Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Adventures of Peter and Matilda

A weekend of climbing at the Gunks is...well...a little like bird watching. During the course of one sunday afternoon I got to experience many of the known climbing stereotypes (with the exception of the lycra-wearing 90's sport climber, see below...

To be fair, it is very likely that we will deal more with this staple of the stereotypical climber as we go on across the country--the northeast is really not prime habitat for the lycra crowd. More on that later...

There was a strong showing from the Euro community; from what I could tell, predominately German folks. It was interesting listening to them on the route next to us giving eachother beta and yelling down at their children who seemed to be at far greater risk while untied at the base of the cliff than they would have been with at least some rope to constrain their antics...

Yes, here is where we met Peter and Matilda. Very nice children at least from the standpoint of someone who has no stake in their safety; both were probably 8-10 respectively and who can blame them for seeking out entertainment by wandering up and down the cliff base talking to other parties whilst their parents were busy fighting gravity above...

Matilda entertained Trevor by spitting some rhymes while simultaneously engaging in a vigorous game of "catch" with her brother--using their dads shoe as a ball. This would have been all well and good had Peter not eventually biffed the catch and begun to tumble down the embankment after the errant shoe...Fortunately one of their parental figures arrived on the scene to chide Peter for his acrobatics and we moved on to view different subjects.

As usual, there was a strong presence of New Jersey climbers out at the crags as well. This is a widely observed group that is commonly found on routes that are 5.5 and below; listen for sounds of childbirth peppered with complaints that "there just ARENT any footholds" or "this is A LOT harder than 5.5 in the gym, brah!" Typically this population is middle aged and male. The good news is that the ego commonly involved in selecting routes that are over the head of this climbing group often leads to mini-epics which result in gear being abandoned, which translates into free gear (sometimes)...

We got a chance to listen to no less than 25 minutes of the group leader at the very top of the cliff, hollering down directions to his completely befuddled second on how to remove a cam. I am not sure whether it annoyed me more to have to listen to an in depth kinesthetic analysis of a movement that is about as simple as picking your nose or whether it was just the sheer volume of the whole debacle that provoked my self righteous indignation...

Speaking of self-righteous...we got to see one of those too--the semi local, from Westchester County who feels obligated to challenge everyones climbing ability since he just onsighted his first 5.7. This character appeared (oddly enough) once I was up about 35 feet on Snookys. This subject often appears when the male climber is on lead and out of the way, leaving the isolated female belayer open to his blithering. As I paused to place a stopper I hear strains of the conversation with this gentleman and my wife, wafting up in my direction. "Does he KNOW what he's DOING? Or where he's GOING?" blah blah blah "It's only 5.7, really"

I found this exchange particularly odd since Snookys is one of the straightest lines at the Gunks...but thankfully this undesirable made his way down to bother Peter and Matilda's group...I heard him haranguing the Germans about their ability to complete the second pitch of their route as he inquired if they too, knew what they were doing...

Snooky's Return from steve richert on Vimeo.

Towards the end of our afternoon I encountered the damsels in distress, a female counterpart to the New Jersey n00b. Somehow they had rappelled off the guides wall, leaving all their anchor setups in tact; so I volunteered to retrieve it for them. In good conscience I couldn't do otherwise since the top of this wall can be accessed by soloing a 5.0 gully that I have climbed many many times...in sandals.

So off I went, much to their chagrin, as they observed that I probably should have a rope on for such terrain. Upon getting to their anchor I found a setup that would certainly have voided the terms of their life insurance policy; I tried to think of a nice way of asking if they ever planned to climb again, because the way the gear had been placed really made me believe in the staying power of angelic forces; for the life of me I couldn't think of what else held that cam in there. CAM. not CAMS. Single point anchor.

I returned their gear to them and as nicely as I could told them that their anchor scared me more than soloing up to get it and then soloing back down to deliver it to them. They were very appreciative and I have no idea if my advice had any effect...

Besides all of that though, Stef Trevor Vanessa and I had a great time on Snooky's Return (5.8), Friends and Lovers (5.9) and later Trevor led Fingerlocks (or cedar box) (5.5) and we all went home for pizza and wings!

Authors note: The ability to laugh at ourselves is one of several things that separates us from animals. If you feel as though you fit into one of the demographics that was lampooned in this post, consider yourself lucky, since I am just attempting to help you laugh at yourself; I lead by example and laugh at you, myself! Polite, stuffy writing is not only patently dishonest but it is boring. If you seek such tripe, tell your friends about this blog and then go read the NY Times.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Friends and Lovers

Since the last post, a lot has been going on. For one, thing we started up our Facebook page and so far have just over 40 "likes" at the time of this posting. I have no idea how that compares with the progress that other ventures experience, but it seems to be steady progress and that's what matters. If you have not done so yet, you can help us out a LOT by "liking" us on Facebook and recommending us to your friends.

The biggest step has been the launching of the web page. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Stefanie, the site has progressed from an amorphous lump of dung to what you see now--which looks BAD ASS! Please be patient with the development of the web page--you can see that it is going to be fantastic, but it will take some time to get it really dialed in.

We will have links on there for donations and we will also tie in our blog and FB pages there too...but I will keep you updated on that progress here and through FB updates! Right now, the biggest objective is to get people talking about the project and get them interested--and telling your friends costs nothing and is a HUGE help and is greatly appreciated!

So yesterday (returning to the relevance of the title of this post) Stefanie and I and Trevor and his girlfriend Vanessa headed out to the Gunks to climb and have one last hurrah on the rocks together before Trevor and I head out west. We will be heading out this Friday (7.15) for a month, to sort out some logistics for the 365 Challenge, and to get a bunch of footage to give everyone a nice sexy preview of what is to come! I will be updating the blog from the road so stay tuned for more pix and videos!

A nice "candid" (read:appalling) shot of myself assessing the scene of the climbs..."Snookys Return 5.8" and Trevor who is demonstrating the "one-handed-no-look-belay" as Vanessa enjoys "Friends and Lovers 5.9". Everyone sent in good style and no one was dropped.

A few shots of myself on "Friends and Lovers" --these pictures were taken with the GoPro HD hero (a fun little HD camera frequently advertised on this very site)

Our lovely camerawoman, my lovely wife and partner in the 365 Challenge. Every picture and video is a result of laborious efforts on the part of someone who is shooting instead of climbing--and oddly enough, they are never (or rarely) in the pictures! I want to make sure credit is given where it is due. Thanks, Stef!

I had been up all last night making a short movie of me leading "Snookys" but apparently I goofed it up when I saved it so I am going to post it up separately.
I am excited to get on the road again and to share this preview of the 365 Challenge with you.

In the meantime, like us on Facebook and subscribe to blog updates by entering your email at the BOTTOM of this page!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Video Progess and general foolery

365 Challenge intro (rough) from steve richert on Vimeo.

So tomorrow morning was supposed to be a sunrise filming event for the 365 Film, but between weather and people bailing and all sorts of "life" happening, well, its going to have to wait till another day.

Guiding has been very slow for me recently, giving me a lot of time to crank out these mini sections of film and I recently joined a more conventional fitness center to pass the time, which quite honestly made my skin crawl as I worked out there today for the first time...not used to so many people all up in my space.

The facebook and twitter progress is very slow; it seems like no one is taking notice of what we are doing yet...so we have to keep trying harder! I am psyched because I just found out that my niece is coming up this way and wants to get out climbing--its always a great big time when family is willing to get on a rope with me!

Ok, enjoy the video--more to come!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

JDRF Partnership in the works!

From the outset of the 365 challenge it was our hope to be able to partner with the JDRF in order to have a greater effect and reach more people. I was a tad worried that they might laugh at me when I approached with the idea of a year long rock climbing marathon to raise Type 1 Diabetes awareness...but surprise, surprise! The NENY Chapter of the JDRF Branch Director took an interest, met with us and she loved the idea!

So this IS going to happen...in one afternoon this went from being a neat idea to being an immanent reality, replete with a shit-ton of planning, paperwork, red tape and logistical nightmares! Sweet!

Now comes the hard part...waiting and laying the groundwork for the operation as much as possible...but while we are waiting to hear exactly how far down this rabbit-hole the JDRF would like to go, we can't really approach businesses or organizations for sponsorship...but this gives us some time to get the film underway, which will hopefully make sponsors more eager to back this project in some way--so its all for the best!

I am currently compiling a list of groups to approach once we have all the groundwork laid...if you know of a business that might be interested in backing us, giving us canned food, oatmeal, gas cards, a motorhome, climbing gear, clothing or footwear, please send us a message!

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Next steps--inching forward...

Over the coming weeks and months we will have a lot of prep work going on--we have less than 6 months till the 365 Challenge actually kicks off, so we will be busy getting things rolling.

We have a proper website under construction, which will have donation information, bios, sponsors and our links to the JDRF website and more! Getting the page up and running is priority one--but in the meantime there is much to do.

I am producing a short video feature (I just started making movies, so it may be a bit unpolished to start with) to give everyone a more concrete idea of who I am and what my vision is for the 365 Challenge. I know that a lot of people don't get drawn into the written word and would like more visually appealing material to enjoy...

Here is the first real video I have made--more to come soon!

Boulder of the gods from steve richert on Vimeo.

So over the next month or so I have a mini-movie to make, which is a LOT of work (but it's fun work, for the most part) and I think it will really make this challenge come alive for folks watching. Part of this will involve taking a month long "pre-view" climbing trip out west to visit and film the locations (some of them, at least) that we will be visiting during the course of the 356 Challenge...I will be blogging the entire debacle--er--adventure, right here, replete with video shorts, pictures and seasoned with my colorful prose!

Like I said, its FUN work!

Tentatively I leave NY on 7.15.11, so prior to that time I am going to be shooting some local climbing videos with the help of some friends--in fact we are going to pull an "all-nighter" and shoot some sunrise footage on Friday morning!

That's right--there is exceptional rock climbing in New York State--but I don't intend to spoil that all just yet--wait and see!

In the meantime, please follow this blog and SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The 365 Challenge--some background and perspective

What does Type 1 Diabetes have to do with climbing?  For me, well, it goes a little bit like this. A little over 12 years ago, I was a (relatively) normal kid, eating honey nut Cheerios, drinking Gatorade and living a carefree life. In the early spring of 1999, I came down with a nasty case of encephalitis which triggered the auto-immune disruption that killed my pancreas and left me this gift that keeps on giving: Type 1 Diabetes!

So in the intervening years, I decided to play the cards that were dealt to me, prioritizing my health over monetary gains, careers and friends. Not letting Diabetes dictate what I would or would not do has become my full-time job, and that has meant that any job or hobby must involve a significant physical component or else it becomes detrimental to managing this condition.

Rock climbing started out as a Youtube induced college dream and has since become my passion and my job. I have the privilege of introducing others to the vertical world and I write and photograph climbing and the amazing places that this activity has taken me. Managing my sugar has been a challenge in all of this, but it can be done with the right attitude. So basically I climb rocks and mountains (and rappel into slot canyons from time to time) while keeping Type 1 Diabetes at bay.

I have been doing this for the last decade in one form or another because it just seemed natural to me; the path of least resistance. Accepting the challenges you have to face in order to assess and overcome them. From my point of view it would be strange and unnatural to do anything besides work, work out, eat the same things every day (just about), manage my sugar and climb all over North America as finances permit. You can get a little background on my personal climbing/adventuring background that has led me to this point by checking out my older, personal blog. And the very first one from our first major road trip.

On memorial day weekend (2011) while driving out to a friends wedding in Massachussetts, my wife pointed out the fact that other people who have Type 1 themselves or loved ones with the condition could benefit from seeing what we do out climbing on the road, and that even people who don't have the slightest reason to care about Diabetes can still embrace healthy living!

So, beginning on January 1, 2012, I am committing myself to a solid year of climbing, at locations all over North America, to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes and funding for the JDRF. The time between then and now will be spent in preparation as there is a LOT to do to get ready, and in just a few months, it will be go time!

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