Monday, November 21, 2011

Koskenkorva Martini

"I've climbed with some of the best climbers in the world, more importantly, to me, they are some of the best people in the world. That's another reason why I climb."
~Jim Wickwire

I really like to climb.

No, really. I do.

And why I like it so much - love it, in fact - is hard to distill down into a single statement. I've tried. But each time I think I have it quantified and pinned down, I realise I've left one or two or a hundred things out. Every climbing experience is unique and holds its own magical treasures. There are certainly things which top the list of why I love climbing and some ever-present themes - the zen-like quality; the control; the mindfulness; the freedom; the challenge; the dance-like movements - but I can have as rich and rewarding an experience playing around on 5.8s teaching new climbers as I have puzzling out the pieces of a rapturous - and torturous - 5.12 that draws sweat, blood and tears. How is it that I enjoy climbing as much on a perfect blue-sky day as on a miserable, rain-soaked and frozen-to-the-bones day? Why is a top-belay in too-small shoes in the blazing sun just as enjoyable as a sit-belay from a grassy field in the shade?

There has to be something, right?

A recent weekend adventure of climbing brought that something out of the shadows and into sharp focus. As variable as the situation, the weather, the location, the temperature, the comfort of the gear, the quality of the rock, there actually is a constant: the people. I get to climb with awesome people. And a day climbing, 'suffering' up an unknown 5.14 in Golden or in agony 50 feet up a cliff in Diablo Canyon because I brought the wrong shoes for multi-pitch or freezing my ass off in El Rito because a summer storm moved in to dump rain and hail while halfway up a 90 foot route, with people I truly like is better than most anything I can think of.

I turned 40 this year. I viewed turning 40 in the same way I viewed turning 20: a non-milestone. It held no more fear or excitement than turning 39 did. Or 12. Or 26. However, 40 is a nice, round number and it did elicit a good party and a wealth of presents (Yay presents!). Among the gifts was a climbing route. Really.

Two fellow climbers, Vaino and Doni, had scoped out a possible new route and had earmarked it for me to develop. I got a card. And a photo of the cliff. With a note: This is your route.

I don't squeal. But if I did? Big squeal.

To say I was excited is a bit of an understatement. I've rode shotgun on bolting before. I have some first ascents. My name is attached to a few routes. But I had never developed a route from start to FA.

And setting the route? Bolting it? Climbing it for the very first time ever? PERFECT.

Yes, it was a beautiful day for climbing. Yes the weather was incredibly cooperative. Even the burrito from Sofia's Kitchen  - chicharones and red chile for me, thanks! - was remarkably tasty on the way to the crag.

But it was the company that was truly perfect.

Every climbing adventure I have had revolves around the shared experiences. And this was no exception. I am honored and quite flattered that Doni and Vaino entrusted me with such a gift. They have developed entire walls and Vaino has set some of my favorite routes both in New Mexico and Colorado. But what truly made the experience memorable was that they were with me and I got to climb with them.

So if you want to climb something I've set, head down to Socorro in southern New Mexico. Maybe you'll feel some of the joy I experienced - especially if you climb it with good friends.

It is in The Box. On Alcohol Wall, which is part of the Major Wall Area. It's a short 5.10a. But it is mine and I'm pretty proud of it.

Koskenkorva Martini (5.10a)
A short, fun route. Easy standing first clip. Start on some generous incut holds, moving left, making the second clip and up to the feature (a little cave with a large tooth that looks like the silhouette of a bat). Pull up on a solid match on the 'tooth' and reach for a juggy side pocket to the left for the clip. High feet will get you a decent hold on the right and higher feet will get you up to the great ledge on the left - definitely the crux. Pull up to a short scramble for another clip and up to the finish at the anchors.

Koskenkorva Martini

Vaino & Doni
 Setting and bolting the route.

Safety first.

Drilling a bolt hole.

Drilling a bolt hole.

Hammering in a bolt.

Cleaning the route.
First ascent of Koskenkorva Martini.

The "bat" feature.

Moving past the crux.

At the bolts.


doni said...

Yes, you did squeal. :) Glad we were able to give you something special for your 40th!


Steve W. Weiss said...

I whole-heartedly agree, its all about the people. Glad you got to set the route on your 40th and had that special time. Pretty jealous you did. I can't wait to get out there again and climb it, it sounds like a sweet route.

Eileen said...

What a great present! And happy belated birthday! :)

Paukku said...

Doni, sigh.

Steve, thanks! If you come out here again while it is cold, Socorro is the place to be! There are some really good sport routes out there and the bouldering is exemplary. You can climb Koskenkorva Martini as well as a few others I helped set - interestingly enough they all have an alcohol theme...hmmm...

Eileen, thanks! I agree, great present! I'm very lucky that Doni and Vaino put up with me!