As I was shopping for knee-pads, I realized: I might have a problem. It was clear that I had developed an unhealthy appetite and here I was, about to feed it. The pads would allow me to wear lighter clothing and so carry on climbing wide cracks into the heat of Summer.
I fondled one of the expensive pads. It was real leather and neoprene. Clearly, the expensive pad was superior, but it would get destroyed just as fast as the cheap ones. My poor technique limited the pad’s lifetime, sure. However, the nature of my needs did too.
Because, there is a beautiful variety of wide-crack climbing. I refer to the art practiced by people like Luebben, Scarpelli, Randall, Jackson, etc., involving maneuvers like Levittaion, the Kick-Through, and the Hand/Fist Stack. The technique involves only limited insertion of the practitioner’s anatomy into the gap in the rock during any one maneuver. The movement is improbable, powerful and gymnastic.
I am incapable of such feats, and furthermore, they are not what I want. I’ll admit, I am after something to fill the hole left by separation from (relatively) easy access to ice. I want a fight. Just like some people cannot feel loved until they have had their bottom spanked, I am only truly happy with climbing when I have done something unlovely, daunting, and bloody.
It isn’t that I don’t enjoy a technical or purely physical challenge, it’s just that I want the stuff just beyond. I want to have to hold it together and be stopped, if I am stopped, by the total exhaustion of everything at my disposal.
The kind of wide crack that delivers for me, does not abide expensive knee pads. It is too abusive. You have to climb into it, and the whole trip resembles nothing more than an edentulous dog trying to chew up a bone. It is not pretty. Perhaps it is even obscene. I just can’t help it, though.