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The Shoulder and Double D in Lake Dixon

The Shoulder and Double D in Lake Dixon

I think 5.11 is the most fun grade at the gym. Its when the setters decide that you aren’t afraid of crimping and you should probably start getting creative about where you place your feet. 5.10s require strength. 5.11s start taking strength AND finesse. I haven’t exactly figured out 5.12s at the gym, but I have a feeling it requires something like strength, finesse, and height (she says bitterly).  I’m learning lately that balance is everything for me. I have balance and maybe a 1 leg squat in me to keep me afloat on a solid 5.10 outdoors.

So I worked on 5.11s at the gym on Friday, particularly a super strong mantle that I did maybe 4 or 5 times. A friend of mine asked me to show him the Beta, and I wanted to show myself that I could do it without looking like a massive goof. (I was unable to accomplish the second thing).  As an aside, have you noticed that at 5’5”, my beta is useful to absolutely everyone? 

Saturday was less rainy, but still muddy, so I cobbled together a group and headed out to Lake Dixon, the small but trusty crag. The plan was to climb shoulder crack (5.10b in the book, 5.10a on mountain project).

Shoulder Crack was a great climb. I felt like every hold was incredibly strong, and I was able to smash right up it without having any trouble. The most fun part was the traverse at the top to get back to the anchor. You had to keep your hands in the crack but there were no feet to walk over. My beta was to do a beach whale to inch myself over. That part was not cute, but I could tell that there was a way to do it elegantly. I ended up climbing it 3 or 4 times to make it smooth. We ended up putting a cam directional in to keep the rope from getting stuck in a seam that lived right under the anchor. That directional truncated the difficulty of the climb by making the traverse shorter. I decided that the addition made the climb less fun.

The climb called “Double D” (5.11a), shared the same anchor as shoulder crack so we decided to give it a try why not. I had so much fun not bagging this route. 5.11 may be the most fun grade, period. The moves were close together, and highly technical. There were pockets for toe hooks, bomber slopers, and a massive palm size grip. It was like we were in the gym.

I burned myself out on the crimpcrux about 80 percent up the climb the first time I attempted the route. My fingers were cold in the 50 degree weather and I felt like the awkward directional anchor was pulling me off . The second time I attempted it I asked for more slack and was able to get past my initial crux, but I was devastated to find that the holds didn’t get any better from that point up. What was fun was that the solution to the crux for me was to hug the rock and do a big awkward balancey one legged squat to get up. The third time I did the route, I failed on the crimp and a pulled a ton of skin off my right pinky finger, spreading blood all over the rock. We are just big bags of blood, aren’t we? It must have been a load bearing pinky for that to have been the only affected digit. My hand crimp exercises are paying off.

We spent hours failing this route, working towards and lingering right at our limit strength. We ended up going home without any of us climbing it.

It was a weird way to approach the day, and I don’t know of my friends were incredibly happy with it. No one in my group considers themselves a 5.11 climber, and I was the closest to finishing it. We spent so much time struggling on the route that we didn’t have time to climb anything else. Normally our days are 5-6 route days. This was a 2 route day. I don’t care. I like this better. I feel strong and tight today. My chest, biceps, and forearms are thick and lazy. My pinky has a huge blood blister on it. Not flashing this route feels more beneficial to me than climbing 3-4 5.9s would have. I feel like next time I get to the crag, in 3 weeks or so, I’ll be able to climb it. I know haven’t accomplished it yet, but something about this little failure makes me feel powerful.

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