Imagine seeing your fifth grade teacher inverted inside a horrendous wide crack in Yosemite. What kind of homework would she give you? For many students this would be just your normal nightmare. For the kids in Christina Freschl’s fifth grade class in Layfette, the homework must be horrible.
Christina Freschl, a 31 year old Berkeley resident climbed in Yosemite for the first time in 2004. While battling on English Breakfast Crack, a 5.10c at Arch Rock, Freschl became excited and confused by the idea of squeezing into the notorious wide climb. “I got my first bloody elbow and was hooked.” Over ten years, Freschl amassed a solid resume of Yosemite offwidths: Twilight Zone, 1096, Mental Block, Blind Faith, Death Crack, Easy Wind. She spoke with the Touchstone blog a bit about her love.
Why are you obsessed with offwidths?
Maybe because I am a little masochistic... No, but seriously it is a demanding full mind and body challenge. It also requires no crimp strength, which I literally don't remember how to do. Also, the community is pretty great, small but psyched. Last October, I went to an offwidth weekend hosted by some local Fresno climbers. We climbed at Balch Flake on Jay Anderson's Wide World of Sports. I got to go right after Jay, himself went.
How can someone improve at OWs?
When you are first learning how to climb the wide, remember, it will hurt. You are doing movements that your body has probably never done before. Once you successfully move in new ways, your body remembers and it gets less painful. Learning the correct ways to tape your hands, ankles, cover knees and elbows,can also greatly increase your pain tolerance and can make the whole experience more enjoyable. Yes, I did say enjoyable:)
Do you have any tricks to keep your legs from bruising?
Knee pads work amazingly well. I have two pairs, one for squeeze chimneys (volleyball ones with a hard pad) and thinner, tighter ones, for the cracks between 5-6 inches. Be warned, don't wear these in #4 cracks or even #5 cracks if you have big knees; your knee will get stuck.
What gym training can you do to prepare for the wide?
Core exercises are the best thing to do. Also, seek out the most physically grueling, awkward, big-sloper, bouldering problems. Don't be afraid to use your whole body, knee included and definitely avoid crimps:)
What are the best spots to practice wide climbing?
Just look in the guide book for any 1 star dirty things and go climb them. They are most likely offwidths. Yosemite is pretty close to the bay and you can start by toproping some things, Generator (climb it twice, each side in) Bad-Ass Momma, Then climb everything at Arch Rock and Cookie that has wide. English Breakfast, Entrance Exam, Vendetta, Twilight Zone, Midterm. Each climb will teach you something new about how to move in an offwidth and you will be super fit from carrying around all those big cams.