A whole lot of my usual climbing partners switched gyms last fall. I still climb at Coyote – I have a membership there, it’s fifteen minutes away by bike, and I like the route setting there. But for a while the routes weren’t getting refreshed that often and things were a bit rocky: the owners were busy setting up their other venture, North of 7 Distillery, and had a lot on their plate. Since then, they’ve come back and the gym is getting new routes again.
But, the Quebec-side crew have it a lot easier going to Altitude. One’s on the Gatineau youth team, for one thing, so he trains there. Plus, they live closer, naturally, being in Gatineau. There’s a lot more leading at Altitude as well, and they’ve gotten to the point where they just bring ropes and lead almost everything they climb. Meanwhile, I don’t get that much lead practice in (to lead at Coyote you need to be certified by their staff to belay a leader on a grigri, and I haven’t actually practiced that).
Oh, yeah, and there’s a lot more steep stuff at Altitude.
I joined up with some of the Quebec-side folks yesterday on my way home from work, and got my dose of humility. The last thing I tried was up that steepest bit up the middle in the wall pictured above, and I got two clips up. “Aim for getting two clips higher maybe,” my friend said to me, “and then call it,” when I had to drop off and rest. So I got myself back on, and threw for a hold further up, and my hands and arms just couldn’t hack it any more. Hoo boy.
Leading takes more energy. For one thing, I still get tenser on lead. I grip harder than I have to and my hands lose power. But for another thing, you do have to free up a hand to grab the rope, bring it up, and clip it, and I can feel that I don’t have the practice yet at finding comfortable, easier ways and places to hang while I do that. I waste energy on tense stances where I have to fight against unbalancing or barn-dooring off the wall.
But it’s a spur to make me work harder. I can’t always get over to Altitude, and besides, I have a membership at Coyote and a long, long relationship with it as my home gym. But a stint at Altitude will remind me that I need to get more air time – as always, I need to fall more, lead more, and climb more steep stuff. If I can’t manage to do it on the rope routes, I should work on getting my stamina up by doing laps on steep boulder problems.
Between climbs, I watched a couple of young girls on the youth team working through the roof high up near the top of the wall. (I really love watching badass girls and young women climb hard stuff, especially when it’s groups of girls belaying for each other, encouraging each other.) One girl, fighting hard through the roof moves, wound up hanging by one hand only, from a hold at the edge of the roof, clipping with the free hand. The watchers below cheered when we heard the carabiner click – and then she slipped off, and dropped, falling halfway to the ground – 20 feet or so? – in a sudden plunge. Apparently, the rope hadn’t actually made it through the biner and she’d gotten full value out of the fall, with the rope as far out as it could get. And she was laughing as she swung at the bottom. My friend, watching, said admiringly, “I would be shaking after that, and she’s just laughing.” And I envied the girl her confidence and her strength, and started trying to work out how to get myself to where she was.