April 9, 2013

More on the Exponential Week!

Get outside and have an adventure!
piz : )

Thanks to my amazing sponsors: Arcteryx, CAMP-USA, SCARPA, Sterling Ropes, the AAC and WindX-treme
 The morning it began.
Seconds after we completed all those pitches!

Getting Exponential

I am about to embark on another self-imposed potentially ridiculous climbing challenges. In the past, I have traveled the West in search of climbing all the Astro-themed routes, other times I have sought out long multi-pitch link ups in Yosemite Valley and Zion National Park, while other times I quested into the unknown in and out of the country for new routing and adventure. There is still so much to do and many more places to visit, but this year due to the proximity of my second son’s birth, I will be staying close to home during my spring break.

In late 2012, I concocted an exponential growth problem of sorts. Seeing that I teach population genetics in my high school Biology class and dabble in mathematics at times, I figured that I could identify another theme that could host a worthy opponent to my mental and physical stamina on the rocks. As usual, I enlisted my senior and best friend, Mike Brumbaugh to join me on this seemingly impossible task.  When I described what I wanted to do, he immediately was interested and said, “I’m in.”

Many of you know that Mike runs a ski shop or two in Colorado and since winter is his busy time, he normally puts in 80+ hour weeks in order to make sure that every costumer that walks through his doors wants to come back to Venture Sports to rent skis the next time that they are in the state.  All that work means that Mike can get badly out of shape. I am talking a French pastry and doughnut filled belly. One hundred plus days in a row will destroy most folks. However in years past, Mike has been able to maintain his stoicism and keep on plugging along while on whatever magical rock surface that we get our callused (in his case, baby soft) hands and feet upon.

Me on the other hand, can train like a fiend and be in nearly close to top performing condition at nearly anytime during the year. I teach high school which allows me to have a regular schedule. That means that at five am a couple mornings a week, I circuit train and in the evening after my son goes to sleep, I can get some mileage in on the ropes at my local gym, the Grand Junction Climbing Center.

Training for this challenge (which I will share the details shortly) was hampered in a variety of ways. The winter on the western slope of Colorado this year was particularly cold. I mean a three month long inversion holding onto life sucking abnormally cold air temperatures that hovered near zero and below. Those temperatures, along with the fact that I caught every miserable cold that came through my school, combined with the fact that it really wanted to snow on the weekends made it extremely difficult to gain the proper endurance to complete my challenge. Mike wasn’t training at all and since it never really hurt him in the past I wasn’t too worried.

Late February and March was when Mike was going to get after it and begin logging in the miles on the rock. As it happened, he had to work more than he wanted and ended up getting some kind of virus that attacked his joints and laid him about for about ten days straight. He told me on the phone while resting an ice pack on his head, that it hurt to make a fist. I laughed and (yet was concerned) joked with his wife about the illness and got back to my indoor training sessions (which were beginning to tax me.) After his two week bed vacation, Mike bowed out of the challenge. My bubble burst (not like that crappy Incubus song) and I was in limbo. I had a challenge but no partner. My wife Jane tried to remind me that the challenge didn’t need to be done, no one was depending on me to attempt it or achieve it and that it was just my crazy idea that I can do anytime. Even though there was reason in her sage words, I don’t lie down that easily. I quickly enlisted my photographer for this journey. After all, he was off the same time to record the effort on film and totally badass in his own right. So I called up John Dickey and told him about how Mike was out and asked him to join me. After a moment of hesitation, he was like, “oh yeah I am in!”

A few days passed, I trained some more and John worked his butt off shooting and editing photos and video. One evening while sharing a delicious beverage with his close friends, he shared his plans about the last week of March, (which were of course the detailed description of my now top secret challenge). They immediately said “Are you nuts, you’re totally out of shape, you can’t do that? What are you thinking?” After an evening of reflection, he realized that he might not be the best partner for me for this challenge and backed out. I was bummed but desperate to continue my made up quest and quickly realized that the answer was right under my nose here in Grand Junction.

I had been training and climbing with Ben Rueck for almost as long as I had been living in Grand Junction. He was strong and had a positive attitude and was willing to join me on new routing (even though he showed up hung over and reeking of alcohol the first time that we climbed together)and my (now called “brutal”) workouts. Ben was close to completing a winter project and I didn’t want to impose my silly plans on him while he was so close to sending, but I did anyway. I knew that the crux holds of his route were beginning to seep and that unfortunately with every warm spring day that came, they would only seep more and make the climb impossible. Anyway, Ben wanted some more “Piz time” since we hadn’t been able to climb together much do to different climbing goals this spring and decided that the challenge would be perfect.

So now that I have a partner and one more day to wait before my Getting Exponential Challenge begins, you may hear the details. You have wanted long enough and listened to me ramble about something that I now think is stupid and cool all at once.

The Getting Exponential Challenge

Day 1: free 1 aid line on a desert tower (It was initially going to be a Black Canyon route but there is too much snow and limited access right now)
Day 2: free 2 500-600ft climbs in Unaweep Canyon
Day 3: free 4 towers in Colorado National Monument
Day 4: free 8 Escalante routes
Day 5: free 16 Rifle routes
Day 6: free 32 routes in Clear Creek Canyon
Day 7: free 64 routes at Shelf Road (in 24 hours)


First of all, what I like about this challenge is that it allows me to get a lot of climbing in on many different rock types. It also challenges my ability to climb well on all rock types quickly. Lastly, it’s cool cause after climbing that many pitches; we will be approaching 20,000 feet of climbing in a really short amount of time without doing the same type of movements.

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