How Many Pull-ups?

At the UW we had weekly “seminars” with invited speakers. These were followed by a get-together for tea, coffee and snacks (to ensure attendace by the ever-hungry grad students). At one of these post-seminar meetings one of my fellow grad students (who was an avid Lacrosse player) felt the need to challenge me to a test of strength, thusly:
Who is stronger – a Lacrosse player or a mountain climber? Let's pick a test you are probably good at. How many pull-ups can you do?

I was rather surprised by this unprovoked challenge, and considered it for a few seconds. I had every reason to suspect he could do more pull-ups than me, but I could change the contest into something for which I was probably stronger. The challenger was quite surprised by my answer: “One.”

I walked to the nearest doorway and did a single pull-up on the lintel (which had less than a ¼ inch reveal). This antic attracted the attention of the entire group. I then invited him to do the same.

When he tried to get a grip on the lintel he could not. He accused me of jumping rather than doing a pull-up.

To prove him wrong, I returned to the doorway, put my fingers on the lintel, lifted my feet from the ground and hung for several seconds before doing a pull-up. Upon returning to a hanging position I said: “Actually, I can do two,” and did a second pull-up without having touched the ground. I could have done several more, but was satisfied I had made my point.

I think the challenge was meant to be friendly, and perhaps he would have been satisifed to trust whatever answer I gave. He probably did not expect an actual contest, or for it to happen immediately and with an audience. What he did not know was that I regularly practiced doing pull-ups on the door lintels and had very strong fingers.

Stupid versus Crazy

On a winter ascent of McClellan Butte with several friends, we snowshoed directly up from the car towaed the summit. There were low clouds obscuring the mountain, so we were going by dead reckoning. Eventually we emerged above the clouds to a beautiful vista. Since we where not following the trail (which was under several feet of snow) we wound up at the base of a nearly vertical 20-foot snow covered “cliff” that was certainly not on the regular route.

Rather than make a difficult traverse around this obstacle, I decided we should attack it head-on. By taking off my snowshoes, plunging my arms deep into the snow cliff and kicking my feet in I was able to leverage myself up. The others followed. We put our snowshoes back on and proceeded to the summit.

On the descent, we made the mistake of following our tracks down (so as not to get lost in the clouds below) and arrived at the top of the cliff. I walked to the edge of the cliff in my snowshoes to assess the situation. The snow gave way and I plunged feet-first down the cliff onto a steep tree-covered slope at a high rate of speed. I found that I had a little control over my descent by using the snowshoes to steer and avoid colliding with trees — barely! I finally came to a stop as the slope eased.

As I lay dazed from my fall and considered my poor judgement, I heard a scream. I instinctively rolled to the side as a friend came racing by, extending the path I had created. Upon stopping about 30 feet below me, he stood up and yelled, "YOU'RE CRAZY!" I replied, "No, I'm stupid. You're crazy. I fell, you jumped!"

Return to Climbing Index