"Not all those who wander are lost"

Road Trip

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.


10 Days of Not Climbing

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

-Lauren Myracle

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dirtbag Dining

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There is no love sincerer than the love of food.

-George Bernard Shaw

 

Food.  We all love it.  Well, I suppose not everyone loves food, but I sure do and that’s what counts. This is the first in a new category of posts I plan doing.  Instead of blabbing about the tasty food I make or find in regular posts I’ve decided to make them separate.  And now, may I present: Dirtbag Dining!

 

Many of you would be surprised to know that the sprawling metropolis of Ten Sleep, Wyoming (population 260, but this might include cows) has very little vegan or even vegetarian food.  The local cuisine tends to favour carnivores over even the omnivores.  Basically if it doesn’t come from a cow, then you can’t get it.  Needless to say, I didn’t go out to eat much.

Instead I did my stuck to my usual dirtbag diet of rice and veggies, pasta, and burritos.  As with everything, this got old.  Soon I found myself experimenting to make the same old rice and pasta more interesting.  I made various curries and stir fries, which are absurdly easy even while camping.  The one that I found the easiest and best though was a simple stir fry with a peanut sauce.

It’s about as easy as you can get.  Step one, cook rice.  Step too, stir fry any veggies you want.  Step 3, mix peanut butter (sans sugar is much better for this), soy sauce, and siracha sauce with a little water to make the desired consistency.  You can also add any spices you want to the sauce, try experimenting.  Simple and delicious.

My real revelation was baking in my cast iron pan.  I’ve always liked baking, but it’s hard to do when all you have is a two burner Colman stove, or so I thought.  In reality, it’s just a bit different.  You can’t expect the perfect even cooking you get from a stove, but it can sure make some great food.

I started by making cornbread using a recipe I got from my mom.  It’s not a vegan recipe but I just ignored the eggs and used rice milk to make it vegan.  Cooking it was the real challenge.  In order to keep it hot without burning the bottom I put the burner on as low as it could go, occasionally moved the pan around to cook the sides more, and turned the burner off here and there.  In order to keep heat in I used various lids I could borrow from friends or my plate if no lids were available.  The real problem here was that all the moisture that would normally bake off in an oven was held in.  I would take the lid off periodically and shake water drops off it, but the top of the corn bread still ended up very moist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end the cornbread was slightly crispy on the bottom and very soft and moist on the top.  The middle was cooked nicely.  Personally, I thought it tasted great and might even prefer it cooked like this.  Success!

Thus began a baking rampage highlighted by cinnamon rolls, hot fudge sundae cake, and more cornbread.  It was all quite tasty.  Hope some people out there experiment with baking in cast iron and if you do drop me a line and let me know how it went.


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.