Friday, April 20, 2012

A good conundrum

The local ski season ended way too early this winter. Ditto for the local ice climbing season. The Catskill resorts were able to eek out the crumby snow conditions only until March 25 before they gave up in utter desperation. The ice climbing season had ended about 3 weeks prior to that. You might be able to ski slush, but you certainly can't climb it.

If you were a local skier/climber, it was a pretty disappointing season, but the blow was softened by an early jump on the spring rock climbing season. When we hit 80 degree temps in March, most of us were pretty psyched to put the layers of fleece away and grab some shorts and a rock rack and head to the Gunks. The bonus was that since it was still March, most of the crowds were kept away by things like school and spring break plans that may or may not have involved chasing the snow out west.

I know that I for one, made the transition pretty quickly. As did DH. Since he's a guide, that's kind of job requirement though. Usually I have a harder time letting a season go. In the past, this has pretty much applied to rock season. I get some good momentum in the spring, then the rain comes, then mid-summer's humidity and by fall, I'm trying to squeeze in a season's worth of climbing goals before the winter comes. I never quite seem to regain the same momentum I had in the spring though and instead of heading into the winter stronger, wiser and having learned something from that season of climbing, I seem to just spend the fall chancing the last bit of good climbing weather and resigning myself to the coming of winter. I do climb ice in the winter, but I'm not very good at it and spending the day freezing my butt off in some godforsaken canyon where the sun don't shine goes against my strong hibernation instinct. I manage to get my act together and get out ice climbing maybe half a dozen times in a winter. In a really good year. So for me, ice climbing season, is generally not the season where I make strides in terms of learning and applying what I am learning.

This was part of my rationale for taking up skiing. It was a winter sport that looked really fun. I felt motivated to do it. And best of all, I can go to the resort myself, no need to troll the interwebs for a semi-reliable, but probably sketchy, ice climbing partner. And boy did I fall in love with skiing this year! I know it was a terrible winter to get into a sport like skiing, but I think learning in crappy conditions is going to make me a better skier in the end. For instance, my last ski this year, St. Patrick's Day, the snow was so slushy, I decided to tackle my first black diamond trail, knowing that there wouldn't be any icy patches and that I'd be able to control my speed better in the sticky snow. Having crossed that mental hurdle, I'm hoping it will be easier for me to tackle some black diamonds next year. But how to hold on to that lesson until next year? Ski season seems so far away right now...

Shortly after St. Patty's Day, the temps turned summer-like and it was time to put the storage wax on the skis and get out the rock rack. I've been getting out a lot so far. And I've been applying some of the things I learned from skiing to climbing. For instance, I've been trying advance my lead grade, but I have a mental block at a certain level of difficulty. Much like skiing a black diamond on a slushy-slow-snow day to get over the mental fear of a scary 'black diamond,' I've been pink-pointing a couple of harder routes. (For anyone not familiar, this involves leading the route, but clipping into pre-placed protection instead of placing it yourself.) Since half the stress of leading harder routes is finding comfortable stances in order to place gear, dealing with just the other half of the equation- pulling harder moves above the gear where there is a greater fall potential- is a lot easier to tackle then taking on both problems at once. Hopefully, both exercises will let me break the mental barrier of tackling a certain level of difficulty and simply focus on the climbing/skiing in future encounters with this difficulty level.

Unfortunately, ski season ended too earlier for me to know for sure how well this strategy will work out for me, but since its only April, with any luck there's plenty of time left in this climbing season to see how this strategy will work when applied to climbing. The luck in this is whether or not the weather will be cooperative in this. We're supposed to get a nor-easter this weekend- all rain of course. For the most part I'm looking forward to an opportunity to spend a lazy weekend at home, cozy inside. My right ring finger is certainly starting to send a message that its tired and in need of a rest. But a little part of me fears that this rain event might be the start of a long rainy period and just like the precocious end of the ski season, that I might not get to realize the fruits of my labors. While it can be frustrating at times, I think its a good conundrum to have: how to learn control of fear and control of one's self, in the face of something as impossible to control as the weather.

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