Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HardCore in the City!

Above, the clouds threaten. He wears a down jacket and a toque and sits in a beaten lawn-chair.

"Got worked on my proj," says The Beard, crossing his legs as if painfully, rubbing his beard, then glancing at the sky. "Weather looks like shit, too."

His partner nods absently and shifts on his feet.

"Gonna try it again."


A slightly older couple comes over and says hello to The Beard, sitting in a lawn chair in front of his van, whose open door shows us Rubbermaids bubbling over with gear, a rope-rug, and a collection of empty beer cans. A stove sits on the ground, and soup bubbles. There is some talk and then The Partner says "Come on."

"I gotta gear up," says The Beard


The Beard rummages through his van. It looks as if he is ready for Indian Creek. Clusters of shiny cams are lowered onto the floor as the Beard throws shoes, harnesses, a rope on the ground. Finally he grabs a harness and two pairs of shoes. He shoves the stove under the van. "Ok," he says, and the two of them approach...the entrance to the climbing gym.

On his first route of the day, The Beard grips an arete-ish series of moves, cussing the top-rope that lies near one of the holds. "Watch me here," he tells The Partner, who is staring at the Cute Underage Blonde across the way.

"Mmm" says the partner, swinging his eyes away from the C.U.B. for half a second.

"I need to focus and breathe here before I commit to the next move," says The Beard, his legs chug-chugging. A few more seconds of power breathing--"hOOOF-HOOF-- PFFFFF"-- and he comes off.

"This," says The Beard, "is really hard for ___.c. Hey, can you tell me what's written on the starting-holds tape?"

The Beard safely swinging, The Partner eyes the C.U.B. and ignores The Beard.


"HEY!" barks The Beard, massaging his arms.

"Uhh, ___.c" says The Partner.

"No, I need the name of the route-setter!"

The Partner peers at the starting holds. "Uhh, A.D.? No, wait, uhh, E.F." No, hang on. Which route are you doing, the red one?"

"No, this is WAY harder than the red one."

"Uhh, ____.b and A.D."

"___.b, huh? Well, that guy ALWAYS sandbags his routes. This redpoint is really hard."


"But I think I can get it."


The C.U.B. and her partner, the Cute Underage Brunette (CUBr) have now moved over to beside The Beard and The Partner. The CUBr starts up the (much easier than ____.b) route beside The Beard, who begins Pranic breathing, and launches back into the crux. He makes it and then finds himself in a bit of a pretzel, all bass-ackwards in the next crux, hoof-HOOF no-longer-Pranic breathing, as the CUBr passes him without even a nod of her head.

Unfortunately, The Beard is not like Will Stanhope, who can confidently climb ass-backwards into 12+ cruxes and send them. The Beard comes off again and this time takes a fairly epic fall. The two feet of slack that The Partner has out send him for what must be a bowel-loosening ride, for he curses at The Partner, who is chatting with the C.U.B., answering her question of "so, have you ever climbed outdoors?"

The Beard is done. He is lowered off and sits in the middle of the gym floor, wincing as he peels his slippers off with oddly stiff fingers. He begins a stretching routine while The Partner continues his discussion with the C.U.B. and the CUBr.

"Yo," says The Beard, "psyched for ____________?"

"..." says The Partner.

The Beard finishes his epic gym sess by clipping all of his gear together and spending the next two hours standing in the middle of the gym, everything draped over his shoulder, chatting up the girls who are working the floor, with detours to whoever has been on his __.c "proj," handing out free beta for all of the moves on the route including those he hasn't done yet. He has a simple set of criteria to determine who he talks to: you must be younger than him, female, or you have to try a minimum of ____.c

My partner and I grin at each other and I get on The Beard's "proj." I have had my ass kicked by this thing (and so has she) but we sent the thing a few weeks ago. As I am tying in, The Beard shifts around from his gym-girl-chatting position and eyes us. I get up his "proj" and then my partner flashes it too. The Beard can't resist.

"Uh, I noticed you went for the ______ hold with your left. I was trying it with my right. Did you find that worked well? And I was thinking, the one after, a cross-through would be the way to do it. How do you feel about the grade?"

We grin at each other.

"Not an easy onsight," I tell him.

"Yeah," he says, "this one is tough. I gotta work it some more."

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