The 12th Annual Climb Smart event was held on October 23-25 at the world-famous Joshua Tree National Park, California. The event is the largest gathering of the Southern California climbing community and is a great chance for everyone to come together, learn and climb in one of the most beautiful climbing areas in California. Black Diamond athlete Brittany Griffith attended the event and sent us the following report and photos.
Huddled under shade provided by the Black Diamond event tent was a motley crew of typical Climb Smart attendees. There was a marine, a retired high-powered executive, a high school sophomore, an auto mechanic, a video game designer, an office manager just like the one in the movie Office Space, a beauty school student and an aspiring guide. The conversation had effortlessly moved from how we first started climbing to our first concert, the responses reflected the multiple generations represented.
“Billy Squire and Def Leppard when I was in the 8th grade” I admitted
“Jefferson Airplane in the park!” Bill proudly stated
“New Kids On The Block!” one of them admitted and we all shrieked with laughter at this one.
We had all momentarily forgotten about the two people in my afternoon Moving On Stone clinic who weren’t hiding in the shade. Dawn from San Diego dangled on toprope, midway up a 5.6 crack. Stephen, from Yucaipa (which I ignorantly thought was in Washington state), diligently belayed the stranger, enduring the scorching sun. His shoulders were nearly as red as his gym shorts. (Thanks to Stephen for the photos in this report, too!) I patiently, for the fifth time, told her to jam her left foot, smear the right and stand up. The wall was in the direct afternoon desert sun and I honestly doubted that I would have been able to tolerate 10 feet of the climb if I had to. But she was determined. This young woman was in the morning’s “Climbing for Women” clinic that I gave and had attempted the very same crack and fared just as dreadfully. She approached me after the clinic was over and asked, with sweet sincerity, “Do you think I could be a good climber even though I’m kinda big?” I smiled at her frankness. “Of course you can” I answered simply, and honestly.
Now here Dawn was, back at it, but still struggling—and now with a dozen other people watching from 15 feet away. Without a hint of self-consciousness, her helmet askew and her tawny complexion shining with sweat, she quietly grunted and groveled at the end of the taunt toprope, struggling with the 5.6 crux. Eventually, she did jam her left foot, smear the right and stand up. She seemed stunned that the sequence worked.
Unfamiliar with climbing vernacular, she demurely asked her belayer, “Um, could you put me back down about ten feet?” Stephen seemed confused, but dutifully obeyed. She touched the smear with her right hand and pointed a finger at the jam with the other and murmured something under her breath. She then un-weighted the toprope and confidently executed the sequence.
“Yeeaaah sista! That’s called working your proj!” I screamed.
Dawn lowered, and as she untied, I watched her thoughtfully look back up at the crack. She obediently took her turn as a belayer, and then joined the crew in the shade.
“Okay you guys, we’ve got 20 more minutes left in the clinic, time for a couple more climbs.” I announced. No one seemed interested. They were fried from the heat. Dawn peeked over both shoulders and when it appeared that there were no takers, she meekly collected her shoes, strapped on her helmet and tied in. There was a collective, silent sigh from the group. “Oh boy, who is the sorry sap that’s going to have to belay in the blazing sun for the next 20 minutes.” Is what everyone must have been thinking. Inspired by her stoke, I grabbed my ATC and the other end of the rope.
“Alright! Time for the send!” I cheered.
“What’s send?” Dawn inquired.
“Do it! Climb it without falling or hanging on the rope!”
“Ah, yes, ‘send it’, okay” It seemed like she had already resolved to do just that, regardless of the terminology.
“You can get a good rest before and after the crux, so take advantage of it. You remember your sequence, don’t you?” I coached her like she was attempting a 5.13c.
“Ummm…” Dawn stammered. I thought I might have flustered her with my overly enthusiastic spaz out.
Then she slowly made her way up the crack, paused quickly at the crux and, with fire in her veins, she sent.
I couldn’t believe it. Shrieking like a diehard Raiders fan, I speed lowered her and then nearly knocked her over with a bear hug. I was so proud of her. The newly revived crowd of Climb-Smarters gathered around Dawn to congratulate her. It was like she had kicked the winning field goal in the Super Bowl.
There are dozens of grassroots climbing events out there. Trust me, I’ve been to dozens of them and I have to admit Climb Smart does not have the glitter and glam of most. It doesn’t have shirtless 5.14 superstars bouldering on plastic. There are no performances by bands from Austin, no Sumo wrestling or slacklining, and not a single free keg of beer from Fat Tire.
The 15th Annual Climb Smart 2009 was a lot like the past 15 Climb Smarts: semi-unorganized, brutally hot and attended by an eclectic collection of super motivated climbers. And you know what... I wouldn’t want it any other way.
— Brittany Griffith