Travel and Lots of Climbing Related Bits

Well I’ve been meaning to update the blog for awhile but have only just got round to it so this may be quite a long post.

Things got interesting on my trip back to Kansas after I’d left Dublin. About forty minutes into the flight there was a request for a medical doctor and ten to fifteen minutes later we were diverting to Shannon. Turns out someone was having a fit. Apparently they’d had one a few days before but had been cleared to fly. From what I could gather they came round just before we landed in Shannon and that they’d be OK despite the length of the fit. Once the paramedics had removed the poor woman we continued to sit on the tarmac for quite some time. Turns out that although they’re allowed to land the plane that heavy (because of all the unused fuel) they have to get it checked out by engineers to ensure they hadn’t done any damage. Once this was done we then had to refuel which added more time. Of course no complaints for me – I’d want the same thing to happen if I was taken ill on a flight – although apparently one fuckwit was moaning about how they’d miss their connection. Some people. So, my second diversion into Shannon having been diverted there when I was 13 on the way back from a family holiday in Florida when there was an unexpected headwind and we had to stop and refuel. Also my second time of just sitting on the tarmac at Shannon. I’ll have to add it to my list of places I want to go to to see if it’s actually a nice place!

Paramedics got called to the flight for a second time when we arrived into Chicago. There’s a reason why they say “please be careful opening overhead bins”. Someone wasn’t careful and someone got bashed on the head. Much more minor this time and thankfully didn’t really hold things up. After an uneventful trip across Chicago and flight down to Kansas City I finally got back to Lawrence – thanks to Carol for the lift back from the airport. Was a very long day and doing it the way I did it meant it was longer than it had to be but at the same time saved me several hundred dollars so it was worth the extra time.

The day after I got back I went climbing indoors but this was more to be sociable than to actually climb as, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t really up for much climbing. Thursday evening I had a similar problem but this time because I had developed a cold and I ended up packing myself off home after only three routes. Other than struggling to get back into the swing of work nothing else exciting happened those first few days back.

That weekend I had arranged to go to Arkansas climbing with Carol and possibly some relative beginners. In the end none of the beginners could make it and so it was just Carol and I. I decided that my cold was probably getting better and so chanced going and I’m glad I did as the cold did indeed get better and I had a good time. We drove down Friday evening and, as we’d made an early start, stopped off for Indian food in Springfield which was both good and filling but on the down side took some considerable time. The crag we were aiming for was in the middle of nowhere requiring driving 12 miles of gravel roads and we didn’t arrive until about midnight. Finding the “campsites” was difficult and we ended up camping in a small clearing. Next morning we did find the proper campsites but where we chose to camp was probably better. In future I think I’d just follow the guidebooks other suggestion as to where to camp and camp by the parking.

Stack Rocks came as a bit of a surprise even having read the guidebook description. It’s a large circular lump of rock sitting on top of a mountain. There’s currently about 170 routes there but I suspect there could be quite a few more with a lot of cleaning, although that would probably ruin the character of the place somewhat – it doesn’t get much traffic and the adventerous nature of the place definitely added to the appeal. Carol and I were both aiming at 5.9s and under – Carol because she’d hurt and her finger and me because I’m not really climbing harder than that at the moment. The guidebook gave four recommended 5.8 and 5.9s to do and we did all four. The highlight as far as I was concerned was the 5.8 trad route that Carol led and which I now want to go back and lead as it was a really nice route and somewhat overgraded at 5.8. Standing on top of a rock pinnacle after another 5.8 (not one of the recommended routes) was also special – think the pinnacle at Rivelin only taller and with a larger flatter top. Very cool.

Having decided we’d done all we really wanted to do at Stack Rocks we headed to Sam Thorne’s as after much guidebook searching we decided there wasn’t a crag nearby that Carol hadn’t been too (lots) and which suited our aims for the weekend. I’d never climbed at Sam Thorne’s but it was somewhere I wanted to climb as it had a lot of trad routes. I started by leading a 5.5 which proved to be more exciting than I was expecting (although still not difficult) and then had a mere leading a 5.7. I just couldn’t commit to the early moves which involved some semi-thin crack climbing. Once I committed it wasn’t too bad although I needed to take another rest due to the pump I’d got going. Seems my leading head still isn’t completely back. Last up was a lovely 5.7+ corner, which was meant to be harder than the previous route but which I found much easier. As Carol’s finger was hurting her, I clearly wasn’t climbing well and it was getting towards the hottest part of the day we decided to head home. All in all a very good weekend despite not being quite what either of us had hoped for.

Last week was a pretty normal week with nothing exciting to report, I worked and climbed indoors on Tuesday and Thursday evening. This weekend I’d hoped to be able to get outdoors for one day but couldn’t find anyone to go with so instead headed to Ibex (the further away climbing wall) on Sunday. I had a good session and this time managed to pass the lead test relatively easily. Given how much further away it is I’m not sure how often I’ll be going but the fact that I can lead there now will definitely give me more reason to go.

On the climbing front, as I posted on facebook, I’ve decided I’m going to climb harder (or at least do my best to do so). The main reason for this is that I realise I’m missing the sense of achievement from doing something I found hard and in noticing myself getting better. Too much of what I’ve found hard recently is stuff that I shouldn’t have done and so doesn’t give me the same sense of achievement. Another, smaller reason, is that there is so much more to go out around here if I can get to climbing even in the low 5.10s and I’m confident I should be able to get at least there. Don’t get me wrong I still have days when I enjoy romping up easy stuff but in the past I’ve enjoyed a mixture of pushing myself and doing easier stuff and at the moment I’m missing half that combination. Now I’ve just got to work on getting there. One thing I know I definitely need to work on, especially after Sunday, is finger strength. I’ll let you know how things go!

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