"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for December, 2014

Southern Smackdown


Life must be rich and full of loving–it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.

Jack Kerouac


I was excited to finally spend some time in the Red instead of having less than ideal conditions and less than a week which were both true for my previous three trips through the Red.  Van life at Miguels was great.  It’s a cheap and easy spot to be a dirtbag and a great place to climb.  In the past I had been unimpressed by the lack of diversity or technical climbing in the Red.  I quickly found that once you leave the Undertow wall, you can find a lot of diversity.

The pure volume of quality climbing in the Red is stunning.  When you add in the amount of rock that could be developed still, it’s overwhelming.  I started off taking it easy to get my finger healthy, but even after it stopped bothering me I found it hard to spend more than a few days on any route because there were so many to try.  I still only managed to touch a fraction of the routes I was interested in and left several things to finish.  I did manage to get a few sends including Heart Shaped Box, Stain, Demon Seed, and Gene Wilder.  Of course, the one and only 13 I sent was dead vertical, and therefore only took me a few tries; more than many pumpy 12a’s.  Mostly I got on a lot of great climbs and got a good smackdown on most of them.  A few great lines that I didn’t send:  Jesus Wept, Belly of the Beast, Cell Block 6, Tape Worm, Mirage, and countless more.

My plan to stay at Miguels until Christmas changed before Thanksgiving when the temperature dropped, the snow came, and the walls began collecting condensation every day.  We rallied a group of 10 and all headed south to boulder in Rocktown.  The weather was better, but not the most cooperative.  Luckily I had found a monstrous 60ft tarp which we used to cover a spot to hang out on rainy days.  The rest of the time not climbing was spent baking cookies in Mikael’s van and piling everyone into his bed.  When the weather allowed it, the bouldering was amazing.  Of course, I went from steep climbing to bouldering, so basically this was just an entire season of smackdown for me.  As a group, we were a complete junk show; climbing with 10 people and only 4 pads and even only two pads for a bit.  Regardless, it was a blast running around pebble wrestling and soaking in the bits of sun we could find.

A few days into December the weather took a big turn for the worse.  A week straight of rain drove most people away to seek better conditions or home for the holidays.  Unwilling to give up, I hid from the weather in Nashville and even ran into a friend from Kalymnos.  The crew had dwindled to two, but we spent the rest of the month bouldering on other people’s pads and searching for dry sport crags.  Being dependant on others for pads (and not having 10 people) made it much easier to meet lots of new people around Chattanooga.

Christmas neared and we headed north.  I dropped Emilie of in Montreal and headed home on the 23rd, only to make it 10 miles before my car broke down.  I spent the entire day investigating what was wrong with it and trying to find a mechanic to replace the blown water pump (once I realized how difficult it was).  Success eluded me.  No mechanic could fix my car in time.  Eventually I limped it back to Emilie’s, where her family let me essentially abandon it for the holidays.  Of course, no busses were running across the border that late, so I took a bus part way and was rescued by my brother driving 4 hours out of his way to pick me up on his way home.  We drove through the night and made it home at 6:45am on Christmas Eve.

The Story of Lots of Driving

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

-Edward Abbey


Free again, I hit to road to one of my favorite crags in the country: Ten Sleep.  To this day I still can’t figure out exactly why Ten Sleep feels like home to me, but it certainly does.  I’m sure part has to do with the vert techy climbing I love, the free camping, and the possibility of climbing all day without any sign of people, but there’s something beyond the parts I know and love that draws me even more and keeps me loving it regardless of all else.

August became a familiar blur of lazy mornings hanging out in camp and eating Ciara and Tyler’s left over breakfast, climbing great routes, and hanging out by the camp fire.  I spent a lot of time trying to find people to climb with and meeting a lot of new people and hanging out.  The highlight of my climbing was sending Neutral Spirit, Dances with Cows, and Aunt Jamimas Bisquick Thunderdome in just a few tries each and onsighting Wall of Denial.  The crowning jewel would have been sending Super Mama, ticking my first 13b, but instead became the vital blow when I injured my finger on it.

With my finger injured and Andy’s wedding coming up, I decided it was time to head east.  I bounced across the country from one couch to another until I made it to New York for the wedding.  With all of the college crew together we were immediately up to the usual debauchery.  It started just minutes after I arrived with a gallon of cider and a handle of rum dumped into a pot for hot cider.  It was a great weekend catching up with friends, getting pushed into the pond, and of course celebrating Andy’s wedding.







The next month crept by and involved more painting than climbing.  My finger was still bothering me a lot so I tried to use the time to save a little money so I could pay for gas.  I managed a short trip to Rumney, but after a couple days struggling to find partners and my finger still bothering me, I headed back to Maine.  I got to hang out at home and enjoyed going to the Common Ground Fair for the first time in 8 years.  The important part is that pie cones, despite being twice the price, are still delicious.  After a month without rock, I was getting stir crazy and decided to head to the Red regardless of whether I would be able to climb on my finger.

Summer in SLC


Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that the Nature he is destroying is this God he is worshipping.

-Hubert Reeves


My summer in Salt Lake had a few trips here and there to Blacksmith, Joe’s, or the Cottonwoods, but it wasn’t until July that I was able to do more climbing again.  I took two weeks off from work and got a ride with a friend up to Ten Sleep for a couple weeks.

My life was in full color again.  I was finally back in one of my favorite places, doing my favorite thing, with a bunch of great people.  I was out of shape, but set to work trying to get back to where I was climbing before Salt Lake happened.

I quickly got amped on Burden of Immortality (12d/13a) and decided it was my goal for the trip.  It’s a great route that builds some pump before throwing you into a sequence of long powerful moves on decent crimps and pockets.  One move in particular was hard for me to unlock or maybe just hard to commit to.  The first real hard move involves a thread mono (if your fingers are my size) that felt likely break my finger off if I fell on the move.  I tried every way possible to jam two fingers in, pinch it, but no matter what I did I fell every time I didn’t commit to the finger breaker and stuck the move every time I committed to it.  My first day on Burden, my fitness was poor enough I wasn’t even able to make it to the top on my second try.

Then the 4th of July happened.  I headed into town with a group of friends and watched rodeo.  It was an experience: all sorts of cowboys (and girls) in their best button-up shirts and bolo ties.  The people-watching was pretty great, but the event just looked extremely cruel to the animals.  It’s definitely not something I would go back to.  After the rodeo, we headed back up to the canyon for the climber party rather than hanging out for the street dance in town.  The weather was not very conducive though; it rained on and off all evening.  The group that persisted under the tarps and around the fire maintained good cheer and we still managed to have a fun night.

The next day it was back to Burden.  In fact, the next several days were back to Burden.  Maybe trying something hard isn’t the best way to get fitness back, but after a couple days of two attempts on Burden I was feeling like my third try might be the best.  After taking many 30+ foot whips (because I was skipping a bolt in the middle of the crux), I managed to pull out the send on my last day in Ten Sleep.

I hitched a ride with a climber down to Lander for the Climbers Festival where I had a ride to Salt Lake lined up.  As usual, the Festival was great.  They screened Wind & Rattlesnakes, a movie about the birth of Lander as a climbing town, I helped out with a clinic on rigging for climbing photography, and did a little climbing.  Then I loaded up with my friend Phil and headed back to SLC.

Going back to work after Ten Sleep was rough.  I had the taste of freedom that I’d been enjoying for two years and I had to give it up again.  On the bright side, I met a friend in Ten Sleep who lived three blocks from me and was the most psyched climber I knew in the city.  The next two weeks of work flew by, climbing in AF several mornings with Kate, a weekend in Blacksmith, and all of a sudden it was OR.

The most important development after my return from Ten Sleep, was my acquisition of a new vehicle.  I say new, but really it was just new to me.  It was in fact, the newest vehicle I had ever owned: a 96 Honda Odyssey.  For anyone not familiar with this generation of “mini-van” it is a mini-van in the most literal sense of the word.  With four normal doors (no sliding here), and a small third row seat that folds down, it looks as much station wagon as it does van.  But it works.

For anyone who has not been, Outdoor Retailer is a huge outdoor trade show with companies from every outdoor activity imaginable.  The entire event has the electric vibe of lots of serious business combined with a huge party.  By 4 booths are handing out beers, and every night there’s some kind of party.  A spent several days wandering the floor, pushing climbing holds, chatting, drinking some beer, and of course, gathering schwag.  I went for a few more late night bike rides and as quick is OR came, it was gone again and I was free at last.  Done working. Car loaded.  I was ready to go.