How to Train Climbing Endurance

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Frozen Tundra/ Boulder, Colorado February 15′

Inevitably, if you are a rock climber and live in the state of Colorado, at one point or another you are going to be forced to climb indoors when the weather get’s bad. Truth be told, I use to not climb outside during the winter months at all, it was just too cold for me. But as I have progressed through the ranks and am consistently climbing harder grades, the cold weather has become my ally. In fact, these days I would much prefer climbing in the freezing cold months of winter than in the sweltering heat of summer. Winter has become one of my main climbing seasons and a great time to get really good friction on routes and to push the envelope of my abilities. But, when the coldness of winter sets in and along with it comes the snow, most of us outdoor enthusiasts are forced to seek out plastic. Here in the beautiful state of Colorado, most of February has been a frozen tundra with back to back significant snowfalls and freezing cold temps. When your are a climber and “need” to climb, heading indoors to pull on plastic is virtually the only way to maintain fitness and stoke. This is where climbing gyms come in…

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Austrian Jakob Shubert attempting one of the hardest routes at the Boulder World Cup at Movement here in Boulder. This event was of the first sport climbing competitions to be held in the United State since Snowbird, Utah in 1988.

I feel truly blessed to live an area with so many climbing gyms at my fingertips. For starters, we have 4 world class climbing gyms within the city limits of Boulder, all within a 5 mile radius from one another. The Boulder Rock Club, Movement Climbing and Fitness, The Spot, and the ABC Climbing Facility are truly world plastic pulling venues. If that’s not enough, new gyms keep popping up in surrounding cities. In the past year alone, Colorado front range climbers have been welcomed with yet two more world class facilities, Earth Treks in Golden and the new Movement facility in Denver. All in all, I have 6 different gyms to train at within 45 minutes of my house. So whether your looking to top out on a highball boulder problem at the Spot Bouldering Gym or your looking to test your endurance on the steeps of the new  60′ lead walls at Movement Denver, there is literally something for everyone. If you can’t find a climbing style that suits you in this area, you may as well quit climbing because it doesn’t exist!

As I prep for my upcoming trip to the Red River Gorge, I can only think of the value that gyms have provided me over the years. I spent literally thousands of hours over the last decade, training tirelessly to help push me into the unknown. As in climbing, and most sports for that matter, if you take it seriously, you are always looking for ways to increase your performance or to get that extra edge. Many years ago on my first trip to the Red River Gorge(RRG) in Kentucky, I had a less than stellar performance. Like most climbers I trained hard in the gym before going  only to find myself pumping out and falling off not most, but every single route I got on. As usual with trips, I had a “Tick List” on paper of the routes I wanted to try to climb while I was there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for the fitness that the RRG demanded and was I was not properly prepared. I can still remember the feeling of driving home having “Sent” not a single route on my tick list. I must have tried over a dozen five-star classics during that trip and I fell on every single one, many nearly within arms length of the chains. It was very humbling to say the least. Here I was going down there with a bunch of lofty goals and a dream list of routes to climb and send and I came up far short. Needless to say, I learned my lesson.

Amazing photo taken by RRG local pro photographer Elodie Saraccaco of my friend Becky Johnson fighting the Red River Gorge Pump....
Amazing photo taken by RRG local pro photographer Elodie Saraccaco of my friend Becky Johnson fighting the Red River Gorge Pump….

After my first trip to the Red, I consulted some local pro’s in hopes of fine tuning my training so I could go back and have a better performance. I had trained so hard for that trip and failed in so many ways. I must have tried one individual route(Tuna Town) over a dozen times. On the very last burn of my very last day, I literally fell at the top of the climb. When I say the top of the climb, I mean I could have kissed the chains. Problem was, I couldn’t let go for even a second to clip the anchors because my forearms were burning so bad. I took my one arm off the wall for a second to attempt to clip one of the anchors and was bucked like a cowboy in a rodeo. The notorious whip at the chains of Tuna Town ensued and I went home empty-handed. Getting through all the difficult sections of a climb and falling at the very last move is like getting kicked or taking a golf ball swing to the balls. It just plain sucks.

Climbing at places like the RRG is all about holding on forever. There is literally no place on earth like it. The easiest way to describe the climbing here is to do a little experiment. Try and hold one arm directly above your head and hold it there for as long as you can in the upwards position. How many minutes or seconds would it take before your shoulder starts burning? There will be pain. There will be discomfort. Most normal human beings could only hold this position for so long and they would eventually break. The pain and discomfort you would feel would be comparable to rubbing atomic bomb Bengay all over your shoulder after soaking in a hot bath. It would be burning and you probably wouldn’t be able to stand it. This simple exercise is a good demonstration of what the feeling is like in your forearms when you climb at the RRG. There is a burn, a discomfort, a pain that get’s unbearable. Truth be told, most routes at the Red have considerably easier moves than other routes of the same grade around the country. But again, it’s that “pump” that ends up bucking you off and for most like myself, it’s all the way at the top right before success…

Canadian Sean Mccoll's training pays off as he attempts to Onsight a 5.14 during the Men's Finals at the Boulder World Cup...
Canadian Sean McColl’s training pays off as he attempts to Onsight a 5.14 during the Men’s Finals at the Boulder World Cup…

Fast forward another year to the Fall of 2013. This time, I went prepared. Several months before heading to the Red that fall, I started a very strict training regime. Three times a week, I went to into the gym, and warmed up doing singular routes on lead. After about an hour and some decent volume, I would go into doing triples. What are triples you might ask? Well there are many ways to do them but some are better than others. For me, what worked best to train endurance, was to do the same route on lead three times in a row without even untying. The longer and steeper the route the better. When you finish the first lap, immediately lower and have the belayer take you off belay, pull the rope from the climbers end while remaining tied in. The entire length of the rope will fall to the floor from the anchors and hopefully into a decent pile. Flip the pile over, have the belayer put you back on, and immediately get back on the same route. I should say that there is definitely an art to this and it takes some practice both on the belayer and climbers part. When you get efficient, you should be able to get done climbing the first lap of your triple and within 30 seconds of touching your feet on the ground you should be back on the wall starting the next lap. When you and your partner get good at this transition, the climber will typically start climbing before the belayer technically even has you on. Half the time, as you start the route, your belayer is usually fiddling with the rope and getting their belay device set up so as soon as you clip bolt one they are ready for you. Again, practice makes perfect on the transition.

It is important to note here what level of difficulty you should be doing the “triples” at? Many climbers make the same mistake and step down to an easier level on their second and third lap of a triple set. This is a HUGE mistake! If you’re falling at the top of a route, it is probably the last section of the route that is the most difficult. For this reason, your grade should remain the same throughout because if anything, the climbing gets harder as you go up and not easier. Remember, most people fall in the last 20 feet of routes at the Red because they are pumped. You need to train in a way that preps you for climbing past the point where you feel like your going to fall. Typically, when starting an endurance training regime, you should pick a level of difficulty that you can just barely do twice back to back but usually fall on the third lap of a triple set. If you start this program and can do all three laps cleanly without a fall, you need to go harder. The whole idea is to work up to barely sending all three routes of a triple set, meaning the third lap should always be difficult and you should always feel like you can’t “do” lap number 3. There is a fine line between doing a set of triple’s at too easy of a level, too hard of a level, or just right. You need to experiment with this. I think the safest way to choose what difficulty to start doing endurance training at would be to pick a grade in the gym you can usually do first try(either as a onsight or a flash) but should be close to your first try limit. For instance, if you can consistently do a 5.11+ in the gym on your first try, you should maybe step down a notch to a 5.11 and try to do that route 3 times in row. Again, in the beginning, you should be falling on your third attempt on every single set of triples. You should build up, excluding your warmup and cool down, to doing 4 to 6 sets of triples at your limit. This will get you the fitness needed to succeed at places like the RRG.

As you build the fitness and get accustomed to training in this manner, the grade you are climbing will gradually rise and that “third” lap of your triple will eventually be a send. As soon as it gets easy to send that third lap of the triple set, its time to step up to the next grade, objectively making the “third” lap more difficult. A third try attempt of a triple set should always be hard. To give you an idea, I started my endurance training program with being able to complete a 5.12- for a double and usually falling on my third burn of the set. By the end of the 6 week training cycle and right before I left for the Red, I built up to doing triple’s on 5.12+, which is the grade I was trying to climb consistently on that trip. Rather than project routes that were too difficult similar to my first trip, I picked a grade that I thought I could maybe do on my first try. If I fell but thought I could do it again on my second attempt, I would go for it just to get the “tick”. Funny thing was, for that particular trip and my first time ever training this way, I didn’t need a second chance.  I got on nearly two dozen routes that were challenging for me and sent all but two of them, ALL on my first try, either as a flash or a onsight. I remember the feeling of accomplishment I had on that trip compared to my first trip. It was night and day. My first trip, I sent nothing. I went home a total failure, or at least I failed with what I was trying to accomplish. My second trip, I climbed and sent first try nearly every single route I got on. That same twenty feet where I was falling before at the very top of all the routes didn’t really effect me. And I remember sending some routes, clipping chains and thinking to myself I could keep climbing if the anchors were twenty feet higher.

Getting accustomed to the Red on my second trip and reaping the benefits of my endurance training program...
Getting accustomed to the Red on my second trip and reaping the benefits of my endurance training program…

I am not a professional climber, nowhere even near it, but how I trained worked for me and I am pretty confident that it will work for everyone reading this. Training endurance is one of the easiest things to train. Building up strength and technique is much more difficult and usually takes some time. But, if climbing long and pumpy routes is your objective, training with some triples may be the difference in going home empty handed versus carrying home a bag full of victories.  Train your arms to be able to hang on forever and you WILL be able hang on forever! Good Luck…

Times Two

Hey Yall! Please click on the individual pictures to see a larger and more high resolution pic.
Hey Yall! Please click on the individual pictures to see a larger/higher resolution image.

Rock climbing is such an amazing sport, I feel truly blessed to have found such an activity to consume my time. Truth be told, I was a climber long before I was ever a climber. As kids, my brother and I would live in the trees surrounding our neighborhoods. We climbed absolutely every tree not only in our yard and  neighborhood but probably in a 3 miles radius from our house. I was born to climb, I guess I just didn’t know it. And I still remember my first outdoor experience when I was a young teenager at Ralph Stover State Park in Eastern Pennsylvania. My dad at the time was a Project Adventure ropes course instructor at one of the largest high schools in the state, Washington Township. I vividly remember climbing a hard 5.10 in my running sneakers and some locals who were climbing a route near us couldn’t believe I was climbing in a pair of Nike’s. When I lowered down from sending my first route ever attempted( a stout 5.10 wearing my worn out running shoes), a couple yelled over, “You got to get that kid in some real rock shoes!”. Many years later I flew back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving Break. A close college friend of mine wanted to try indoor rock climbing. After one session, we drove to the closest REI and my dad bought me all my own gear; a brand new harness, new chalk bag and my very own pair of Evolve rock shoes! That purchase would forever change my life.

Starting the entry moves of Squeeze Play 5.13b/c just before sending...
Starting the entry moves of Squeeze Play 5.13b/c just before sending…

Many years and many sports later, climbing finally found me! I was absolutely hooked. After retiring from the professional ski scene in Jackson(call it major burnout), moving to Boulder to pursue climbing felt like the right thing to do. And so the story goes. Now nearly 6 years later, climbing has become my entire life. Every waking second of every day is spent doing what I love and despite picking up the sport at such a late age, I am glad that I found it. Or maybe it found me? Fast forward 6 years and several thousand routes later, here I was sitting at the base of Primo Wall, in Clear Creek Canyon yesterday reflecting on my experience from the beginning. I remember first laying eyes on Primo Wall from across the river and wondering how people could climb such hard routes, after all this was the hardest crag in Clear Creek Canyon. I was climbing 5.10 and 5.11 at that time and practically lived at High Wire Crag just east of Tunnel Two nearly 10 miles down canyon. High Wire Crag was a great beginner area and a level of difficulty I was comfortable with. I remember feeling baffled as to how someone could climb at a place like Primo Wall where virtually the easiest route was 5.12c. I remember thinking from the beginning that it would be cool to be on the other side of the river, just trying routes of that difficulty! Nearly 6 years later, here I am sitting on a rock at the base of the crag on a gorgeous February Day. The sun was shining and the air was brisk. It was perfect. I sat on that rock for a bit watching all the people at the crag climb these routes of very high difficulty. I thought back to my pre=Primo Wall days and how much I have progressed since the beginning. Man a lot has changed over the years! I went from once feeling like I didn’t even have the right to look across the river at these routes(they were just way out of my pay grade) to sitting here at the base nearly 6 years later having sent most routes at the crag. That same 5.12c which I didn’t think I could ever climb, has served as my warmup for the other 5.13’s in the area. Most of the test pieces on this wall I sent many years ago. Whether its doing the huge dyno on Flying Cowboy’s (5.12c/d) or holding on to the heinous slopers of Public Solitude(5.13c), I am intimately familiar with conquering routes at this crag and the nature and style of the climbing here.

The crux of Squeeze Play 5.13b/c which I sent yesterday on a gorgeous February Day!
The crux of Squeeze Play 5.13b/c which I sent yesterday on a gorgeous February Day!

Squeeze Play was one of a few routes left at Primo Wall that I hadn’t sent. I went to the crag yesterday with my friend Chris Taylor who has also conquered most of the routes and an awesome individual named Ruie, with the hopes of finishing Squeeze Play. I got close to sending  Squeeze Play two years ago but for some reason or another never got a chance to get back to it. That is how climbing goes sometimes. Honestly, I think this is the first time I have been to Primo Wall in nearly 2 years. It felt good to be back. I did a warm-up/ beta burn on the route to relearn the moves and immediately went into redpoint mode. I dialed in the powerful move at the top but continued to fall on each attempt at the crux in the middle of the route. After 3 burns, some shredded skin and pretty fatigued forearms, I mustered up enough energy to give it one last burn. At this point I was probably too tired to send the route but if anything it would be a fitness lap in preparation for my upcoming trip to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I tied in, took a deep breath and jumped on. Before I knew it, I had cranked my way through the crux where I kept falling and made it to the marginal rest right before the powerful finishing moves.  I rested for a few minutes, shaking each arm out, cycling back and forth, one after another. Problem was, this time my skin hurt, my fingers were getting cold(as the temps were dropping) and my arms were not recovering. It was time to go. I blasted off into the powerful top section with full on fatigue in my fingers and forearms. I inched my way higher and higher and before I knew it I was clipping chains on this thing with all my friends down below cheering me on.  Im so excited to have finished Squeeze Play! What a great route with great movement!

As I was being lowered, I looked over to my right and you know what looked back at me?, the famous route Shine(5.14a). Shine was a route I always wanted to get on but never had the opportunity to try it, just because I was always working on the other routes at the wall. But now, nearly 6 years after first touching the stone on Primo Wall and sending all the classic routes that interested me, I guess it was time…. Shine!

Topping out on the Squeeze Play send!
Topping out on the Squeeze Play send!
Chris "the Super Crusher" Taylor on his send of Public Solitude 5.13c  just last week, one of the many classic routes on Primo Wall. Nice job brother!
Chris “the Super Crusher” Taylor on his send of Public Solitude 5.13c just last week, one of the many classic routes on Primo Wall. Nice job brother!

Unfinished Business…

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The best things in life never come easy. This is the story behind climbing. Every route I have ever tried has history behind it. Some routes come super easy, others take more work, what makes the route special is your experience around it. I had been trying this route called Head Cheese(5.12d) at Shelf Road since 2011. It is a route I dabbled with here and there, giving it a burn at the end of the day or if I was walking by and draws were up on it I would give it a go. Whenever someone would ask if I have done Head Cheese, I would just kind of smile. I have only tried the route 10 times or so over the last 4 years, but for some reason or another I could never climb it without falling. In the back of my mind, it was some seriously unfinished business. IMG_0326

What’s ironic is I have progressed to a level since first trying it, that I now have done many routes of this grade on my very first attempt, either as a flash or an onsight. But again, it’s those routes that give you the most challenge that seem to stick with you. This past weekend, I went to Shelf Road, one of many trips I have taken since I started going in 2011. This time, I had one very specific goal in mind; to send Head Cheese. On Saturday, I warmed up and headed straight over to the crag in hopes of getting on it. It was a bit discouraging when I found a line of people waiting to get on it and my first burn confirmed it was still hard. I have climbed 5.13d at this point, an entire number grade harder, How could this route still be so difficult?

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Bottom line, I wanted this route to be checked off my ” To Do” list. This route was well within my ability. I guess I just needed to focus and try a little harder. Instead of doing a bunch of other routes prior to Head and Cheese and going into battle mode a bit tired, I thoroughly warmed up on three 5.11’s and when I felt like I was ready, I jumped right on Head Cheese to give it a go. After doing an initial beta burn, and relearning the moves and the proper footwork, clipping stances, etc., I immediately went into redpoint mode. On my second burn on Head Cheese I fell in the middle of the route which seemed to be the crux for me. There is one difficult clip(apparently there use to be a clipping jug but it broke off) and an additional bolt was added. I played around with the clip and determined how I was going to do it and conserve some energy for the upper crux that lurked right before the chains. I finished the route and fine tuned my beta, finding a few more subtle differences that I though might help with the send. After burn number two, I decided to rest for at least 45 minutes before getting back on. The nature of the route is very powerful and because it’s one of the steepest routes at Shelf Road, taking a little more time between burns to fully recover was a smart approach.

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After about and hour of just hanging out, drinking water, eating some snacks and stretching, I got back on. I climbed up the 20 foot pile of choss which made up the lower section and clipped a few bolts. I stood there and looked up at what I was about to climb. Wow, this route is steep! I took a deep breath and was off like a lion about to kill it’s prey. Before I knew it I had powered my way through the first crux, skipping a bolt and nearly skipping two(which would have turned out to be an epic whip if I fell) and was now resting on some moderately good holds right before the top crux. I used what I had learned on the hundreds of hard routes I have projected and sent over the  past few years, which was to relax. I worked on calming my breathing and getting the feeling back in my fatigued arms. When I was ready, I blasted through the upper crux like I was on a mission and getting to the top meant winning the battle. Before, I knew it I had clipped the anchors and I was being lowered. Mission Accomplished!

Head Cheese is no longer this mythical creature but a route that I tamed through perseverance and determination.  Only a climber will understand this experience.

All of the pics were taken in March of 2011 when I first got on the route. I didn’t realize at that point that it would be a four year endeavor. Bottom line, my four year experience on Head Cheese will last a lifetime…

The Easiest Way To Cure ANY Disease: The answer may surprise you!

by Curt MacNeill

The American Health Care System spends over 3 trillion dollars annually yet we have the same life expectancy of Cuba which spends absolutely zero dollars on the health of its citizens. Heart Disease kills an alarming 700,000 people ever single year with Cancer, Diabetes and Stroke rounding out some of America’s “Heavy Hitting” killers. What you may find alarming about these statistics is that MOST DISEASES and CAUSES OF DEATH can largely be prevented! Now I know what your thinking, I can already see the skepticism as you sit in front of your computer screen to read this but try to keep an open mind about it. For the record, 4 of the top 10 causes of death in the United States (Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke and Diabetes) are largely preventable through diet and lifestyle changes.

Seems a bit shocking doesn’t it! That a 3 trillion-dollar healthcare system is failing miserably and that each year more and more people die from unnatural and more often than not 100 % preventable deaths. What makes our healthcare system fail so miserably is not it’s well-trained medical doctors, high-tech medical machines, screenings or testings OR its state of the art facilities. Truth be told, rates of life and death have absolutely nothing to do with what our healthcare system is doing right.  In fact, it is just the opposite. It is what our healthcare system is NOT doing at all.

Think about this for a minute. What happens when you go to a conventional doctor when you have a health problem?

You sit in the doctor’s office for about 20 minutes waiting for the doctor. A nurse comes out and brings you into yet another room where you proceed to wait for an additional 20 minutes  for the doctor. Finally, when the doctor enters the room, he speaks with you for about 4 minutes, hands a little “magic pill” over to you and rushes out of the room to see his or her next patient.  Now, I am not knocking conventional medicine in any way here. In most cases, medical doctors are good people trying to make a difference in the world. They work hard and want to help large numbers of people. It is a respectable profession. The underlying problem with our healthcare system and the doctor’s that work in this system is that they are trained to do one thing and one thing ONLY- that is to treat health problems. Notice very carefully here that I said TREAT.

If most doctor’s go into their profession thinking they are going to treat various illnesses, this is just setting us all up for failure. The problem with the “treatment” attitude is that most of the time it is too late. For instance, take someone who has had a massive heart attack. The treatment of a serious myocardial infarction (heart attack) is going to include some type of blood thinner,  a statin drug, and some form of surgery to open up the flood vessels and regain circulation of blood to the heart. Most of the time it is never mentioned that how you eat, how you live, how you deal with stress and emotions, etc. all lead to heart attacks. Just for the record, heart attacks are NOT normal. It is a blockage in the arteries that takes many, many years to develop. It is for this reason why you don’t see many children having heart attacks (although this is sadly changing and 10 year olds are now dying from it). In almost all cases heart attacks don’t just fall out of the sky and hit you over the head like a bag of sand. It takes many years to develop atherosclerotic plaque buildup due to poor lifestyle choices.

A perfect example of this “treatment” philosophy lies in the war on Cancer. Just the other day I was buying a few groceries and was asked by the lovely cashier if I wanted to “Round Up” my bill to the nearest dollar (in this case it would have been 58 cents) to help find a cure for Cancer. At that exact moment, I realized that many women employees of the grocery store were wearing pink shirts for breast cancer and that there were gigantic banners strung all over the ceiling stating “Help Find a Cure”.  Once again this goes back to our problem not just in our medical profession but as a society!

Imagine if instead of America raising millions and millions of dollars each year to “Find a Cure”, imagine if we took that money and spent it on “Finding a Cause”. In fact, it wouldn’t take much money to find out what causes cancer, in most cases we already know what causes it. Do I have you confused yet? Let me break it down into simple terms. Sodium Nitrates found in ALL lunch meats, bacon and processed meats is a known carcinogen (meaning it causes cancer) yet the FDA still allows it. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone(rBGH) is a known carcinogen, yet 35 million pounds of this steroid is pumped into the beef that ends up on our dinner plates. Plastic bottles contain Bisphenol which is a known carcinogen, yet it  is still used in many bottled waters and drinks throughout the United States. Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate are known carcinogens, yet can be found in over 90% of shampoos, soaps and lotions. 

You can see exactly where I am going with this. Your probably wondering how in the world you are going to avoid all of these cancer producing ingredients found in virtually every food product and cleaning product in your entire house. The answer to both this and the title of this article, “The Easiest Way To Cure ANY Disease” lies in prevention. This is where it gets really exciting. If you have the power to reduce your exposure(which you easily can do each and every day of your life), then you can literally use this power to prevent most diseases in the first place.

Confused yet? It’s really not all that difficult. You can do this in two simple steps.

Step #1– Switch from a treatment state of mind to a preventative state of mind. Afterall, if you prevent diseases from occurring in your body there will be no disease to treat!

Step #2– Make smart/healthy conscious choices as many times as you can in a single day. For instance, when you’re at the gas station filling up your car’s tank, choose a bottle of water over a bottle of sugar (I.E.- Snapple, Red Bull, VitaminWater, etc.). When you are at your house and hungry for a snack, opt for an apple and almond butter rather than eating some cookies or a bag of chips. Next time you’re at the grocery store, opt for nitrate free bacon instead of regular bacon. Next time you get home from work and are super stressed out from a long and hard day, choose to do some yoga instead of watching television. As you can see here, there are a million things you can do each and every day of your life to minimize your chances of ever getting a disease.

So back to the title of this article and the question,  “What is the easiest way to cure ANY disease?”

The answer unfortunately is something a conventional medical doctor will never tell you!

To cure ANY Disease,  all you need to do is think about how to prevent it from ever happening in the first place!

The scariest day of my life. Read this!

So I know this is a nutrition blog about food, fitness and lifestyle type things, but today was quite a scary day for me, so I felt compelled to write about it. So here it is, the scariest day of my life. It goes something like this…..

I woke up this morning  just like any other morning, excited for what was in store for the day. I had some work to do but was going to start the day out by doing a rock climb I have been wanting to try for quite sometime. Up until this point, I did not feel as if I was strong enough to get on this climb, but I have been training extremely hard so I thought now is a good a time as any. The climb consists of four pitches of 5.12. Each pitch is stout and relentless. Once you get on the thing, there is no rest or good hold until you top out on pitch 4 about 400 feet above the ground where you started.

We got an early start only to get to the base of the cliff  in howling winds and freezing temps. It’s ironic how it has been hot and sunny for the last week but the day we go to climb this multi-pitch monstrosity it’s less than ideal. Despite the weather not really being “good climbing weather”, we decided to go for it. The climbing was intense, very exposed and  harder than anything I have ever climbed before. Each pitch was super balancy and technical, to the point where your face is smashed up against the wall for most of the moves. I have never really gotten to smell what rocks “smell like”  until today! To top things off, the wind was so crazy (gusts up to 60 mph) that several times I felt like I was going to be blown off the wall and into the river several hundred feet below.

After completing pitch one on top rope following my partner, I led pitch 2 onto a spooky/ balancy ledge. With nothing but thin air below me and my belayer out of sight to communicate with, I decided to take a fall. Now, it wasnt just any fall, but a whipping sideways catastrophe about 140 feet off the deck. It was scary. I have taken many falls before but never one like that given the circumstances. I was about to just say “fuck this” (pardon my french) and just give up on this thing but I am not usually one to back down from something, especially when it comes to sports. So I got back on and struggled my way up to the top, sniffing rock the entire way for fear of taking another fall off the near blank granite.

At the top of the 2nd  pitch (and 2 more to go), I  watched my partner(who is stronger than me) struggle to do most of the moves. At that point, I wondered what we got ourselves into. I felt like I was on El Capitan with massive exposure and incredibly difficult climbing. At that exact moment when I was thinking this may have not been such a great idea,  I looked over from my hanging belay about 180 ft off the ground and realized there was a massive forest fire above us on the ridge!

After discussing the situation with my climbing partner, we decided to back down and rap the route instead of finishing the next 2 pitches. We quickly hiked out not knowing if our car was going to be on fire when we got back to it. This fire was HUGE and close enough that the smoke made you cough and ashes were floating in the sky like snow flakes in a December snow storm. We jumped in our car not knowing if we were even going to make it back to the paved roads several miles away. We did make it back to the road although once we got there it was complete mayhem. Cops and fire fighters were out in full force evacuating people from their homes. There were cars pulled over on the side of the road everywhere, including ones parked in the middle of the road. It turns out that when people are nervous and excited they do stupid things like park their cars in the middle of the road! As we drove up the road and closer to the fire, a lady pulled right in front of my car screaming that we had to turn around because it was an emergency. She is handling herself well I thought to myself.

We knew it was serious when we drove by a house and the people who lived there were running to their cars with stacks of clothes and food in their hands.  In a matter of about 5 minutes, the road was so black with smoke you couldn’t see 50 feet in front of you. Then we saw the flames on all of the surrounding hillsides. Then we saw all the other people in the area start to panic and it made us panic. All of the sudden I turned from an intrigued motorist trying to help to a nervous passerby just trying to get the hell out of there and to safety.

In the end of it all, it made me start thinking about the beginning. I first thought that I was getting in over my head on the climb. Then when I discovered the earth was on fire around us, I  thought my car was going to be melted in the parking lot. Then I thought we wouldn’t be able to get back to the paved road due to the flames.  Then I thought that we wouldn’t get off the road with the black smoke. Anyway, long story short, the lesson that I learned is to not let my mind wander into things beyond my control. Just do what needs to be done and everything will work out the way it was supposed to.

 Hey, I think I just learned a valuable life lesson here……….

The Luckiest Man in the World!!!

Here I was standing in the middle of Manhattan, at the largest nutrition school of its kind in the world, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I kept asking myself how learning a topic like food and health could be so interesting, so captivating, so magical…..  But it was.  In the middle of our class at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the lights went out, the music came on and everyone including the teacher started going wild. Words cannot describe what it’s like to be standing in a room in New York City with thousands of energetic people dancing because they are high on life. The floors shook as people waved their hands in the air.  The florescent lights spun around the room as if you were at a U2 concert. I just could not believe my eyes, which started to tear from the excitement. I don’t know what it is that is happening to me but I can honestly say that my experience after just 2 weekends at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition has forever changed my life.  To all my friends at IIN, I can’t wait for next weekend!!!!!!! The song we all rocked out to is posted above…….

Rockstar Weekend #1 in NYC

I just got back from the most amazing weekend in NYC attending my first class at Institute for Integrative Nutrition. When Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of the school walked on stage,  there was a standing ovation unlike anything I had ever seen. The clapping, cheering and overall excitement of the several thousand students in the Roosevelt Room at the Jazz at Lincoln Center seemed to shake the floor. I felt like Van Halen just walked on stage to perform a rock concert.  Rosenthal later went on to say that nutrition can be a boring topic so he wanted to teach in a way where people walked out of the room “electrified”. I truly believe that he accomplished what he set out to do.  The excitement and energy was just mind blowing. Depsite the fact that I am living on the opposite side of the country from where I want to be living, I knew right at that moment that standing in that room in the middle of Manhattan was exactly where I needed to be……..