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Climbing Blindfolded: Serenity-Sons TR
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karlbaba


Jul 30, 2003, 1:08 AM
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Climbing Blindfolded: Serenity-Sons TR
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TR: Climbing Yourself Senseless

I love Yosemite as much as I love climbing. Living so close to great climbing and having a special relationship with my local environment has kept me close to home for a lot of my climbing career. Consequently, Iíve done a lot of the classic routes one or two dozen times. Itís great to share the fine lines with others.

Married to Yosemite as I am, I have experimented with ways to spice up our love life. One way is climbing blindfolded. I often try one pitch climbs blindfolded, often after Iíve led them if thereís a bit of time to fool around. Itís a fun challenge and I think itís a learning tool as well. We are visually orientated beings and our view of the stone weíre climbing affects the way we approach it. Itís hard to realize the effect that the visual clues have until we take them away.

For example, the fingerjams at the top of Lunatic Fringe have always seemed fairly insecure to me. When I tried the climb blindfolded, I expected the last moves to be very tricky but, without the flaring, ragged bit of crack to look at, I ďfeltĒ the crack and the jams seemed much more positive than they ever felt on lead.

Iíve entertained the idea of doing longer climbs blindfolded but havenít had the right opportunities. So I was delighted when I climbed with Tom for a couple days. He was staying nearby on a family vacation and wanted a partner for the two days he could sneak away. He was a solid climber and wanted to swing leads.

We did Central Pillar the first day. He climbed very solid and nearly nailed Bircheff-Williams on toprope as well. I searched myself for what to climb the second day and knew it had to be Serenity and Sons. One of my favorites.

I agreed to let Tom lead everything but a few pitches and Tom agreed to let me follow blindfolded. I led the first pitch, which was soaking wet for the first 90 feet even though it was mid-July! Iíd done it blindfolded before and didnít want Tom to waste energy overgripping from standing in wet pin scars.

I knew the second pitch would be tricky blind because the fingerjams and face traverse which constitute the crux are a bit sequencey and require specific holds that I wouldnít be able to see. I ran my fingers along the crack to find the locks and when I had felt enough locks I began to sweep my hand around for the key knob. Feeling, Feeling, Bingo! I think the slabby mantle onto the knob was easier than usual because I was more focused on my balance relative to the holds I was feeling, rather than my visual appraisal of the situation. I thought I had it made in the shade once I stood on the knob but when I stretched across the face to switch cracks I got caught short.

Dang! I had missed a piece that I needed to clean. I paddled my hands back and fiddled the piece out. I finished pitch without incident, knowing I reached the belay when I reached for a hold and found a toe!

I knew Tom could lead the 10d pitch if he didnít fiddle around trying to place too much pro above the last rest. I also thought I could follow it blindfolded if he didnít place lots of pro too. Still, you just canít bug anybody to run it out so I reckoned Iíd just have to hope for the best. Tomís strong and he managed to place plenty of gear in the crack without hanging. I went blind and started up. I knew the problem would be cleaning the gear blind without being able to see it and without being able to scope the rest either. I planned to just fire past the rest and hope the gear came out easily.

Alas, I cranked up and fiddled with the gear. My strength was flagging while the gear wasnít coming out. Trying not to panic, I swept my left foot around in the direction of the sloping rest and got it before gravity got me. I cleaning what I could from a tenuous, stretched out tiptoe and had to commit to the crack again. Reaching from jam to jam, I felt a wired nut. Dang! Thankfully it came out without fuss and I cranked again. Next, an Alien. I thought, no problem! But Iím hanging from two fingers with ethereal feet and it wonít come out. The sand drains from the hourglass in my forearms in no time and Iím hanging. I peek from my blindfold and fiddle out the Alien and another wired nut. Tom lowers me back to the beginning of the fingercrack and, without gear to get in the way I go blind again and I manage to crank it clean.

The next big challenge would be the first 10a pitch of Sons. Itís very continuous and there are several cruxes. Tom does a good job leading it and itís time for me to do it in the dark. Thereís a short face traverse to get to the crack and it must of looked funny to see me fishing around wildly with my left leg trying to find the smear to step across on.

I reached the crack and was surprised to feel how easy the cruxes felt with the blindfold on. They are bulging cracks with flaring off-hands sections. I guess it looks worse than it is because it felt solid with my eyes covered. I was worried about one crux in particular where the crack is too wide for foot jams beneath the off-hands bulge. Without seeing it, I could feel that heel-toe jams could be improvised between the flaring outsides of the crack.

Next there was a traverse out onto the face and back near the end. As I shook hands with certain unique holds on the way up, I could figure out where I was and anticipate when to ape around to find the escape knobs.

It would be interesting to know how much harder that pitch would be to follow onsight (or rather unsight) but itís too late for me to know that now. Tom lead the next two pitches as well. The 5.9 was straightforward except for the search for the belay which resulted in another toe grab.

The easier pitches were strangely peaceful. Perhaps being unable to look around shifts the focus within and makes me aware of a different, inexplicable aspect of moving my body over stone.

The next 5.8 is bomber hands forever which was a trip since I just kept jamming and jamming without any reference to when it was going to end. It reminded me of doing Moby Dick Center blind. Fist jamming forever until I bumped my head hard against the roof at the top of the crack. %^&*(!

I only brought one cam larger than a #2 Camalot so I led the last pitch, with its offwidth, which I linked with the 5.8 friction pitch at the end. The 5.8 has only one protection bolt which is a 1/4 inch spinner sticking halfway out of the rock after a 40 foot runout. Tom didnít mind missing out on leading that section.

We were blessed with having the route to ourselves from beginning to end. The secret is to climb during heat waves! By the time we got to the top, our feet were killing us but the breeze kept the temps within reason. We rapped the route barefoot and by the time got down to the last rap, the breeze got less and the heat got more. Once my feet were tenderized from wearing slippers in cracks all day, they were getting fried on the hot smooth rock.

Varmits had stolen all Tomís food even though he hung his pack. Ya gotta watch out for Varmits at the base of that climb.

Anyway, I know this TR is a lot of yapping about nothing but the point is this: try following some climbs (particularly cracks) blindfolded! Itís a great way to experience climbing in a new light (or lack of it) I canít put it into words, but there is something to learn there and itís a strangely peaceful experience.

Peace

karl


epic_ed


Jul 30, 2003, 2:42 PM
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Registered: Jun 17, 2002
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Re: Climbing Blindfolded: Serenity-Sons TR [In reply to]
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Nice job, as always, Karl. I've sometimes wondered what it must be like for Eric Weihenmayer to climb. I guess you simply have to adapt a different skill set to overcome the challenges.

Ed


abalch


Jul 30, 2003, 3:40 PM
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Registered: Jul 11, 2003
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Re: Climbing Blindfolded: Serenity-Sons TR [In reply to]
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One of those ideas where you can't help but think "damn, I wish I thought of that!!"

I can't wait to try it myself. I like the whole "Zen" feeling to your description of those routes. Maybe this is just what I need to push my confidence and skills to that next level.

Do you belay blindfolded, too?

Did you lead with blindfold yet? If you do, how much do you rely on your belayer for beta?


karlbaba


Jul 30, 2003, 4:18 PM
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Registered: Jul 10, 2002
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Re: Climbing Blindfolded: Serenity-Sons TR [In reply to]
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I don't belay blindfolded as I think it would put my leader at risk. I might given the right partner and a desire to do a whole route in the dark without interruption.

I don't lead blindfolded either. I could pull off some things but it would be a needless risk and wouldn't enhance the experience I'm going after anyway.

Peace

karl


camhead


Jul 30, 2003, 4:22 PM
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Re: Climbing Blindfolded: Serenity-Sons TR [In reply to]
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that's awesome, dude. I looked at serenity crack while in the valley last month, but didn't think I had the right gear (all I had was three sets of camalots and a half set of stoppers).

I've done Incredible Handcrack at the Creek blindfolded on TR, but its handjams are very perfect and straightforward.


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