They Call Me Flapper John or I Can’t Read!


So I think I’m going to adopt a new nickname. I’m also thinking of changing my Twitter handle from @TheBionicHiker to @FlapperJohn.

I went climbing at the St. Paul Vertical Endeavors on Saturday night. Took the whole family but since my little guy was on the tail end of fighting influenza he just sat playing his Leapfrog Leapster and was the most well-behaved he’s ever been in a situation like that.

Side note: My son told me that he doesn’t like rock climbing which is why he doesn’t climb too high. Turns out he’s not a fan of roped climbing but he’s was nearly begging us to boulder. I feel the same way at times.

Back to my story . . .  so we had a great family time. We’re not sure about whether we want to get a membership there or keep the fitness membership we already have. We’re doing Pro’s & Con’s; can’t tell you whose leading right now.

To make a long story less long I tore my hands apart. I had a ton of ‘flappers’. If you don’t know what they are, it is when skin is torn from your hand and just flaps in the wind. I tore off calluses and other skin from various parts of my hand. See the picture showing you the ouch zones.

Can You Find the Seven Hidden Flappers in this Picture?

That wasn’t the only problem I had……I really sucked it up tonight. I finished one climb….the whole night. I managed to pull off a 5.7 on an auto-belay and I think I may have only used one foothold that wasn’t marked in the routes color. I was happy because it’s the first route I have ever finished. I tried another and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how it went. So after getting frustrating with not being able to get more then 10′ off the deck I decided to head upstairs to the easy bouldering cave. I say easy because it’s not super overhanging and I needed a confidence boost. I should have looked elsewhere.

I found a nice V0 (easiest problem in bouldering) and I decided to give it a go. I fell, and I fell hard. I hit the back of my head, knocking off my hat, nearly knocked off my glasses, and almost bit through my tongue. So like any sane climber…..I tried it again, and again, and again. I didn’t finish the problem, but I did improve my falling!

My right hand took the worst of it, 4 flappers to 3.

So a climber came over, having felt so much pity on me and showed me how to climb the problem. I got to the part that kept alluding me, but with this new beta I knew I’d finish, until my shoulder began acting up. Yep, it was a one arm hang from a horn with the feet spread out and then a pull up to a 3-finger pocket. My left foot popped and my right shoulder couldn’t take the stress and off I came. I had tried swinging and mini-dynos all night long and coming within 1 finger of sticking the hold. I would leave not being able to finish it.

I tried twice downstairs on a 5.8+ and a 5.6 and couldn’t pull either off. I was gassed, my body was tired and mentally I was shot. My confidence was crushed even though I know it shouldn’t be. I try really hard and I know my technique leaves MUCH to be desired. It’s difficult when you have a bum shoulder, your calves don’t work, you don’t trust your legs, and your knee begins acting up. I know this is only the sixth time I’ve ever climbed and my stamina is really improving, but I hate excuses I hate blaming failure on a disability or being a novice. I really wanted to stick that problem.

I was really struggling to even see how a route/problem went. I’d get going and wonder “Um . . . ok what the heck am I supposed to do now?” I tried my best to stay on the marked tapes to really see where I was at ability wise. Sometimes I just looked at where the movements were supposed to go and I saw nothing. I hope my climbing eyes develop over time.

I did get one great takeaway from this and it was a list of things to improve upon. I think that no matter what failure shouldn’t go by and be left as simply failure. I would encourage everyone to look at everything you face and pull something out of nothing. Never let a hardship, failure, success, or struggle go by without learning something about yourself. Here is what I learned.

1. Be Patient

I kept trying to fly up the routes. I would half jump to holds and leave myself dangling, especially when I know the problem. Going slow saves energy and allows one time to think.

2. Be Even More Patient

I gotta be patient with my progress and allow myself time to develop and to understand that I’ve got some disadvantages that need to be worked through.

3. Understand Why You’re Doing This

Climbing was a form of exercise and a chance to spend time with the family doing something other than watching movies. I’m not a pro and I shouldn’t try to push myself to prove myself either. I need to stop thinking about what other think of how I climb and just enjoy that I can.

4. Use Your Legs More By Trusting in Them More

I don’t trust my legs to hold me or propel me up a problem or route. I don’t use them as much as I should and I need to. They’re not going to get better if I don’t use them and begin to put some trust in them. Even if that means I don’t get up too high I need to develop as a well-rounded climber, and that means using all my body.

Categories: Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “They Call Me Flapper John or I Can’t Read!

  1. I think you’re right. Being patient is key. It takes some time to learn how to trust the equipment, your body, learn what technique will work for you, build up strength, etc. It took me three visits to the gym before I finished my first route, and quite a long time before I could finish a V0 in the bouldering cave. You’re getting out there and that’s half the battle. Stick with it and you’ll be finishing all sorts of routes before you know it!

    • Liz,

      I appreciate the encouragement. I’m going to try a new approach of going slower and being far more deliberate with placing hands and feet to really learn what works and doesn’t work.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Ouch! Flappers are the worst!

    I agree with Liz- it takes patience and time. I actually wish I had been a boulderer first- it would have progressed me more quickly, so you’re a step ahead of the game. Keep it up- even if you don’t finish a route, you’re working your mind and body. A great combo!

    • Thanks for the comments! I have a chance to get back at it tonight. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the 3-finger pocket that alluded me. I even caught myself going through the movements before going to bed one night…..I think there might be something wrong with that!

      I really enjoy bouldering mostly because it gives me a chance to climb with my 5yr old who can’t really stand to climb on a rope. It’s nice being able to share that with him.

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