"Not all those who wander are lost"

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Heroes and Dark Wizards Never Die

Dean Potter

Entranced by the flight of a raven, I watch its shadow move effortlessly against golden, shimmering granite. I long to be that free, flying above the cluttered world of normalcy, where so many are half alive.

-Dean Potter

 

 

A masked “unknown” climber decked out in Adidas gear pulls up over a roof, presses down the rail and extends up for a crimp at the edge of his reach.  The camera cuts to a close up of calloused, cracked finger tips touching a granite crimp and sliding off.  The man jumps away from the wall as begins to plummet to the ground hundreds, if not thousands, of feet below.  A plume of chalk trails him as he waves his arms and legs to stabilize himself.  He gains composure and flies for several more seconds before deploying the BASE rig on his back.  The last words of Valley Uprising still resounded in my mind: “but in an era of increasing good will, there remains at the heart of Yosemite climbing, a spirit that’s not so easily tamed.”

I never met Dean Potter.  But that’s far from saying he never affected me.  I may be naïve and I may attribute qualities based on media representation, but I don’t think that’s important.  To me, Dean wasn’t a person; he was a hero and heroes don’t need to be real.

Dean captured the essence of what I considered climbing and did so in a larger than life way.  He was never just out there climbing hard, he was the one out there climbing bigger, scarier, faster and then maybe soloing those routes and hucking himself off the top.  Dean challenged the world to keep up as he pushed climbing to explore new possibilities and new concepts.  He pushed soloing and speed climbing harder and was ok with “no gear, don’t fall” when it came to pushing the limits.  Limits are broken when someone challenges the way they approach them and that’s exactly what Dean did.  When climbing wasn’t enough he took on highlining, BASE jumping, and wingsuit flying.  Whatever the discipline, he pushed the boundaries of imagination, literally flew in the face of danger, and embraced it all with the mentality that “with everything I’m doing, I’m trying to become more free.”

Dean took risks, pushed boundaries, and stepped on toes of those who got in the way.  Whether it was speed climbing, BASE jumping or climbing, Dean’s approach was: “it’s just about doing my art and being free.  And unfortunately that means that I need to evade the law.”  This is exactly what’s lacking in today’s world.  In our gym-breed climbing culture, where kids can climb V10 before they have ever set foot outside a gym, it’s easy to forget or bypass the heritage that brought us to where we are today.  Climbing was forged in dirt and grit.  While popularity and mainstream attention is making climbing into a polished, viewer friendly sport, we need to remember that our tribe came from the outlaws and outcasts.

In a world moving toward luxury, excess, and soft, Dean stood fast as a hard man.  From living under a boulder in Yosemite to honing his skills while on a diet of free crackers and ketchup packs and embraced the true meaning of the word dirtbag.  He came off as a wild man, a bit coarse, and never false.  He always seemed to me to be the new type of cowboy.  Not all about spurs and show, but wild, free, and uncaring about how society judged him; willing to go where few else dared, and live by personal ethics not by the dictates of others.  He described living in camp 4, saying “It was just all about now.  Enter into the freak show and be free.”

Late Thrill Seeker Dean Potter…, Dean Potter’s Final Flight: One Risk Too Many, In Defense of Thrill Seekers like Dean Potter.  The names of the articles alone are enough to annoy the hell out of anyone with an inclination toward sports more active than watching golf.  The slew of articles and comments after Dean’s death questioning or justifying “thrill seekers” fail to grasp the very heart of why climbing and BASE jumping are so integral to the lives of some people.  In every video I’ve ever seen, Dean mentions his pursuits, not as the next thrill, but the drive to be free.  I imagine the ideas of freedom, moving unhindered up rock, and flying back down are equally indescribable as to the pains of child birth or loss of a loved one.  If you haven’t experienced it, you really can’t understand the feeling.  I think we all, or at least most climbers I know, have the same pull toward beautiful, pure movement on rock and in the air.  The difference is that Dean was the one bold enough to act out his dreams, while the rest of us cower in our mediocrity.  I guess in the end, Dean was acting out the truest life anyone from New Hampshire could: “live free or die.”  He did both.

I don’t think that everyone should be just like Dean, frankly most people don’t have the commitment and care too much about norms to even come close, but I do think that as with any great person, there are a lot of good things to take away.  I just hope that when people see that a climber or BASE jumper died, they don’t just shake their heads and say “there’s another pointless death,” but take the time to think about the legacy build by lives in pursuit of passion.  We live in a dangerous world and you could die any day.  I for one would much rather die doing something I love than exist without it.  William Wallace said “Every man dies.  Not every many really lives.” By any measure I use, Dean lived more than anyone else I can find.  Today, his bio on the Five Ten website still reads “Claim to fame: I haven’t died yet.”  That must be because heroes and Dark Wizards never die.

 


Siurana!

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.

-John Muir

 

I picked up my drenched backpack off the luggage carousel and hefted it onto my back.  Two months of rain in Turkey didn’t seem to be enough; now it was raining in Barcelona as well.  I donned my rain jacket and found the bus headed into the city.  After some relative painless navigation of the Barcelona public transportation system I worked my way down a narrow street and saw my name on a door.  I’ve been a lot of places and even known where I’m going at times, but nothing has ever been as good upon arrival as seeing that nice little note with my name to let me know that 1, I was in the right spot and 2, someone is nice enough to let a stranger sleep on the couch and make an entire note explain what’s going on and where to get food.

It also explained that I couldn’t get in at the moment, so I followed the precise map on my note to a café just down the road.  I unloaded my bags in the back corner and got a beer and sandwich while I waited.  It had been nearly 24 hours since my last meal so my first sandwich was quickly followed by a falafel.  By then I headed back up the road and met Viki for the first time.  I spent the next few days hanging out in Barcelona and for the first time in my life discovering there is a city I actually really like.  I borrowed a bike and cruised around checking out the architecture, looking at the amazing works of Gaudi, and loving how fun and easy it is to just ride around the city.

After a few days waiting in Barcelona for my friend Ro, then for his bag to arrive, we eventually headed out to Siurana.  We made it in the afternoon in time to squeeze in a couple pitches before heading to the campground to set up shop.  Siurana, I had the impression, is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the world and would therefore have lots of people around for the peak season starting in March.  The campground did not reflect this.  The two tents we added doubled the evident population of the dusty, lumpy, dirt campground.

The next couple days we explored Siurana, just walking up to walls that looked good and either trying things that looked good or taking a look at someone’s book to make sure we weren’t getting in over our heads.  The climbing was great, and even better, wasn’t hurting my elbow.  Hooray for vertical crimpy climbing.

Over the first couple days I managed to run into half a dozen people I knew, many of whom mentioned staying in Cornudella for cheaper than the campground.  On our first rest day Ro and I decided to check it out.  By the end of the rest day wandering around Cornudella asking in shops we had a decent little flat right in town.  It came with all the normal amenities and even included an exceptionally loud bell tower directly across the street.  It might not have been annoying, but its occasional inconsistencies definitely took their toll; ringing out the hour twice sometimes and other times ringing 80 times before stopping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next two weeks I climbed, hung out with Ro, met a bunch of new friends, and caught up with some old ones.  Cornudella really is an awesome place to be for a trip.  The town is tiny, but has a few nice little shops and bars, it’s centrally located for Siurana, Margalef, Montsant, and tons of other crags, the beach is only an hour away, and did I mention its right next to Siurana!  With so much climbing around and an elbow on the mend I found it hard to stop long enough to try any route two days in a row.  As a result I spent a lot of time check out fun 7a’s and b’s.  I sent some, I flailed on others, but almost all were really fun.

Then Ro’s time in Siurana came to an end and he headed off for Barcelona.  It was weird to all of a sudden be back to searching for partners, not having anyone around in the evenings, and needing to hitch places.  Sometimes you don’t realize a person’s effect on you until they’re gone.  I realized that without Ro’s constant happy psych and with four days of rain, I was going out less and watching a few more movies.  To make up I stepped up my workouts, basically leaving the living room set up to work out any time, all the furniture and tables pushed out of the way and my layers of blankets and towels for a mat in the middle of the room.

Quickly the weather returned to the amazing dry, sunny conditions known is normal here and my psych stepped up again.  I climbed with a bunch of new people including an awesome couple traveling in the tiniest van I’ve seen two people try to live in.  Their Subaru Sambar only had two seats, no headroom, and could probably fit into any sprinter, but it did come with a double section sun roof.  I even picked up a little bit of a project, a really fun route called La Crema, that has some tough vertical climbing and powerful moves on crimps.  I tried it a couple times, but didn’t figure I would have the opportunity to do it since it gets blasted by sun all day.

The time I had paid for the in the flat was ending and, although I had planned for at least a full month in Siurana, I started thinking about heading to Rodellar early.  That did not happen.  Just when I was ready to leave I met some more fun people and found it hard to leave again.  I moved into the spare room of a new friend and spent a week hanging out with some new German and Spanish friends.  My routine quickly did a 180, going from normal days of climbing, mellow hanging out with people and a beer at Goma, the climbing shop/bar/restaurant, and heading back to the flat to read and sleep by 11to full Spanish style.  We would climb some, get back and have a beer before diner, maybe have dinner, then hang out until I would look down to see it was 3am.  Mornings were spent hanging out with the Germans for an hour or so while we waited for the Spanish guys to show up, always an hour late.

I even managed two days of trying La Crema where I kept falling on the crux move at the top and taking 30+ft whips every time because I was skipping a bolt.  For the first time of my trip I even got some photos of myself thanks to Jule.  I had postponed leaving a couple times and finally decided that I would leave on my next rest day.  The only problem was I was just having too much fun.  Not wanting to break my agreement with myself, I found the loophole and just didn’t take a rest day for nearly a week.  But as with all things in life, nothing good can last.  I had a couple great last days of hanging out and laughing until I cried, but then it was time for the Germans to and Benjamin had to fix his car.

I managed to send off my application to be a language assistant in Spain in the fall, then spent two more great days in Cornudella, including one last try on La Crema where I took the long whip once more and some delicious calcots, traditional Catalan food which is basically tasty grilled green onions with sauces, for my birthday thanks to the Spanish guys.  And then that was it, I packed up and walked to the edge of town to catch a ride to Rodellar.

 


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.


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.


The One

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The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

-Thucydides

 

Have you ever found the one who completes you?  The one that makes you feel alive, like every breath you take is sweeter than anything you have ever tasted.  The one that makes the world shine with a new light, more vibrant, and more alive.  She exhilarates you with an energy you didn’t know you had, making you feel an adrenaline high that never ends.  For better or worse, everything else pales in comparison.  Like I drug, you want her all the time and you yearn for her when you’re not together.  You make your life revolve around her.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve given up careers or lost relationships because your entire perspective is changed.  You would rather be destitute with her than the richest man without and as a result you are poor.  Despite your sacrifices, it still hurts.  Sometimes after being together you have to spend weeks apart to recover from how she hurt you, but you’re not mad, just excited to see her again.  Sometimes it’s too much, but no matter what happens you can’t stand a week away from her.  For all the pain and dysfunction, you wouldn’t trade her for anything; she completes you.  I have found her.  She is climbing.


La Sportiva Solution Review

The first time I had a pair of solutions they were very tight and took a couple weeks to break in.  Since then my solutions have been a dream.  The synthetic lining and Velcro closure make them easy to get on and a nice snug fit.  They fit my foot like a glove and are amazingly comfortable even when new because they press all around my fit instead of a single point.

The rubber is quite sticky, but solutions are not the most sensitive shoe.  That said, I think the thickness contributes to their durability.  Despite being very aggressive, they can still smear like a champ when needed.  The P3 platform ensures solutions keep their aggressive downturn until their dying day.  The downturn isn’t just good for climbing steep routes or problems though.  I’ve found it exceptionally handy for pulling onto a high toe on vertical territory.

I have heard many people complain about the heel on solutions, but for me it fits so perfectly that I have yet to wear a shoe that I can heel-hook in better than the Solutions.  The only time I have had an issue with the heel was on a boulder problem that had a heel hook on such a large rail that I was above the sticky rubber onto the yellow band that has low friction.  The rubber on top of the toe is great for extra friction when you’re pulling at your limit too.

Overall, I think this is the best sport climbing or bouldering shoe I’ve seen or used.  They maintain their aggressive downturn, edge, smear, and basically just make you send your project.

One final note is that I have tried on Solutions before and had 40 be too small, 40.5 be too big, and 41 fit well.  I know they are handmade and this causes some discrepancy, but make sure you’re confident in the size you get.

Testing Notes:

I did not receive these shoes for free.  I have purchased multiple pairs of Solutions on my own.  I wear size EU 40.5 and street shoe 10.5.


Wailing Wall

Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

-Alan Watts

 

I cruised up the last mile of dirt road before the Wailing Wall in my new 85 Toyota Van with Lu dog riding shotgun.  Things had changed a bit since I left the ‘Stead.  I bought a new van, ripped my hair out trying to sell my Accord, and picked up a dog in Las Vegas on my way to Wailing Wall.  The dog wasn’t actually mine; a friend of Sam’s called as I was headed through to see if I could take care of him.  I drove into Las Vegas after dark, met Tera, helped her move the last load to her new place, shared some wine, and within an hour was crashing in her apartment with plans to take care of her dog for a week while she was on a flight to Austin.

We hiked up the wash toward the crag, eventually turning a bend to see the cliff.  I felt like a monk first gazing upon a sacred monastery high on a mountain.  I was filled with wonder and amazement, but I knew it would be a difficult journey up the winding hill.

For the next three weeks, the rough, mostly uneven dirt parking area for the Wailing Wall dubbed “the corral” (for the broken down corral on one side) was my home.  The crag has a great variety of routes from vertical to steep, each one with technical and interesting moves.  The routes range from 5.10 to 14+, but only a couple climbs are below 12a.  From 12a to 13c, the place is a playground.  Bouldery, power endurance, techy slab are all represented and most grades from 12a up have at least two or three routes to choose from.  I immediately loved the place.

I spent my first week sampling a lot of different routes and ticking off a few 12’s, but I soon found myself returning to Holbytla.  It has some decent climbing at the bottom to ~15 brilliant moves of power endurance on stellar rock.  It is also, a route that can fool you into thinking you’re going to send soon long before you do.  My progress was slow, each time improving just a tiny bit, but almost always moving in the right direction: I almost got to the hold, I touched it, I held the pinch, I got my foot up.  The progress was so miniscule that it was frustrating at times, but it always kept me coming back because maybe that one last tweak was going to be the key to my success.

Before I could finish it, I headed to Vegas and Arrow Canyon for a couple days.  I thought that a change venue and a couple nights crashing on a couch would help me come back fresh, plus I had already told Jonathan I’d give him a catch on his project.  After a great rest day hanging out in the sun and poaching a hotel pool in Vegas we headed up to Arrow.

I heard great things about Arrow, but was surprised at how little was there.  The main cave holds several hard routes (12d and up) with a few lower 5.12’s just to the right.  The routes to the right were good, but everything in the cave seemed to be covered by a thick layer of dust on slick holds.  A few other walls have some development, most notably one cave which has La Reve and La Lune (still Jonathans project at the time).  I was uninspired by the area, but we had plans to stay for two days so I put in some tries on Brown Sugar (5.12d).  I got close, but the powerful moves stymied my chance of sending.  I was less disappointed by the lack of a send than I was by spending two days in Arrow instead of on Holbytla.  It wasn’t a loss though; I met some great Vegas people, Phil and Samantha, who came up for the day.

We got back to Vegas after climbing and I was dropped off at my car parked in front of a friend’s house.  The other two somehow were a ways behind so I headed inside.  I was hanging out waiting and chatting with one of the roommates.  To be polite I made a comment about appreciating letting me crash and making sure I wasn’t in the way.  Her reply stunned me: “Well, we don’t actually know you that well and would like it if you leave.”  It’s been a while, so I’m paraphrasing, but it was pretty similar.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was my third, nonconsecutive night there after being invited to start with.  I had always thought of the climbing community as welcoming and courteous, but this was straight rude and mean.  To top it off, when I told my friend, he did nothing about it.  To this day, being kicked out of the house by the roommate of someone I thought was a friend is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.

So I found myself in Las Vegas, sitting in the back of my van feeling utterly alone.  It seemed like I had nowhere to go and nobody I could turn to.  Re-enter Phil and Samantha who offered that I could crash at their place for the night when I needed it most, which I will never forget.

The next day I headed back to Wailing Wall to finish up Holbytla.  I managed to find a couple that I knew at Wailing Wall to climb with for two days.  I finished Holbytla and had a good day of flashing several 12’s, but I was ready to move on.


The Homestead

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As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.

-John Muir

 

From Joshua Tree I headed to Phoenix in time to surprise my dad for his birthday.  A few days of good food and a real bed was a treat, but the longing came and I was quickly scheming more climbing.  The lure of tufas in the US was too much for me to resist so I headed off toward the Homestead knowing only that I couldn’t make it in with my car and there should be someone there for the weekend that was willing to let me join his group.

The first day I managed to hitch a ride in, met Luke in person, and met another friend, Sam, who had just arrived partnerless wanting to spend some time there as well.  The weather was crazy, swinging between snowing, sweating in the sun, and back to freezing cold over when the sun dropped.  I climbed with Sam, Luke, Sandra, and Brent for a couple days, but the weekend ended and we all headed back to Phoenix.  After some rest and a good bit of stocking up, Luke hooked me up with a friend who was going back to the ‘Stead.

I set up camp and for the next three weeks I didn’t see pavement or have any of the standard comforts of the western world.  For the most part I climbed when it was light, ate when I was hungry, and slept when it was dark.  Luke and Sandra became my lifeline, bringing in weekly veggies and water.  On the occasional rest days I improved the camp, gathered firewood, and dug a new latrine.  In short, it was wonderful.

A couple days after I got back Sam came back to the Homestead as well so even during the quiet weekdays there was never any question about finding a climbing partner.  Greece was still recent in my mind so getting back to tufas felt like a return to bliss.

We mostly climbed at the prize and glory of the Homestead, Tufa City.  It get some shade, but faces the fierce Arizona sun for much of the day.  It worked well with the erratic weather we got.  I had never spent much time in Arizona so I was surprised when it snowed four days in the first week.  The weather didn’t usually stop us, and many times the clouds provided much appreciated shade so we could climb at Tufa City all day.

Even after the quality of rock I had been climbing on in Greece, Tufa City held its ground.  It’s by no means as great as Kalymnos, but for tufas in the US, it’s pretty rad.  The wall is jam packed with great lines, mostly from 11 to low 13-.  One particular one, Dead Sea, immediately caught my attention as a really fun climb that involved thin sequential climbing at the bottom which gave way to some fun powerful and pumpy moves higher up.  I managed to pull it together quickly and found myself almost wishing I hadn’t sent it so fast or just wanting to keep repeating it.  It’s that fun.

When the mercury rose and sent us searching for shady climbing we found more great routes at the Rough Rider wall.  It may not have the tufas found on the other side of the canyon, but it did have more routes on high quality limestone, but with blocky features running 110ft to the top of the cliff.  The Riddler was one especially great climb I got on.  The name fit the cryptic climbing on the route which stayed on you for eleven bolts of hard climbing.

The days flew passed and soon I realized that I had finished lots of what I cared about doing.  The quality is great for lots of the rock, but one drawback of the Homestead is that there are only about 12 routes in the 5.13 range and only two harder than 13b.  I think this is largely due to the rock itself, but more hard routes would certainly give the area more pull to strong climbers that might put the crag more into the spotlight.  Regardless, I had a great time and was ready to move on.

 


Joshua Tree

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Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.

-Jack Kerouac

 

After three weeks at Maine for the holidays and a week in L.A. to fix my car, I was ready to get back on the road again.  It had been a year without climbing trad so I decided it was time to head to Joshua tree and see how my gains in sport climbing would translate to gear.

I knew I had a couple friends already there, but I was surprised to find even more friends than I had expected.  Those I didn’t already know quickly became friends as well as we packed into vans to avoid the frigid wind.  Temperatures hovered around 20 during the day and dipped into the single digits at night with winds strong enough to sent tents flying, even with gear inside.  This made the climbing difficult for the first week.

Never having been to J-tree before, I quickly made a list of nearly 50 routes to try.  Compiled of classics, recommendations, and one’s added because I thought they might “build character” (aka fist crack or off-width) the list was more than I could possibly finish, but it gave me some direction.  Once the weather warmed up and it was possible to climb without losing feeling in my fingers, I got cracking trying as many routes as possible.

I spent some time trying a range of routes, but mostly just had a blast playing with widgets again.  Topping my list of favorites were some of my proudest sends even if some were over two number grades lower than sport climbs I’ve done.  For routes like Coarse and Buggy (5.11b) the grade doesn’t matter; it’s hard, it’s awesome, the end.  Rubicon (5.10c), Hot Rocks (5.11c), and Scary Poodles (5.11b) were a few of my other favorites.  Hot Rocks was an especially proud one for me because it became my hardest trad send and it was on difficult placements and had a huge run-out at the top.

Joshua Tree is a complicated place.  Blistering sun, frigid nights, and howling winds all frequent the small piles of kitty litter choss that people like to call Joshua tree rocks.  There’s a reason the classic boulder problem ‘Stem Gem’ has three grooves worn away were you have to smear the right foot to start.  But some of the rock is pretty good.  And the community that finds shelter in J-tree for the winter is amazing.  More than the routes, I’ll remember the mornings at Climbers Coffee, rest day Bocce, and Chasm of Doom exploits in the dark.

February came and temperatures started warming sending climbers scattering in different directions.  Soon I found that my list was only half ticked and it was time to move on.  J-tree is certainly an interesting destination, climbing on kitty litter granite, but is definitely a fun hang.  I don’t know when it will be, but I’m sure I’ll make it back to continue working on the ever-expanding list of routes to do.

 


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.


LA Eating

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Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.
—Albert Schweitzer, French philosopher, physician, and musician

 

When I first moved LA I fully expected to hate living in such a huge city.  I still can’t say it’s a place I want to move back to, but it’s not all bad.  One of the redeeming factors for me is the great vegan/vegetarian community.

In my week hanging out in LA I had some amazing food.  Veggie Grill donated food and free meal cards to the ADI fundraiser so the meals were ballin’ from the start.  Friday night the volunteers got platters for delicious Kale salad, some kind of chickenless burger, and deadly delicious carrot cake.  From there the weekend of food continued with catered food from Seed Kitchen at the fundraiser, Z Pizza for the volunteers for dinner, and snacking on Spicey Bits or Justins Peanut Butter Cups.

 

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to revisit Native Foods, which I loved when I went for opening night while living in LA, but between then weekend of food and great cooking of Amanda and David, I  was loving life and wishing everywhere else in the world had the same variety of vegan options.

So next time you’re in LA, take a break from the traffic, you won’t be moving fast anyway, and stop by one of the great vegan restaurants.

 

These days more people are becoming vegan/vegetarian, but it’s not just a fad.  For all the doubters who say you can’t climb without getting protein from meat, I’d just like to point are some people you might know, listed below, who do just fine without it.  It’s a choice, not a need.  What do you choose?

Steph Davis – Vegan

Alex Honnold – Vegetarian

Jonathan Siegrist – Self described as 99.5% vegetarian

A few other people you might know have stopped eating meat too:  Alec Baldwin, Ellen Degeneres, Steve-O (From Jackass), Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Clinton,  Mike Tyson, Joaquin Phoenix, and Russell Simmons.

So next time someone makes fun of your grilled portobello, just imagine what they would say you were Mike Tyson.


What does a dirtbag do without climbing?

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

-Douglas Adams

 

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

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

(Photo by Phillip Tearse)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yosemite

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

-Jack Kerouac

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Utah

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We all try to be busy instead of being alive.

-Will Gadd

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Goals and Ideas not Resolutions and Plans

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

-Andy Lewis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you want to be happy, be.

-Leo Tolstoy

 


10 Days of Not Climbing

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

-Lauren Myracle

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ten Sleep (Part II)

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

– Alan Watts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Ten Sleep (Part I)

Center El Shinto

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

-Alan Watts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 


 

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


International Climbers’ Festival

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

-Andre Gide

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Matt on Young Girl)

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

 


Fun & Sun in Colorado

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

-Judith Minty

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


On The Road Again

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

-Yo Yo Ma

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Best Day of Climbing

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

-Unknown

 

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

(Exploring the lagoon)

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

(Chicken Mamas!)

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

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

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

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

 


Return to Writing

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

– Paul Thoreau

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(My first bungalow)

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

(My first house guest)


VIDEO UPDATE!

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

-Ansel Adams

 

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

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