trail. For us it was completely uncharted territory: while the map and a recent trip report indicated that it goes, none of us had done the route before. We broke the route into small (and sometimes very small) chunks, navigating our way around steep snow slopes and small cliff bands. Flagging tape reassured us that we were on route.
And then the flagging tape disappeared. We took the more promising looking route, but it petered out, leading us towards cliff bands. Rewind. Go the other way. Find a cairn. Phew! We're on route again. More flagging tape. Winning!
Or not. We found another cliff band. Backtrack again. In the last half hour we've travelled maybe 200m. There's nothing like experience to highlight how much time route finding can eat up. We climb to a high point in hopes of spotting an obvious route, but no such luck. Knowing that we don't have the time to pick our way along the ridge at our current pace, we make the call to retrace our route home.
So much learning I don't even know where to begin. I'm definitely starting to feel more comfortable traveling on snow slopes in my boots (vs skis).
Breaking adventures into tiny components keeps things manageable. Considering the route as one big endeavour would have been overwhelming. Sometimes even looking 100m ahead seemed like too much. But five steps? No prob. I can get there.
Having a common language to express our comfort level at any given time stellar. Green is the comfort zone. Yellow is I'm uncomfortable but ok. And red is terror. All in all, the trip was lime green with glimmers of yellow. Perfect.
Route finding can be really slow. I think we were all a bit surprized at just how much time disappeared looking for the next piece of flagging tape.
Adventure #3: Curl up with a good book. The dramatic improvements in my mental climbing game this season have inspired me to learn more. A couple of days ago I picked up a copy of The Rock Warrior's Way. On my first read through, I noticed so many similarities between the teachings in the book and the teachings of yoga. Focus on the breath. Observe your thoughts and let them go. Be present.