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Commitment on Gear - A Progress Report
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Nov 25, 2003, 9:50 AM
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Registered: Oct 10, 2002
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Commitment on Gear - A Progress Report
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Hey All,

I meant to post this earlier, but I figured that a day or two of reflection would result in a more balanced report. I was a complete zombie after driving back from the Dacks on Saturday night, and it's taken me two days to start feeling somewhat cognizant again. I spent the morning putting in a good effort on a project route of mine at Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, and then the afternoon bouldering at McKenzie Pond.

Seeing as the route in question is a project of mine, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts regarding my progress. "Projects" are climbs I usually describe as routes at the very limit of my redpoint ability. These are routes that require me to commit fully to the moves, and climb precisely and quickly as to not waste energy. They're also climbs that scare the crap out of me. Here's how I dealt with the chaos...

The Route:
"Roaches on the Wall" - 5.10 Trad - 100 feet
The climb follows a veritcal face with horizontal cracks, pulls a small roof, climbs a discontinuous fingercrack, mantles onto a ledge, and then follows discontinous cracks up the less-than-vertical headwall to the anchor ledge. The gear is bomber, although there is one run-out on easier terrain with questionable gear.

I top-roped this climb last October. It took me something along the lines of nine attempts to struggle through the crux. I tried leading the route on lead couple of weekends ago, and took two large falls from the crux. The last time I attempted this route I called for take once before the crux, placed some more gear after a rest, and then climbed into the crux and took two voluntary falls without attempting the crux moves. I had gotten myself in a position where I couldn't downclimb, and couldn't muster the courage to try climbing up any further. I lowered off and after a rest set up a TR and top-roped the crux section. I got it on my first try, although the moves felt quite hard and *very* commiting.

The Strategy this Time Around:
The crux for "Roaches" is a thin section of discontinous finger crack. You have to commit to some tenuous finger jams and laybacking. The key - which my belayer was to remind me of - is to bring your right foot up high on the adjoining face, on top of a flake about sternum level for me. The extra reach gained by the high step allow you to gain a off-fingers jam. From there, you have to readjust your feet and make two moves for a ledge.

I ruled out stopping to place gear in the crux section. It would waste energy, and take away handholds and footholds. The consequence is a 20 to 25 foot fall past a small roof, on good gear. I took this fall twice before, and know that I won't get hurt. The difference this time was the fact I wanted to commit to making the moves, as oppposed to stopping, hesitating and falling by choice. I gained confidence from that experience, but I needed to move on. Much of the distance of the fall was due to my belayer feeding out slack so I wouldn't hit the roof.

What Happened:
Well, the climbing felt good. I successfully accomplished the following:

* I kept my feet quiet and precise. I didn't bump or scrape for holds like last time. I place my feet once, and they stuck;
* I weighted my feet more, taking strain off of my hands and forearms;
* I climbed faster than before, and forced myself to leave rests after a sufficient amount of time;
* I didn't call for take;
* I placed all of my gear quickly and competently;
* I kept breathing;
* I committed to the crux moves, with the beta I had worked out before, even though I was afraid of taking a large, though safe fall. Quite frankly, I really surprised myself to use what I had in the way of feet and transition holds once I decided to commit.

So, it would have been great had I gotten the send, but I didn't. I am happy with the falls that I took though... 3 20 to 25 foot falls from the crux due to my feet skating off of holds, or my last finger lock failing. I think I figured out the feet now though, although I was pretty frazzled after that last fall.

I placed, (in order) a red WC Zero, clipped a bolt, clipped a screamer to a pin, placed and equalized two blue TCUs, [pulled] placed a #10 Metolius curvenut and a #5 Metolius curvenut to protect the crux. The nut wouldn't budge after all the falls, so booty call for all you New England climbers! My falls came down to the level of the bolt.

We had to rush off to meet some friends at McKenzie Pond, but I was happy that I got another chance to try this route. It felt really good, pushing myself for the first time on something at my limits, and on gear. I don't think I've ever climbed that cleanly and efficiently on the sharp end of a rope before without bolts below me.

And yes, I screamed when I fell. Like a cat being stepped on.

- Evan

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