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

Registration now OPEN for the 2012 Homo Climbtastic Convention

Wanna come to the largest queer climbing event in the world, at one of the nation’s best sport climbing destinations?  It’s July 26-29, in Fayetteville, West Virginia.  BE THERE OR BE SQUARE.

STEP 1. REGISTER NOW!  LIKE NOW NOW!

Fill out the registration form.  There’s no deposit, and you can fill it out even if you’re not sure if you’re coming.  Make sure you see the confirmation page–if you don’t fill out all the required questions, it’ll take you back to the form, and the unfilled, required questions will be highlighted in red.  If we run out of space for anything… people who registered earlier win.  Even if you’re a maybe, click that link and register.

STEP 2. RESERVE YOUR SPACE AT THE CAMPGROUND… SOONISH

Book under the “Alex Rowland” reservation by calling Nancy at Cantrell’s.  Cantrell’s offers tent camping, rustic bungalows, and fancy-pants cabins.  To make a reservation call 304-574-2500 or 800-470-7238.  They’re holding space for us with no deposit, but not forever… cabins book up much earlier than tent sites.  There IS a deposit to reserve your spot at Cantrell’s.

Experience Southern sandstone and other rock-hard bodies carved by God!

Then What?

Expect to get an e-mail from me (Rowland) within a week or two.  If you don’t get one, shoot me an e-mail.

About the Accommodations

If you’re interested in a cabin, check out the page listing the options with a roof, and note that the on-site cabins are the bungalows, the Deluxe Amish Cabins, the Country Cabin, and the Barn Loft-style Cabin.

Tent camping is $8 a night, so with a 50% deposit, you’re facing the loss of $20 if you end up not making it.  So go ahead and book the damn thing if you’re camping.  Plus I’m guessing Nancy will let you upgrade to a cabin if you decide to get all fancy-pants later.

Split up equally, the bungalows will run about $12 a night, and the cabins about $25. The cabins have air conditioning.

But it’s in the South!

Damn straight!

Dagummit!

We get lots of e-mails from anxious yankees, terrified of rain, Southerners, humidity, and Burt Reynolds.  Well, we can’t promise you Burt Reynolds.  But we can promise you a lake to cool off in about ten feet from the climbing, food so good it’s escandalo, the hijinks of the Homo Climbtastic leaders and members, aaaaaaand world class sport routes (with plenty of trad routes to keep those with high ankled shoes occupied).

If you’re wondering how it is that a small town in West Virginia is so good at playing host to a queer climbing convention, well, there’s only one way to find out.

See you at the New.

Water Stone Outfitters’ Homo Climbtastic Convention Equipment Video

Maura and Craig of Water Stone Outfitters produced their very own video about Homo Climbtastic’s convention and YOUR equipment needs for sloppy wet West Virginia.  Maura introduces this year’s convention as the year of the climbing gal, so check it out, and note that she’s giving us HC members a 20% discount on helmets–you know, that thing that we insist all of you own so you don’t get your head knocked in by rocks.

Craig also takes off his pants at 4 minutes in, and as Maura notes, they’re giving prizes to the people with the best fuzzy costumes.

Get psyched for the HC convention!

Oh oh oh, and the group photo is on SUNDAY morning, July 17 2011, not Tuesday, as the video says.

Water Stone’s web site is at http://www.waterstoneoutdoors.com and their phone number is (304) 574-2425.

Craig and sock monkey

Women in HC

Do the Job He Left Behind WW2 poster

...drill baby drill!

In the beginning, Homo Climbtastic was 100% male–that was because the first trip was me and four other guys, including current dictators C-Pow and Chavez, tromping through the West Virginia woods.  Later, and we had perhaps the most success at our last New River Gorge convention, women turned out and turned it up.  Still, their numbers haven’t reached the volume of men present.

Where there’s more men, they bring more men friends, and the scales dip in one direction through inertia alone, so we actively recruit women in our advertising to keep the ratios from going completely out of whack.  I do this partly out of self-interest; a sausage fest sounds nice on paper, but it really just makes for a boring party, and I know my queer women friends feel similarly about clam cook-offs, so we’re in this BBQ pit together, friends.

But at the end of the day, (and this is becoming more true as the group grows larger) the inclusiveness of what we say in our advertising can’t overcome the major barrier–women in the field advertising.  The guys, since inception, have been excited to play whack-a-mole with every gay dating web site internet forum, posting press releases about the trips to bring in anybody who knows how to give a soft catch.  Sometimes I run across things posted by guys I’ve never heard of encouraging people to meet them there.

Thus, I am sounding the call to arms: we are getting more women involved, and we’re doing it now.  Which means you.  Assuming you either have a vagina or are making progress toward acquiring one, I, Alex Rowland, spiritual leader of Homo Climbtastic, am vesting you with diplomatic authority to post our press releases far across the internet, or, better, write or tailor your own.

Victory waits on your fingers WW2 poster

Gurl, get on OK Cupid and tell everybody to come climb with you!

You’ll have to caution them with the requirements of joining, which are posted at http://homoclimbtastic.com/join/ but that’s pretty much it.  The great thing about posting everywhere is that it gives you a reason to meet people, awesome rock climbers nearby perhaps, who you wouldn’t have met otherwise.  Direct them to join the Facebook group or to sign up for our July 14-18, 2011 convention at the New River Gorge in West Virginia.

I can assure you, we (HC men and women both) are actively working in various other ways to keep this from turning into some lame gym bunny circuit party with sports on the side and a poster that looks like it belongs under a car windshield wiper.  But the war cannot be won on leadership alone!  You have to get out there, leave shyness behind, and proclaim, “Ladies, we’re gonna crash this HC convention like no queer climbing convention has ever been crasheded before!”

Women in the war we cant win without them WW2 poster

Your gender expression is up to you, but leave working explosives behind

There are other queer athletic institutions which are almost entirely male and which have no equivalent group for women, thereby leaving women in the lurch if they want to commune with other queer people–those trains left their stations without all the cars attached.  So now’s the time to get everyone on board, and we’re all determined to make it happen.  We just need you.  Get it, girl.