First and foremost, I have to say what a complete honor it was to climb with one of the women, who I admire most, in the world of climbing, Ms. Steph Davis. Steph's legendary feats in the world of climbing and BASE jumping are awe-inspiring: Here is an excerpt, from Wikipedia, about Steph's record-breaking accomplishments:
"In 2003, Davis became the second woman to free climb El Capitan in one day. Two years later, she became the first woman to freeclimb the Salathé Wall, on El Cap, and to climb Torre Egger, a difficult summit in Patagonia, of which she made the first one-day ascent, with her then partner Dean Potter.
Davis has soloed routes on Colorado's Long's Peak's east face, The Diamond, a thousand-foot granite wall at 14,000 feet. In the summer of 2007, she free-soloed the Diamond four times, with the final solo recorded by Peter Mortimer, of Sender Films. Soon afterward, she free-soloed and BASE jumped Castleton Tower, in Moab, Utah.
Davis has made first ascents around Moab including the Tombstone. In 2008, she climbed Concepcion, one of the hardest pure crack climbs in the world. Steph has been on successful international expeditions to climb new routes in alpine, big wall, and solo styles, including in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Baffin Island, Argentina, Italy, and Patagonia. Davis was the first American woman to summit Fitzroy in Patagonia and to summit all seven major peaks of the Fitzroy Range."
To have a mentor, such as Steph, give me instruction, tips & pointers, in a medium where she eats, sleeps and breathes climbing and BASE jumping was a treat. One that I plan to repeat in March 2013. In addition, I was lucky enough to receive instruction and gear placement feedback from her climbing partner, Lisa Hathaway.
The desert was a new medium for me. Yes, I live in the high-desert of Central OR., but I had never placed gear in "soft rock" before (sandstone), and was intrigued at the art of doing so. I primarily climb on the volcanic tuft of "Smith Rock," and on local basalt crack columns. I was not only thrilled at the opportunity to work on a new rock medium, but to experience crack-climbing in one of the world's renowned "meccas" for it, Moab, UT.
Me, On A *Fun* Off-Width Crack in Moab
Moab is known as a crack-climbing "proving ground" & paradise for the best-of-the-best. The "splitter" crack columns there have been the "playground" for some of the world's elite trad. climbers. Steph is one of them, as is her partner, Lisa.
The smoothness of the sandstone was something I was surprised at, and quickly had to "shift gears" into climbing, like I do on basalt. The smoothness of basalt is a quality that I like about climbing it. It lends well to smearing, and gear placements. I found the sandstone to be similar.
Me, Climbing In Moab
The majestic light of the desert is something that simply cannot be put into words. The lightning and spectacular desert towers lent itself to some of the most scenic climbing I've had the opportunity to do.
Steph is a master at finger cracks. Finger cracks often lend themselves well to small fingers and hands. Even though women tend to have the advantage in this department, the stamina and technique is not easily conquered by either gender. It is an art. One that I'm new to. A "fist jam" is my favorite size crack hand placement technique (#3 & #4 "Black Diamond"). A "double fist stack?" Even better. Its where I feel most secure and safe, but Steph could see that I needed to move outside my comfort zone, and had me work on a 5.12 finger crack, which I only got a little over half-way up. Finger cracks take small gear, and "ring lock" finger placements, often being quite strenuous on the digits. But if you work certain techniques consistently, which Steph shared, a sense of ease with them will ensue.
Mock-Leading Exercise With Lisa Hathaway Checking My Gear Placements Behind Me
The comraderie I experienced with my fellow climbers there was priceless. Climbing is a sport based on trust. Trust in your belayer. Trust in yourself. Trust in your gear. Trust in your gear placements. This is something I love about the sport. It brings people into your "circle of trust" very quickly. When you come down from a climb, with someone, and look at one another with a deep sense of satisfaction, there is an established trust between you two that cannot be broken. I had the opportunity to climb with some phenomenal people in Moab. People who live for the thrill of the vertical world, the sights that they will behold, the friendships they will make along the way, and the knowing that they got to the top of the climb through their own effort. It is a thrill like none other.
Mock-Leading Exercise, Take 2 :)
You walk away from a climb with a different view on life. You see the world "from up above," or from the "bird's eye view." This can help put things in our lives into perspective. It can put the problems in our lives into a framework of understanding and knowing that they really are small in the grand scheme of things. You also look down upon the beautiful earth with a sense of humility, and wanting to assist the creatures who inhabit it. You gaze at it, wanting to make it a better place.
Steph Davis clip, free-solo of "The Diamond"
Every time I travel somewhere to climb I come back feeling this way. I feel grateful for climbing in my life. It is a moving meditation for me, in the "playground" of nature. It makes me feel small, insignificant...like an ant crawling on a rock. I believe its important to view ourselves that way, from time to time. It helps us understand how small we all are, but what a big impact we can still make.
I look forward to continuing my learning with Steph and Lisa, and am excited, already, for my return trip there in the spring....xoxoxo, Almine
A Big "Thank You" Goes To "POCKETFUEL Naturals" for fueling my journey