Online Climbing Museum!

I spent some time reading my Seneca Rocks guidebook yesterday; I was bored (there were no “customers” for the aid room, which is a good thing, but it does make for a very slow shift), and I’m working on a list of different routes I’d like to try this spring.  On a whim, I googled images of the Gendarme, the iconic pinnacle of rock that once stood in the Gunsight Notch at Seneca. 

As an aside; it kills me that the Gendarme fell before I was able to climb it.  That’s not quite fair actually.  The Gendarme fell in October of 1987, so I was 16 months old, so the Gendarme fell way before I was climbing (I had just figured out the walking thing about 7 months before at that point…).  I’ve always wished that it hadn’t though, just so I could have tried it. 

Anyway, that’s how I discovered the Seneca Rocks Museum, and online museum that showcases historic climbing memorabilia and artifacts from Seneca.  After an hour or so of fascinated clicking, I was more than convinced that I should link it, and also bring it to the attention of local climbers that I know.  So, here it is!  You can get to the Seneca Rocks Museum either by clicking the link, or by going over to the blogroll, scrolling down to “Climbing,” and finding the link there. 

I think one of the treasures of this site is in the “Media” section.  If you scroll through, at the end you’ll find several recorded interviews with John Markwell and Tom Cecil, two of the pioneering climbers/guides in the Seneca story.  You can also flip through a digital copy of the 2009/2010 summit register (and read all the climbing wisdom…ahem…). 

In other climbing news, it looks like we’re going to be getting an early start to the climbing season this spring!  With the temperatures consistently in the mid-50’s, climbing without freezing one’s fingers off is again possible.  I’ve got a long list of routes I want to try, so it’s going to be a great climbing season this 2012!

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I Got Skis!

This past week has been an exciting one.  I’ve been able to get out and ski several times, and I’ve been learning some new techniques.  It might surprise you, but despite the fact that I work at a ski resort within spitting distance (almost literally) of the ski slopes, I don’t get to ski every day.  If I work the afternoon/night shift and I want to ski, I have to show up early.  If I work the morning shift, I have to ski after I clock out, and sometimes I have commitments elsewhere.  I haven’t been able to ski as much as I would have liked this winter, but I’ve gotten some good days in.

It's hard to get a good picture of skis. This is the best I've gotten so far.

A huge part of what has made this past week so exciting is that I have finally acquired my own set of skis.  A patroller gave me an older set of his, and despite my offer to pay him, insisted that I keep them.  They are Volkls (we pronounce it “vol-kol,” but Melissa informs me that the more correct way of pronouncing it is closer to “veul-kol.”  I digress), and are 168 cm long.  Volkl is a German company, calling the Bavaria area home.  I’m quickly discovering why so many of the patrollers I work with swear by them.  In addition to being German (which implies careful attention to detail and excellent engineering), the skis are highly versatile and let me cut through powdery snow as well as icy snow easily.  The skis are a bit longer than the rentals I’m used to, but I quickly discovered that the extra 10 cm or so didn’t make much of a difference. 

To explain how it felt to ski on a high-quality set of skis for the first time, I’ve invented a metaphor.  Picture this.  You’re a new driver, and the vehicle you’ve learned to drive in is a Dodge mini-van.  Then, one day, you switch to a vehicle like a Mazda Miata, which has a bit more power, a bit more zip, a lot more maneuverability, and is REALLY REALLY FUN to drive.  That’s what this was like.  Suddenly, using the ski edges to turn made sense.  I was getting the little “hop” between turns that all the experienced skiers talk about, and I wasn’t even thinking about it.  On the first day I used the skis I couldn’t stop grinning, and I did every run that was open.

Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful day as well.  Sunny, bluebird skies during the day, and then beautiful clouds in the afternoon.  The snow wasn’t as nice though; it was crusty and icy.  I didn’t feel like pushing it like I did the day before, so I stayed on the easier and intermediate slopes and just took it slow. 

There was a beautiful sunset on the way home too.  The picture is blurry because I took it with my cell phone, while driving.  Not too safe perhaps, but hey, a sunset like that is too good to pass up. 

It’s Snowing!

I’m aware this is my second post of the day; it will be short.  For someone who relys on cold weather and snow for employment though, natural snow (no matter how light it is) is pretty noteworthy.  Just thought you all should know, its snowing in the Shenandoah Valley.

Climbing Risk vs. Skiing Risk

"I'm Ok!"

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the aid room watching a climbing video on the comptuter (this is what I do when there are no patients and I’m bored).  Another patroller glanced over my shoulder, then said “Man, I couldn’t do that.  It’s just so dangerous!”  I replied, “I would say that climbing is way safer than what you’re doing out there on the slopes on your snowboard!”

It was a passing conversation, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot in the past several days.  To be sure, rock climbing is inherently dangerous, and there are hundreds of accidents a year.  Just check out Accidents in North American Mountaineering, published annually by the American Alpine Club, if you don’t believe me.  AiNAM (as its affectionatly shortened) covers most reported climbing accidents for the  year across the whole contry.  But I still stand by my conviction that snowboarding and skiing are actually more dangerous than rock climbing.

I don’t actually have any hard data to support this.  But I do have some personal experience.  I’ve been rock climbing since I was 6, and I have never suffered an injury that imparied physical function.  Lots of cuts and scrapes, but nothing serious.  When I fall, I’m caught by a rope that breaks at a strain of around 6,000 pounds, and I do a pretty good job (I think) of managing the things I can.  I also know that of my climbing friends, I know one who has suffered serious injury while climbing.

It all goes downhill from here...

When you fall on the slopes, however, there is nothing to stop you and the distance you go is dependant on your speed (which you can control) and the surface (which you can’t).  You’re at the mercy of whomever is out on the slopes with you; if they go out of control and you’re in the way, you can’t always control that.  Skiing and snowboarding are sports where you can be doing everything right, and still get picked off by someone else (this can happen in rock climbing too; rock fall comes to mind.  But it’s incredibly rare).    

Furthermore, of the skiers I know who are on the ski patrol (some of the better skiers on the mountain on any given day), more than half of them have injury stories they suffered while skiing–including me!  Two days ago I was coming down a relativly steep intermediate ski run, and I torqued my knee.  All the things I say to injuried skiers when I’m working came to mind.  I determined that the injury wasn’t serious enough to request a ride down from my friends in the patrol, and I clipped back in for the rest of the ride.  Other patrollers are pretty confident I’ve strained my MCL.  I’m still walking, skiing, and living life pretty much exactly the way I would otherwise, but it hurts!  

No no no no no!!!

Based on what comes through my aid room in one week, my guess is that if we polled ski areas across the country for one week, we would exceed all the accidents reported in AiNAM in both number and severity.  Granted, there are more skiers/boarders than climbers and so some correction has to be done based on numbers.  Still, the daily casualty count from my aid room can be pretty impressive.

I’m not really trying to make a point; I’m just musing a little bit.  I also can’t really say that skiing has caused me that much harm.  I’ve had worse injuries from mountain biking (two broken fingers), soccer (broken collarbone), and cross country/track (various muscleoskeletal strains/sprains/pulls, etc.).  To be fair, there are styles of rock climbing (free soloing, predominantly) that are far and away more dangerous than skiing.  I’ll keep skiing; but I’ll also wear my helmet, control my speed, keep an eye on my surroundings so I don’t get creamed by some out-of-control crazy, and maintain awareness of the snow/mountain conditions. 

Now the way Mr. Honnold climbs is ABSOLUTLY in a league of its own when it comes to danger. A league way beyond snowsports.