Not this past Saturday, but the one before that, I had the opportunity to participate in a crack climbing clinic in Joshua Tree hosted by my friend Erin Guinn. Bruises and scratches aside, I had a really amazing time learning about the very challenging world of crack. I absorbed a few key take-aways that I've decided to share with you.
First off, it's really freaking hard. Take everything you know about sport climbing and throw it out the window. Okay, that's a bit extreme. Most of what you know about sport/face climbing is not applicable to crack climbing. However, there are universal themes, such as balance and shifting weight, that will always help you become a better climber. Warning: Prepare to be humbled.
Second, if you think you are a clumsy climber NOW, just you wait. When sport climbing, I average about one knee-bump and/or one elbow-bump per session. I came up with a fool-proof formula to calculate exactly how many bruises you will walk away with after a crack-climbing session: Take your current number and multiply by gazillion. It's been 10 days since the clinic and I still have bruises. One bruise, in fact, has really overstayed it's welcome and has been slowly consuming my entire knee cap. Luckily, it seems most of my battle scars are ultimately very superficial and look at lot worse than they feel. Again, you've been warned.
More than ever I'm noticing that grades don't mean jack. I could go on and on about you being a special snowflake and you don't need to judge your success by anyones standards except your own, yadda yadda yadda (clearly I spend too much time at work with my Jewish-stock-broker-bosses). I COULD go on about this, but I won't... I'll just tell you that I'm right and you should listen to me unquestionably. GRADES DON'T MEAN JACK. If you don't believe me, read Andrew Bisharat's take on bouldering grades (fascinating stuff, READ IT). As a side-note, grades also don't mean jack in 'grade' school. Grades will make you obsessive, and that shouldn't be what learning or climbing is about. After crack climbing in Joshua Tree, I'm even more convinced that grades hinder us more than they help us. A lot of crack climbing success comes from the width of the crack in proportion to the size of your hands and arms. A 5.9 might be easy for one person and f*cking impossible for the next. So, the moral of my third point, if I had to sum it up, is......um.... just do it.
And now, for some pictures of my crack climbing experience in Joshua Tree! The quality isn't great since they were stolen from my friend's Facebook page... but you get the idea.