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Packing Posted on 09.22.2011 by greg.kuchyt

“Grrrrrrrit, Grrrrrrrrit, Grrrrrrrrit”, I pause for a second and consider how odd it seems to be sitting on the floor in my gear room wearing shorts, with the ceiling fan on, sharpening my front points and the pick of my ice axe. Usually this is an activity reserved for the months between Dec and March. Yet, it’s August right now. I remind myself that the next couple weeks are going to be filled with things I’m not necessarily used to and finish sharpening things.

Packing is a necessary evil. It’s both enjoyable and downright miserable…sometimes at the same time.

What I’ve learned over the past couple of years though, is that packing is a learned art. The more I pack for trips, the better I get, the quicker it goes, and the less painful it becomes. It seems almost as if I am developing a template packing list that gets refined for the trip’s objectives, climate, and the season. Desert climbing in the fall? The essentials become down hoody for the mornings, the 20 deg. sleeping bag,  and lots of athletic tape to protect your hands from jamming. Sport climbing in the Southeast in the spring? Sunscreen, cut-off t-shirt, and shorts. Wait, maybe I should start writing this down and start a business as a packing consultant for adventure travelers…


About 3/4 of *my* gear for two weeks in Wyoming

Regardless, the process of preparing for a trip is all encompassing. Packing everything you need to live self-sufficiently for a few weeks ends up being a lot of stuff, even when you cut it down to the bare essentials. Inevitably you always forget things or remember things at the last minute. The day of departure is always a roller coaster ride of “oh shit, I almost forgot that” and “damn it! I forgot…” after you’re a couple hours into the travelling. For better or for worse, this is all part of the experience.

While so many aspects of packing and travelling are bitter-sweet, there is one truism. The worst thing you can do to a trip to complicate the packing and travel process is involve air travel. For the modern climber (or adventure traveller in general), nothing quite complicates the packing process like modern airline baggage policies. The packing process becomes a delicate ballet of dividing all the necessary pieces of gear between all the travellers and then splitting it up amongst the carry-on (usually the climbing pack) and a checked bag. As a climber it seems it’s always a super close call as to whether you will make it under the 50 pound bag limit.

Even with the added frustration of air travel, once you make it to your destination and manage to touch some real rock or get the first views of mountains, all the stress and frustration melts away and it all feels worth it. If you’re lucky you avoid any complications travelling (less likely if you’re unfortunate enough to have to fly) and maybe you’ll even figure out how to refine your packing system a little bit too. Inevitably, your time in the mountains will go by too quickly and you’ll find yourself packing once again, but this time with a lot less energy or aim. Although, you’ll probably be considering how you’ll pack differently for the next trip.

The Book of Faces Posted on 08.08.2011 by greg.kuchyt

So I attempted to take a hiatus from Facebook. It was short lived and now I’m back, but I feel like I had some clarity in the eye of the storm. There really wasn’t any real reason for my chosen exile other than just to see how it felt. Ok, that’s not entirely true.

Lately, I’ve been battling with a certain truth that has made me uneasy. The “FaceSpace” is a tool of good and evil. It’s great to be able to keep in contact with friends and share the full panoply of media with them at nearly the speed of light. In our increasingly fragmented and busy lives, being able to still keep in contact keeps a certain degree of humanity alive and well. However, Facebook is also a tool of great evil in that we commit social taboos with almost total impunity. Example: Normally you wouldn’t stalk someone in real life, yet everyone does it on The Facebook. It’s second nature at this point to “Facebook” someone you don’t know but are “hearing” about. Don’t even get me started on the app that watches your would-be paramore and alerts you when their status changes; but I digress…

The issue I was struggling with was where is the line between sharing and spraying? For those of you who aren’t up on the lingo, spraying is generally talking yourself and your accomplishments up and letting everyone know how rad you are…whether they care or not (generally when they don’t). Recently I’ve become reticent to really talk about anything that I do or am planning for fear of spraying. I like to think I do the things I do for myself, and not so others will think better of me. At the same time though, the things I do are part of me and the people who I am close to benefit from seeing who I am and what I do.

I struggled with the fact that my interest in photography, story telling, etc is all ultimately for an audience. After all, pictures that no one sees are kind of pointless, right? So are all photographers and story tellers narcissists? Probably not. Sharing my experiences with climbing is exactly that. My goal is to entertain, inspire, and educate, in other words have people walk away with something positive. Hopefully that isn’t selfish, at least not in the royal douche kind of way.

So, here we go. I’m back with some clarity and focus. Now I just need the time and patience to work on accomplishing these goals. In a few days I’m off to Wyoming for a climbing trip. Hopefully I can bring back something worth while to share with everyone from that…something aside from how rad Scott and I.

PS, by the way, I’m not sure if you knew this, but we are kind of a big deal… 🙂

Patience Posted on 05.17.2011 by greg.kuchyt

The whole East Coast has been generally cold and wet this spring. It’s not been a stellar season for climbing. We’ve been lucky to have a few solid weather windows, but my own personal misfortune has prevented me from taking part in some of them. I’ve had a string of health issues lately and I sliced open my finger with a bread knife (let’s just bypass that story). I had to miss out on the only splitter weekend weather window we’ve had to let that finger heal.

In a way the rain has been good though. It’s allowed me to focus on some things in my life that needed to be taken care of, such as finding a better apartment. These crappy weather windows also serve as a reminder of the virtue of patience. In the meantime, I’m just trying to train hard in the gym and be prepared to smash and grab my ticklist items when the good weather comes. As well, I’ve been exploring new climbing areas, working on developing new routes, and working on my photography portfolio.

The whole week’s forecast is rain, hopefully as the week draws on things will get better for the weekend. It would be nice to be able to get some climbing in at some point…

In a day: Failure Posted on 02.19.2011 by greg.kuchyt

It’s no secret that I want to start learning how to bring my experiences and stories of climbing to light through the use of various multimedia formats. I’ve started playing with audio narratives through the podcasts. I’m working on learning more about digital photography by taking a course this semester. In my spare time, I think I’m going to start messing around with video. Specifically, documenting “a day” of climbing that highlights some aspect of climbing that I want to share. So, bear with me…this will be rough. Today’s post and “In a day” segment will be about failure and the lessons learned through it.

I used to be afraid of committing remote climbs. There are too many unknown factors you can use to psyche yourself out. Remote climbs, particularly ice climbs, require a keen understanding of a lot of factors and how they come together to affect your experience. When rock climbing these factors are mainly limited to precipitation and sunshine/wind to determine whether a climb is dry or not. Ice climbs though…they’re a different story; there are so many factors that can impact your experience. Cliff aspect, how a climb is fed (how the ice grows; snow melt, seeping water, etc.), weather data, snow stability, these are just some of the many pieces of information that go into affecting the state of an ice climb and your experience.

These types of climbs, the experience of trying to climb them, it’s all a perfect metaphor for life. There is a beginning, a definitive end, and in between, you have a nebulous cloud of experiences. Fear, joy, bravery, frustration, the list continues; all the human emotions are there. Some times they’re even all chained together in the same pitch of climbing. It’s probably this reason why I have begun to like these types of climbs lately. I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to figure a lot of things out about myself and what I want to do with my life. These climbs; the experience of attempting to climb them, it resonates with me and my daily struggles in life. I’m able to internalize the metaphor and digest it and come back with just a little bit more clarity into my own life.

Remote climbs demand more of you. You have to have a serious dialogue with yourself at moments. There are some times when you need to be 100% honest about your abilities, comfort zones, and goals. At these moments miscalculating can have serious consequences to you and your partner. In a way, this is no different than every day life. We all have to make difficult decisions that require us to calculate and weigh many factors. The only difference is that unless under extraordinary circumstances, we generally don’t have to worry about injury to life and limb from the choices we face in every day life.

If we’re lucky, we calculate correctly and things work out. If we’re less lucky, we calculate incorrectly and are unsuccessful but unscathed. If we’re just unlucky…well…unscathed probably doesn’t apply, but at least we probably have a good story to tell. Today, I’d like to share with you a video segment about decisions, miscalculations, and failure (fortunately unscathed). The subject matter is a climb that my best friend Matt and I have been trying to climb this season, called The Pearl. A 140-170m WI4-4+ climb that ascends the left side of the SW face of Azure Mtn.

WARNING: The audio on this gets R rated at times, we curse to express our frustration. Don’t blast the audio if some f-bombs won’t go over well.

In a day: Failure from Greg Kuchyt on Vimeo.

Downtime Posted on 12.28.2010 by greg.kuchyt

Sitting once again in the exam room at my doctor’s office I reflected on what I could have done differently to not be there. I had to wait over a half hour for the PA to finally see me, so I had a lot of time to think about this. I really couldn’t think of anything. I mean, jesus, I injured myself warming up…warming up so I wouldn’t get hurt. I guess there isn’t anything I can’t manage to fuck up.

Bouldering on some easy overhanging warmups during my lunch break yesterday, I felt a weird pain in my lower back. It felt like I pulled a muscle, just a small pain when I moved a little bit. I’ve gotten pulled muscles before and they are uncomfortable but no big deal. A few hours later and I was lying down in my bed not wanting to move at all for fear of the pain.

Turns out, sprained ligaments in your back are incredibly painful. I found this out when after the PA diagnosed my symptoms and I mentioned that 400 mg of ibuprofen hadn’t helped and the response was “Yeah, that…won’t be enough”. So now I’m using some new fangled topical stick-on anti-inflammatory/pain killer which doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help alleviate the discomfort. I also have a prescription for some muscle relaxers and jumbo size ibuprofen, which I’m thinking I’ll have to fill.

As far as recovery time, it’s looking like at least a week of no activity and then a slow comeback that is bounded by pain. Unfortunately I’m worried this will kill the couple objectives I have setup for the winter. Hopefully it won’t impact the attempt to link up the trilogy in late Feb. or early March. I’m worried about how long it will take me to get back in the gym however, to keep my fitness up. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to at least do hangs on tools, hangboard, rings, etc. Hopefully shortly after that I’ll be able to get back into step-ups with a pack. On the up side, I at least should be healed in time to start training for the rock season.

Learning to Fly Posted on 11.18.2010 by greg.kuchyt

We return to a podcast format for this post. I couldn’t sleep this morning, so, here’s what happens.

I originally wrote this in August, but I sat on it for a long time. I felt like it wasn’t a good story, not worth sharing. I blew the dust off of it a few days ago and showed it to a couple friends who encouraged me to do it up, so here it is. It’s not as good as I would like, but for an hour’s work of “producing” it’ll do.

As a post-script of sorts. I went on to finish the season out strong. Still afraid to fall, but able to manage the fear of it. I on-sighted a few 10as, a 10b, and had a one-hang rest on a 10c on a 40° day so I could warm my hands up. Progress.

Today’s music is from Janelle Monae’s new album The Arch Android and it’s the track Tightrope (ft. Big Boi).

In Indian Creek…without a rack Posted on 10.17.2010 by greg.kuchyt
Love Muffin Cafe - Moab, UT

Love Muffin Cafe - Moab, UT

Effectively we’re up shit creek without a paddle…or more fitting, we’re all dressed up with no place to go. Since we’re meeting a friend out here who has 10 sets of cams we decided not to bring our own rack. Now we’re sitting in the Love Muffin cafe in Moab, hoping the day won’t be completely burnt waiting to meet up with our gear supplier. It’s quarter to 8 here, and we’re still sitting around. My vote is today is a burned day, but maybe that’s the pessimism from a 20 hour day yesterday.

If in the Moab area, check out Love Muffin. Here’s a parting shot of Don and the interior of the cafe.

Motivation Posted on 10.14.2010 by greg.kuchyt

A couple months ago a guy in the gym asked me what motivates me to push so hard during a training session. I honestly didn’t even know how to answer the question. I knew what to say, but I didn’t know how to say it. A certain part of all this is somewhat akin to drinking the Kool-Aid; either you understand what it’s about and why, or you don’t. In the back of my mind was a conversation I had with a new climbing partner where he admitted he thought I was an asshole because I’m so quiet when training. When thinking about how to answer this question, I was torn between giving an honest answer (filled with elitist absolutes and indictments) and sounding like an asshole or giving a more generalized response.

I opted for the cop out and strategically pawned it all off on a single inarguable concept; safety. In the gym there are few consequences and failing is safe. Outside, the same isn’t necessarily true. In the mountains, the rule is “speed is safety”. The less time exposed to risk, the better. This training makes me lighter & faster, hopefully helping to me to reduce my time being exposed to objective dangers (falling ice, avalanche terrain, etc). As well, being relatively strong for my size and body weight makes me “harder to kill”. There are enough risks in the mountains and in the back-country, we don’t need to add being unfit to the list.

The above argument about safety is all true, it’s just not the full story. What I really was thinking was, this is training; work done to achieve an ultimate goal (in our case, defined by performance). There’s no room for excuses or half-ass work on a hard pitch of rock or ice. Why should there be in the training environment? If I’m not pushing hard in my training sessions, I’m not committed to my end goal. This training is all about commitment; the mobilization of all available resources dedicated to the task at hand, to borrow from Mark Twight. Perhaps this is a foreign concept; it seems that many people want the results without having to do the work. This shallow desire is reflected in their commitment to the task-at-hand; and in the end it’s also reflected in their accomplishments or the style in which they are achieved.

So, what motivates me? The desire to progress I suppose. The desire to tackle bigger, harder, more committing objectives “in the mountains” and to do so safely, or as safely as possible. The journey itself also motivates me. I know that in order to obtain my goals, I need to put in the wrench time moving barbells, training grip strength/endurance, toughening my mental game, and putting it all together on my version of “game day”. The process transforms who I am at a fundamental level, I learn from and adapt to the things I experience. I know if I don’t push hard while training to become the person I want to be and only pretend to be that person, I’ll be sorely disappointed when the day comes that I try to stand up to the talk. I’m motivated because I want, and in order to get what you want you have to do the work, end of story.

Commitment Posted on 10.07.2010 by greg.kuchyt
What does it take to be committed? What does it even mean to be committed? Can commitment even be defined or measured, or is it one of those things that you only know when you see it? In our society we idolize those who commit more than the average joe and put their extra-human accomplishments on a pedestal, what does this do to our own expectations/definitions of commitment? How much are you really willing to give in order to achieve your goals? If any of these points resonate with you, it’s possible you know the hunger of being fully committed to some larger goal.

While working on my undergrad I learned that in order to fully understand anything, you need to understand the definitions first. So, what is commitment? The dictionary definition includes “the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action” as a definition. Dictionary definitions are nice, but in our society, words become so loaded with connotation they often become contextualized. So what I think commitment is, probably differs from what Joe Six-Pack (of beer) thinks it means. To borrow from Mark Twight, it means “the mobilization of all available resources to achieve a particular goal”. In short, commitment is wanting; it’s hunger. You have to want something before you can be committed, and the more concise that something is the easier it is to make a plan to get there. Second, you need to take action on that goal; to mobilize “all available resources” in an attempt to meet that goal.

If you ask someone what their goal for the next new year will be, there answer will be filled with optimism and lofty goals. If you ask them how they choose to accomplish that goal, they may even have a plan. How about when you check back in around March? Ask them what they’ve done to accomplish their goal, and you’ll probably get a reply with a lot less optimism. More likely, you’ll get a lot of excuses. The excuses aren’t necessarily a sign of laziness or a sign of any inability to commit. The excuses are a handy comfort mechanism we use to dull the sting that results from having nothing to show for all the talk.

Why is it then that committing to goals is something that so many people falter on? It’s hard, plain and simple. Truly committing to something takes, as Twight side, the mobilization of all available resources. That means everything you have goes into achieving your goal. You don’t half ass work, you don’t get to blow off the things you need to do to succeed, you work, pay attention, learn, adapt, and grow. The completion of a goal is more an expression of the journey taken to get there and this is reflected in the accomplishment. Hard & honest work will yield stronger results than half-assed, dishonest work.

So what is commitment? It’s hiking in the rain to check out your project, knowing full well you won’t be able to climb it. It’s training when you should, but don’t want to. It’s leaving the doubles on the ground, forcing yourself to work with the gear you have. It’s the countless other examples of actions taken in the pursuit of some larger goal. So while we can split hairs about what commitment means, it’s always something you know when you see.

Protein, activity, & you Posted on 09.20.2010 by greg.kuchyt

The role and differences between types of protein is a somewhat complicated section of performance nutrition, but it doesn’t have to be super complicated. Protein intake in the pre and post workout phase can help to aid recovery and minimize muscle breakdown. Prophylactic intake of protein in the pre-workout phase will provide free amino acids in the blood stream to help buffer the catabolic effect of physical activity on muscle. In the context of the post workout phase, the role of protein is to help the body recovery from and adapt to the specific stress applied.

Soy protein is generally better reserved for pre and during workout/activity consumption. This is due to its amino acid profile which has higher levels of the three main amino acids hit during activity (leucine, isoleucine and valine), and the lack of a metabolic ammonia by-product during activity. Ammonia has been linked to increased muscular fatigue and it also forces the kidneys to work overtime to remove the ammonia from the circulatory system. Approximately 16 oz of soy milk is a good amount to intake an hour or so before a hard workout, especially if that workout goes into the endurance timeframe (> 90 minutes).

In essentially all cases, whey protein is the preferred type of protein supplement to use for recovery. This is due to whey protein’s ability to be easily processed by the body (bio-availability) and its more complete amino acid profile and how that relates to how completely the body utilizes the protein (biological value). When discussing whey protein powders there are generally two options; whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate is the less pure form of whey protein, being at most less than 90% pure (generally far less) with the rest being fillers (carbohydrates, principally lactose, and fats). Whey protein isolate is at least 90% pure with very little fat or lactose. Whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate but generally is a better choice for recovery or protein supplement.

After physical activity, there is a 30 minute “window” for recovery in which the body is primed to intake carbohydrates and protein and restore muscle/liver glycogen stores and engage protein synthesis (muscle recovery) respectively. Ideally, a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein is considered to be the most effective combination to maximize recovery from a workout. You can find pre-mixed powders that conform to this ratio (Hammer Recoverite being one example, and the one I use). Pre-mixed powders will be at a premium price though, 32 servings of Recoverite runs about $50. Alternatively, chocolate milk makes a great substitute for the expensive powders; a sort of poor man’s recovery drink. The important thing to check with chocolate milk is that high fructose corn syrup is not used as the sweetener. Try to find the chocolate milk with the shortest, most natural ingredient list and watching the fat levels won’t hurt either. Ideally you want your recovery mix to be minimal calories, minimal filler, and maximum nutritional benefit (3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio).

In the end, anything will be better than nothing. Depending on your activity level and objectives, you’ll have to supplement with additional protein intake outside of the post-workout period. This is where protein shakes come in handy. However, consuming straight protein isolate with no additional sugar before bed anecdotally has been linked to increased levels of human growth hormone and elevated immuno response. If training hard, consider pre-workout nutrition as important as post-workout nutrition to minimize muscle breakdown. You should notice how when you get recovery right, it will allow you to push harder and feel better the next day. Just remember that your body has limits and remember to listen to them.