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Posts tagged “Sport 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!


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…


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.