Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Soul of Climbing

Sometimes the real meaning of climbing gets misplaced amid the hustle. Here's my reminder of what matters in the world of the vertical.

Tree Slab VB from peter beal on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More media matters

Periodically I am sent emails from various parties wishing to get publicity for various events, books, etc. I don't quite have the heart to tell them that the readership for this blog is such a minute portion of the climbing webiverse that it might not be worth the effort. But here are two notices worth passing along, one in a good way, the other not so much. No prizes for telling which is which.

Here is the first announcement.


WHO: Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent Guides and Legendary Mountaineers– Peter Whittaker, Dave Hahn, Seth Waterfall, Chad Peele and Jim Whittaker speak on Mountaineering at MountainFilm On Tour in Denver

WHAT: MountainFilm on Tour Presents the following films:

The Red Helmet

Tyler Young 6 Minutes

In a dark and drab world, a fearful young child discovers a bright red helmet that transforms everything.

History Making Farming Author on the Move
Matt Morris 7 minutes

Vern Switzer is an idiosyncratic character: A black farmer in Rural Hall, North Carolina, his passion for growing watermelon found new meaning when God directed him to write children's books. Now this "farming author on the move" brings his message of sustainable farming and character building to schools across the country.

The Great Hopkins Rescue

Tyler Young 9 minutes

As climber Gregory Crouch guides up Wyoming's Devils Tower, he recounts the famous 1941 rescue of the parachutist who landed on top. With fascinating archival footage of the actual rescue, this short documentary will have you climbing in the handholds and footholds of history.

Presence: 40 Days in Greenland

Masaki Sekiguchi 15 minutes

This is a record of what we have done and what we have found while spending 40 days in west coastline of Greenland.

Tickets are $10 and available at the door.

WHEN: October 23, 2009 at 7pm

WHERE: American Alpine Club Thtr.

710 10th Street

Golden, CO

(303) 384-0110

Here is the second.

"hey Peter,

That granite crimpers video you posted with Adam Ondra was intense, I would imagine that granite would be very hard to climb.

We are running a story that you might be able to use about Champion And Duofold Apparel Brands Launching a Mount Everest Expedition

Here is a description of the story

Hanesbrands Inc. announced today that its Champion and Duofold apparel brands are going to the top of the world, leading a Mount Everest expedition to drive brand awareness and showcase the company’s research and development innovation and textile science leadership.

And here is a link to the video

Yours, etc., etc."

I agree that granite can be very hard to climb, especially when compared to sandstone such as on Flagstaff Mountain or plastic such as on my home wall or CATS. I was actually hoping to join the Hanesbrands Everest expedition but no follow-up invitations (or packages of fresh underpants) arrived and so I am still stuck at home staring my laptop trying to make sense of it all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Media Matters

Tonight from 11-12, I will be talking with Mike Brooks on KVCU, 1190 AM in Boulder. I hope to discuss a number of topics including the Flagstaff tours project as well as the role that digital media is playing in climbing. There is little doubt that traditional print media is evolving to respond to the challenge that more flexible, immediate, and cost-free formats present but there is also the challenge that those qualities present to new media itself.

As an indication of one possible trend, and not a particularly encouraging one, Dead Point Magazine, a recently launched and free publication that operates both in print and online, posted a picture on Facebook which consists of a young woman in a bikin (with the DPM logo in a prominent location) pasted over a picture of a boulder problem with the text "challenge" "It's OK to Look." I responded saying it was cheesy and that it made DPM look "not so good," a polite way of saying sexist and pandering to the lowest category of "reader." Later I received a message which I hope the editors at DPM will not mind my sharing:

"Thanks for the input about the photo. Imagery like it was a debate for over a year. Climbing is becoming more and more image based and we feel the market will follow the lead of surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, motocross and all the other extreme sports. As much as we may hate the evolution, it is happening, and the effectiveness of an add like this for generating traffic is undeniable. DPM has taken several risks along the way. We have pulled back in some respects and pushed on through others. Ultimately we will find a medium that we hope we all can live with. On a personal level, I agree about the ad being "cheeeezeee". I tend to respond best to rad photos of climbers in remote areas putting their ass on the line, but I'm not Dead Point's audience. Anyway, for what it's worth, we appreciate the feedback.
Matt "

On the one hand I am amused by Matt's use of the phrase "ass on the line" as clearly someone already had that angle covered (barely to be sure) and I am relieved to know that DPM would rather show pictures of climbing instead of young ladies' posteriors. However the thought that climbing is going the direction of kiteboarding (kiteboarding!!!???) and focusing on simplistic sexualized images of women to move product is depressing to say the least. I have always assumed at some point that climbing was a bit more, well, mature and reflective. Certainly as the father of a girl, I have a vested interest in a culture that sees women as equal particpators in all aspects of life and not as sexual objects.

In this vein, DPM and John Sherman have truly jumped the shark in his "blog". Not really a blog, more of column really but whatever. In the latest installment, Sherman asks the following question:

"how is it some cad nicknamed "The Verm" can solo 40 feet of 5.9 and hours later be rocking his van's leaf springs with a smoking hot gal but you solo Half Dome's Northwest Face and come back to an empty van? "

Sherman proposes it's the van that the ladies love. We see a picture of a faceless woman with no shirt and a strategically placed scarf standing in said van . Sherman notes the van is for sale, and I think he is serious here; maybe once you get past 50, the nomadic life begins to get a little weary. He lists, in true Smoove B/Hugh Hefner fashion, the features that women apparently find irresistable. Now setting aside the ick factors of buying that van, which are too many to describe, what is the point here? An aging Lothario captures the audience, hopefully, by posting a picture of an adolescent fantasy (classy, keeping those chewed on strawberries in the photo and the Eiger Sanction on the TV). Kinda sad really.

Not to pick on DPM or Sherman but can't we do better not just by women but by ourselves?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Climbing and Evolution

I was reading a very interesting piece in the New York Times about predators and the role that fear has played in the evolution of the human species. The author vividly reflected on the nature of dying by being attacked by a lion:

It’s hard to imagine how terrifying such a death must be. To be asleep in bed and to wake to hear a rustling sound, to see an animal leaping, to feel its breath on your face — think of the sweat, the panic, the contraction of your gut, the pounding of your heart, the gasping screams.

In a number of regions of the world, this happens with amazing regularity and of course it happens all the time to animals. Her larger point was in regard to the problem of fear and what humans find scary as opposed to what they should find scary. Thus logically we should fear mosquitoes more than bears. However, the author points out, "But here’s the thing. Today, in many parts of the world, the human being most likely to cause your violent death is: you."

This in my mind leads to an interesting question. Why, given that humans have evolved to become masters of nature in so many regards, do so many seek to revisit the primal sensations of fear? And even more interesting what are the ways in which fear is sidelined, channeled, even erased in these situations?

Climbing is always a potentially lethal activity and yet there is the sense that the human mind can and does find ways of adapting to situations that pose mortal danger. Some are technical solutions, such as equipment, while others are more mental or psychological. As climbers, I think we are all aware that fear inhibits performance and can indeed represent a greater danger than the actual climbing situation presents. How did we get to the point where we could discuss with ourselves rationally entering a dangerous scenario and moving through it safely? It seems to me that there is an aesthetic question at the heart of the matter, that there is something beautiful that we seek in the midst of danger and that beauty consists not in the fear itself but in its successful banishment or at least suspension for a while. This behavior is not be primal, it seems to me, but evolved, like much of our human behavior, in a relatively brief time and reflective of the same remarkable traits that brought art and language into the world. Its higher purpose may ultimately remain a mystery.

Monday, October 12, 2009

CATS again, early winter

I am feeling extra sore today after a session at CATS and then the Spot yesterday. CATS was lonely and cold but good enough for training hard. I tried one of James' "mundane V10" problems and realized I might never do it so went to work on the left Keen, easy V12 or so says. Things went much better there. So close on two moves, the rest either go or will definitely go. Small crimps, long tensiony reaches and a great challenge.

The Spot was much warmer and more crowded. Met up with Wade, Seth and Alex and did a few more easier problems, dispensing with two 5 minus and a 4 plus first try. Very tired after.

Thursday was a short session at the BRC, doing 11, 11-, 12-, 13- and 12 all first try. The 13- was one of the very few I have flashed at that grade in the gym. A good fight.

The weather has been awful so outside has been a real cat and mouse game with the weather. You work real hard inside to be ready when the weather window opens. This weekend it just didn't.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Flagstaff Bouldering and OSMP

Instead of going to the Horsetooth Hang this fall, I was on the phone with Rick Hatfield from Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks talking about ways in which the agency and climbers can come together to improve the situation at Flagstaff Mountain. As they say, charity begins at home.

As any regular visitor knows, there are always issues with erosion, litter (including climber trash), grafitti, and sadly chalk. Flagstaff has long been the poor relation for Colorado bouldering despite the fact that it offers the most extensive and accessible bouldering area in the state. In this case familiarity may be leading to contempt. For example, I am dismayed by the amounts of chalk on many problems, including footholds (!) and even worse, just dumped on the ground. Tick marks are clearly not being brushed off. A new trend is unhelpful large Xs to show what someone thinks is a loose hold on problems that have been that way for 25 years. For a vivid illustration of all this in action, visit Beer Barrel Rock which is literally bathed in chalk right now. Clearly there are many parts of Flagstaff that need trail maintenance as well.

I will be working with OSMP to develop educational bouldering tours focusing on spreading the word both about the many lesser-known problems across the grades in the park and also on building a consensus towards a Leave No Trace ethic in bouldering there and elsewhere.

Friday, October 2, 2009

CATS and Book Signing

A busy couple of nights this week. Wednesday, I decided to visit CATS as a cold front had whipped up the wind along the Front Range. This was the first time in literally many months. After a quick warm-up, I set to work on the Sportiva problem described as the "girly" V8 in James' blog. Well adjectives like that are pretty sexist and obsolete given the likes of Alex Puccio, et. al. and as the father of a girl, I'll be happy to see them go away. Nor is it V8 which I expected anyway. After some tries figuring out the two cruxes, I sent it on the 4th RP try. I was pretty psyched for a one-session send since the problem is likely solid V9 and would probably be a Hueco V10. After that I worked on the Bear problem "V10" which feels very doable if I can get the second move down. I also worked on the roof a bit, finding a ridiculously hard but very good crimper problem, V13 or V14, as a long-term project. Better than Organic, probably harder than Petzl. I wrapped things up with a short (ca. 25 move) 12b traverse, kind of a hard flash. I hope to get back there more often as the training possibilities are probably the best around.

Last night I was at Neptune Mountaineering, eating pizza with Sophia and watching some slides of Boulder Canyon climbing presented by Bob D'Antonio. This was a book-signing for the new Boulder Canyon guidebook and was well attended. Bob is a real workhorse when it comes to both writing and route creation and really has, along with only a few others, transformed Boulder Canyon into a genuine destination area, ironic, considering its proximity to Boulder.

The weather has clearly turned much cooler so I am hoping for success on Flag soon.