"Not all those who wander are lost"

Bouldering

Chasing the Dream

pic

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

-Wayne Gretzky

 

I made this video as part of an application to become a gear tester.  It’s not the highest quality, but it’s what I came up with in a few hours so I could make the deadline…which I then found out was extended.  Either way, it was entertaining to make.

 

 


On The Road Again

P1020711

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.


Maine Bound

P1020304

When you finally go back to your old home, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood.
-Sam Ewing

 

Upon return to the the US I had brief couple days with my dad as our paths crossed in Boston I headed for Maine and what I was sure was going to be a great time climbing in Maine.

Psyched to continue slacklining as soon as I got home I bought 80 feet of webbing before I even made it back to Maine.  I arrived home to my new crash pad waiting on my bed, but my big plans of spending time at Shagg crag and bouldering around Bangor quickly began to fade.  My perpetual problem climbing in Maine is finding partners.  Despite knowing several people who climb, I have a hard time finding people psyched on the weekends and nearly impossible during the week.

Maybe it’s this thing I hear about called “Real Life” that gets in the way and takes up time.  For me though, with no job, no girlfriend, and friends in Maine that hang out with dwindling by the year, I just wanted to get out and climb every day.  Instead it ended up being slacklining that my friends really took to and soon we were slacklining several times a weeks when they weren’t working.

(Tyler was great at spectacularly launching himself off the slackline)

Within a week of being home I managed to find a partner on Mountain Project who was psyched to meet up at Shagg for a few days of climbing.  I took off, ready to test the strength I had gained in Thailand against a notoriously hard crag.  Unfortunately things didn’t go great.

We met up and started climbing.  I discovered that he wasn’t really up to leading hard routes and considering the climbing starts off, with the exception of a few warm-ups, at 5.12 that mean I was ropegunning and putting up top ropes for him.  I didn’t mind though, it got me the belayer I’d been looking for.  After warming up I tried “It Ain’t Pretty Being Easy” (5.12a).  It’s a stellar rig; quite pumpy and hard to read.  It didn’t go down on the onsight, but I was confident I could do it in a few tries.  Those next tries never came because with a few minutes it began to rain.

Of our planned two and a half days at Shagg we got in a couple hours before it began to rain.  Hoping for the best I figured we could try some routes on the most overhanging section and maybe it would clear off soon.  I got on “Shaggin Wagon” (5.12a), but after getting pumped off a couple times I made it to the last few meters of the climb only to find soaking wet crimps.  I clipped the anchors and accepted that I would not be on that again today.  That left exactly zero routes completely dry.

Still unwilling to admit defeat I did a few more laps on the first 90% of “The Great Escape” since it was one of the only dry sections of rock.  The rain hadn’t stopped for the last couple hours so we eventually slogged back to the cars.  We set up camp, hoping that it would be better weather the next day.  In the morning everything was still soaked and the weather predicted lots of rain in the afternoon so I headed for home, stopping to boulder a little bit on the way.

I managed to work in some more climbing when I picked up Ian at the airport and headed to Rumney on the way home.  Unfortunately I had nearly the same luck there as at Shagg.  We got in a couple climbs, but were limited to routes that stay dry in the rain (ie overhanging).  I didn’t mind too much, but when Ian tried to top rope “Orangahang” (5.12a/b) it didn’t go so well.  I guess 12a is a bit hard for your fifth time climbing, but I figured would get by his natural aptitude for everything athletic.  He made valient, but awkward attempts to start out the climb which eventually ended without getting 10 feet off the deck. Foiled by the rain again we decided to head to Portland to hang out with a friend on our way home rather than set up tents in the rain.

Despite my climbing plans falling flat, Maine was a good time.  I spent a day riding on the carriage trails of Acadia National Park  and eating popovers at Jordan Pond House with my mom and brother.  I hung out and slacklined with friends.  I did all kinds of activities that have been replaced by climbing and remembered that I like to do them.  On rest days.

(Just my usual bike ride)

I continued trying to find climbing partners, but once a week at the gym and bouldering alone just wasn’t cutting it for me.  I made it out bouldering a time or two and even put up some new problems (both problems below were new ones I did).  All my plans to climb were thwarted by the “Real World” or weather.  I found out that the wedding in August that I had based all my plans around had been moved up and limited to family only.  With no reason to stay in Maine and every reason to get out, I split as fast as I could pack my car.  I was bound for better weather, better climbing, and the hopes of finding partners.

 


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!


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.


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.


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.


Damian’s Boulders

“There were no holds so I had to use skill.”

-Unknown

 

2/12

Thankfully there was no rain and the Climber den stayed dry.  We roused slowly, nobody wanting to exert too much energy after the previous day.  After coffee and breakfast the camping stuff slowly migrated to the vehicles and people migrated to the rocks.

We started out on a boulder right at the camp spot since it had a good mix of grades to appease everyone.  I did the most difficult problem using some compression movies on tiny edges only to realize after that it was probably a full grade harder doing that than using the rounded edge of the boulder.

(The route I mentioned is far left…the only one not being climbed)

Our next move didn’t take us far; people stopped at a highball about 10m away.  After climbing it I sat on top to watch as other people try and nearly got knocked over when the wind kicked up to gale force.  Despite the sunny blue skies the wind continued a cycle of total calm and hurricane force gusts throughout the rest of the day resulting in lots of time spent chasing crash pads and trying to avoid getting our skin sand blasted off.

When everyone had either finished or given up we finally worked our way into the heart of the boulder field to the smooth polished rock.  We bouldering, ate, hung out, enjoyed the sun, and move on to a different spot when we felt like it.  I did several fun problems, the most notable of which was a very thin V6 on a polished face which I did on my second try, but like lots of the climbing in the UAE, I suspect it’s pretty soft for the grade.  I spent a while working on a problem that nobody has done before hoping to make the first ascent.  It starts on a V3 but instead of doing the route traverses left to a tiny pocket and a thumb press or crimp then moves down to match hands on a undercling sloper just above the nonexistent feet and continues over to some pockets and then finally finishes on another problem.  After I began getting close Gordon came to work on it too.

(One move past the undercling match, photo by Samantha Sitterson)

(Trying to reach for the pocket, photo by Samantha Sitterson)

Despite all our attempts we weren’t able to get to the pocket at the end of the miserable undercling part.  Unsatisfied with not finishing the route we headed out early since people were tired and sore from the race.

 


Wadi Bih Run

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

-William Faulkner

 

2/10  Wadi Bih Run Eve!

The back story:  Two weeks prior I found out/decided to do the Wadi Bih Run with some of the people I climb with who enter every year.  It’s a 72.2km relay race from Dibba all the way up into the mountains (passed several areas we climb) with a total elevation gain of over 1000m then all the way back.  I had been running for a while in Dubai, but it had already faded off a couple weeks before I join the race team.  I started running again immediately to prepare in the two weeks I had.  I did alright getting back into it but after my run Sunday before the race I was struck with debilitating shin splints.  I noticed them when I tried to do a short run the next day and could barely run at all.  After the short and painful run Monday I decided it was better to not have shin splints and be out of shape than be in shape and have shin splints.  I didn’t bother running the rest of the week.  Even with the rest I was doubtful; my long walks to the labor camp even caused significant pain so I didn’t know how I would run 15+km.

Wadi Bih Run Eve came and Gordon and I headed up to Dibba to stake out a spot on the beach for our team to camp and register.  We got a later start than planned and made it at 8:58, just in time to register before they closed down for the night to continue drinking.  We talked with some other climbers from the area for a bit until another team member, Simon, arrived.  We settled on a spot and unloaded Gordon’s car to go collect firewood.  We headed back to a construction site and found a pile of scrap wood we could swipe.  The rest of the night we hung out around the fire and carbo loaded.  Our other team members Javi and Maddie (Stocks) made it in at about 10 and 11:30 respectively.  We all were up to after midnight before we finally decided it was a good idea to get some sleep before the race.

 

2/11

I woke up without an alarm to the sounds go people bustling around getting ready for the race.  I checked my watch, 6:30.  I got up, packed up my sleeping stuff, ate two bites of muesli and a banana, popped some asprin to counter the anticipated shin splints, and was ready to go.  We started a bit after 7:30, on the latter end of the pack since running started between 6-8.  The first km was a group leg and all five of us ran while Sam, who had come to hang out and drive for us, drove.  Gordon continued onto the first real leg while the rest of us hopped into the car and cruised up to the next checkpoint.  We warmed up waiting at the checkpoint and Sam offered some topical pain reliever for my shin splints.  They hadn’t started bothering me yet but I liberally applied the cream.  I would repeat this many times throughout the race.  I had to wait a few legs before I got my first chance to run.  I was amped and started out with tons of energy.

(Gordon Rech)

I started running up the wadi I couldn’t help but stare up at the rocks around me looking for good areas to develop for climbing.  My energy decreased quickly as I run up a long steep hill around a boulder field (Damian’s Boulders) in the wadi.  I started to get into a rhythm and kept chugging away until I was around the boulders and Gordon’s car came into sight.  I thought there was no way I had already finished my leg, they must be there to take some pictures.  Sure enough when I got there it was actually the end of it.  I was relieved that it was over but had started to feel like I could just keep going.  With my stage over I hopped in the car and cruised to the next checkpoint.

We stopped for the checkpoint exactly at one of the climbing areas.  Once again, I couldn’t help myself and climbed half of an easy route.  We continued alternating legs, hanging out the windows of the car to look at the rocks, and cheering each other on.  Just before the section of very steep switchbacks we caught up to the group of RIT kids running (Andy, Maddie Burke, Allie, Kristin, and Nina).  Their rental Camry had managed to make it all the way here but they had been offered a ride by Nick, a guy I had meet climbing at Gordon’s , through the next few sections so they didn’t have to try to make it the rest of the way in the low car.  Andy headed off up the slope well before Javi got to the checkpoint for Gordon to take over, but just knowing that they were within sight made me determined to catch them.  Yes, I know, it’s unnecessary for me to be this competitive, but without a competition, even if it’s only a competition to me, I can’t push myself as much.  Gordon took over and did great on the uphill while we waited at the top, next to where we had camped a few weeks before.  One more leg to the 13th checkpoint where we would turn around and I would take over.  Simon ran the leg and we headed to the midpoint.  The top had a great vista of wadis and mountains including the tallest mountain in northern Oman, Jebel Kewee.

(View from the top)

The last bit to the final checkpoint was a long zig zag downhill.  I watched as Maddie (Burke) ran in and waited for Simon.  I met him as he got to the checkpoint and took off after Andy, who was still in sight but almost all the way up the hill.  I had this leg, Maddie (S) had the steep downhill, then I had another short leg; I was determined to catch them on one of my legs.  I got into my rhythm and cruised up the hill passing a bunch of people.  Most of the rest of the leg was slight downhill and I let the road do the work, just placing one foot in front of the other to keep from falling on my face, which I still almost did several times coming around corners too fast.

(Determined to catch them, photo by Gordon Rech)

The 500+m distance had dwindled to less than 200 by the time my leg was over but I hadn’t managed to catch up.  Maddie and Maddie started the steep downhill close together.  There wasn’t much waiting to do once we got to the bottom before Maddie (Stocks) came hurtling down the hill and nearly took me out with the handoff.  Not looking to see who was running for RIT next or seeing if they were close behind I took off again.

(Gordon Rech)

My 1.5km leg went quick and afterwards there was no sign of the RIT kids for the rest of the race.  Now it was on to the next objective: finish in under 6 hours.  I only had one leg left to contribute to reduce our time and we needed an average of about 13 minutes.  It would be tough, but I had been averaging about 12 on the way up so the way down should be quicker.  Maddie and Simon didn’t know if they could finish all their legs and I happily volunteered to take any and all legs.  Gordon ended up taking Maddies and continued his straight through hers.  I struggled with my leg, starting to really feel the 14km I had run as I struggled up the short but very steep section around Damian’s Boulders.  I refused to give in, refused to walk, no matter how much my muscles screamed.  The downhill was great and I let loose feeling like I would surely eat it with how fast I was running for how weak my muscles were.  I defied the odds and remained on my feet.  After that I took half of Simons long leg and half of Gordon’s last leg.  Each time I started running I had trouble running straight.  My feet refused to be placed one in front of the other and wobbled around unsteadily, but I kept running.  The reality of my low blood sugar occurred to me while I was running.  I had eaten two bites of muesli, a banana and a half, and a light granola bar all day.  On top of that I had been drinking as little as possible, all to avoid my stomach sloshing around while I ran.  I forced myself to keep placing one foot in front of the other and refused to slow down.  Finally I made it to the end of the leg and melted into the seat.

We drove to the first/last checkpoint and waited for Maddie.  We were already over 6 hours but had changed the target to beating last years time of 6 hours and 20 minutes.  As we waited for Maddie we watched the minutes tick by leaving less and less time to complete to last 1km group run.  Each red shirt that came into view got us excited but the first three weren’t her.  Maddie made it to the checkpoint with only 2 minutes remaining to beat 6:20.  We couldn’t do it.  We casually jogged the last km to the finish line.

(Samantha Sitterson)

The finish line was behind the hotel and ended at a buffet and bar.  Starving and thirsty I got food and we all got some beer.  I know it’s about the worst thing to do after a race, but it tasted so good.  We hung out, had some food and drinks, and chatted.  There were tons of crazy costumes and team names in the race, a few of the more memorable ones are:  Wadi my doing here?, Wadi ya know, queens of love who were all covered in hearts and instead of using a baton passed along a tiara and a wand with a heart on it, a team in tutus, pirates, an entire kids rugby team, and a group of cavemen (I actually met and climbed with the cavelady the next weekend).  When the ceremonies were done and people were heading out we piled back into cars and headed back to Damian’s Boulders to camp.  After setting up camp and collecting wood I did a bit of bouldering until it was too dark and I returned to the fire.  Everyone hung out around the fire until it started to rain when people dashed for their tents.  Gordon, Javi, and I didn’t have tents set up (they didn’t want to, I didn’t have one) so we piled our stuff into a cave.  Unfortunately as the rain came down harder the cave began to leak through a crack.  I stuffed a crash pad into it and hoped that would be enough, but thankfully the rain eased up and we went to sleep.

(The Climber den, notice the crash pad shoved up into the crack)


Wondrous Wall, Not so Wondrous Border

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

-Seneca

 

2/3

The week was like any other week:  dreaded classes, fun time bouldering, lots of working on senior design.  Then things took an unexpected turn.  Sam emailed me to tell me that she had a fever and didn’t know if she would be able to go to Wonderwall as planned.  Not wanting to lose a weekend of climbing and much less get stuck in the city for the weekend I made back up plans with Gordon to join them at Tawayan in case Sam’s fever didn’t subside.

 

2/4

Fortunately her fever did subside in the night and she insisted she was fine to climb.  Sam, Dayne (her jack russell), and I headed for the border.  Now, dogs aren’t really supposed to cross the border, but friends here do it all the time so they can take their dogs camping so we were trying it.  As we approached the border I put Dayne on the floor in the back, covered him with a sleeping bag, and dumped some treats on the floor.  It worked through the first part.  We parked for a minute while I ran in to get my exit stamp from the UAE.  The next part was more interesting.  We pulled back into the line of cars going through passport control to get into the UAE and Dayne decided he didn’t want to sit on the floor anymore because something was going on.  I had to hold him down by his collar as he wriggled.  We made it past the guy standing in the middle looking for anything illegal without Dayne barking and turned out of the line to head to Oman.

We made it to Wonderwall and hiked up to the cliff.  My goal for the weekend was to try and hopefully onsight or at least redpoint Exile (7b/5.12b).  It’s a stunning climb that goes directly up the tallest, blankest face of the entire cliff.  It’s 55m of tough crimping and tiny feet the entire way that is supposed to have no rests.  To top it off it requires 18 quick draws; I only have 12 including my slings and Sam’s two draws.  I started the route anyway, planning to skip draws whenever I could.  I started the climb in good style skipping the very first bolt.  After clipping the second bolt I pulled out from the initial alcove and onto the face.  From there it all blended together into 53m of crimping, technical moves needing a specific sequence, big reaches hoping to find at least a tiny crimp, pulling hard on razor sharp knife blades (they weren’t truly crimps, they were knife blades), lots of hoping my skin was thick enough to endure the holds, and a good amount of yelling as the holds cut into my fingers.  In short, it was awesome.

At the halfway point where there are chains to rappel from or to stop for Exile Light (7a) I found a much appreciated “rest” where I could hold myself with one arm at a time and my entire foot could fit on the sloping ledge.  It was more of the same after that.  About two thirds of the way up the climb I had a foot hold break off while I was standing on it.  My foot swung out from the wall and my shoulder popped as all my weight was transferred to my right arm.  I managed to hang on to the knife blades digging into my fingers and get my foot onto something.  Shoulder throbbing I continued up.  I had another point near the top when I questioned if I would be able to make it.  I could see holds up above me but couldn’t manage to get up enough to get to any of them.  I tried going up to the right, and to the left, but nothing worked.  Finally I decided to just go for it and pulled as hard as I could on holds that I certainly couldn’t hold on if they could even hold me.  Somehow it worked and I made it to the “better” holds (I use the term very loosely and only in comparison to holding onto a blank face).  It was difficult to stay focused and not get careless as I approached the top, but I made it to the top and let out a triumphant roar.  It was the first time I had ever tried a 7b/5.12b and I had onsighted it.  Grinning ear to ear I rapped down cleaning the route.

I had already completed my primary goal for the weekend so we headed over to another area that had more climbs Sam was interested in called Aladdin’s Lamp.  Sam lead Think Fast, Hippie.  I lead Relentless, a 40m long route that I managed to rap off from with a 70m rope.  I was planning on heading back over to try Border Patrol.  I quickly ditched that idea because it would be a hard route and it has a long approach.  My decision was unnecessary anyway as it was clearly getting dark too quickly to do any more routes.  Before we headed back to the campsite we scavenged for wood, cramming Sam’s car full of (very dirty) wood.  I built a fire and we cooked the usual delicious vegetarian food on the fire.  Once we were done cooking we threw a bunch of wood on the fire for light, some of which was the wood we carried for miles on our epic night walk last time, and began bouldering.

The problems were easy and the lack of a crash pad resulted in a fairly short session.  We hung out around the fire, chatted, and eventually went to sleep.

 

2/5

We woke up a bit after the sun came up.  Searching around the edge of the tent for my watch I felt water.  I looked around and noticed dew that had formed on the outside of the tent.  It hadn’t rained thankfully since we didn’t have the fly on the tent, but even dew at Wonderwall was unexpected.  We had some muesli and headed up to the crag.

(The camp site)

Our first spot of the day was Spaghetti Western since it’s close to the camp spot.  I lead one called Space Cowboy to warm up then Sam was going to try leading some more stuff.  Unfortunately her fever was catching up with her and she didn’t feel well.  She followed the route and decided she wasn’t going to climb much so we hiked back down and headed over to the other side to try some stuff I was interested in.  The first of which was Border Patrol.  The unfortunate part was that to get to it we had to go all the way past it, then hike up a chute that put us on a ledge across the middle of the cliff and hike back over to it.  The even more unfortunate thing was that Dayne was having a hard time and worrying Sam by going close to the edge so I carried him on my rope bag the whole way.  After a much more intense approach than expected we finally made it to Border Patrol.

I rested for a minute and started on the route.  I use the phrase “started on the route” loosely.  I really didn’t start much at all.  It kicked my butt the whole way.  After failing to do any of the first few moves successfully several times and seeing that it only got more difficult I decided it wasn’t worth stranding my gear on the route and down climbed from the second bolt.  Disappointed I got shot down by a 7a I hoped to redeem myself a little bit and make the hike have some point by trying Hot Rats.  It’s another 7a face climb near Border Patrol and I felt like I would have more success on it.  Indeed I did.  I onsighted the first of the two pitches that is supposed to be the hard part.   Funny enough despite the climb being similar to Exile in sharpness, when it got hard at the top when they were replaced by slopers and I was quickly wishing for the knife blades back.   I decided that since Sam wasn’t coming up to clean and I had done the hard pitch I wouldn’t bother with the second pitch.  We headed back off the ledge to do another climb or two.  I wanted to check out a climb called Twisted Reach so I walked up the ledge passes Exile.  The ledge was about 8 feet wide and not a problem walking along in my sandals until I came to a boulder blocking it.  A bolt had been placed with a piece of rope to help you climb up and over it.  I managed it in my sandals.  To actually get to the route required a traverse off the ledge using a fixed hand line.  I got half way out to the climb before I lost a sandal that tumbled down to the ground.  After that I decided it would be better to do it with a harness so I could clip in to the line, not that it mattered, the ordeal of getting Dayne there and keeping him calm was a deal breaker anyway.  I headed back for a different climb and tried another 7a next to Exile called Glucosamine.  It didn’t go quite as smoothly as I hoped.  After climbing two long routes on knife blades the whole time I couldn’t do a third cleanly.

When I was at the top of Glucosamine someone walked up to where the car was and yelled up to us asking if we had a shovel.  They had gotten stuck in the loose gravel on their way to the crag.  I told him we didn’t, but we were done climbing so we’d come try to help.  When we made it down we discovered it was Dustin, a kid who had climbed with us a couple weeks before.  He and a friend got an old Mercedes stuck when they went over a drop and bottomed out the car.  Sam found a tow strap in her car and we hooked them up.  I reved the car, they reved their car, the strap snapped.  With a new figure 8 knot tying the hook we tried again with the same result (but my knot held).  It clearly wasn’t working but a local guy saw us and came out with his hold land cruiser.  He hooked a rope the size of my arm to their car and dragged the car out without any problem.  Then he kept going, toeing them all the way out down the road and out of the loose gravel.  Our part finished we said goodbye to Dustin and headed off.

After last time I had learned by lesson about the border so I went directly to the Oman border post to get my passport stamped.  I may have learned the first time but what I learned this time was that the past is irrelevant.  Despite doing the exact same thing last time, this time they would not stamp my passport because my exit from the UAE was the day before.  I argued that they did it last time.  They didn’t care.  Fuming I gave in and drove all the way back to Buraymi.  Figuring I might as well try my luck I tried to convince the UAE to just give me a new entrance stamp.  They were nice about it, but said they couldn’t do that.  When I explained my situation they just gave me a new exit stamp and sent me off.  I went BACK to the Oman border and got a new entry and exit stamp, then BACK to Buraymi, this time I made it through.  I’ve been at the UAE border post so many times now that I was chatting with some of them and feel like someone should be buying me dinner.  Sam kept Dayne down in the back and we finally made it through the border without any issues.  All together the escapade took over three hours.  On the way back we stopped and got some good Indian food at a random little restaurant.  As usual we were probably the only Caucasians that had been in the place.  After delicious dal and rotti we continued on to Dubai.