Monday, December 16, 2013

Rock Climbing - Mission Trails Park

Tori and I went rock climbing with The Southern Terrain on Sunday. After having to reschedule the weekend before due to rain, we had nice blue skies and temperatures that made it up to the high 70s by noon. It was very cold though when we met up with our climbing guide, Joshua Reinig, at the Mission Trails Regional Park before 8am. After everyone in the group received their climbing shoes and helmets, we walked down the Father Junipero Serra Trail with the granite face of Kwaay Paay Mountain (1,194 feet) looming ahead.

Hiking up the steep switchbacks of the Climbers Loop Trail, we crossed over to the south end of the Main Wall where we met up with Diego who had been anchoring the top ropes for our morning session near Lunch Rock. Below, we could see the tree-filled valley of the San Diego River winding away to the West. Placing our packs on the ground, we put on our climbing harnesses while Joshua gave us the safety talk, described the proper climbing commands and instructed us on how to properly tie the belay rope to our safety harness with two figure eights.

Climbing up first, Diego demonstrated the main route up Skyline Arete that has a difficulty of 5.8+. I went up third with Diego as the belayer. It was quite easy until I reached the narrow ledge half-way up and looked down for the first time. It didn't matter that I had a rope attached to my waist, my stomach still feared a possible fall. Diego gave helpful hints as I faced the top section of steep granite with tiny holds. It took about three climbing moves before my hand found a solid grip again and I made it to the top of the 80 foot climb. The rope had a lot of stretch to it as I leaned back in my harness to be lowered down in big hopping steps.

After Tori climbed Skyline Arete as well, we headed over to the second climbing station where Joshua was the belayer. This roped section contained two climbing routes, Beautiful (5.5) to the right and Mission Control (5.7) to the left. Tori went first this time and we found out that Joshua went to San Dieguito High School as well and knows my younger brother, Jordan.

Climbing after Tori, I took my camera up with me and took some cool shots looking across at the steep headwall of Skyline Arete and back down to the bottom. After that earlier descent on the rope, my subconscious now trusted the safety of the rope completely and I was able to climb for the rest of the day without fear. At the top of Beautiful, it was nice to stick my head out of the mountain's shadow and feel the warm sun on my face.

Heading back over to Skyline Arete, Tori tried the more difficult overhang start (5.9ish) with Diego marking the best toeholds with chalk. She made it up her first attempt and worked her way up along the right edge where the rising sun now illuminated the difficult Orange Walk (5.10) route around the outside corner. Reaching a tough spot she slipped and swung on the end of the line before climbing the rest of the way up the center. I tried the overhang next. The handholds were very shallow and I had to make three quick climbing moves to make it out the first time. Climbing along the sunny ridge, I reached the same spot where Tori slipped and met the same fate. I am glad I pushed it enough to fall at least once.

The sun finally reached the trail as we climbed once more over on Joshua's top rope, experimenting with different routes up the rock face before the climbing session ended. Hiking back down the trail, we passed The Thumb, a distinctive pillar of rock on the north edge of the Main Wall. I bet that would be fun to climb sometime.

It was my first time at Mission Trails. It is nice to know that there is good climbing area so close to home. My forearms and calves are a little sore today but otherwise I feel great.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Engagement Photo Shoot at the Trapeze Rig

Tori and I have been wanting some professional Engagement Photos taken before our wedding so our friend, Wayne Labat, offered to shoot them to build up the portfolio for his company, Happy Dragon Photography. We could have gone the normal route with some sunset pics at the beach but since we all do trapeze, we decided to dress up nice and take the pictures while flying on the rig in Escondido.

After Wayne set up his gear, we started out taking pictures on the new set of traveling rings before moving over to the trapeze rig. I climbed into the catch trap first so we could take pictures with Tori swinging toward me in a Knee Hang. Since our arms would hide our faces if I caught her, we just did timers while smiling and trying to keep our arms out of the way of the camera's angle. It is harder to get into the catch lock with stiff jeans and a button-down shirt but I thought Wayne got some great shots.

Wayne really wanted us to attempt the Bridge (holding a catch mid-air) before letting go with one hand to turn our upper torsos to the camera. We connected and held on the first attempt, but it was much easier for me to hold the position in the Catch Lock than for Tori in the Knee Hang and we released before Wayne could snap a photo. Since I was wearing knee pads under my jeans, we decided to switch places to see if I could hold the Knee Hang longer. Overconfident, I forwent the safety lines and Tori and I connected again on our first attempt. Wayne got off one shot before my legs gave out and I fell to the net. It is much, much harder to keep the legs bent with a metal bar pulling against them.

I hooked up to the safety belt for the next attempt with Dave coming over to take some of my weight on the lines. Tori and I were able to hold the pose longer this time, even releasing one hand to turn toward the camera for a few shots before my legs tired but the best poses came out blurry. Bummer! With a stunt ring in my pocket to try and present to Tori, we tried the Bridge one more time. We connected and I tried to fetch the ring out but the back of my knees were shot and we released without a good picture.

During the resting periods between shoots, I used Wayne's expensive SLR camera to take his picture with Lisa and their son, Tucker, dressed up as elves in the net for their Christmas card. We traded places and Tori and I took some pictures in the net's apron as well.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Flying Trapeze - Becoming an Official Catcher

After several months of training, I climbed up into the catch trap and caught my first trapeze class today. While I have caught Tori several times during my practices, I was a bit nervous since this was my first time catching beginning flyers. Each flyer gets two attempts at getting caught per class and I had just enough endurance to catch all of their first attempts before Tori tagged in and caught everybody's second turn. Over the next few classes I will work on increasing my strength until I can catch an entire class.

The knee hang is the first trick a beginning flyer learns, hanging from the bar by their knees with arms outstretched so the catcher can grab their wrists. After catching a couple of knee hangs, I had my first ever attempt at catching a release trick, a Full Twisting Straight Jump from Veronica. The adrenaline must have been pumping because I wasn't nervous at all. On the front end of her first swing, I saw her release and twist as I swung up to meet her. I extended my arms but only snagged her hands instead of wrists so I let her drop to the net. So close!

Update: 10/5/13 - 2nd Class

In my second class, I got anther attempt at catching a release trick. It was a small class of only four so I was determined to complete all the catches. (2 each) After catching a knee hang, Misty attempted her Planche, but the timing was off. I was already going away by the time she released and extended her arms. On her second try, the timing was perfect and I caught her with no problem. On my last Knee Hang Catch of the day, the flyer kicked his legs hard while in hands, banging the bar into my legs. My lower quads are very sore and I now have a big ol' bruise.

Update: 10/13/13 - 3rd Class

A trick-filled catching day. For my third class in the catch trap, I caught two Layouts, two Knee-Hangs, a Planche and a Splits. I also had a chance at two more tricks, fending off Mark's feet in his Forward Over and the twisty belt's metal ring in Veronica's Full Twisting Straight Jump.

Update: 10/19/13 - 4th Class

In my forth class, I tried to work on smoothing out my technique while getting into the lock. It was my longest time on the catch bar yet, performing eleven locks and catching six. One of them was Lindsay's Hocks Off. ("Light as a feather!") I'm so tall that her toes brushed the net while in hands. Lots of laughs with that one.

I also dropped my first flyer into the apron, the high-sided rear net. Our grip was just too slippery. I think it was a combination of the flyer not gripping back on my wrists and my forearms growing weak from gripping the bar too hard while concentrating on my improved lock technique. I ended the class catching Celeste's layout. I am really surprised we pulled it off. I had to reach far down and grab her wrists from the sides.

Not all catches are smooth. When a flyer releases early, they turn into a missile traveling straight for the catcher's head.

Update: 11/16/13 - 5th Class

After a few weeks off, I was back catching after Tori cut her finger and needed me to cover for her on Saturday. I caught Veronica's Half Time Straight Jump for the first time and worked in hands. Dave said it was my best catch yet. I wish I had a video of it.

Update: 11/30/13 - 6th Class

As the rain cleared on a Thanksgiving weekend, we worked the board under blue skies and scattered clouds. I have gotten quite good at retrieving the bar between flyers with the long hook called a noodle.

Catching in the noon class, I started calling timing for the first time, yelling "Ready" and "Hep" to alert the flyers when to leave the board. So far, I only know it for the tricks that have the same timing as a Knee Hang.

Update: 1/4/14

My endurance and technique has improved enough that I finally caught an entire full class for the first time today without another catcher having to tag in. I also received my first catcher wound when a small girl torpedoed her head into my chin. I tried to fend her off as I ducked but she still smacked me.

Update: 2/22/14

While Tori was away on a business trip, I filled in for her on the Catch Trap for the first time. With the new slow motion feature on my iPhone 5s, I have video of me catching the Knee Hang, Splits, Layout and Planche. Here are three below. I am starting to learn the timing enough to call the Flyer off the board for some of the tricks.

Update: 4/12/14

Another good day. My brother, Jordan, came out for Trapeze for the first time and I caught his Knee Hang. I also finally caught Betty's Layout for the 1st time. We had been trying for several weeks and always came close.

Update: 4/19/14

My biggest class yet, 14 catches out of 16 attempts including Kenny at the end for my first out-of-lines catch. Oof, he was heavy!

Update: 6/21/14

Today I finally caught two trapeze classes on the same day. I was worn out and my mouth was bone-dry at the end, but I pulled it off. Tori has caught three classes in a day but that is when she was working the rig full time.

Update: 12/6/14

Susan Watson was visiting from the rig in Colorado and wanted to throw me her Pump Shoot trick today. Since I had never caught it before, I was a little nervous of what I would see flying toward me in the catch trap. I felt more confident after I saw her pop into an uprise at the backend before swinging back toward me in my lock. I had called the timing slightly late, but I still caught her at the top as she launched upward off the bar. The video below is off our second catch with improved timing.

Update: 4/18/15

On Saturday, I caught a very pretty Layout from Chris. It took a few attempts for us to get the timing right and to match the height of my swing to the amplitude of his trick.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Palm Springs - Date Shakes, Tram Rides & High Heat

After a quick stop at Trapeze High on Sunday morning to practice my catch locks, Tori and I drove out to Palm Springs to spend a couple nights at my Dad's timeshare. For lunch, we stopped at Hadley Fruit Orchards since I was craving a date shake. I haven't had one since their Carlsbad store closed years ago. While I love horseradish, their Spicy Roast Beach Sandwich had way too much. I needed to scrape off the rest of the spread in order to finish the second half.

Driving past the countless windmills at the entrance to Coachella Valley, we arrived at the Palm Canyon Resort, located at the end of South Palm Canyon Drive. After checking in and unpacking, we headed over to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for the ride up into the San Jacinto Mountains. While it was 106 degrees in the valley, we took sweatshirts with us for the cooler sixty degree temps at the top.

We boarded the rotating tramcar at the Valley Station (2,643 ft.) where it completed two revolutions while ascending through the Chino Canyon to the Mountain Station at 8,516 feet. (Only the floor rotates.) This is the sheerest mountain face in North America. Everytime we crossed over a tower, the tram would swing back and forth several feet. Fun! At the top, we climbed the stairs to Grubbs View Point. To the west, the setting sun still illuminated the tip of San Jacinto Peak (the second highest in the lower 48 states) as the mountain range cast a giant shadow over the Palm Springs. To the south, we could spot the Salton Sea below the rising moon.

Down the winding path into the Mount San Jacinto State Park, we hiked through the tall trees and sandy meadows of the Desert View Trail as Tori pointed out the wonderful butterscotch scent of the Jeffrey Pines. The last time I came up here as a child, I played in the snow for the very first time. As the pink twilight faded away, we reached the first three notches along the trail revealing the distant valley below. It was getting dark as we made our way back to the station to take the tram down, but the bright moon was almost full.

Sleeping in, we worked on designing our wedding invitations on Tori's laptop before heading out to the pool. Since it was Monday, the pool was not crowded with plenty of chairs and umbrellas available. Baking in the sun, we had a great view of the mountains rising behind the palm trees as we drank the pineapple margaritas that Tori made. The food at the pool bar, Splash's, was quite good. We had the Buffalo Chicken Wraps and their fries were nice and crisp. The water temperature was perfect every time we cooled off in the pool and I took a turn on the water-slide. I was a little too tall for the sharp turns. Bump! Bump! Bump!

For dinner, we drove into Downtown Palm Springs. Since we were starving, we made a quick decision to eat at the Village Pub. It was just okay, Tori's chicken fajitas were under-spiced and my burger was almost too tall to eat. We made up for it by getting ice cream at Ben and Jerry's as we walked around afterwards. We had fun posing with the towering Forever Marilyn Monroe Statue and the one of Sonny Bono sitting beside a fountain. It was nice and balmy at this later hour.

Driving home Tuesday morning, we stopped at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. We checked out a few shops and rode the horsey. Ha!