Choose Your Line

Richard P. about to top out Repentance in “full conditions.” Photo: Peter Doucette

What can I get in, or on, in a weekend? It’s a question I hear frequently as climbing goals, life, and work schedules collide.

The answer, of course, varies a great deal with the skill set an individual has already developed. That said, an amazing transformation in one’s climbing  technique and enjoyment of the pursuit can take place in a couple days with a thoughtful choice of routes and the right progression.

My best climbs are those that teach me: routes that have required me to adapt my technique, find rests where I wasn’t sure they existed or ferret out not so obvious protection. This is the case, I think, no matter where you are in the spectrum of climbing skill or experience. On great climbs, there is always a move or set of moves that stretch your skills, strength and sense of cunning. Acknowledge challenges, recognize possibility, measure it against experience and commit… or back off and try a different way…or come back another time. As long as you’re getting after it, the process builds on itself. The right teacher, in the form of friend, guide, or mentor can accelerate the learning and help maintain a larger margin of safety.

Choosing climbs that teach you something, adventures that challenge you without being overwhelming is the main idea. This past weekend, I got out with Richard and we were able to climb some exceptional pitches and ultra classic terrain.

Richard staying fresh at the top of one more steep pillar. Photo: Peter Doucette

Saturday, we started by shaking off the cold and working the kinks out in the vicinity of Texaco Amphitheater. The air temp was –10 when we left IMCS in the morning, but by the time we had finished our half-hour approach, the coldest part of the day was behind us. We enjoyed the sun and the gradually softening ice as we explored a lot of single pitches and a huge variety of features. Pillars that dead ended under roofs, curtains spilling out from horizontal cracks and ice choked chimneys were ideal for getting footwork and balance dialed in.

Sunny and steep at Texaco. Photo: Peter Doucette

Sunny and steep at Texaco.  Photo: Peter Doucette

After a day that focused on technique and movement over seven varied pitches, Richard had his “A Game” back and we set our sights on an ascent of Repentance, Sunday.

Rolling into the parking lot at Cathedral Ledge, it was clear that snow wasn’t just the forecast, it was the reality. Fortunately, the 4 inches of fresh powder let us know there wasn’t anyone ahead of us. It continued to snow with amazing intensity and the day was regularly punctuated by cascades of spindrift.

Repentance was in excellent shape and Richard fired the moves in good style the entire way.

Peter Doucette – January 2009