Monday, May 24, 2010

You Find The Strength Somehow: A Look Behind The Rock Climbing Scene, Part II of III

This interview is part two of one that I conducted with Jessica and Patti, two of my belay partners. I wanted more information about rock climbing and I couldn't think of a better place to start.

‘Drea: What would you consider your climbing style?

Jessica: I like to go side to side. I like to flag a leg out, do drop knee, do a lot of – kind of almost contorting…twist my body. I like the logical routes that are built for people who are about my height. Yusuf (former Upper Limits employee) is a really soft climber and I really like his routes because they force you to climb like him where you’re doing that reaching but you can kind of twist and you can get it.

‘Drea to Patti: And what about you? What do you consider your climbing style?

Patti: I don’t have a style. Brute force.

Jessica: That’s not true. You like to push and pull -- get into corners. You also tend to keep your body straight onto the wall. You like to be more stable. You’re also more daring than I am. I’m using more techniques and kind of tricks to get there and mom is using technique but she also jumps for things more often than I would. She goes for it and commits to a move that I find hard to commit to.

‘Drea to Patti: So, are you a jumper?

Patti: Usually, I’m a faller. (all around laughter)

Jessica to Patti: But you’re more willing to do that. I’m still working on that.

'Drea: What kind of books would you recommend?

Jessica: I haven’t read it yet but The Rock Warrior’s Way; it’s about the mental part of climbing and pushing through. Training for Climbing is a book that we've read.

‘Drea: Any reason why you chose Evolv shoes?

Jessica: Mom and I both have wide feet so we went with Evolv men shoes. Steve is a good person to talk to about shoes. Every time you see him, he has on a different pair of shoes.

Some people actually have, if they're hardcore about it, they'll actually wear one type of shoe on the right foot and a different type of shoe on their left foot. They'll have a crack up on the left side and a certain shoe is good for crack climbing but the other shoe is good for smearing. The Evolv that we have is just a good multi-purpose shoe...

I went shopping with Kam for shoes and he said, “Oh, I like this color.” The woman was like make sure it fits your foot; it doesn’t matter what color it is. So, I wouldn’t order online the first time.

‘Drea: Did you both take lead climbing class?

Jessica: Well, you have to be able to climb a 5.9 lead test up front. So, you have to climb up to the fifth clip without falling, clip in, climb above it, fall and then climb back up and finish the route without any problems and we were not climbing 5.9s consistently for awhile after we got through with the class.

And people’s definition of what the ratings are is very different from person to person. It depends on how tall you are, what your style of climbing is. So, we actually waited until there was a lead route that we could climb consistently and was relatively easy so we weren’t going to be freaking out. The two routes that are up right now, I don’t think that I would have passed the test.

It was good to hear what Jessica said about the lead routes because I attempted that 5.9 lead route this day, struggled mightily and barely made it halfway up.

‘Drea: How many times have you been lead climbing?

Patti: About two dozen.

Jessica: When you talk to different people, they have different attitudes about it (lead climbing) and I don’t think a lot of people would appreciate the attitude that I have towards lead climbing. It’s uncomfortable and that’s not what I feel like I want out of climbing – to feel that uncomfortable and to pursue it. Mentally, I think that could be a very good exercise... I think it’s more dangerous and, for me, I don’t feel like it’s necessary. I don’t like having my heart pounding the whole time. That being said, when I did lead climb and it was a route that was harder, I did feel really good when I pursued it.

Patti: …You know the consequences of not doing it (a lead route). As you’re climbing and you think, I don’t know if I can do this then you think, Oh my God, I have to or else I’m going to fall; you find the strength somehow.

Jessica: Yeah, you can’t ask for take just anywhere on the route or if you do ask for a take, you’re going to fall.

‘Drea: What about bouldering?

‘Drea To Patti: I know that you fell in a love with a little red route.

Patti: I don’t like bouldering because you climb up 12 feet and then you have to get down and I know that on my delicate ankles that would not work.

Jessica: And bouldering is more dynamic. So, it’s putting the five or six hardest moves right together. Whereas climbing is more about endurance and I don’t really like doing all of the hard stuff back-to-back. I like that it’s a puzzle where I’ll have a hard moment here and there that you have to figure out then trying to get the endurance to get through the rest of it. Bouldering is harder on your body; it’s harder on your tendons. It’s usually more of, like, a young man’s power through game but there are some women who are excellent at bouldering; there are some older people who are excellent at bouldering. It’s not my cup of tea.

‘Drea: What's the highest route you’ve climbed?

Jessica: A 5.10+ (inside). The routes are longer outside. I’ve lead outside once and it was terrifying and I vowed never to do it again. The only way that I would do lead outside again is if it were super, super easy – like grips all over the place. Here the clips are maybe about five feet apart. Outside, it’s usually about ten. If you get up to the next clip and you botch it, you’re falling 20 feet.

‘Drea: That doesn’t sound very good.

Jessica: Not my cup of tea. (laughter)

Patti’s highest route inside is a 5.10 and a 5.9 outside.

‘Drea: What do you think is good supplemental exercise for rock climbing?

Jessica and Patti: Yoga.

Jessica: I think swimming is good. You do need a certain level of strength but, at some point, muscle becomes more weight that you’re taking up. Pilates, I bet, would be good...

Note: Steph Davis just recommended Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind for someone who wanted to increase their resistance to fear.

Part I of Interview with Jessica and Patti


  1. I laughed when she said she was a "faller." Well, I laughed and then I thought about falling and stopped laughing.

    Thank you for the part II to this great interview. You asked some really good questions about climbing. I don't think we even have a facility to climb in where I live.

  2. Diane,

    Thanks for taking a look. Most of the falls are pretty controlled but there are occasions when you do swing a bit. :) You have to be most careful when you open the *barn door* in the corner...

    Also, climbing gyms are cropping up everywhere. If there's not one near you, it would be interesting to see if one opens in the near future.

  3. Wow! This was so useful for me because I don't know any of this vocabulary in English! And I need some shoes but I have that same wide foot problem. Cool :)

  4. Sara,

    Glad you found something of use and I hope that you continue to have fun with your rock climbing. Did I really write fun and rock climbing in the same sentence? :)