Fall of Man, March 24, 2009

Fall of Man

Tuesday March 24, 2009

It's been over a year since I was on the road

climbing fulltime. Now I am

working fulltime, which means my climbing time has been limited,

especially outdoors. Still, I try to make the most

of the time I can get. For instance, this last week

I was able to work from Las Vegas and squeeze in

some outdoor climbing in my free time. This worked

well for me and hopefully for my work, too.

Essentially, I would climb the weekend and take 2

of the work week days and climb the morning and then

work the afternoon into the evening. All other work

days, I work the full day or more to make sure those

mornings that I am climbing, I can be offline with

little impact to the business.

With the short time I can get away, I worry about

how fit and able I will be outdoors. My first

outdoor trip since November (October really, since

November was friggin' impossible conditions to

climb) was just one month ago.

I'd been trying to get into rope shape but my

endurance wasn't quite up to par. I had about 5

bolts worth of tolerance and was fighting a constant

pump on everything I tried. My warmups and projects

felt equally challenging, but I sucked up the

suffering knowing my stamina would come back quickly, and

quickly it did!

That trip was a weekend trip, and on the last day

of my trip I knew my endurance had improved and was

desperate to find a climbing partner to meet me

early in the morning before I had to work. I finally

found someone and met them at the wall. Eric, from Vegas, was up at the

Gallery wall with a friend of his. They were

climbing all the 10s to the left of the Gallery when

I arrived so I joined them until they were ready to

head into the Gallery.

I felt really good on the warm up and was psyched

to try my 'mini' project: 'The Gift.' (I call it 'mini' not

because it's small but because I'd never set my mind

to get there to project it. I only try it from time

to time whenever I am there so only 3 or 4 times

prior. It's such a nice climb that I began using it

as fitness test rather than a project, especially

since each return I'd have to re-learn the route

because the time between tries was so long!) I was

kind of nervous that I might be hyping my potential,

but when I got up to the crux, I knew I was sending

it. My recovery was finally working and I walked the

climb like a warmup. It was awesome, so much so that

I was disappointed I had to leave. My excitement

left me wanting more and I was flying back to

Seattle that day (and as it turned out, I was flying

back to snow!). booo.

Psyched by my performance that day I couldn't

wait to get back out. 2 weeks later I was back in

Vegas and determined to climb every spare moment I


Mike was a sweetheart this trip, as opposed to

being in Alaska on my last trip. πŸ™‚ Since I couldn't

climb full days, he let me climb what I wanted on my

mornings and then he'd head off and do his climbing

while I worked from the local library. On the

weekend, it worked well because we traded days,

except for the weekend of the Red Rock Rendezvous

where I helped with clinics and he went out and

climbed. πŸ™‚  After hiking 'Dirt Cowboy'

up at the VRG, a

really fun 12c that starts bouldery and ends super

technical, Mike told me to 'step it up.'  Since

it was only the 1st day of my week trip, I figured

why not? After all, I had a few more climbing days

to put into something.

*Spoiler alert* information

about the climb 'Fall of Man' may be forthcoming.

You have been warned! πŸ™‚

Mike suggested a climb called 'Fall of Man.' It goes

at 13b and takes about 40 minutes to climb if you

are Mike, who knows the climb and has done it a few

times in the past. It's a 5 star route and a classic

at this cliff. At about 35m in length, it boasts a

20' run-out from the last bolt to the chains. The

redpoint crux comes up high, and is only difficult

because you might be pumped or you don't like small

biting holds. The actual crux is considered to be

the section after the 8th bolt. For me, clipping the

7th draw was the 'crux,' though I did fall

in the actual crux, but I blame

that on the temps not the difficulty of the move. πŸ™‚

The first 5 bolts are 'Fall of Mouse' a lovely

pocketed little climb on it's own, often used as a

warmup on the Blasphemy wall that boasts this and

other climbs like 'Necessary

Evil' (anyone interested in watching James Litz

hike this should click the link, it's an awesome

video! note how he swings his feet off of razor thin

edges as though they were jugs! but I digress…), and

High Flames Drifter (in this video, Fall of Mouse is just to

the right of HFD start and if you keep looking to

the right of HFD, you can see a few of the draws

(not really much of the features) and at one point,

there's a pan out when HFD ends, keep looking up

because FoM goes on and on and on, long after the

HFD finish).

(note from here, all draws are referenced from

the end of 'Fall of Mouse.' Therefore the 1st clip

on 'Fall of Man' is the first bolt after 'Fall of

Mouse' and so on.)

At the end of 'Fall of Mouse' there is a nice

kneebar rest. Mike and others can rest on a good

ledge up and right but my toes barely stay on the

foot holds without feeling super stretched out.

Therefore, the kneebar proved to be a better rest

for me despite that I didn't feel the need to

recover when I hit that point. I figure, if you've

got it, you might as well use it. πŸ™‚

The first day I got on it, I couldn't fathom how

to get to the first bolt. Mike had belayed this

girl, Heather, on it not long before and was trying

to convey her beta, but I couldn't figure it out

that way.  To help me get past it (and show me

his beta, and try to show me Heather's (humiliating,

I know!)) Mike went up and set a TR through the

first 4 bolts of 'Fall of Man.' This helped me

incredibly. I tried Mike's beta, but I didn't have

the span. It also turns out Mike couldn't figure out

Heather's beta so I was left to sort something out

on my own.

The one piece of beta in that section of Heather's that helped me

was a sidepull down and left that I turned into an

undercling. She goes up with her left hand and I go

up with my right. Go figure. πŸ™‚

My beta seemed pretty good to the first bolt and

with the nubbin tip from Heather's beta up to the second,

I figured I could link that section pretty quickly.

My only problem would be clipping the 2nd draw. I

had heard that a lot of people climb past it and

clip it when it's at their shins, but I wanted none

of that! 

The problem with clipping the draw is that the

hold you are on is not that positive. When it was

warm, I was literally slipping out of it. It's like

a 2" wide, ~foot long slopey, slanted, slot with a

slight lip you can bear down on. Mike says he crimps

the lowest part, but my right hand is hogging that

space so I have to use the mid-section. I didn't

feel that I had enough energy to fuss in this thing

and try to move my hand down, though it was an

option I'd considered. The left foot is pretty good,

but the right foot is not. The next few holds aren't

any better, either. You definitely either clip here

or keep climbing.

If you keep climbing, you enter the actual crux

section of the pitch. Compared to the trouble I had

down lower, I did not find the crux that tricky or problematic. This

section was a tad temperature dependent but should

just be a matter of 'just do it.'

The next day, Mike went up 'Fall of Man' and set

the whole thing on TR. This was super sweet of him!

I'd been having such a hard time on those first

few moves that I could at least test the moves from

yesterday with the bonus of seeing what the upper

section was like. After that, I did a bolt to bolt

lead to the

chains. I only grabbed 2 draws on my way. I was

super psyched to have made all of the moves but came

down completely humbled and in awe of anyone who'd

ever sent the climb! I wasn't sure this climb was

going to go in the little time I had and I was worried about one of those

2 clips so the next day the goal was to clip the 2nd


The next day, still psyched by my progress and

ready to test some link ups, I got on the sharp end

and lead to the 2nd draw. I was really sketched but

managed to grab the

draw. It was a miserable day for me

(well, it was my 4th day of climbing despite it

having been barely half days every day). I was

disappointed and bit disheartened to walk away

(especially since I knew my time was limited).

I bagged climbing it and since I hadn't yet taken an

outdoor fall, I unclipped from the 2nd draw (of 'Fall of

Man,' obviously) and got that out of my system.

The weather forecast indicated temperatures were

only getting warmer

and I feared there would only be next season to

think about. As it was, everyone else had already

walked away saying the season had ended for the


Finding a climbing partner to go back up there was

going to be difficult.

Mike was setting for a local bouldering

competition and wasn't sure he would be able to come

out with me. I desperately started

asking anyone who might be free. This is not an easy

task when everyone thinks the Gorge is out of

season and I can only put in a few hours and I'm

asking them to leave ungodly early from Vegas (it's

about a 2 hour drive) so I can get the best morning

temps possible; but, one friend, Sebastian, came through for

me. Sebastian had just done 'Fall of Man' this year,

as well, so I thought it could be a bit of extra

support on the climb. In the end, Mike was able to

take me out there, which was awesome for me and

Sebastian (who chose to go to Secret 13 instead).

Unfortunately, there was no breeze and the air

temperature was warm, even first thing in the


We were there with 2 Salt Lake climbers: Rosie

and Clay. They bailed pretty early claiming the rock

wasn't climbable. I had to agree, but I wasn't

anticipating a send so it didn't matter to me. My

goal was to clip that 2nd draw and clip it, I did! 

It was the first time I'd clipped it and to my

surprise it was my new highpoint! I had thought once

the draw was clipped there was no way I would fall

going past it, but, I did. I was able to do a few

moves but then I pumped out. Perplexed, I spent some

time sorting a sequence through there that might

work better (i.e. when I'm completely spent). The

crux was slimy and I was falling all over this one

move. grrr. With the warm temperatures, the best I

could make out was that I was over gripping to

compensate for the sliminess of the holds. Still, I

was psyched to have clipped the 2nd draw for the

first time. Worried I'd have to walk away, I watched

the weather forecast like a hawk and Mike (being the

supportive boyfriend) offered to take me back up there no

matter what!

It would be my last climbing day and potentially

last climbing day outside for awhile. For this

reason, I had it in my mind that no matter the

weather, I was going to enjoy the climb. Afterall,

the climbing up there is amazing! From the moment I

clipped that 2nd draw, I knew the climb was going

down. I just didn't know when. Every free moment, my

mind was consumed with the climb. Every movement,

potential rest, potential shake, foothold, and most

importantly the top of the climb; which I hadn't

been up since my 2nd attempt some days ago.

Camping up in Mesquite had us closer to the gorge

so we could get an earlier start. I thought the camp

ground would be open at the turn around when we

arrived at like 10pm Arizona time, but it wasn't. We

ended up camping in the hills just north…the same

spot that one of our friends was threatened with

duck tape and a gun nearly 10 years ago. We had

another friend with us who would be in a tent and

somehow that comforted me. I thought anyone coming

up our way with mischief in mind would go for the

tent before the truck. πŸ™‚ 

Morning came and not too soon. Either I was

overly amped to get on the climb or too scared of

the location we were camping to sleep. πŸ™‚ Either

way, I didn't care. It was morning and I was going


From outside of the gorge it's hard to tell what

the wind is doing in there. From camp, it was pretty

still. The forecast called for gusts so I kept my

fingers crossed. It would be the only thing to save

me on the climb today…to keep the holds from

feeling slimy or my hands from sweating too much.

Once in the gorge, the wind was really blowing. I

was excited! the warmups would tell me if I was

ready for the climb and they went down easily

enough. A little special tweaking on the last climb

gave me enough of a burn that I felt ready to have

some fun! The wind was so strong at times, the chalk

from my chalk bag would blow out, sand would kick up

and my hair would blind me. All easily fixed.

Heading up 'Fall of Mouse,' I felt good. Not too

good, just good. I tried the kneebar rest

and set my mind on the moves ahead of me: the moves

to the first bolt, clipping the second, etc. I had

an idea for the 2nd clip that might give me an

extra moment for clipping the 2nd draw. It had to be

quick and I hoped the change would give me enough

that I wouldn't feel desperate.

I started up from the rest, feeling strong,

missing some feet but getting to the first bolt ready

to tackle the second sequence. I couldn't hang out

and rest here so I kept moving, a steady and relaxed

pace was my goal. Enjoy the climb. Into the 2nd sequence, the holds

felt strangely more positive, my fingers locking

into the moves easier. I remembered my thought to

move my foot before entering the clipping stance. I

tried, it didn't work. I moved my left foot then

tried the right again before moving my left hand

into the slot, this time it worked. The clip

felt so much easier and I was moving so well through

that section that I didn't think I needed my

modified version, still, it's what I had in mind, so

I executed on that.

Now, into the crux. I got a few shakes just

before heading into the crux. Overall, I felt ready.

I could tell that I wouldn't be able to stay there

long so a few shakes and I was moving again. Left

hand crimp, move my foot, change my hand, move my

left, move my foot, get the better part of the

hold….nooooOOOOO!   Argh! I didn't get

high enough on the hold and my left hand slid

off and I peeled. This was my new high point.

I felt so strong! Could I do it

again???  Now, I was worried about that 2nd

clip, again. What if I was tired enough that I

couldn't clip, would I keep climbing? I had to

decide that I would, but I knew I might disappoint

myself. I opted for the mental note to keep climbing

and hoped my will power would be strong enough to

execute on that if I needed to.

Fortunately, I got a good long rest. Mike and Sonnie were trying Planet

Earth and making good progress. Sonnie'd sent it

before. He was just along for the ride, I guess. πŸ™‚

Mike was super close! Meanwhile, I was trying not to

procrastinate and be diligent about how much time I

would let go by without interfering with their

climbing plans.

Soon it was my time to climb.

Back on the sharp end, I had mentally walked through

each section to the chains. I was ready.

'Fall of Mouse' felt a bit pumpier this

time, but the nearly no hands at the end helped take

the edge off. Up on 'Fall of Man,' I was definitely more tired but still feeling strong. My footwork was better but

the holds didn't feel as grippy. The wind was dying

off and only kicking up in spurts. I tried not to

focus on that part and concentrated on climbing the


The boulder problem to the first bolt went well.

This time I used my feet better. I was a bit more

taxed starting into the second sequence but I kept moving. This time, I remembered

when to move my right foot (having figured that out

on the last attempt) and clipped the 2nd bolt,

again! It was definitely a bit more desperate and

the next few moves to the shake resembled that, but

I believe it was this little foot change that made that

clip possible that 2nd time.

In the crux, I concentrated on getting my hip

tight into the wall. I had to get high in the hold

and I needed enough time for my hand to come from at

my waist to above my head. This time, I didn't peel.

I got the hold, set up to get the better hold (feels

like a jug if you hit it right) but my left foot

wasn't set right. There was no time to adjust, I had

to move or I was definitely coming off.

It was a desperate move to get the hold

and my body came away from the wall, but somehow I

managed to catch the outside edge of it. Right

then, I got really pumped. I was not going to fall

here, I told myself! I made a desperate series of

moves to get up to the next bolt and somehow I made

it. I

clipped and was fortunate to have a spot to shake

out. I had to stay super tight into

the wall, and use any bit of limestone to

help take weight from either hand. I did this dance

for a bit and then set my mind to thinking of the

sequence ahead of me.

As I started up, I noticed how much of the route

I had forgotten or mis-remembered. For instance, it seemed like

the credit card move came quickly. I was expecting

an entirely different set of moves before that.

Humored by my poor recollection, I took the sections

at hand.

Up at the credit card move, I remember having

placed a draw there to 1) reduce the fall distance (I

know, silly, right?) and 2) put a more reliable

piece of gear to fall onto instead of the worn,

taped one in place.  I had put the draw on when

I was going bolt to bolt because

I was greasing off the holds and I didn't want to

put any more wear on the fixed piece.

Now, on redpoint, I had the draw and decided I'd

put it on, all the same. Poor Mike was clueless what

I was up to and he thought I was screwing up the

sequence so I hear him shout up 'sidepull left.' I

ignore him, knowing he probably can't hear me well,

anyway (what with how high I am coupled with the

road noise). The thought of how much energy I was

using to put this draw on didn't seem to phase me. I

was tired, don't get me wrong. And, very aware of

how much pump was going on. Still, I put the draw on and clipped it.


I climbed  back down into my shake out stance before

attempting the credit card moves.

The credit card move and one bolt up there that I

didn't clip before were no problem for me that day.

I went through the credit card move easily, clipped

the draw I had grabbed some days ago and then kept

enjoying the climb all the way to the chains.

Everything felt exactly like I remembered from some

days prior. The

fact that there was a 20' run out at the top didn't

even phase me. I was giddy clipping the chains

hoping I wasn't going to take the whipper just

because I knew I had finished the climb.

It was a proud moment! Not only did I achieve

this in my short time there, but it was a VRG climb

(which are hard for me). AND, it was a climb that I

was in awe of everyone who had ever sent it before


That was my last climbing day in the area because

I was silly enough to volunteer to help out at the

Red Rock Rendezvous that weekend. Now, I'm back in

Seattle trying to get psyched to pull on plastic!

When's spring coming???


About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climber, climbing coach, computer software/technology enthusiast and occasional baker/cook and wine connoisseur.
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