Thursday, September 29, 2016

Moving on in fear - My first time leading a trad climb

Getting ready to set up a top rope on one of our climbs

Matthew found an area to climb called Blue Run Rocks in northern central PA, in the Tioga state forest.  We climbed there twice.  On the second day I lead a Trad climb, for the first time.  It was on a route rated as 5.4, easy.  Well, it should have been easy for me.  With confidence I had no trouble starting, I placed 3 pieces and was feeling good, until I tried to go up past the 3rd piece.  The last piece was in a crack and I had to add a sling to it, this allows the rope to line up more cleanly, and decreases how much the piece may shift while you are climbing, it also adds more length that I will fall, if I do fall.  The climb was on a flake, I used the crack to get up, but the crack kept getting wider.  I have small hands so I was unable to do a fist jam (as it sounds, jamming a fist in between the rocks).  I could have tried a lean back move but I was higher up and felt scared.  The fear of falling started to sink in, along with self doubt about my ability to place pieces and my skill at climbing.  I felt uncomfortable and climbed back down to where I placed the 3rd piece.  It was a good resting place, I had a nice little ledge to stand on.  I took some time there looking up and considering my options.  I had a little way to go to finish, and no more pieces I could place to make me feel more comfortable about it.  I was so close and didn’t want to back out, so I went for it.  I struggled, it wasn’t pretty and by the time I made it to the top I had a mix of fear and fatigue.  I was hanging on the edge with only my arms and head over the top, as I went to move my foot up it didn’t budge.  More fear sunk in as I realized my foot was stuck in the crack.  I hovered there cursing, trying to calm down and gingerly giggling my foot to get free and finish the damn climb.  I’m sure it didn’t take as long as it felt, eventually I dipped down a little and got my foot out.  Now with even more fear and fatigue I had to push the rest of my body up.  I thoroughly scared myself and Matthew on this climb.  It took me a minute or two to recover, then I set an anchor, top belayed Matthew so he could clean the pieces and we rappelled down.  He checked each of my pieces and if I had fallen on the last one I would have been fine.  The fall would have been about an 8 foot drop.  Now I wonder if I had fallen, would it be less scary next time?  The plan from here is to keep Trad climbing 5.4 routes until they are a breeze, then I can move on to 5.5 routes.  So far neither of us has had a fall on a Trad climb, only top rope and Sport.  They are safer so we are a little more risky with moves and pushing ourselves.  With Trad climbing we are taking it easy, even if it does not always feel that way.

View from the top of the Trad climb, the crack at the top center is what I used to get up, albeit ungracefully.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

This home is just an address, you're my home

Running errands, visiting family and a wedding with a performance by Ellis Paul 

We are back at the Brewer’s, Matthews childhood home.  We arrived a week early to attend the wedding for his brother, Dan, to the wonderful Chris.  I was happy to return to Judy’s amazing cooking and a real shower.  Matthew and I used the pond we camped next to for ‘bathing’.  Really it was swimming and getting less sticky but we continued to feel grimy.  It was funny how lightweight my hair felt after using shampoo and combing out all the knotted hair.  We spent the week taking care of our own things(such as car maintenance, laundry, doctor’s appointments, etc.), and trying to help out around the house.  Matthew’s Aunt and Grandmother arrived halfway through the week.  I grew to love them both in the first evening of meeting them.  Both are a riot, his Grandmother, Betty, shared stories about her life, made us laugh and also shared her wisdom.  Betty said, “We are so good at technology, we need to get good at relationships”, and I couldn’t agree more.  I hope humanity will learn how to respect each others beliefs, and each others lives.  Back to the narrative, I got the opportunity to style Judy’s hair!  Judy is a no fuss woman, and keeps her hair in a pony tail or twisted in a bun.  With her son’s wedding coming up I wanted to try doing something different for the occasion.  She was willing to suffer through my experimentation.  It was fairly quick and, as far as I can tell, painless.  I found a very simple hairstyle online that I thought she would like.  I did a test run and the first attempt was ‘okay’ as voted by Matthew and his aunt, Janet.  I had to agree but I also felt I could do it again, better.  She let me try a second time and it was unanimously voted better!  She hired me on the spot to be her hairdresser for the wedding, I may have found my calling.. hah, just kidding.  (although the thought of dolling up ladies who normally wouldn’t do it themselves does sound super fun to me).  When the day arrived everyone put on our wedding day best and looked lovely.  The wedding was held at the Curtis house in Ashfield, a beautiful bed and breakfast, with a barn.  The house was huge and so was the barn.  All of Ashfield looks beautiful and I would love to go back and explore.  We passed many big and beautiful farms on the way, with large surrounding land.  The ceremony was held outside, they had Ellis Paul play as part of the ceremony.  He also did a concert performance after dinner.  The ceremony was perfect, I cried a little but pulled myself together.  The dinner was way more than I could consume.  Everything was delicious, we had soup, salad, pumpkin and sausage stew, grilled chicken with fall vegetables.  For the cake there were FOUR!  They had the option of chocolate, spice, lemon and angel food cake.  I had the lemon and tried a bite of the spice, both were divine.  Seriously the best cakes and wedding food I have ever had!  It doesn’t hurt that two of the recipes were from Judy’s collection of amazing meals.  We had a blast dancing to random songs at the end of the night.  With weariness taking over we drove home and I went straight to bed.  We spent the next few days spending time at home, Matthew wanted to visit with his Grandmother and Aunt, he doesn’t get to see them that often.  We went to doctors appointments, did some running(not as much as I’d like), reading, and a visit to the Big E.  The Big E used to be called the Grand Exposition.  It is a fair that is not just a state fair, it includes all of the New England states.  There are several buildings, with some being dedicated to a specific state.  We went through those first, they had a few products but mainly food.  One of the big buildings was called Farm-a-rama, which housed the sheep and cows.  We watched an oxen pull competition in the Horse Coliseum building.  The class we watched were oxen that weighed 2,900 lbs and the winner pulled 9,750 lbs.  It was a set of two oxen that pulled the weight, very impressive to watch there strength and the drivers that handled them.  We were on our feet from 11am to 5pm wandering the grounds.  We tried a sasparilla soda float, blueberry crisp, apple cider, fresh milk shake (from cows on the grounds), and clam chowder.  The whole thing was interesting.  I enjoyed most of it, except the main building in the center known as the Better Living building.  It consisted of a bunch of useless crap for you to fill your home with, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.  For some sick reason Matthew was determined to wander the entire place.  We spent our last day doing laundry and preparing to head out the next day.  In the evening we helped his dad move a ton, literally a ton, of pellets from the barn to the basement.  That was fun actually, Matthew was moving fast so I tried to keep up and it felt like a game and we were racing.. if that were true he won.  Our next destinations are PA, OH, IN and MO.

I have no photos from the wedding, I didn't have my phone on me.  Here are a few others I took...all but the first are from the Big E.

 Grandma Betty, Gobo, Matthew
 Oxen pull.  Very impressive, one of the handlers was only 17 years old!
 cute alpaca
 Sheep shearing demo
 Sheep friend
Budweiser Clydesdale's 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Just keep swimming...

Dive in (written 9/4/16)

  A calm takes over when sitting by a large body of water, watching the water flow, the sunlight that glistens off the surface.  Matthew and I have been camped by a pond for the past week.  I have spent hours in quiet contemplation admiring the beauty of the pond and all that surrounds it.  Some days we get in and go for a swim.  This is never just a simple matter.  The water is cool and feels divine once you are in.  It’s the gradual walk, feeling the cool slowly creep up your legs that can be a deterrent.  Once, in the past, I have eased into the water up to my thighs then backed out.  Since being at the pond one of us will push the other.  We take turns being the brave one to dive in once we are deep enough to safely do so.  The last time it was me.  We did a 20 min HIIT workout and I was already feeling pretty warm from that.  Once I was thigh deep in the water I felt the normal hesitation before diving in.  It’s the moment of truth, now or never.  I find that it’s best not to hesitate for long.  Before I could start talking myself out of it I took a deep breath and dived in.  It was cooler than before but felt amazing.  It still took Matthew another couple minutes to join me.  He was hovering in hesitation mode.  I knew it was a matter of time before he took the dive; otherwise he would never hear the end of it.  Deep breath and dive.  I took a moment in the center of the pond to enjoy the view.  It was 360 degrees of pond, trees and blue sky with small wispy splotches of soft white clouds.  It was a lazy swim, no racing across the pond.  I felt a connection to nature,  being surrounded by the flowing cool water.  When I was young my brother and I spent the entire summer at the pool.  Spending that much time in the water, jumping back in feels like seeing an old friend. There is a comfortable familiarity.  I guess that's how I feel about nature. A close friend, who welcomes me, no matter what time of day, year or what the weather is like.  

What we've been up to for the past few days: Hike, rock climb, hike, rock climb, hike... see a pattern?

 Ampersand Mountain
 taking a rest at the summit
 Climbing at the Barkeater Cliff
 view at the top of the climb
 Hiking Giant Mountain
 One of the many amazing views
Giant washbowl
 Top of the falls
 bottom of the falls
  Climbing at the Barkeater Cliff, again.  Didn't get many photos the second time
hiking Hopkins Mountain  
 More great views
 Sweaty and happy
 My cutie pie
getting tired of amazing views yet?.....  Yeah, I'm not either.