"Not all those who wander are lost"

Trip Report

Reflections and Projections

If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.

-Master Shifu

 

New Year, New Beginnings, right?  HA!

Maybe it’s just me, but in this closing quarter of my 28th year I can’t see anything that’s really beginning except maybe beginning of the end (I promise, this won’t be all pessimistic but feel free to skip to the end if you want).  Yes, that’s an obvious reference to the lying ball of hateful toxic Cheetos waste, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

There’s been a lot of talk about how terrible 2016 was.  I agree, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but for me, I would say it was a pretty damn good year.  Obviously there was a lot of chaos in the world, but it was also our final year with the best president we’ve had in the first 32 years of my life.  We saw people standing up for their rights and the rights of others.  We saw that despite the power of oppression there is hope when we stand together.

Credit: Mathias Deming

On my route “Pursuit of Happiness” 13a (or maybe b) Credit: Mathias Deming

Thinking about resolutions and change, I just don’t see any major ones coming for me.  I’m no closer to getting a “real” job, by any interpretation of the word, than I was when I graduated 2059 days ago, but I also still plan to enjoy my life instead of spending it doing something that makes me unhappy.  I’m not happy that my yearly salary right now is barely $5000, but if it’s enough to keep climbing, that’s the important part to me.  If I can manage to get an engineering job that I like, that would be amazing, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I feel like I’ve come to know myself better over the last year and maybe that’s why I’m not set on new beginnings or concerned about not starting over new.  I don’t think I’ll begin to actually keep this blog updated (sorry), I don’t think I’ll begin a new job, I don’t think I’ll begin to learn how to design websites (though I would love to learn and still want to fix this one, even if it’s not world class, but I’m not going to wait to write until I get it done as I have in the past), I don’t think I’ll finally learn to play the guitar, I don’t know if I’ll stay in one place for any longer than I usually do.  On the other hand, I might be ready to let go of a lot of stress about wanting to be better at all those things and struggling with the stress of not doing them.

It’s not all bad that there is no influx of beginnings.  The natural, and obvious, continuation will be climbing.  Despite being in a funk right now (taking submissions for recommended projects and applications for consistent climbing partners, these will help tremendously), I know that I will continue climbing. Climbing has become the driving force in my life that drives me and I understand the most.  It’s why I want to have some money and it’s why I don’t want much.  It’s even why I want to learn to build websites and speak Spanish.  It’s why I wake up, it’s why I go to sleep, it’s why I take care of myself, and it’s why I want to improve.  Some have work, kids, or a partner, I have climbing.

This year I’m looking forward to climbing more, training more, climbing harder, bolting more, bouldering more, and hopefully staying healthy.  I’m also excited to continue to take photos, continue to learn Spanish, continue to travel, and most of all continue to see old friends and make new ones.

Anyway, enough BS about next year.  It hasn’t happened yet, so that’s future Dylan’s problem.  Let’s talk about what has happened this year.  2016 was a whirlwind year.  I’ve managed to meet several goals that I’ve had for years, and on top of it all moved to Spain!

I needed something to do while procrastinating recently so I did some stats for 2016.  I’m not trying to spray, just like nerdy stats so skip if you want…

 

 

I climbed 206 days on rock (plus a bunch in the gym in the last few months)

At 23 different crags

In 5 countries (and 5 states in the US)

I sent 108 new (not counting ones I’ve sent before) routes 12a or harder.

I sent 22 13’s at 11 crags in 4 countries

I bolted 9 routes

I did 5 FA’s

I was part of the FFA of El Son del Viento (12d…very stout 12d crux), which was the first ever FFA of El Diente.

And some more details of my sends…

12a’s = 36 (17 onsight, 13 flash, 6 in two or three tries)

12b’s = 19 (8 onsight, 6 flash, 5 in two or three tries)

12c’s = 17 (2 onsight, 2 flash, 2-3 in two or three tries)

12d’s = 13 (1 onsight, 10 in two or three tries, 2 in four to ten tries)

13a’s = 14 (3 onsight, 1 flash, 5 in two or three tries, 4 in four to ten tries, 1 in over 10 tries)

13b’s = 6 (1 in two or three tries, 2 in four to ten tries, 3 in over 10 tries)

13c’s = 2 (1 in two or three tries, 1 in over 10 tries)

The analysis…

First of all, I was super happy this year to finally meet two of my goals that I have not been able to make before.  I’ve been trying to do 20 13’s in a year ever since 2013, and this year I not only did it, but had time to spare and started working on harder routes.  I think a large part of that is a result of hitting my other goal; climbing over half the year.  I actually hit both goals within a couple days of each other back in Early November.  I’ve been plagued by injuries and breakdowns (my car not me thankfully) getting in the way of both of those goals for three years in a row, but finally managed them both and I don’t think that’s a coincidence that they happened together.

A couple huge highlights of this year were 8a’s and FA’s.  Specifically two 8a (13b) dream routes: Couleur de Vent in Céüse and Predator in Rumney.  Couleur de Vent is a beautiful streak of cobalt blue framed in gold; powerful, sustained, and technical, the route is not only one of the most beautiful routes I’ve seen, but also has some of the best movement.  I fell in love with this climb on my trip to Céüse last year and this spring had to head back with the primary goal of climbing this gem.  Predator is just as amazing, but also completely the opposite.  Predator is a striking prow that juts out over the Orange Crush wall like the tooth of some ancient beast, angular and aggressive.  The climbing is similar.  Steep, burly moves up the sharp arête until you’re hucking for the lip yelling in triumph or despair.  Once I returned to the states, this monster was my next goal and the second of my all time dream routes I managed this year.

 

As for new-routes, I got a few good ones bolted and a few sent too.  Unfortunately access is an issue for many, so I don’t see anyone repeating most of those any time soon and most of the unsent ones I won’t be able to go back to either.  I guess it’s a lesson on the ephemeral nature of the things we cling to.

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Climbing my route “A World of Evil” 13a

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Doing the FA of my route “Nunca Suficiente” 11d before I had even finished adding all the bolts. Credit: Mark Grundon

The other real standout was doing the FFA of an entire feature with Zak Roper.  It was absolutely unexpected and amazing.  I was slack jawed when I heard that Gaz, Tiny, and Ocho had done the route, but hadn’t managed the free the crux pitch.  For days I stayed back, not wanting to step on toes despite hearing from multiple sources that they were happy with the FA and were headed in different directions.  It wasn’t until after another pair of friends tried the route, but again didn’t free the crux pitch, that I finally felt like it was legit to try.  This story could easily be a post of its own, but I’ll just say it was a mega adventure: freezing cold, tiny crimps, forgotten headlamps, unable to link pitches, insufficient food and water, stuck ropes, and really stout grades that all resulted in a mega 12 hours of climbing and 3 more of rappels.  It was an amazing experience, and I was so happy to have Roper with me to crush.

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El Diente

It was, without a doubt, one of my best years of climbing; filled with travel, great new people, and crazy adventures.  I’m grateful that friends didn’t get turned back at customs, that nether I or my friends ended up in a Mexican prison, that the Odyssey held on for the whole journey despite all the bumps in the road and lack of brakes, and that for the most part I avoided injury (only a dislocated fibula, but that’s no big deal, right? Only kept me off climbing for a 3 extra days).

I want to thank everyone who shared a day climbing, a belay, a rope, let me climb on their draws, crash on their couch (or let me live in their spare room for a bit) or even shared a story that motivated me.  This year and this life wouldn’t be the same without all of you, thank you!  Here’s to 2017 being even better for us all!


It was the best of Rock, it was the worst of times

Cherish sunsets, wild creatures and wild places. Have a love affair with all the beauty of the earth.

-Stewart Udall

 

I imagine nobody, with the possible the exception of my mom, realizes that it’s been a while since I posted; 8 or 9 months by my count.  I’ve been lazy about writing before, but never experienced this.  Some part of me still wanted to pretend that the world outside my little bubble of travel didn’t turn.  The thought of how or what to write was difficult enough let alone actually accepting reality.  My skill in procrastination brought me to great questions like “do I write a separate post or combine all of the events, as disconnected as they are, into one big one?”  I still haven’t figured that out, but upon my return to the US I attempted to accept reality and hoped to find an answer by the time I finish this rambling story. Of course, it was months since I got back, and the words still eluded me.  With constant convenient excuses I have put off any writing, but this is my final desperate attempt to jumble some words together. With the said, I’ll continue into what I had started to write about my time in France.

I walked toward the tiny climbing gym in Millau uncertain if it would be open or if my friend, Layla would still be there two hours after she said she planned on going.  I was lucky on both counts and found her sitting on the mats as soon as I walked in.  I was relieved that after an entire day hitchhiking from Spain things worked out in the end.  For the next few days I climbed in Gorge du Tarn, met a bunch of new people, and had the best nights of sleep I could remember.  Seriously, it’s amazing how good it feels to sleep on a real bed in a dark room without sun baking your tent, bells waking you up, or the bed sagging to the floor.  I felt like I barely got a taste for the climbing in the two days in Tarn, but the rock was really fun with smoothed pockets and edges.  We had a day attempting to climb in Boffi, another local crag, but got rained on and weren’t able to do much.  After a couple days hanging out for the weekend, I headed to the promised land: Ceuse.

Ceuse is amazing.  There’s no other way to put it.  You can spot the cliff line from anywhere around.  The blue, grey, black, white, and gold streaks give it a unique and amazing look that screams to be climbed.  I indulged.

When I arrived at Les Guerins Camping there was only one other person staying there.  It worked nicely that he was a cool Aussi since neither of us spoke much French.  Duncan only arrived a couple days before me so we started climbing and exploring Ceuse, neither knowing much about any of it besides that we wanted to climb it all.  That’s actually a rather poor description, it was much more like we tried a few routes, then I fell in love with Berlin wall and got Duncan hooked on a project too.

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The first two routes I tried on Berlin were Queue de Rat and Makesh Walou.  When I got on each of them it felt like they hadn’t been climbed yet this season.  That is a possibility, or it could just be that the 40mm of rain a few days before had replaced every bit of chalk with dirt on the holds.  Either way, every sloped crimp and pocket was not only the perfectly smooth Ceuse rock, but coated in a friction destroying dust.  A couple attempts and some serious brushing later, both routes had a bit of chalk, I found a nice sequence on Makesh Walou (the route I liked more), and the moves seemed possible.  Despite not having any fitness on steeper rock and wanting to sample the bounty of Ceuse classics, I had managed to find a project on day 2.

Pretty soon things were going nicely and I had a nice routine.  Relax in the morning while the rock was in the sun, have lunch, hike up, climb until I was spent or dark (usually I was trashed well before dark), eat, sleep, repeat.  Hitch into Gap for internet and groceries every other rest day.  The downside to the routine is that the hour hike up never got easier.  I thought it might feel better as time went on, especially since I left every possible thing I could at the crag; even to the point of leaving a water bottle to collect under a drip so I didn’t have to hike up with as much.  It didn’t get easier and when the weather warmed up, it just felt even longer.

After a couple weeks of nearly nobody else around, people started appearing all over the place.  It was awesome to meet up with friends I met in Turkey, the Red, and make some new ones.  Soon we had a fun crew to hang out and climb.

Makesh was amazing climbing: varied enough to never be boring including a variety of difficult moves, a couple powerful moves, a bit of a crux, and potential for nice long whips of you blow some moves (naturally I blew the move several times making for some fun rides). When I realized how much endurance was needed compared to how much I had I spent a few days trying to sprint the climb.  I climbed as quickly as I could, not even bothering to shake at the rests because they didn’t seem to help.  Unfortunately after doing this and falling at the redpoint crux, I knew I needed to use them.  I went through the full cycle of getting close, then farther, getting frustrated, and was elated when I finished off the cycle with a send.

I didn’t have much time after that so I finally turned my attention back to trying to onsight and flash routes, which I did to a couple, but tried just as many that I didn’t send.  To be fair though, The climbing at Ceuse so fun, that I rarely cared that I didn’t send something, usually just being psyched to have been up the route.  A couple favorites were Petite Illusion and Angel Dust.  Both super classics.  Another favorite was the less traveled Casse Noisette, on which I blew my flash going to the clipping hold at the anchor.  The entire climb is fairly desperate feeling slab involving mantling crimps, nonexistent holds, and one leg squats.  My near miss at the top sent me flying for a long whip on the upper slab and I bashed my knees into the wall. I still loved the route.

All of a sudden that was it and May was coming to a close.  I had spent nearly a month in Ceuse and felt like I needed another 6 before I could leave.  There are very few places I’ve ever been that really feel like they fit and become home as well as Ceuse did.  The only other place I could really say that about is Ten Sleep.  The combination of amazing climbing, beautiful views, great people, and complete simplicity made it a truly magical place.

I climbed until nearly dark my last day, then ran up the via-feratta to watch sunset from on top of Ceuse.  I made it to the top just in time to watch the giant red sun sink behind hazy grey-blue spiked mountains while a couple clouds played nearby.  I sat soaking in the last rays of light and thought about how lucky I am to live whatever life I choose.

The next morning I finished packing up my backpack and began to hitch.  My goal was to make it all the way to Sheffield, UK.  No idea how I would do that, but I figured it was worth a try.  The first day was frustrating with lots of rides a couple miles down the road until I was picked up by a kid going up toward Grenoble.  That was the most terrifying ride of my life.  We flew down the road and breakneck speeds, tires squealing around every corner, and came inches from hitting the side of a tunnel under a railroad track.  After that I made sure to tell him that my statement saying the initial driving wasn’t bothering me wasn’t meant as a challenge.  Thankfully he didn’t nearly kill us again.  When he dropped me by the side of the road I was actually a ways past the turn I needed to make so I had to get another two rides just to get back to the highway I needed.  I made it a bit farther, but got stuck at a gas station outside of Lyon.  I spent hours trying to hitch from there without any luck then tried scouring blablacar to find a ride share that might work.  There were several potentials so I stayed up until 1am trying to coordinate a ride and ultimately failing.  Defeated and frustrated I hauled my bags to the darkest spot I could find around the rest stop and went to sleep for a few hours.

Despite being at an absolutely unremarkable rest stop, I don’t think I’ll forget waking up at 4am to check blablacar, sitting on the curved metal stool at the bone white counter, or staring blankly out the window into the still dark morning, trying to convince myself that what I had just read was a joke or somehow wasn’t real; that Tyler Gordon wasn’t really gone. I feel self conscious for taking it as hard as I did.  I wasn’t by any means one of Tyler’s long time friends and certainly not family, I feel like I should be sad but shrug it off as another tragic climbing accident.  I haven’t been able to do that. It was a long time before I could even think about it without the world getting a bit blurry. While I know that I might not have been any significant part of his life, only having known each other for three months in Turkey, that actually put him high on my list of time spent with friends.  Three months was more time than I had spent with all of my immediate family put together in the last year. That is to say, by my standards, I spent a lot of time with Tyler, so whether I affected his life at all, I know he had already influenced mine.

On that particular day, combine with my poor luck hitching and general lack of sleep, it hit me hard.  I spent the day failing to get rides, fighting the inevitable existential crisis, and at one point walking into a corn field and yelling at the top of my lungs in frustration.  It’s common to try to find meaning in death, especially when it hits so close to home (at this point you should just go read what Phil wrote, it was well written, much better than anything here, and something I definitely agree with).  I did just that.  No matter how I reasoned and raged, I couldn’t find any; for what reason is there for someone so young, so loved, and so full of life to have his snuffed out so early? There isn’t one. If the world worked on reason and fairness kids wouldn’t be starving on the streets, there wouldn’t be war, and Tyler Gordon would still be alive. Obviously that’s not how things work; kids starve, wars are abundant, and Tyler is gone.

I had a terrible day that seemed to drag on in a haze of walking with my heavy packs and sitting beside roads.  Eventually I got a ride on blabla car to northern France, but didn’t make it in time for the last train to Calais for the ferry.  I hung out in the train station while it rained, tried to find rides, walked to the edge of town, tried hitch for a couple hours, then returned to find even the train station closed.  Eventually I just slept beside a planter box in front of the train station and hoped that it wouldn’t rain anymore.  The next day I was sick of hitching and navigated the train to the ferry.  After spending the entire ferry ride wandering around with a sign for London/Sheffield, I got a ride as we were debarking; straight to Sheffield.  One thing finally worked out.

 

So many people fade into the background of life, but Tyler stood out vividly; whether it was his mountain-man beard, impish grin, dance moves, insatiable psyche, or constant comedy. It’s not enough to say that he died doing what he loved because a force like Tyler can only be understood through experience. He brightened rooms and lives. Without him the world is a little bit darker. Tyler seemed to be more alive than most people and it’s my hope that he felt it too. He’s on the endless climb now and some day we will both reach the bivy and share cinnamon bun recipes that we never got to.

(More photos here)

Tyler, you will always be missed.

 


The Cornudella Vortex

You pick a goal, you work towards it, makes you feel better, just keep moving, that’s my motto.

-Edward, Hector & the Search for Happiness

 

Trapped between the oppressive sun and scorching pavement, I shuffled along the side of the E-90 highway while cars blazed passed ignoring my outstretched arm and raised thumb.  My luck had not been good.

I started my journey on the side of the road in Cornudella later than I had hoped, but still with what I thought was plenty of time to hitch the 2.5 hours of driving to Rodellar.  My first ride took a while to get and only dropped me off in Prades, 15km away.  The Spanish man had insisted it would be much easier to get rides from there, but as each hour ticked away one after another, I grew more skeptical.  The bells in the local church rang out 5pm and I began considering a retreat to Cornudella for another night and setting out again in the morning.  Before I had decided to bail a guy finally stopped and waved me in.

He was actually a climber too and we chatted in Spanglish about climbing in the US and Spain.  Unfortunately he said he was not going to Lleida, the large town on the way to Rodellar, but could drop me on the highway leading to it, where I should be able to get a ride.  I got out on the side of the road, swinging my heavy pack onto my back and looked around.  It was a tiny highway exit with nothing around but the small road toward smaller towns that I had just come from.  He suggested I walk 10 minutes up the road to a town so I headed down the road as he pulled away.

No more possibility to bail and make it back to Cornudella de Montsant, only onward to Rodellar or sleeping on the side of some highway on the way there.

I trudged down the highway, hoping that a car would stop for me.  The supposed town never came in 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even 90.  My grueling march continued as cars zipped by, broken up by occasional stops to prop my pack on the guard rail and relieve the hip strap digging into my skin.  After almost two hours a little black VW Golf pulled over 100 feet down the road from me.  A young guy with dreads down his back jumped out of the car waving and yelling, cheering me to run.  I broke into a waddling run, as much as I could manage with two heavy packs sandwiching me.  We loaded my stuff into the trunk and took off down the road.

The three guys spoke mostly Catalan with a bit of Spanish that I could barely understand over the blasting Spanish music.  We tried to communicate as the car careened down the road at 180 km/hr.  A beer and a joint were passed between the two passengers while I wondered how messed up the driver might be and what I might have gotten myself into.  Thankfully everything turned out alright and they dropped me on the far side of Lleida so it would be easier to get a ride.

This time it wasn’t long before two ladies picked me up who actually were headed to near Rodellar.  One actually worked at Kalandraka, but wasn’t going up there until the following day.  They were really nice and even stopped when one saw her daughter to see if the daughter might be going to Rodellar.  Alas, she was not.  The ladies dropped me right at the beginning of the road to Rodellar at 8:30.

I sat on the side of the road wondering if I would get a ride before it got dark.  I was weighing my options for which nearby field I might sleep in when I car drove past.  The driver gave me the all too common shrug and gesture to a passengers as his way of saying “sorry bud, you’re screwed tonight.”  I sat back down and continued cracking hazel nuts that sufficed as my dinner.  A minute later the same car drove back by, pulled a U-turn in the intersection and pulled over.  I threw my bags in the back and joined the other two passengers in the back seat.  They felt bad leaving me since it was almost dark and decided there was room after all.  Neco, as I found out his name was, had come with full accompaniment of girlfriend and parents for the weekend of climbing.  We talked about Rodellar, and climbing as we wound our way down the tiny road.

Finally I was there.  Where there was, I didn’t really know, but I had made it to Rodellar.  Being me, I hadn’t really thought much about where to stay.  I considered a cave bivy, but after hauling my heavy backpacks around all day, I was not interested in moving them around the next day or worrying about stuff getting stolen.  I headed to Kalandraka, the refugie, to get a good night of sleep and maybe figure out free camping the next day.  Before I had even finished checking in I somehow, really I’m not sure how since I only saw the back of his head, spotted my friend Jon who lives in Zaragosa.  We chatted and made plans to climb the next day.  I schlepped my stuff one more time down some steps, into my new shared room, and collapsed to sleep.

I realize this is a 900 word way of saying “I hitched to Rodellar,” but it gives you a bit more of an idea how I was feeling, how long the day felt, and the relief when I arrived.

After a friend had recently told me that Rodellar was empty I was happy to see plenty of people in the parking lot and a good handful around Kalandraka.  Even with it being a weekend, some of those people had to be sticking around, right?
I climbed with Jon and a couple of his friends my first day.  The crag we went to wasn’t the most popular, but had some amazing long vertical routes with fun moves and of course some tufas.  I spent the day trying to onsight and get used to pinching tufas again.  Throughout the day a few more people showed up at the crag, all of whom Jon knew so by the end of the day I had met several people who would be around the next couple days.

I made plans to climb with a few of Neco’s friends, but in the morning when I showed up 10 minutes late they had already left.  I was stunned that anyone in Spain had actually been on time and left that quickly.  Luckily the great ladies I had met through Jon had also invited me to climb with them so I headed off toward El Delfin and spent a fun day climbing with them.

As I rested on Monday I watched nearly every person in Rodellar leave.  By late morning it was down to one other guy and I left in the refugie; apparently my friend was right about Rodellar being really slow still.  Mark, as I discovered his name was, turned out to be from England.  For the next few days we hung out and climbed together.  We checked out some of the amazing crags in Rodellar, drank beer, and played pool.  Essentially we did everything available to amuse ourselves.  I spent a solid day falling off at the anchor of climbs, even when it wasn’t hard anymore, and we darted from one overhang to another as it began to rain.

After a couple more days of climbing the weather wasn’t looking good: it called for 50mm of rain over the next couple days then cloudy and damp weather for a week.  Mark decided to head to Margalef and not wanting to be stuck at a wet crag with no partners I decided to join even though I had barely got a taste of Rodellar.

I was sad to leave Rodellar already.  It was a very different feel from my time in Siurana and Cornudella, but not unlike my first two days where the campground was desolate.  Similarly, I hoped that if I gave it a little time I would find people and things would fall in like as they had in Siurana.  In many ways Rodellar is the exact opposite as Siurana.  Siurana offers vast sweeping views of the landscape, while Rodellar is tucked down into the canyon and everything feels much closer together.  Of course, the climbing style goes from vertical crimping in Siurana to notoriously steep tufas in Rodellar.  I found Rodellar to be much more polished as well where only a couple routes in Siurana felt polished and most leaned toward sharp texture.

Nonetheless I left, hoping to get a chance to come back with better weather.  Mark and I spent a couple days in Margalef and for the first time I found myself enjoying the climbing there; in particular the climbing at Finestra.  One route, Montgronyeta, really felt like the gateway for me.  It had fun moves, great tufa holds, and for the first time in Margalef, nothing that hurt.

Mark got a message from a friend saying that he was in Cornudella, so we packed up tents and headed over there.  Like magic, I found the Cornudella vortex had pulled me back in and I was not terribly unhappy about it.  We set up shop at the free camping and soon I met a new crew of climbers.

For the next week I hung out with new friends, tried to figure out life, and struggled to get motivated to climb in uncomfortably hot conditions.  Again, I struggled to leave, not knowing if I should head to Rodellar, Gorge du Tarn, or Ceuse or knowing how to get to any of them.  I planned my exit according to the weather and went for one last morning of climbing at El Pati.  I packed my stuff and was ready to head to town when I noticed the wall of rain over Cornudella and moving closer.  I spent the day hiding under an overhang as it poured with most of the folks from camp and by the time I made it to town it was far too late to try to leave.  Again, I found myself staying longer in Cornudella, but this time it really was the last.


Turkey, Part III: Going out with a Fizzle

It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.

-Vince Lombardi

 

Life continued without climbing.  At times it felt like it might not, but it indeed did.

At first I spent my time hiking around and exploring new cliffs around Geyik that could be bolted.  I assure you, there are several, but the best and closest have been developed.  None the less, it was a good activity and gave me something to do for entire days at a time.  I also tried to turn my attention to taking photos, but, without being able to ascend a rope for photo sessions, that was pretty difficult as well.  I attempted to be productive; doing my taxes early, updating the blog, applying for jobs in Spain, but ultimately I found it extremely difficult to find the motivation let alone the focus to write or really be productive in any way.  And then the rain started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure if the rain helped or hurt my situation.  It made it easier for me to not climb since it was wet, cold, and not fun to climb, but it also made doing other fun things more difficult as well.  The rain often helped me have people to hang out with on the dreary days.  I started playing backgammon and chess whenever I had someone to play with and when I didn’t, I would read or watch hours of movies.

In lieu of endorphins from exercise, I resorted to sweets.  I noticed when I looked down at my grocery cart while waiting to check out: baklava, halva, Sarelle dark chocolate hazel nut spread, and several dark chocolate bars.

Unable to climb, unable to take photos, and unable to really do anything outside, I was left with plenty of time to think.  Why do I climb?  Well, that one was easy.  Climbing is the best physical and mental battle, it provides fun community, and it’s a good reason to travel the world.  Can I not climb?  Also easy.  No.  At least, not without replacing it with something that gives me more long term satisfaction than baklava.  The more difficult questions nagged at me though and often lead me to the same question I started with.  I’ve traveled a bunch by myself; it would be nice to have a home base and the same people around for more than 3 months.  Great, where should I live?  I don’t like any of the places I’ve been enough to want to live there.  Maybe I should travel some more and find a place I like.

This battle between footloose and homesick always comes up when I get injured or break down, but it seems to be coming up more these days even without a catastrophe.  The desire to have a home, constant friends, even a girlfriend makes me want to stay, but as soon as I stay a few months I get an itch so deep being that I need to move keep going. Even without my need to move on, trying to find a place to live that’s not huge, but has a good community and has good year round climbing nearby is next to impossible.

I never know if it’s just me that struggles like this, or if it’s common among people who travel alone.  Honestly, it’s hard to find enough people who have followed this path to even ask.  I can only think of two off the top of my head and it’s not usually the first question that comes up in conversation.

My mind continued reel, I questioned my life, and tried to focus on rehab for my elbow. After a month of physical therapy exercises, icing, ibuprofen, hoping it would get better, and existential crisis, I began to climb a little again.  Unfortunately my elbow still hurt if I tried anything steep or difficult.  I keep climbing a few easy routes here and there, but still only climbing intermittently between rain storms.

The Turkish Highline Carnival came like a swarm of noisy, smelly, colorful, jubilant locusts.  Highlines sprang up all around Geyik, the number of people at camp jumped from 30 to 300 in two days, and impromptu jam sessions popped up every day.  Aside from the crowding in the kitchen and lack of seating to hang out in the warmth of Josito, things continued fairly unchanged for me since I still couldn’t climb much and my one attempt on a highline made it clear that pulling back onto the line after a fall wasn’t good for my elbow.

February was coming to a close.  My feelings were mixed as usual.  Geyikbayiri is great and I felt like I barely got to climb, but every day that passed was another day closer to Spain and hopefully being able to climb again.  I started pushing my elbow a little more climbing.  In many ways, my experience on Turkey was one of the worst I’ve ever had.  Being in an amazing climbing place, but unable to climb for whatever reason is pure torture.  The injury itself turned out to be the worst I’ve ever had.  The rain made it hard to even get a decent amount of exercise.  But much of that seems secondary to the fun that I still had there.  I did manage to climb for a month before getting injured.  I met a bunch people and had a lot of fun hanging out in Josito, exploring Turkey, eating Gözleme at the market, playing backgammon, playing cards, and just getting to know all the awesome people.  I guess I’ll just be really cliché and quote Vince Lombardi again: “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”  For me, I was ready to get up and Spain would be awesome, whatever it takes.  And besides all that, no matter what happened, I had Jeffrey to hang out with.

And then without realizing that the hours and days had added up already, I found myself riding shotgun with Nigel on our way north.  We stopped in Kütahya for the night where, thanks to his families company, we got the hookup to stay at a hotel with natural hotspring pools.  After 3 months with more cold and rain than sun it was amazing to soak in the warm baths.

The next day we continued on toward Istanbul.  The couple hours it was supposed to take turned into an all day affair when a fuel like broke.  We tried several things to fix it, but eventually had to have it towed to a shop so they could install a new fuel line.  By the time I made it to my destination in Istanbul it was 9pm.

The next day was a whirlwind of Istanbul.  I took a bosphorus boat tour, checked out Ayasofya and Sultan Ahmed Mosque, got rained on, visited the Grand Bazaar, Gülhane Parkı, Galata Tower, walked down Istiklal street, and met up with some friends for dinner and Salep.  We finally made it back to my friends and I managed to get almost three hours of sleep before heading to the airport.  I was exhausted, but excited for Spain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a few more photos of rocks for you…


 


Turkey, Part II: The Spray

We no longer have moons to reach, or summits to conquer. Every thing on this planet has been documented and mapped by Google and monetized by the Facebooks of the world. Yet we humans still have the capacity to dream up the most insane and pointless challenges in order to find new, fulfilling ways to push our minds and bodies to our own limits.

-Andrew Bisharat

 

After the rough start, things in Geyik started working out much better.  I quickly met tons of fun people to hang out and climb with.  I learned my way around the area and climbed a bunch.  After hurting my elbow in the US, I took it easy to start and just sampled a lot of different routes.  The climbing has a great variety from vertical to steep, but most routes feature a distinct crux and routes often have a good rest.  It was immediately clear to me that my pinch strength was suffering.  No surprise there since there are nearly no tufas in the US.  I resolved to work on it since tufas are one of the foundations of climbing in Geyik.

Even with starting off slowly, things went well.  I onsighted some fun routes like Pink Power and Türkiye’ye as well as beginning a mini-project after a couple weeks.  I began working on Selim Aleykum in part because it was the first harder thing I got on, but I also had a great time on the route and loved the moves.  It’s very representative of Geyik climbing: easy climbing to some thin moves, big rest, then a hard section on tufas.  The part that really drew me in was that the crux section has many options and you must find the way that works best for you.  Also, I found several knee bars which gave me the excuse to wear both of my new knee pads for the first time.  Once I figured out the hard section I fell at the top, unable to pull a powerful move that had seemed do-able when I was working it out.  I adjusted my sequence and found a new kneebar to help with the move and voila; my first hard route in 4 months only took 4 tries.

Living in Josito was fun and easy.  After the rain on the first day, I moved my tent, built a platform, and found a tarp to go over.  Plenty of solo climbers had come for a few weeks or months so finding partners was never an issue.  In the evenings I would usually cook with one or many friends.  Some evenings we would end up with 10 people cooking together in pairs and have a veritable feast; usually followed by a crepe session for desert.  On Sundays I would hitch a ride down to the market in Akdamlar, the next town, to get veggies and eat the delicious Gözleme (thin bread baked and folded with spinach and onion inside).  Days not spent climbing were often spent rigging and taking photos of friends or trying to catch up on things I should have already finished, but many were also whiled away sitting in the sun or hanging out in Josito.

One of the best, and most heartbreaking, parts of Josito was the puppies.  Just about anyone who spent time at Josito would have noticed one of the five puppies that that visited, and essentially lived around the campground for a period.  The first puppy showed up not long after I arrived.  She was a little black ball of fur, about 3 months old, with a stomach distended from starvation.  I immediately looked up info online, tried to contact vets, and began taking care of her.  She was chipper and playful so I hoped that she wasn’t in pain, but before I could do more than feed her she was taken to the shelter.

Then just before Christmas a local dog showed up with three ~6 week old puppies.  They were adorable; rolling around and chewing on each other for excited 10 minute bursts before returning to napping in the sun.  In the evenings they would follow their mother and disappear off into the woods; except on the cold Christmas Eve when the temps dipped well below freezing.  On that night the little black and brown runt of the litter was still hanging out at night when all the others were gone.  I ended up spending Christmas Eve cuddling with a cute girl and she got cozy place in my tent for the night.  They hung out around camp a little longer until again, one day they too disappeared.

The third installment of puppy came less than a week after the three puppies disappeared.  Once again, the same mother was back with another puppy from the same litter.  Jeffrey, as he was dubbed by Tyler, became a bit of a camp dog and spent most of his days sleeping on the porch swing or chasing after the older dogs trying to get them to play.  I found an old towel to use as a blanket for him, but on cold nights I would leave him my down jacket to sleep in.  Of course, when it was too cold, he would get a spot in my tent.

One thing I was not expecting at a climbing camp, were the dance parties.  The location changed between different camps, but I was surprised to see that every week or two a party would be announced and a few hours later people would converge and start dancing.  New Years was especially fun.  The campgrounds were packed with holiday guests along with the full time dirtbags.  At 9, the tables were cleared away and three of us started dancing.  By 11 the sea of gyrating bodies filled the restaurant, stretched out the door and spilled off the porch.  There were friendly mosh pits, dance-offs, and dancing that continued until 5am.


By New Years I had begun project shopping since I still had over two months of climbing and found many routes that I worked out the moves on and had plans to get back on.  Some routes, like Ozlem, Horney Horse, Trio de Ligoville and Daddy Cool, felt like I could get close to sending after just a couple tries.  Other routes, Parallel Universe in particular, were amazing, but felt nearly impossible.  One route, Fun in the Sun, I managed to get on my fourth try.  It fit the usual formula: easy to a thin cux, rest, then pumpy/powerful crux on tufas.  But no description really does justice to how much fun the whole climb was.  I thought about not trying it until after New Years so I could start the year off with a send, but it was too good to not try so I finished it off on my last day of climbing in 2014.

January started a little rough: I got a bit sick.  After a couple rest days I was back in action and ready to send some of the many routes I had tried.  I narrowed my immediate focus to two routes that I liked and felt like I could do quickly: Daddy Cool and Trio.

After coming quite close on Daddy Cool on my second try, I was confident that with draws hanging and a fresh day, it would go pretty well.  My intuition; however, didn’t account for weather.  After hanging the draws and tuning some footwork on my next try the weather got colder.  I made it to the rest in the middle of the route and realized that at some point, while I focused on keeping my fingers closed despite the lack of feeling, a steady stream of tiny snowflakes had begun dancing around me.  I watched the snow fall and spent a solid ten minutes working a semblance of feeling back into my fingers.  I’ve experience screaming barfies (it’s exactly what it sounds like, as a result of blood and feeling returning to your fingers or toes), but never before had them while on a route.  I even picked the direction in which I should retch, but luckily it didn’t come to that.  When I could finally feel my hands again I headed into the hard section.  Things fell into place as I cranked through sharp side-pulls and microscopic footholds.  I clipped the last bolt, stepped up and pulled toward the hold that marked the end of the hard moves.  I grasped for it, but fell short of the pocket.  Cold, frustrated that I didn’t finish it, I left my draws and bailed for the day.

Trio was another adventure.  It’s a fairly compact climb, putting all the punch into only 7m of climbing.  A couple days after Daddy Cool, I made it back to Trio.  The power endurance style is not one I excel at, so I tend to do whatever I can to make it easier.  On Trio, that meant skipping a bolt making nearly every fall much longer and pushing it a closer to hitting the slab below than most people would be comfortable with.  Anything that works, right?  Only it didn’t.  My first two tries of the day ended when I fell on a long powerful move.  I refined my beta, adding in 3 extra moves just to avoid the one powerful move.  On the next try I stuck the move and fell two holds later going for a huge jug.  I still felt good so I went for a fourth try.  I got to the same spot, tried to muster some last bit of energy and managed to get my hand onto the jug; and then slide off it.  I was so close, but just needed a fresh day.

The next day I couldn’t convince anyone to go to Daddy Cool or Trio with me so I headed to Alabalik to try Parallel Universe.  My expectations were extremely low; on my first day on it I hadn’t made it through any of the hard section without hanging at every bolt.  The route is still incredibly fun, so I figured it would still be some fun training.  My first try went as expected.  I hung at just about every bolt, worked out the moves some more, and got really pumped.  After a nice long rest I got on it again and surprised myself; I stuck the first really hard move, then even the deadpoint after it, then I found myself at the kneebar rest.  Whoa.  I was actually doing well on it.  I headed into the top section feeling good.  Several moves later I stalled out trying to get my fingers into an odd shaped pocket.  Holding an undercling and keeping a lot of body tension, I tried to finagle my fingers into it for what felt like 20 minutes until I eventually fell.  Without resting I pulled back up and climbed to the top clean.  Then I did from below to the top clean again.  In one try I went from not expecting to ever send it to being very close (as long as I could get my fingers into the pocket).  I lowered down hoping that it would go down on my next try.

That try never came.

While I rested and waited to try again, my elbow started hurting.  Just a dull ache, but after having some elbow pain before, I didn’t want to make it worse.  I grudgingly decided to not try again that day.  The next day was a rest day anyway and then I would come back fresh and strong to do it; that was the plan anyway.

After my rest day I climbed a little, but after a warm up, it was clear my elbow was still hurting.  For the next several days the elbow got worse and worse. To the point I couldn’t pick up a computer or water bottle in my right arm.  A day of rest turned into a week and I didn’t know if that would be enough.  My climbing trip was in serious jeopardy.


Turkey, Part 1

This is the time for small paychecks and big memories. This is the time for travel. We are about as attached to one location as we are to our favorite Chinese take-out place. We know what we like about it, and we take comfort in the familiarity, but that’s about it.

-Jessy Trapper

 

The van chugged up the hill and finally crested.  The land stretched out from us into rugged, rocky grasslands and jagged limestone hills.  We began the downhill and the maroon 83 VW high top van picked up speed.  We careened down the hill passing several cars that had cruised by only a few moments before.  I was bound for Istanbul.

Three months of intended to be spent climbing in Geyikbayiri had already flown by.  My perception of time has always fascinated me.  I remember when I was young and Christmas, my birthday, or summer felt like an eternity away.  They were an eternity away when a year is a quarter of your memorable life.  Now I blink and I find that I’m no longer in highschool or college, jesus, I’ve been out of college for nearly four years.  Four years that have also flown by in a blur of climbing, travel, breakdowns, and working just enough to get by.  Now I realize that my time here has slipped form my fingers as well.  My current guess is that time in fact increases proportionally to age.  By that measure, my 26 years are already well over half my life.  This is really all just a way of saying: “wow, I can’t believe it’s over already.”

My trip to Geyikbayiri was the routine nuisance: bus to NY, turn around and fly right back over Maine, layover in random European city with almost enough time to leave the airport but not quite, arrive in destination without a clue where to go.  I got lucky and found a place to stay in Antalya through CouchSurfing while I was in the airport in Oslo; I just had to get myself there.  I got a bus into town and never getting off; the driver dropped me at the right shopping mall to meet up with Burak.  I didn’t wake up until 1pm, so I only had a few hours of daylight by the time I was ready to find the bus to Geyikbayiri.  Armed with a general direction of where the ottogar (bus station) was and the hope that people spoke enough English to get by I headed off.  I asked several people where to get the bus to the ottogar.  Only one person spoke English enough to understand me and say 500m up the road.  I walked.  I asked more, received no more directions, and eventually found a bus that said “Ottogar” on the sign.  I jumped on.  When the bus hadn’t reached the ottogar in 10 minutes I knew something was wrong.  I decided to not doubt it, and stayed on for another 20 minutes.  Then I knew I was not where I needed to be.  But it was raining.  I stayed on the bus for another half hour until it stopped raining.  By that point I had seen most of Antalya and knew I was headed out of the city on the opposite side as Geyikbayiri.  I got off the bus, crossed the street, and waited for the same number bus to come by.  I knew my plan (could I even really call it a plan? More like a hope that things would magically work out) was shot so I borrowed a phone and talked to Burak.  I would have to wait an hour or two, but he’d meet me at the mall again at 6pm.

I made it to Starbucks only to discover that my haven of dirtbagdom did not have open internet.  It was a travesty.  I listened to podcasts and lounged on their patio.  6pm came and went.  Then 7, 8, and 9 followed as they do.  Still no sign.  I asked everyone around if I could use their phone, but all had one reason or another to say no.  Eventually a Starbucks employee believed me enough to use his log in for the internet so I could contact Burak.  No word.  At 10 Starbucks closed.  I was the only person at the mall.  I finished off the last of my Cliff bars and dried mango that had sustained me since I left Maine and I decided to try to navigate my way to his apartment to see if he was there.  For the next three hours I trudged the streets of Antalya with 75lbs of backpacks trying to find my way from memory to an address that didn’t seem to exist.  By midnight I was scouting abandon buildings that I could sleep in.  I decided I would go to the driest and most hopeful of them after one more attempt.  I started all the way back from the beginning and by a combination of subconscious navigation and pure luck I walked straight to Buraks apartment where I saw him through the kitchen window.  My first day in Turkey was not a success on any level.  Turkey 1, Dylan 0.

The next morning I woke early, got better directions to the ottogar (I needed to walk 2km down the road to it), and after a long wait for the bus, made it to Geyikbayiri.  I was psyched to finally set up camp and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to move for the next 3 months.  Or so I thought, but Mother Nature had different plans.

I snapped awake from the blast of a cannon inches from my eardrum.  Rain pummeled my tent.  My watch said “1:04 AM.”  I smiled and marveled at the raw power of nature then tried to go back to sleep.  The rain kept hamming my tent.  I never realized how loud that could be; it sounded like a sheet metal roof.  At some point I rolled over on to my side.  The ground rippled beneath my tent.  I looked out my tent door to see water rushing by just an inch below the line were my tent turned from waterproof  nylon to mesh.  I was sitting, mostly floating actually, in the middle of a river that stretched from the woods on one side of my tent to 40 feet on the other side.  I thought it was incredibly cool for about 20 seconds until my brain put a few simple facts together: there was already a 6in deep river around my tent and it was still pouring rain.  Gears in my brain spun and a new future clicked into view.  I was screwed.  I quickly decided on a bathingsuit and rain coat and began stuffing electronics into my backpacks.  I filled one load and made a break for the covered picnic tables without bothering to put anything on my feet.  By the time I made it back for a second load my tent had an inch of water and was filling quickly.  I stuffed what clothes I could into my pack, grabbed my sleeping pad and ran for the shelter.  The combination of hail and sharp rocks on the ground made for quite painful running.  My semi-dry things safely piled on a table I finally sat in a shower and spent the next 15 minutes getting feeling back in my throbbing feet.  When I emerged from the showers the rain and hail had both stopped.  Tired and wet, I walked to the porch of the restaurant where I lay on the swing for the rest of the night trying to sleep between crashes of thunder.  Turkey 2, Dylan 0.

 

More of this to come…


The Hunt for the Mountain Pine Beetle

Houses are full of things that gather dust.

-Jack Kerouac

 

Some people wonder why I don’t make plans, but it’s really just my reaction to the unpredictable nature of my life.  If I make plans, then I expect them to happen, I work toward them and I have a harder time changing things if I need to.  If I don’t make plans, I do whatever comes naturally.  Plus, even if I do make plans, they usually don’t happen.

Before leaving Lander, I bought a flight to Spain.  I was psyched.  I had been training all summer, and then I would have a few weeks to climb in September before heading to Spain, Turkey, and France for 9 months.  I barely had enough money to even consider such a crazy trip, and not nearly enough to actually do it without a lot of free camping and free meals.  None the less, I was going for it and figured I would make it work somehow.

If you can’t guess by the tenses I used and the first paragraph, none of that actually happened.

Just as I was leaving Lander I got a message from a friend I had climbed with in Ten Sleep asking if I wanted to work in eastern Wyoming spotting for Mountain Pine Beetle the following day.  I like the fact that I can pick up and change my life on a moment’s notice.  Unfortunately I don’t have any magical powers so I wasn’t able to start work Friday when I got the message late Friday morning.  We talked though and the only thing I came away with was that I could make better money than swinging hammer or serving for a couple months if I headed to Spearfish.

I had missed the first training so I headed to Ten Sleep for a few days.  I battled on Supermama for a couple days and got really close to a send, but figured out that I was grabbing a hold wrong too late in the day to pull it off.  Snow and cold temps were coming in so I headed out.

I showed up in Spearfish with no idea what was going on, but with the idea that if things fell through, Spearfish Canyon is a cool climbing spot I wanted to check out anyway.  A couple snowy days hanging out in my van later and the sun finally returned.  I headed into the canyon and spent three days exploring a great new limestone summer crag.  Spearfish has some great climbs and tends to be a bit of a different style from Ten Sleep, Wild Iris, Sinks, VRG, or Wailing Wall.  That’s one of the things I love about limestone; it feels like every limestone crag has a very unique feel and style.

The county run training started and my climbing ended.  I learned how to spot beetles, check to be sure, and then was working 6-7 days a week.  I had expected to climb most days I wasn’t working, but soon realized that, on the occasional days I didn’t work, it was hard to drive an hour and a half just to show up at the crag hoping to find a partner.

Work was a lot of hiking up hills, across steep hills, down steep hills, swimming though scrub oak, and hoping crazy rednecks don’t shoot me for being on their neighbors property.  Working in a group would often involve a lot of standing around since the group went slower than the slowest person once you factor in communication.  Once I was able to work alone, it became relatively serene.  I would spend days listen to books, podcasts, and music as I tromped through the woods looking for beetles.  I ran into lots of deer and turkeys, and had a few glimpses of a big herd of Elk.

Osage, WY was without a doubt the worst place I have lived.  It’s a dingy former oil town that has more empty buildings than inhabited ones.  Newcastle, the next town over, has all the charming appeal of living on an oil rig; it’s far from everything, nothing to do, and nobody there.  The one tiny haven I found was T & A Brewery.  I noticed their sign a few days after they opened and soon it was a regular hang out.  After realizing that none of the other smoky dives in town had anything good (one bar tender asked me if the IPA I requested was a brand of beer or a mixed drink), it was awe-inspiring to walk into a renovated brick building and see 20 shining taps on the back wall.  They have internet, comfortable couches, TVs to watch football, and Andrew (one of the owners) is even a Patriots fan.  It was a little piece of Newcastle that didn’t suck.

Work was always uncertain, never quite knowing if we would have more work once we finished the current plot.  At the beginning of November, I was told that we would have to wait almost a week to get the next and probably last plot.  I was done.  I packed up and headed east the next day.  My plan was to head to Spain and if I had to drive to Kansas to leave my car, I might as well go climb in the Red and go home for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes my own logic stupefies me, because, despite each place being 10-20 hours apart, that made some kind of crazy sense.

I had a great time hanging out with some friends and my brother as I headed east.  Unfortunately my few days in the Red were frigid and frustrating (as a result of essentially not climbing for 2 months).  Still, it’s hard not have fun when you’re life costs ~$5 a day and you have friends around, not to mention a plentiful supply of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.  I climbed a bit, hung out, and continued toward Maine.  The real bummer came my second day after leaving the Red when my elbow began hurting while doing pull-ups in a gym.

My constant debate about what to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas was finally put to an end when I accidentally searched for flight prices to Turkey on December 6th instead of January 6th.  A hundred dollars cheaper, no need to figure out a plan, and no good reason I could see to stay all added up to one decision; I was going to Turkey in less than 2 weeks!

Thanksgiving was fun hanging out with family and friends, hectic trying to get everything ready before I left for Turkey, and gone way too quickly.  Then it was time to begin the grand adventure.


A Windy Western Climbing Town

These fleeting charms of earth
Farewell, your springs of joy are dry
My soul now seeks another home
A brighter world on high

-Wailing Jennys

 

My second attempt to live in Lander for the summer was a success on at least two counts.  I made it to Lander without breaking down and I got a job.  I arrived in town just in time to start work at Sego; a new, fancy dinner restaurant.  I had my summer plan worked out: I would live in my van in city park, work at the restaurant, and have a membership at the gym with 24 hour access to shower and, for the first time in my life, actually train for climbing.

I had a cold welcome in Lander.  Literally.  I went from sunny and warm in St George, to freezing cold and raging winds in Lander.  Soon after arriving in Lander we got ~6” of heavy wet snow while I was camped in Sinks Canyon.  My bald tired, 2 wheel drive, 18 year old mini-van barely made it out of the campsite.  The beauty of Lander is that even after that snow; I hiked up with some new friends and climbed that day in a T-shirt.

Life in Lander settled into a rhythm.  Work never started before 3pm so my climbing was only ever limited by finding partners.  I worked a bit, climbed a bunch, and spent many restless days training in the gym.  I started climbing with Chris, who was a cook at Sego, a bunch.  It was easy to make plans for the next day while work was slow and being one of the most psyched guys I’ve met meant he was almost always keen to grab some rocks.

The Wild Iris classic When I Was a Young Girl, I Had Me A Cowboy was high on my list of things I wanted to do.  It’s classic Iris style, a short steep route with powerful moves on small pockets.  I put it some time figuring it out, but eventually I found a sequence that worked for me.

Wolf Point was also a new a great experience for me.  The only way I can really give you a feel for this place is by saying that if you get passed the hour hike (1500 ft down, then 1000 ft back up), don’t get bit by a rattlesnake, and don’t encounter a grizzly than it will be the most fun you’ve ever had on choss.  It’s not all choss, but pockets are often dirty and rocks break as with any other low traffic area.  The climbing and the position are great though.  Steep lines, with several climbs over 30m and into the 40+m range in a huge cave make, make most of the climbs in the 13/14 range.  Unfortunately, since you have to cross the mountain and it’s in the sun in the summer, the season can be quite short.  I managed to send just one project there, Full Moon Rising, before the heat ended the season there.

I spent the summer climbing whenever I could find a partner, bolting when I could borrow a drill, and training when I couldn’t.  With a pretty consistent training schedule I was really excited when I noticed improvements in my climbing.  I even sent my first 13c…if you can really call Hellion a 13c.

Several friends came through town throughout the summer as well.  It was great to catch up,  hang out, and climb with Travis, Lindsey, Weston, and Vian while they were in town.  Having some friends without a schedule enabled me to venture up to Ten Sleep for a couple long weekends too.  On the first weekend I set to work on Hellion, but didn’t finish it off until the return visit.  Of course, I got it on the first day that trip and picked up a new project on the second day; Supermama.

As the summer went on I found it increasingly difficult to find climbing partners.  While welcoming to outsiders, I found it hard to actually become a part of the local Lander community.  Saddened by feeling like my favorite climbing town had rejected me, by August I was ready to move on.  I had four un-sent projects which I wanted to finish and nobody I could get to go with me.  As work finished up at the end of the month a friend, Vian, came through town and I climbed with a fury as I tried to finish my projects before time ran out.  I managed to send three of the four.

First was a line I bolted at Fossil Hill next to the amazing, but fairly unknown Milkbone, which I called Burley but Sensitive (12c).  It took me a surprising number of attempts between forgetting beta, breaking a foothold after the crux, and the reachy balance move which kept spitting me off.

Next I roped Vian into heading up to the Strawberry Road area.  It doesn’t even have a definitive name for the crag, but it’s along the Little Popo Agie River, about a mile upstream of Wolf Point.  There I had bolted a couple lines in a beautiful blue streak reminiscent of Euro pockets.  Blue Diamond and Criminal Mind (yes, I named these routes after Blue Streak, the awesome and cheesy 90’s movie with Martin Lawrence) both went down fairly quickly and I was on to my finally and hardest project.

The route is in your face the moment you pull onto the rock and stays in your face for 4 bolts of climbing.  After working out the moves and trying my hardest, I made it through the crux only to have a foot slip going for a jug. On my last day I pushed again only for the same heartbreaking foot slip.  I pushed on with my headlamp, but after the amount of try-hard I had expended in the previous days, I just couldn’t pull the moves anymore.  Aguish.  I was so close to sending it, but I could feel myself losing power and energy.

One of the things that had interested me in the line is that I knew it would be a challenge.  At first I hadn’t been able to do most of the moves at the bottom, but I worked them out, found new holds, and continued trying.  Based on the fact that I was in the best climbing shape I have ever been in and it was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever been close to trying, I think it would be 13a at least, if not b, but that will be determined another day.

My mixed emotions about my last days and about Lander itself made for an awkward ending, so I just packed up and left as quickly as I could.  After all, I still had Supermama waiting for me in Ten Sleep.


Back in the Desert

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

-Alan Watts

 

Christmas at home was a nice change from cold, wet nights in my van.  I had a great time hanging out with family and friends, but as quickly as the holidays came, they were gone again and the reality set in that I was stuck in Maine after most friends had left, and I had no money, no job, and no car.  I knew I needed to do something so I started by re-flooring and re-painting my brothers old room for my mom.  I spent a week cleaning it out, ripping faded photos, posters and collages off the wall, ripping up carpet, installing a new hardwood floor, re-finishing, and re-painting the walls.  The worst part was that I was constantly waiting for one thing or another, so most days I wasn’t able to actually put in much work.

My sanity on the other hand felt like it was deteriorating daily.  Without climbing or much human contact I go crazy.  The addition of not even leaving the house made it even worse.  Finally I finished the floor and got a friend to give me a job doing carpentry for a bit.  Working long days outside in windy sub-zero weather actually turned out to feel great.  It was miserable, but when you’re busy making sure a foundation is level and you don’t get frost bite, you don’t have time to care about other things.

By mid January I had enough money to pay for my car being fixed so I made the trek back to Montreal to pick it up and head back to Maine.  In the end it cost me the same to get home and back to my car as it did to fix the car itself.  With wheels again, the world opened up with possibility.  I worked for another week so I knew I would have enough gas to make it out west and was ready to bounce.  Unfortunately I threw out my back and got sick as I was packing to leave.  With my back in spasms, a sore throat, feeling like death, front seat filled with anything that might help, and tea in hand I headed west to preserve what sanity I still possessed. I hop scotched my way across the country transporting items from Craigslist ads to get gas money and visiting friends until I made it to Saint George.  I met up with a couple friends and finally, gloriously, fell into the dirtbag life again; living in the van, camping for free wherever I could, and climbing, climbing, climbing.

I bounced back and forth between Saint George and Vegas, climbing some great routes in each.  My intention was to spend some time pushing myself on gear and doing some of the longer hard routes in Red Rock.  That hope quickly faded as the reality of my lack of psyched partners became apparent.  I did; however, have friends psyched to sport climb, so as usual I continued to try pushing myself on bolts.  My trad intentions were finished when Ambushed became my goal.  I didn’t get to try many times, but managed to make it through two of the three hard sections before falling while resting because a foot slip.  So close, but close just doesn’t cut it.

As the weather warmed up my venue changed from Vegas to VRG to Wailing Wall.  At the VRG I was keen to get back on Joe Six Pack after trying it the year before.  It’s every bit as amazing as I remembered and this time felt more possible.

For anyone who has not been to the VRG or tried Joe Six pack, they both tend to be love-hate deals.  The VRG is bomber limestone with a 300ft approach.  The downside is that 300ft approach is from I-15 so the sounds of cars, RVs, and semi trucks are incessant.  Joe Six Pack climbs a section of great rock on the left side of Planet Earth Wall with several very different and cruxy sections.  The start is thin and awkward, but some hard moves and good technique get you to a nice jug rest.  From there you have another couple bolts of good pockets with big and powerful moves between them.  After another jug rest at the horizontal break in the middle you fire into the nearly non-existent dihedral pulling desperately on crimps while trying not to breathe so you don’t lose your balance.  This finishes with a long move to a thumbdercling and using it to stand up onto a high foot.  It short, this route needs it all: power, technique, crimping, recovery, endurance, and some cojones to push through the big runouts at the top.

If you couldn’t tell by my overly detailed description, I love this route.  I immediately set to work on it and was really happy to tick it after a couple days of work and more than a few big whips.  I climbed a few more days at the VRG then finally gave in to going back to Wailing Wall.

I thought I had done everything I was interested in at Wailing Wall, but I was dead wrong.  I sampled around a little bit and did Infidels and Gone Stealing as well as putting in some work on Resurrection and Indulgence.  Infidels and Gone Stealing share a vicious opening boulder problem before Infidels goes up left through some crimping and Gone Stealing breaks right through some sustained crimps to a difficult boulder problem on underclings guarding the anchor.  Frustratingly for me, Infidels went down quickly, but then it took me a lot of work to repeat the boulder problem when I was trying Gone Stealing.

While the other two are good, Resurrection and Indulgence are in a class of awesome reserved for the best of the best.  Resurrection can be described with one word: mega-crimp-power-endurance.  Yeah, I know, I cheated.  On the other hand, Indulgence is big holds, and big moves for the first half then some techy climbing to get to the chains.  Naturally, I gravitated to crimps over big moves to start, but once Resurrection had jacked up my finger I tried Indulgence with some better beta and it may now be the coolest thing I’ve ever tried.

I love climbing for the unique moves and crazy things you have to do to get up the rock.  This is what makes Indulgence shine.  Yes, you can be tall or strong and use boring beta that will work.  I can’t do that.  I’m weak and always want to find the easiest possible way for me or I probably can’t do it.  I’ll forgo the move for move beta, but say that my sequence involves a full span move, heal-toe above my head, and a knee bar.  For me, that is the definition of winning.

I also ventured to the Grail for the first time.  Stunning rock, vertical climbing, and not many people made it a new favorite.  In the week or so of climbing there I ticked most of the easier routes at the crag, which for many, didn’t feel very close to the grade suggested.  As with any new crag, the grades are a bit scattered, but it was interesting struggling more on the 12c than the 13a’s and then having a 13a/b that felt impossible and certainly harder than the 13b.  Regardless of the grades, the climbing is amazing and it has some immaculate rock.  Vesper, for one, stood out for the stunning rock quality: bullet hard, grey-blue limestone with a perfect diagonal crack leading to runnels at the top.

My attempts to find a job around Flagstaff or Saint George for a few months didn’t succeed, but managed to get one in Lander for the summer. That meant that my time in the desert was running out.  I had one last day of trying Indulgence and managed a new high point, but just didn’t have the opportunity to come back fresh to take it down.  A little frustrated by leaving it unfinished and quite excited to live in a climbing down for the summer I headed back to I-15 and turned northward.


Southern Smackdown

P1100044

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

Jack Kerouac

 

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

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

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

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

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


The Story of Lots of Driving

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

-Edward Abbey

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Summer in SLC

 

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

-Hubert Reeves

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bouldering and Breaking down

It’s not how we fall. It’s how we get back up again.

-Patrick Ness

 

I headed up to Joe’s Valley for a few days of bouldering before continuing on to Salt Lake then Lander to look for a job.  I was excited to spend some time bouldering because for the most part, I hadn’t bouldered in over a year.  Despite getting later in the season for Joe’s, the temps stayed pretty cold with sporadic snow flurries.

My first day I just cruised around doing lots of easy climbing including some really fun problems including Stand-up Comedian (V5), Devastator (V4), Isosceles (V4), and several more.  The high point was definitely a flash of Thighmaster (V7), although in any other place I think it may be a grade or two lower.  That said, I did go back later and wasn’t able to do it.

The next couple days I found some people to climb with and had a great time sampling some more amazing Joe’s rock.  I was still surprised at either how much stronger I was after doing so much sport climbing or how soft/suited to me the climbing in Joe’s was I managed to send two more V5’s and a V6 on each of the next two days.

I only had one more day before I planned to head to Salt lake and as usual my psyche was high so I decided to climb a 4th day on.  The result was mixed.  I had my undeniably best day of bouldering sending Arma (V7), Filla Void (V6), Glow Worm (V6), and several easier problems, but my enthusiasm was more than my body could keep up with and I hurt my elbow on Glow Worm.  I burned and ached with a furry, so I iced it in the stream and headed out to Salt Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a great weekend hanging out in Salt Lake with a few friends.  We went out for Ethiopian food, they surprised me with a birthday cake, and I got to make breakfast for them (popovers of course).

Then Monday came, friends went back to their lives and I spent my birthday hanging out by myself in Starbucks while it rained outside so I couldn’t climb.  That was the beginning of one of the most depressing birthday weeks I’ve had.  The rain continued and my hopes of several days of climbing and hanging out with friends around Salt Lake dwindled.  I spent a couple nights crashing with another friend, but didn’t want to impose too much so spent nights on any dark street I could find.

Then things really got bad.  I headed up to Little Cottonwood to do some bouldering since I didn’t have anyone to climb with and on the way back my van began spewing white smoke and losing power.  It had blown the head gasket.  Suddenly I found myself 300 miles short of my summer in Lander, with no money, no car, no home, no friends I felt I could as to crash with, and no idea what to do about it.

The next few days were filled with scrambling to deal with my car, limping it from one side street to another to sleep, talking to mechanics, and spending countless hours at McDonalds and Starbucks trying to find a solution.  Mechanics quoted me 2-3 times what I just bought the van for so I decided it was time to cut the losses on it.  With money borrowed from my brother I had a van I could buy lined up and just needed to wait for the banks to open to get money out.  Monday morning I got the money out and was half way through the 20 mile ride to pick up the new van when I called the seller to make sure he was around.  Despite his guarantee and my explanation of my situation, the (insert expletive) sold it out from under me.  Back to square one.

On my way back to my van I got a call from Climbing Holds.  A friend of a friend of a friend worked there and was looking to hire.  I had contacted him when I broke down and he was returning my call.  By the end of the day I had a job and was able to park my van at work.  It was hardly a solution, but it was a huge step in the right direction.

Unfortunately sleeping in my broken van at work didn’t last long.  A couple days in three cops and two code enforcement people showed up and told me it was illegal to sleep in my car in Salt Lake County, posted a notice on my window, and told me if I was caught sleeping in it again they would put a no trespassing notice on it, and I could be arrested if I entered for any reason.  Wow.

Through the ordeal I managed to climb occasionally, mostly with one guy I found through Mountain Project.  Just after I was kicked out of my van, he offered for me to house and dog-sit while he was gone.  I scrambled even harder and by the end of the weekend had found a place to live where I could trade work on the house for a back room to sleep in.

And so I lived in Salt Lake City for the summer.  I didn’t know many climbers, didn’t have money for a gym membership, and didn’t have a vehicle, so I mostly just rode my bike around the city.

It didn’t help my climbing that every new friend I made seemed to be a cyclist not a climber, but I went with the flow and did whatever I could to stay active.


Kalyming in Climbnos

Listen to the sound of the world
Don’t watch it turn

—The Killers

 

In a sudden flurry of motion I went from crashing on a couch in L.A. whining about my injured finger to sipping wine on a balcony in Greece.  It’s hard to be too disappointed in life while hanging out on the Mediterranean.  I spent my first week hanging out, trying to keep myself from going climbing before my finger had a chance to heal.  Soon I gave up and decided it was time to climb.

For my first day of climbing I headed to Telendos with Wil, Caio, and Mariella to do some easy multipitching.  Wil and I cruised up our climb, linking the first “7” pitches of climbing into one long simulclimb using only 14 draws.  Before you go thinking how badass I am, let me mention that this was ridiculous to call it 7 pitches and it was mostly 5th class climbing.  We topped out in under 2.5 hours, but Caio and Mariella had already beat us and headed down.  That was about the time we realized we didn’t know where the decent trail was.  It’s a small island, can’t be too hard right?  Wrong.  Several wrong turns and attempts to forge our own trail later, we finally made it back to the tiny village of Telendos, almost five hours later.  What a great start.

The next couple weeks were spent climbing progressively harder on routes I got people to assure me had no crimps or pockets.  Before I realized it I was back to being able to try hard and loving the climbing Kalymnos offered.  Days were filled with cragging, nights were filled with restaurants full of new friends.  It was an interesting phenomenon to arrive as the normal season was winding down.  It meant that I met most people at the biweekly going away parties and didn’t know if I would see many of them again.  Regardless I made tons of great friends from all around the world.

Not knowing much about specific routes beforehand allowed me to sample from many different areas and find some great climbs I might not have found otherwise.  Of course, nothing should stop the 5.12 climber from trying the uber-mega-ultra-classic Aegialis (7c) so eventually I found my way to the most stunning line on the island.  Pumpy climbing has never been my forte so 30m of steep tufas was a daunting challenge.  My first day on it I got whooped.  It seemed like days before I made it to the top on my first try, dogging the whole way.  I quickly began to piece it together though and my inability to make it to the top twice in a day turned into several good send attempts each day.

I knew I was getting closer when I made it through the crux.  Gassed from the last 80ft of pulling I tried to gun in through the top easier moves, skipping bolts hoping to make it to the rest near the top.  Finally I wrapped fingers around a tufa, but before I could make it further my fingers slipped open as I was finally unable to fight the pump.  I fell 40ft through the air, but all I thought of was how close I was to making it.

“Why didn’t you use the knee-bar?” another climber asked.  He proceeded to explain and then demonstrate the magic knee-bar that you can get after the crux.  I face palmed.  The next day, I implemented the most amazing knee-bar known to man.  Hanging from one leg, upside down, in one of the most iconic climbing destinations in the world, this is what life is all about.  I recovered, clipped the chains, and let out a victory woop.

I hate using this word, but life in Kalymnos became normal.  Not in a bad way of the normal 9-5 working life, but it gained a regular rhythm.  Two months in one place will do that.  I woke, I climbed, I socialized, I slept.  People came and I made friends, people left and I made new friends.  Above all, I climbed.

I tried heaps of routes; sent some and got shut down by others.  After the high of Aegialis, it took a really great route to get me well psyched on another route that I might have to project.  Eventually I found Hyma sto Kyma (7c+) at Odyssey.  The relatively unheard-of route captured my attention with great moves on tufas down low followed by an increasingly difficult second half, all the way up to the anchor.

It took me several attempts to figure out the last section which goes straight sideways from some chossely crimps to a sloper facing the wrong direction to be much use.  As I began having burns that seemed closer to sending I realized that even clipping my extended draw on the last bolt burned too much energy and began skipping it.  That meant that my constant whips through the crux were 20+ feet every time.  I even considered skipping the second to last bolt, but thought better of it when I looked at the fall potential onto a slabby ledge.

I became pressed for time with only a matter of days before I had to leave Kalymnos.  It came down to the wire.  I had one day to have real send attempts followed by one day that was supposed to rain heavily before I left.  I rallied Keith to belay me again, but got to the crag only to see water dripping from many holds.  Still not deterred by the sopping wet holds, I flailed on my first attempt then meticulously patted holds dry with a hand towel.  It came down to only three important holds being wet and each was uncut.  That’s still pretty do-able right?

My next attempt was great; I made it the last couple moves before falling on the last hard move, trying to stick a big rounded pinch.  My attempt after was nearly the same.  And then again on my third try.  It began to rain.  I sat at the bottom of my climb wondering how I would climb a route that already had wet holds while it was raining.  I hoped that it would stop.  It continued to drizzle.  Was there any point even trying it again?  Then I thought of a better question: was there any point not trying?  That one I knew the answer to.

I made it through the bottom in the sprinkling rain.  Was it slowing down?  I relaxed at the rest in the middle trying to make sure I was fresh for the top.  I started climbing again and by then I didn’t even realize it had stopped raining.  I worked through ever worsening holds that had become familiar ground.  With power only found in desperation I popped to the rounded ball and pinched as hard as I could.  To my astonishment my fingers didn’t rip off the hold.  I pulled on two more sopping wet holds, clipped the anchor, and let out a victory cry.  All that was left to do was eat baklava and pack my bags.