"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for June, 2011

The world’s most efficient camper

Even in the most difficult situation there is always, somehow, a way to triumph

-Ralph Marston


Nearly every day at home I worked on my car in some way.  I started with the conversion; making my car into suitable place to live for the next 6 months.  The first and most complicated task was to figure out a frame design.  Naturally being an engineer I designed the entire frame and had a detailed drawing of how to build it…hahaha, no.  I had an idea and just started going.  The problem with just building it was that I didn’t have any wood the right size and didn’t want to spend any more money than I had to.  Instead I started with a manky old 10ft 2×10 and some beat up short pieces of 2x4s and ripped, chopped, and sanded them into the pieces I needed.  Before I even finished figuring out how I would get the frame to mount over the passenger’s seat without being a pain when driving around I had built most of it.  The entire process of making and refinishing my own 2x2s that I used for the frame was tedious and very time consuming making the process take much longer than I anticipated.  When I finally finished the frame it was time to head out, I would have to wait to finish the rest later.

I came the next day to finish up expecting it to be a quick process since all I needed to do was make the deck out of plywood.  Lucky for me dad had a four foot square piece of thin plywood that he had shipped a glass table in.  The down side was that it had been sitting outside for a while.  This meant more refinishing for me.  The next several hours were spent sanding it smooth and cutting it down to the odd shape of the back of my car.  As I was about to finish the thunder storm that had been threatening to rain all day finally fulfilled its promise.  It started with a tiny sprinkle but within seconds had become a torrential downpour.  I dashed about frantically moving tools into the shed.  I managed to get the tools in the shed (all but the battery charger which I forgot about) before they got too wet, but got soaked in the process.  Even though the rain didn’t last long I had still switched to working in the wood shed with the car backed up into the opening.  I finished up drilling a 2×2 to extend out over the passenger seat.  Once again the entire process took much longer than expected, but this time I finished.

(Camp mode, all unpacked and bed extended)

(The extended bed)

(Stuff stored away)

(All packed up and ready to go)

(And it doesn’t interfere with the front seats)

With the storage/sleeping system built I moved my efforts to making the car actually run, or more descriptively actually stop.  To spare the painful details of the process to took me several days of not having the right tools, spraying PB blaster on nuts, jumping on socket wrenches, and pounding on rotors.  In the end I finally got the caliper bolts off with enough PB blaster and jumping on the socket wrench.  The rotor wasn’t as easy.  I spent over a day spraying PB blaster and pounding on it to no avail.  Eventually I found online instructions to get off rusted rotors and tightened bolts through the caliper bolt holes until the pried the rotor off.  After the new rotor, caliper, and pads I had to change my oil, and get an alignment.  Neither of these worked out well either.  The oil pan plug had a broken washer so it was slowly leaking.  The washer was cranked tight, the alignment was ignored, and best yet I lost the oil fill cap…and didn’t notice until I had already driven home and went to check my oil again the morning I was leaving for West Virginia.  I stuffed a sock in it and left anyway, meeting dad along the way to get the cap from his old truck.  Luckily it fit.  My car was finally in proper functioning condition.  Best yet, I WAS ON THE ROAD!  WV bound, then KY, AL, AR, and TX.


There are no shortcuts to any place worth going

-Beverly Sills


After my return from New Hampshire I spent the next 10 days doing two things: fixing my car and trying to climb as much as I could.  Neither worked out quite as well as I hoped, but since it’s far more interesting I’ll write about the climbing now.


The first day back I got a ride at 7:30am to get pick up my car from the mechanics.  With nobody around to climb with by itching to take advantage of great sunny day I headed to Clifton anyway.  If nothing more I could at least check out the Big Chick Hill, Fletchers, and Parks Pond areas.  I made Chick Hill my first stop and after a bit of uncertainty managed to find what I thought was the trail and began the hike.  20 minutes later I arrived at the tall slabs that monopolize the climbing.  The rock was still seeping with wet moss covering more than a fair share.  I dropped my pack (70m rope, full trad rack, draws, water, and a few other things made for a hefty load) and wandered out to each end of the crag.  Although the majority was still too wet to climb there were several fun looking routes and even a few promising potential new lines (provided nothing has been put up since the guide book was published 11 years ago).

It looked to be another Wednesday full-pack hike for me.  Rumney, Big Chick…I didn’t like this trend.  Deciding I needed to stop this trend I found a climb.  A line of thin holds and awkward balance moves climbed in overhanging face as it rounded 20 feet up and became a slab which got easier as you continued.  It pulled in at 5.11d, not quite where my endurance is right now even with someone to belay me, so I climbed up the gulley and gave myself a top-rope belay.  For anyone who hasn’t belayed themselves on TR with a grigri, let me say this: it’s a pain.  As I struggled with the beginning moves I found that on a harder route I rarely had the opportunity to pull the rope through.  For the most part, it was like I was leading it…only I fell much farther due to the rope stretch.  All of a sudden I remembered and appreciated normal climbing even more; the kind on lead with a partner belaying.  After some awkward falls, harness wedgies, and a bit of cursing I made it up the first 10 feet of the climb which was certainly the crux.  The rest of the climb was significantly less eventful and, although it was still challenging, didn’t end up with me falling into anymore trees or even falling at all.  Once I cleaned my anchor I decided to call the one struggle good enough for the soaked slabs and headed out.

Of course, one route just wasn’t enough to satiate my urge to climb and it had only been fueled by the time I spent looking at the other climbs.  I made a feeble attempt to find Fletchers Bluff before giving up and going for Parks Pond.  The trail head was easy to find and even had two cars already parked at it.  Happy to see other people who were probably climbers I headed up to the crag ready to introduce myself and maybe even get a real belay.  I got there but didn’t find anyone else there climbing.  Rope soloing was what I was planning on doing anyway so I found something good and went for it.  I set up my anchor on the bottom and made sure it couldn’t pull up.  From there it was almost the same as leading…only way more hassle.  15 feet up I reached the first bolt with another bolt from a branching climb within reach too.  Still unsure of my convoluted rope solo system I anchored myself and tested it out by jumping backward into the air.  The system held before I got to the anchor as it was supposed to and I decided I probably wouldn’t die.  I continued on the climb and rope soloed my way to the top.  I had made the good decision half way through the climb to not protect the last section of very easy climbing so once at the top I only had to reach down to grab my last piece of protection and flip the rope over the tree to avoid troublesome cleaning of my gear on the traversing section.  With my first rope solo experience under my belt I decided that I didn’t want to try it again on run out climbs so I set myself up for a couple more TR self belays before it was time to head out to go watch the Bruins own game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

(Me ready to to rope solo)


A few days later I made it back out to Clifton.  This time I wasn’t alone and it didn’t even involve bribing a friend who had never climbed with beer to come belay me.  Jeff, Curt, and I cruised down the road looking for Fire Road 09-13-0 which would lead us in to the crag.  The first road we checked out turned out to be blocked off by small boulders and not the right road.  On our second try we found the right road, distinguished by a pair of small handmade signs, each hidden behind several years of new branches making them barely discernable from the road.  The road bumped and wound through the woods for a couple miles before coming to a fork.  Jeff took the left as he remembered doing that last time he had been to Fletchers many years before.  Just down the road we came to another line of small boulders blocking off the road.  There was no getting around them and they were far too big to move so we ventured back to the fork in the road and took the other option hoping it would lead around and back to the other.  The tree branches tightly hugged the car on both sides while long grass rubbed the bottom.  Again we got to an impassible spot.  The road ceased to be a road and became a small trail, but to our luck a game warden was sitting in his truck in a small area on the side.  We asked him how to get to the cliff.  The returning answer was a muddled monologue where he repeated the same few turns so many times we didn’t know how many times we had to take sharp left turns or bear right but we heard two road names and knew where to begin.  Almost immediately we found out that the game warden didn’t quite know the directions that well when our second turn “at the T in the road” was actually not at T at all.  We continued down several miles of washed out back roads searching for the cliff.  At one point I looked out the window at a pot-hole that had extended over a foot into the road and noticed that it didn’t really end until the bottom of an eight foot drop into the stream below.  We had a couple more bouts of confusion made it to the trail head.  I use the term “trail” loosely; there was a clear opening off the road where it began but after that the trail was nothing more than a deer path that brought us out into a swamp.  We rock-hopped our way around mud and water and even picked up some trail markers just before we got to the crag, but we made it: Sundog Wall.

It’s a large slightly overhanging wall with a spattering of good small crimps and a few horizontal cracks running through it.  Of course I had accidentally put down the book when I brushed my teeth that morning and nobody else had one so we relied on Jeff’s memory of climbing there 10 years earlier.  We started off on what we thought looked like the easiest climb there.  It followed some good small holds up the right side of the face until reaching the top where the variety of nice crimps turned in to one or two pea-sized crystals.  Next we stepped to the right and got on another.  It started off easy for the first half, but abruptly the good holds disappeared and I was left getting into awkwardly high positions at full body extension to reach the next crimp.  Over the last ~15 ft of the climb I think I did three, maybe four, movies.  I looked up the routes later and was happy to see that they were Sunnyside Up (5.11a) and Meltdown (5.11c/d) respectively.  It made me happy even though I doubted the rating on the second one.

Once we had done the two “easy” looking climbs I inspected the crag to see what other routes looked good.  The conclusion I came to was frustrating.  They all looked good.  They also all looked more difficult that I could do with no strength or endurance (damn the last 3 months!).  I ended up settling on route that climbed the slab on the far left side until it crossed a slanting overhanging and continued up the main face.  The slab was thin to say the least but with some interested hand foot matches I managed to get almost to the overhang.  With only one more bolt before the overhang I reached a tough spot.  The only holds were a small crimp and above it a gaston.  I had one good foot on a previous crimp and nothing else.  With full body extension I was able to touch what appeared to be the next hold but even with tiptoeing I couldn’t get my finger over it.  Just as I was trying to get my finger onto the hold I peeled off the face.  The fall was only about 10 feet and jerked me back to the rock.  This sequence of climb, try anything I could, fail, and fall was repeated another dozen times or so but I just couldn’t get to the next hold.  Defeated and frustrated that it didn’t seem hard, I just couldn’t do it; I switched onto Jeff’s old biner and cleaned my draws as I was lowered.  Next time.

(Trying to figure out the part that I couldn’t get past on High Noon)

I moved over to another route that looked like it had a fun and moderate beginning but past that it was hard to see enough to judge.  As it turned out, I was dead on only, the reason it was hard to see enough to judge was because there just wasn’t anything there.  It was the fourth route of the day I had done on lead on an overhanging face.  After the first 25 feet of moderate fun climbing it quickly became an unbalanced battle between my will and the combined power of the lactic acid in my arms and the sparse sloped holds of the route.  With enough hangdogging I eventually made it to the anchors.  Another route to add to the “get stronger and come back to” list.  Disappointingly it turned out to only be a 5.11d called Gold Rush.  For all the struggle I had hoped it would at least be a 5.12.  At least the one I bailed on turned out to be a 5.12b (High Noon).  After that I climbed the second route again to clean draws off the anchor and we headed back across the swamp to the car.  It was the first day of climbing since being back from my injuries that I was thoroughly exhausted and it made me happy.  Some more days like this and I’ll be back to 12s.


(Jeff on Gold Rush.  Everything from the big horizontal crack up that looks good…isn’t)

Return of the Bus

You want me to do something… tell me I can’t do it

-Maya Angelou



Another dreary day with rock to wet to climb lead to alternative methods of entertainment.  After a few games of Hoop Fever Ian and I ran out of quarters and decided to pay 1 on 1…on the Hoop Fever hoop.  If you’re familiar with the game at all you can see the difficulties this presents; primarily the net on top and wire metal sides that make it so you can only really shoot from straight in front.  To add to the ridiculous of this idea there was also a wooden post five feet back and directly in front of the game.  We played anyway.  It ended up being even more absurd than expected.  Within a few minutes I was leading 4-0 going to 5 and all but one of my shots were some type off of the side metal, behind the back, or just chucking it to get past Ian’s defense.  Of course he stepped it up not wanting me to win and it took another half an hour for me to get my last point in which time he scored 2 and missed 4 open shots.  The rest of the day was spent messing around, wandering North Conway, and watching the NBA Finals.


6/13 – When god gives you lemons, you find a new god!

The North Conway morning proved to be as uncooperative as the previous ones.  There was all of 10 minutes of considering climbing and trying to figure out a spot that might be dry before it began to rain again and it was called off.  Instead it turned into another lazy morning eating delicious pancakes that dad was pumping out as fast as Ian and I could devour them.  Then I headed to the game barn to get some internet.  Before too long Ian showed up with some quarters for Hoop Fever and I ended up beating his previous high score, bumping it up to 73.  We ran out of quarters and went back to work.  We realized we had already stayed passed checkout so we got the show on the road, but before we actually left Ian and I stopped for one last round of Hoop Fever.  In back to back games I got 74 and Ian got 81.  He was more excited over scoring 81 on Hoop Fever than I have seen him in years and he had to even take a picture to prove he got 81.

We made it back to Portland by the middle of the afternoon and they headed off to Boston to drop Ian off.  An hour after they left I got this picture.

Since I didn’t get on the rock in North Conway I was determined to still climb something.  I grabbed chalk, shoes, and camera and headed off on my bike to do some buildering around Portland.  I cruised the city and found some good brick buildings that turned out to be fun.  Eventually I found a bar to watch the Bruins in game 6 and even climbed a big arch over the door of the bar before I went in.


6/14 – To bolt or not to bolt

I managed to convince dad it was a good idea to drive the bus down a tiny dirt road in Harpswell to go climbing.  My plan was to climb the difficult top section of a route and then decide if I wanted to bolt it.  On my first attempt I made it inches away from the end of the crux but my toe popped off before I could reach the hold.  My second attempt I pulled off an intermediate hold and fell again.  On my third attempt I managed to skip the intermediate hold but pulled off the crux undercling hold.  The flake, about 16″x8″, seemed to pause in the air next to my hand and all I could think about is a previous trip to the crag:  while cleaning a route a flake about 2′ square fell from the same height and chopped down a tree larger than my arm.  I yelled “ROCK!” again and again as it fell straight towards dad.  He stepped right to avoid the spray of dirt and rocks before he noticed the flake coming straight toward him.  He managed to get his hands up and step to the side a bit, but it was too late to avoid the flake.  It caught him on the shoulder and again on the side, but luckily they were only some scrapes and he was in as good of condition you could ask for after being hit from a rock falling over 60 ft.  With the crux hold gone and dad freshly rock beaten my decision to not bolt was easy and we headed out.  It was just the right timing too because it began to pour as soon as we left.  The crux hold is now on display at dad’s.


Now I’m preparing for Part II and hope to be on the road in less than a week!

A little more NH climbing, a lot more rain

There are only 2 choices; make progress or make excuses

-Ellen Mikesell


6/5 – Boston

We headed to Boston to pick up Ian after a basketball tournament he played in Saturday.  We got brunch at a restaurant where we met Ian then headed to the Museum of Fine Art to see the Chihuly glass exhibit.  It was quite impressive seeing the glass formed into so many different shapes and combine to form different pieces.

This piece is evidence that artists are crazy.  The inspiration for this was he decided to chuck his glass pieces off a bridge in Finland to see what would break and then had some local kids pick them up in a boat.

And we also visited Egypt on the way back from Boston.

It was a good day but still no replacement for a good day of climbing.


6/6 – 5.8 Crag

Ian and I headed over to the 5.8 crag and I got him up his first real climbing routes.  I started on a few easy routes so Ian didn’t have to start out trying to climb 10’s and 11’s.  We moved over and I did Romancing the Stone, a two star 10c, to keep me entertained.

(On the crux of Bolt and Run, 5.9)

(Me Romancing the Stones, 5.10c)

(POV climbing it a second time to clean the route)

By the time I had climbed it a second time to clean it Ian was tired of climbing and ready to leave so after a much shorter day that I wanted we headed back to our camp across the street.  The rest of the day was spent playing horse shoes, hanging out, and avoiding or killing black flies.


6/7 – Main Cliff

Ian and I headed back to climb at the Main Cliff after a morning at a local coffee/breakfast/antiques/climbing gear/B&B place.  The first route I got on was Metamorphosis.  It’s a long winding and exposed 5.8.  It starts off some easy face hold up to a nice crack in a corner.  As soon as I reached the crack a cool breeze hit me in the face.  It was a welcome change from the heat of the day even with the shade of the trees surrounding the crag.  I continued up the climb to a big roof where the climb traverses right.  The moves were not difficult, but the exposure was amazing.  With good hands and edges for feet separating me from the ground 50 feet below my heel I traversed across under the roof.  The roof ended and I pulled up over a smaller overhang and into the beating sun.  My pleasant cool breeze was replaced with instant sweltering heat.  I continued up more difficult balance moves up the face to the chains as fast as I could to get out of the sun.  Probably my favorite 5.8 I have ever done, but not difficult enough to satisfy my need to be challenged.

After Ian cleaned Metamorphosis he was drained from some difficulty on the sunny face section and didn’t want to climb for a while.  As soon as he said that I began chatting with another pair of climbers near us and found out that one of them is from Brunswick, also needs climbing partners, and even knew of the local crag I climbed on there last year.  We got numbers and talked of climbing together soon, great success!

Since Ian didn’t want to climb I took the opportunity and lead the way to Millennium Falcon, a 10c which the book says has been described as the best 10 in Rumney.  After an easy traverse to the first bolt it had some difficult crimpy moves up to a good but difficult crack section that exited left onto a glassy slab.  After my left wrist had already been hurting for a couple days the only move onto the slab involved a hand jam with my wrist bent almost 90 degrees while supporting my entire weight.  From there it was easier but fun climbing over a bulge and up the face to the chains.  Once again, it was a spectacular route that involved many different techniques and this time it was more of a challenge.  It was quite painful and a shorter than I would have hoped.

(Finger locks on Millennium Falcon, 5.10c)

With a notice from dad and Ian that I had one more climb before they were leaving I decided to do a highly touted 10a called Underdog.  Unfortunately I accidentally did another climb that was disappointingly easier and not at all what I was hoping for.  We had enough of the bugs and there was no second chance so I packed up and we headed back to our new location at a campground down the road a few miles.

(Heading back to camp in the bus)

On the way there we passed some large boulders on either side of the road that make up “The Pound.”  I was interested, but figured I would check it out later.  Later came sooner than expected.  Ian and I planned to go for a run/ride (me on the bike since I still can’t run on my ankle), but we stopped to get ice at the office.  When I got back Ian had already headed out.  I figured I would catch up with him soon but several miles later I had still not found him when I got to the pound.  Naturally I had my chalk and shoes with me so I stopped to check out the bouldering.  Despite being devoured by mosquitoes I explored the area and did a cool problem.  It started on a pair of small crimps, moved up a side pull crack before falling back to a gaston then shooting for the top.  I found out later it is called The Thwart and is a V3, but it was just the right way to end my day.  Unfortunately that’s not how my day ended.  Leaving in the dark while being harangued by bugs I left my chalk and didn’t realize until I was back to the campsite so I had to turn around a ride all the way back to retrieve it …~6 miles in the dark without any lights.


6/8 – Sad Ending

The problem with climbing with your family (if they aren’t climbers) is that they eventually don’t want to climb anymore.  That’s what happened to me anyway.  I couldn’t convince either Ian or dad to climb with or even belay me.  Not ready to give up a beautiful day that could be used fulfilling the purpose of life (climbing everything possible obviously) I packed my rope, all my gear, water, and lunch into my pack and hopped on my bike to ride to the crag.  Of course, it would have worked out better if this was the day that we were just across the road, but even an 8 mile ride with a heavy pack wasn’t enough to deter me.  I got to the parking lot and checked the message board: no response to my note I had left there.  No sign of people around so I went for a quick swim to cool off.  Still no sign of climbers around the parking lots so I decided to hike up and check out some crags I hadn’t seen yet, mainly Waimea.  I only found a couple people, all of whom had partners, but I managed a long hike with a heavy pack before I finally headed back to camp in defeat.  With one of the best places to climb in the northeast at my fingertips I couldn’t even find a person to climb with on my last day, it was heartbreaking.  I love to spend time with friends and family hanging out and enjoying their company, but part of me still feels like any moment that I could be climbing is wasted if I’m not so it kills me even more to spend a nice day just staring at rocks that I can’t climb.

(View from above Waimea, near Jimmy Cliff)

(Waimea left side, all wicked burly routes)

After giving up we packed up camp and headed to Franconia Notch to do Cannon in the morning.  We planned to get a spot near the cliff.  To our disappointment, when we got there the RV spots were just picnic tables and fire rings on the edge of a parking lot.  If the other campgrounds hadn’t been twice as much we would have gone to one of them.  As it was I went for an epic bike ride down the 3 mile hill and back up just in time to catch Ian and dad headed the other direction to go to get dinner.  They had decided it was too hot to cook in the bus and too buggy to cook outside so we went out for dinner.

(Cannon, the ridge on the left above the tip of the tree is what I was planning on doing with Ian)


6/9 – Cannon and Thunder

I woke up and packed everything to go before checking the weather to find that there was a high chance of thunder showers.  I grudgingly agreed to not do any routes on Cannon and settled for some cragging on Artists bluff, a small crag across the road from the parking lot that we called camp.  It had a pair of surprisingly good climbs that we tried.  The first was a great airy traverse that was deceptively hard until I pulled a roof and ran out the last easy 50 feet.  The second was 5.12b climb that I hangdogged but managed to do all the moves.  It gave my hope for getting back to climbing 12s if I can build some power and endurance.  They were both fun and we would have stayed to do more but the black flies were outrageous so we headed out as fast as we could.

(Just after the traverse on Special Olympics, 5.10c)

While we were gone dad had bought tickets for the tram to the top of the mountain so after a swim to cool off we headed up the mountain.  As we neared the top lighting illuminated the sky giving us front row seating.  As soon as we reached the top they shut down the tram.  We hung out in the lodge at the top watching the torrential downpour.  Once it passed we hiked up the hill to the lookout deck and enjoyed the view of grey in all directions.  The tram had started up again once we were back to the lodge so we headed back down the mountain.

Once again we loaded up the bus a headed down to the Kancamangus Highway toward Conway.  When we got over the top of the mountains I had a great idea.  I had dad pull over and jumped out with my bike and helmet.  Ian followed suit and as soon as dad was gone we bombed down the mountains for miles until we got to our campground.

(Mountain tops along the Kancamangus Highway)

(Water falls near the highway)

(Perspective of the water)


6/10 – North Conway Nightmare

Doubting the enthusiasm for climbing required from my cohorts I decided to go for a morning ride.  I headed back up the mountain for over an hour until I began to worry that they would be waiting for me to leave.  I turned and raced back down the hill making it to the campsite in a third of the time.  It was perfect timing to take a shower, pack up, and head out for North Conway.  We reached town with plenty of time to climb, but Ian wanted to devote a day to doing work that he needed to get done so the beautiful day of potential climbing withered to an afternoon in a coffee shop being productive.  When we had finished in town we headed out to a campground for the night.  The one we had decided upon was ridiculous.  We weren’t quite sure where to go the first time, but uncertainty ended when we saw the enormous sign with granite posts proclaiming “Glen Ellis Campground” surrounded by a manicured flower garden.  The campground on the side of the stream has its own tennis courts, baseball field, beach volleyball court, swimming pool, game barn (arcade), wireless hotspots, and more.


6/11 – Rainy Day

The weather predicted rain so I didn’t even bother getting up early.  When I finally got up at 8:30 it was grey out but dry and hopeful.  Confusion and low expectations hindered the start, but eventually Ian and I were planning on climbing at Cathedral Ledge and we were on the road by 11:30.  We got half way there when it began to rain.  Foiled again.  This time I kicked myself.  If I had been up early and rallying Ian to go we could have been there by 8:30 and had 3 hours of climbing.  Instead Ian and I spent several hours in the game barn using the wireless and playing Hoop Fever (pop-a-shot/hot shot) and pulling extra balls out to play HORSE.  Later on we ended up going for a little hike up Black Cap Mountain in the rain.  By the time we were back at the car we were all drenched.


Reflecting on the past few days I’ve come to a conclusion I have known for a long time:  I need a good climbing partner!  I need someone who wants to get up early, climb all day, is willing to have an epic searching for a good climb, and then will hang out around the fire after a long day.  It gets tiring when everyone around either wants to sleep in or only do two pitches in a day.  I work hard and I want to play hard so I need someone who goes out with as much zeal as I do.  If this is you, let me know!  Until then, I should get a soloist or something.

Climb the Globe: North America

Life is either a great adventure or nothing

-Helen Keller


Howdy Folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, but that’s how my life has been over the last three months:  lots of work, no adventure.  So, without further adieu, the new post.


Over the last three months my body has been beaten in so many ways that any trip or climbing was questionable.  It started with throwing out my back the first full day back from Dubai while shoveling snow.  As I pushed a pile snow off snow scoop my back screamed in pain.  I fell to the ground unable to move my back.  I managed to roll over onto my back and lay there in the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing.  After 15 minutes it was numb enough that I could crawl up to my feet and walked back to the house supporting my back by holding my arms straight against my knees.

Unfortunately that was only the beginning.  After my back recovered I hurt my shoulder bouldering my first day back at RIT.  With a week off it felt better and I was starting to get back into my training routine to get in shape for my trip with the real disaster struck.  Wearing bad shoes on muddy ground I rolled my ankle and heard it crack three times.  It turned out to not be broken, but looking back I wish it had.  Instead it was a torn ligament.  A break would take a while in a cast to heal, but now it’s already been 11 weeks and I am just starting to climb again but still can’t even jog.  I spent two weeks on crutches and another three trying not to use it before I finally started physical therapy.  By then I my right leg muscles were nearly half the size of my left and my range of motion in my ankle was about a quarter of normal.  To make it worse I threw out my back again while working on my senior project and got hit by a car while on my bike during my last week at RIT resulting in a pulled shoulder.

Without really climbing since the day I left Dubai I’ve been going crazy and to possibility of canceling my trip didn’t help, but with several trips to the doctors, physical therapy, and my determination to climb the trip is continuing as planned so I present to you…Climb The Globe: North America.


Mission:  Find the perfect climb.  It should be a culmination of the entire climbing experience:  the overall adventure, the mental and physical challenges of the climb, the gear that makes it possible, the climbing community and lifestyle, time spent with new friends around the camp fire, the natural beauty of the landscape, and the art of the climb.

Destinations:  Several ideas and a lot of seeing where the road takes me.

Accommodations:  The back of my civic hatchback, a tent, and whatever couches I can surf on.

Climbing Partners:  A few friends across the country, the Mountain Project partner finder, and whoever I can meet at the crags.

Funding:  A little bit of student loans and graduation money.  Donations and sponsorships graciously accepted.

Ready to go?  Of course!


Part I

The first two weeks of the trip is a loop around New England with my dad and my brother in my dad’s renovated 1986 S1800 International School Bus.


6/1 – Day 1: the departure

After dropping my civic off at the mechanics to get a checkup and fix a couple problems before I put ~5000 miles on it we did some last minute packing and were headed out by the crack of early afternoon.  Postponing Rumney to accommodate for a trip to the Westbrook Alternative Learning Program’s bike sale, we headed to Peru, Maine.  Bumpy back roads lead us to a “campground” filled with permanent RVs and mobile homes where people even had full decks, sheds, and golf carts to visit the neighbors.


6/2 – Day 2: Shag crag

We worked our way up to the crag, carefully placing each foot to avoid any further injuries.  I was not the only one with a bum ankle; dad’s ankle has been bothering him for while as well.  A couple miles later we both made it to the crag without too much pain.  It was spectacular.  To describe it in one word: 5.12.  Almost everything is burley and overhanging.  The climbing area on the crag isn’t huge, but it encompasses the best part of the cliff and would be sufficient for any good climber to be entertained for quite a while.  For those not looking to do 12’s there are a few 10s and a couple easier or for the real hard men there are several 13s. A quick lesson on modern climbing and how to use a grigri got dad’s belaying up to speed.  I did a few of the easy routes and accidentally tried a 5.13a extension which shut me down at the first move.  After a sound trashing by the crag and a large sacrifice to the mosquito gods we headed back to the car.

We also found a local takeout place called “The Bus.”  Naturally we had to stop.


6/3 – Day 3: Bike & Bus

We headed to Westbrook in the morning to check out the sale.  I made it there five minutes before it officially started but people were already buying bikes.  After finding out the first two I wanted had already been claimed I found the only remaining road bike my size.  It was in pieces in a large cardboard box from an LL Bean trade in that was donated.  Without knowing for sure that it was the right size or that all the parts were even included I handed over the big bucks: $10.  After putting it together it together, my new 1970s Univega Neuvo Sport (love the ironic name), fit fairly well and was in good shape.

We headed to a friends in Portland to use the internet and get a couple forgotten items.  After the quick stop we headed out for Rumney but didn’t make it far.  At the end of the street something popped and the bus nearly didn’t stop at the intersection.  We backed up three houses to where we came from and got out to investigate.  Brake fluid was pouring out of the caliper.  Eight hours later we had a new left caliper and pads and new pads on the right.  Unfortunately by then it was after 9pm so we spent the night in Portland.  To top it all off while we were working on the bus I got a call from the mechanic saying that it would be $900 to fix my car.


6/4 – Day 4: Rumney

A day late and a lot of dollars short we headed off to Maine’s only boarding state.  I cleaned my bike, rubbing off the grit and hunks of grease, while we bumped down route 25 all the way to Rumney.  We got into town and headed to the climbing.  Knowing that I didn’t have much time to climb we went to the nearby Parkinglot wall where I jumped on the only route that was free.  I was still unsure of the route because my guide book, another old book I saw, and a person all gave me different names and ratings so all I knew is it was 5.10something.  It was a long route straight up just to the side of the Holderness Arete.  It started out with a lot of easy climbing until the top third of the route tilted out to a slight overhang.  I reached the top simply because I was unwilling to fall on my first route of the day, in front of so many people, or on a 5.10.  Pumped, I cleaned my draws on rappel, nearly maxing out my 70m rope.

Searching for more free routes I explored down the cliff until I found some routes at the No Money Down wall.  Not bothering to even try to figure out what anything was this time I jumped on a route.  I onsighted it no problem.  Dad even decided to give it a try and, using my shoes, top-rope onsighted it.  He may not have climbed since they began using harnesses or belay devices but he still had better technique than many beginners.  I tried another slightly more difficult route again with no problem.  I finally felt like I had taken it easy enough for the day and decided to tackle a more difficult route.  I found one great looking route nearby.  It started with some thin moves hugging an arête then moved onto the face for some easy moves before reaching a big roof.  It was a great route with some hard moves pulling up onto the roof with no feet but I made it through.

After climbing we headed back to D Acres, a nearby organic farm and permaculture educational center, to camp.  D Acres isn’t quite the image of a farm with big open pastures and lawns.  It’s located on a hillside with small funky buildings made from reused materials, messy gardens every direction, and boulders and stumps abound.  Dad had visited before so he gave me the quick tour: outdoor kitchen, duck ponds, green house, chicken coop, gardens, ox hovel, and piglet pen.


More to come the next time I get internet!