My hands are swollen; they feel like raw hamburger, and my feet are sore. Yesterday Bill Wright and I climbed 50 pitches in Eldorado Canyon. Our rules were that each route had to be rated 5.7 or above, and no pitches could be repeated. This involved doing 11 different routes, totaling about 5,000 vertical feet of technical climbing, plus the required scrambling, hiking, and rappelling to get off the tops and to the base of the next climb. It took 11 hours and 18 minutes.
“Hey wait a minute”, you might say. “This isn’t about running!”
You are correct. So let me explain:
What all this is about for me, is being in nature – moving, usually as quickly as I can – and preferably in the mountains or deserts. Although I’m well known as a runner, I actually don’t care what mode of movement I’m employing – running, backpacking, skiing, cycling, climbing, canyoneering – they’re all the same to me, they’re all good, and I just use whatever works best to get me to the places I want to be.
“Eldo” is one of those places I want to be. The dramatic and colorful lichen-flecked sandstone walls tower above the roar of South Boulder Creek, 800′ directly below. It’s a world-famous climbing area, and everyone from the local uber-jocks, to young couples, to climbers from out of state or country, engage in an intimate and intense dance with the natural environment, raising the energy level of the place so it’s like being at a rock concert with no sound.
While I love the simplicity and purity of a race, I greatly prefer “projects”, because the personal attributes one must manifest in order to succeed are more broad and engaging. Instead of showing up at the specified time and date, and running the specified route at a specified pace, you have to bring a lot more of who you are to the table. One must: 1) Dream; 2) Plan; 3) Research; 4) Do Specific Training; 5) Commit; 6) Have Courage and Effort; 7) Drink a beer and write a blog post when you’re done.
I might or might not be kidding about that last one; but am not about this: the really key element that makes difficult projects go well is: #8 A Great Partner.
Especially for this project: Doing 50 PIAD (Pitches In A Day) in Eldo is both interesting and problematic, because one must scramble, rap, or hike off everything, and the topography is quite rugged and spread out, thus requiring a fair amount of stamina and strategy. It was going to be a long day. The best way to get this done, would be to “simul-climb” everything. This means instead taking turns with one person climbing while the other belays, both climbers move at the same time. We’re still roped together, and placing protective gear, but there are no active belays; if the leader falls, he could take a 50′ whipper, stopped only by the body weight of the follower on the rope, who would be pulled upward toward the placed gear. If the follower falls however, he would immediately pull the leader off also, and they both would plummet until the leaders falling body came to a very abrupt halt at the nearest gear placement below him.
So in simul-climbing, if the second falls, the likely result would serious injury or worse for the leader. If one person makes a mistake, both pay.
In climbing, possibly more than any other sport, #8, “Great Partner” is not just important. It keeps you alive.