Monday, August 6, 2012

Meet.... Sandra Chun and Howard Sherman

By Aubrey Wingo

There are climbers that come in once and a while, and there are members that sign up for memberships and come a few times a week.  But then there are a select group of dedicated climbers who immerse themselves into the sport and adventure.  We are fortunate to have the perfect pair who fits this category within our Aiguille Family and that’s Sandra Chun and Howard Sherman.  Sandy and Howie are naturally active people and climbing certainly became second nature extremely quickly once introduced to them over a year ago.  Both born in New York and both graduating with MAs from Binghamton University, they have relocated to Orlando and become one of the Aiguille Family.

Sandra Chun
Sandy Chun became known to this writer as one of our most frequent Facebook users on our Aiguille Facebook Page , liking and commenting all the time. I could tell that she was super psyched on climbing without even needing to know who she was. A marketing project manager for the Scholastic Book Fairs, Sandy is able to surround herself with one of her passions, reading, and experiencing “the way other people see the world.” Yet, Sandy experiences much of the world on her own. “I come from a family of hikers... We’ve conquered 12,000+ and my Dad is aiming higher this September. My family is excited about my climbing and, quite frankly, my Dad is pretty envious.” It was not a shock to her family when Sandy introduced climbing into her life. “Most of our vacations are active, spent hiking amazing trails... We love the outdoors.” In the beginnings of her climbing ventures, Sandy mostly top roped with Howie, but her eagerness to climb brought her to Aiguille partnerless on her lunch breaks and sucked her into the bouldering world. Lead certification for the both of them certainly didn’t take long, and brought their world of climbing around full circle. “All of these elements have really helped me round out my climbing in so many ways. Doing only one of these, exclusive of the others, wouldn't have been nearly as beneficial.”

Howie says that Sandy is like a “gambler”, but instead of money on her mind she is always thinking about routes.  When I asked her how she viewed her climbing style, “slowwwww” was the first word to come to mind, or also known as being, in her words, “precise or deliberate”. Already athletic thanks to her family background and active nature, Sandy also possesses good balance, high flexibility, and a very “strategic” and technical approach to her climbing. Her favorite routes involve crimpy and textured holds, interesting starts, fluid movement, and maybe just a few bold, exciting moves. This slow and precise manner also shines in Sandy’s focus on her gear. “I tend to research all gear to see which brand names are the best of each product that I need (or want). I highly recommend always climbing with a helmet.” Sandy feels that while not only protecting you from falling objects while climbing or belaying, but she frequently tends to hit her head on the wall or a tree as she looks for her next hold.
Hey, it happens to us all.

Howie Sherman
Howie Sherman was introduced to climbing with Sandy after receiving a trip to Aiguille and a Rock 101 Class with AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Karsten Delap in North Carolina for his birthday. While not scaling the walls of Aiguille, Howie is a high school history teacher, sharing his love of the subject and finding enjoyment in sharing a wealth of knowledge to others. Although his family is somewhat confused on what us climbers see in the sport, Howie remains constantly active, traveling, hiking, and climbing as frequently as possible in places such as Yosemite, Moab, the Red, Linville Gorge and many more. Although he doesn’t consider himself a “brand snob” (I think that’s a nice term!), after his last climbing adventure, you won’t catch him without his brand-new manpris. “My knees got destroyed last time I climbed outside and now they will be well protected by my manpris. Do not judge the manpris; they keep the knees safe and intact.”

Howie’s climbing style is quite the opposite of Sandy’s. “I would describe my climbing as thoughtless... I just climb and react.” Howie has an affinity to slab routes, but really any route that forces him to use technique and read the beta. I love actually watching Howie climb because he is also very persistent, working the moves until he gets it right, even though I think he should take the whip. In the off time, hiking and being outside in general has made climbing a really natural addition to his hobbies. Howie hopes to soon move somewhere that actually has mountains and  continue to explore and develop his climbing prowess.

Neither Sandy and Howie focus a great deal on training, however Howie does instruct the readers to “make feel bad about not training”. The couple trains mostly by just climbing everything. Their introduction to lead climbing alone opened up a whole new approach to climbing and opened up many new routes for them to climb or in their case, train as well. And where is a better place to “train” than Aiguille? For Sandy, “Aiguille feels like my second home.  It’s fun to walk in after a long day of work... and see familiar faces, try some great routes, and just hang out.” For Howie, climbing at Aiguille is very enjoyable and they “have met a ton of really awesome people while climbing”. But most importantly, they enjoy and find themselves lucky to have the routes and creative routesetters working away (aww thanks guys!).

In their solid year of climbing and through Dean’s and Karsten’s instruction, as well as other guides, Sandy and Howie have probably seen and accomplished more than half our members who have been climbing for years. This past Christmas, although there for the primary purpose of a family vacation, Sandy and Howie snuck in a day of crack climbing in Moab, Utah in 40 degree weather, fighting the fear of their first 5.10 their first crack climb ever, as well as the feeling of 18-wheelers flying past the belayer on these roadside routes. Although treacherous sounding, it was an amazing experience. They have also recently spent time at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky where they attempted to get to The Chocolate Factory at Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve but ended up getting lost for hours on their hike. After maneuvering through some boulders to find something they recognized, they found something they recognized indeed . “It was all worthwhile when we squeezed between some large boulders, turned the cool, dark cornder of a dramatic dihedral, and found ourselves staring up at the artfully streaked sharp-edged, massively overhung splendor that is Pure Imagination.  It was awe-inspiring and much more impressive in person.  And we were able to play around on it to climb to the first few bolts.” Pure Imagination, graded at 9a and made even more well known through the ascent by Sasha DiGiulian, is considered one of the hardest climbs in the entire Red River Gorge and they climbed on it. How many of you can say you’ve done that?

While not at the gym, Sandy and Howie feed their cravings and spend their time  with good sushi, Chewy Boba Company’s bubble tea, Tasty Wok for chinese and best of all: going to Disney for the many different events such as the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. If you’re looking to meet someone who loves adventure, being active, and is well versed on so many different levels about climbing and beyond, please introduce yourself to this fine pair of climbers. Always eager to learn, and always looking forward to the next trip, Sandy and Howie have brought a great presence to the gym, encouraging other climbers to accomplish their goals while conquering their own alongside them.  Although I feel that they will soon make the Florida Exodus to a climbing friendly state, what they’ve given to some of us here is unforgettable. I do hope that you do get to meet them but most of all remember Sandy and Howie’s motto:

“Do it while you can; You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.”

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