Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Wolf Pack

THE Wolf Pack: Lone Wolf, Milky Wolf, The Runt, Tiger Cub and Den Master

Well now that I have you smiling, be prepared for one of my most downer trip reports yet.

Here are some things that would suck to have happen on a climbing trip:

1) Save up money, train for months, all to get injured upon arrival
2) Lick your wounds during the best weather of the trip
3) Heal from injury and get injured yet again
4) Climbing partner then gets injured
5) Experience the worst weather in the history of the climbing area
6) Get shut down on routes that aggravate your injury and ego
7) Watch all of your goals drift away, go into a depressing state of cabin fever in the deep hills of Wet Virginia
8) Weather gets even worse, injuries get worse, sanity gets worse, lose out on a $500 cabin deposit and drive home.

I sit here, at home in Thornbury, after returning a month early from our dreamy fall climbing trip to the New River Gorge, WV. I still have a smile on my face though, as things could always be worse, but it is really tough to call this past month a "vacation".

Rewind back to October, I was feeling at the top of my game and in some of the best shape of my life. Despite dealing with some serious family issues that delayed our departure, I was incredibly motivated for the fall climbing trip that I'd been saving up for all summer. I was in great need of some rock meditation.

Using the eye of the tigress on "Legends of the Fall", a classic 5.13 at my local crag, Devils Glen
Mike Williams Photo

My happy place, sending a perfect route, just 20 minutes from home... in my hot pants
Mike Williams Photo www.dpmclimbing.com
The famous New River Bridge
The beautiful New River Gorge

The first two days of the trip were just like I'd dreamed about. Perfect weather, amazing routes, trad, sport and beautiful bullet hard sandstone. In my happiness bubble I wrote an article for Gripped Magazine about how to fight injuries with oppositional training and how hard work pays off. But then day 3 of the trip happened, I wanted to re-write the finish of my article to: "no matter how hard you work to fight injuries, they'll always get you at some point." Yah pretty dark, I know. So there I was, climbing on one of the best routes that I've ever been on, Puppy Chow, gunning for the send. Just one more hard move. I locked in a heel toe cam and ZAP....shooting pain on the side of my knee. Not good. Kyle quickly lowered me to the ground and I limped out of the crag in tears. Turns out I sprained my MCL really bad, you can add that to the list of climbing injuries that I've had the pleasure of experiencing. And then I was convinced that someone had a voodoo doll of me when I folded my ankle 8 days later, leading to yet another 5 days of rest, ice and advil. 

That was pretty much the end of my climbing trip. The rest of my days were spent licking my wounds, or trying to crawl back in search of my right legged project. But my mo-jo was long gone. Just when I started to come to grips with everything, Kyle injured his finger really bad. Then the weather turned worse...like Canadian winter worse... snow on the ground, below zero for days and no light at the end of the tunnel.

Ok, so what is with this creepy wolf pack picture then??

I realized a lot of things this trip.
I had a lot of time to think.

As we sat at a local Mexican joint during our birthday week celebration, I looked around at all of the amazing people that we have come to know, both locals, travelers and a shocking amount of Scorpios. These people have become like family to me. They each rock their own unique personalities and refreshing outlooks on life that make every day I get the pleasure to see them great. Even if I couldn't climb hard, these folks kept me looking on the bright side and appreciating this life that I am so lucky to have. I am so incredibly blessed to have so many good people like this in my life! And despite disappointments, I was still smiling every day.

Brendan Oneil, the Lone Wolf AKA Shadow Wolf, cruises yet another New River classic, Gun Club
Tyler Wilcutt AKA Teen Wolf, casually onsights Lavender Days, 5.13a
Den Master and Lone Wolf enjoy the golden hour at the Cirque.
The wolf pack was an eclectic mix of close buddies that climbed together, cooked together, played together and supported one another during this season in the New. Wolves stick together, as we did, and our wolf pack carried us through this disappointing climbing trip. For this, I am forever grateful.

The Wolf Den, our cabin in the NRG
As much as I love to climb and explore, I came to realize this trip that the people I meet through climbing are just as amazing as the climbing itself. To me, climbing is a lifestyle rather than just a sport. However, I need both and climbing just isn't that fun if I am not 100% confident in my body. And though I could of limped along for the duration of the trip, I'd rather just stay at home and rest my wounded paw...especially when the rest of the wolf pack fled to warmer climates.

A quick taste of paradise on "Dead Raibead", a classic 5.12+ mixed route that I was lucky to climb in between spraining my MCL and rolling my ankle.
Nothing like the feeling of pushing both your physical and mental limits, this is why I truly love the freedom and purity of trad climbing and why I keep coming back to climbing no matter how bad it hurts some times.

A worse-than-I-could-try-to-imagine weather system swallowed the south east, and the wolf pack got smaller and smaller as everyone fled to dry rocks. So we took it as a sign, packed up the wolf den and migrated back up North, back to snowy Thornbury for some rest, recollection and much needed hang time with my elder wolves and the Canadian wolf pack.

Still smiling, despite a gimp leg and getting shut down on another reachy route in the NRG.

Den Master goes for gold on Finders Keepers 5.12c

Craig Reger, AKA Regal Wolf, climbs the beautiful Finger Crack in White Corner. This is one of the many classic 5.12 trad offerings at South Nuttal.

Den Master starts out the entry roof problem on Thieves in a Temple, a stellar 5.12b at Fern Buttress

Tiger cub gets a hole in one
Golden hour at the cirque

 So what do we do now? 
Plans are ever changing but here is the current plan of action.
1) Rest up for round 2
2) Head to Joshua Tree in January to complete my final level of the PCGI Climbing Guide Certification (Multi-Pitch Guide).
3) Sacrifice May of guiding in Ontario for a redemption tour from March-May, maybe see some new areas (Smith Rock, The Fins??)
4) Home for On the Rocks in June

This is just a minor set back for me. And I will be obsessing over some of the amazing routes I got to try in the NRG that I'll return for on another trip... especially this route.... SO SICK!!!

'Til next time friends :)
xo Les

Monday, September 15, 2014

Work Hard, Play Later

At the beginning of the summer season, my head was filled with big dreams of climbing hard lines at Lion's Head. As the obsessive rock climber that I am, I had a really hard time transitioning back into the working world after the climbing trip of my life, and found myself frustrated with the lack of time and energy that I had to climb. I soon came to realize that I can't do everything. In my fantasy world, I want to be a full time climbing guide, run a business, plan a climbing festival, push my limits on the rocks and train twice a week with my coach at Active Life.
7 days in a week was just never enough.

On the Rocks really took off this year, I am so happy that people are really enjoying their experiences and climbing courses with me! Word of mouth has spread like wild fire and I was finding myself rather overwhelmed with interest in On the Rocks. I hired help, two amazing guides Mark Toma and Pam Paylor. They have been such a blessing for me, and their reviews have been amazing too. This step took On the Rocks to a new level, but I was finding the administrative/organizational side of running a business rather tiring. I was working full time as a guide, managing other guides, training at 7am before I went to work, guiding all day and coming home to catch up on administrative stuff, all while planning the second annual Beaver Valley Climbing Festival. When I finally had a day off, all I really wanted to do was nothing! I'd force myself to climb, but found myself frustrated & tired, juggling far too many things at once. I had to chose between my business and my climbing addiction and I happily chose On the Rocks this summer. Once I made this mental acceptance, the summer became a rest period from hard climbing. On the days I got out to climb, I wanted a relaxing day in nature with good friends and no agenda. After all, I only get to hang out with these wonderful people for half of the year.

So my memorable sends of 2014 were a little different then the unforgettable summer of 2013, the best summer/climb of my life Above the Clouds. This summer I "sent" On the Rocks, and I am so grateful for all of the support I have had from customers, friends and businesses that helped my business take off. I am so happy to have been able to create a full time job out of my passion. I count my blessings for this opportunity everyday! But my greatest send of the summer was the Beaver Valley Climbing Festival. It brought tears to my eyes to see this amazing climbing community come together to celebrate the beautiful Niagara Escarpment, while raising money and awareness for the Ontario Access Coalition. It was a perfect day.

I still got in some great climbing days, despite having the worst luck in the entire universe with weather on my days off. It rained every Tuesday this summer!!! But we'd go anyways, and have fun regardless. I bolted a couple new lines & helped establish the new Summer Residence area at Lion's Head. I also got my summer goal: the first ascent of the Sends of Anarchy T-Shirt. I had a lot of fun exploring new rock and hanging with my buddies up on the peninsula. I truly love Ontario summers, Lion's Head, and this beautiful area we are so lucky to live in. 

Sampling the fruits of the summer harvest, a stellar 5.11d called 45th Parallel. This is a classic new addition by Dave Zuly, just left of Man Over Board at Lions Head.
The official Sends of Anarchy hit list. First male ascent of Above the clouds is still up for grabs :P

Trevor Macdonald goes for a burn on Bob and Brians Bogus Adventure 5.11, Metcalf Rock.

Summer Residence is a cool new 5.12 in the new Summer Residence area. This spot was discovered by Dave Z and Trevy, with additions by myself and my hubby Kyle. Worth checking out!

Reaching for the perfect pocket on Summer Residence, 5.12b

T-Mac starts the train, and bangs off a beach classic at West Bluff.

Riding the train with Naomi on spot

Trevy sends harder then most of us, in his bare feet.

T-Mac sends the prized line, a proud traverse that finishes up a weird V notch high off the deck

Good times with such great friends. Trevy and Lily cheer on T-Mac, after his impressive send.

T-Mac, Lily and Naomi stand up paddle boarding with West Bluff in the distance

Kyle strongly prefers canoes and takes satisfaction in speeding ahead of the SUPers  ;)

DPM editor, Mikey Williams comes out for a week to sample the Lion's Head goods.

Mike Williams makes Couer de Lion, a historical 5.13a, look easy.

Everyday I get to meet and teach such great folks

Always a blast getting to take out the talented Team Boulderz

A pleasure to work with the staff at MEC Burlington, Barrie and Toronto stores

Another day at the office, guiding people of all ages in my climbing playground :)

I am so looking forward to fall. We have officially booked a place in the New River Gorge for part of October and all of November. It is time to take up the old addiction again, take off the guiding hat and push my personal limits on the rocks again. Stoke is high!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful summer season :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pictures tell a thousand words

home sweet home
that season is here
seizing every moment
before summer disappears

The Pump House
The beginning of the sickest climbing wall in Thornbury.
Home Gym Phase 1 Complete

:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

On the Rocks
For both work and play.
Trying to find balance but no time to rest.

Lion's Head days have been sparse but sweet.
Cherishing moments like these...
...and moments like these
Fondling that sweet Ontario limestone.
Got virgin rocks on the brain.
Open Up Awesome
Been thinking about this line since the first time I walked underneath it. Days of dangling in my harness, gear exploding in my face, epic choss cleaning, an improbable looking crux, wet key holds and a weak tired climbing guide. Yet I can't stop wondering about it; does this beast go?
Looking really forward to some serious good times at the awesome Beaver Valley Climbing festival!!!
A sign of change, On the Rocks is growing up :)
Just another day at the office.
Hired new awesome guides like Mark Toma
Anchor art. Technical skills are cool and essential.
Flying lessons, one of my personal fav's
Another satisfied On the Rocks customer...
...a very happy On the Rocks guide!!!

Life rocks on the rocks
Yip Yeeoooo