Climbing New Page

After the strenuous but memorable Denali climb, all my efforts were redirected to fulfill my bottomless appetite. It was a weird feeling: No matter how much I ate, I constantly felt hungry. The only thing that stopped me from reaching for more food was always embarrassment not satisfaction. In about two weeks, my metabolism finally returned normal and I was ready for another NOLS course: a 3-week backcountry rock climbing course.

Before I signed up for the course, I had a long debate with myself. I had some experience climbing real rocks and I had followed some multi-pitch routes. However I never had any systematic or extensive training on this topic. In addition, I wanted to know how to do traditional leading otherwise how could I become an all-around mountaineer? I knew I probably could obtain such knowledge from experienced climbing friends, but nothing beats a structural course—I just couldn’t wait to flip to a new page of my climbing book.

Three weeks flew fast. At the end of the course, my advisor asked me if I could have chosen again whether I would still take this course. I did not give an affirmative answer. I felt that the course was helpful; I learned much new stuff: anchor building, protection placement, and crack climbing. I did not do much climbing though, all I could remember was setting up numerous natural anchors, Pro anchors (artificial anchors), and placing numerous cams and nuts in cracks or holes we could find just from hiking around the climbing sites. Due to time and weather constraints, I did not even do any lead climbing although I did mock leading twice on two different 5.7 routes and the two mock leads were checked off by two different instructors.

Now, about three months after the course, I have logged sixteen rock climbing days among which I led a climb almost every single day. I still remembered vividly on the very first few real leads how nervous I was even though I was on easy terrain, and how much I did not trust my protective measures even though I double-checked or triple-checked them. Gradually along with the accumulation of leading mileage and compliments from a few experienced climbing friends, I realized that I walked away from the course with solid anchor building and protection placement skills and for all of these I should thank my course. The course instructors did not let us advance to the next level if we did not build enough solid anchors or did not place enough bomber protection. And all the repetitive practice for perfection contributed to my fast-growing confidence after I started leading, which I did not realize at the time.

Well, I am now still scared sometimes when I lead because I dislike falling. However, I will always remember the first lead I did which was done on September 1st 2007 at New River Gorge, a 5.6 route called The Distortionist. A new page has been turned…and what is next? I will say— of course it will be to finish building up my lead rack.

10 thoughts on “Climbing New Page”

  1. You really should focus on improving your skill in one area than trying to dabble in all. You won’t gain any expertise or wisdom in any.

    With all the multiple sports, you seem like an outdoor tourist, not an outdoors person.

  2. Blog is in the public forum. Obviously, blogs are an attempt to showcase our best selves, or an attempt to hone our writing skills, simply to get a better perspective on life, one’s own, and if comments’ option exists, it is to elicit critique, whether positive or negative. Or to gain support of ones ideas, and sometimes also to gain approval.

    I wouldn’t have given that spiel, if your defensive response wasn’t scathing. If you are Po, and would like to respond, that’s another thing, but to respond sans reason or not to the topic, implies, you lack cogitative skills.

    Now, all I pointed out is that Po should probably focus in one area, to bring up her skills. I follow her blog, because I like the substance of the blog versus other outdoors blogs. So that’s a positive idea, underneath that seemingly negative tone. Thanks again.

  3. OutdoorsOutdoorsOutdoors

    I’m not really sure what this blog thing is for here….but I was just wondering whether NOLS Alaska Mountaineering is really cool (not the Alumni one – the other one) and if it’s WAY too hard/difficult? Anyone know?? Thanks.

  4. soc,

    welcome back. Textual messages, especially short ones, tend to leave lots of room for interpretation since there’s no tone or body language. I wasn’t intending to scald or suppress you, but merely to hold up a mirror.

    My comment was less “scathing” than yours, since i said “perhaps you should do X” while you said that Po “really should do X” and in addition called her a “tourist” and said she’ll never get wisdom this way.

    I don’t question your right to comment with your thoughts, I merely gave a critique to the comment you had posted on this “public forum”

    I think with your “cogitive” (did you mean cognitive?) skills, you should be able to see that I didn’t do anything you hadn’t already done, but perhaps its more upsetting when critique is thrown your own way from out of nowhere. Oh, and i do find it ironic that a you labeled my comment, which was no different than yours, “scathing” and then proceed to make up some straw man statement about my lack of cognitive skills.

    Know that I look forward to yours and everyone’s comments on this and future posts. Also know that I am in a position to say Po is certainly not a tourist in any way. She’s very focused on specific goals, and if she wants to do other outdoor activity in between then even better!

  5. To OutdoorsOutdoorsOutdoors,
    It’s very hard to answer this question. To me I learned a lot from NOLS Alaska mountaineering course and I would certainly recommend it to people who want to get into glacier traveling and learn basic mountaineering skills. I think if you’re physically fit (in NOLS course description, they tell you how to gauge your fitness) and are willing to step out of your comfort zone, the course will be challenging but not hard. Good luck!!

  6. Well, to me, I didn’t know how to interpret “outdoor tourist” and therefore soc’s first comment really brought me some down moments. Once I realized that soc follows my blog and complimented that my blog has some substance that other blogs don’t have, I could really open up and treat soc’s comment as a positive suggestion. As a blog writer, I really appreciate that my readers really read my articles and give me comments, and just want to let you know that it will be so nice to elaborate your thoughts especially when you are providing some constructive feedback. That way, I can benefit from it more!

    As for the question whether I focus on some specific outdoor sport, well, I hope so. Alpine climbing is my favorite, and I really want to invest as much time as possible in that. However, there are some difficulties such as money, gear, and most importantly, partners. Well, right now I am trying to get out as much as I can, and that’s also one of the reasons that I haven’t updated my blog often lately. I love to write, and I love to climb. I just hope that I can find a fine balance so that I can share my climbing moments with my readers.

  7. Hi Po: While looking for Chinese translations of different winter sport, I came upon your blog. I am impressed !!! I used to belong to the Alpine Club of Canada and did a lot of hiking, rock/ice climbing and alpine/x-country/telemark skiing. Just like you, I love the outdoor and enjoy (as well as respect) what mother nature has to offer. Last week, I was in Vermont and really liked the place and the people there. Okay, okay, I am an “outdoor tourist” but then not everyone has the time, energy, and resources to go climb Mount Everest. As you said, it is a “fine balance”, something all climbers understand 🙂

    Haricot 微豆

  8. Pingback: Final Frontier: An Outdoor Blog » Blog Archive » Advice from my NOLS instructors about my recent climbing accident

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