North Shore Stylin’ 2013

I don’t always toot my own horn, but sometimes pride is not the deadly sin it is made out to be.  Sometimes pride is a healthy path towards self confidence.  Today, I am proud.

After flashing all six of the climbs I attempted in the allotted climbing time of the North Shore Stylin’ comp, I made it into the finals.  There were murmurs of “sandbagging” from people I knew there, but that was not the case.  The advanced division was billed as 5.10c-5.11d and I am a 5.11 climber.  My only 5.12 redpoint is on a route that was recently downgraded to 5.11d and I’m two years into working on what I consider the most important 5.12 redpoint for me in Minnesota, Sigma.  (2013, Sigma; this is the year!)  So, I feel pretty sure that I entered the appropriate division.

The difference for me this year is that I prepared.  For past comps that I’ve participated in, it has just been another day, another event to attend.  And while that doesn’t mean that I was taking myself too seriously or aiming solely for a win this time around, it did mean that I wanted to put forth my best effort.  So, after registering several weeks ago, I set out to be in better shape than I have been in quite some time.  2013 had already brought some motivation and I rode that straight into the comp.  I started using my hangboard again, running laps on auto belays at the gym, down climbing leads, and doing cardio work on the elliptical.  In the end, it all paid off.


I headed up from the Twin Cities to Duluth on Friday night with six climbing buddies.  After a run to Fitger’s for some dinner and brews, we all crammed into a hotel room with a view of Lake Superior.  In the morning, we stopped at Amazing Grace where I picked up some espresso (or did it pick me up?) and a little quiche to start the day.  Then it was off to registration.

Nalgene growler of Fitger’s brown ale
Sunrise over Lake Superior
Espresso and found sketchbook at Amazing Grace

Aside from competing, I was also on hand to represent the MCA, as VE Duluth was kind enough to conduct a raffle on our behalf.  We raised over $1,000 that we intend to put towards some land acquisition that we are working towards with the Parks and Trails Council of MN, the Access Fund, and the DNR.  A big thank you to everyone that threw in on a raffle ticket!

MCA/Access Fund joint membership
Big thanks to NSS organizer, Kraig, VED head setter, Justin, and the rest of the NSS volunteers!

When the comp got started, I went to the lowest ranked climb on my scorecard, #27, and was surprised to be questioning my every move.  Perhaps it was the espresso jitters, but I did not feel solid on the climb and every sloper on the route felt like the moment I was going to peel off.  I got the send, however, and went in search of my cohorts to see what they were working on.

Kris, who was also competing in the men’s advanced division had gone straight to #34, a lead climb with a long roof and several inverted moves.  He got the flash and encouraged me to jump on it, so I threw my card down and tied in.  At the end of the roof, attempting to pull back onto the face, I was full on pumped.  Hanging from a jug, I struggled to work out the next move and spent a load of energy trying different hand placements on the following holds before finally finding a way to turn the corner and top out for the send.  Fortunately, we had nearly five hours of climb time, so I waited quite a while before getting in line for another route.

Jay on the trickier than expected #27
Rich working the roof of #34

My next send came on #35.  This climb was totally my style and left me full of confidence.  Crimps and balance all the way to the top; it was a nice steady climb. Next I ticked off #38, the last route on my card, and #36.  Both of these routes had me shaking and each had moves that would have shut me down if I had not put in the endurance training leading up to the comp.  Your final score at NSS consisted of your top four scores.  At this point, I had about two hours to add #37 to my tally.

Kris showing me the way on #35
Finding my confidence on #35
My scorecard after five climbs

After a snack, I camped out and watched a few people climb my final route before rejoining the fray.  #37, like #35, was more my style than any of the others and I sent it with little trouble.  Unless the scorekeepers decided to bump me out of my division, I was going to finals.  They did not.

Janna moments before her dyno
Nancy keeping warm between climbs
Jay fighting for the send

I was first to go on the men’s advanced finals route and with Jack White’s Freedom at 21 blaring, I went after it.  Leading up to the comp, I was working on a “won’t quit” mantra.  It started out as “don’t quit”, but that sent the message that I might, and this time out, I wasn’t.  After pulling a roof move to a volume covered in smaller volumes, I cut my feet and dangled by my finger tips.  Part of my hangboard routine had included many, many pull-ups and this training served me well.  Feet dangling, I pulled up on fingers that desperately wanted to give way, saw a hold that I didn’t previously see, and threw for it.  Coming up short, I peeled away and took a whipper while Jack White continued to serenade me and the crowd let loose in cheers.  I love comps.  Everyone’s efforts are celebrated.

The next finalist in my division missed a clip, used a crack that was not on, and reached the same spot that I had.  The climber after him got to my high point, paused for a moment, and threw to the hold above the volume.  He secured it and in his next motion, was off the wall.  That hold was the difference and as he lowered to the ground, I was genuinely excited for his victory.  I didn’t set out to win, I set out to do my best.  And I did.  His best was a hold beyond mine and after giving him a congratulatory fist bump, I let him know the division win was his.  Because of the other finalists missteps, I was awarded second place; my best finish in a rope comp.

After prizes were awarded, my climbing crew headed out to Burrito Union to relive the day and fuel up for our long voyage home.  Aside from me, Nancy from our group earned a first place finish in women’s intermediate and Kris earned a Rasputin sticker for eating a burrito the size of his head (go there sometime, you’ll understand).

Post comp celebration with Jay, Janna, Mo, Rich, Paul, the other Paul, Katie, Kris, and Nancy.

It was an exciting day of climbing that showed me the value of training.  With a little extra effort and a bit of focused determination, great things can happen in pursuits that are meaningful to us; a lesson to carry forward into other arenas of life.

I’m looking forward to being on the other side of comp life as Passion for Flashin’ approaches in St Paul.  I’m inspired to set routes that will leave competitors shaken yet satisfied; routes that will thin out the pack and help set up an exciting finals, for both competitors and spectators alike.

Photo bombing my own pic

I’m thankful for the support of my friends who cheered me on, the climbers I met from Duluth, the Twin Cities, and Mankato while working shared routes, and the volunteers that made NSS happen.  See you again next time.



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