"Not all those who wander are lost"

Climbing

What does a dirtbag do without climbing?

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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

-Douglas Adams

 

Bishop is a great place to climb and meet climbers.  Unfortunately early October is not the time for either.  After hanging out with Cliff and his great crew of monkeys in the Yosemite, Bishop was shockingly empty, which only added to the melancholy of leaving the valley.

On my first day in town I headed to Owens River Gorge to try to find someone to climb with.  I accosted the first group that showed up, asking if I could climb with them.  They said yes and we headed down into the Gorge.  We climbed a bit and I fixed a line and ran a few more laps when they headed out.

(Photo by Phillip Tearse)

Another dirtbag, Phill, showed up and camped with me in the Pinyons.  We climbed together for a couple days then I headed to the Happies to boulder for a day.  Without a book I wandered around climbing whatever looked good and a few problems I remembered from the year before.

I found one problem I remembered trying.  It was a V3 with a V5 sit start.  Or maybe it was a V5 with a V8 sit start.  I figured I might as well try the sit start and see how it goes.  I sat down and grabbed the crimps and pulled.  Pain shot through my right middle finger.  No popping or bad noise, but I tried again and more pain.  Oh crap.

I didn’t quite realize how bad it was so I moved on to another problem and kept climbing.  I found Solarium which I had spent an afternoon trying the last year and put it down in the first five minutes.

More excited about feeling that I had improved than worried my finger was badly injured I headed to the buttermilks to try a V5 that had denied me.  I found it and felt like I could dispatch it fairly quickly, but the steep crimpy nature soon made my finger hurt even more.  When the pain persisted I decided to call it a day.

I spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong with my finger and came to the concussion that I had a partially ruptured or strained A2 pulley.  I took a rest day then spent the next several days climbing no harder than 5.10 in hopes that I could do some easy climbing and lit my finger heal.  Finally after 4 days of climbing 10’s I accepted what I had feared all along.  My finger wasn’t getting better while I kept climbing and it wasn’t going to.  I had to stop climbing.

What do you do when you devote yourself to one thing in life then it’s taken away?  It sounds dramatic, but I had just spent 16 months of my life focused on climbing.  I left home, lost contact with friends, and let girls walk away in the pursuit of one passion.  I felt like the beautiful painting of my life, full of colors, cliffs, and friends, had been transformed into a new coloring book.  The outline remained, but all the color and life was gone.

So what do you do?  Mope some, start running more to keep in shape, slackline, work on learning guitar, go find somewhere to hang out that isn’t an international climbing destination, and hang out with C-list celebrities.

I headed to LA to hang out with my friends David and Amanda.  It saved me.  Amanda was putting on a fundraiser for her work, Animal Defenders International, the weekend I got there so I had something to do that wasn’t climbing and even took my mind off how much it sucked that I wasn’t climbing.  I jumped in with both feet and the three of us ended up putting in around 20 hours over the weekend setting up, working the fundraiser, and cleaning up.
It was a serious culture shock to go from living in a tent to hanging out in a multi-million dollar mansion overlooking Hollywood.  I went from not seeing more than 2 people a day to seeing Bob Barker, serving hors d’oeuvres to Corey Feldman (‘mouth’ from The Goonies), and chatting with Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle from CSI).  Not to mention eating delicious catered vegan food in place of my usual oatmeal, PB&J, and pasta.

I was still hanging out in LA, trying to figure out what I should do next and hoping that I would be able to climb soon when I got an email from a friend.
“Want to come to Greece?”

 

Yosemite

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

-Jack Kerouac

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Utah

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We all try to be busy instead of being alive.

-Will Gadd

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Goals and Ideas not Resolutions and Plans

Center El Shinto

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

-Andy Lewis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you want to be happy, be.

-Leo Tolstoy

 


Ten Sleep (Part II)

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The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.

– Alan Watts

 

Only 9 days after getting to Ten Sleep the entire crew had gone.  Not only that, but many of the other people who I had seen around climbing had left as well.  I had met one guy, Scott, who had said he would be around for a while.  It turned out that Scott (and his pup, Mondo) and I were the only ones there solo so we hung out and climbed together for the next couple weeks.  It was amazing how quickly Ten Sleep got so quiet even though there was no significant change in weather, time of year, or holidays to account for it.  We didn’t argue though, we just got down to business climbing.

I’m definitely a person who likes animals, but Mondo was especially awesome.  Only two months old when I met her she was already a chill crag dog.  While Scott and I climbed she contented herself sitting on his pack, chewing a stick, wandering around, or just watching us climb.  I know many people have issues with dogs at crags, but they sure wouldn’t if the other dogs were as good as Mondo.  All this and only a puppy!

The climbing psych remained high climbing with Scott.  Our first day climbing together we went to Superratic Pillar.  I got on the third of the three routes I was most psyched on: Great White Behemoth.  I decided to try to flash not onsight and got beta from Scott, but ended up having a foot pop.  I found a better foot and pulled the rest of the moves to the top.  On my second try I floated the beast.  I got to the top and was told “Congratulations, you are good at climbing rocks” by the trophy hanging from the anchor.

Scott’s a much stronger climber than I am so climbing with him meant I was pushing myself to climb harder and harder.  I soon sent my first 5.12c in the states and it only took me two tries.  It was a great route up an arête at Hound Dog Crag, but didn’t even have a proper name, just HDC 224.

In the middle of August I had a bit of a crisis.  Driving back from climbing one day I pulled into my spot and about 50 feet before I parked I heard an horrid grinding sound.  Within 5 feet my car came nosedived into the ground and came to an abrupt halt.

My stomach dropped.  No car, mid road trip, thousands of miles to anywhere I could leave all the junk from my car, this could be really bad.  Somehow the pin came out, the castle nut fell off, the ball joint popped out, and the CV shaft was pulled out of the transmission.  It looked like the only damaged part was the CV shaft which was under warrantee, but considering I could be dead if that happened at highway speeds I thought it best to take it to a shop to make sure rather than do the work myself.

Luckily my mom keeps me and my brother on her AAA plan.  I spent a rest day dealing with the car situation.  It turned out that (they claimed anyway) there was no other damage, but Carquest messed up sending the part so I headed back to camp until I could get the car the next morning.  I spent the night squeezed into my tent along with a set of drawers, my duffel of clothes, climbing pack, rope, and guitar.  It was quite, um, cozy?  The mechanic put in the new CV shaft and charged $160 for two hours of labor for a part I could have replaced in 30 minutes.  It was done though and I’ll I could do was keep climbing.

Despite being the longest approach, Scott and I spent the majority of our time climbing at French Cattle Ranch (FCR).  It was hard for either of us to argue since it has bomber rock, great routes, and plenty of the grades to keep both of us happy for a long time.

FCR is home to many routes in the 12+ to 13- range so I had a blast sampling the routes and trying to pull hard.  Most of the routes I didn’t put much time into, but one caught me as something I might be able to do.  My first try on Tangarine Fat Explosion went absolutely nowhere.  I struggled on nearly every move and took a few good falls because it’s not grid bolted like lots of Ten Sleep.  I worked each move, got them figured out, and somehow returned to the ground thinking I had a shot even though I barely linked 5 moves at a time.

Scott’s first attempt was better, but still didn’t manage to send.  I don’t remember which one stopped him, but one of the three cruxes got the better of him.  The first is just a couple awkward moves and a long, boulder reach.  It’s difficult, but it’s at the third bolt so it’s easy to be fresh for it.  After a series of moves on good crimps and pockets there’s a bit of a rest on some decent holds with good feet before firing into the second crux.  This involves increasingly long reaches and the last with only smearing feet.  Once the second crux has been overcome it’s 30ft of spaced out massive horizontal jugs.  After one last shake on the top jugs you balance your way up to hold a credit card edge and a triangular pinch that’s even smaller.  Using these with some high feel it’s a long reach up to a half pad crimp to clip the bolt and another long move up to the next, slightly better, small pocket a few moves that decrease in difficulty to the anchor.

In short, I loved this route.  It had such diverse climbing and holds that it was challenging in many different ways: awkward moves, powerful pulls, techy balance, and some pump.  This rig had it all.  My second try fell short.  I figured I might as well give a third try before heading out.  I cranked through and felt pretty good all the way up to the top crux.  I reached for the good crimp, touched it, and fell.  I didn’t quite have my feet right and was too tired to make it work without exactly the right beta.

Confident I would get it soon we returned the next day.  I cranked through the power moves, executed my beta perfectly on the techy moves, and clipped the anchors on my first try of the day.  MY FIRST 5.13!  I was elated.  After that figured I would belay Scott on Galactic Emperor for the rest of the day, but ended up trying it once on TR.  It was rather comical how pathetic my attempt was.  I was lucky if I pulled 3 consecutive moves on the route and many of the moves I just couldn’t even begin to do.  It was a good reality check.

Much of the rest of my time in Ten sleep was a blur of climbing and hanging out with friends.  I met another guy named Nate who was camped near me, Scotts friend Esther came, my friend Terri, who I met in Thailand, came, and Toby returned after a couple weeks away.  All of a sudden there were people around again.

I felt the pressure to climb all of the things I wanted to do before I left build in the second half of August.  So much that I stopped taking rest days so often.  Actually I only took one in my last 16 days.  Maybe it hurt my ability to climb a little bit, but I didn’t notice (for a while).  I still managed to send another 12c, Pick Pocket and get my hardest onsight (Left El Shinto, 12c).

I few days before leaving I decided to try Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV).  I had tried it once before and wasn’t too enthusiastic, but this time something clicked and I loved it.  After two burns working out beta I thought I had a shot of doing in one of the next two days before leaving.

I was quickly proven wrong the next day.  Although I had worked out beta for the entire route on my first try, I found that on point I couldn’t do it the same way.  My third burn of the day (6th overall), I stuck the crux but fell on some crimps just after because I messed up some foot beta.  I was bummed that I had blown it, but determined to get it I tried again.  It was a great exercise in futility.  I was too worked to even come close to pulling the crux moves.

I refused to let it go and convinced Terri and Toby to go back for a few more tries my last day even though I still had a long drive to Jackson that afternoon.  I tried it three more times, but each one was worse than the previous.  Eight days of climbing and seven burns on EKV in 25 hours was more that my body could handle.  Defeated I got in my already packed car and turned toward Jackson expecting to arrive around 2am.

EKV is the one that got away, but there are loads of routes at Ten Sleep that I’m psyched to go back for: EKV, Crown Prince Abdullah, Burden of Immortality, Aunt Jemimas Bisquick Thunderdome, Wall of Denial, Pussytoes, Kielbasa, Esplanada, Crux Luthor, Shut the Fuck Up, Dances with Cows, and much more.  Some I haven’t tried, some I have, all I want to send.



For anyone interested, which I presume you are since you’re reading this, here’s a list of routes I liked:

Great White Behemoth 12b Sequential
Happiness in Slavery 12b Power to techy
Tangarine Fat Explosion 13a See above
Center El Shinto 12b Thin and Techy, mosty vert
Cocaine Rodeo 12a See above
Tricks for You 12a Techy, cryptic, and awesome
HDC 224 12c Striking arete
Black Narcissist 12b/c Thin crack with tiny face holds
Wyoming Flower Child 11d/12a Easier version of Center El Shinto
Captain Insano 11d Crack with jugs and face holds
Gravy Train 12b Hard bouldery top move
Pick Pocket 12c Compression and techy
HDC 222 11c Crack with holds along it
Mr. Poopy Pants 11b Overhanging stemming
Character Witness 11a Just fun
Godfather 2 11a Juggy overhanging
Pussy Control 11a Classic pocket pulling
Crossbow Chaos Theory 11a Hard to see holds
Big Bear Memorial 10c Long dihedral, stemming
Beerbong 10b Novelty – Top bit is stunning

Ten Sleep (Part I)

Center El Shinto

If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.  Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spend in a miserable way.

-Alan Watts

 

The wheels began rolling and I felt a surge of excitement.  I was finally headed to the primary destination of my trip: Ten Sleep.  The rolling hills seemed to team up with my car in an attempt to keep me away, but I pressed the accelerator closer to the floor and managed to chug up the hill while tractors passed me.  Alright, I didn’t see any tractors, but my car did feel like it might burst into flames any second.

Excitement peaked as I pulled onto the old dirt road, old Highway 16 that is, and sped around washboard corners.  I found my friend Toby camped among the boulders and set up camp.  We caught up for a bit, but I was eager to get to sleep and speed up the time until I was climbing.

In the morning we headed to World Domination.  The routes were filled with superb crimping and pocket pulling.  I immediately liked the area when I managed to get three quarters of the way up ‘Napoleon’s Highchair’ after just doing one quick warm up.

I had a startling moment on the route when I reached for a two finger pocket and felt a buzzing against the tips of my fingers.  I pulled my hand out before the wasps stung me and quickly down-climbed away from them.  I waited until they calmed down and managed to cautiously climb around their hole.

Despite making it past the wasps on point I ended up falling while resting on a pair of crimps.  Yes, I fell while resting.  I somehow lost my balance and wasn’t able to recover.  I was disappointed, but was not interested in a second attempt even though I knew I could send.  My skin was precious and I wanted to try more routes.

We got on a few more routes and I was psyched to onsight ‘Moltar!’ at the end of the day.  One onsight and another onsight that really should have happened made me pretty happy about the day.  The climbing was my style and the grades weren’t very hard; what a great place to spend some time and boost the confidence!

Hanging out at camp was prime as well.  In addition to Toby, Matt and Ben had made the migration from Lander, my friend Kat, who I met in Thailand, had come down with her friend Christine, I finally managed find my friend Joe, who I met it New Zealand back when I started climbing, after several days of searching, and several new friends, Erika, Steve, Brian, and Asha, were made.

My second day I was really psyched to get on the classic rig ‘Cocaine Rodeo’ and see what I could do.  I was a little surprised and a lot happy when I onsighted the beast.  It’s a stunning route with a three mini-cruxes.  The first one is right after the second bolt on some poor pockets and crimps with awkward feet.  The second is, I thought, the hardest one, involving a long reach on a mediocre pocket or a move off a shallow mono.  The third one I couldn’t even tell you much about besides that it’s pretty close to the anchor, it’s awkward techy moves, and I was really focused on not falling by that point.

After a rest day I convinced Toby and Joe to head over to the Shinto wall so I could try the second of the three routes I was most interested in: ‘Center El Shinto.’  After Toby hung draws I flashed it.  I lost heaps of skin, but I managed to pull through.  Incredible!  Three days in a row I onsighted or flashed 5.12!  Certainly a new point in my climbing life, but it was hard to figure out if it’s because the climbing is my style and I’ve improved this year or if the routes are just soft.  I suspect a combination, but still like to take the credit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had some great times cragging, playing guide book charades, playing monopoly deal, baking cinnamon rolls and mango-chili-brownies, but as always, good things end.  Far too soon, in my opinion, much of the crew headed on to other climbing or returned to their normal lives.

 


 

[Credit to Toby Butterfield for the three photos of me]


International Climbers’ Festival

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

-Andre Gide

 

While in Boulder I heard about the International Climber Festival in Lander so, after my visit in Cheyenne, I headed to Lander to check out the festival.  I missed the first couple days but showed up in time for the trade show on Friday.

I wandered around, collected schwag, and ran into a few people I knew.  First I ran into David, who I briefly met in the Red a few weeks earlier, and his friend Chase.  Excited to know people I could climb with, we made plans to climb the following day.  Later, watching the dyno competition I bumped into Sam Cody, who I had met on the road last year, then saw again in Tonsai.

I climbed with David and Chase at Sinks Saturday.  It was a fairly mellow day of climbing, just getting in some really fun 11’s and one attempt on Purple Galaxy, a great route following up a purple streak in the rock. We were incredibly fortunate to not be broiled by the sun thanks to clouds that hung around most of the day.

The evening festival event was a set of presentations by Kate Rutherford, Kevin Jorgesen, and Royal Robbins.  The presentations were a phantasmagoria, depicting their climbing in Patagonia, Yosemite, Bishop, Wyoming, and much more.  It was a great experience to see climbing legends, find out what they are psyched on, and see a bit of their side of the experiences.

Sunday I went climbing with Sam, another Sam that I met through Sam Cody while making dinner sitting on the sidewalk.  Our plan was just to go crag at Wild Iris, but when we got there we were told the wall we had our eyes on would be packed with people from the festival clinics.  As we headed out to find an area that wouldn’t be crowded, Jonathan Siegrist asked if we wanted to join his clinic since most people hadn’t shown up.  Of course couldn’t say no so we headed off with Jstar in the lead.

Since there only turned out to be six of us, including Jonathan, it turned into an informal day of cragging with a bone crusher.  We chatted, asked advice, and generally ogled over him walking up our projects.  When we had finished climbing, Jonathan headed around the corner and we got to watch him on Genetic Drifter.  It was the first time I had ever watched anyone even try a 5.14 and it was something else: casually cranking long moves off mediocre foot holds, cutting feet with only three fingers on, and some plain old awesome climbing.  I took some pictures too, my favorite of them (below) he put up on his blog.

What I had planned on being only a couple days of Lander quickly turned into nearly two weeks thanks to meeting more people and plentiful climbing partners.  We soon had one campsite with three vans, two cars, and five tents.  I ended up climbing and hanging out with Sam, Sam, Fritz, Matt, Ben, and Jen the rest of my time in Lander.

Stopping long enough to climb the same route more than one day allowed me to finally get stronger and begin having more success for the first time on my trip.  I sent a few good routes, but most notable was Ruby Shooter, my first 12b in the US.  I began working on it the first day at Wild Iris with Jonathan, but it wasn’t until I found my own sequence that I managed to send.  Lesson learned: I can’t use the same beta as 5.14 climbers, probably should have known that already.

At Erratic one afternoon I was taking pictures of Matt on his project, When I Was a Young Girl, I Had Me a Cowboy, and got a couple cool ones of BJ Tilden working on his long term project.  Turns out, he sent that rig this fall and now Moonshine is the hardest route in Wyoming.  Pretty cool to see something like that in progress.

I did several other stunning routes at the Iris, but my favorites were Court n’ Spark, Choke Cherry Eyes, Zorro, and Gaucho.  Court n’ Spark was especially fun because it required a couple really big moves off two finger pockets and rocking up onto a foot above your waist.  Though I had heard mixed reviews of Wild Iris, including that you need to climb hard to go there, I found that I loved the climbing.

(Matt on Young Girl)

(BJ Tilden on one of the big bouldery throws on Moonshine)

 


Fun & Sun in Colorado

Nothing remains as it was.  If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.

-Judith Minty

 

I headed to St. Louis meet up with my friend Conor and hang out for the 4th of July.  We headed into town and watched a spectacular show that finished off with a crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the finale.

It was great to catch up with a good friend, but after a nice long 14 hours in St. Louis and I was back in the car for the long haul to Colorado.  After 16 hours of driving I made it to Boulder, only to sit in a parking lot unable to get a hold of either of my friends I’d been talking to in the days leading up to my arrival.  After my standard dinner in a parking lot routine I got a hold of both Nick and Aaron and even got a futon to crash on at Aarons.

On Friday, Aaron and I managed to squeeze in a quick jaunt up The Young and the Rackless in Boulder canyon before the festivities started for his birthday.  I headed over to hang out with Nick and ended up making myself a computer case out of old wetsuit scraps at Green Guru.  I made it back to Aarons in time for dinner and celebrating before we headed out on the town for a fun night of dancing.

The plan to head out to Rifle in the morning was slow coming to fruition so by the time we left there was little chance to do any climbing.  Instead we stopped in Glenwood springs and hung out in a hot spring on the bank of the Colorado River.

I discovered that of the 7 people in our group, most of them were not experienced climbers and most weren’t quite as psyched as me to spend every possible minute on the rock.  Luckily Justin was pretty stoked too so in the morning we headed out to start climbing by the time everyone else was eating breakfast.

It was an interesting day of climbing considering we were in Rifle and had several people who hadn’t done much leading or outdoor climbing.  It’s not exactly the most beginner friendly climbing area, especially with the on and off rain we got all day.  In the end there was a good deal of rope-gunning 10s, but everyone had a good time.

I spent the next couple days hanging out with Nick and Aaron, helping replace spark plugs, and doing some climbing with Aaron and his friend Joyce in Boulder canyon.  Being the true gentlemen we are, Aaron and I decided to hang draws on a 5.8+ then make Joyce lead it for her first lead climb.  She went for it, didn’t flinch at the run-outs, even committed to the last move, took whips like a champ, and powered through until she got the move and clipped the chains.  The learning curve can be steep when training wheels aren’t allowed, but she handled it like a boss.

I spent a day at the Denver Zoo catching up with my friend Arthur who I met back in Moab when we guided on the Colorado.  He has spent the last couple years riding in ambulances around Denver saving lives and, after a trip to Nicaragua with Project C.U.R.E., was planning on heading to the east coast to join Virgnia Task Force 1, a prestigious  domestic and international relief task force.  Basically he’s the guy who makes you feel bad for doing what you enjoy rather than saving the world because he likes to do both…and is good at it all.  Baller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon it was time to continue on my way and leave Boulder behind.  I headed up to Cheyenne to hang out with a couple friends, Corey and Justine.  Corey and I spent one day sport climbing at some obscure back crag of Vedauwoo, beer was brewed, homebrew was consumed, and free range disk golf was played.  It was so much fun catching up with so many great friends, but it was time to move on and get more climbing in my life.


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!


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

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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.

 


Goodbye Thai

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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!


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.