"Not all those who wander are lost"

Posts tagged “Climbing

Reflections and Projections

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

-Master Shifu

 

New Year, New Beginnings, right?  HA!

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

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

Credit: Mathias Deming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

At 23 different crags

In 5 countries (and 5 states in the US)

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

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

I bolted 9 routes

I did 5 FA’s

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

And some more details of my sends…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The analysis…

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

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

 

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Climbing my route “A World of Evil” 13a

DSC_0178

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

El Diente

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

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


The Cornudella Vortex

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

-Edward, Hector & the Search for Happiness

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Summer in SLC

 

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

-Hubert Reeves

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The One

P1110954

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.


Five Ten Hiangle

The Hiangles are clearly aimed to be a lower cost competitor to high end aggressive the Solutions, but they have a few major downsides for me.  First, the opening for the shoe isn’t big enough.  I could barely get my foot into the shoes I tested, yet the size was still larger than I would want to wear.  The second problem I had was the heel size and shape.  As with many Five Ten shoes, the heel has leather on the sides which makes the heel have voids and feel like the shoe is baggy.  The general use of the shoe was very good and was the best experience I’ve had from a pair of Five Tens.  The toe rubber was good and thick enough that I wouldn’t expect it to wear as quickly as solutions.  One final downside, unrelated to shoe performance, was that the shoes turned my feet blue from the dye in the leather.  This didn’t just happen when my feet were hot or when I wore them many times in a day.  One short pitch and my feet would be so blue that I couldn’t even get it to scrub off in the shower.

Over the few months I have had the shoes; they already have significantly worn edges although the rest of the shoe shows no sign of wear.  As I mentioned, the shoes are difficult to get on for the size, but they are fairly comfortable.  If they were sized down more for a better fit I don’t know if they would be as comfortable.  It’s a relatively stiff shoe and can edge, but does not have very good sensitivity so I found it hard to tell when I was standing exactly where I wanted.  The Five Ten rubber performed well smearing even though the shoe is more downturned and not designed for it.  The added toe rubber which seems to be industry standard for aggressive shoes was good, although it was a bit thicker than it needed to be.

Five Tens usually don’t fit my foot well once I size down enough.  This pair wasn’t sized down quite enough, but for the first time it didn’t feel like my foot was falling out over the side of the shoe.  I like the closure system (single Velcro strap on a slipper style shoe, similar to the Solution), but I think this pair doesn’t execute it quite right.  As I mentioned earlier, the opening is so small I could barely get my foot in even though the shoe isn’t quite downsized enough.  If it was slightly larger it would be much better.  They were nice, easy to get on and off and quick to fasten the single Velcro strap.  I would make the strap shorter though.  Currently when the shoes are on, the strap goes past the end of the Velcro leaving the end dangling.

Overall I am quite torn by this shoe because it’s decent, but with some easy fixes of the issues I mentioned I think it could be a very good shoe.  It’s also nice for a first aggressive shoe since it’s going to be sold at ~$120.

 

Testing Notes:

I received these shoes for free, although not from the manufacturer, to test.  I climbed many pitches in them over the course of several months.  I used them for sport climbing, mostly on limestone, and a little bit of bouldering.  This pair of Hiangles was size 10.  I usually wear size EU 40.5, Five Ten 9-9.5, and street shoe 10.5.


Scarpa Booster S Review

 

The Booster S is a great shoe for sport climbing or bouldering.  The shoes were quite tight, yet remained quite comfortable thanks to the two straps Velcro closure system and lined inner which helped give the shoes a nice glove fit.  The straps are just barely short enough that they don’t dangle off the end of the Velcro and get in the way like some other straps.  The split sole allowed for increased flexibility at the arch of the foot and greater sensitivity.  The heel shape could be improved upon to reduce the voids on the side of the heel that are so common in climbing shoes, but the added rubber on top of the toe was great for forcing pressure to the tips of the toes and getting extra purchase on toe-hooks.  In the spectrum of stiffness and sensitivity the Booster S achieves a great balance: nice and sensitive to feel the rock and smear, yet just stiff enough to edge well. The stickiness of the rubber was excellent as well, helping the shoes stick to smears and sloped edges.

Overall I really like this shoe and it’s among my favorites for sport climbing and bouldering.

Testing Notes:

I tested theses shoes for one day through a shoe demo.  For a more complete review I would need a longer test period.  This Booster S pair was size EU 41.  I usually wear size EU 40.5, Five Ten 9-9.5, and street shoe 10.5.


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.


Yosemite

P1040398

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.

 


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.