Climbing with existentialists

This post is written by Nathan Tableman–he has a blog at www.tableman.com.  Like many Homo Climbtastic attendees, he got a prestigious degree that he does not use, and works in software infrastructure offshoring or god knows what, and now primarily uses his marine zoology training to maintain his home aquarium.

The sun was setting off in the distance, the sky was orange, the air was humid, we were dripping with sweat and I was worried a 3″ inch spider and his 8 buddies would stay over there. I started to laugh a little and rightfully, Chavez, who I was belaying up a 10 something thin crack with a vicious start asked me, “What’s up? Things ok?”

Chavez

We had both made it up the 9 in the corner about an hour before after I failed to replicate his start and came up with another way to get to the shelf about 8 feet up in the air on the first move.

I replied, “yeah, this is just an amazing moment. I am incredibly happy I came, the sunset if beautiful, and the rock is amazing. I am having the time of my life, I am so glad I came to Homo Climbtastic.”

Nathan

I got a grunt in reply and the rope had a little slack. He had just pulled another move.

It was getting dark. When Chavez arrived at the anchor, we slowly setup everything needed to rap down, double checking work, moving slowly. It was the end of a long day and we both wanted to go back to camp safely. We had decided to do the climb a little alpine style in case Chavez couldn’t do the 10, plus the full exit was this crazy roof corner at 11b.

Climbing is the most physical embodiment of existential philosophy I can think of; to paraphrase Sartre, man makes his own meaning and my absolute favorite, Kierkegaard: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Here is your protagonist in the midst of each passing moment; with the input of the rope, the climb, the spiders, his hands, the conversation, the smell of climbing all day, the heat, the sunset…it was all far too much to take in and make comprehensive meaning. Instead he focuses on the moment, the feeling of the moment, the happiness, the excitement, the being in the life he is leading. Here on the rock. Focused. The rest, the enormous details, to be recorded using the sensitive emulsion of the mind, archived for tales to be told later and deeper meaning to be extracted, created, and refined over a lifetime.

The conversation continued as I said, “What is funny, is that I was thinking of not coming because I am that classic tech-geek-nerd-introvert who can easily spend 5 days reading and not notice anyone else.” I think Chavez replied, “Well I am glad you decided to come and not be anti-social.”

Out of mind

In retrospect, I didn’t really mean what came out of my mouth, but we were both getting hungry and it didn’t really matter at this point.

Earlier that day, before the rain, I was with Joe, Jeremy, Henry, and others at Beauty Mountain working on a 10 start when Jamie chimed in with some beta on how to handle the move and setup the rest of the climb. The conversation started, if I recall correctly, because I liked the pink toe nail polish Jamie had on. The beta was spot on and I nailed the start first try the next time I did it. Later in the trip I would find myself having a conversation out front of the bar where I asked her a million questions about crack climbing, because I had done a couple crack climbs and found myself becoming very into it. The holds and style were completely new to me and it lit up my brain.

Joe, Jeremy

I am a newish climber, my first trad lead was in March of 2012. I had top roped before outside a couple times, and about 9 months of gym climbing. Nearly all of my experience is at The Gunks, not vertical crack land. I have some alpine routes under my belt as well, up in Maine at Katahdin and Whitney-Gilman (um, I lead the Pipe Pitch!) and other routes at Cannon Mtn in NH, but again not like these successive one pitch fun cracks starting at 8 and heading upwards.

Henry

Jamie said to me, “I noticed that your crew was a set of incredibly analytical climbers. Analytical climbers love cracks and cracks love them.” She then went on to teach me some good hold techniques to try amongst other great tips and tricks. On the side I mentioned I had googled her earlier, knowing she was formerly known as Jim Logan, she is incredibly famous climber and an accomplished architect, but was more than modest when I said, “it isn’t every day a guy like me gets beta and lessons from like likes of Jim Logan!”

Nathan belaying

Earlier in the year when I thought about coming on this trip, I was nervous about the idea of not climbing at an ability level that would make it fun and throwing myself into a mass of strangers. However, as I climbed each weekend somewhere outside, anywhere outside, I found myself able to lead and follow routes that would make this possible. Moreover, I soon realized that climbers are weird people. It was like that children’s book where the bird tries to find what kind he is. I am weird. I accepted this at 6 when walking on a family friend’s farm and said friend warned me, “Do not bother desiring normal, you will never be normal. The sooner you accept this, the happier you will be.”

Hell, being gay, lesbian, trans, whatever you are, makes us all acutely aware we are different. Sometimes too often. But in the end, I thought; I like to climb. Maybe these people will be weird and like to climb like me. Worth a shot. I am going.

Jeremy, Nathan

I hope this is not shocking to anyone: Every single person I met was weird and thank goodness for that!!! The denouement; the conversation where some of us were talking about how the world is not designed for oddballs. We are all supposed to play by the rules and being gay means you opt out in some ways and that is liberating.

Walking with Joe over to Happy Hands (another crack!) and without thinking too hard, I went on up. Sun dappling the crag, and thinking to myself that trad lead 9’s are work for me when they are not cracks, let’s see about this one. I was pretty certain the crux was about 75% up where the wall got smooth and the crack opened up wider. My hands were wet and I chalked up often to keep them as sticky as I could and because I was nervous. I notice I chalk a lot when thinking about a hard move. The heat was stiffing, but I was feeling good.

I did it. Yeah, done.

Joe had to clean some of my gear that I got stuck, for which I still owe him a beer or two. Thanks Joe! Other than that it was awesome. One more crack, done…

In our own little trad world, we recognized the time and packed up to get back to camp, clean up and attend the presentations and festivities for the evening. I, along with many others, would be heading out in the morning. It was like summer camp was over and real life was waiting for us at home. I hadn’t put on real clothing, nor real shoes, all week. I had little desire to change that.

Jeremy at Cantrell’s campground

The HomoClimbtastic Documentary

With perterters!

Filmmaker Brian Spiegel successfully raised over eleven thousand dollars to shoot a documentary about HomoClimbtastic, to be filmed during this year’s 2012 convention.  You can see his web site here.

I have to admit I reminisce a little bit about when the group was me and Rio in a hostel shouting “gurrrrrl!” at one another.

Oh, the good ole days.  Gurl.

Now, the blog gets about 6000 hits a month, the convention will have more than 30 volunteers at various points in its creation, and we’ve incorporated an impressive fundraiser to benefit the American Alpine Club.

I’m still a little confused as to how the hell that happened, so I’m glad someone else is looking into it.  Although if the camera ends up in the barn cabin with me and Rio, there’s still a pretty good chance for a ten minute segment of me and Rio yelling “gurl!” at each other.

In any event, that’s why there will be a camera crew present–and make sure you sign one of their waivers so you can be in the final product!  If they have to blur your face because you didn’t get a waiver to them, it’ll make it look like a depressing retreat of closet-cases, rather than people too occupied with crushing routes to get their waivers turned in.  The camera crew will have waivers with them and you can sign them at the morning announcements and the info tables.

The American Alpine Club Probably Hasn’t Seen a Fundraiser Like This

So, I was looking at the American Alpine Club’s web site today, and I learned that in regard to the campground they are building at the New River Gorge, they are giving front page billing to the horses pulling out logs.  Very studious looking horses:

“I’m hung like a horse. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m average. Maybe not quite average. But when I see the other horses on the nature shows, I don’t think anyone seems to enjoy it anyway. Maybe we should talk about this log we’re both pulling here.”

I wonder if the AAC has been made aware that we are throwing them what is probably going to be the most interesting rock climbing fundraiser ever.  I can’t even tell you yet all of the reasons why it’s going to be interesting, but let’s look at the evidence that is admissible…

First, it’s being hosted by a drag queen:

Werk!

Our very own, Porsche Ferrari.  We didn’t even have to hire one, we already had one.  See those climbing arms?

But that’s not all!

We at Homo Climbtastic were concerned that it wouldn’t take long for other climbing clubs to throw fundraisers with drag queens–they do perform for dollar bills after all–so we made sure that we got a drag queen who can wear stilts:

When they told you that Barbie was a lie and that it was anatomically impossible for you to have long legs, they were just lying to make you feel better about yourself.

We really can’t risk being outdone.  If I had some non-stilt-wearing drag queen, and then Tyler Wilcutt went and got a stilt wearing drag queen for Beg Borrow & Steel, I would not be amused.  He may climb way harder than me, but fuck if he’s going to throw a better fundraiser. (His fundraiser pays for the permadraws I cheat up at Fosters so I encourage you to go to his too.)

So we’re taking over the Cantrell’s pub in FAYETTEVILLE, West Virginia, on SATURDAY NIGHT, JULY 28th, 2012, from 7:00pm on to 9pm (or so?) with an AUCTION to benefit the AAC campground and its two studious horses.  Not only will we be auctioning climbing swag, but also Homo Climbtastic tee shirts, all to benefit the AAC.  And it’s open to the Fayetteville community at large, so we’re hoping all you local residents out there will come join in on the fun.  Perhaps you’re straight and looking for something entertaining to do besides hitting up the Oak Hill Dairy Queen, or you’re gay and the other 8 people on Grindr aren’t looking.  Whatever the reason, you should come and hang out regardless of whether you want to bid on stuff.

And if Porsche isn’t enough to bring you out, well, A) fuck you, but B) we got more! Lots more!  We also have…

Madaleine Sorkin and Lizzy Scully.  Picture of Lizzy:

Lizzy knows that it’s important to be color coordinated when climbing dihedrals. Otherwise, you might as well just stay home.

Madaleine, just the other day, and by just the other day I mean two fucking days ago, sent a 35 pitch 13b.  Cause that’s just how she rolls when she’s prepping for a big queer climbing convention.  I know that’s how I start my day: “I’m gonna go climb something that Rock & Ice is going to report on cause it’s still a month until I co-host a climbing club fundraiser with a drag queen on stilts cause that’s just how I fuckin’ roll.”

Actually, for me it’s more like, “I’m gonna tool around in my bed on Grindr for two hours and talk to guys I have absolutely no intention of meeting anywhere ever and then maybe I’ll write some contracts and file a lawsuit and take a nap.”  Sometimes I play Mass Effect. Oh fuck you, I enjoy my life.

Picture of Madaleine:

Thirteens on trad you say? Don’t mind if I do! Why don’t we just do it thirty-four more times and make a day of it?

Lizzy is her partner/manager/love-muffin who, if there is any parallel to every other dirtbag/non-dirtbag climbing relationship that exists in the entire universe, keeps Madaleine from turning into that little monster in the Lord of the Rings trilogy shouting “precious!” when Madaleine sees two ounces of pesto remaining in a jar in the trash that she subsequently loses in her tent because there’s so many unemptied pee-bottles everywhere that you can’t see anything.  Instead, she’s probably living somewhere with running water and has no idea what state she’d be in if left to her own devices.

So, you have them.

Third, you have yet another co-host, Jim Logan:

The green route is ok, but the purple route is faaaaaaabulous.  Although Logan did the red route.

Ok, so obviously that isn’t a picture of Logan.  But it is a picture of a first ascent that Logan did that wasn’t repeated for 29 years, which, I assume, may have something to do with the fact that it’s one of those climbs where if you find out you can’t pull one of the moves halfway up, you can’t get down, so you freeze to death.  I thought cute straight boys were a great source of motivation, but obviously I should be giving them guns to shoot me if I grab the draws.

That the fundraiser is in the middle of the world’s largest LGBTQ and friends climbing convention in the world, with all of its wacky participants, is just icing on the cake.

Also Nancy is hiring a famous band to play music after.

So there you have it: the most shit-awesome climbing fundraiser you have ever seen.  SATURDAY NIGHT, JULY 28th, 2012, 7:00pm.  At Cantrell’s pub, in Fayetteville, West Virginia.