"Not all those who wander are lost"

Posts tagged “Rock 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.

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Climbing my route “A World of Evil” 13a

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

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

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El Diente

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

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


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.

 


Turkey, Part II: The Spray

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

-Andrew Bisharat

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

That try never came.

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

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


Turkey, Part 1

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

-Jessy Trapper

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More of this to come…


A Windy Western Climbing Town

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

-Wailing Jennys

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Back in the Desert

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

-Alan Watts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Story of Lots of Driving

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

-Edward Abbey

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Summer in SLC

 

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

-Hubert Reeves

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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