Friday, January 29, 2016

Epic Tv Interview

Big thanks to Epic Tv for hosting this short video on my life and lifestyle. They used footage from a few years back as I haven't much new in terms of quality so it was was pretty cool to see not only the growth in Cedar, but also my various self inflicted hair styles... :)

Loved the classic Newfoundland footage...!! It is so beautiful there. Dream like. Another world...

Thanks Zofia and 'Duct Tape then Beer' for the quality footage. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tips on Splits. Part two.

This is part two of “Tips on Splits”.

For part one, click here.


There are some things you can do to prevent a split for occurring, skin care and self-control on the rock being the most important. If you feel a tear is pending, yet you can't seem to stop, again, really consider stopping and try thinking long term. (You'll also probably send your project faster…!!!) If it is impossible to stop climbing, definitely tape up and change problems. The rock will still be there in a week’s time. Climbing with tape sucks but waiting a week or two for a tear to heal is worse.

If your skin is being pushed into a small wad on one side: sand it down!! I never used to sand my tips but have since become fanatic. An even layer of skin means the rock is less likely to catch on it, eventually tearing it.

Change the chalk
Try changing the type of chalk you use. Some chalks are more drying than others. If you have dry skin like myself, (a blessing in the summer yet a curse when it gets cold), a more drying chalk can dry your skin out too much thus increasing the chances of a split happening. I like to keep things simple with Metolius block chalk.

Wash your Hands! 
Wash the chalk off your hands after climbing so the drying effect of chalk doesn’t continue beyond necessity.

Chalk is a drying agent and dry skin can lead to split tips so consider moisturizing after climbing. (For obviously reasons, not before... You don’t want to grease up the holds on the problem…) Consider using a moisturizing salve like Metolius hand balm or Climb On. On cold dry days moisturizer can really help save your skin not to mention help prevent those dry painful cracks that can happen between the nail bed.

No to Antihydral
Antihydral is a drying agent and can be very helpful to those with greasy, sweaty skin. For me however, it would be the opposite as it is not recommended if you already have dry skin. Antihydral seriously dries out the skin thus increasing the chances of getting split tips. I have some friends who used it and ended up getting more split tips than warranted.

If you must climb before the tip is fully healed: 
(totally understandable…!)

-put cream on the spilt to keep it moist and help speed healing. I suggest Peneten for the healing properties of zinc oxide
-tape the finger up really well (see below photos)
-avoid the culprit holds or project so not to aggravate or delay healing
-once the skin is dry, sand!
-repeat the cream/tape process throughout the day and night

The curiosity of crazy glue:

Some people swear by it, some don't. The theory is that the glue will prevent the split from opening while the body heals. The new skin will eventually push the glue out. I tried it multiple times in the last month, was told different things, and finally, after some experimentation, decided against it. Unless you’re using the very expensive medical grade glue, I don't recommended putting this chemical directly into your split/ blood stream. But again, that's just my opinion. Some folks swear by it. As with the first mentioned method that I found works, (see part one) sanding, cream and patience are still required for the crazy glue method.

What gluing method didn't work:
It was my first time using crazy glue so a friend suggested his method which was to put glue on the split in a closed position and hold it that way so it dried closed. This seemed to help as there was now no opening which meant no pain. But this method did not work. The split immediately re-opened the next climbing day and thus set me back a couple days of healing.

What gluing method might work:
I say might because I didn't see any difference between the times I used it and did not use it. The 'maybe' method is to put glue on the split but don't close it. Let the glue/split dry open. This way it is less likely to re-tear when back at climbing. That said, I don't understand the logic of putting cream on if the glue is there. The glue is relatively impermeable to water and salves so how would the cream break through that glue barrier to reach the skin opening...? If anything, I would assume a healing cream/salve has higher healing properties than crazy glue. But I guess if you goal is to keep the split from moving, perhaps, glue is ideal.

As I said at the beginning in part one, a huge part of healing those annoying split tips is self-control and patience. So with that, I wish you all the control you need!!

Thanks for reading!!

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Tips on splits. Part one.

Part one. 

In the last month i have encountered four split tips. This is something I am not accustomed to yet split tips are something many a climber suffer from. As many climbers prefer to climb in the wonders of a cold and dry environment, unfortunately, in this environment split tips are bound to happen. (especially if one skin resembles that of a which case you want to always wash chalk off and moisture and avoid Anti-hydral, (It will dry out your skin too much) !!)

My recent split tips have caused me blood and pain, but more importantly, delay on my projects. So in order to get my skin in shape, I quickly had to learn how to heal these annoying things, and for the future, learn how to prevent them. 

After talking to many an experienced climber, thankfully, I found the advice from Peter Michaux, TD, and Dr. Noah Kaufman really helpful. But before I share what helped, be warned!! A big part of the prevention and healing thing is self control and patience. (Hard for a psyched climber wanting to finish the project..!!!)

The arrival of a split tip:

Stop climbing at once (REALLY...) if you lack all control and simply can not step away, tape it up really well and change problems. This will prevent the tear from deepening, thus shortening healing time. Avoid the type of holds causing the damage with all your power. (for example: a crimp). Below are two methods I found helpful. They vary slightly, yet people swear by both methods so take your pick. 

Method One: (Peter and TD)

1. Sand the tip down as much as you can bear until the skin is really smooth. If the tear is deep enough, this will mean blood and pain but it really helps... You want to sand the tear completely away so it can not re-tear when you climb again. Sanding not only prevents skin from catching on the rock but also promotes faster skin growth.

2. Wash and clean the split. Put on enough healing cream so there is plenty left for your skin as the bandaid will absorb much of it. I suggest pentene which is a baby diaper ointment and provides the healing properties of zinc oxide. Peter uses neosporin, and Tim uses Neosporin. Then, sleep on it. This will make your skin white and soft but apparently this atmosphere speeds healing. Continue with this method until the split is fully healed. This will take a few good days depending on how deep the split is.

3. Once the split is fully healed and a new callous is formed, do the test: press your thumb nail directly into the sanded area. You want to experience NO pain. This way you know enough callous has grown. If there's pain, wait a bit longer for new skin to grow. It's always nice to climb without pain and the worry of it possibly re-tearing. If you're pain free, you're ready to climb! Take the cream and tape off and let the skin dry out the night before you intend to climb so allowing the skin to harden. 

Method 2: (Noah)

Noah is an emergency doctor and long time climber. Being a "big guy", he has ample experience with split tips. He suggest using "Precision Clippers" over sanding.

1. After a shower when the skin is soft (it's easier and hurts less) clip off the edges of the canyon of the split to make more of a smooth valley. Re-wash hands. After clipping, let it dry and proceed to the next step.

2. Noah reckons that a wet environment is not always the best. He suggest putting on Desitin or Pentene cream which is baby diaper ointment and has a high percentage of zinc oxide which helps with healing. Put a Band-Aid on for four hours and then let it air dry for about four hours.

3. Taping is recommend on the third day, but after that you should be good to go with a little sanding to even out the edges. You can always continue on with step 3 of Peters method- the thumb nail test. Noah says that though his method is anal, splits usually heal in two days this way with an effective strength of the heal.

*** Remember to not climb on the type of holds that caused the tear in the first place before the tip is fully healed. Impatience doesn't pay here..!!  What is halfway healed will only re-tear and the continued aggravation will not speed healing and will only delay your chance of sending.

How to tape a split tip:

Put an upside down piece of tape on the tear so the tape doesn't stick to the cut. Snipping off the square bandage part of the bandaid would also work and provide some cushioning protection. Both these methods work over using a full sized band-aid as the tape won't slip while climbing but with a full band-aid it will. 

Almost healed!

As I said at the beginning, a huge part of healing those annoying split tips is self control and patience. So with that, I wish you all the control you need!! 

The next post will cover climbing with a split tip, prevention and the curiosity of crazy glue. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading! 

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Affair

I don't kiss and tell. Nor do I tell the the name of this one being which I will speak of. Mainly out of privacy. Or more so, perhaps I fear superstition. That if I speak to loudly and reveal that before actually sending, a curse may fall upon me (if it hasn't already), and that i will never send or conquer that which already has bound it's spell upon my being.

Simply, it's like this: an obsession. Why? Unexplainable. It just is. When I first heard it's name, I wanted to climb this problem. Later, the same reaction transpired when I  saw a photo of it. When it came to meeting it in person, with all the logs and rocks scattered in multiple levels at is base, the steepness of the rock, the size of the starting holds, the confusion of the end sequence, that wanting became even more. It became a need.

It began three whooping years ago. That means this problem accounts for my longest project ever. In terms of time and effort, it takes the cake. It has involved more energy and will than any other. It occupies my mind whether I am near or thousands of miles from it. I make my plans around it, change plans for it, sacrifice for it, fly across the world for it.

Yet, it remains a project. Securing the pocket multiple time doesn't mean sent. Nor does falling at the end over fifty times or sticking that first hard move even more. Nope. Not close enough.
Most folks opt for the easier but long and awkward move of its alternative start over the burly small crimps found on my version. The starting foot is a mere smear, with a tiny pebble which outcrops just slightly. It took a bit to understand the first move. That little smear and the angle one places ones foot on it, with just the right amount of pressure, can mean sticking or falling flat on ones back. What feels impossible in failed attempts is surprisingly easy when latched.

There's exactly 20 moves with my beta. The first move is the hardest in itself while the ones in the middle are easier but not to be confused with easy, they still take effort and focus. Then of course there is the end moves which look deceivingly easy yet are really quite technically hard. That heel has to be placed 'just so' otherwise it's over. The body has to be pulled inward to the rock 'just so' otherwise it effects the heel which effects the whole thing. And if you arrive there from the beginning, you need to relax enough and yet maintain enough tension just to let your body succeed in doing just that. Some people would call this 'tedious...'

I don't know what my problem is. I have done the end many a time. Yet when arriving there from the beginning, my mind begins to cloud. Things get fuzzy as if in a dream which I can easily wake from usually to land on my ass. My focus changes from what I am doing with each hand and foot placement to the voices and sounds around me. The tension I must keep in the heel is like an idea long forgotten. If my hand secures the two finger pocket, it's panic mode. The conversation commences. "I am doing it, I am doing it." A reply of "shut up and focus!" The critic comes forth whispering, "you're not good enough to do this!!" "The heel is going to slip!!". My body automatically changes the heel to a toe. And then, as if scared, or some invisible power pulls me down, something gives. I am one the ground. Again.
It's tiring now. Projecting is hard. It can be mentally and physically exhausting. But the closer I come, the more hope it instills. It's like a tease. By the time you read this, the yesterday I speak of will be long past. I went to my project rested, psyched and determined. My last session resulted in a new split. It was now the fifth experienced from this thing in the last month. But after some rest, I convinced myself I was ready. But on my very first try, the split re-opened. The moves felt harder than usual. The first move was now unrepeatable. After having rested four days from this thing, knowing my trip was very near its end and with fresh blood oozing out of my tip, I lay on my pad and simply expressed what was in me, I cried.

split #5. not impressed!
What had felt completely and convincingly possible now took a 180.  It felt like I was back at square one. With one climbing day left, there wasn't time to let the tip heal. I thought about all the other rocks and areas I sacrificed so to stay around and send this thing. I called myself crazy for being so attached. But, I honestly thought it would go sooner. Unfortunately, with the split tips and weather, things didn't work out.

My thoughts flew back to three years ago. Again. I was falling at the end but got shut down by 30 cm of snow. Season ended for everyone. Last year, our stays were shorter and less frequent but on that rare moment when I stuck the first move, again, I'd fall making the long reach to the pocket. This year I changed my end sequence by adding a move to make the long move closer. Reaching the pocket was much easier, the end came more consistently. The first move had to be re-learnt but after some work, this eventually came, after all, its memory was still encoded in my body. The problem is the mind. It remembers how tedious the end is. How one could send if everything isn't 'just so'?

And now, it's close to over. So close, yet, not. I am flying away from this beast, this beauty. I don't know if I will do it tomorrow. But if its spell is not broken, I will be back. If not tomorrow, next year. If not next year, well, that someday will come. As much as it has beaten me down, I have to get up. And like any affair, my heart can be left broken, yet I know, it has been worth every second.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Inquiries of a climber

I have an old friend; a fellow climber I’ve been recently reunited with after years apart simply because of the sheer land mass and great seas which divided us. We first meet at the Belfast climbing wall at the university where he studied physics and where I was a mere nomad; exploring the city streets and troubles, learning about photography in the lightest of darkrooms, and simply allowing the beautiful accents to fill my thirsty ears. Not yet a full-fledged climber, my spare time was spent dabbling. Climbing with all its lightness was new to me.

Cedar crushing
He and his beautiful family came to Magic Wood for ten days. Our days were spent with the kids: exploring the rivers, villages, and of course, bouldering when it was dry and hiding under shelter when it rained. Climbing with him had changed little. He remains a thoughtful person, light in mood and character.

The timing of their arrival was with that of my visit to the darkside. How unfortunate that they had to put up with my tortured soul!!! But he is an old friend, a status normally carrying with it acceptance of another in any state. Witnessing a friend in the darkest of places while at the same time, showing complete acceptance, non-judgement and love is beyond what words can describe. It instilled in me a level of trust and respect and redefines the meaning of unconditional and true friendship. 

While climbing he would think of the intricacies of each move, trying to solve it as if it were a physic problem. Too much weight on this foot, more weight here… Standing before the climb with his eyes closed, he’d mimic the moves with his hands, climbing the problem in his mind before his feet left the ground. His methods made me smile as I watched his mind analyze each move. When he fell, he’d release such a great roar of energy, and then quickly work to resolve the glitch in his movement. When he succeeded, he would again, release the same great roar. He believed the celebration of success to be as crucial as the analysis of each failure.

Coming out of the darkness
After observing me on my latest project which entailed countless falling, he pointed out his realization that climbing at your limit meant experiencing failure a thousand times over; it meant accepting failure as the norm rather than success. This got me thinking about the relation between the daily failures I experience in climbing which on a ‘good’ day, send me spiraling into feelings of pure enjoyment of the process of working and solving a problem; while on a ‘bad’ day, the same amount of falling can tinge me with an overcast of dissatisfaction and frustration. At one point, Gustau witnessed me in such defeat that I declared my complete frustration for climbing. With one simple statement from him my thoughts went on a spur. “Remember back when climbing was fun?” Oh yeah, I do, so fun... Friends and lightness in plenty, simplicity, cruxes proved challenges not torments. So yes, I do remember when climbing was fun… However, despite my impatience and frustration when climbing presents a seemingly insurmountable challenge, climbing remains fun, even if sometimes, in a weird, painful sort of way.

Classic roof top beauty
Accepting failure as the norm is certainly true, especially as of late when the ratio of falling and sending seems to be 99:1 percent. With this in mind, Gustau’s idea that celebrating success is important takes on new meaning for me. Focusing on any progress made becomes important to avoid the potential torment and drudgery that superficial failure can produce. All the same, reveling over something achieved is something that, for semi- unexplored reasons, to a degree, I suppress. Perhaps it feels outside my comfort zone or I view the accomplishment as ‘not a big deal’; maybe I confuse it with boasting; either way, the idea that celebrating success is important sent me into a fury of thought.

Does it come back to the ideas we were raised with that perceive modesty and unassuming behavior in the midst of accomplishment as the greater? Yet isn’t the idea of humility just as much a scheme of the ego as reveling in something achieved? Surely one can celebrate victory without guilt and at the same time, remain humble. Wouldn’t celebrating make the neurons for success stronger so to pave the way for more of it? But really, what is success then: topping out a boulder or never giving up…? And failure? Is it falling or simply giving up or even not trying? Doesn’t that old saying go something like: ‘it is better to have tried and failed then to have never tried at all’…?

Doro going high on a very nice new line
As I face seemingly insurmountable challenges that test my patience and poise, I ask myself why I climb. As climbers, is it really the summit that we aim for or is it something else that we chase with an eternal thirst that we know is secretly unquenchable. As for myself, I beg for the later, for when one boulder is topped, my mind almost immediately goes to the next challenge, the next test as it were. To exhaust our bodies and minds as far as they can go, to put so much effort into one try that you’re whole being lets out the most unconscious scream of effort, to tear your skin only to re-tear it so that your blood stains the very rock on which you dedicate; to lay at the bottom of a problem in amazement of how hard can it really be and what do you need to do to conquer it, to approach a rock like a puzzle that requires all of your effort and focus.

To be surrounded by like minded souls, who understand, who don’t judge; to feel the aliveness of the cold sharp rock against your skin and mind; to laugh at the absurdities of it all, knowing it’s just rocks, just movement, yet it is a way of being, a way of life… To know that magical day will come when everything clicks together and suddenly you are no more on the ground but floating up the very rock that once fought with your skin and mind, while remembering all the same how much you valued the process and apparent torment.

As you lay on your pad lost in a gaze at the rock above you, the edge of a green tree limbs catches your eyes and your gaze follows it to the top. The blue sky peeks through, a bird chirps nearby. The sound is of nature. You suddenly remember beyond the frustrations and toils why you do this. This lying on the pad, this pain in the tips, this climbing… it’s all ridiculous and preposterous fun.

Thanks gus, Leslie-Ann, Marina and Alex for your kindness and friendship.
And thanks to you, the reader, for reading…!

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Always exciting things happening on the streets of Ausserferra
Visiting the huge dam on the Italian/Swis border

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Adventures of the Dark Side

You know those moments in your life of such clarity that make you question how you made it as far as you did; those moments that make you feel as if you’ve been living with a sheet over your head. It’s not the sort of spiritual awakening which I refer but more the real, sharp, in your face kind of clarity that unfortunately is called… reality. 

Reality… we have met before. For reasons within my own nature I often let you pass and continue on my way. Nothing is going to prove me wrong, especially you. Nothing will stand in my way, especially you. In fact, I kind of hate you. Life is too short for you. It’s like that, is it not…? We all have this one life… and then reality, with the momentum of a thousand storms, comes along and reminds us it isn’t so.  

It isn’t that I think myself invisible. I know my responsibilities and realize certain things need to be done a particular way. But you see, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the reader’s point of view, I live by my own idealist pickings; thoughts and imaginings about how I want my life to be run. These ideals change from time to time but overall the theme is do it; life is too short not too, regardless whether you can afford to or not. In most cases, living by my idealistic pickings seems to work. Granted, things don’t always turn out as wished but, regardless, the ball gets rolling in the preferred direction as if providence is working its magic. Not that I believe in magic at this point in reality. Though on a good day, my suffocating tormented inner child fights for its survival and wins with all optimism. Unfortunately, this child, without whom I am nothing but another robot churning the wheels fighting for survival, is feeling the pressure of suffocation upon its nature. 
It’s like this… how long can one stand in idealism before reality comes, literally putting its sharp little teeth into one’s own skin. In fact, just in the last few weeks I was paid with numerous unwelcome visits. We had made it to Munich for the Boulder World Cup. Funds were very limited, so going to the team dinner wasn’t an option, nor was much of anything but that was ok: we were there! Besides, all wasn’t lost. I merely had to wait for the pay from work done in July. Optimism said it would arrive in time to make it to Magic wood after the comp as planned.

Then reality hit. Literally two days before the competition which I flew half way across the world for; at a time when I was counting pennies so to afford fresh veg (and handling that pressure with an idealistic nature of ‘just fineness…’ thank you), an email arrived with the headline: “IMPORTANT -do not open until after comp”.  Thoughts filled my head about the arrival of this email at such a time. Given the capitalized directions, sending it before the event was totally and completely pointless. All it resulted in was a heavy brick thrown on top of my shoulder; making me imagine up the worst. It was the perfect trigger for the avalanche of reality.
Then there was the comp. I had imagined and told myself to the point of believing it that I could and would indeed, make the Munich World Cup semi-finals. Woooo, now horsey! Nope! Not even close. In fact, in previous competitions I had been closer but I was about as close to making semis as I was to sticking the first dyno. This was not close at all for those not there to witness. Nope. Not this time. 

When the competition ended people scattered in all directions. Magic Wood had to wait as the pay hadn’t arrived. We were left to enjoy the streets of Munich on our 15 euro bikes which at times made me feel like I can fly. Only in Munich have I experienced bike traffic; the ins and outs of proper bike etiquette; bells ringing from behind indicating people are nearing to pass. We speed along going nowhere yet all the same, enjoying.  I like this city and don’t mind being bound here. With Boulderwelt and its amazing setting my motivation remains high. 
Eventually we leave the blissful and impatient city for the solitude of Magic Wood. My excitement at arriving was scorched by disappointing news which confirmed the critic in me that I did not belong. Exclusion is my cursed friend, a common symptom of those with wings. I know I am a loner, always have been. With the exception of a few dear friends, I often sit on the outside, somewhat wishing to belong yet nevertheless enjoying my own private world. Still, humans are social creatures and I’m no exception. Comforting myself, defenses arise saying there is no need. Anyway, a seemingly negative outcome could turn out to be positive. But my dream from last night haunts me. In it, I wasn’t allowed to join the group. They all agreed I smelled too bad; my clothes too dirty; that my general expression didn’t show enough superficiality. Well, let me tell you, it’s all a god dam illusion. For God’s sake people, human hearts are at stake here.

these make me smile!
Packing for our first day in the forest, I took a break to find Cedar who was working on her cabin near the woods. During this time, someone went into the little pocket of my bag managing to steal my Ipod. Gone were my camera, photos and right hand man. I know, I know, its only stuff. But it’s the theft by a fellow climber that bothers. It’s the unveiling of the dark side. But really, I should be accustomed. In my early 20’s, when travelling in England, someone stole everything but the small pack on my back. My reaction: laughter. Things are going to be so much lighter now I thought. Two years ago someone broke into my van and stole everything of value including my computer and most beautiful and at this point, irreplaceable, Canon Mark II. Bitterness reached my heart at this loss. So what’s the difference between a theft nearly 20 years ago and now? Perhaps it goes along the lines of a sense of jadedness that comes with age; the sad ordeal of human conditioning. I never thought my insides would arrive at this point. I clearly remember my younger version telling myself that I would never become like the adults…

What am I blabbering on about…? Filling words, taking time... you’re precious time. So end it, end it here now. Good bye fellow reader. Go enjoy what is left to your days. If it is night, turn off the lights and sit in darkness. Watch the moon rise through your window. Here, the river beckons. I will sit near it and continue on in my dream, living the imaginings of my mind which in many ways, are so much better. The dark side has taken over. For now…

{Wait… This isn’t yet the end. This too shall pass, right? There’s always hope isn’t there? It isn’t as if I’m asking that which is becoming more jaded with each passing year to somehow unwind itself. It isn’t as if I’m trying to reach deep inside to the suffocating, shrinking ball of light, without which we are all nothing, to somehow free itself to the world… Isn’t this what the world needs more of anyway? Or are we doomed? Perhaps not. Hang on, hang on. It’s nearly dawn…} 

Thanks for reading. :)

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Insights of Coaching

In front of me sat eight little people who looked up at me with a combination of eagerness and shyness. It was a scene oddly familiar from years back, yet completely anew. Here I was, about to coach gymnastics for the first time in years. Part of the job title was to display the gymnastics circuit for the kids later to mimic which made me feel slightly queasy. Let’s make a couple things clear, this is recreational gymnastic which means easy but I was never specifically any good at gymnastics and it has been years. Despite starting at an age considered ‘too old’, it was my first love and if there was anything I could do with the sport, including coaching, I would.

When it came time to display specific drills my mind remembered it all very clear but my body held a different story. Eventually, after some embarrassing spills, the basics came back quick enough to feel I could actually coach. Interestingly enough, something which skipped my awareness in my younger years of coaching was what the title coach actually meant. There were the obvious do-gooders and keeners who were easy but then there were these ‘other kids’ who proved more work than the pay really warranted.

The trouble kids… every class has one or two of them, perhaps even you fell under this category. At a very clear point in my life I certainly did. Going from the quiet, shy, straight A student to someone who walked out of her grade 8 chemistry class while proceeding to tell the teacher to fuck off and go to hell was indeed a dramatic change. High school was downhill from then on. There was no teacher brave or caring enough to sink their teeth in deep enough to find out what was really going on.

after gym fun

Perhaps it was from my own personal interest of what I could learn while coaching these kids or maybe it was a genuine concern over someone so small destined for a direction totally preventable, but either way, I yearned to have them in my group; to grasp their attention to make an imprint, to show them their own greatness.

Let’s take Mike. Mike’s favorite thing to say was ‘I can’t’. He’d say it before he tried, while he tried and after he tried, he’d confirm that belief. His mind would tell him no on basically everything, sometimes outright saying he was too stupid and fat. Another kid, let’s say Luther, as it seems a fitting name for the little devil. Luther barely made eye contact, wouldn’t listen and would fight with the other kids to the point of aggression. He would outright lie saying it was me who told him he couldn’t do a skill and often said he was bad at gymnastics. As I watched him believe everything he told himself, my version of reality came out in empty words, seemingly bypassing the space between his ears. Now take Emily. At an age when most kids are considered fearless, she’d shake and quiver to the point of crying despite my holding her hand, encouraging her the whole way.

She, like Mike and Luther, would not try things because they didn’t think it possible, and if they did try, it was often the most halfhearted attempt ever witnessed. It was all so, interesting… heartbreaking, and so simply human. Their fragility was so open, unlike our own masks. It was pretty clear that my job was not to teach these kids how to do a perfect cartwheel but rather, to instill in them a belief of what was possible, to change their way of thinking, to emphasis effort over outcome not matter what.

After a few weeks of coaching I became more familiar with the stories these kids built up in their heads. They believed them to be true because someone who had some sort of authority over them told them it was so. Tell a kid he is great and with determination and hard work, he can do anything and he’ll believe that. Tell a kid he is unworthy, incapable, too fat, weak, dumb… he believes that. Many of the kids had the mentality of a fixed mindset something which I learned about just last year when someone thankfully pointed mine out to me. A fixed mindset is fixable and totally worth instilling with all my effort.

My white legs... :) Photo credit: Malek Taleb

With each and every kid I would praise their effort no matter the outcome. Even if their effort was that of a sloth, they could always try harder and I encouraged them to do so. If I heard ‘I can’t, I quickly replaced it with an ‘I can’t yet’ thus to infuse possibility. I wouldn’t let them skip a drill no matter how scary or intimidating until they at least tried. I pushed and encouraged them, told them to focus on their breath if they were scared, to not believe their thinking if it said otherwise, and simply, to try as hard as they possible could. As the weeks passed my efforts were not in vain. Emily focused more on her breath without me having to tell her. One time after class Mike stayed with me on his own accord just to keep practicing a skill which I knew he could muster. Luther however, I just couldn’t get through. His walls were so tall and thick, my knock was barely heard.

It wasn’t always the trouble kids that caught my attention. Some kids believed anything was possible and worked hard at skills despite numerous falls. They had a look in their eyes which screamed focus and intensity. Nothing could get to them in this zone. I must have seemed the strangest coach when I interrogated them, asking them about their thought processes when they did a difficult skill, poking at them to share their secrets.

So what do these kids have to do with climbing? Having just finished with the Munich World Cup with an unsatisfying performance, my introspective self has come to sit and ponder. Clearly I made some mental errors like Mike, doubted myself like Emma and believed my thinking like Luther. When these kids repeated the same mental mistakes over and over, I was there, looking them straight in the eyes, reminding them it wasn’t so. But sometimes, when caught in the moment, be it standing on a balance beam or precariously balancing on a climbing wall, no one is there to shout in your face but your own conditioned mind.

This comp taught me one thing; my way of thinking has a far way to go. The first problem was a dyno followed by my first thought which claimed, I can’t dyno, I’ll try but it’s impossible. Fixed mindset, self-limiting beliefs... My shoulder immediately hurt from the weird position. Further tweaking my shoulder was less than ideal considering my last 5 months were spent dealing with tweak after tweak so I easily let that go to focus on the problems to come. But as the comp progressed, I made error after error, mentally and physically.

Felt like i was jumping my whole body length to get this bonus! Well, tagged it at least..! and no, this was not the dyno..! 

Adjusting my body from various insecure positions posed feelings of improbability. As I worked to bring my foot higher, my mind doubted, repeating, ‘you’re going to slip, it isn’t going to work’. Seconds later, I was on the ground. While weighing my foot on the slab so very precariously, my mind was caught up with was going on behind me. It’s like, come on thomo, who gives a fuck who’s watching! Focus on the bloody task at hand!! Trust yourself, just climb…!

A pattern emerged of repeating mistakes made in the past; as if I didn’t truly learn. Too much focus on the outcome, instead of enjoying and relaxing in the moment. My thinking wasn’t that of confidence and ability. I told myself the holds were so far that reaching them was impossible, believing this to the point where my effort wasn’t what it could be. I was seeing small and more so, playing small.

Comps can leave an aftertaste akin to a bad break up; failure, pain, loneliness. Watching the other strong competitors who had also had a bad comp later enjoy the experience reminded me of the insignificance of it all, to see the bigger picture; to empty my mind as the inspiring Zen kids in class. What coaching gave me was a real chance to give these kids something which I wanted more of: empowerment, grit, tools’ for a path toward a better self. There is a saying that one should teach what one wants to learn in order to fully learn it. Fortunately for the sake of growth and evolving as a human being, this process will never stop. We can always strive to be better than we were yesterday, even if we take a couple steps backwards on the way.

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yay Cedar!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tips for how to live in a van

for Sheila, my favorite eclectic  

My upbringing was most traditional; two story house, backyard, flushing toilet, bed, heat and the luxury of hot baths. There was a kitchen with stove, fridge and extra freezer to store all the moose and fish that’d feed us through the winter. I didn’t really know anyone who lived differently, and knew few people who were “eccentric” apart from Gary our neighbor who was a self-proclaimed artist. As for myself, I was labeled the black sheep of the family. It’s believed that our life events lead us to where we are now. For me, it is continuing that of the black sheep, following that of a nomad, calling a van home.

Credit: Joshua Enoch Williams
At this point in my life it is accurate to say I have lived in a van for more than half of my life. As a climber this works perfectly but some of you may not know that I am also a mother. Does van life still work?  Yes, it does and yes, she likes it.

Our latest model is that of the most discreet type. In fact, one may not even notice that behind the shaded windows of our Toyota Previa lies a mini kitchen and full on bedroom lined with books and closet space unlike any other.

Van life gives us the chance to travel in the comfort of our own home on wheels. The rent money saved goes toward a lifestyle which dreams are made and where stars can be caught full bloom leaping from the safety of their own nest. But it isn’t always so romantic in Toyo land. Living in a van can be outright tough. We do not have running water, the comforts of heat, a fridge or a flushing toilet. But when temps reach -13 at night and you awaken to frozen water and a stove that won’t start because the gas is frozen, van life offers something which cannot be easily obtained from the comforts of ones home: GRIT. Not everyone can do it, but not everyone can follow the 9-5 work days that end in a two story house surrounded by a white picket fence.

Me in my European Toyota Home. Photo:  tobias leipnitz
Having lived in vans for over 20 years, I have learnt a few things which can make van life more pleasant. First, buy a reliable vehicle, such as a Toyota. Reliability trumps especially when you’re driving 100’s of miles from your own country. My first van did not even start but served as a corpse stuck in the upper parking lot of Whistler Mountain. The second was a big and roomy GMC which cost me more in repairs than I paid for until its fateful day when someone thankfully plowed it into a sidewalk. The third, a weee red box of a Toyota LE van which died with nearly 4000 km on it. The next? A Toyota Previa which I still have today. It has 382,983 km and counting. My European van is also a Toyota Previa, same year, model and even color as the one I now sit. I feel rather rich being able to say I have two homes… one in North America and one in Europe… :)



The setup of a van is important for comfort and convenience. You want your bed low enough so you can sit up straight in your bed yet allow for ample storage underneath and long enough so you can sleep straight without the bed taking up your whole van. My bed can extend long enough to sleep straight, yet can easily fold away via a small piece of plywood, so to house a mini living room.

The stove set up is important given most people use it 3-4 times a day. The most efficient in terms of fuel and money is the basic Coleman camper stove with a refillable propane tank. You want the tank big enough so you only need to refill it monthly but small enough so it doesn’t take up too much space. My tank is 11 liters and last about a month with frequent use. I advise against the wee disposable tanks, they are expensive and not eco-friendly. Word of caution – keep a window open and burn off any excess in the hose before turning the tank off. When temps start to drop in the mid-winter, some folks wrap their tank in a towel and slept with it thus preventing the gas from freezing. It’s also a good idea to keep a small canister in storage for those times the propane runs out without warning. Having a carbon monoxide detector is a good idea.

We can’t live very long without water so keep plenty on board for yourself and the vehicle. A large refillable 7 gallon jug is useful plus a few smaller ones to use as daily water bottles. Pumps for these exist to make access easier but they take up a bit of space. Bottles can be easily refilled at gas stations and public spaces with taps such as parks and recreational centers.

Van life really teaches one about water consumption and how to keep it to the minimum. For example, if I boil eggs, the remaining hot water is used to wash my dishes which I do in a desert shower type fashion. There are plenty of tricks to save water here and once you get the hang of it, you’ll quickly see how little we really need.

Keep plenty of this on board; you never know when a breakdown may occur or such event. In the heat of the summer visits to the grocery store are more frequent as food goes rancid faster. My experiments with coolers have failed. I dislike the plastic taste they can leave on food as well as their frequent need for ice. As an alternative, I buy less but more often and store perishables in the low cupboards or under the bed which tend to be cooler. Yogurt can last a couple days like this and contrary to American belief; eggs do not need to be refrigerated. It is also helpful to park your rig in a shaded area such as under a big tree or in the shade of a building to keep things cool.

The Toilet: 
The number one question I get after how do you stay warm…! A simple pee bottle works perfectly for the guys but I am a girl and so discovered my own way. We have a small kid’s potty which can be dumped and rinsed easily enough given you park close to the bushes. If there are no bushes, well, you just have to get creative and pretend you throwing out dish water or something of the sort in a discreet fashion. For urgent cases of the secondary style, it comes down to where you are parked. Cafes, libraries, stores, public washrooms are useful and found in plenty if in a city. But if near the forest, remember the rules: dig, bury and take your paper waste with you. Avoid pooping where someone may later step.

The Shower: 
Many van dwellers lead a minimalist sort of life style but it doesn’t mean one has to be a dirt bag and stink. Showers are easily found at local pools, campgrounds, friend’s houses and even at big gas stations on the highways. Rivers, lakes and basically any pond of water will also suffice given ones tolerance to cold water; just take care with the use of soap in these places. A free and easy solution is a solar shower which requires water, sun and a private place to strip down which may be challenging. If one is settling in a place for a while, monthly passes to the local gym can come in handy.

Staying Warm: 
Having a well-insulated van and curtains made of a heavier material is helpful (also helpful for dimming the bright morning sun!). A down jacket is a MUST as are wool and down blankets. Van slippers can also make a big difference for warmth and coziness. When it is really, really cold outside leaving the ‘drive to camp’ just before bed helps get the van nice and toasty. Thou it can be tempting; idling the engine to keep warm is not recommended; the earth needs all the help it can get… (I try to drive very little once in a place). When parked, I have a small propane heater called ‘Mr. Heater’ which is one of the best gifts I ever received. It runs off the same propane as my stove and makes the van pretty cozy when temps get below 0. I don't run it for long as always have a cracked window. Having a carbon monoxide detector is a good idea. Also, parking where you’ll get the morning sun makes mornings much more pleasant!

If one lives in their van, the van will likely contain many possessions including themselves which is invaluable. For the same reason house dwellers lock their doors at night, so should one who sleeps in a van. Keep valuables out of site, use common sense and don’t leave or park your van in areas which feel dodgy. When night fall’s and sleep beckons, park in an area that feels good and safe, preferably somewhere known and familiar. Lock your door, know where your keys are and keep a defense plan in mind. When on the road use common sense. If it feels bad, trust your gut and just keep driving. As adventurous as it may seem, remember, somewhere in the world, someone wants you back in one piece. Personally, I prefer to make my own rest stops in small towns, usually by a town park, church, or residential area. For one night this is usually fine, just leave it as found. I avoid campgrounds, they are too expensive, bright and loud. For the safety of possession, hide the important things as best as you can or do as some have and bolt a safe to the van floor.

This is especially important if you are live in a fixed place. I live in Squamish which has been pretty lenient for van dwellers until the past years when no camping signs start showing up in every parking lot. Use curtains or shaded windows for increased privacy. Practice leave no trace and try to not appear as some sketchy dude after the neighborhood kids. People in general are scared of the unknown and seeing someone snooping around a van just gives them a reason to call the local police. Remember to switch up the sleeping locations for the local neighbor who isn’t down with car campers near their house.

Van maintenance:   
A very, very, flat tire... 
Living in a van means it is your home. Keeping it up to standard and safety is more than ideal but will help keep troubles at bay when on the road. Try to keep extra necessities in storage… water, oil, food, warm clothes, tools, cables… they can save your ass or perhaps, someone else’s. Investing in insurance such as CAA/AAA with some good towing kilometers is a very, very good idea. Make sure the spare tire has air and don’t ignore the oil light. If you use the lights and radio a lot having a deep cycle battery can help as will adding a solar panel. Solar panels can provide enough energy to meet electrical demands for whatever conveniences one may have such as a laptop to a blender for those morning smoothies.

Convenience verses comfort:
Living in a van can be considered a convenience but also a curse. It’s cheap, adventurous, and liberating, but it is also a small space that can range from being well below zero to a smoldering heater. Keeping it simple, minimal and organized will not only keep the hobo police from you but it will create a sense of space, physically and mentally. If you don’t need it, like it, or use it, let it go. One of the things i love about van life is its simplicity. Here is a link to a photo essay a friend put together on Cedar and I called just that, simplicity.
For the logistics of an address to get mail, to register a phone or vehicle, all towns have a general delivery options. An address of a trusted friend can also come in handy as can the street address of the local campground or public space such as a marina.

the open road

There are tricks to make it easier that get figured out with each different van setup. Reaching out to others who live a similar lifestyle can save tons of trial and error as well as give great ideas which may improve on your current set up. I love looking in other vans to see what kind of nooks and crannies they have imagined up. People can be so wildly creative, it’s super inspiring!

Thanks for reading. :)

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Our first European van, a retired postman Pat LDV, most unreliable but very cool regardless
The boys hanging out in Albarracin outside his rig

Thursday, June 25, 2015

the insides of a mind

Terry McColl photo
My mind steps in offering words of facts and mediocrity which in no way convey what I want to say. The only thing I care to write about is the very thing which helped, yet it is that very thing which seems to have no words. It conveys an overall sense of complete emptiness yet completely void of any loneliness. Coupled with contentment and ease, it gave a glimpse of what was possible, offering a taste of what could be.

It may seem like confusing talk, though to me it is quite clear though not concrete. The only way I would allow myself to go to the Toronto and Vail World Cup was if my goal was simply to have fun and be relaxed. In other words, allow myself a taste of freedom. Climbing has always offered me that liberty; a chance to let go of the voices that tell me I can’t do something or that I am not good enough. It demands incredible focus and concentration on the task at hand. One’s very existence becomes void, fusing with the rock itself into a fluid of movement. All thoughts and feelings disappear with the simple task of focused action on the climb itself.

But what if there were a thousand eyes watching your every move, the music a little too loud, conditions not ideal? Now put in a timer, a judge and a climb set to test your weaknesses and strengths. You’re comfort zone has just been stripped away. The sense of flow that climbing offered is interrupted. Awareness redirects from inside to outside. Eyes widen and breathing becomes shallower. The panic button is near but you’ve finally trained yourself to expect this stress and adversity. Suddenly things are changing. A different, unfamiliar path shows itself in increments. The breath becomes calm, the focus rebalances inward. With a simple deep breathe the nerves feel a calming sensation. Thoughts are easily let go and feelings acknowledged and released. The goal is accomplished. Fun is had and accepting things, even the shoulda’s and coulda’s, is easy.

Toronto Landscape
That was the Toronto World Cup for me. My focus remained on my goal, to relax and have fun, no matter the outcome. When tension arose I reminded myself of my breath and let it go. There was to be no repeat of mistakes made at Nationals; no deer in headlights. Although occasionally, I fell down the path of negative self-talk, losing focus and confidence the higher I got up the wall, there was an overall feeling of having figured something out. It was a nice solace from my accustomed uncomfortableness at comps. To have finally found a way to breath amid the stress; to enjoy the experience like I wanted proved a great release. Given my shoulder injury and the resulting lack of training, surprisingly, my result was better than usual. Departing Toronto, feelings of possibility and hope infused themselves. I knew with more work, the potential to relax and re-focusing could go even further.

My insides exploded with the apparent simplicity of this revelation which presented a new challenge: maintaining that state. Leading up to Vail, the pressure built up to relax and have fun. Ironically the only cure to this was to simply keep doing what I had done for Toronto. The realization of how easy it was had me in a stir. It no longer felt easy. What I did before took no effort, just awareness. Yet here I was trying to let go of the idea of letting go while trying too hard to let go… it was the most opposite of battles.

Terry  McColl photo
With my wanting the emptiness and freedom which seemed so eternal quickly disappeared into a hiding place which only I could find. My will wanted its release, to welcome the sense of lightness but that very clinging led to its own demise. There was no separation but my mind thought otherwise. My freedom had hidden beyond the veil of clouds of my own mind. Feelings rose out of fear, challenging its existence and disappearance under whose presence it could not show itself. In its own silent nature of stillness, it patiently waited for my return. There seemed no going back but the very idea of going back to what already existed was insane. The answer had showed itself. It was allowing the answer which was the challenge.

It wasn’t surprising that Vail didn’t go so well. Thinking back to Toronto there were clear moments when I anchored myself with my breath. As for Vail I recall one sole moment when I stayed focused and clear: problem one. I was stepping precariously onto the starting hold, repeating the word ‘trust’ over and over until I finally leaped to the final hold. After this, reminding myself to let go, stay focused and breathe was incredibly hard, as if there was a limited amount of built in presence. Walking away, I learned more about what does work and what doesn’t. The subsequent challenge of letting the thoughts and feelings go regarding disappointment and failure were curiously enough, coped with much easier than past experiences. :)

Between the two comps, learning what worked and didn’t work filled me with a motivation to do it all again. To completely lose myself and be completely engrossed in the task at hand proved the ultimate goal. Luckily I have been given another chance and am allowed to compete at the Munich World Cup. :) Until then, the daily adversities of life are opportunities to practice what I must do in comps; simply let the bad habits and thoughts go, focus on my breath and fill myself with positive belief of what’s possible. Sounds easy right? ;)

Thanks for reading.

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 Many Thanks!

my coach!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Part two of the Squamish Climbing Magazine interview

Here is the second series of interviews I recently did with the Squamish Climbing Magazine.
Follow the link for the remainder of the interview if you'd like to read more!! :)

IFSC Bouldering World Cup Vail: Interview with Thomasima Pidgeon Part Two

By Tim Schaufele | June 5, 2015

Thomasina (far left) and Team Canada. Photo: Unknown ©
The second IFSC Bouldering World Cup of the season starts today in Vail, Co. Rumour has it that the weather around Colorado has made it difficult for those getting there last minute. With the Toronto and Vail events being so close together, athletes who are competing in both events can reflect quickly on their performance and make the changes necessary for the next round.

Last week, we interviewed Thomasina Pidgeon as she prepared for the IFSC Bouldering World Cup Toronto and we thought it would be interesting to check in with her as she moves from one competition to another. Thomasina left for Colorado on Tuesday and here is what she had to say.

Hi Thomasina, thanks again for chatting with us. How are you feeling about your performance last week in the IFSC Bouldering Toronto World Cup?

Well, I am intrigued and glad about my performance but one can always do better..!! Regardless of the outcome, my goal was to have fun and to relax and I was for sure more relaxed than normal which is good but I can go even further with this. I lost my focus and relaxation a few times and definitely needed to climb with more aggression. It seemed the higher I got on the problem the more my attention went to my thinking which was telling me that my foot was going to slip and that the holds were too far. This is a reoccurring problem for me so I really need to focus on being more present instead of listening to my negative chatter! Also I need to climb less safe, aka, more dynamic… No surprise there.

Can you tell us a bit about the qualifier round? From our perspective it looked hard!

Most of the problems were well set. The first was a face which involved balance and then a huge jump or some unprobable solution that I just couldn’t see. The second was a subtle jump off a fat pinching sloper to a sloping crimp. I tried this too many times and couldn’t get the bonus which is a bummer as the moves after looked like my style. This problem reminded me to slow down and read the problems a bit better as I didn’t see the jump when I read it. Less tries would of given me more power. Live and learn! The third was powerful bigger moves on crimps. I managed to get the bonus but then I quickly got nervous and lost my focus. When reaching for the next hold I told myself that my foot was going to slip and that it was too far. Bad mental skills here!! The forth was technical on volumes with a small jump to a big reach/lock over to a sloper. I made it near the top with the lock off but couldn’t quite reach the sloper, I was climbing too safe. A little dynamic-ness might of helped here but my foot felt so insecure..! The fifth and final problem was a slab with huge volume. I got off the ground but that’s about it. Nobody in my group sent this problem so it was obviously hard! Those Brits..!!

Thomasina at Provincials.
Photo courtesy of Shane Murdoch ©  

You have just made the journey to Colorado. What is your plan this week?

Hopefully catch up with some old friends who live here, train once at the Spot and try to just stay relaxed and calm for the competition.

Does it help having both North American World Cups in the same week?

I think it does. For myself it keeps the feeling of competition fresh in my head and helps me to be more prepared for what’s to come. It’s also a chance to redeem oneself of the mistakes from the weekends before that are fresh in the head.

How has last weeks performance affected your mental state going into this weeks performance?

It kind of has which is funny because my goal was to have fun, be relaxed and try to let go of the thoughts and beliefs that hold me back. Discovering that this way of being helped makes me even more nervous..! It’s ironic though because the solution to this new expectation, pressure and nervousness, is to simply keep practicing what i have been! Relaxing and letting go. It’s really interesting because i see all of the adversity faced this week from delayed flights to rude comments from strangers as a test to accept, let go and refocus on what’s actually happening. There’s a clinging sensation followed by a real sense of freedom.

Click here for part two of the interview...