Lessons from Lou and Leon

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After a fantastic and most memorable week of climbing with Lou and Leon, I don’t know where to start with this post!  I learned so much from these two over the course of last week!!!  I’ll do my best.

Let’s start at the beginning.  I arrived on Monday night, checked into Room 44 of my own hotel, missed dinner with them only because I was sitting at the door waiting instead of actively looking for them at a table, haha, and ended up meeting them at their hotel the next morning so we could go to breakfast together and plan the day.

Tuesday.  I arrived a bit early at Lou and Leon’s hotel and had the front desk representative call Room 118 to let them know I was there.  Lou said to grab some coffee, so I grabbed some coffee in the guest lounge and engaged in a conversation with a wonderful lady named Judy from the Florida Panhandle who has horses.  I grew up with horses, and love them myself, so we had a great conversation.  Lou and Leon came, and Judy and I wrapped up our conversation so that I could go with them.  At IHOP, all three of us ordered orange juice, and our respective favorites for breakfast.  This would end up being a daily ritual which I rather enjoyed, and you wouldn’t believe what a pick-me-up orange juice is in the morning!  I’ve now made it a habit at home here in Billings to drink a glass of orange juice in the morning.  Lesson One – Preparation rituals and orange juice in the morning are the difference between the success and the failure of a day.

The three of us decided that we should do a gym session in the morning and then do a reconnaissance mission to locate all of the Bozeman Six boulders and have a look at them all in the afternoon for difficulty ranking and climbing order purposes related to our project.  Over breakfast, I let Lou and Leon know about my personal situation so that they were aware of what was going on in case I had a meltdown at any given time.  Leon and Lou were very supportive of me and we discussed it at length so that I had an opportunity to talk it out over breakfast.  I felt better after that.  Our gym session was a lot of fun!  We warmed up on the fitness mezzanine first and I talked with Lou some more about my personal situation because the shock was wearing off and I was fighting off a meltdown.  The personal situation had ended up with the person in question throwing climbing, of all things, in my face, and that hurt particularly badly because climbing is the one thing that shoves the PTSD and the negative emotions aside so that I can experience some peace and joy in my life.  Lou explained that climbing was the thing to throw in my face because they needed something to use as blame.  He told me not to let that get in the way of my climbing.  I got ready at my own pace up on the mezzanine and Lou went down to join Leon, who was already climbing.  When I got to the bottom of the stairs and entered the climbing area, Leon was holding the climbing end of a toprope, and asked, as if from a perfectly executed cue card with impeccable timing, “Want a belay?”  Sure, Leon!  I would love a belay!  Lou said to just use any holds and I made it to the top of the wall.  Onsight.  Lesson Two – Let your true friends know what’s going on, no matter how ugly – they are your MVP’s when you have a crisis on your hands.

Lou, Leon, and I finished our gym session with a fun stemming problem in the corner and then left on our recon mission to find the Bozeman Six.  I had prepared a map using various websites’ vague local descriptions of the locations and poring over Google’s satellite maps to pinpoint the exact locations of the artificial boulders throughout Bozeman.  We, despite the road construction going on, managed to get a good look at each one in order to rate the difficulty of the boulder, the type of simulated rock, and roughly the order we were going to do them in, which we discussed later at Subway.  Lou was the pilot, Leon the navigator, and I was, to my delight, the commentator.  As the commentator, I got to throw in random bits of information that I had in my memory both from last year’s go at the Bozeman Six, and from other resources that I had either read about or experienced in my own explorations of the city of Bozeman.  After we had decided on a plan for the next day, which was to be a trial run of the boulders, we parted at Lou and Leon’s hotel for the evening and I went back to my hotel, which was a budget inn in another part of town.  It was a tough night alone, but I had food left over in the small fridge of my hotel room from the night before to eat, so it worked out.  Lesson Three – Enjoy the team reconnaissance missions and the camaraderie found in them because the nights are lonely.

Wednesday.  I met Lou and Leon at their hotel after checking out of my own and had another great conversation with Judy (the guest from Florida) over coffee before Lou and Leon came down to the guest lounge.  Today was our trial run of the project.  During breakfast at IHOP, Leon raised his glass of orange juice and said, “To the Bozeman Bombers”, and we all toasted to it with our glasses of orange juice.  It was an epic moment.  We now had a name.  A fitting one, it would turn out!  First, we went to the Langhor Boulder.  We had chosen this one to be first because it had the longest walk-in (past the community gardens) and it was a good warm-up boulder. We took one small pad and the larger pad that I had brought along with us. Warming up was fantastic and ended up being very informative.  After spending a good amount of time on this boulder, we decided to skip the second boulder on our list – the College Boulder – and move on to the East Gallatin Boulder.  Before we did that, though, we stopped at Starbucks to get some coffee-flavored “endurance”.  We enjoyed the rest and then went on to the third boulder on our list.  This boulder proved to have some good problems on it and we spent a fair amount of time on this one as well.  Our third and final boulder of the day was the Bozeman Pond Boulder behind Ace Hardware.  This was my favorite boulder because it has a route now named “Chris’s Corner” on it.  It’s a dihedral with dime-edge, polished, far-apart holds and is at a steep angle.  When I first put my hands on it again, I turned and asked Lou if I had really climbed it last year.  He laughed, nodded, and smiled.  I turned, told myself this was the perfect problem to test my Lowa Rockets out on as far as trusting my feet went, and fired it clean!  It’s a V3-, which is incredible for me because I can’t even climb a V1 indoors at my climbing gym!  An outdoor V3- problem!  I repeated the climb several times, Lou recording it with his camera.  I was spotting Leon on the back side of the boulder and he was executing the last move of a V4 when he popped off.  I spotted him onto the pad, but he fell hard with his back against the boulder after landing on the pad.  He got up and said he was okay when I asked him.  We wrapped up our trial run with “Leon’s Arête”, a V1+, and went to dinner at IHOP.  My fingertips were red and my skin raw.  I hadn’t chalked up enough or used tincture of benzoin compound early enough in the day, which left my fingers borderline trashed.  I didn’t put any cream on them, though, as not to ruin the calluses that were forming due to the stress of the climbing I was putting them through.  I left for Billings after dinner because I had an appointment with my doctor the next morning.  The next day was also my 13th wedding anniversary, and I didn’t know if I was going home to anyone or not…  Lesson Four – A trial run is crucial to the success of the project.  Unless you wreck yourself on the trial run!  Note that this is applicable to many different “projects” in life…

Thursday.  I went to my doctor’s appointment and left for Bozeman again straight from there.  I checked into my hotel and talked to Lou on the phone when I got checked into my hotel.  He said that Leon had a big bruise and was quite sore from that fall he took on the Bozeman Pond Boulder.  I could believe it.  I also knew that Lou had a cracked rib (an injury sustained just before his trip to Bozeman).  Lou asked how I was doing.  I told him I was kind of sore and Lou then admitted to being sore himself.  I suggested moving our Bozeman Six Challenge back a day and doing it on Saturday instead of on Friday, as we had originally planned.  I heard Leon in the background say that he wouldn’t be adverse to moving it back a day.  It was settled, then.  We moved our Bozeman Six Challenge to Saturday, which was supposed to have better weather, anyway.  Friday would be a rest and recovery day, with some light climbing to get the kinks worked out for all of us and make sure we were all solid for the big day.  I had checked into my hotel room for the night, and went outside thinking that I was going to my truck to leave for some supper, but instead went outside to the smell of grilling and fine food (as far as I’m concerned, that is).  Fork and Spoon was grilling in the parking lot and they were serving dinner for the homeless there.  The suggested price for a meal was $8, but if you didn’t have any money, you didn’t have to pay anything.  You paid what you could and got a great grilled meal that included a grilled meat (chicken, hotdog, or burger), a bag of chips, macaroni salad, and a drink.  I paid them the full $8 and got an excellent piece of grilled chicken, a bun, some outstanding red onion, a couple of lettuce leaves, a bag of pita chips, a cup of macaroni salad, and a glass of unsweetened ice tea.  I put my sandwich together and ate slowly, savoring every bite, and ended up talking to a homeless fellow named Mike, who was in his early 20’s.  People showed up out of nowhere and disappeared into nowhere for this meal, which Fork and Spoon sets up every Thursday and Friday night in the parking lot of the hotel I was staying at all summer long.  It was amazing, and an amazing idea.  It was a humane and practical idea that worked for a good cause.  These people needed a meal, and they could pay what they could to get it.  If that amount was only a penny, or even less, they could still eat at least twice a week.  I was truly impressed.  More than satisfied at having had the perfect meal under the circumstances, I returned to my hotel room for the night.  Room 11 just around the corner from the office.  Lesson Five – Sometimes putting off a project for a day in order to rest and recuperate so that you’re fresh for the big day is the smartest move you can make.  It’s not procrastination.  It’s wise planning.

Friday.  Lou came to the guest lounge a bit early and had some coffee with me as we both conversed with Judy until Leon came and joined us.  Leon had a huge bruise that was covered with an Icy-Hot patch to relieve the pain.  We went to IHOP for breakfast, had our orange juice and our respective meals, and headed to the climbing gym for a light session.  Leon said that there was a Detroit Lions game on that night and that I was more than welcome to join them at their hotel to watch it with them.  I told him I’d take them up on that.  Leon grew up in Detroit, and is a die-hard Detroit fan through-and-through because of his history with the teams.  I don’t have a team to root for, being from Montana, so Detroit is as good a team as any, whether it be baseball, football, or basketball, to root for.  After breakfast, we went to the climbing gym and my waiver had expired, so I filled out a new one as Lou and Leon got checked in.  All three of us warmed up on the bikes that morning, and Leon did some treadmill work while Lou and I remained on the bikes.  Leon went downstairs and Lou told me, “Chris, you have so much raw climbing talent.  You just know how to move.  You just have so much raw talent.  I’ve had to work really hard at climbing, which is okay, but yours is internal.  It’s something inside you.  You could be a really elite athlete.”  That meant so much coming from Lou.  It set the tone for the day, and again, my truest friends had come to my aid. I climbed very little, but I visualized a lot.  I sent a black 5.7 that I named “Aggressive Visualization” that Lou had worked with me on from the ground while Leon was climbing a route on the wall.  I ended with that, because ending with a success was important to me that day.  We went to Starbucks, where the wifi was the best, so that we could work on some things that we all needed to catch up on, including getting the photos from our exploits in Bozeman thus far transferred to each others’ tablets and logging our climbs on the Bozeman boulders thus far on MyClimb.  I had already updated MyClimb, and Lou was working with Leon and I on how to edit and enter different types of climbs.  MyClimb is a very versatile tool for recording your climbs if you know how to use it!  I’m very impressed with the MyClimb App, even more so now that I know how to do a few more things on it!  Lou and I were working on iPads and Leon was working on a Samsung tablet, which has an Android operating system.  I’ve worked extensively with Android systems in the past and so I became the IT tech of the group when it came to transferring photos and setting up hotspots (called “tethering” on Android systems).  We figured out the photo transfers at Starbucks and the tethering feature (“hotspot” on the iOS) during the Detroit Lions game.  I left at halftime to go back to my hotel so that I could hopefully sleep and be fresh and ready to roll for our Bozeman Six Challenge the next day.  Lesson Six – It’s always good to have a working knowledge of systems other than those that you use yourself for the sake of someone else.  It saves a lot of time, money, and miscommunication.

Saturday – the big day!  The Bozeman Six Challenge day had arrived!!!  I woke at 0400 hrs, as I had every morning before that, and my excitement was through the roof!  We were going to blow our record away, and I knew it!  I went over to Lou and Leon’s hotel early and drank several cups of coffee in the guest lounge.  Lou and Leon came and we ended up at IHOP for breakfast again after hearing at Perkins that there would be an hour-long wait.  We had our orange juice and our meals, and the Bozeman Six Challenge began at the Langhor Boulder, our warm-up boulder.  After a photo of The Bozeman Bombers with their MyClimb hats on, we began climbing.  I was ever-so-close to sending a V5 problem on that boulder, but it was not to be because I didn’t want to burn myself out before I hit the other five boulders in our circuit.  I was well warmed-up by the time we got done at that boulder.  Our second boulder was the College Boulder.  We got way more accomplished on that than we had anticipated, which set us ahead significantly from where we thought we’d be at that point in our project.  We needed to pace ourselves, though, so after the College Boulder and a chalk refill for Leon, we stopped at Starbucks, got some drinks, and took a short rest.  Our third boulder in the circuit was the Gallatin East Boulder.  I sent an arête problem on that boulder that I was quite proud of.  Fourth was the Depot Boulder.  It was, by far, the roughest on our hands, but it had great problems on it!  I had been taking good care of my hands all day, though, with a lot of liquid chalk and tincture of benzoin compound.  Fifth was the Bozeman Pond Boulder behind Ace Hardware, which was smoking hot because it had been baking in the sun all afternoon.  That said, I still cruised “Chris’s Corner” and “Leon’s Arête” a couple of times each.  Last, but not least, was the Gallatin Regional Boulder. It looks like something out of the Flintstones, but being part of the Dinosaur Playground, it probably should.  There were some difficult problems on that boulder, and some great traverses.  A midget boulder sits next to it, which totally shut me down, but it was the end of the day.  That’s my excuse for the midget boulder.  After we took our “after” photo of The Bozeman Bombers with our MyClimb hats on, we headed to the Outback for some well-earned chow.  We tallied up what we had and were pleased with the outcomes.  We had indeed blown our record out of the water!!!  After dinner, we headed back to Lou and Leon’s hotel, and I went to my hotel from there.  Although I thought I would sleep like a rock, I woke up every hour…  Lesson Seven – When presented with the opportunity to climb and set records with great friends, pace yourself and share the camaraderie, positive energy, and deep friendship as a tribute to the power of climbing that brings people together in the most intimate of fashions.  After all, you do trust each other with your very lives!

Sunday.  Having slept well, but not enough, I met Lou and Leon at their hotel after checking out of my own around 1000 hrs.  I bade farewell to Judy from Florida and wished her well while I was waiting for Lou and Leon in the guest lounge, again consuming copious amounts of good coffee. We went to IHOP and then to Starbucks.  We again downloaded photos between tablets.  Leon said, “I need my coffee and I need my Chris,” scooting next to me to see how I was going about the IT work of downloading the photos from Lou’s camera SD card to his Samsung tablet.  We cropped a few photos of Leon that he was pleased with and then he asked me which one of the photos of me I wanted on his wall.  We went through them with one in mind until we found one that he liked even better.  “How about that one?  Can we crop that one?”  I showed him how to crop it and he did the cropping.  “There.  Macho gal,” he said.  I was flattered at the compliment.  I spent the afternoon hanging out with Lou and Leon back at the hotel, where we watched the WNBA Semi-Final game between Washington and Phoenix.  Washington won by four points.  Lou talked to me about co-writing an article for MyClimb about the Bozeman Six Challenge that we had just completed, and I was ecstatic!  I respect Lou and Leon so much.  They’ve both lived incredible lives and had phenomenal experiences…and they both respect me, too, and want to include me!  I can hardly wrap my head around that, but it’s true!!!  Lou and Leon and I went out to dinner one last time for this trip.  We went to Old Chicago, which was excellent!  We got back to the hotel and I said my farewells, giving them both hugs and looking forward already to our next meeting together.  I got back to Billings around 2300 hrs that night, missing my climbing buddies already and smiling to myself about the wonderful experiences we had just had together.  I felt great.  Lesson Eight – When gathered with and surrounded by great friends, spend every moment you can with them, and never fail to smile over fond memories of them at your earliest opportunity!  Keep them close, even though they may be far away.

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