Andrew Philbin, who hails from the rainy little backwater of Seattle, WA, made news this past week as he arrived at Smith and promptly fell off every single route he attempted. Although he had redpointed these classic test-pieces, such as Churning in the Wake and Heinous Cling, in times of greater fitness and lower body fat percentage, he was initially unable to perform. Looking like a first-year climber on his weekly trip outside of the local gym, Andrew lobbed off repeatedly, making a mockery of the finesse and technical skill so integral to the beauty and appeal of rock climbing. Was his surprise success on Dreamin' merely a fluke? Only time would tell. One thing was for certain: after Day 1, it certainly looked like it was time for Andrew to put away the shoes and chalk bag, strap on the leather chaps and go horseback riding.
Not to be deterred, however, Day 2 saw a slight decrease in wretchedness as Andrew applied himself to easier folly in the Shipwreck Gully. Classics such as Liquid Jade and Tsunami actually yielded themselves to a peculiar mix of thrutching and sheer obstinacy. He even managed to scrape his way up the first pitch of Five Easy Pieces at the end of the day, although he looked like a jellyfish on his successful redpoint burn.
On Day 3, thankfully, Andrew was seen hiking rather than climbing.
Day 4 began a surprising turnaround for Andrew. After a somewhat shoddy ascent of Wartley's Revenge, replete with fumbling and shakiness, he fought his way up the full Heinous Cling; not quite pretty to watch, yet not as hideous as prior days. Next, Andrew chose a climb favoring poise and finesse rather than power endurance: Last Waltz. To the surprise of all, his footwork seemed to improve momentarily on his second attempt and he veritably danced his way up the relatively low-angle arete and clipped the chains. After this, he was observed tick-tacking up the long, classic Crossfire. It appears that near-vertical faces are Andrew's forte, as they require significantly less core strength. Also, when the chicken wings come out near the top, which they certainly did for Andrew, there is still some chance of success.
Day 5 made us eat our words, as Andrew proved that he is most assuredly on the cutting edge of rock climbing (pretending for a moment that the year is 1979). As locals looked on with no interest whatsoever, Andrew bumbled his way up both Churning in the Wake and Kings of Rap, two wonderful climbs on the Morning Glory Wall. The only day with no falls, this was also Andrew's only foray into the upper magnetosphere of the IXth grade on this trip.
All things considered, Smith Rocks is a beautiful and entertaining place to climb, regardless of one's actual ability. Perhaps with a little more fitness and a better attitude, Andrew will continue his slow and incremental improvement, eventually establishing himself inextricably as a mediocre has-been in the hallowed ranks of climbing history. Don't worry Andrew: there will always be beer!