Mettle on Rock

Up and at 'em 6am to test our mettle in Osaek. Uncle, Mega, and I climb sleepy-eyed and grumbling into the car. Laugh about class and students, talk plans for summer vacation. Get to the parking lot, warm up with a bit of hacky-sack and head down the trail into the valley, chilly in the early morning mist. On the way down Mega spots an untouched problem to warm up on. To warm upon. Work out the moves in a few short synapses and the three of us scramble up, cobwebs tumbling out our ears as we shake off the dust of a few hours sleep. 3 climbers, 3 projects, everyone excited to climb and brush and fall and catch. Throw the pads under "When Darkness Falls", Uncle's project of choice. He and Mega go quietly to work, brushing and chalking the holds, still damp with dew. I sit down to write and smoke as I hear the rip of velcro on Uncle's shoes and he starts the day's pulling and heaving. I'm a little cold, but very, very happy.

Had a break through recently in my climbing. A particularly tricky V2, Annyeong, (so named for the constant calls of "Hello!" from the nearby trail) was sending me sprawling for days. Mega mentioned to me recently a feeling that is singular to bouldering in the climbing world. Mega climbs much harder than I do, owing to his 10 years plus experience. He said to me that every (hard) project he finds feels completely impossible to begin with, and that it's a matter of working it out. In a sport climb, usually there is a crux (most difficult move or two), surrounded by easier climbing. Even if the crux is difficult, I usually find that I can visualize how to climb it relatively quickly and it doesn't FEEL impossible. Not so with bouldering. The aforementioned breakthrough came after sending Annyeong. Once I'd sent the problem, I found it much easier each successive time, and indeed something that felt completely impossible before was now a piece of cake. So I've found a couple new projects, both far above what I perceive as my current climbing abilities. Ceasefire V7, started off being far beyond me. It still is, in terms of finishing it. It starts with a jump to a good rail and then a big dynamic move to a sloper with the left hand. First I couldn't reach the sloper, then I couldn't hold it, now I'm working out how to move my feet while hanging on to it. The other project Exit the Dragon V5, had me laughing nervously on the first try. I could barely hold onto the starting holds, by the end of the day I was pulling through the third move. Progress. What all this means, is that my mindset has changed. The defeatist attitude of looking at problems my friends were climbing and thinking "Not possible." is gone. It seems I never know what's possible from the outset, which is great. This is another example of how climbing has translated to life (and acting) for me. So much of it is about getting out of your own way, focussing on the work, and letting your body and your curiosity rule. As a by-product of working these projects, I'm now getting a lot stronger, a lot faster, which is fun. I feel like that moment in Pinocchio where he shouts, "I'm a REAL boy!"

The change of seasons, and the ensuing climbing, has also shifted my focus greatly from, ahem, drinking and staying out late, to getting to bed at a decent hour and getting up to climb. This is good. And cheaper. With mountains of debt looming over my head from as far as Canada, cheaper is better.

I don't feel like ending this post by talking about money, so let me get back to climbing. Uhh...Climbing is awesome and fun. I love fun. That is all.

p.s. For those of you frustrated by (or curious about) the climbing jargon, click on the title of this post for a dictionary of climbing terms.
Uncle on When Darkness Falls.
<--Video of me trying to stick the opening of Ceasefire. There is chalk on my head, I'm not going THAT bald yet. Words of encouragement courtesy of Mega.
Yours truly trying to stick that sloper on Ceasefire.Mega and Tron below Mega's beautiful and terrifying project, Musashi. Currently being worked on toprope to avoid death and destruction.



February 11th, 2010. Laying here praying for a snow day. It started snowing yesterday afternoon and continued through the night. Normally, this would practically guarantee the day off, as Korea's not generally equipped to deal with extensive snow removal, but there are mitigating factors. The first is the snow itself. For most of the day yesterday, the sky poured down small, wet flakes that lay heavy on one another. It snowed for hours, but sadly only amounted to a few centimetres. I was disappointed enough to taste it, pasty in my mouth. Disappointment is pasty. However, it continued all night and there are now substantial inches. I've told my disappointment to shut up, and am now cultivating a healthy tension between hope for a snow day and bracing for work. The other factors working against me are time and the Korean work ethic. As I'm writing, I can hear the desperate scraping of no less than six snow shovels outside my window.ª I can imagine my boss (a "formidable, if diminutive" woman) standing inside, watching. Arms folded, lips pursed, she silently wills her worker bees (mostly made up of her extended family) to work faster, ever faster. And it's only 9:30 in the morning. They have until 1 in the afternoon to clear the roads. Sigh. But! Lest you should think my cause without allies, the fight is far from over. It still snows furiously, hopefully discouraging both the shovelers and the parents of the drooling, laughing little balls of grabby-grabby and fart-giggle we call "students." Every SUV heard sliding around the roads surrounding my apartment, barely avoiding the toddlers playing with their cold, wet, brand new toy that falls from the sky and melts in your mouth, is a blade slipped a little deeper into the chinks in the armour of "going to work today."

And there is also my will, for as the diabolical Mrs. Kim stands watching, quietly demanding that God stop shaking his hair out, I stand across the street and up a storey, looking out my own window, singing-- chanting really, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

ªMy boss, Mrs. Kim, as well as owning the hagwon at which I work, owns a kindergarten, located outside my window.

Today's Postscript: We didn't get the day off that day after all. BUT, it's been snowing for 3 days straight, literally, no exaggeration. Went skiing in 2 feet of powder yesterday after getting the day off. Scary driving, awesome skiing. Back home safe and enjoying the blizzard. Check out the pictures below.

Outside my window yesterday morning.

The little shadow near the fence in bottom left is the side of Greg's car. We drove out of there 20 minutes after this picture was taken. We're awesome.