"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for January, 2013

Yosemite

P1040398

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.

-Jack Kerouac

 

My car chugged up the several thousand feet to Tioga Pass in the predawn light.  Within a couple miles of entering the park I spotted my welcoming party, a black bear with two cubs, on the hillside as I rolled by.  I stopped at Tennaya Lake to cook my morning oatmeal, enjoying the fresh alpine morning.

Even though I didn’t have any aspirations to climb any of the amazing routes in the Yosemite, it was still hard to quell the rising excitement as I approached the valley.  I had decided the valley would be a trip in which I hung out, enjoyed the setting, and spent lots of time volunteering since I wasn’t psyched on trad climbing and still hadn’t replaced my rack from when it was stolen last year.  As the Rostrum, then El Cap, and finally Half Dome came into view I felt elated to be back in such an extraordinary place for the third fall in a row.

I checked into my free site in North Pines campground courtesy of the Yosemite Facelift before heading over to Curry Village for some mellow bouldering.  It had been a long time since I had bouldered and I felt it.  In the end I did more walking around looking at boulders than bouldering, but it was fun and relaxing.

By afternoon I called it quits, dropped things off at my car, and headed over to Yosemite Village for the first evening Facelift event, the Reel Rock 7 film tour.  In years past it was always the busiest evening event, but with it on a Tuesday this year I doubted so many people would attend.  I was wrong.  It was even more packed than ever before.  By the time the movie started people were packed into every inch of the auditorium, sitting on the floor, standing in the doorways, and packing every seat.  Although I was disappointed that there were no two minute shorts at the beginning as in years past, Sender Films still put together another great movie.

The next day I headed to Glacier point Apron with my friend David to with the intention of leading gear for the first time in nearly a year.  First off was The Grack, a mellow three pitch 5.6 climb.  David started off leading the first pitch, but by the time he got to the first possible belay station he still hadn’t placed any gear.  We quickly decided that pitching it out wasn’t worth it, so David kept climbing.  When we eventually reached the end of the rope I began simul-climbing.  We simuled half the route before he made it to the top and belayed me the rest of the way.  In total our little advanced hike only took about half an hour.

With plenty of time left to climb we headed over to climb Hairy Daily.  Having already done the route, I let David lead the whole thing, keeping up my streak of not leading trad in 2012.  The two pitches went quickly and soon we were back on the ground picking up trash for the Facelift.

I still haven’t figured out why I was possessed by this idea, but I had a notion that I wanted to try Generator Crack.  I wasn’t interested in crack climbing and offwidth used to be my least favorite kind of crack climbing, but somehow I thought it was a good idea to get on this hard offwidth route.  We rallied and headed out for a day of offwidth.

I scrambled up the back side of the rock, dropping a top rope for us to flail on.  Dave started off and put in a valiant effort, but didn’t manage to make it to the top without falling.  Then it was the moment of truth, or insanity.  I tied in and reached my hands into the crack.

I battled the crack with every bit of energy, ounce of determination, and speck of gusto I could muster.  My first attempts at the ‘Levitation’ technique didn’t work well, so I switch to the standard chicken wing style, wedging my arm and knee into the crack and wiggling upward at a pace that made glaciers look fast.  Picture trying to squeeze under something, the bottom of a fence for example, now imagine doing that upward for 60 feet.

The crack steadily widens as you move higher so eventually I managed to squeeze my entire body in just as the crack curves.  The climbing becomes very secure.  So secure in fact that I managed to get myself stuck.  There were no features in the crack to pull or stand on and the curve below me curved away stopping me from pressing against it.  I was stuck.  I remained so for several minutes until all my squirming and fighting resulted in one inch of progress that allowed me to continue climbing to the top.

By the time I finished every muscle in my body was screaming in protest, my throat was painfully dry, and my stomach felt like I might retch, but I had made it and more surprising, I enjoyed it.  This thought that I had just thoroughly enjoyed an offwidth was a foreign notion, but planted the seed that maybe I didn’t dislike crack climbing as much as I once thought.

Friday I volunteered building a new trail up to Serenity crack to slow the rapid erosion of the approach trail.  The small crew consisted of Park Service employees escaping from the office for a day and one other volunteer.  We toiled the day away dragging rocks around, drilling them in half, and making granite steps.  It was hard work but our effort produced a nice set of stairs and was rewarded by the cliff bar girls who gave us a bunch of cliff bars when they stopped by to help out for a while.

My last real day of climbing in the valley I headed to the Public Sanitation wall with my camp neighbor, Cliff, and a bunch of his friends for some sport climbing.  The trail is nearly nonexistent, but the approach is certainly worth it for the climbing.  The “steep featured” rock as it was described to me was certainly relative to the long positive granite slabs of the valley.  It looked a lot more like vertical technical climbing than anything else, but definitely still produced some great climbs.  I got on three routes, an 11a that I don’t know the name of , Afterburner, and Tucker’s Proud Rock Climb.  Each one seemed better than the last.  Tucker’s Proud Rock Climb was especially fun movement with lots of sloped sidepulls, and layback moves to work higher.  Although it’s not on the radar for most people who visit the valley, Public Sanitation is definitely a great spot and a must for anyone who wants a day of sport climbing.

The evening presentations from Alex Honold, Conrad Anker, Sean Leary, James Lucas, and many more were great each night, but hard to describe since so many of them blended together into a jumble of awesome climbing stories.  The one that really stuck out was given by a Geologist/Ranger talking all about the granite in the valley.  The best was a 3D graphic that panned around El Cap with different types of granite shown in different colors.  It great informational soul satisfying goodness for my inner nerd.

I bouldered most days, got in a little bit of crack climbing, clipped some bolts, enjoyed the New Belgium sponsorship of the event, but was most proud of the trail that I helped build and the trach I picked up each day, well over 100lbs in total.  While certainly a lot different from most people’s idea of a good time in the valley, I enjoyed my fairly trad-less stay in the valley.  The free camping ran out at the end of the Facelift.  I was torn between wanting to stay in my stunning surroundings in the park, and knowing that I still didn’t want to crack climb so there wasn’t any reason for me to stay.  I mechanically packed up my car and headed off again, bound for Bishop and disaster.

 


Utah

IMG_0881

We all try to be busy instead of being alive.

-Will Gadd

 

Maple was nearly empty when I arrived.  Apparently September isn’t the prime season there.  I walked through all the campsites and managed to find a group of three and we headed off to climb.

The conglomerate rock that makes up Maple was unlike anything I have ever climbed on.  It’s made of all thousands of cobbles, from the size of a marble to the size of a VW bus, cemented together.  The tough part for climbing is that the cobbles are all nicely rounded and polished from eons under water making most of the holds slippery slopers.

The first place we went was Pipeline, where the dry creek bed has washed away the rock leaving a seriously overhanging band with layer dirt over the bottom six feet.  The climbing was fun, but over a month on the near vertical limestone of Ten Sleep followed by ten days of not climbing was hardly good preparation for this kind of pump-fest.  I had a couple relatively competent burns on different routes, but lactic acid quickly got the better of me.

Over the next week I continued to climb with Fiona, Nancy, and Carey, as well as Dave and Alex whom I met later.  Despite the good weather I was one of the only solo travelers in Maple and the only one around, excluding people who came down from Salt Lake City on the weekends, under 40.  It wasn’t bad though, they were all fun people and it sure is good motivation watching someone twice your age flash a route you’re working on.

Between climbing I took to practicing guitar regularly and listening to my Spanish podcasts each morning.  I’ve discovered that, not only am I terrible at languages and musically talentless, but even worse at teaching myself instruments and languages.  The way I see it though, if I keep with them for long enough I’ll have learn a passable amount of both eventually.

Two routes that I tried stood out as fun challenges in the time that I had in Maple.  The first one was Point Blank (5.12b) in Box Canyon.  It’s a short, exceedingly overhanging climb with a short crux.  After a couple tries on it I thought it was sure to go on my next attempt.  Unfortunately for me, it kept spitting me off time after time.  It kept giving me just enough success to keep me thinking I would send my next try, but not more.  Two days of trying, ten burns in total, later I stuck the crux only to find myself about to fall pulling the lip.  I couldn’t see my feet, I couldn’t reach the next decent hold, and I couldn’t hold on much longer, but I was through the crux. I couldn’t let myself fall.  I steeled my resolve, tried hard, and have no what I did.  It got me to the top though so I was happy.

The other climb was the Pipedream.  Pipedream itself is a stunning cave with nearly horizontal climbing for 40+ feet on many of the hard routes.  That’s exactly why I choose one of the least overhanging routes in the area.

Deliverance (5.12c) is great climb on the right side of the cave which, apart from one very overhanging section, isn’t as overhanging as the rest of Pipedream.  The crux comes just after the steep section moving across some crimps and small sloping edges of broken cobbles.  My first attempt was so pitiful I didn’t expect to have much success, but it’s amazing how much better it felt once I knew where some holds were.  I spent two days trying and failing for one reason or another; finger getting stuck in a pocket, foot in the wrong place, or getting too pumped usually.  My third day I knew exactly what I needed to do on every move and finally executed.

 

 

 

 

 

 
My first impression of Maple wasn’t the best; it was slippery, I didn’t know how to read the rock, all the routes were very similar, and I didn’t have enough endurance for much success.  After a week of adjusting though, I came around.  It isn’t the most diverse climbing and you certainly won’t find hard vertical climbs, but the style of climbing is fun and there are lots of great routes.

With Point Blank and Deliverance both done, I headed up to Salt Lake City.  I met up with my friend Paul, who I met and learned to climb with in New Zealand.  Even though I was in New Zealand in 2009, I hadn’t hung out with anyone I met there until this year and now Paul was the third one of the year.

Paul headed out early for a weekend trip to Wyoming and I tracked down a friend from Moab.  I spent my rest day hanging out with Erin and her roommates; mostly feeling old since college students seemed so young.  It was the U of U homecoming weekend so we went to a free Brand New concern that night.  Unfortunately I hadn’t put much thought into it and wore my flip-flops to the show.  After one trip fighting through the crowd, losing my flip-flop and finding it again, I decided they weren’t worth it and went barefoot for the rest of the concert.

My hopes for an early morning were foiled by my need to do laundry.  After the delay I swung up to Hyrum to climb at Blacksmith Canyon for the weekend.  I got rather lucky and found Fionna without much trouble, despite the best efforts of my directions to prevent my success.

Blacksmith isn’t a large climbing area, but most of the rock is bomber limestone, kind of similar to Rifle without the polish.  The routes range mostly range from 12a to 13b, but if those are the grades for you it’s a great spot.

I sent one good route, Crankenstein (5.12b) and Sprayer (5.12b), each day and had a couple burns on harder routes.  It was a great place that fit my abilities well and I would have loved to stay longer, but the Yosemite Facelift was about to start so after crashing at Erin’s another night I began the long trip to the valley.


Goals and Ideas not Resolutions and Plans

Center El Shinto

I love what I do, I love the things I do, and nothing will ever stop me from doing that.

-Andy Lewis

 

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions.  Why do we need a new year to decide to be a better person or to be healthier?  We really need is to be able to evaluate ourselves constantly and when we see something wrong set small, achievable goals to fix it.  Vague resolutions too easily forgotten or marginalized, but achievable goals and action lead to accomplishments.

A year and a half ago I loaded up my civic and headed west.  I had great plans for what I would do, where I would go, and how long I would be in each spot.  Then life happened.  I quickly realized how pointless all my plans were because I was always changing them anyway.

Life, especially life on the road, doesn’t work well with rigid plans.  Instead I’ve transitioned to ideas.  Instead of planning things out, I just have several ideas of things that would I would like to do.  If something happens and I can’t do one, I have other options.  It’s also a great way to be spontaneous.  If you don’t have any plans then there’s no reason to say no when an opportunity arises.

This past year I had several goals, most of them climbing related.  My goals were not created equal either and I’m happy about the choices I made that helped me achieve some even when it prevented achieving others. Nothing was life or death, nothing mattered if I didn’t meet it, but it was the direction I wanted my life to move in.  With that in mind, even goals that weren’t met still served a function, so here they are:

1. Climb half the year.  I aimed for 183 days even though I made the goal in April after I started the year 2 months of not climbing.  In the end I climbed 168 days on rock.  If I factor in my 12 days of gym climbing I would have been close or if I add my 26 days of injury I would have crushed it or if I had aimed for half of the remaining year I would have made it.  Either way, it got me to push and try to climb as much as possible so I’m pretty happy with how much I climbed.

2. Climb 25 5.12s.  No need to justify anything here or be happy with only the attempt.  I actually hit 25 in July and ended the year with 65!

3.  Boulder V7.  Well this one I just completely failed at, but it’s okay.  I didn’t end up bouldering for any significant amount of time this year but the few days I did I managed to as hard if not harder than I ever have before (V5 or 6).

4. Climb hard.  I didn’t put a number on it, but I’d say two 5.13a routes and getting a 12d dialed so I could repeat it several times means I crushed this one.

5.  Send another slackline.  I not only sent several other slacklines, but bought my own and began working on longer and longer lines in addition to the tricks I learned in Thailand.

There were a few other goals that didn’t get accomplished (learn a song on guitar and do another rope jump), but they weren’t climbing related anyway.  I did manage to make some progress learning guitar and if I hadn’t gone to Greece might have been able to learn an entire song.

In terms of climbing in the new year, I have lots of places I want to go and as long as I get to climb all over I know I’ll be happy.  For tangible goals I really have two primary ones:

1.  Climb half of the year.  That’s right, it’s back.  It’s not because I care about climbing 183 days, but making it a goal gives me extra motivation to get out on the rocks as much as I possible.

2.  20 13’s in 2013.  That’s right, I’ve done a couple so now I want to push and see if I can become a real 5.13 climber.

Everything else is more personal or just less fun to talk about.  Who wants to hear me ramble about stretching more, being smarter about injuries, or learning some Spanish?  Not me.

Beyond specific goals, I want to make this year great.  I want to continue traveling as long as I can, meet more great people, see more amazing places, and have even more fun than I did in 2012.  Most of all, I want to be happy.  I want to spend my time doing the things I love in the places I love, and hopefully, with people I love.

 

If you want to be happy, be.

-Leo Tolstoy

 


10 Days of Not Climbing

P1040197

I live in my own little world. But its ok, they know me here.

-Lauren Myracle

 

I rolled into Jackson, WY after a night spent covered in frost at 10,000 feet.  I was amped and ready to spend the day rafting, the first time I would be back on whitewater since guiding in 2008.  Maybe I was a bit too amped or just wasn’t prepared for the pace of my friends.  After two hours sitting in a parking lot watching movies on my computer I finally heard back from Scott and we headed off.

We ended up just having three of us on Scott’s newly acquired raft, but it was fine for the little boat.  We pushed off into the Snake River and within minutes found that the cold water had seriously deflated our tubes.  We took turns trying to pump up the sagging boat while one person navigated the small rapids.  People we passed with our floppy boat gave us concerned looks and disapproving comments.  Scott and I laughed them off, we had both been guides, why be concerned?  Worst case we just swim it.  Scott’s friend looked even more concerned.

The water was quite cold, but as long as the clouds stayed out of the way the sunlight warmed us and we spent most of the day laying on the tubes and chatting.  Eventually we neared the more serious rapids so we pulled off to the side and filled our tubes up until they were firm again before continuing on.

We splashed through a big wave or two, but the rapids weren’t very large.  Although not too intense, it was a fun ride through the wave-trains.  As the day wound down there started being more and more boats around.  It seemed that half of Wyoming decided rafting would be a good idea for Labor Day weekend.  It made the people watching great too.

One of the most entertaining groups was a group of 4 on a huge standup paddleboard.  They had four GoPro’s recording their shenanigans as they continuously wobbled and toppled each other into the water.

The other entertainment was a group of 9 or 10 people in their 50s and 60s piled onto a raft smaller than ours.  They also had a popped tube and most of them were quite drunk.  It looked like a cartoon seeing so many people piled onto the three quarters of the little raft paddling down river like it was another day at the office.

We made it to the take out, loaded up the gear and were about to head off when some of the people with the popped tube came over and asked for a ride to their cars.  Somehow they dropped a car off at the take out, but had left the key for it at the put in.  We gave a couple of the more sober ones rides to the put in and continued to town.  We finished the day off hanging out around a fire.

The next day I got a ride to Lava Hot Springs, ID to meet up with my dad.  I arrived just in time to help organize things and prepare the bus for the road.  The next several days were filled with moving boxes, trying, often unsuccessfully, to help get the bus loaded up, and lots of meeting people.

There was a going away party so I got to meet the entire Lava crew, but maybe saying dad got to show me off would be a more apt description.  Nearly every person’s greeting was “Hi, you must be the climber, we’ve heard so much about you.”  I kept expecting a few younger people to show up, but in the end I was the only person under 40 and most were over 50.  An older crowd has one serious advantage though: the food, wine, and beer are always good.

It was great to see my dad and meet his friends, but I’ll be honest, the best part about the whole time in Lava was getting to see and play with six puppies that his friends dog just had.  They were only a few weeks old which meant they were heaps of fun for about 15 minutes until they all got too tuckered out and went to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually the bus was loaded up for a two week jaunt north and we headed out.  We spent two nights camped by hot springs and enjoyed soaking.  The first one, somewhere south of Jackson was especially nice because the scalding hot water poured out from the rock right on the side of an ice cold river, just down from an amazing waterfall.
When we got to Yellowstone it was my time to turn around and head west for more climbing.  I was off before 6am to meet up with my friend Sam at City of Rocks for the weekend, but only made it 10 miles down the road before my car died.  Shit.

I went through everything I could to try to get it working and eventually gave up.  With no cell service I decided to hitchhike back to the bus and see if dad could figure anything out.

I stood on the side of the road with no luck for quite a while before a car finally stopped.  Of course, just as they stopped a ranger came and put on his lights so they left.  Finally a ride and the ranger scared him off.  Fortunately the ranger turned out to be fairly nice and gave me a lift back to the bus.  When we got back to the car it started right up.  We said a tentative goodbye and I pulled onto the road again.

Six miles later the car died again.  We looked over everything we could only to repeat the process to no avail the entire day.  12 hours and many hours on the side of the road later a tow truck dropped me off in Jackson.  The good part was that I wasn’t stranded on the side of the road.  The bad part was I was sitting in a parking lot on Saturday night waiting for Monday when the mechanic shops would open.

I managed to get a hold of a family friend, Jacob, who lives in town.  He was very hospitable; inviting me out with his friends, giving me a place to crash for two nights, and recommending a good mechanic.

I spent an hour at Able Auto Monday morning while they decided they thought it was an electronic component in the distributor.  My options were to replace the part and hope that it wouldn’t burn out again or wait a few days until they could replace the entire distributor.  Of course, I went with the spend-less-money-and-hope-it-works solution.

They replaced the part, were really nice, and charged me less for parts and labor than the shop in Ten Sleep charged me for labor that I could have done in 40 minutes.  I was happy to have my car back and probably even fully functioning.  Just to be safe I drove 20 miles going back and forth through town to make sure it wouldn’t die again then finally hit the road again.