Monday, January 09, 2006

Steel Koan: Cineplex route sent

On Saturday I sent the hardest mixed climb I've ever done--Steel Koan, in the Cineplex. It was a good day to send, -1C with a full crew of friends out giving it in the depths of the Cineplex. I'm always amazed how much energy a good group of people can add to climbing, so thanks to everyone who was up there (Raph, Scott, Rich and Steve, who almost all took a turn holding the rope, and everyone else who worked on the route with me (The Guys, Barfy, etc). It's been a long time coming--Steel Koan took many days of effort to figure out--drilling, cleaning, frigging, it all adds up to one sore back and a lot of trips up the Parkway. I did it on my second day of redpoint attempts, but I spent a half-dozen days unearthing the route before attempting to redpoint it. The climbing is dynamic and aggressive, more of a power outing than a long endurance route, although climbing 25 feet of very steep terrain followed by 30+ feet across a dead-horizontal roof and then some hard ice does demand endurance. I learned a lot on this route, and that's where the name "Steel Koan" came from. Initially the route seemed incomprehensible, but as my front lever strength came back (spending October in Nepal didn't help with my fitness) the moves started coming. There is no one crux, just powerful and intricate body movement for many moves in a row. Big "Game Style" swings, dynos, body tension, and an intricate finish on a wild ice curtain protected by screws driven straight up into the ice add up to something totally different and fun. It seems as hard as the extension I added to the Game Last year, but the movement is much more technical. I'll just rate it plenty hard enough for me. I'm actually bummed out today, this project gave shape to my fall and early winter, what now? I'm planning on visiting Austria to try Albert's "Game Over," and then Scotland and Norway, but the Cineplex beast was what I've been training for and thinking about for a long time. It's like the end of a good relationship or something, I really liked it! On the other hand my back, arms and fingers rejoice that I don't have to do the swings anymore!

Explanation for the name: If you've ever read any Zen philosophy you've probably come across a "Koan." Koans are hard to define--they are questions that Zen followers consider, such as:

Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?
-Hakuin Ekaku

More on this Koan from Wikpedia:

" the beginning a monk first thinks a koan is an inert object upon which to focus attention; after a long period of consecutive repetition, one realizes that the koan is also a dynamic activity, the very activity of seeking an answer to the koan. The koan is both the object being sought and the relentless seeking itself. In a koan, the self sees the self not directly but under the guise of the koan...When one realizes ("makes real") this identity, then two hands have become one. The practitioner becomes the koan that he or she is trying to understand. That is the sound of one hand." - G. Victor Sogen Hori, Translating the Zen Phrase Book 11.

The traditional answer to this koan is " ", or possibly to thrust out one's hand. The reference to two hands is understood as a metaphor for dualism (yin/yang, subject/object, etc) and intellectual discrimination, while the reference to one hand is a metaphor for nondualism. But more irreverent and humorous answers have been proffered, involving various ways of slapping the fingers of one hand against its own palm. It might be as simple as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts".

Style: "Bareback, no trickery." Doing this route comp style would still be solid M12, there aren't many features to hook a spur on. Body tension is everything, a lot of the moves are horizontal laybacking along thin seam across a roof. With full trickery it would be relatively easy, and a offer a very fast but less interesting answer to the Koan. Many of the holds broke repeatedly, and to stay honest I have to say that the line between cleaning and flat-out hold chipping is getting very blurry on high-end mixed climbs done on shite rock. I am unsure what the future of very hard mixed climbing will be due to this dilemma, here's a koan to play with: "If one tap is cleaning, how many taps are chipping?" As a sponsored climber I'm supposed to just spew about how bad-ass the climb is (and I am spewing, grin), but that's the complete picture of this route, I can look at myself and you in the eye if I tell it like it is.

That about sums up the experience of climbing this route. That journey seems far more relevant than success, although success is always satisfying--for about 24 hours.


Start right of The Game, climb big overlaps with swings, cross the Game, continue across thin crack in huge roof, pull techie ice curtain at the end