Above photo was taken by Kendra Stritch.  Picture is of me on my project…

As with the last several years, my winters have always ended by the end of March.  This typically happens for two reasons: 1-by the end of March I’m exhausted from all that has gone on over the course of the winter, and 2-because every March I go to Las Vegas for the Red Rocks Rendezvous to teach and go rock climbing.  Once in the desert, it’s hard to come back to more winter climbing, and after 7 months of training for/mixed climbing…it’s definitely time for a break.

I always struggle with letting go of a particular season.  I’ve written about it time and time again, and it never gets any easier.  Maybe a project got left undone…which is never easy to let go of, maybe the weather is still bomber, or someone asks you to go on a last minute, chance of a lifetime, trip.  Whatever the case, I find it hard.  This spring, it was on its way to being really hard to let go of mixed.  I had just gotten back from World Cups, was busy doing a photo/video gig for Petzl, and had a route that was unfinished…and oh so close to being put to rest.  I couldn’t let go of that route.  A friend had even suggested that, “you’ve had a great season…maybe it’s time to hang the tools up, maybe you’ve caught your last wave…and it’s time to paddle back in”, a metaphor that made sense and felt realistic…but not fully right.  On the brink of accepting such timing…I had a feeling, a feeling so strong, one that i couldn’t explain but could only believe in, that it wasn’t time to paddle back in, it wasn’t time to let go.  A week later I sent my hardest route to date.  Three days later i hung up my tools.  I had a feeling that I needed to address.  Sometimes you need to push just a little further to experience the outcome of a “what if”.  Other wise…you’ll never know.  My friend wasn’t trying to deter me from any chance of victory, but merely trying to look out for me…because i was burned out, tired…and ready for a break.

This summer, for the first time in a while, was different…super different.  Generally speaking my summer is filled with rock climbing, travel, training, and more rock climbing.  Psyched.  Of course, climbing aside, the summer is also filled with lots of family camping, backpacking, bike riding, play time, etc., etc.  Amazing.  Time with my family is important.  Super important. I cherish every moment with them.  My two little daughters, gosh, I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful it is to spend time with them, watch them grow…play, laugh, love.  And my wife, I can’t do anything without her.  Often people tell me how lucky I am to have a wife support me like she does.  Darn right.

So this summer, it was different.  I had a stellar start to my rock season, climbing in Canmore, climbing in Skaha, Tensleep, Wyoming (with top notch friends), my local crag…yup, good start.  Got some routes done, felt strong.  Wicked.  I was havin’ a ballin’ time.  And then the weather hit, the bugs hit, rain, heat, too much deet, brutal.  I was locked down.  Two months of basically no rock climbing.  If i had hair to pull out, I’d look like i do now, but on purpose.  Brutal.  It seemed like anywhere you went, or heard of…it was too hot.  LOcally, it rained for a month straight…routes were wet, dripping, and not climbable.  As July came about, and the rain stopped…the bugs hit.  Total anarchy.  Then August, the hottest month i’ve experienced in years.  Too swilly, slippery, draining.

When your used to climbing all the time, and then not…it’s a tough transition.  In some senses I felt like I was injured. Sidelined.  Being held back.  Nobody’s fault, it’s just how it was.  And that was the point where a choice had to be made.  Either i could sit on my ass and mope, or i could buck up and make the best of what I had…the backyard, my fortress of solitude.  A yard filled with climbing walls, logs hanging, chin up bars, finger boards, etc.  I think if you were to count the hours, so much of my life is spent back there.  So that’s what i did and rolled with it…trained, built new features, trained some more, and then kept training.  It was hard to accept that training is all i could do, but i knew with training i would only be getting stronger.  And that feeling, of getting stronger, it was enough to motivate further efforts.

Sometimes you have to wonder if training really works, or if more climbing works, or both.  What works? Various climbing athletes will preach their gospel, what works, or what they think works for them, and should work for others.  Truth is, in climbing anyways…I don’t think anyone really has the answer.  Certain athletes perform at a crazy high level…but do they really understand why, or what works so that they can? Well whatever the case, all the training that i’ve done in the last several months…it’s seems to be working, so good one.  But i can’t really tell you what part of my training that’s actually allowing me gains in performance.  What specific thing under what conditions are allowing me to try harder, hold on longer, lock off lower, move faster.  I’m not really sure to be honest…only that it’s relevant to how I’ve been climbing in the last week.

Finally, rock climbing was in the cards again.  The weather cooled off a bit, bugs were all dead, rain was gone, and the friction was on.  I was supposed to go back to Tensleep, Wyoming, but financially my goals were geared towards saving as much as possible for the upcoming world cup competition tour (for mixed/ice climbing)–so, I packed the van, a bunch of Mac and cheese, and headed to Canmore, Alberta.  Joey Kinder and his girly Colette were there ’til the end of September so the timing was perfect to hook up with them and crush.  Acephale was the objective, but hookin’ up with some of my local friends for days at other crags, like the lookout, was part of the plan too.  I had time, lots of time (thanks to my supportive family) to climb my face off, ’til my fingers bled, ’til my legs couldn’t hike up the trails to the crags anymore (if you didn’t know, most of the crags in canmore require a heck of a hike).  My frown had been turned upside down.  It didn’t matter if it snowed on us, if the wind was so cold it rung a bitter shiver down your spine, if hunkering down by a campfire was the only way to stay warm before you tied in.  It was all good.  People were psyched.  I was psyched.

I often find myself traveling to and from Canmore for climbing.  Unfortunately the climbing scene where I live is super inconsistent, thus I go where people are psyched…all the time.  Climbing at places like Acephale, or the Look Out, the atmosphere, the energy, it’s amazing. I love it.  Watching other climbers crush is so inspiring that it only makes you want to try that much harder.  Having just spent a week there climbing, man, what a great time.  Never a dull moment  and always a positive psyche with everyone.  People sending, people falling, projecting, and chilling…so good.  This is why I love climbing, the common ground between everyone, whether a 5.14 climber or a 5.11 climber, we all share the same passion, the drive, the reason behind why we love it so much.  Every climber may have a different reason to why they climb, but within it all, there’s a consistency that we all connect through.  For a wicked perspective on this, go here: https://vimeo.com/49778759

Despite the fact that temps are still hittin’ the high 20’s where I live (Cranbrook, BC), I’ve already begun my training for the upcoming mixed season.  It feels a little weird dangling around with tools, but…it always does around this time of year.  The cool thing is that already I’m stronger than previous years.  Within my first few sessions holding onto tools, I was speedily smashing previous training records.  This motivates me.  Now,  I haven’t, however, given up on rock season fully as there’s a lingering project that i seem to be making progress on.  Things seem stronger at the moment, power seems to be up, training seems to be working…maybe there’s one more wave to catch before it’s time to paddle in…again.  Like I said, it’s always hard to let go of a season, and perhaps that will just be something that i need to accept.  I love mixed climbing…and i love rock climbing.  Heck, I love climbing.

A bit of a long post, sorry about it.  And, it’s been a while since i’ve posted.  I think mostly because i’ve been in “chill” mode.  But now, it’s full on mode, and there’s gonna be lots to talk about. So stay tuned.