Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sport Climbing, Grades

It's been a great summer in the Canadian Rockies for sport climbing. I've been having these "give 'er" weeks followed by rest weeks due to paragliding or sickness, it's been a lot of fun and my general level is slowly coming up despite the erratic training schedule. About a month ago Utah Scott and I went up to Cougar Creek to the legendary Planet X crag, which took some finding but was well worth it. I think it's the best "hard" crag I've climbed at in Canada, both for the climbing and position. It's also the most "Rifle-like" crag I've climbed on, lots of funk body position and long, continuous routes. I've now done four trips to Planet X, it's my favorite crag for sure. Right now there are only four routes on the overhanging 30M wall, all 12d or harder, with lots of ropes dangling on projects. One project went down yesterday, when Derek sent the rig he had been working on with BC Scott. Likely 14a or so, damn hard looking, congrats to Derek and good luck to Scott, watching these guys climb is inspirational. I'm working Packer, 5.hard for me, yesterday was good 'cause I was finally able to do all the moves and clips thanks to beta from Derek and Scott, who opened the route. I've only climbed one other route of that grade, it's beat me up. It's going to take some time to develop the stamina--generally I get two burns in on Packer and a few others on the mega-classic Shooting Star and Sticky Buns. All the routes are a full 30M, generally 5.11 or easy 5.12 to start and then about 15M of "business." Today my tips and back are blown apart, feels good. Yesterday was almost crowded--there were seven people up there! I haven't sport climbed seriously in about five years, it's fun to get back into it with a motivated crew. Thanks to everybody I've been going up there with, I'm fired up. Paragliding will inevitably get in the way to some extent, it's always a bit of a conflict but this time of year air will always win over rock until about September, but I'm staying after it enough to develop fitness again.

Bow Valley Grade Commentary:

Most of the grades around here are pretty solid, but I've noticed a general grade creep going on in the Bow Valley over the last few years. The new guidebook up-rated some routes a letter grade or two. Some of the classic 12+ routes such as Tintin are now 13a despite being classic 12+ for many years. There's always some grading confusion at every area, but it seems like there's a trend to call many 5.12 routes 5.13. Stygian Ayre is a classic example of this, it's 12c or maybe D max, yet it's become a popular "13a" despite being a short boulder problem. Grades don't matter in the sense of world peace, but they should be reflective of a climb's redpoint difficulty and bear some relation to grades around the world. The flip side of over-grading is under-grading; if you get a route wired enough it may feel easy. Some of the Grassi routes are starting to suffer this syndrome; get some of the 5.12a or b routes hideously wired and they do feel 5.11, but that's not how to rate a route either. To get a valid grade on a route takes a fair number of redpoint ascents by people who climb that grade reguarly. I think what's happening in the Bow Valley is that some people are rating routes based on quick comparisons to one or two other routes roughly in the same grade, not a broad spectrum of routes. Using the softest possible example of a 13a to justify upgrading multiple 12d routes to 13a also doesn't make sense; better to more realistically down-rate the soft 13a to 12d. Grade bitch mode off, give 'er.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Aviation Rules

The following list is from an Australian Aviation mag, my mom sent them to me, good advice:


1. Every takeoff is optional. Every landing is mandatory.

2. If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull the stick back, they get smaller. That is, unless you keep pulling the stick all the way back, then they get bigger again.

3. Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is what's dangerous.

4. It's always better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here.

5. The ONLY time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.

6. The propeller is just a big fan in front of the plane used to keep the pilot cool. When it stops, you can actually watch the pilot start sweating.

7. When in doubt, hold on to your altitude. No-one has ever collided with the sky.

8. A 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. A 'great' landing is one after which they can use the plane again.

9. Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.

10. You know you've landed with the wheels up if it takes full power to taxi to the ramp.

11. The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival. Large angle of arrival, small probability of survival and vice versa.

12. Never let an aircraft take you somewhere your brain didn't get to five minutes earlier.

13. Stay out of clouds. The silver lining everyone keeps talking about might be another airplane going in the opposite direction. Reliable sources also report that mountains have been known to hide out in clouds.

14. Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the number of take offs you've made.

15. There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.

16. You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.

17. Helicopters can't fly; they're just so ugly the earth repels them.

18. If all you can see out of the window is ground that's going round and round and all you can hear is commotion coming from the passenger compartment, things are not at all as they should be.

19. In the ongoing battle between objects made of aluminum going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.

20. Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, the experience usually comes from bad judgment.

21. It's always a good idea to keep the pointy end going forward.

22. Keep looking around. There's always something you've missed.

23. Remember, gravity is not just a good idea. It's the law. And it's not subject to repeal.

24. The three most useless things to a pilot are the altitude above you, runway behind you, and a tenth of a second ago.

25. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are, however, no old, bold pilots.