"Not all those who wander are lost"

Adventure

Alpine Dreams

Cerro Torre

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

-Henry David Thoreau

 

If you’ve climbed with me in the past year you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been avoiding crack climbing like it’s the plague.  I’ve always wanted to do some epic ascents, but over the last year my ambitions have strayed away from climbing cracks.  After climbing in Squamish and Yosemite last year I could barely walk for a week because my ankles hurt so much and my mini-epic on the Rostrum was the last straw.  Since that day, I’ve done everything I can to avoid crack climbing.

Now, my thoughts have been pulled back to the epic climbs; the long alpine ascents that people notice.  In short, I’ve spent a year getting stronger and becoming a better climber, but now I want to take those skills into the alpine realm.  I don’t expect to just jump into it and have success.  I should prepare, spend some time climbing crack other places, and hone my skills.

I want to alpine climb so bad that I keep dreaming of Patagonia.  When I say dreaming, I don’t mean just day dreaming about some amazing new line up Fitz Roy or Cerro Torre, although I do plenty of that too, I mean when go to sleep at night I’m really there for a few hours until I wake up.

In my most recent dream I had managed to exchange my flight from Athens to New York, the one I really have to go home for the holidays, with a flight from Athens to Patagonia.  I was even psyched that it didn’t cost extra.  I arrived, got the bus into El Chaltén, found place to stay, and even started finding climbing partners before I woke up.

I’m sure that all of the details of El Chaltén were completely inaccurate; I’ve never been there.  The eerily realistic parts were my spontaneity and drive to complete this dream.  For this trip to Kalymnos alone, the opportunity arose one evening, I booked my ticket the next, and got on a plane the third day.  After this trip, changing my ticket home seemed pretty realistic.

Waking up from that dream was a bit sad.  Realizing that I wasn’t there, that I might not be there any time soon, and the possibility that I never make it there was a downer, even though I’m in Kalymnos, one of the most amazing places in the world.

To top it all off, I have talked to several friends about going to Patagonia this week.  It’s a possibility this season.  Now I have a constant internal debate: do I try to scrape together enough money to make it there this year and just throw myself into it all or do I wait, train, get a job, and hopefully make it there next year, but risk a turn in my life that stops me.

I’m ready for cold nights and bad weather.  I’m ready for gobies, blood, and sore ankles.  I’m ready to suffer.  I want to be an alpine climber!


On The Road Again

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I love both the idea of home as in being with my family and friends, and also the idea of exploration.

-Yo Yo Ma

 

Once the car was packed I headed straight for the New River Gorge.  I had a friend there already so I jumped in and started climbing.  The only problem was the weather wasn’t much better than Maine.  We got rain for most of my first three days.  Despite the potential for climbing in the rain ambition was rock bottom.

Soon they left I was scrambling for partners.  I surfed around the campgrounds, but without Roger’s, the recently closed climber campground and meeting spot, I was just grasping at straws.  I met three other guys, Matt, Tom, and Chris, at Cantrel’s and climbed with them for a couple days.  They had come from Colorado for the summer and as far as they could tell were the only long term dirtbags around.

After a couple days they headed for the Red and I headed up to Morgantown to pick up my new computer.  I spent a couple days hanging out and a day bouldering at Cooper’s Rock, but soon it was itching to rope up again.

The plan was to head back to the New, but with partners so difficult to find and weather so bad I decided it wasn’t worth it.  I didn’t get a chance to get on my projects from the year before or even do much of anything in my four days of climbing.  The amazing place that I loved the summer before was all thanks to the people and without them it just wasn’t the same.

I headed for the Red with hopes that it would be better than the New.  I met up with Matt, Tom, and Chris again and had a few good days of climbing at Fantasia and Drive-By.  After a month of not climbing the endurance needed for success at the Red was nowhere to be found, but I managed to have a great time taking whips when I got so pumped I couldn’t hang on.

I managed to tick the notoriously soft ‘Wild, Yet Tasty’ (5.12a) but only put serious effort into one route at the Red, ‘Hippocrite.’  I met up with my friend Mark and we decided to try it.  It’s not a truly hard rig; I could pull all the moves without taking much time to figure them out.  It’s basically some moves down low that get you pumped before you get to a long, powerful move off two underclings.  That turned out to be the show stopper for me.  Four tries and I was just too worked to do much climbing of any type, let alone sending.

That weekend the heat peaked at 106ºF and I would guess around 70-80% humidity.  It was time to leave.  Not before I got another crack at ‘Hippocrite’ though. I managed to convince Simon, another guy I met at Miguel’s, to head up to belay me before I hit the road.  I ate half my breakfast as I drove to The Zoo and by 8:30 was pulling on my shoes.  My two attempts fell short, still unable to pull the long move on point.  We headed back to Miguel’s where I dropped off Simon then pulled onto the highway to head west.


Goodbye Thai

P1010870

Hemlock:  We’ll make it.

Meier:  I don’t think so, but we shall continue with style.

-The Eiger Sanction

 

Mid April in Tonsai came and it meant two things.  First, that I had to head for the boarder again for another visa run.  Second, that it was hotter than hell in August.  No joke, I had to start wearing wrist bands because without them my chalkbag just became a puddle of sweat and on more than one occasion I witnessed I stream of sweat squeezed out of Sam’s harness when weighted.  As for the visa, it was quite a pain to deal with.  My departure and visa managed to leave a two day gap so even if I made a visa run I would have to do it all over again just to get the extra two days.  After lots of debating and thoughts of going to China or Laos I decided that it made the most sense for me to stay in Tonsai.  Booking the flight turned out to be more of a hassle than expected.  Every time I tried to book a cheap flight my bank would freeze my debit card, then to get it reactivated I had to call during business hours which was impossible to do from Tonsai.  Eventually I had my brother book my flight, and borrowed cash in time to book my 23 hour bus to Singapore where I hung out for 23 hours before flying back to Krabi.  The two days of travel and limbo were rough, but gave me just enough time to not be illegal when I left.

(Me on Orange Juice, 7b+)

As I reached the top of Banana Ship sirens wailed.  I was getting so close to sending, but fell at the last hard move.  I had no idea why this obnoxious sound had started and just wanted it to go away before my next try, I was sure it was going down.  After a minute of Thai on the loudspeaker it switched to English, telling us that there was a large earth quake off shore and a tsunami was likely.  I was lowered down the route and we headed for higher ground.  Below I could see the people running around on East Railay and moving to higher ground.  We waited.  We waited.  The other people around anxiously talked about waiting longer or trying to get back to Tonsai.  I thought about getting back on Banana Ship.  Apparently my addiction and willingness to take risks is that bad.  Even if there was a tsunami, I figured being a on route could only be good, it’s not like we were anywhere near water level anyway.  Eventually I could see Thai people meandering around in East Railay so I decided, despite the warning still in effect, that it couldn’t be that likely or imminent.  Since I couldn’t find anyone willing to belay I headed back to Tonsai.  Along the way I found herds of tourists gathered on higher areas.  It was especially amusing seeing the group that formed at the top of the jungle trail between Railay and Tonsai.  They looked like a bunch of Y2k nuts thrown onto Survivor.  I think I even spotted some canned food they brought with them.  The tsunami never came, but the next day I did send Banana Ship.

The rest of life was a whirlwind of fun times.  I learned to slackline and got into the habit of spending lots of my rest days, lunch times, and evenings slacklining at Sawadee.  I saw a barrel monkeys, at least 50 or 60 of them, run down the trail 6ft behind me while I belayed.  I swam on chemiluminescent plankton, poached pools in Railay, slacklined over the water, and danced until 6am.  I visited a cave and saw the thousands of wooden penises given as offering to Phranang (Princess Goddess) for good luck on the water (pictures below).  I watched my friends Sam, Theo, Jonas, and Nolan take the top spots in the climbing competition, stayed up until sunrise, watched many fire shows, burned my lip on a flaming shot, and hung out with Kat and Maura while they broke the pancake eating record.  Oh, and buckets.  Many buckets.  I climbed too, sending Orange Juice and Banana Ship (both 7b+) which are definitely two of the best routes I’ve ever been on.  I managed to go deep water soloing on one of my last days there and better yet, I didn’t get charged.  I even got Tyrolean Air (7c), my hardest send.  Tonsai was interesting because some people stay for a couple days, some for half the year, and other for anything in between.  It seemed like everyone I hung out with was leaving in a couple weeks, but it didn’t stop me from making some great friends.  Even now, months later, I keep in touch with many Tonsai folks and hung out with several as I traveled and climbed across the US this summer.  Whether it was someone I hung out with for months or someone I only hung out with for a day and really connected with, I had a great time with everyone and met lots of great people.  Thanks for making Tonsai amazing!


Tonsai Life

The road goes on forever and the party never ends

-Robert Earl Keen

 

I found out the great thing about my unplanned Thailand trip is that my visa on arrival only lasted 30 days.  That meant I needed to either leave or make a visa run.  My initial plan had been a month in Tonsai then some time in Laos and Chang Mai, but Tonsai was just too good.  I talked to a bunch of people and from what I could gather I just wouldn’t be able to do the same kind of climbing or find partners as easily in those places.  I decided I would at least put off the decision for another couple weeks by making a visa run.  Luckily for me I had a couple friends, Jonas and Martin, who were going to do the same.  Thankfully Jonas was in Tonsai for his eighth year and knew the ins and outs. We got up early to catch the first longtail to Ao Nang, found this tourist passed out with a pile of Chang bottles, and rented a car to drive down to the boarder.

We put down our deposit of 10000 baht (about $325) and headed off.  I’d just like to mention that $325 was considered to be able equal to the value of the car and it was a bit much if anything.  It looked like miniture version of the old, small, boxy suzuki SUVs.  We squeezed in with one person having to sit sideways behind the front seats.  We bobbed down the road bouncing all over the place on the lack of suspension.  It quickly became clear that Jonas had serious experience in Thailand; his driving was almost as crazy as the locals.  In some unknown town where nobody spoke any English Jonas managed to order us some fried rice for lunch and we continued on our way.  Countryside, small cities, bamboo huts, bulls in the back of small tucks, and even an elephant on a flat bed truck zipped past as we headed south.  Shortly before the boarder the limestone cliffs began appearing again and we slowed to rubberneck the virgin faces and talk about what looked climbable.  We weaved our way through traffic, around dogs, and made it almost to the boarder sweaty and stiff from the tiny cramped car.  Several hundred yards before the Malaysia boarder was a street market so we couldn’t drive further.  We parked and walked the last bit to the boarder, handed our passports to the officer, walked around the building to the window on the other side, picked up our passports, and back to the car.  We were legal for another 15 days.  We turned around and headed all the way back to Tonsai.

 (Onsighting Wake and Bake, 7a+)

A few days later a friend and I went to The Keep.  We did a few great climbs and realized the tide was out.  Why not go to Low Tide wall?  We thought it was perfect timing to get in a couple pitches before the time came in and it got dark.  Turns out we were wrong.  We watched the tide come in a bit, but didn’t realize how much of our trail back was being flooded until we turned the corner to head back.  Looked like we would be waist deep the entire walk back to East Railay.  We took about 12 steps then it got dark too.  The only headlamp we had was Terri’s very dim one.  To top it off, my ultra-thin flip flops were falling apart and impossible to walk with in the water.  With the tide out its usually a 15 minute jaunt back to East Railay then monkey trail (up and over a small rocky hill between Tonsai and Railay) is the only obstacle back to Tonsai.  Barefoot, in the dark, at high tide…we slogged through the sharp coral and rocks and didn’t make it back for two and a half hours.  With sliced toes and sore feet I went directly to get some food I’d been wishing I had all day.

 

(I loved this spot.  It reminds me of Jurassic Park)

(Monitor Lizard)

 


The Best Day of Climbing

Climbing is like sex, when its good its good, and when its bad… its still pretty good.

-Unknown

 

Thanks to the diagnosis of an intoxicated Korean doctor, some Spanish friends with extra cephlexin, and several days of rest I finally began getting better.  It was more than just my ability to function without pain, my checked backpack unexpectedly arrived, and I began meeting a bunch of great people.  Finally able to walk without pain up to my knee I got down to climbing.  Life became a blur of constant climbing: roll out of the bungalow, breakfast at Chicken Mamas Restaurant, climb all day, dinner at Chicken Mamas, hang out at Sawadee, sleep, and repeat.

(Exploring the lagoon)

(Notice the Thai guy in the tree.  He wore a climbing harness to solo up the 50ft tree, then just uses his rope to lower the coconuts before soloing back down the tree)

(Chicken Mamas!)

Within a couple weeks I even started sending.  It was a great feeling and really one that was new to me.  To line up projects and actually begin knocking them off was something that I had never really done before.  Then, on it happened…The best climbing day of my life.

Previously the best climbing day of my life was one of my last days in Smith Rock when I finally sent Heinous Cling (5.12a), which was my first 12 in the US, after working it for a while then went and crushed Panic Attack (5.12a) on my first real attempt (not quite an onsight since I tried it a couple weeks earlier on TR at the end of the day), and to top it off the hot water in the showers finally got turned back on.  It was a great day.

March 23rd though, was something else all together.  In the morning I sent Tiger Queen (7b/5.12b)  which I had been working on for a while, then we headed over to Cat wall in the afternoon where I sent Kitty Porn (7b+/5.12c) my first ever 12c, then gave April Fools (7b/5.12b) a try and sent it too.  My first ever 12c, and two 12b’s (only had done one or two before too) in one day!  All of a sudden I felt like I didn’t know why I had ever NOT been climbing 5.12, it wasn’t all that bad after all.

Oh yeah, and I cut my hair into a mohawk…

 


Return to Writing

It is fatal to know too much at the outcome: boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his route as the novelist who is over certain of his plot.

– Paul Thoreau

 

It’s been quite a while since I’ve bothered updating the old blog.  I would like to say it’s because I’ve been so busy living life and having wondrous adventures, but that’s not completely true.  This year has been a whirlwind, but I also neglected it between trips too.  No more neglect.

Winter was a trying time for me.  I spent December making snow at Sunday River in western Maine.  Thankfully it was only one month.  I had no friends around, worked a horrible schedule, broke my body, barely got to make any turns, and got paid peanuts.  Thinking about it since then, I’ve come to realize it was probably the worst month of my life and a definite black mark on the last year and a half of pure awesomeness.  I want to especially thank my brother Ian for helping me get out of such a detrimental situation that I was too stubbornly optimistic to walk away from.

The unseasonably warm weather in Maine continued for January and February.  I bided my time, collected the insurance money from my stolen stuff, and spent as much time as I could outside bouldering.  Once I had replaced the necessities of life (rope, draws, climbing shoes, harness,  and belay device) I began looking into the future.  I considered lots of places but settled on Thailand.  The season was right and the flight was cheaper than going to New Zealand.

Thailand had a rocky start.  Actually it was rocky before I even got out of Maine.  First my bus from Waterville to NYC was a no-show.  After an hour talking and arguing with various people from the number on my purchased ticket they just said there’s no bus and denied that you could even buy the ticket online.  My mom drove me all the way down to Portland where I could catch buses the rest of the way.  Two buses, 2 trains, and 8 blocks of walking through NYC got me to JFK just in time to check in for my flight.  I made the flight, but my luck wasn’t better yet.  The flight was delayed leaving so I missed my connecting flight from Beijing to Bangkok, got put in a hotel room with some random dude, and had to argue to even get any food.  By the time I got to Bangkok I was tired and just wanted to get to Tonsai, but since my checked bag hadn’t arrived and it was already too late I went into the city and got a room.  The next morning I tried to figure stuff out (like where the hell was my checked bag), but ended up getting frustrated, going to the airport and buying the next flight just to get there.  After the bus to Ao Nang and long-tail ride to Tonsai my travel time totalled 84 hours and I hadn’t managed to sleep more than 2 hours at a time.  And still only had my carry on.

(Beer in vending machines!  And the original Red Bull)

I made it to Tonsai though, my travel was over and it was AMAZING.  The limestone cliffs are jaw dropping.  I immediately started to climb as much as I could.  In a rare moment of wisdom, I had packed ALL my climbing gear except my rope, which wouldn’t fit, into my carry on bag so all I had to do was make friends with people and use their rope.  Unfortunately, only a couple days after I got to Tonsai I had a tiny scrape on my ankle which got infected.  Pretty quickly my ankle was the size of a football, I had pain up to my knee, and it even hurt to walk.  I called and argued with the airlines several times about my luggage.  They had finally found it, but now were refusing to send it to me in Tonsai despite me explicitly telling them where I would be and getting a confirmation that they would send it.  By this point I was so fed up from travel, lost luggage, the dirtiness of Tonsai, and my infected ankle that I was seriously regretting spending so much money to go to some dingy corner of Asia just to climb rocks (which I couldn’t even do and are found all over the world anyway).  That view changed soon…

(My first bungalow)

(I had a solid 2 feet of space besides my bug net in the bungalow)

(My first house guest)


Loose Ends

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.

-Greg Anderson

 

It’s a good thing that the activity is the important part because it’s not looking like I’ll finish.  My computer died and along with it went the rest of my posts about the end of my trip, but I’ll give a few highlights.

After Squamish I headed down to Smith Rock where I spent three weeks climbing, jumping, and hanging out.  It’s a great place to climb and a great place to dirtbag.  While there I managed to send Heinous Cling (12a), then walk up to Panic Attack (12a) and send that, then watch Sam send Chain Reaction (12c), to top it off that day the hot water in the showers got turned back on.  My motivation to leave Smith was low, but eventually I mustered myself to head to Yosemite for the Facelift.  The valley was…well, hectic to say the least and certainly not dirtbag friendly.  I did a bit of climbing, but spent some time being lazy too (and spending tons of time working on my Fulbright application).  I managed to get on Serenity & Sons which was great and my last day of climbing was a bit of an epic on the Rostrum, but I made it through thanks to Dan rope-gunning.  The Rostrum destroyed what was left of my Scarpas and it was time to head for better ground so I moved on to Bishop where I met up with Steffan and Jon (they have a great video on their blog of some adventures at Smith Rock www.whatcrux.com).  After a few weeks and lots of adventures (including one sketchy night adventure with Reese and Elissa) I headed to Red Rocks.  I had a great time on the sandstone, an awesome limo adventure in Vegas for Erins birthday, and a fun Halloween in LA with Dave and Amanda.  My next stop was Flagstaff where I managed to couchsurf because the weather was getting cold (we got ~8in of snow! I was happy to not be in a tent for that).  After a few days there the conditions weren’t great for climbing so I continued on to Tucson.  Tucson was the beginning of the end.  While couch surfing in Tucson my car was stolen. The police found the car within hours of my report, but everything I had in the car was gone.  They left me one shoe, my bouldering shoes, my dirty T-shirts and pants, and a 6pack to drown my sorrows.  Luckily I had my computer with me instead of in the car.  Unfortunately my camera, gopro, and all my climbing gear was gone.  I didn’t even have a pair of shoes to wear, a long sleeve shirt, or any money.  After several days in Tucson where my amazing host Caitlyn (and all her roommates) helped me get stuff back together I headed east.  Hueco got scratched because my back was spasming and I started getting sick.  I blazed through to Nashville and hung out with Brett for a day before meeting up with my dad at Mammoth Caves.  He had his bus loaded up and was heading to the southwest for the winter.  I added a few days at the Red River Gorge and meet up with some Smith Rock people, but it was getting colder so I continued toward home.  After a night of getting suited up with the broski in Morgantown I finally got in my car headed for my final destination.

Now I’ve been in Maine for too long, wasted too much time (doing all kinds of non-climbing things), replaced some gear, and I’m back on the road.  Well, not quite the road because I’m headed to Thailand!  I don’t have a computer, I don’t know how I’m getting all the way to Ton Sai, and I don’t know when I’ll get back here, but for now…adios!


Joyous Christmahanakwanzika and Happy New Year!

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

-George Carlin

 

It’s that time of year again.  The time when the rocks are getting cold on the fingers and the days are so short that it barely warms up.  My trip came to an unpleasant end, but round two of the Red River Gorge and seeing friends from, both new and old, helped to make the last few days fun.  Now I’m a snowmaker at Sunday River.  The honeymoon phase wore off pretty quickly, but things will be getting better now that we can make snow more often instead of just hauling towers and hoses around the mountain.  Things got drastically better this week when I walked into The Big Adventure Center (a Bethel attraction with laser tag, party room, games, and most importantly a climbing wall).  Their wall is about what I expected: mostly top-roping, small, no routes set, few problems set, and overall sub-par.  Sounds like it’s a not good, but I just saw an opportunity and now I climb whenever I want, set whatever I want, and basically get free rein.  My future looks like climbing, snowboarding, and hiking up and down the mountain making snow.  That sums out my recent activities, if you have any suggestions for what I should do or where I should go after this spring (mar-apr) then let me know.

 

But the real reason I’m writing this isn’t just to fill you in on me, but to say thank you.  With as much time as I spent on the road mooching off everyone, it would have been impossible without generous people.  I couldn’t have done it with out you guys.  Thanks to everyone who helped me out on my trip, belayed me, got me a beer, gave me food, and shared  good times with me.  And special thanks to the people who made the continuation of my trip possible when things went wrong: Chis (& Jen) who put me up for over a week when I had my car fiasco, David who got my computer working again, Jack who saved my from sleeping in my car/tent when Flagstaff got almost a foot of snow,  Caitlin (& roommates) who were great to me in more ways than I can count when my life was stolen, and everyone I saw who gave me shoes (thanks Brett), jackets, climbing gear, and a brighter outlook on my return home.  This year I had well over 100 days of climbing, not bad since I didn’t do any for over 3 months when I tore my ankle and haven’t done much for the last two months.  I’ve met so many great people and made so many new friends this year.  I plan to keep it going in 2012, so if you’re in the mood for an adventure, want to climb, or just want to hang out when I go through let me know.  So far possibilities include, but are not limited to, Mexico, New Zealand, Hawaii, Turkey, South/Central America, Europe (not until warmer months), and Southeast Asia.

More climbing, more adventures, more friends, more fun!

 

 

 

(Obviously not my picture since I don’t have that stuff anymore, but my future trees will look similar)

 

(How do you think Santa gets to your house?)


Back in BC

If at first you don’t succeed, buy a new car and try to get to Squamish again!

-Me

 

Nothing helps me get posts out quick like finding one I wrote months ago.  It’s wordy, it’s not proof read, but if you care about that you shouldn’t be here anyway.

 

Friday morning (8/19) I was up early to head up to Squamish, aiming to make it all the way there without and car drama.  After a detour through downtown Vancouver that added well over an hour to my journey I was on BC-99 headed north again.  The scenic road hugged the mountains on the edge of Howe Sound, zigzagging with the coastline.  I made it to the parking lot at the Chief, the main cliff and center of Squamish climbing, by the middle of the day.  I repositioned my “Need Climbing Partners” sign into an obvious position in a back window and began to look around for people getting a late start to climb with.  Spotting a group of three I saw a perfect opportunity to even up the numbers and help everyone out.  They welcomed me to their group, but were bouldering so the even number was irrelevant.  It wasn’t going to be a day filled with classic Squamish cracks, but it was climb.  John, Igor, and I (the other friend, Tyler, headed off to hike since he was injured and could climb) bouldered around the base of the Chief for the rest of the afternoon, meeting up with a couple more of their friends, Josh and Amanda.  With five people and five crash pads we could pad any landing no matter how rocky and took full advantage of our opportunity on several climbs.  With such a lack of climbing in recent times I wasn’t able to finish anything special, but enjoyed getting back on rock.  I even managed to keep my fingertips from getting shredded the entire day.  Night began to fall and I headed off down a nearby forestry road to find a safe place to pull off.  The wide dirt road had over twenty cars in various small pull-offs in the short 2km of road, clearly this level of dirtbagging only happens at climbing destinations.

 

Saturday morning I was delayed by finding a public park with outlets scattered throughout (don’t know, but love sitting in the park and having computer power) and discovering a farmers market, before I made it back over to the Chief at 10am to meet Bill.  He had left a note on my car in response to my sign and climbing about the same grades.  We headed off to crag around the base of the Chief.  I received a good reminder of why I do, and always should, wear a helmet while belaying Bill on our second climb.  The guy climbing on the route we just made it through the most difficult section but hadn’t placed any gear for 15+ feet.  But once he got to the good holds where it eases up he started looking even shakier and as it went to move a hand higher slid off the rock.  He looked like a cartoon frozen in mid air as he stood with finger on the rock, feet still directly under him as he slid 30 feet down the rock, hitting a ledge near the bottom that flipped him upside down with his head 8 feet off the deck.  My first thought was that I needed to lower Bill and get this guy to a hospital.  Fortunately he started laughing as he hung upside down spread eagle, he wasn’t hurt, not even his fingers which rubbed down the rock or his head, which by all laws of physics looked like it should have smashed against the rock.  My helmet would stay firmly on my head in the future.  We continued cragging, doing many of the classic cracks, for the afternoon.  On my way back from the grocery store I drove past “Live at Squamish” to see what the music festival was all about.  Hearing Girl Talk playing I looked around for a way to sneak in but didn’t think there was much chance.  I almost tried to get someone to give me a ticket as they were leaving since I wasn’t about to pay $110, but decided it wasn’t worth it…later I regretted not trying.

 (Arrowroot [R] and Rutabaga)

(Exasperator)

Sunday bill and I headed off to do Wiretap, a new and supposedly great five pitch 5.10 crack.  On the way up the path to our climb I saw a guy coming down and noticed that he was skinny and jacked, then I noticed it was Alex Honnold.  I guess it wouldn’t be so hard to pull yourself up thousands feet of free soloing if you’re 150lbs, 0% body fat, and ripped.  We found our climb at the top of a pile of dirt, roots, trees, and organic debris: the usual signs of a newly cleaned route at Squamish.  I started off and lead up through the first section of “10a” which turned out to be a bit easy and continued the second short pitch to a belay perched 5 feet up on a stump.  It was the most memorable spot I have ever belayed as I looked out across Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains.  Bill lead the next pitch and linked it with the following one.  When I reached him at the top I saw our “fifth” and final pitch: a very easy, well bolted, short slab.  Most people wouldn’t have even bothered to bolt it.  All the reviews raved that Wiretap was a new classic, but the only thing I thought was classic on it was the belay.  A disappointed by the “five pitch” climb (which we did in two, plus one easy, barely-worth-it last pitch) we headed to Shannon Falls (a huge…tree…just kidding, it’s a waterfall, obviously) to check out a couple classic climbs.  These turned out to be exactly what they promised: a long pitch of perfect splitter crack.  We finished up the two climbs and headed to Skywalker, long five pitch climb notorious for an awkward airy, but easy, 50 foot exposed traverse.  An out of shape guy huffed and puffed as he struggled to make moves 10 feet off the ground.  We knew we would be able to get down before dark, but less confident in the parties ahead we decided not to bother.

 

I awoke in the night to the sound of rain pounding the roof of my car.  The two windows I left down to vent moist air had begun letting in the rain and soaking the foot of my sleepingbag.  I hurriedly crawled up to the front seat and closed the windows before drifting back to sleep.  A few hours later I woke up again.  A steady drip, drip, drip hit me in the forehead.  Somehow my car was leaking in the back hatch and dripping out directly onto me.  I sleepily tried to ignore it, but when the water persisted I dragged myself back to consciousness enough to tape a hummus container under the trip.  When I finally woke up for real it was clear that no climbing would be happening so I spent the day sitting in Starbucks using their internet, swimming and hot tubbing at the local rec center, and finished out at the library until they closed.

 

Monday night proved just as rainy as the previous, but Tuesday morning brought some sun and the slow process of drying the rock.  After waiting until noon Bill and I couldn’t take it and headed off to try to find dry climbing.  Our first attempt was the Murin Pond area.  We got up to the crags and found very little climbing that looked good or was dry but ended up doing a good, but short, 5.9.  After finishing I put a top-rope on a cool looking 11c, but on two attempts couldn’t finish the route.  Hoping for more luck we headed to the Smoke Bluffs.  Our first stop was a letdown, finding two groups waiting on the route we wanted, so we continued on.  From that the day got better as we did several good routes.  The first was a tricky 10(b or c) with poor gear that required me to do a tough, balance move risking a big swing.  Next we got on a tricky 11a finger crack in a corner.  After a couple tries, Bill made it through and I followed.  Once I had figured out the moves I did it again and managed my first trad redpoint.  Excited about the lead I was contented so finishing off the day with three more great routes was icing on the cake.  After such a late start I was happy to have done my hardest trad lead and done 10 pitches of climbing, finishing by headlamp on a wet crack.

 

Wednesday, Bill was stoked to get on the Split pillar.  It’s one of the most highly rated pitches in Squamish, starting 5 pitches up the chief on one of the few lines that leads to the summit.  We started late, allowing more drying time and then ended up starting even later because we realized at the base of the cliff we needed two ropes to rappel off (even though I had hopes of making it through the tough 11a pitches above to make it to the summit), not a great start.  I won rock-paper-scissors so Bill headed back to grab the tag line.  Once we had ourselves organized I started up the chosen route.  I quickly gained a sopping wet, slimy chimney and wedged my body against the sides, wiggling my way up through it with no regards for the black and green slime now covering me.  Thinking I had made it through the hardest, wettest part of the route I pushed on.  To my dismay I found the next section just as wet and significantly more difficult than the chimney.  I worked my way up using fist jams in a shallow and wet crack until the crack was only inches deep and I was forced to lay-back it.  Some combination of wet feet, wet crack, and hard moves finally got the better of me and my hands slipped off sending me backwards away from the crack.  I narrowly avoided a small pillar before the rope caught me.  Frustrated and annoyed with the bad route decision I continued up the route with similar results, occasionally having to pull on gear where the rock was especially wet.  At one point I was jamming in another section of wet crack, with my feet wedged in the crack a meter above my last piece of gear.  My hands slipped out of the crack, but instead of falling I just sat there, slowly tipping away from the rock because my feet were so securely wedged in that I was going to pivot all the way up-side down before they either broke or finally came loose dropping me on my head.  I reached a 45 degree tilt away from the rock before I managed to pull myself back to the rock, basically doing a sit-up from my wedged feet.  This route was really getting annoying, and it continued that way until I finally reached the end of the pitch.  Bill didn’t fare any better on the wet crack but eventually made it through.  For the second pitch we traversed onto another route that had a classic pitch instead of the fourth class scramble above our first pitch.  Finally, it was good climbing through a tricky finger crack and ensuing good hand crack.  At the end of the second pitch was a good ledge and we relaxed for a minute, looking up at what was next.  It was the beginning of a climb called “Mercy Me” and despite, or maybe because of, the soft 5.7 rating it only had 3 bolts in the 40m pitch and no possibility for gear.  Bill successfully led the pitch, avoiding any long fall onto the ledge and I followed in suit.  The next pitch wasn’t much better.  I lead up 25m through only two bolts before the route traversed right across a difficult slab, protected by only one more bolt which promised a huge swing if a foot slipped on one of the tiny sloped edges.  Unnerved by the moves I focused on breathing and trying to avoid getting any water (several water streaks crossed my path) on my shoes and thereby increasing my chance of a foot slipping off.  In, out, in, out.  I reached my right foot as far as I could to the right, carefully placing it on the rounded edge.  In, out, in, out.  I reached out with my right hand, crimping on an edge no thicker than a nickel.  Shifting my weight across I brought my left foot over to meet my right.  After several more moves I reached a large flake, at last something to hold.  At the top of the flake I reached the crux of the pitch: a 5.9 slab section.  Only it was, once again, dripping with water and covered in slime.  As I did the move across without touching the water I realized how ridiculous I must look standing on my right foot on a small edge, left foot extended straight out to the left to push on the flake, right hand straight out right to a small crimp, left hand waving straight above me to balance.  Of course, all of this was about a thousand feet up on a granite wall overlooking the highway and the entire city of Squamish.  My human “+” worked out and I made it across to the anchors.  One more traversing pitch brought us to the split pillar.  Just after Bill started up it another part arrived behind us, but he was already climbing so it was too late to let them pass.  Bill managed the moves through the widening crack from the small layback section and then hand jams, but had trouble with the fist and wider section.  After several attempts he ended up aiding up through it, pulling on cams where he couldn’t hold on.  Finally it was my turn.  With as much info as I could gain from the Californian who was waiting to do the pitch I headed off.  I started off laybacking until I could get a good hand jam into the crack, but as I did I realized how nice it would have been to have taped my hands to give a layer between the soft skin on the back of my hands and the abrasive granite.  Too late now.  The crack widened more and I struggled more.  Eventually my hands slipped and I sailed back through the air until the rope caught me.  Exhausted I rested a second before attacking the rock again, this time making it up, and wedging myself in the chimney above, wriggling until I reached Bill at the anchors.  Within a minute of my arrived at the top the Californian popped up from the chimney.  He had belayed his partner up to the bottom as I started, and then waiting until I had entered the chimney started, and made it up just after me, placing only one cam on the entire 100 feet of the pitch.  Awed by him we gathered our ropes and rappelled off, thoroughly thrashed from our day of climbing.

 (The Flake on the left and the Split Pillar high next to the tree just right of center)

 

After a rest day I was back looking for action Friday.  Bill had already left so I wandered the campground and parking lots until I eventually found someone looking to climb.  Drew was interested in doing St. Vitus, a multipitch 5.9 crack on the apron so it was just what I was looking for.  We racked up and headed off.  The route started with some moderate climbing, pulling on tree routes, easy cracks, and lots of dirt.  I began to wonder how the route would really be.  Instead of the regular second pitch we decided to do the “St. Vitus Extra” pitch of 10a finger crack.  I started to lead and noticed that this crack wasn’t very dry either.  I placed some fairly sketchy nuts and cams in the tiny crack where it widened enough to fit anything in.  I continued as the angle became more vertical, the finger slots became smaller and farther apart, and the crack became wetter.  I made it to the top of the crack, hanging by the two smallest fingers on my right hand and smearing my feet against granite.  Unsure I would make my next move I desperately stuffed a small link-cam into the crack hoping against the odds it would hold if I fell.  I made the big reach out to the left to what I hoped was a good hold, only to find it was a sloped puddle.  Never the less, I grabbed, pulled, and managed to make it up and finish the last few moves.  The next two pitches yielded excellent cracks that thankfully were dry.  Switching leads we made it to the top where it became easy slab climbing.  To be safe we belayed up the slab (although only one piece of gear was used on the “pitch” and I did it barefoot).  Instead of taking the 4th class gully to walk off we added “Karen’s Math” which turned out to be a great layback flake up to an awkward and unprotected traverse.  The whole pitch took less time than it took me to get out a hex that got wedged into a tight slot.  Overall the most tiring part of the entire climb were feeding out slack on the easy slab and hanging from my hand jam to get out the hex.  We hiked down the 4th class scramble to the bottom of the crag barefoot and made our way back to the parking lot.

 

Saturday I found another person, Derek, to climb with and headed off to do Birds of Prey (5.10b).  I drove back and parked where I had spent the night and we headed up to the cliff.  To our chagrin we found two parties ahead of us on the climb and debated doing another climb but decided to wait instead.  Derek headed up the first easy pitch planning to go all the way to the top of the second pitch since we had my 70m rope.  He maxed out the rope and still wasn’t quite at the anchors so we began to simul-climb, neither of us belaying each other but connected to the rock through the pieces he had placed.  After 50ft he made it to the anchors and put me on belay for the rest of the pitch.  The next pitch was the most difficult, a dihedral with a crack that widened from small finger-locks to fist jams.  I struggled, grunted, cursed a bit, and managed to make my way to the top of it.  The pitch wasn’t quite over though.  Next I had to traverse left with no protection and make my way up some more easy cracks to the anchor.  The easy climbing seemed drastically harder when faced with the potential 20+ft swing into the dihedral I just climbed.  A short belayed scramble led to a vertical and at times slightly overhanging broken crack system.  It turned out to be quite the adventurous pitch, requiring bear-hugging a ridge of rock and lots of other indescribably awkward moves.  It seemed to be the standard trend, but once again I had completed a 5 pitch route in 3 pitches, some simul-climbing, and one short scramble.  I descended barefoot to the car with Derek and we went our own ways.

 

Sunday I woke up early to run up the Chief without having crowds of tourists destroying the serenity.  It was a great workout and I reached the top right at sunrise.  I sat on the bald top of the mountain overlooking Squamish and Howe Sound enjoying the morning before heading back down.  Tourists looked on with confusion and awe when they saw me running near full tilt down the steep trail.  The combination of so much crack climbing and running destroyed my toe.  Too sensitive to want to shove it in anymore cracks I decided to head out bouldering.  For the first few hours I hung out with some people who I had chatted with several times while in the parking lot, but eventually they went to work on their V7 to V10 projects so I decided it was a good time for me to split.  I wandered around working on various problems and generally got shut down by everything.  With raw fingers that didn’t want to touch any more rock I called it quits and began the drive back to the states.


Peeps in Portland & Catastrophe in Canada

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

-MLK

 

I made it to Boise before the rays of sun had dropped to find that Aunt Sue out.  I slipped in and looked around, spotting a few familiar pictures, and relaxed until Sue arrived.  We spent the evening catching up on the last 15 or so years in which we hadn’t seen each other.  Thursday (8/4) I relaxed it Boise and got a bit of a tour around town.  Shortly after getting back there was a light knock on the door.  The sub three foot guest was Mia, Sue’s grand-kid (what do you call your aunts grand-kid?).  Along with her older brother, Kai, I spent the rest of the afternoon playing soccer, basketball, and anything else the endless energy sources could think of.

 

Friday I continued west, but after ten minutes Sue called me to say that I had forgot all of my laundry in the dryer.  Forty minutes later I headed out again.  The drive was unspectacular, but fairly nice passing along the Columbia river and seeing the hundreds of people kitesurfing.  After a few missed turns I made it to my destination:  a house owned by my friend Nicks Uncle, James, which was currently was holding the four roommates, Nick and Chelsea in a sun room, and a tent for each Andy, Gary, and another cyclist they had met on the road.  I added my tent to the yard and joined in festivities, catching up, and the usual.

 

We slept until late morning before eventually rousing to head to the farmers market.  Nick, Chelsea, and I got our bikes and rode into town.  It turned out that this particular Saturday was not only a farmer’s market but also a Porche convention and some Iraq volunteer reunion.  Throngs of people crowded the streets inspecting and indulging in the treats, fruits, and fresh brewed coffee (brewed on the back of a custom tricycle that doubles as a coffee cart).  After loading up on food we headed back to the house.  We stopped at the ‘Not So’ Safeway on the way back (as I recall someone was shot there and it’s one of the easiest places to find a gun) to get a few more things before returning to the house.  Fresh pies from berries at the farmers market, floating in the knee deep pool, and hanging out took up the rest of the afternoon.  Needless to say, it was a stressful and difficult day.

 

Sunday the hardships continued when we went to the famous Voodoo Donuts for breakfast.  We continued our standard hooliganism biking around Portland, napping in a park, and eating lunch (& a bit more of course) at the Hopworks.  Eventually we decided that a movie at a local theater would be a good idea.  Not because we especially wanted to watch any of the movies, but the movie was cheap and novelty of have a couple beers in the theater was irresistible.  X-men First Class was marginal, but it was fun.  After the movie we headed back toward the house and ended up making it back over 12 hours after we left.

 

In the morning everyone devoted themselves to packing the bikes into bike boxes, mailing excess items, and getting ready to leave.  Already having nearly all my stuff packed into my car I alternated between helping them pack and laughing at them trying to fit all of their stuff into a bursting bike box.  I helped drive them to the airport and then headed out in the morning bound for Squamish.

 

Woe.  Misfortune.  Disaster!  CATASTROPHE!  I made it into Canada, just south of Vancouver when my car began overheating and died on the side of the highway.  An hour of letting it cool and limping it off the highway brought me to a mechanics where it was quickly diagnosed as a blown head gasket when fluids erupted out of the radiator when I tried to start it.  His estimate was 1 week and $1000.  I saw my trip crashing down around me, but I wasn’t ready to end it yet.  I spent every waking minute for the rest of the day and the next sitting in Starbucks across the street scouring the internet for a new car and riding my bike over 50 mi in every which way to look at them.  I found one that I was ready to buy, but soon found out that it’s not so simple to import cars from Canada, especially if they have a metric-only gauge cluster.  I canned the idea of a Canadian car and decided it was time to backtrack to the US and see what I could do.  Luckily for me, my friend Chris from RIT was now working for Boeing just north of Seattle.  Even luckier is that he’s very nice and said he could come help me, but there was still one problem; he doesn’t have a passport.  Eventually we came up with the plan:  he would drive up to the boarder where I would ride down to meet him (~30mi), get his car, then go back up to my car, get all my stuff, and pick him up along the way back to Seattle.  Before this happened I decided, out of one last shred of hope and desperation, to try to start my car.  If I couldn’t get it to the US my situation would be much easier.  It turned out to be even better.  I managed to drive my car all the way back to Chris’ place and Thursday (8/11) I was happier to be back in the US than I ever had been before.  I spent the next four nights at Chris’ while I scrambled to find a new car, which turned out to be much easier in the US.  When I wasn’t stalking craigslist I managed to explore the city a little, watch a free big screen showing of Inception, and cruised around on my bike.  The new difficulty came in selling my car in Washington since it didn’t have a title (not required in Maine for that year).  I bought a 92 Honda Accord wagon and the only thing left to do to sell the civic was wait for the signed paperwork in the mail (since it had been in my dad’s name).  Finally, I was able to get away and I headed to Index Town Wall, a climbing spot about an hour away.

 

I found some other climbers hanging around a fire and joined.  I found out they all had partners and plans for climbing the next day.  I went back to my new car and slept lying in the back.  Morning came and I still had no partner, but while making my usual oatmeal for breakfast next to my car a guy rode by.  It turned out he was looking for partners too.  Brad and I walked the couple hundred yards over the railroad tracks and began to climb.  I was already rusty, but didn’t hesitate to warm up by leading the first pitch of Japanese Gardens (5.10b trad) then TR both pitches (stiff 11c) together.  From there the day continued, climbing mostly routes that were sandbagged 5.12 including the two classics Numba Ten and Fifth Force.  Fifth force was a spectacular climb that combined every kind of move into a continuous difficult climb.  Numba Ten was a different story.  It was brutally difficult moves using primarily friction in a small dihedral which included a section of double knee-bars (picture someone sitting in a chair…now picture that person in the same position, only horizontal, 40ft up, being held by nothing but the opposing force between feet and knees).  I didn’t do much sending, but it felt great to be back on the rocks again.  I spent another night in my car hoping to climb in the morning.  In the morning I began packing up my gear when I realized that I was missing 5 trad draws.  Uncertain where it could be I found Brad’s van down the road, but he hadn’t seen them either.  I ran back up to the crag and found them hidden in the grass near Numba Ten.  Relieved to find my five missing draws I headed back to my car (quite ironic I see now, but for those who don’t know the story you’ll have to wait until I get to the AZ portion of my treck).

 

I headed back to Chris’ place, received the paperwork for my car, and was finally able to sell it.  By then it was too late to bother leaving so I hung out for one final night.  We watched the movie Frozen, about three kids who got stuck on a chair lift at a ski resort.  It was bad, so horrible that it was hilarious.  I learned that jumping off a lift from about 20 feet will result in 6in of bone sticking out your shins and that large packs of wolves like to frequent resorts, eating all people who happen to be there.  I went to bed with dreams of continuing my trip in the morning…Squamish here I come!


Wyoming

We all got pieces of crazy in us, some bigger pieces than others.

-Unknown

 

Some people say no excuses, I say I have plenty.  A blown head gasket, a Fulbright application, a non-working computer, stolen car, and lost ambition have all had dreadful impact on my writing.  All of those stories and many more will be unveiled in due time (hopefully a lot less due time than it has taken to get this one up) presuming I choose to continue writing and don’t forsake the internet for the slopes every waking minute this winter.  The lack of a computer was liberating and made me question why I bother to write so I want to ask:  is there anyone out there who actually cares about, enjoys, or actually reads this blog?  If you do, send me an email or leave me a comment and let me know that this isn’t all futile.  If I don’t hear anything, well, I do have an unlimited season pass at 3 mountains…

 

For now, I give you: Wyoming! (Well, if I really had it to give, I would probably keep it.  Sorry, it’s awesome and I’m selfish, but you could use it whenever you want)

 

After not getting to sleep until after 2am, Corey and I were up at 5am Thursday (7/28) morning to head to Vedauwoo.  We picked up a friend of his and made our way through the desolate grass plains that stretch north from Fort Collins into Wyoming.  Driving through endless flats I wondered where and when this renowned climbing location was going to appear.  After a couple hours in the car small rocks and boulders began jutting up through the grass giving hope that we were closing in on climbing.  Our first climb of the day was the classic 5.7, Edwards Crack.  The friend started off leading, but half way up the long pitch he said he wasn’t feeling well and built an anchor.  I cruised up to him, but before I could lower him down he began retching next to the crack, leaving a purple and blue pile.  He conjectured it was from the wild berries he ate on the way up, but we had all had some.  When he had finished I lowered him back to the bottom.  I finished leading the climb with Corey following.  We took it easy for the day, only doing a couple more moderate climbs, even though one was an offwidth.  When we decided to move to another area we got separated and I ended up running around for what felt like an hour looking for them.  Eventually we met back up and headed back to CO.  Back in town we hung out for a bit before heading to a late movie.  Corey knew the manager so got in, got popcorn and sodas all for free.  It was pretty sweet to just walk in and drop a name and get whatever you want.

 

(Edwards Crack)

 

 

Friday I headed to Boulder, picked up my shoes then drove for the entire day heading to Ten Sleep.  When I called it a night I was somewhere in the middle of Wyoming miles from anyone or anything so I pulled off a ranch road and slept under the stars.

 

 

Saturday (7/30) I made it to Ten Sleep in the morning.  After aimlessly driving around for a while I found someone who was just leaving who gave me the quick rundown on the free camping and where people go.  I cruised down the road, set up camp, and looked for partners but of the hand full of tents and cars scattered down the road not one of them showed signs of life.  With no partner and no idea where to climb I was relegated to slacklining and relaxing in my hammock for the day.  When swarms of mosquitos came out I began the battle that would last until I left Ten Sleep.  Making fire, standing in smoke, and bug spray all failed so I ended up sitting in my car to eat dinner.

 

 

I was up in the morning and finally went climbing with two Canadians I met the night before.  We headed up hill through cow pasture to The Ark.  With only a few detours on our hike we reached the climbing.  The rock was great, the routes were hard, and I discovered that I take such long breaks in sport climbing if I want to keep up my strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday I had decided I need to get to Jackson to do a couple days in the Tetons before I blaze through to Portland to meet up with three friends from RIT who were cycling cross country.  My morning attempt to find partners came up fruitless after a bike ride all the way down and back up the hill.  I had read a bit of the guide book and decided to do some rope soloing.  In the end I didn’t quite do what I hoped because I couldn’t find the area, but I did a bit of climbing by the river and headed off to Jackson.  I got there only to find that I had to kill a couple hours until my Scott (a friend I met in Yosemite last year) got out of work.  After wasting as much time as I could I ended up finding a parking lot and sleeping until he called.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He worked Tuesday so I was partnerless again.  The Tetons were tempting, but alone and with afternoon thunderstorms predicted I decided to head to a local crag to rope solo instead.  The Hoback Shield turned out to be a bit disappointing, but I got some pitches in and entertained myself.

 

 

Wednesday (8/3) Scott had some time so we did some cragging at another local spot.  It was far from a destination, but had some fun climbing and a spectacular view of the Grand Teton across from us.  We got in a decent amount of climbing before it was time to keep moving.  Again I got in my car and continued westward.  This time my destination was Boise and the household comforts I had not seen in months provided by my Aunt Sue.

 


VIDEO UPDATE!

Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.

-Ansel Adams

 

I have tried several times to do a video update but until now they didn’t work out.  So, this is ahead of everything else since I’m still behind on writing posts, but check it out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geWz2ODWmTc


Rockin the Rockies

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

-John Muir

 

With no idea where to go in Estes I made my way to the library to check mountainproject.com to find some info and decided to head to Lumpy Ridge.  Nobody was around the parking lot in the early afternoon so I headed out to boulder alone.  Many of the boulders I was looking for remained hidden to me but I found enough to entertain me for the afternoon.  I lazily climbed and lay on my crash pad watch the clouds float over Long’s Peak.  One especially cool boulder, Jaws, looked just like a shark’s head leaping out of the water.

Thursday morning (7/21) I was back a Lumpy to find someone to climb with but didn’t have any luck find partners.  I went back to the library to get some bouldering info and found my car twin sitting in the parking lot: a 91 red Honda Civic hatchback with an old road bike on the back.  Unable to pass up the coincidence I introduced myself.  Sarah was also living out of her car and even a climber too, but had to work for the next several days and couldn’t climb.  No dice.  I looked it up bouldering info and hoped I could remember it as I headed off toward Gem Lake.  It was a nice hike through alpine pines, but I made it all the way to the “lake” (really just a small pond) without finding any bouldering.  I did receive dozens of questions about my crash pad though.  “Is that your bed?”  Yes, I like to hike with my bed on my back because I have severe narcolepsy.  There really wasn’t any bouldering but since I carried the pad all the way up I climbed a couple of dirty, easy things just so I used it.  The more fun problem was bouldering across over the crystal surface of Gem Lake.  I thought it would be a perfect little deepwater solo, but once I had traversed out to the middle I looked down to see the rocky bottom only 2 feet under the surface.  I didn’t have a crash pad, didn’t have shoes or chalk, and was 10ft over the water.  I had no choice but to continue and not let myself fall, so that’s exactly what I did.  In reality I’m sure it wasn’t very hard, but it seemed very intense at the time.  When I made it back to the car I decided it wasn’t a great day: I didn’t find any good climbing, I stepped on and broke my sunglasses trying to boulder, and I had twisted my ankle walking back from Gem Lake.  Defeated I retreated to the library for the rest of the day.

((The spot I bouldered over Gem Lake)

(My home at the Lumpy Ridge parking lot)

Friday I had plans to climb with Ryan, a guy from Golden who cycled up to Estes.  Despite being a climber he had none of his own stuff and only even had his bike shoes.  With borrowed climbing shoes, a makeshift plastic bag for chalk, and using all my gear we headed off to climb.  It had been a while since I did much trad climbing so we started off on Batman and Robin, a classic 5.6, so I could test my new partner and myself.  We blazed through the four pitch climb in only two pitches and decided to get on another climb.  This time the 5.9 hand crack presented more of a challenge, but we made it to the top in another two pitches (on a three pitch climb).  Having spent the sunniest part of the day in the full sun of 10000ft elevation without remembering any sunscreen we were fried to a crisp by the time we had reached the bottom of the last climb.  Feeling like my skin was crispy we headed to the brewpub to cool down.

(Looking up the route at the Batman Pinnacle)

Saturday I was up at 5am to climb with Corey and Justine, a couple from nearby that I met in the Lumpy parking lot a few days before.  We headed up into Lumpy for a couple pitches, but didn’t get a full day in since they had to be back to work in Fort Collins in the early afternoon.  I whiled away the afternoon cleaning out the disaster zone, otherwise known as my car, and enjoying the great mountain weather.

Sunday I meet up with a guy I met around town named Jared and we headed off to climb.  We decided on Loose Ends, a 5 pitch 5.9 at Lumpy.  I started out on a tough section of crack too small for most of my fingers.  I surprised myself to make it through without falling and continued up some easier climbing to the scorching hot metal anchor.  The next pitch was another challenge laybacking a diagonal crack.  While the climbing itself wasn’t terribly hard, it was made much more difficult and insecure by trying to place gear at my feet without seeing it.  Again, somehow I made it through and cruised up the next two pitches of easy climbing.  The last pitch lead out from a cave through an overhanging crack.  I climbed up and down a few times uncertain of how to approach it, but on the third try found a good shelf I could step high and make it onto.  I pulled out from the overhang and felt drops on my head.  Great, the perfect clear sunny day had quickly built clouds and began to rain.  Eager to finish before the crack got too wet I rushed through the last section of crack, slung a boulder to belay Jared, and brought him up.  He made it to the top as it started to change from rain to hail and our great view of the rockies turned into staring at the ground to avoid losing an eye to the hail.  We began to search for the walk-off decent, but before we could get too lost we found a pair of people who knew where to go and followed them.  After we made it off the sketchy wet rocks at the top of the climb we lost them since they had shoes and we were both barefoot.  For the next hour, or maybe more, we descended the rocky, pine cone filled gulley.  With each step I regretted not bringing some shoes.  Eventually we made it back to the trail a mile away from the base of the cliff where our backpacks were waiting.  The trail wasn’t as bad, but tiring to walk all the way back up to the base of the cliff.  In total we estimated we hiked 2-3 miles barefoot.  The worst part is we found out there was a spot we could have cut across and made our trip much shorter.

(Looking up the thin first pitch of Loose Ends)

I woke at 3am from my normal spot in the Lumpy Ridge parking lot and headed to the library to meet Todd.  I had never met him before, but he had responded to my mountainproject post looking for partners for a long multi-pitch.  As I arranged my gear in the parking lot a semi truck pulled up in the road nearby to make an early morning delivery.  He began to blast music, but to my surprise instead of classic rock or country it was classical music.  Todd rolled in just after 4 and we headed into the park.  We headed off in the dark hiking at almost a jog toward the base of Hallet’s peak.  Predawn light illuminated the sky through the alpine forest and reflected off the glassy ponds that the trail wound around.  By the time we reached the end of the trail at Emerald lake it was full light.  We stated up the talus field and as we crested the first mound saw two pairs of people not too far ahead of us.  Our objective on Hallet’s was the Culp-Bossier route, a 9 pitch 5.8 up the center of the thousand foot cliff.  The problem was that it is the most popular on the peak and we guessed that both other groups shared our objective.  We picked up the pace even more, jogging across the loose rocks, and running up the slopes.  We caught up to them at the base of the first snow field.  They began carefully kicking one foot in, then the other, making steady progress.  I launched myself at the steep snow, running up it using my hands to dig in as well.  I looked down a few minutes later when I reached the base of the climb at the top of the second snow field.  Todd was 50ft back and both other groups were another 100ft behind him.  Success!  We would not be starting behind anyone.  I thought about our pass and wondered if it was a rude thing to do, but they could have picked up the pace if they wanted to get on first and I would have backed off.  They didn’t.  I did.  Their loss.  We started off at 6:30, planning on leaving some stuff at the base and hike up to get it at the end, but once we had our stuff ready to go I realized how little we were leaving and decided to just take it all.  Starting from a narrow 6ft deep gap between cliff and snow we climbed up a crack and some rock faces.  It was an interesting style of climbing for me doing so much face climbing on trad gear, alternating between crack systems.  We alternated leading but I was happy when somehow it worked out so I got the two hardest pitches.  I was prepared to have some route finding difficulty since the peak and especially the route are notorious for having false lines that abruptly end.  Thanks to Todd printing out the topo and my route finding we managed to stay on route and didn’t add any more bail gear to the dozens of spots of the cliff where parties got off route.  On the last pitch it began to rain.  I feared the afternoon storm predicted had come a little early and we were going to get stuck in another downpour.  Luckily it only sprinkled for a minute before blue skies took over again as I topped out at 1pm.  We headed off to the side and began the journey back to the car, happy we didn’t have to hike back to the base of the climb after 1000 feet of a decent gulley.  Good timing, good partner, good weather, and stayed on route.  The day was a great success.  I headed off to Steven, a couch surfing host who’s place I was going to crash at.

(Hallet’s Peak with the Culp-Bossier route marked in red)

(Can you find the waterfall? It’s actually really tall, but mostly hidden)

(Columbine near Hallet’s Peak)

Tired from my early morning the day before I decided to sleep in Tuesday since I didn’t have to be up early to avoid getting ticketed for illegal camping.  I rolled out of late and borrowing Steven’s park pass headed into the park to hike around, take some pictures, and drive up the continental divide.  The hike was good, the views were spectacular, and the divide was filled with clouds whipping across the mountain tops and hiding views of the jagged peaks.  A few elk wandered the mountain side grazing.

 

Monday I decided to get up early and head into the park for sunrise.  I didn’t make it all the way up to the top before the sun peaked over the horizon, but found a good lookout and hung out there while I made breakfast.  I continued up the mountain and was stunned to see a herd of hundreds of elk at the top.  The cold morning mountain air was a great change from the beastly hot days at lower elevation.  Eventually I meandered back down the road and stopped to boulder along the way.  The boulders just off the side of the road were filled with deer who wandered away as I walked past them.  A few even walked over to my car to check it out as they left.  When I had my fill of bouldering I headed out of Rocky Mountain National Park and made my way to Boulder to drop off my climbing shoes to be resoled before making my way up to Loveland to hang out with Corey and Justine.

 


Southern Hospitality

Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those doing it.

-Unknown

 

I rolled up to Early Ave late Friday afternoon, barely needing the google directions once I was near enough for my faint memories to guide me.  The heat in Nashville was even worse than Kentucky, but I pulled a shirt on anyway before walking up to the door.  I was greeted by the barking of dogs well before anyone answered the door.

It had been two and a half years since I had last seen Brett.  That was back when we both worked for Toyota in Indiana.  Since then a lot has changed, but the friendship was the same as always.  Once I had washed away the previous week of grime and felt like I could actually be a part of society without making everything around me dirty we settled into hanging out as usual.  The biggest change was that instead of him getting me addicted to Smallville we were now re-watching Dexter episodes (the next show he got me addicted to).  Five episodes and many hours of reminiscing and catching up later we finally decided it was time to head to bed.  The clock read 4:30AM.

Saturday we were up at the crack of noon.  Brett had decided to use me as the subject of an article he was writing and wanted me to be “in my environment” so we headed to a small park on the edge of town.  My leisurely rest day took a turn for the sweaty as soon as we stepped out of his silver Ford Ranger at Radner Lake.  We hiked the “Difficult” trail–1.6 miles of slight grade were occasionally a route crossed the path—while Brett held a recorder and a microphone trying to get every word I said.  While the trail wasn’t challenging, I still managed to stumble on my words as I usually do.  We finished our walk through the forest and headed back to Early Ave.  We had both decided we were too poor to go out and spend money so the remainder of the day was spent chatting and watching Superman I & II, although it didn’t work to get me hooked like he had done with Smallville.

(Radner Lake)

Sunday I loaded up, said my farewells, and headed off to Arkansas.  My destination was Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR), a touristy ranch that owns a good deal of sport climbing and bouldering.  Before I made it there I spotted a lake and thought a dip would be the perfect refreshing afternoon treat.  I was wrong.  I took one step into the tannin bath and knew this wasn’t what I was hoping for.  A few steps later I realized the piles of sticks and organic debris covering the bottom wasn’t about to disappear any time soon so I splashed down onto my belly to paddle around for a second before crawling out of the hot lake water.  I continued toward HCR, catching sunset over the Ozark Mountains on my way to Jasper, AR.  I was nearly there when my car roared as I ascended a hill.  Just my luck to have my exhaust break twice in a month.  I made it to HCR and found a campsite easy enough; there were only two other cars in the camping area.  I soon discovered the first belonged to Jack and Ryan, two guys who had come up from Oklahoma for the weekend.  Introductions were made, we hung out for a bit, and soon headed out through the deafening roar of crickets to do some bouldering by the light of Jack’s Colman lamp.  As we walked to the climbing we were followed by a big ranch dog that seemed to eerily be keeping an eye on us as if it would make a report of our illicit climbing to the owners.

(My improvised ramps so I could get under my car to see what happened to the exhaust)

Monday morning Jack and Ryan headed for the river to get out of the heat.  They invited me to join but I was still hoping to do some climbing at HCR so I wandered over to the other occupied site.  Drew and Cade, the two other guys there climbing, offered that I could join them bouldering so I planned to meet them at the boulders.  Half an hour later I found them amid the field of boulders on the hill side near the ranch.  The Arkansas heat blazed down on us through the trees as Drew and I traded off attempts on an overhanging problem.  Skin steadily wore away as fingers slipped off the abrasive rock again and again.  At the end of the day my fingertips were nothing more than round pink blotches oozing unknown bodily fluid.  Drew and Cade headed out and I was left as the only person in the campground.

(Working on a V5)

(Taped up to try a dyno without losing all the skin on my fingers)

By the morning nobody else had come and my fingers couldn’t take another day of climbing.  I headed north and got a muffler shop to fix my exhaust.  With my car purring again I headed for Colorado.  I made it to Boulder late at night and found a quiet neighborhood to park my car and crawl into the back to sleep.

 

I made it an early morning so I wasn’t awkwardly woken up by people looking in my windows as they walked passed and drove up to boulder canyon to look for someone to climb with.  Once I had put up some signs on my car looking for partners I lay back on my crash pad to wait.  For four hours a constant stream of cars zipped by, not one stopping to respond to my sign.  By noon I gave up on climbing and went for a bike ride up the canyon so I could whiz back down.  Still unable to find anyone to climb with I decided I had enough of Boulder and headed up to Estes Park.


Red River Gorge

I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.

-Frederick Perls

 

The drive to the red was swelteringly hot but quite unspectacular.  I pulled into Miguel’s Pizza & Rock Climbing Shop well after the last lights had been shut off so I wandered off through the ruckus of prepubescent climbers to find the quietest place to pitch my tent.

I woke at 7am to the sounds of frogs and grasshoppers.  Only a couple people up had roused compared to the dozens still wandering around at midnight when I went to sleep.  After some oatmeal I sat at a picnic table reading with a sign in front of me reading “Need Climbing Partners.”  It paid off.  I got through two pages of my book before a guy asked if I wanted to join their party of three so before I knew it I was off to Muir Valley with my new acquaintances.

We bounced from crag to crag chasing the shade and ended up climbing several 10s, a pumpy 11, and an amazing 5.12c called Cell Block 6 at the Midnight Surf wall.  Cell Block 6 is a series of big flat ledges with huge moves between them including one all-points-off dyno on a steeply overhanging wall (for non-climbers picture being on an overhanging ladder and trying to jump and grab 6 rungs above).  Needless to say I crushed it.  By that I mean I hangdogged and didn’t even finish it, but it was still a fun time.  At the end of the day the climbing lived up to the criticism I heard that it’s overhanging and tiring but not technically difficult.

(Cell Block 6)

 

Tuesday started in the same way with my book and sign fishing for partners.  This time I didn’t have any bites.  I walked up to the gravel parking lot to my car and noticed a couple guys getting ready to climb.  I took my opportunity and ended up meeting them at The Motherlode.  If the previousday had lived up to the criticism of the red that it’s overhanging and tiring but not technically difficult then this was just a kick in the face.  The grades in the area ranged from 5.11d to 5.ridiculous (14b or c I think).  The air, as hot and sticky as honey, made the climbing more difficult.  I attempted a couple of the easier routes with more than ample resting between, but spent most of the day watching the other people work their routes.  It was impressive to watch some guys climbing the hard routes, but simply stunning to see an 11 year old climbing a 120ft 5.12d.

(The Motherlode)

 

(Turtle on the path)

 

If my first two days affirmed the one-dimensional climbing of the red than Wednesday unraveled the criticism.  Per usual I headed off to climb with strangers.  This time it was Ben, John, and Pat whom I had met the night before.  We piled into Pat’s dust covered gold Subaru and followed the winding road north to Long Wall.  The approach hike was not long, but we discovered it was quite treacherous trying to scramble up the steep trail slicked with mud.

The first pair of climbs were two aesthetic trad routes.  We paired up and climbed the routes.  Although I didn’t lead, it was nice to be back on a trad route and see that I still knew the ropes after doing so much sport climbing over the last 6 months.

(Great crack that we climbed)

Ben and I continued along the cliff to another climb that would further break down the stereotype of the red.  It was a 120ft tall climb named Game Boy (5.11c) that was nearly dead vertical but had some slab sections with nearly no holds and a couple small roofs.  Unlike most popular routes, there was no white chalk marking the holds to use on the climb.  Each time I reached my arm up to grab what I thought might be a hold was a surprise whether it was any good.  The “excitement” grew even more at the very top when instead of clean rock it was covered in lichen making the gently rounded features almost impossible to hold without slipping off.  It was a great route: challenging, exciting, and unknown.

With the day slowing down (or maybe that was just my body) I decided to do one last climb.  Of course, it was the hardest yet.  The Gift (5.12a) is a great looking route that appears to start very easy before a few difficult moves on a bit of an overhang.  That’s not completely true.  There really is no easy part as I quickly discovered.  Most of the chalked holds at the beginning that looked so good turned out to be terribly sloped.  The overhanging wall above was relatively straight forward, but had such great and committing moves that by the time I finished the section I clipped the next bolt quickly and had to rest for a minute to calm the adrenaline pumping through my body.  I don’t often get adrenaline from climbing anymore so this rush was a welcome surprise.

Back at Miguel’s I sat working on my computer in the dimly lit basement.  A few other people occupied other tables playing chess on the boards painted on each of the tables or using their computers.  A grey streak flashed across the far end of the room.  For a minute I didn’t know if I had actually seen something or just thought I had, but then it emerged from the other side of the old upright piano against the far wall.  The mouse skirted the perimeter of the room passing inches away from several feet including my own.  It made four laps, occasionally stopping in a dark corner or behind the piano for a rest from his marathon.  I wondered if the marathon mouse was the one who had crept into my car the past two nights to chew up tissues and steal my bread.  That little cur.  Ah, but he was still entertaining.  He made a few more laps, now stopping in the doorway, but unable to get up the 10in rise of the three cement stairs leading out of the basement.  Poor little mouse, he’s caught running the same pointless circle that so many people do, unable to make the jump to get out and be free.  I focused back on my computer, but occasionally noticed him taking another lap.  When I packed up and headed to my tent he was still trying to find a way out to no avail.

 

Thursday Ben and decided to go for a quest.  Literally, The Quest.  It’s a three pitch trad route that he was excited to do and I’m always to search for the grail.  We loaded our gear and rope into his Subaru (how do all the dirtbags have fairly new Subaru’s?) and headed north again.  I was uncertain about finding the climb after Ben told me the story of he and Pat hiking all over a few days before trying to find a climb.  It was a challenge finding the “trail” that lead to the climb, which turned out to be no more than a deer path at the beginning and faded to nothing in the middle.  By the time we emerged from the woods at the base of the cliff we had cobwebs in our faces and hair, but were no worse for the wear.

(The Quest)

The climb started off to be just as much of an adventure as finding it.  The sandstone crags of the red are generally solid, but this spot was filled with loose rocks and sand as well.  In the middle of the first pitch was a good alcove to get a rest, but to climb up the roof and out of it proved to be the crux.  I struggled for a few minutes before turning back to sport climbing methods by using a jug to skip a fist jam in the roof, but to my dismay when I did it I heard a pop from my left shoulder and felt a twinge of pain.  The next pitch was good, but very straight forward hand crack up to the bottom of a huge roof for a hanging belay just beneath a city of spider webs.  I hung in my harness belaying as Ben moved out to the right, his curly hair collecting most of the cobwebs as he climbed.  When he began to move up into the final offwidth section the rope began getting pinched where it route turned.  I moved to free the rope but when I pressed down on my left leg nothing happened.  A moment of fear washed over me as I realized that my leg was completely useless, just a flopping piece of meat that I had to move with my hands.  Even without the help of my leg I was able to swing the rope free and kept enough slack to it didn’t get stuck again.  I shifted my position, rubbed the lifeless limb, and shook it around to get circulation back.  I began getting feeling and control back just as been yelled down “On belay” for me to start climbing.  While I started taking care of the anchor the rope got stuck again.  As a result I cleaned the anchor and climbed the traverse with so much slack if I had fallen I would have gone sliding 40+ feet down the rough sandstone face.  I climbed through the remaining cobwebs and got the rope free of the notch and wriggled my way up the remaining offwidth crack to the top where Ben was waiting.  We congratulated each other and rappelled the 200ft to the ground.

 

I made the same oatmeal that I had ever morning for the previous three weeks and headed to Phantasia with Ben and Pat.  We parked on a narrow dirt pullout next to the tree covered road and walked up the steep slope to the crag.  It was a grey overcast day, but for the time being the rain was holding off.  Enjoying the cool weather we climbed a pair of fun but quite easy 5.9’s before getting on a couple harder routes.  They were both challenging overhanging routes, but provided good entertainment until it began to rain.  At that point we still had gear on one route so I hurried up it, managing to get our gear down before the rain picked up.  As I threw my pack into my car and headed for Nashville I decided, even though we only had part of the day I felt like it was a good way to end at the red.


New 2

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

-Unknown

 

Tuesday (7/5) Daryl and I headed to Fern Point of Endless wall.  We warmed up on a 10b that proved to be quite tricky then continued on to the main attraction: S’more Energy (5.11c).  It had been suggested and was highly rated in the guide book.  It turned out to be a great climb that included all kinds of climbing.  I started out up a small arête to a difficult reachy section that lead into a small crack with some layback moves that ended in a full arm span reach to a jug.  After a hands free rest on a bicycle seat, pulling a roof without seeing any of the holds, and a traverse using a wobbly loose chalkstone I made it to the slab face that was the crux.  It proved awkward and provided no holds at the crux.  After barely missing a good hold that would have given me the onsight I figured out the proper move: Use a quarter-pad crimp with the left hand and a one finger half pad gaston with the right to stand up on a high foot and grab the good sloper.  Once I had figured out the sequence I red-pointed it without any problem my second time.

We headed down the wall to find another good climb that had been suggested but before we got there spotted the Idol Point Arete (5.12b).  Especially considering I was trying to get a 12, it was just too good looking to pass up.  I made it through most of the climb no problem but got completely shut down by the crux.  After several tries I figured out what I needed to do but just didn’t have the energy anymore so I lowered off and Daryl gave it a shot.  He didn’t have any better luck.  My second try I got up to the same spot but still had trouble with the crux.  After several tries I finally got the moves to work:  I slotted my left hand into a small crack (extremely painful one for my pinky), got a high left foot and bumped my hand up the sloped edge of the crack above until I could move my left hand up more, grab a good hold with my right, and rock over onto my left foot.  The crux alone was enough to exhaust me without the rest of the climb or the beating sun but I was determined not to leave my gear on the route.  Of course, with my amazing skills and luck I reached up into a good crack to rest after the crux and my fingers met a familiar buzz.  I pulled my hand out as fast as I could and it was immediately followed my two wasps.  “Watch me” I called out in the usual way if I were doing a hard section where I might fall, “I might jump.”  I’m sure it confused Daryl, but I wasn’t too interested in getting stung by the swarming wasps.  Luckily they didn’t sting me although they did fly up and down my route for a minute as if to tell me it’s theirs.  I finished out the climb on some fairly difficult moves (or maybe I was just so pumped) on an overhanging face.  Tired and beaten we headed back to Roger’s.

(The trail back)

 

After the all the thrashing my body had taken over the last couple days I finally decided to take a real rest day not just climb easier.  It was a difficult thing for me to do but I managed to keep myself from climbing for the entire day.  I spent the day getting groceries, writing, and all those fun things that needed to be done.

 

Thursday I headed to the lake with a big group of Roger’s regulars.  It was back to normal, but after my rest day I seemed to be climbing worse than before.  After some warm ups we headed to the Coliseum where the routes are hard 12’s and 13’s.  I tried the “easiest” route there which was a 12b.  I just didn’t have the energy to pull through all of the good jugs on the overhang and couldn’t even get the crux.  My second burn on it didn’t go much better.  Since everyone else had been trying it I got on Apollo Reed (5.13a) too and good only a hand full of bolts before not being able to continue (even after hangdogging).

(Alex on Apollo)

 

It rained Thursday night so Friday was a slow morning waiting for the crags to dry.  Eventually Evelyne, Sophie, and I headed down to Kaymoor to try our luck.  After greasy rock on the warm up Sophie decided it was a good time to take a rest day and headed back.  Unwilling to give in despite the rain drops that begun to come down Evelyne and I headed over to try Thunderstruck (5.12b) which should be out of the rain.  By the time we got there it was pouring so we hung out under an overhang until it eased up and we could climb.  As predicted the climb was out of the rain, but the belay definitely wasn’t.  We alternated burns on the climb while it wasn’t raining with hanging out under the crag and singing along to 80’s and 90’s songs on my ipod when it rained.  A few burns later our luck ran out though and the rain didn’t stop.  Giving up we headed out and each climbed it once more in the rain, collected my gear, and bailed back to Roger’s soaking wet, but happy with the day.

 

Saturday (7/9) I headed to the Honeymooner’s section of Endless wall with the Canadians and Chris, another Roger’s seasonal.  We warmed up on a pair of fun 5.11s then moved over to a pair of 5.12b’s that were highly rated in the guide book.  What the guide book didn’t mention was that one of them is severely sandbagged so it’s more like 5.12b/13a.  Chris wasn’t too interested in the 12s and headed out, but over the next couple hour two more joined up with us.  One of the 12’s was close to being do-able for me, but the crux…so basically I couldn’t do it at all.  The crux required popping from a rail to a really high and not very good side-pull crimp; it was just more than I could do.  We burned ourselves out on the routes before headed home for the night.

 

Sadly the time had come for me to depart from the New River Gorge.  I had been telling myself and everyone else that I was leaving Sunday and I knew if I didn’t stick to it then I would never leave.  Of course, I wasn’t about to give up a day of climbing, so I headed off for one more day with Sophie and Evelyne.  Our destination was the Seven 11 wall of Kaymoor, named for the number of 5.11 climbs, but of course the ratings were fixed leaving only 6 now.  We warmed up on a fun 5.10d and made our way to what we really came for: three side by side 11c’s.  The first was a tall arête climb named Scenic Adult.

I started on a tall block and reached over to a detached flake on the wall.  It was an “in your face” climb immediately with some hard moves over a small overhang and up a slab face.  Half way up the climb came the technical crux.  With holds becoming worse I traversed around the arête.  I broken crack system lie above me.  I read what I needed to do and tried it, but had spent so much time figuring it out that I didn’t have the energy.  My second attempt proved more successful.  I reached up to a insecure not quite two finger finger-lock and reached high to a crimp.  The crux was hardly over though.  It was several more moves to get my left hand to a side-pull, my right to an insecure hand jam, and finally throw up big to a rail before I could clip and finish the crux.  Unfortunately, although it wasn’t as technically hard, the next moves proved troublesome traversing the good holds with no more energy.  Although it has been 11 days since the climb, I still remember every move through the crux as vividly as if I were just finishing the climb.  Best yet, after the traverse was a full mantel.  From there it was relatively easy slab and a bit more pumping through overhanging jugs to the anchor.  It was one of the best and most diverse climbs I have ever done.  Sadly my second burn proved better, but the pump got to me after I made it through the crux and I didn’t get the redpoint.

Next was Tony the Tiger.  Both the guide book and other climbers had given it high praise so I was eager to try it.  It was a fun climb, but was far too inconsistent for me to really love it.  The beginning had a tricky slab traverse that was not so tricky with the right beta.  After that it was easy going all the way to the very top which held one very hard move to get into the insecure clipping position for the anchor.  Good, but Scenic Adult already stole my heart.  I looked at my watch.  It was already an hour after I had hoped to leave.  I sadly said my goodbyes to Sophie and Evelyne and jogged back to Roger’s and my packed car waiting to take off.

 

After New England and West Virginia top climbs are:

  1. Scenic Adult (5.11c), Seven-11 Wall, Kaymoor, New River Gorge.  A beautiful line with a great variety of climbing styles, consistently hard, with fun airy moves.  Requires a combination of strength, endurance, technique, and accepting insecurity.  Climbing community at the New is awesome and I couldn’t ask for better people to climb with than the two awesome French-Canadians.
  2. Out of the Bag (5.11d), Rico Suave Buttress, Kaymoor, New River Gorge.  Bold line up the center of the buttress.  100% my style using crimps, slab, and long reaches.  Fun times and people and the New.

4th of July

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea and the music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

-Lord Byron

 

Wednesday (6/29) morning was the usual sitting on the porch hanging out and waiting to see how the day plays out.  I was all set to go and still nobody to climb with so I decided to work on whittling a spoon.  I’m sure you all have more foresight than I did.  Naturally after a while my hand slipped and I sliced my thumb.  Instantly it started gushing blood.

With my thumb sealed up with krazy glue and athletic tape I headed off to Summersville lake with Mark, a friend I met in Yosemite last fall, and Matt whom I had just met at Roger’s.  We warmed up on some really fun 5.10s at the Orange Oswald wall before moving on to do some harder climbs.  The only problem was that my krazy glue had already broken and my thumb had begun to bleed into the tape when I used it.  After a new round of glue I jumped on Satisfaction Guaranteed.  After getting making my way though the bouldery moves to get off the ground, a technical and difficult slab, and pulling through a roof my thumb began to stream blood.  Pumped from the roof and unable to grip through the blood I quickly fell off.  Once I had wiped all the excess blood off onto the rock and re-taped my thumb (I had to get the tape thrown up to me) I managed to finish the route.

Before we headed out we jumped in the lake to cool down and of course, to try to deep water solo.  I found on great boulder problem starting in the water with a few big moves that Mark and I took turns trying to finish.  Every time we ended up with full body extension into a sloped side pull and not being able to move our feet.  Despite not being able to finish the problem it was certainly a great one and very fun.

 

Thursday I joined up with the two French Canadians, Evelyne and Sophie, as well as a couple of the guys, Scurvy and Ken, who live at Roger’s for a trip out to Meadow River.  Seven miles of wavy dirt roads, sketchy bridges, massive pot holes, and a stream crossing later we made it to the crag.  The day was spent on some 11s and attempting a couple 12s, belaying, and hanging out.  Again, the krazy glue holding my thumb together split and I bled on another route.  Life at the New had begun to be normal and I loved it.  Every day was spent climbing with some hanging out on the porch in the morning and evening.

(Sophie on Depth Charge, 5.12b)

 

While I was in Morgantown I had ordered a crash pad online and managed to convince Ian to drive down to the New for the weekend to deliver it and hang out.  I met Ian and his friend Jess at Summersville lake to do some climbing and deep water soloing.  Both were eager learners and I was happy to see that Ian was getting better since the beginning of our trip in New England.  Unfortunately, despite my checking, when he got to the top of the route, he was lost on how to clean the route.  I had explained the process when we were in New Hampshire, but all of the anchors at Rumney had been quick clips so he never had to actually clean.  Before I could yell instructions up to him the girl on the next route over helped explain since she was right next to him.  Crisis averted we headed back to the parking area to meet up with a two more of Ian’s friends, Mac and Kristine.  Once we got everyone together we headed to Whippoorwill, a crag that has sport climbing when the lake drains in the winter but is deep water soloing during the summer.  Armed with noodles Ian brought we swam, climbed, jumped and played around.  I even got lots of the climbing on video with my GoPro (equipped with a nalgine for flotation) including underwater climbing.  When we got back to Roger’s I was stunned; the number of tents tripled while I was gone for the day.  The advantage of the fourth of July crowd was that someone finally got around to making a fire which all the regulars hadn’t bothered to do since I arrived.

(Ian climbing at the lake)

(Kristine, Jess, Ian, Me, and Mac at the lake)

 

Saturday morning Jess and Mac headed out early.  Ian and Kristine on the other hand couldn’t be motivated to do much besides taking a nap for most of the morning.  After a while I got them going and we headed to the Bridge area.  We got down underneath the bridge and stopped for some pictures, but before we could go any further ambulances, cops, and park rangers passed by and stopped just down the road, closing it off to traffic.  Someone had been hurt at the crag, but it wasn’t until later that I found out what happened.  Apparently a guy was drunk by noon and thought it a good idea to free solo some routes.  He did one, but fell off the second from almost at the top and somehow managed to survive.  He was in the ICU for a while, but last I heard he was getting better.  Another sobering reminder to know your limits.  Since the road was blocked off we went back to the one area we could get to and since I didn’t have my trad gear I set up some top ropes for Kristine to climb.  When we finished climbing the road had been opened for a while so we headed to the car to go swim at the river.  The local swim spot on the river is right before some rapids so we got great views of boaters while we played in the water.  We got dinner and free local beer (from a coupon left on our car at the bridge) before Ian and Kristine headed back to Morgantown.  With them gone I went back to the usual hanging out on the porch until some of us went to a free bluegrass show.

(4th craziness at Roger’s)

 

Sunday was another lake day.  I hated to keep going to the same place so many times when there were so many placed that I hadn’t been at all, but then again, the water was great.  I hung out most of the day with a couple people from Roger’s but I found out once I got there that none were going back to Roger’s.  I managed to find a potential ride with some other people I knew were staying at Roger’s too so continued to climb and swim.  Looking for a climb to deep water solo I climbed starting from a low horizontal crack.  After a few moves the holds disappeared and I fell back into the water with a splash.  I began to swim to a similar horizontal crack about 10 feet away before I noticed a snake sitting in the crack.  Once I noticed the snake I remembered hearing someone mention a copperhead a couple hours before.  I gave the snake a wide berth and went to another spot where I could easily climb.  I got 15 feet up the climb when a wasp stung me and continued to buzz around me.  I called it quits and swam back giving the copperhead a wide berth again.  My ride back proved interesting.  First thing as we were leaving the parking lot he asked which way to turn.  The ride back was filled with similar questions and comments, most prevalently was asking if every road we drove past was the turn to Fayetteville.

 

Fourth of July!  As usual I hung out on the porch until I found someone to climb with.  This time it was Daryl guy up from Ashville for a few days.  We headed down to the Rico Suave area of Kaymoor.  After a warm up I got on Out of the Bag (5.11d).  I climbed up the face of the buttress on big moves to an insecure crux with no good feet or hands, but ended up getting to tired figuring it out to onsight the route.  On my second attempt I made it through the first part of the crux but messed up the next moves on tiny crimps.  My third try I finally got it; moving up through the crux into a section of tiny crimps and some more awkward technical moves up to the anchors.  It was my hardest red point since getting back on my ankle and I was happy to get it.  In my search for the perfect climb it was certainly coming in towards the top and definitely my favorite climb I had done at the New so far.  Clouds had been rolling in while we climbed and now we heard thunder getting closer.  For some that would be time to bail, but as Roger is quoted in the guide book say “Rico’s dry” we decided to keep climbing.  The Rico (the route) is four star 5.10 so we got on it.  By the time Daryl and I finished it was a full downpour but we were (mostly) dry under an overhang.  We chilled out of the rain with three other people, Weston, Chiara, and Doug, who had been climbing next to us.  I spent most of the time giving advice about New Zealand to Chiara who is moving there soon.  The rain eased up a bit and we hiked back to Roger’s.  Unable to climb for the rest of the day I headed to Class VI to sneak a free shower.  Clean and clean shaved I returned to camp just in time to pile into a minivan with 12 other people to ride into town for the fireworks.  It may be a small town, but Fayetteville went all out for the holiday with a fair, rides, and 45 minutes of fireworks.

(On Out of the Bag, 5.11d)


New River Gorge

Pain is temporary, pride is forever

-Unknown

 

I’m off!

I finally got everything together and headed to Morgantown and then the New River Gorge.  Over 13 hours of driving later I made it to Ian’s and went to bed.  My plan to be at the New River Gorge by noon the next day was shot when I woke up after 11am (it’s almost a 3 hour drive).  With the chances of finding someone to climb with dwindling and the chance of rain increasing I decided to stay at Ian’s for another day.

My second attempt to get to the New went a little better.  I was up at a reasonable hour, got some groceries, and was off.  Unfortunately the audio book I was listening to was so enthralling that I missed my turn and ended up taking the long way around.  By the time I had found my way to Roger’s Rocky Top Retreat, the climber campground on the edge of the park, there was nobody around to climb with.  Instead I loaded up my pack and hiked the length of one of the crags hoping to find a group climbing, but instead just spent lots of time staring up at the splendid cliffs.

h(This is the path I came from while hiking along the crag)

(View of the New River from Kaymoor crag)

Hot and sweaty from the hike I ventured down to the river to go for a swim.  Without knowing where I was going I ventured down a dirt road and made it to the rafting take-out just as all the boats were being loaded.  To avoid the crowd I drove a few hundred yards down an overgrown 4-wheel drive road and cut through the woods to the rocky banks of the New River.  The water was perfect.  By that I mean, it was indeed water and jumping into it was like a refreshing burst of Arctic snow.  I got out and as I hopped across the rocks back towards my car noticed some raspberries growing on the bank.  As I began picking and eating them I saw the bushes kept going across the bank.  I ran back to my car and before I knew it had picked a large container or fresh wild raspberries almost half that much.  I would be feasting on raspberries for the rest of the week.  Back at Roger’s I quickly adapted to the usual routine of hanging out on the deck in the evenings and mornings until I found someone or a group to climb with.

 

 

It rained my first night at Roger’s so the morning was slow.  Everyone hung out until early afternoon then went the Cirque in hopes of dry rock.  On my drive there I discovered that my guide book was, to put it nicely, terrible.  In this instance it was the complete lack of description of how to get to the climbing area combined with the inconsistency and just regular old false statements.  The guide book referenced the parking area as two different names in the description and the map, and then in reality it isn’t called either of them.  I was annoyed, but found my way eventually and hiked to the crag.  Of course being a dry, and therefore overhanging, crag also meant that the Cirque was mostly hard routes.  Other than a couple 5.11’s the routes were predominantly 12’s and 13’s with a few 14’s.

(The Cirque)

As a result I jumped on Finders Keepers, a 5.12c, to warm up.  I did a good portion of the route, but the overhang was just too much for my lack of endurance.  The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out and doing the first half of a couple 12’s and 13’s.  I went to check out the easiest route (11a) on one end of the crag.  While I was looking at the climb I heard a sickening thud and immediately knew what had happened.  I ran back over to see one of the guys I had been hanging out with all day, Landon, lying on his side with everyone standing around him.  He had been trying a route and when he wasn’t going to be able to clip the second bolt began to down climb.  He ended up falling from only five feet above the bolt but on impact the locking carabineer broke and he fell the entire 20 feet to the ground.  He put on a brave face even though we all knew he probably had a broken arm and worse yet, he wouldn’t be able to climb for probably a month or more.  After the slow process of getting him from lying down to sitting to standing, splinting and slinging his arm, and supporting his back we headed out.  Over the next couple days of doctor’s appointments we found out he had some kind of issues with disks in his back, a sprained wrist, and had broken the tip of his elbow which required surgery to fix.  Unfortunately Landon got very unlucky and is one of the few people to have a biner break and I know I speak for everyone who knows him saying I hope he gets better soon.

(The locking biner that broke)


Maine!

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

 

6/12

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!


Bye Bye Dubai

I always love coming home.  The only problem is that I have traveled so many places and met so many great people that I can’t go home without leaving another home.

-Me

 

I’ve been back in the states for over a month now, but I’ve had trouble getting myself to write this last blog about Dubai.  Part of me feels like Dubai was so long ago, even when I just got back, that I shouldn’t be writing this.  The other part of me has been hanging on to this because it’s one more thing from Dubai I could hang on to and I didn’t want to let it go.  But I’m here now and planning on finishing this.  It requires finishing one chapter to begin writing a new one.

The last week in Dubai was a whirlwind.  I had finals Monday and Tuesday (2/21-2/22) so I spent most of my time studying since I couldn’t get anyone to go climbing with me.  I finished finals with a victory over my Renewable Energy Systems final and headed directly over to Gordons for one last night of bouldering.  It was a bit sad to know that it was my last time seeing most of them and my last time climbing for a while but as usual it was a good time.  When it was time to I headed out to Barasti, a relatively renowned beach bar, to meet up with the rest of the study abroad people and some of the local kids.  It wasn’t a big surprise to find the bar pretty empty on a Tuesday night but we hung out and had a good time.

 

Wednesday was uneventful and was mostly spent editing climbing videos since I couldn’t convince anyone to ditch work to go climb.  Sam took me to Fawkies, a huge antique (and/or fake antique) store down some winding road in an industrial area of Dubai.  We spent a while just wandering through the place looking at all the trinkets and useless decorations.  I was looking for some gifts to bring home that would be nice traditional Arabic things, but found more African and Asian stuff than local.  Eventually the man who had been following us through the maze of narrow aisles began to get impatient and informed us it was 5 minutes to closing.  I eventually found a couple things and we headed out.  Despite Sam’s former experiences haggling and getting great deals the whole store was being forced by the government to move to a fixed price system so I ended up paying much more than I wanted.  We headed over to Bur Dubai for one last visit to the awesome vegetarian restaurant.  As usual, it was delicious.  I ate unknown tasty vegetarian food until I couldn’t possibly eat more.

 

Thursday.

My last day in Dubai and I still made it out to climb one more time.  Somehow I convinced Javi to take the day off to climb at Tawayan.  Before I knew it Toby was coming too then Greg and Wendy even showed up.  I was happy to finally get the new route Caracal Branch (7a+ or 7b, I don’t really remember anymore) and I nearly onsighted a 7a, but ended up taking a couple tries.  It turned into a great day of climbing with some great people.  It was bitter sweet in so many ways since I knew I was leaving in a matter of hours.  On top of that, I still haven’t climbed on real rock to this day and have barely even climbed in the gym due to numerous injuries.  If only I could have this day of climbing over again!

(Leaving Tawayan for the last time)

My flight out of Dubai was at 11pm.  We got back from climbing at 7:30pm and I quickly packed my remaining stuff.  Considering climbing gear was well over half my stuff in Dubai this a lot of packing to do.  I managed to get it all done and even ran to the labor camp to get dinner for Sam and I since she offered to give me a ride to the airport.  Of course, naturally I ended up being later than desired and arrived at the airport at 9:20.  It was a good thing I managed to scarf down my entire dinner in the 10 minute drive.  I said good bye to Sam and took one last look at Dubai before I disappeared into the airport.

The Dubai airport was crazy.  At the first security check, before I could even get to the ticket counter, I was held up for not deflating my soccer ball.  Apparently low pressure air is now a considered too dangerous to have on planes.  After being bouncing from one person to another I was finally let through since it was being checked and I couldn’t use the low pressure air to attack anyone.  I checked in and proceeded through the normal security check.  Not wanting to be late for my flight I went straight to the gate and went through a third security (yes, THREE, trios, tres, 3!) check only to discover that there was no bathroom there and I couldn’t leave.  Then of course, the plane was 45 minutes late.  It was a 16 hour flight to Atlanta and I managed to get a solid one to two hours of sleep.  On the bright side I watch 3 or 4 movies, but none was even good enough for me to remember what movie it was now.  I ran through the airport as fast as I could to make my connection, made it through customs with all my dates and spices, and got to the plane with a few minutes to spare.  After another 3 hour flight retracing the path I just traveled I reached the end of the flights; Boston.  I turned on my phone only to find that it had not yet been activated.  I cursed Ian.  Luckily I managed to find dad and we headed north.

Two hours later I dropped him off in Portland and drove the last two hours home myself, in a huge snow storm.  In total it was 33 hours door-to-door.  I was happy to see family, have snow, and when I went into my bedroom I even found a mini Christmas waiting on my bed.  It was nice to be home.

 

I thought about making a couple lists of the things I like and dislike about living in Dubai, but it’s just not worth it. There’s no doubt it has plenty of problems and likewise plenty of good things about it, but in the end only one thing matters.  No, it’s not even the climbing.  It’s the friend’s.  I would rather live in hell with my friends than be alone in heaven.  So thank you everyone for making Dubai home not just a place to live.


The Last Weekend in Dubai

Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain-tops are within reach.

-John Muir

 

2/16

After presentations for Renewable Energy Systems Javi picked me up and we headed to the Rech cave.  Unfortunately I hadn’t finished the report for my renewable energies project so I spend half the time bouldering and the other half finishing the report.

 

2/17

We got the usual crack of late morning start and headed to Hatta.  I was shocked to see the number of people at the crag:  the group of usually around 10-15 was doubled as well as another group of four.  From the top I counted 14 cars parked at the bottom.  This isn’t a big crowed for people who have climbed other placed, but compared to the scarcity of climbers in UAE it’s like the great migration.

After the approach Javi and I got started on Balrog (6c).  It was a good route with a crux reaching for a hidden hold.  Of course, I didn’t see the hidden hold so I did a several difficult moves on horrible slopers and a tiny pinch.  After that I had wasted so much energy it was a bit of a struggle to do the easier moves but I managed to pull through and get the onsight.  After Balrog Gordon and I wanted to do Thin Slapping (7a).  We began meandering that way but it was still in the sun so we waited for a while and belayed people at the Bat Cave.

(Maddie on Justice League)

(Scooter (left) on Gotham City and Javi on Boy Wonder)

(Javi on Boy Wonder)

Eventually Thin Slapping went into the shade and we moved over to give it a go.  On my very first trip to Hatta I tried the route, but had no idea how hard it was since we didn’t have a book and ended up down climbing.  Since I couldn’t get a true onsight Gordon went for it.  He made it just past where I had made it up to and struggled.  From there it’s a series of awkward technical movies through a couple crux sections the neither of us got clean.  After our attempts we were both knackered and decided not to give it another go.  Regrettably, I never made it back to Hatta to finish the route.

After the beat down on Thin Slapping I tried Boy Wonder.  It wasn’t really an onsight anymore because I had been watching people on it for a while already.  Maybe if it had been a true onsight I would have been able to do it.  As it was I made it through most of the route but twice got stuck trying to do what I thought they had said was the next move, but was actually not.  After a good wrench to my ankle which I felt for weeks after I didn’t try to do the non-move and finished the right way.

The sequence…

(Enjoying the hands free rest)

After another belay break I tried Justice League (6b) and finally got another onsight.  It was a fun overhanging route with a great photogenic start.

Everyone was winding down for the day as we headed back toward the Fridge (one of the areas).  More than half of the cars were gone from the parking area or had people meandering toward them.  But it was still light out, for the moment, and there were still draws on Spiderpig for me to get.  Javi was keen to try it too so I let him give it a go, knowing I would only have time to do it if he couldn’t.  Instead I went to the Fridge to try to get someone to belay me on an absurdly overhanging route called Chloe (6a+).  Nobody was interested.  Everyone wanted to head down so they wouldn’t have to hike down in the dark.  Despite my first experience at the crag, only wearing flip flops for the full hike, and not having a headlamp, I was still eager to get more climbing in.  Maddie obliged and belayed me up the route.  It was interesting because the first bolt was several moves in to avoid excessive rope drag so I got a spot for the first third of the route.  After that I clipped and managed to finagle my way through the rest of the overhangs to the top.  At this point the smart thing to do is lower off and have someone clean it, even if it had just been me again.  Of course, that’s not what I did.  Thinking it would seem worse if I climbed it again I ended up down climbing most of the route to get my gear since it traversed so severely.  When I unclipped the second bolt and began moving to reach the first I hit the end of my rope.  Regardless of the slack Maddie gave me I just couldn’t move any farther.  Once again, the easier option to leave it and get it from the ground was not what I did.  Instead I secured myself directly to a bolt and managed to wiggle my way to some nearly upside angle where I could reach the bolt.  Cleaning the route was officially much harder than leading it.  Even after going to check on Javi, who had completely Spiderpig, we made it down in perfect timing just before it got dark.

We headed back to Gordon’s for the world premiere of Madworld 8, barbecue, and bouldering.  Well, the bouldering didn’t really happen.  Everyone was too tired from climbing and wanted to rest up for the next day.  I, on the other hand, still hadn’t had enough so I bouldered for a bit by myself.  Hamad arrived and we watched Madworld 8.  Laughing, guffawing, teasing, and merriment ensued and continued for the remainder of the night.

 

2/18

The group consensus was a return to Tawaian.  For me that meant one thing: Fujeirah Spaceport (7a+).  Using the first pitch of the climb as a warm up Gordon and I headed straight for it.  To be honest, it wasn’t terribly exciting.  Gordon onsighted it.  With fresh arms I red-pointed it no problem.  I was happy to have finished it, but I know I should have had it my first try so it wasn’t much consolation.  I rested up while watching some of the other guys do a great looking, extremely exposed 2 pitch route called Jebel Jebel (6b).

Next I set my sights on Toby’s newly bolted and finished route called Caracal Branch.  It was a very fun route with several hard moves.  The first move that seemed hard was a big reach to a finger lock under a roof.  It turned out the move wasn’t as hard as it seemed and the finger lock was so good that I got my finger seriously stuck in it and took several tries to get it out.  Next was a seemingly impossible reach to a shark tooth shaped rock.  To my surprise I managed the move.  The route got progressively harder for the next move.  Despite Toby’s beta, I just couldn’t do his powerful pull with a foot at my stomach height and found a way to use some bad side pulls instead.  The best, or hardest actually, was saved for last.  It was an intense move that required a nearly full length lay-out using a side pull and almost no feet.  I was able to do it using a knee bar to get the edge of the hold but to fully get it I then had to slowly remove the knee bar as I inched (or millimetered) my hand into the hold.  After that it was one easy move to the top, by which point I had fallen several times and was nowhere close to getting an onsight, but had hope for the next trip to the crag.

After the two routes I was burned out, but gave Office Clerk a go for a workout.  I managed to do a different method through the crux which I had thought was going to be much more difficult and just hauled my way though the route.  I may have done other stuff, but nothing good enough to stick in my memory so I’ll say that was about the day.

(Preparing for the big crux move)

(The move was so big I went out of the frame)

 

2/19

Despite Thursday being a holiday so everyone had a three day weekend I still only got two days of climbing in.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get anyone to climb with for Saturday even though I certainly tried.  Instead most of the RIT crew headed to the spice souk for another round before we all left.  It was much like previous visits: I was underprepared, although I finally did have a list of spices and prices, and didn’t know enough about what I wanted to buy.  I got some spices to bring home and decided to forgo several of them.  We headed to an Iraqi restaurant for dinner that Andy raved about.  Sadly it was not only extremely expensive, but had absolutely no vegetarian meals.  Maybe it was a good combination though because I only got an appetizer and didn’t have to spend the full money for a dinner.  Overall I was still really disappointed that I had gone to the Iraqi restaurant instead of taking the quick trip across the river for the awesome vegetarian restaurant.  Lots of tiny violins played.  I survived.