May 22, 2015
Local climbing is an amazing thing. Recently at the Gunks, there are some sends worth writing home about, and if the weather treats us right, a couple more to write about as well.
Some time ago, long time Southeast climber Whitney Boland moved up to a small cottage in the Gunks. Black Diamond athlete, writer and all around bad ass, Whitney is one of the strongest climbers residing at the gunks right now. When I first heard of Whitney’s name, it was almost always in conjunction with another word: Ozone.
Ozone is a modern classic. Taking small sections from Twilight Zone (5.13b) and French Connection(5.12+), and adding some new sections of hard climbing, Ozone is an amazing and direct line up the buttress. Ozone tips the scales at 5.14.
As I heard more about Whitney, Andy’s name would continue to pop up as well. I don’t know Whitney personally, so whenever I saw Andy, I hoped he would mention the project. However, being humble and not self-touting, nothing was said. Nor did I bring it up. Yet.
Andy’s humility is inspiring. He is a strong climber that flies under the radar despite continuing to send routes that will put hair on your chest and being featured in magazines such as Rock and Ice. Whitney brought to my attention the possible sendage of Ozone, Andy keeps me interested in the progress that’s being made on it.
He simply loves climbing and its evident from all of his actions and words. Take this for example, from La Sportiva’s Ambassador file on Andy. While so many people are concerned with gym climbers taking up their precious climbing spaces and being concerned with their territory, this is what Andy is concerned with:
WHAT REALLY SCARES YOU ABOUT CLIMBING?“The direction it seems to be heading…more and more climbers expecting fame and fortune and being more concerned with a numerical progression than worrying about how they are advancing as a human.”
I’ll echo that sentiment with one of the best pieces of climbing advice given to me by the man who taught me how to plug gear, Doug Ferguson. At the end of the day he told me that whether I continue climbing or not, to
“Climb the route. Not the grade.”
It’s obvious that Andy is progressing as a stronger climber by not focusing on himself.
Despite Ozone not being sent yet, Andy continues to send hard climbs in and around the Gunks. In the last couple months, Andy has sent a number of 5.12 R/X routes, including El Kabong (5.12c R) and the Russ Clune top rope special – The Jane Fonda Workout For Pregnant Women (5.12c R/X). There are probably more I don’t know about yet, too.
This morning, eyes half shut and tired faced, I flipped through Instagram on autopilot. In an instant I was wide awake when I saw on Ken Murphy’s Instagram; a top view shot of Andy eyeing a hand hold next to a bolt with this caption:
“When he’s not saving the world he crushes rocks. After a long battle over many days, a cool breeze rolled in and Andy’s determination and hard work paid off. He put to rest one of the hardest climbs in the Gunks (Planet Claire 5.14).”
Just like that. Another Gunks 5.14 finished by the indomitable Andy. A Lost City modern trad climb that is over 30 years old.
After Whitney’s move up here, I didn’t hear too much more about if they had sent Ozone or not. As I was writing this, I asked Andy how far along they were. He responded:
“Both of us are quite close. Maybe another few days on it.”
Another few days?! While I’m sure many other hard sends have happened between Andy, Whitney and friends recently, the fact that we may be able to report on two 5.14s being sent within a week of each other is an amazing mastery of skills, perseverance, and dedication. We may not have the commitments of the mountains of the far east, or the sport climbing hardships in the west (like Jumbo Love, congrats Ethan!), but we have something.
If you want to poop your pants, question your sanity, and wonder why you ever started climbing – test your might at the Gunks. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.
As an added bonus, Andy’s send was only the third ascent of Planet Claire. Keep killing it, Andy.
Bonus gift: Bass for your Face. You’ll know what it is when you feel it.
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