zaterdag 13 juli 2013

Wild & the Pacific Crest Trail

Reading is very important to me, books are álmost as necessary as the air I breath. Sometimes I read a lot (and quick!), sometimes one book take me weeks, but nevertheless I couldn't do without my most beloved escape. Maybe I'll write a blogpost about it another day... I know there are plenty of book-lovers out there who will get this anyway, and the need for the written word is familiar to many in some form. Often a book triggers new interests that I like to explore further. I love going through reviews before ánd after reading a book, and I'd like to add my own humble opinions to the ever growing digital source of information about old and new books.

Little side note: I've been thinking about my blog a lot lately. I have some changes in mind (or, hopefully, improvements :)). One of them is adding a 'Reading & Watching' section, where I want to review the books I read and movies/series I've watched (or at least the ones worth mentioning, the ones I think éveryone should read/see!). Please bear with me though, I'm not an expert on literature or whatsoever, and my reviews might lack in-depth criticism or professional argumentation regarding my opinion. But, maybe in actually writing down these reviews (instead of only forming them in my head) I can grow a bit in forming better analyses of books in all their aspects. I guess that would result in an even greater appreciation of the written word in it's finest forms! we go, the first book review on Lovalizious (I guess a drumroll is out of place for such an uneventful thing as a review?)... Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. 
Wild is a memoir, written by someone who had quite a messy childhood. Throughout the book are flashbacks, revealing bits of Cheryl's youth. This results in slowly understanding better why she came to the point (at the age of 26) where she decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail (or at least 1700 kilometers of it), a long distance hikimg trail on the east of the United States.
Especially Cheryl's loss of her mom to cancer played a big role. Even though her childhood was difficult and somewhat unusual, her mother's love was one thing she could always count on. After losing her, Cheryl ended up in a downward spiral of divorce, heroin abuse and a dangerous love life. Being headed to nowhere she bumped into a guidebook of the PCT by accidence, and decided she had nothing to loose. So...she sold all she had, scraped what she earned with it together to buy a backpack (affectionately called 'Monster' throughout the book) and some other supplies, and used the rest to make little provisional packages that she'd sent to post-offices along the way ahead of her.Starting her journey still quite unprepared (with a wáy too heavy backpack and not really a clue on how to survive in wilderniss), she slowly adapts to a new rhythm: one of walking endless miles on her own, not seeing a soul for days, preparing her own food and water, sleeping in a little tent at night...only to wake up (with even more muscle soreness) to do the exact same thing over again. In the beginning surviving and walking the necessary miles each day takes all she's got. But after some weeks she starts to get used fo her new, temporary way of life. At this point her mom 'shows up' again. Not literally, of course...but Cheryl still has a lot of processing to do on all that's happened to her in her childhood as well as being a young adult. Things she couldn't deal with before, tried to ignore or buried away deeply by pursuing a lifestyle that brought short term relief, but only more emptiness on the long run.Now don't think think this book is all about emo-babble and psychological stuff. Cheryl is a tough girl and definitely had got balls. She might have been the most unprepared girl in the world who ever walked the PCT, but she did it anyway. She goes on after frightening encounters with bears and snakes, struggles through ice cold snowfields followed by burning hot deserts with Monster on her back and picks herself up again after lonely nights in her small tent. She slowly learns more about surviving in the wilderniss and lives a couple of months with extremely little money. She meets new people when passing resupply points, with whom she spends a shorter or longer time, exchanging experiences and simply enjoying the pleasure of company, finally again. A lot of those people have an impact on Cheryl, who's often touched by their kindness. But nevertheless she always says goodbye, to take on on her own again, adding a new layer of corn to her shoulders, hips and feet. No, she's not the whiney-kind of girl.I looked Cheryl up on google and was directed to her facebook-page. She's a pretty, professional and healthy looking woman now. She got married, got kids and wrote even more books. Honestly, I was happy to find out. She looks happy on the pics and seems to have found more meaning and fullfillment in her life. That's what I hoped for when I finished the book. I also found some pictures on Cheryl's facebook page of her 26-year old self on the PCT. I lóve these! And man, just look at Monster...
'Wild' was an incredible book to read, but also made me notice the existense of the PCT for the very first time. Being curious and also a bit adventurous myself, I did some research on this hike. The full route is 4286 kilometers ling and goes all the way from the border with Mexico in the south up to the border with Canada in the north (or the other way around of course). It passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks, and goes through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains (among some other mountain ranges), resulting in a total height difference of 4000 meter. The resupply points often exist out of nothing more than a couple of houses and a central building which serves as a bar, laundry service, hotel and post office. Now I understand that sounds like a nightmare to a lot of people (or at least many would wonder why in the world you'd voluntary undertake such a thing)...but to me, it sounds like an addition to my bucket list. And I' m pretty serious about that! Luckily the boyfriend turned out to be just as enthusiastic (after a while...not having read the book yet he thought the PCT was - just as another simple hike - something for retired people), so now we have a new shared dream.
One last thing to add: I just found out this week that this book is gonna be turned into a movie! Reese Witherspoon is casted as Cheryl, I'm curious to see how she will do (especially since she often plays such neat, girly characters...which Cheryl is obviously nót). At least I hope they won't undo the story from it's rough edges and turn it into a typical polished Hollywood production...but I definitely will give it a chance. Can't wait!I hope you liked my first book will be the Hunger Games-series, only one more half book to finish. I'll be back to talk about Katniss' adventures!

woensdag 10 juli 2013

About climbing & falling

So, as you might have read here earlier, I like to climb. My boyfriend and I started this new hobby around October last year, and now it's slowly growing into a passion for the both of us.
Our first, clumsy indoor ascents took place at an introduction lesson in a climbing hall from Mountain Network, a Dutch organization with around 6 halls around the Netherlands and an outdoor centre in the Ardennes. We had a lot of fun and it seemed like we both had a bit of the 'ape-factor', going faster than the other course attendees. No discussion was necessary, we wanted to get our indoor toproping certificate.

With this toproping certificate you're allowed to climb indoor on your own (without guidance from an instructor or whatsoever). The rope already hangs down for you, all you need to do is bind it to your harness, bind the other end to your belaying partner, and start climbing. There are different routes to climb, starting with 3's and 4's, 4+ and then proceeding to 5a, 5b, 5c, 6a, 6b, etc...until about 9b (I believe! New routes are explored and climbed, when they are harder than any other that's done before, they will get an even higher grade). Mark and I followed our 4-lessons indoor toproping course in another Mountain Network hall. This organization is truly awesome, every hall seems to have great, enthusiastic and responsible personnel, eager to learn you everything about their passion and spread the love for climbing. The halls are modern and synoptic, with clear routes built by good route builders. And they have very good after-climbing beers :)

After receiving our indoor toprope certificate in November 2012, we tried to climb as much as possible, at least once or twice a week. We proceeded slowly from 5a's to 5c's and even 6a's. We discovered bouldering, a different branch in the climbing world in which you try to climb short routes. These routes are not higher than about 3 or 4 meters and have a crash pad beneath them, so belaying is not necessary. Bút, the routes are often quite intense. Whereas a toprope route might contain a few difficult passes among a lot of more doable steps (the difficulty here is found in the length of the routes, which requires a certain endurance), these passes are all collected together in one short boulder. So boulders can actually be seen as a shortened, intensified form of climbing. A lot of climbing halls have a small bouldering room, but Mark and I also discovered two great specialized bouldering halls in the Netherlands with an awesome circuit of boulders varying in difficulty. We discovered that bouldering goes together with a lot of muscle aching, but also with quick progression in the strength, coordination and balance required for our normal climbing!

Bouldering hall 'Delfts Bleau' (not my pic)

During spring this year, we decided it was time for lead climbing. Lead climbing differs from toproping and is also a bit more scary/risky. Instead of climbing on a rope that already hangs down the wall, you take the rope up with you, clipping it to metal rings in the wall via so-called quick-draws. This means that you will fall a longer distance (for example: when you fall just below the next metal ring, you will fall twice the distance to the former ring). The belayer has to gíve you rope instead of taking it in as he or she has to do with toproping. Your belaying partner also has to stay super alert with falls, trying to make the climber's fall not too static, but neither letting the climber hit the ground!
Lead climbing  is actually a necessary step when you want to climb outside. Ropes don't grow on rocks, you know :P We followed this 4 lessons course at Mountain Network Amsterdam, the hall that has the best lead climbing wall in the Netherlands (in our honest opinions at's also often used for championships!).

The next video shows the differences between a toproping fall and a lead climbing fall (you can start at 30 seconds).

Now if you'd like to see how this can escalate in real hard rock climbing, click here... Don't worry, these are quite extreme examples (but still, dad: please don't watch this). You can also see the impact of a big fall on the belayer, who is being pulled upwards (or actually towards the first quickdraw).

Again a lot of practice followed after gaining our indoor lead climbing certificates. Toproping, lead climbing and bouldering as much as we could, I started to try 6b's and Mark even did some 6c's. The progression made us grow even fonder of our new found passion, maybe we actually got a bit addicted! We bought gear, starting with our own harnesses and shoes, belaying devices, carabiners, etc.  (And let's not forget the super fashionable climbing leggings I bought at ebay...) During the last months we also got our own 70 meter rope, quickdraws, lifelines, slings, prusik cords and helmets. I even sew my own chalk bag (holding magnesium chalk to powder your fingers during the climb). These were the necessary items for our ultimate goal: climbing outside!

Yup, our most recent course took place at the Mountain Network outdoor centre in the Ardennes! Two weekends were spent in the Dinant region, resulting in our outdoor lead climbing certificate. We had the most awesome days under the guidance of some great instructors who know an awful lot about climbing. The weather couldn't be better, neither could be the Belgian beers at the end of the intense days. We slept in tents at the campsite next to the Mountain Network office and bar, located in an old farm/castle building. We learnt how to climb multipitch at Freyr (see the pic), which means you climb several lengths of your rope (so you can climb a lot higher!). We did some abseiling and were taught several knots and other rope techniques. It was quite a lot to take in, I still have to let it al sink in and probably read it over in the little information booklet we got. The best we can do now again is practice, practice and practice even more. And now we got all the gear ánd licenses to climb outdoors independent, there's nothing that can stop us!

We climbed on that rock on the right...looking out over the
river (the 'Maas' and the castle on the other side!)

So...that's my small climbing history so far. The birth of a passion that has brought me much joy already in such a short time. It lets me discover my physical and mental abilities and boundaries, making me push my limits and always (literally) reach for that next hold. The climbing community is kind and social, not too big or pretentious. I climbed next to the Dutch lead climbing champion one sunday afternoon...she was just practicing, as were we! My experience with outdoor climbing so far is small, but holds a lot of promises. Being in nature while climbing, touching the rock to find a good hold, feeling the sun and the wind on your back and admiring the view once you're above the trees...I can't wait to go again. I'd love to share more of my climbing adventures here on my blog, as a little climbing diary. Don't know if anyone's interested in these stories...but hopefully this post cleared things up a bit about what I have been doing on the walls the last months.

Ps. If you're interested in climbing and you're a girl, you might like an awesome climbing blog by and for girls!

Yours truly, Miss Monkey :)

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