I said “NO” to climbing last weekend. I didn’t want to climb trad on Mt. Hood. I didn’t want to go to a “secret spot” with incredible sport climbing north of Seattle. I just wanted a break from climbing. I slept in on Saturday, packed up the car, filled it with gas, and drove five hours southwest from Portland to Crater Lake National Park. I had never seen the massive body of water and just wanted to finally be able to say that I had.
I wanted to be above the clouds without anyone around, no rope, no gear, just a wide expanse without dialogue or distraction. Because I haven’t acquired the skill of free soloing (yet), I decided that a trail run would be sufficient.
I chose to run up Mt. Scott, and at 8,938 feet in elevation my trail run quickly turned into a walk/jog uphill battle. This being the highest point in the park, a fire lookout was strategically placed at the end of the trail overlooking the lake and all of the land surrounding it.
The trail was gradual, moving through a pumice field at first, then it climbs up through a forest of mountain hemlock and a few Shasta red firs. I suppose what made it “strenuous” was the couple of long switchbacks, but its over rather quickly and unravels into the summit ridge, which leads to the fire lookout.
Seeing Crater Lake above and out of sight of all the other park goers reminded me of why I started climbing in the first place: to breathe and be in the wild. Seeing Crater Lake reminded me of the bigger picture. Just as we can sometimes find ourselves clouded by tunnel vision when climbing a hard route, I had found myself needing to step back from the wake up-work-climb-repeat routine that I had found myself in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great routine, but everyone needs a break from their obsessions every once in a while.
The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. What is your body telling you? What is your mind telling you? If you are feeling burned out from climbing take a step back. Your project isn’t going anywhere. Sometimes we can really benefit from breaking away, and through creating that space we can find the most gains.
Climbing is about 99.9% mental. When we let go of wanting something to happen, like climbing a grade higher, or getting the redpoint, we are taking a profound step toward being present. When we become present, we can truly develop ourselves. This translates not only in climbing, of course, but as humans walking around on this earth.
From the book, Wherever You go, There You Are, by Jon Kabatt-Zinn, he states: “If we don’t really know where we are standing - a knowing that comes directly from the cultivation of mindfulness - we may only go in circles, for all our efforts and expectations.” The best way to get somewhere is to let go of getting anywhere at all.
The best way to get the summit, is to let go of the summit.
---This wise person’s name is delectably close to the word “women.” Coincidence? I think NOT.
*Though there are no universal rules for resting, you can gauge how much you need by following these guidelines:
1. The amount of time you need to rest should match how much effort you put in. So, if you climbed moderately, rest moderately. If you projected and pushed yourself all day, rest for two or three days. Listen to your body. You should be energized before you train. If you’re not feeling it, you probably need to rest a day longer.
2. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a real thing. Strenuous exercise causes your muscle fibers to become microscopically damaged. You have experienced DOMS if you have ever felt more sore after the second day of rest. Give your body enough time to recover.
3. Break up your climbing routine. Go for a run, swim, bike, do some acroyoga (it’s in these days!), go surfing! Resting is where you make improvements in strength. Taking care of yourself while you rest, meaning drinking and eating right, sleeping enough, etc., leads to quicker recovery time and being able to train harder during your next session.
4. Don’t take resting for granted. You can still be productive when you rest from climbing! Taking a rest day doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means you want to be a better climber for the long haul. Do your body right and rest up. We are more prone to injuries when we overtrain, which is another important reason to rest. Beginner climbers should be especially aware of rest days. It is when we are most eager to get in the gym as newbies that we are ignorant to the signs of injury. Don’t be shy to approach some more experienced climbers for advice on how long and how often to climb.
Rushing our climbing progress only makes for sloppy results.
Truth be told, I needed a rest weekend. After my run, I took the drive further to Toketee Falls. Then Umpqua Hot Springs. In the morning I drove to the coast. It was a glorious 36 hour trip. More driving than anything else, but surprisingly, that felt good.
Here's a little taste of what I was listening to on the road.
Rest Weekend Playlist:
Some cheesy classic road trip songs, some overplayed indie cry-your-eyes out songs, some upbeat and “Wow, I can’t believe I’m listening to this happy crap” songs, and some just plain, GOOD songs