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From the Comp Scene to the Beach Scene

Each year, Planet Granite holds the Friction Series comps. Each of the three flagship Planite Granite gyms in the Bay Area hosts one comp with an onsight final determining the winner immediately after scoring the last event. This year, our gym in Sunnyvale held the finals and Lizz and I took part.

The scene at the 2012 Friction Series onsight final.

A subsequent weekend of calm weather gave us an opportunity to get to the shore and celebrate Lizz’s birthday. We made an evening trip to Mickey’s Beach, home of numerous hard routes right on the shoreline. Many of the climbs are not accessible at high tide.

What's better than a sunset at the beach after some sport climbing?

Below are photos and stories from the Sunnyvale Friction Series finals and our Pacific ocean adventure.

The Friction comps are broken into three categories, Beginner, Advanced and Open. Lizz competed in the Advanced category (5.10c-5.11c; toprope) and I tried my hand in the open division (5.11d and up; lead). Each route has three checkpoints that determine scoring, with the last being the anchors. Four routes are set for each category and the top three scores are taken for a point total. Onsights are worth more than redpoint attempts.

Lizz going all out on the hardest advanced route. The red route being climbed in the background was the hardest open line. Control of the boxed holds is required for the corresponding level of points

Cumulative season scores are not taken into account. Instead the three open finalists are determined by the best individual comp performances throughout the series. This means a climber can miss any of the events and still make the final as long as her best single comp score is in the top three.

Lizz did very well on some tough lines, scoring on each attempt. Many climbers competed in the advanced category and waits were long to get on routes. Thus making the most of her opportunities was important and she did just that. With 5 minutes left in the comp, she reached the first checkpoint on the hardest advanced route and then pushed over the tough roof before falling. I only saw a couple climbers make it farther the entire night and many peeled before banking any points.

Second-place finisher Mike Kerzhner working around the arete on the men's finals route.

I did about as well as I could have hoped, onsighting the easiest open line and making various checkpoints on my onsight attempts of the other three. The second open route proved frustrating as I made it to the second checkpoint and was surprised to have enough left to tackle the top, but I couldn’t figure out how to clip either of the last two draws. I think I missed a magic clipping kneebar. Not wanting to risk a 40 foot gym whip, I struggled in vein to find a clipping stance before just coming off in boring fashion. One of the few climbers to send the line actually did skip both the last two draws. Maybe I’m becoming a wienie in my old age. That fun but frustrating climb was balanced somewhat by making the first checkpoint on the hardest open line – with a series of desperate moves. The 5.13 was very difficult and saw no ascents. Bouldering pads were out for those who peeled before the first draw and making the first checkpoint at the third draw on that line was worth more than onsighting the easiest open route. In the end, my score was good enough for a top ten finish but could not compare with the finalists. An 11-year-old, Mirko Cabellero won the men’s division with an exciting onsight of the finals route.

For us the event was a way to see our gym come to life with the community and excitement of a comp. Many times we feel swallowed whole by the atmosphere there as the hundreds of climbers jostle for access to the hundreds of routes and boulder problems. Planet Granite Sunnyvale is a huge gym that serves a huge area and it is more of a challenge to break the proverbial glass there than at a smaller, more relaxed gym like Boulder’s BRC.

The Pacific ocean.

We woke the next morning, threw some gear in our packs and set out for Point Reyes National Shoreline just North of San Francisco. Our first stop was the Point Reyes lighthouse. The hiking through grassy areas with ocean views leaves a lasting impression as the skyline meets the horizon line in a perfectly blue transition.

On our way down the 308 stairs to the Point Reyes lighthouse.

We could see the puffs of water emanating from distant whales on their spring migration. But the wildlife highlight was undoubtedly the seals. On every patch of exposed sand, seals laid out like sardines in a can, occasionally throwing cool, wet sand over themselves with their uncoordinated flailing flippers.

A bunch of fat, lazy seals being fat and lazy.

We then headed south to Mickey’s Beach where many tough sport lines and plenty of bouldering await those who have checked the tide.

Lizz rapping down Walking A Thin Line (5.10c)

Main Rock at Mickey’s Beach has mostly 5.12 and 5.13 climbing with a handful of 5.10s and 5.11s. We enjoyed Walk a Thin Line, a balance-intensive slab climb with a very thin crux and some scary runouts. Then I led Courtney, a fun 5.11d with good holds up 5 bolts of pumpy terrain that brings one to a confounding crux section. It took me a number of efforts to piece together the hard sequence. I’d like to get back to it now that I’ve deciphered workable beta.

The teaming sea life at Mickey’s gives a glimpse into the amazing ocean ecosystem. We saw crabs, seagulls, pelicans, starfish, clams and a host of beautiful mosses and grasses.

Starfish take in the mist of a crashing wave on Mickey's Beach.

Rock-hopping over water to get to the base of a route and then climbing in the noise of crashing waves was a new experience and a bit unnerving at first. Some of the holds that felt good were quite slick as well and no chalk pointed the way on the harder lines. It’s taking me some time to get used to the different types of rock here, but it is a challenge that I enjoy and will hopefully make me a better climber.

Shells at the base of Main Rock at Mickey's Beach

The orange sky and rising tide signaled that our day was done and we packed up and started back along the ever-curving shoreline Highway 1.

A crane readies for nightfall.

Overall, the climbing at Mickey’s Beach was the highest quality I’ve found to this point in the Bay Area. Good camping is nearby and the location is less than an hour and a half from our door, so weekend trips should be easy. Much more awaits there and hopefully I’ll be heading back soon to try my hand at some of the project-worthy lines like Sex Porpoises (4-star 5.12c). We just have to check the tide.

Emily Knowles - Great job in the comp Lizz and Adam! I can’t wait to come out and climb at Mickey’s Beach with you guys, it looks awesome!April 9, 2012 – 11:19 am

Ron James Propri - Great post Adam. Beautiful shots! Also, nice work in the comp – both of you!April 9, 2012 – 12:22 pm

Tyler - Nice job on the comps, you two. It’s crazy that an eleven-year-old won the whole thing. Mickey’s beach looks pretty cool.April 9, 2012 – 6:56 pm

Amy - Great post and photos, Adam! It’s so great to see what you guys are up to. Way to rock that comp! What a beautiful place you are living in…April 9, 2012 – 9:01 pm

Kris Scheer - This is awesome! Thanks for sharing.April 10, 2012 – 10:22 pm

Daddyo - At high tide, can you swim over to the top half or so of those climbs? Actually, I liked the lazy seals!April 12, 2012 – 9:12 pm

WillO - Nice work both of you! That gym is massive… totally different transition than I am seeing… much smaller back alley gym. Can’t until we can get out there and check it out!April 17, 2012 – 9:29 pm

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