I don’t rack on my waist for rock unless it’s an at-the limit trad red point effort, and I know exactly which piece I’ll want when on which side of my body, on its own carabiner. The rest of the time for trad rock climbing waist racking just annoys me. Rack on a sling, grab pieces with either hand, switch fast at belays, move the gar around for cracks/chimneys, don’t spend five minutes primping like a high-shool girl before prom by racking everything all perfectly on your waist. Clip it onto a shoulder sling, go up. I’ve watched partners spend literally ten minutes faffing around with racking stoppers just so; unless you’re climbing 5.12 onsight it just doesn’t matter that much, especially on a 5.9. The point is to go up, not mess about with the shiny bits. On long trad routes that take a lot of gear I’ll put the really big Camalots on the back of my harness; they’re heavy and will cluster a gear sling due to their large holes. Plus you’re unlikely to use them much. Or maybe when you have 12 pieces of roughly the same size, as you do when climbing in Indian Creek or something. But in general a gear sling kicks ass on poofing about with waist gear for onsight trad climbing. Oh, and pins are different, they’re heavy and annoying so I rack them on my waist when mixed climbing as it’s possible to take gear with either hand almost always while mixed climbing on leashless tools. The big advantage of a gear sling (besides it being faster, cooler, sexier, etc.) is that it allows the climber to take gear with either hand. This is key on hard routes.
Switching Gear at Belays:
Again, do what works. There’s some good comments on the last post for what works for people. Over the years I’ve found that taking all the pulled gear and putting it on one sling on the second’s shoulder as he/she climbs, kept organized, is the fastest way to deal with it all at the belay. Hand the used-piece sling over, clip clip, go. But I’ll also use the leader’s tie-in line, whatever works to be neat and organized and efficient. With less experienced seconds I’ll just take whatever they give and shut up, we’re going up and it’s all good. As they get more comfortable then maybe make a few suggestions, but keep it simple. Dropping gear sucks and is expensive and possibly slow, so the first goal is to not drop gear, the second is to be fast, and the third is be stylish.
29er Mountain Bikes
I’ve been having way too much fun with various sports in the last month. A month ago I tweaked my knee, which really pissed me off as I last tweaked it playing hockey in January, and thought I’d cured it when I tweaked it again carrying one of my kids across a river. Go figure. Anyhow, I can still climb, but couldn’t walk so well. My usual solution to tweaks is to go Nordic skiing, but the snow is done down low here. And then my friend EJ started heckling me about my old Giant NRS (which is an awesome bike EJ!), and it was a bit small for me and hurt my neck (chronic neck tweaks from a fun life). I wanted something plusher and with a more upright riding stance, as mountain biking was my now default aerobic hit solution. I rode everything I could find under about $5,000, and in the end chose a Norco Shinobi, which surprised me as I though 29 inch wheels were for XC dorks who rode hard tails. I was wrong about the wheels, 29 inch wheels are the shape skis of the mountain bike world, simply better and more fun tech.
I’ve been riding mountain bikes semi-seriously since my dad bolted a 1:1 chainring and rear cog onto my BMX bike (same total number of teeth as the stock front ring and rear cog, PITA to switch but I rode that bike some crazy places as a kid). I was pretty into the whole BMX hulking thing as a kid, then Miyata mountain bikes, then Trek Antelopes, a Bianchi with early Rock Shox suspension that was all-time great, then a Schwinn that was nice, then the Giant. In riding the new bikes I just wanted something that would allow me to ride as much trail as possible, up and down, anywhere. I hate walking, it’s unmanly to get off your bike unless you bleed in the dismount. Anyhow, I rode about 20 bikes on the same loop in Canmore, I liked the Shinobi the best, and all my “finalist” bikes were 29ers. The big wheels roll over roots and rocks much better, climb better, haul ass better, and are just better. On the 29s I’ve ridden up and down and across sections of trail that used to stop me repeatedly over the last ten years; I’m sold. There are two things that 29 inch wheels don’t do as well, or do differently, the rest of the time they rock. When you’re going fast they have a lot more gyroscopic stability, which is mostly good, but if you get off to the side of your bike, which I used to do regularly when moving around in rough fast terrain, then you need to steer the back bike under you, not flick it back. It’s hard to explain, but you drive a 29er more than a 26er. The second thing is that with a 26er with limited (3 and 3) front and rear suspension I was bouncing around like a bean on the trail out of necessity; I had to flick and hop like mad not wreck the bike and myself. With a 29er with 120mm and 140mm of suspension you pick a line and rail it. If you screw up it’s no big thing, the big tires roll over bigger obstacles, and the suspension works. Cool. A couple of days ago I rode a friend’s 26er Blur LT for about 20 minutes, he rode mine, it was clear which was easier to ride to both of us (and the Blur is a sweet bike).Purists will bitch about a good skinny slalom ski, the rest of us will just rip it up on the new shape skis/29ers. Love ‘em.
Kayaks, and the Red Bull Divide and Conquer
For some reason I’m racing in the kayak portion of the Divide and Conquer. Yesterday I started my training by paddling 20-some K from Banff to Canmore (Ambit Track here). It hurt. I’m in pretty solid aerobic and strength shape right now so the transition to paddling should be OK, but there’s nothing like sport-specific suffering to to inflict suffering. On the other hand the clouds were swirling around the mountain peaks, and I saw sun, hail, grapple, rain and snow all a couple of times each in two hours of paddling. Tomorrow is intervals and general suffering again, followed by a climbing gym session and maybe a MTB ride if I can fit it in. I’m trying to figure out what boat to paddle in the race; I have a Karnalli and a Nomad, but I think there are faster boats out there… Any suggestions for plastic boats nine feet or under? Yeah!
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