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Electric Stove Couch


During the tattoo era (somewhere in between graduations and engagements), many of my friends inked up. I lived in Madison at the time. Weekly I listened, over a craft brew, to someone describing the art on their body: telling the story, reliving the memory, proving the significance of something that had happened in their lifetime. Living in a city of protest, part of me wanted to make a counterstatement and get an absolutely meaningless tattoo. Just to ironically say nothing. I joked around that I was going to get a picnic table on my ribcage.

I finished work this Saturday, drove home to throw the last of the gear in the car, and drove to Wisconsin to rock climb somewhere new. This place was named The Picnic Area. I hoped the maker of the routes was a smart ass.

If you’re unfamiliar with route names, you have to interpret them with a sly, slightly stoner attitude: No Such Thing as Too Much Sax, Sticky Fingers, A Good Day to Die, Ben Dover, Projectile Vomit, Straight No Chaser, Grey Expectations, Good Knight, Rapprochment. Climbers are their own culture. Even the most delicate, disciplined climbers crack jokes at the crag or are willing to take a whipper (at least from the climbers I’ve met).

I was fortunate to be out with two climbers a few grades (or more) above my level. That’s fantastic because I can learn by observing: one of them climbs with powerful cadence that flows easily solving one problem after another; the other chooses very precise and balanced moves that are astoundingly confident and smooth. They climbed, in their own style, a 5.10d called Electric Stove Couch.



Climbing a hard route is a lot like starting a relationship. It’s awkward. It feels risky, safe, then risky, then safe. It’s unfamiliar and uncertain. It’s enjoyable but it can hurt. It needs to arrive at an anchor. It needs a sequence.


But I took measurements. I will do it. It’s a shame that great things take time when we have so little time allotted to us from the beginning. I want it so much. I want to master the sequence and solve the puzzle at my fingertips. I want to stand on nothing and do my dance. There is something beautiful about discovering a sequence, practicing it, and pushing it further. I wonder what the makers of the route thought about.

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