11.21.2011

Sport Climbing is...Both?

In the foothills west of Lake Tahoe, ensconced in oak-covered golden hills, a secret climbing area of much repute juts steeply from the rubble of a large basalt cliff. Although in truth it is no secret, I shall not name it so as not to disturb the rather fragile mystique of a veritable sport climbing relic. In any case, it is a place at which I, an interloper, have known the joy of falling repeatedly from the rock onto four foot lengths of frayed rope, eschewing the elusive and mystical knee-bar technique out of pure obstinacy; have heard the apparently endless clamor of braggadocio and beta-spray issuing from the mouths of the denizens of the cliff; have seen more two-part adhesive product than can be found on the shelves of any hardware store aside from Home Depot; have witnessed the inexorable obsession of climbers with sticky rubber knee-pads spray-glued and duct-taped to their thighs as they fall from the same moves on the same routes over and over and over again. In short, it is every sport climbing area in the country. It is the zeitgeist of modern climbing itself, the purity of gymnastic movement over stone with no consequence other than the glory of clipping an anchor at a nonsensical ending point or the occasional broken ankle from a bad belay. It is the mortared pile of chossy stone of our collective dreams, a blocky, grey relief of our egotism streaked with the feces of birds and bats. I have never fallen from so many giant handholds or been so aghast at the antics of scenester sport climbers before in my climbing career. Truly, J-------e rock is the past, present and future of sport climbing and of climbing itself, the very pinnacle of the evolution of our sport that should make any self-respecting climber proud to wear capri pants, tank tops, Livestrong bracelets and little tight velcro shoes. You might think such a place could only exist in the most fantastical reaches of a dream about Boulder, ColoRADo, but worry not: Sunny California is the venue for this magical oasis of questionable ethics and enough annoying banter to warrant a raincoat for all the overspray. And, to be fair, some extremely steep and gymnastic climbing that is the source of no small amount of entertainment. Just make sure to go on a weekday and bring headphones.

3 comments:

  1. Actually, there are several routes that top the mesa-cliff out completely. Then, the climber only need descend a gully full of poisonous oak!

    Ah yes, I've been up perfect paths of immaculate stone in the high country, but nothing quite compares to the House. And, of course, there are a couple really nice people one might run into...

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