Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gold Wall, Yosemite - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 12 Weeks Pregnant

In late March, my good friend Brian Collet and I decided to tick a route that both of us had been eyeing for awhile.  Gold Wall (Silent Line), a 9-pitch, 900' 5.10 in the Ribbon Falls Area, seemed like the perfect way to kick off the 2013 Yosemite season.

Luckily for Team Christensen, Andrew's parents were in town and volunteered to stay home with Ainsley so that we could both get some climbing in for the weekend.  Andrew ended up blitzing the South Face of Mt. Watkins with our friend Vlad Sofiyev.  But I digress...

Overall, Gold Wall was a mixture of exactly what we expected at some points, and not at all what we expected in others.  For example, the topo we were using indicated that we were getting ourselves into a route with a poorly-maintained approach and anchors, but right off the bat we were surprised to find a well-groomed trail with probably 100 or so cairns the whole way.  We found that the route had similarly been taken care of, with loads of shiny new anchor bolts and rap rings.

We stuck to our plan of swapping leads the whole way using an 80 meter rope.  I took the sharp end first and linked pitches 1 and 2.  The first 5.9 section off the ground was way more awkward and insecure than I anticipated, which led to an easy bolt ladder (easy if you're stepping in slings) then an awkward 5.10/5.11 flaring crack in pitch 2.  The whole business took me way longer than I thought it would.  Brian then lucked out and got the tiny pitch 3 where the route traverses left to the free variation (Silent Line).  He banged that thing out in like 10 minutes. I was on the hook again for the next 200' pitch (technically pitches 4 and 5), and had a giant grin on my face the whole way up.  The entire thing was essentially a beautiful 5.10 splitter: jam after perfect jam.  Was I in Indian Creek?  My poor thumb muscles that were pumped from jamming seemed to think so every time I clipped a piece of gear.

Pitch 5 was Brian's.  This pitch was by far one of the wildest I've ever done, especially in Yosemite.  Just prior, Brian and I kept looking at the topo and scratching our heads about this pitch.  "Belly crawl?  Hmm.  Wonder what that means."  Turns out, it means exactly that! You climb up an awesome flaring chimney which pinches off at the top inside the rock, leading you to a perfect little hole that you have no choice but to crawl through on your belly until you pop out right back on the face, staring down at nothing but air. Definitely the coolest pitch on the route.

We knocked out the last couple pitches pretty quickly, but were underwhelmed by them and decided that pitch 9, a 5.9 offwidth/chimney didn't sound very enticing, especially as it is customary to rap the route after that pitch.  So after we finished pitch 8, we rapped down feeling extremely grateful that we had opted to take an 80 meter rope rather than a 70, as we used every last bit of the rope length for the last rappel.

We completed the route base-to-base in about 8 hours, starting the climb at 10:20 a.m. and finishing the last rappel at 6:30 p.m.

As for the pregnancy aspect, I admit that I was a bit worried how it would go, especially while I was on the approach.  I had puked just the week before sport climbing, and was feeling over-exhausted and a bit pukey on the hike up.  I ended up going r-e-a-l-l-y slowly the whole approach, and was afraid that my exhaustion would affect my climbing.  Luckily, the moment I lifted off on the first pitch, I felt totally great and continued to feel awesome the rest of the day.  Turns out that for me, pregnancy mainly affects my ability to hike.  (Maybe this is symptomatic of my overall fitness level? Hmm.)

Well, in the end, I found the route to be slightly challenging, a lot of fun, and overall a great way to open this year's Yosemite season.

PS-Sadly, we took almost no pictures on the route.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wingsuiting in Lodi - March 2nd and 9th - Nine and Ten Weeks Pregnant

Hadn't been skydiving for awhile, and I realized that I only have a few more weeks to go before the end of my first trimester (which will mark the end of the time I allow myself to skydive)! We went two weekends in a row and had a blast.  The first Saturday I was able to get five wingsuit jumps in, and got to flock with a bunch of cool people. The next week I did another five wingsuit jumps, but also got to do my first helicopter jump!  It was crazy not being in a wingsuit for the first time in almost a year and a half, but the free fall factor was oh-so-awesome.  Needless to say, Team Christensen had a good time in Lodi, even Ainsley!  She had a ton of fun exploring all the weird things that the dropzone has to offer: giant pipes laying around, strange structures to climb on, dogs galore, airplanes to watch take off and land, couches all over the place to crawl on, etc.

Gold Wall, Sonora - Saturday, February 23 - Eight Weeks Pregnant

Headed out to Gold Wall in Sonora today, and luckily this time there was no puking involved.  Thank goodness! I got on Wicked Gold, 5.13a, a route I've tried one time before a couple weeks ago.  The stars must have aligned for me, because I somehow didn't feel very sick.  In fact, I felt really pretty normal!  I got on it once, figured out the beta on a few tricky sequences, then tried it again and amazingly got it!  My second 5.13a ever, and eight weeks pregnant!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Climbing and Pregnancy: Round 2

Yep, sometime in late January I found myself puking in the car on the way out to Gold Wall in Sonora: a clear sign that baby #2 was on the way!  But in spite of the first trimester morning sickness, we're thrilled to have a new little one--a baby boy, we are told--join Team Christensen.

I will say, however, that as a climber, learning that you're pregnant brings with it quite a set of challenges.  Since I had Ainsley, now 19 months ago, I've been on a quest to get back into stellar climbing shape.  We had an amazing climbing year in 2012 and I was able to explore a lot of new routes in the Valley, Verdon Gorge, Grenoble, Lover's Leap, and Tuolumne, and got to revisit several "old friend" routes, such as the Regular Route of Half Dome and the Rostrum.  At the beginning of 2013, I was in the process of projecting 13s again, and was finally, after almost two years, back at the top of my climbing ability.  So there were a range of emotions that occurred when I learned I was pregnant once again. There was excitement, of course, about having another baby and for Ainsley to become a big sister, but I also found myself frustrated and a little bit sad looking forward to the upcoming spring, summer, and fall climbing seasons knowing that almost all of my climbing goals for 2013 would have to be saved for another year.  Furthermore, after finally feeling fully recovered and strong after pregnancy #1, the clock was being reset leaving me on another year-and-a-half process of losing strength then trying to regain it.

Luckily for me, however, I've been through the climbing and pregnancy experience before and I know that while it does change the game a bit, it doesn't mean that I have to opt out of it completely. I'll just have to learn and adapt, as I did during my last pregnancy, and as I did figuring out how to climb (and do everything else in life) with a baby--and now toddler--in tow.

As for my 2013 climbing goals, I'm happy to report that I actually have already ticked a few of my original goals and have since readjusted the others to accommodate for my ever-expanding belly.  So in spite of a slight change to my 2013 plans, I'm now nothing but happy about the routes I've already been able to do during this pregnancy, and optimistic about the many long moderate routes that I've got planned for it's remainder while I wait for the moment I get to meet my new little guy.