November 14. The first snow of the season has fallen in Boulder. Not much — just a half-inch or so — but it’s a clear sign that the days of balmy 50-degrees-in-the shade belays are over. On one hand, I’m sad to see the comfortable temps go; on the other, I’m psyched that my climbing friends’ weekend exoduses to distant crags are now on hold. That means more normal human social interaction, which, in a town like Boulder, can be hard to find. Plus, now the local crags are the place to be — there are plenty of sunny walls and boulders nearby, with plenty of good projects, to boot.
Daylight savings was another sign that things were changing. We “fell back,” and just like that, cragging days were cut short. The sun drops by 5 p.m. now, and in the chossy canyons that house much local climbing, light dims even earlier. But again, I’m not sweating it, because instead of coming home at 8 p.m., beaten and exhausted from a marathon crag day and ready for nothing but a glass of warm milk and a pillow, I now have time and energy enough to cook dinner with the missus, or go out for some drinks with friends. So this is how the other half lives…
Indeed, winter is more or less upon us and things are different. But even for an eternal optimist like me, all is not lined in silver. The rock gyms are no longer just crowded after work, they’re bazaars of shirtless string beans with bulging shoulders and veiny backs. The lead walls have an infested look, with every line occupied. Without previewing the situation, climbers head up, cutting off others. Ropes overlap and zigzag. Belayers spend more time waving to their friends than watching their climbers. Short ropings abound. Climbers fall into other climbers. And below, the see-and-be-seen peanut gallery prattles on, each pseudo-somebody jockeying to be associated with another pseudo-somebody. Meanwhile, n00bs careen obliviously around on the boulders and top-rope jug hauls, climbing nothing of note but, ah, having fun — such a novelty!
Yes, change is upon us. Seasonal change, political change, change from the bagel I bought for breakfast. These are exciting times. Personally, I’m looking forward to a short day at a sunny sport crag with a down jacket and Thermos of coffee. Sure, my fingers will go dead numb before the third clip, and my toes will turn to wood inside my too-tight climbing shoes, but climbing is about suffering, is it not? And besides, this is sending weather.