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Working, working, working and a little climbing

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
3 min read

So, life’s flipped upside down again, and I’m back to work full time in Seattle. It’s great… I’m actually excited to be back in the city a bit more, and it’s nice to have more stable work for a bit. On the other hand, summer is rapidly slipping away (I’m sitting on the ferry in my puffy coat right now) and I’m having to adjust my expectations of my climbing for the rest of this year.

I’m gearing up (literally) for my mountaineering training taking place in about two weeks, and I’m super excited for it. I never thought that I’d be interested in alpine mountaineering and snow stuff… but living here in the Pacific Northwest, it seems a waste to not develop those skills, and I’m accumulating a longer and longer list of places I’d like to go but don’t feel safe to because of my lack of snow skills. I’m going to be spending four days in the mountains of British Columbia. It will be quite the adventure, I expect.

But, since I’ve been focused more on getting conditioned for mountaineering and less on maintaining my shape for technical rock climbing, I’ve been getting on rock (and plastic) a bit less in the last few months. I suppose to most people who juggle climbing and families and work and mortgages and other commitments, I’m still getting out a lot. But for me, life has felt “climbing light” lately. The upside is that because of my focus on other training (specifically, building up my knee health and working on my cardio capacity without weight loss) I anticipated my technical climbing performance would be compromised. I’ve stayed off the “sick hard routes” both inside and outside, and instead have focused on having fun on climbs that are well within my capability.

A funny thing has happened. I’m climbing nearly as hard as at my peak, but I feel SO much stronger. In addition, a number of nagging injuries have had a chance to heal up — my bicep tendon and shoulder stability are tremendously improved thanks to rehab and more regular strength training, and my fingers are nearly 100% just having a break from climbing at my maximum.

I had a great trip to Tahoe in August, with low-key bouldering and a bit of eating ice cream (aka, toproping), plus one fun and mini-epic pitch of 5.6 trad climbing (I climbed past two sets of anchors, because I couldn’t actually find them, and wound up on top of the cliff, looking for a boulder to belay behind, when I finally found a set of chains to anchor into and bring my incredibly patient partner up to).

I’ve also had a few incredibly fun trips out to Leavenworth to boulder. I’ve enjoyed working easier routes with my girlfriends and achieving some top outs, as well as flailing all day on what are now treasured projects that I’ve made more progress on than I imagined. The bouldering is great for my head — still — and also great for my strength and power. I’m excited to be back to bouldering at my max, without a recurrence of any of my little aches and pains.

In the gym, I’ve been focusing mostly on endurance with a bit of bouldering thrown in for fun. I’m also thoroughly enjoying a different approach to strength training — I’ve always done light weight high rep workouts, probably because most of what I know about strength training I’ve learned in rehab, from physical therapists. Unlike most of my guy climbing partners — I didn’t work out in a gym setting in high school or college; I never actually learned anything about strength training. In the last few weeks, I’ve been doing strength training with more weight and fewer reps, and I LOVE it. It’s less repetitive, which makes sense to me. If I do five or seven reps per set with heavier weight, that’s a lot less repetitive stress on my tendons and joints, and I get WORKED. I’m enjoying seeing progress, and also enjoying how that workout is translating into my “real life” of climbing and daily activities. For my body, it’s a much better workout; I feel like I get more bang for my workout buck (I feel fit, strong, and really healthy, both in the gym and in my daily life).

I’m daydreaming about mountains for this weekend… everywhere I went yesterday, the mountains called to me. Rainier seemed to follow me home on the ferry yesterday; then the views of Baker and points south (Stuart, perhaps?) were breathtaking across the water when I ran a quick errand up to Port Townsend. My crampons and ice axe are on order, so if they arrive I may head for some non-technical snow this weekend. If they don’t, I’ve got some other ideas.

What’s the word from your world… how’s your climbing summer been? What are your plans, as you move into the fall? Are you facing new or old challenges? Join in, in the comments… I’d love to hear updates from my climbing friends.

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.