Dec 6, 2011

The Prince and Princess of Plastic

Regardless of my incessant even neurotic dipping for chalk, I still feel as though I've just bathed my hands in lotion. Eyes dart from the hold to hold, scrutinizing the most minute details of the plastic in hopes of revealing a secret grip style to unlock the problem. Despite the obvious frivolous facade which is gym climbing, one cannot deny the excitement, exuberance, and electricity of an indoor climbing comp. Thus, in the spirit of competition, I offer this week's post as a shameless plug for the upcoming MSU bouldering competition. I'll be back next week with another review and some thoughts on life in the vertical. However for now here's the details!

When? January 28th and 29th

Where? MSU Climbing gym, located in the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center

Why? To raise awareness that our current climbing gym is . . . lacking . . . We'll have plans up during the comp of the proposed expansion

How? The registration fee is only $25 until December 31st, after which time it raises to $30, or $35 day of. Go to the main office in the Fitness Center to register OR click here to enter the intramural server which MSU uses to register intramural competitors. After clicking on the link, create a profile and look for the MSU climbing competition event. You can then register yourself for the division and heat you'd like to compete in. If you register online, payment will be due the day of the comp but you'll still get the reduced price. However, if you pay the day of the comp, you must pay with cash or check. You can pay with a card by registering early in person at the fitness center.

Hope to see you all there!

Nov 30, 2011

Lofty Desert Days (La Sportiva Katana)

The Pinnacle of Technology, as we called her, drifted through the endless space-time continuum which is road tripping. Flakes of snow silently hurtled themselves at the windshield and accumulated on the invisible roadway beyond our high beams, as if the stars of hyperspace were falling out of solution. The interior of our interstate vessel was a jumbled mess of rushed packing. Canned food, coolers, and cams crowded the cockpit of our Creek destined container. The pungent aroma, unmistakable when one first entered our ship, had faded out of consciousness, leaving only the occasional flicker of light to remind us of its presence. The approaching Thanksgiving fueled my idle brain's imagination with a grandiose epic analogous to heartfelt tail of Columbus. However, in my fabrication, I was one of four men on board an interstellar ship destined not for The New World, but for a desert world where shear faces of Wingate Sandstone rose hundreds of feet into the air. The fantasy was broken by the approaching flashing hazard lights of a jacked knife semi-truck, just barely visible through the stars falling from solution.
Seconds combined with hours which melted into minutes, all the while Pandora continuously provided the soundtrack of our adventure. Somewhere in the fray I had been asked to take the helm but declined due to my current inability to remain awake. Perfectly uncomfortable in the cargo hold, sleep gripped me instantaneously, until the sudden deceleration of the transport on final approach vector towards Moab stirred me from my dreams.
We had wasted the previous day in Salt Lake City between an Indian Cafe, an Office marathon, a failed trip to the Front, and a few hours at a bar, waiting for Pat to arrive. By the third episode chronicling idiotic displays of mismanagement by Micheal Scott, it was already dark. Life in the darkened world continued without the natural pause of sleep to package the events into a "day" in ones mind. Thus, by the time our headlights shown onto the natural spring outside of Moab, I don't think any of us really knew who we were.

After eternity had came and gone, morning sun illuminated the gargantuan walls of sandstone lining the road heading south from Moab. The coming day surprised and startled me, as if I believed our vessel had indeed landed on a foreign world devoid of a sun. Our southbound trajectory shifted via the magical junction to Canyonlands National Park. As we descended through layers of time, space, and environment our final elevation settled at the base of the Wingate formation. A culmination of geologic process, unknown and remarkable to my naive brain, created a continuum of laser cut vertical lines. Initially, these lines were an exciting occasional site; however as we pressed further toward the Beef Basin road the lines became common. Rounding the corner dominated by the most classic of line of lines, Supercrack, the excitement which perpetually draws me toward the vertical world returned with vengeance.
A fraction of a moment later we stood in reverence at the glory which is Indian Creek. A long forgotten land far from the perpetual stress defining life. Hallow ground, dismissed as a dusty dirty deteriorating destination by the dismissive eye but delightfully defined as a diminutive piece of our planet dominating many lives. The Creek is beyond the realm of elucidation, hovering somewhere between reality and fiction. A fantasy land bounded by thousands upon thousands of adventures, more than enough for a thousand lifetimes. And, this mystic land would be our home for the next nine days before the Pinnacle of Technology would set a northward navigation through the endless space-time continuum which is road tripping.  

I was initially skeptical of this shoe. For sometime now, I've been searching for a performance oriented shoe which is somewhere between the comfort of a Moccasym and the technical abilities of the Testerosa. May I say, I've finally found it. Despite reading several reviews describing the shoe as "very narrow", I find my wide feet have no problems staying within the shoe for an extended period of time. I sized the shoe a half size larger than my bouldering shoes. Initially, I was nervous this might provide a good performance fit with no comfort. However, after wearing the shoe for several hour plus stings, I feel my sizing choice is perfect. The tongue of the shoe is super padded and very comfortable, while the laces allow one to finely tune the fit. My only complain thus far is about the Vibram soles which took a while to break in and become "sticky". I've had no problems thus far with the heel cup or the fit of the shoe around my ankle. Despite heavy use in the Creek on all sizes of cracks, they lacing system has held up very well. Additionally, there was minimal discomfort due to repeatedly shoving m foot in and out of various sized cracks. I wouldn't recommend sizing the shoe too big as to avoid eventual sloppiness. They edge like a dream and don't smear all hat bad either. Best use in my opinion . . . an all around performance oriented trad climbing shoe. I'd still rather have my Testerosas on for most sport climbing endeavors.

  • Comfortable fit (mostly due to the plush tongue)
  • Great edging and smearing abilities 
  • Perfect middle of the road trad shoe
  • Vibram sole takes a while to become "sticky" 
  • Laces may wear quickly with continued use on cracks larger than a BD 0.75 

Nov 11, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby (Black Diamond Fusions)

Despite my obvious lack of excitement for ice climbing, (ok let's be honest here . . . "lack of excitement" could be translated as "I don't ever want to go ice climbing again") I went ice climbing last Sunday. The sport is beautiful, cold, captivating, and terrifying. The episodic streaks of ice which grace the cliffs of Hylatie Canyon appear invisible to even the trained eye. For among the complex fortress of crumbling rock bands contained within the canyon, a lifetime of frigid adventures wait. For the dedicated, those who continually contend to breach the fortress walls are remunerated with the required skills to climb any frozen summit they choose. In my case, last weekends excursion to the ice solidified one major difference between the dedicated few and myself. Those dedicated few have the mental fortitude to slam ice screws into hanging curtains, travel massive vertical distances without any protection, and scratch their tools through pure choss seeking the perfect hook. I do not share this similar capability. Regardless of how comfortable I feel climbing far about small cam, micro nuts, or no gear . . . I cannot seem to fathom how to translate this to ice climbing. Furthermore, ice climbing has always given me a vehicle to ascend large peaks somewhere else, and with no such trips on the horizon my motivations are running thin. Thank goodness we are so lucky to live in a state rich with ice climbs of moderate difficulty which can take one to some of them most impressive places Montana has to offer. Thus, I feel this will be the focus of my ice climbing season this year. I'd like to repeat Cali Ice and Leaning Tree, and expand my long route vocabulary to Ice Dragons, any one of the Cody classics, or perhaps some climbs on Barronet Peak. I better get comfy in the driver's seat of the Bronco. Thus, with ice climbing as my inspiration, I offer these words in relation to my experiences with the Black Diamond Fusion Ice Tools.

Black Diamond did it right when they released these tools a few years ago! While they don't hold a candle to weight savings of the Cobras, they sure do perform well. I personally prefer a heavier tool, believing it swing easier when I'm pumped. (how much of this is true is up to much debate). I've climbed with tools on every grade from WI 2 - WI 5/6. However, the upper end of the grade is where they really start to shine. The extreme aggressive curvature of the tool renders nearly zero pick shift. Thus, whether your coping a rest of the lower grips, or bumped up the higher pommel making a technical move . . . it all feels the same. Enough about water ice, let talk about the terrain these tools were designed for. Mixed climbing . . . while I haven't done an extreme amount on these tools, what I have done is a dream. Again, the zero pick shift allows for technical lock offs at your waist on the smallest of edges. On extreme overhangs, go ahead and cut those feet! These tools support your whole body like a big girl lookin for some lovin' on a Friday night. As far as durability is concerned . . . these tools do great. I've dropped them, left in the sun for many days (they are now more yellow than green), and had to perform little maintenance to keep them in working order. My only complaint . . . they shatter ice compared to the Cobras.

Pros: Excel on all types of ice, especially steep ice and mixed terrain. Durable as a Swiss made watch. Heavy, for easy momentum carry when your pumped.

Cons: Solid heavy shaft tends to cause more ice shattering than the other similar tools

Oct 31, 2011

Goodbye Rock . . . Hello Traveling

So, lets start this off right with a little quick recap of the fall. August, 30th, I fell while bouldering in the MSU climbing gym resulting in a nasty ankle sprain and no climbing for nearly 3 straight weeks. In hopes of keeping the body fit while the healing, I filled my usually climbing time with numerous training sessions. To celebrate the return to the rock, a trip to Tensleep with the MSU climbing club was the order of the weekend. We spent the entire trip up at the gorgeously blue bulletproof FCR. I was able to get several more 5.12a onsights under my belt and tried my first 13a . . . Capping the trip with a finger injury off a mono on a 12d which felt miles harder than the 13? Another week or so of rest on the finger led to the most beautiful fall I've seen in Bozeman in 6 years! Perfect temps, sustained nice weather falling on all the days I had off to crush. The psyche, perfect temps, and stress of classes culminated in a redpoint rope solo of The Fugitive, a solid effort on Weapons (3 hangs isn't so bad seeing as I haven't tired it since February), and a one hang go TRing Songline on the first attempt in 3 years. However, with snow / rain predicted for the remainder of the week, I feel last weekend officially concluded rock season on Montana. While most are properly sharpening the ice tools, searching their attics for thing ice gloves, and drooling over Winter Dance; I find myself planning an itinerary of trips down the I-15 corridor toward warmer climates more suitable for rock climbing. First of these such endeavors will be over the week of Thanksgiving to where else but Zion and Indian Creek. Much is planned for this adventure, but I'll postpone the speculation until facts are facts.

I've also decided to attempt to bring some insight to this random little corner of the interweb by doing more than just spraying about how obviously badass I am. This weekend I got another core short in my rope after taking a minor fall. While searching the interweb for a new cord, I realized the lack of reputable gear reviews is astonishing. Therefore, with the motivation of providing a gear review for equipment which has undergone a proper and a reason to read my ramblings other than growing my ego . . . I'll be including a WEEKLY review of a product related to the climbing life. To start things off, lets discuss the Sterling 9.5 X 70m Nano Rope in the bright orange color.

9.2 mm Sterling Nano after nearly 1 year of heavy usage

Most recent core shot
I first purchased this rope from Northern Lights Trading Company in late December of 2010 to use on an upcoming sport trip to Red Rocks and Bishop. Cold and snow limited the cords usage on the first trip. My initial impression was skepticism due the rope's extremely thin diameter. I distinctly remember the feeling of confusion after blindly reaching to my waist while clipping. Grabbing what felt like a rope, but could not possible be my line on account of how thin it felt. A visual downward inspection revealed indeed the thin line in my had was the sharp end! Despite the cord's thin feel, it handled like a dream! Sterling's ropes always have had a stiff feel to me, and as a result their ropes practically jump through the gate. Combine this with ease of handling such a thin line and you've got yourself a winner! Excited about the ropes potential, we made many trips to The Haunta Virus Cave last winter to attempt Weapons of Mass Destruction. This route was solidly above my limit at the time and all my attempts resulted in some form of a fall. Due to the hang dogging nature of my climbing, I found the rope began to wear extensively in the first few feet from either end. As the season and my progress on the route advanced, I began to take more actual falls onto the rope. This culminated in a sizable winger off the 4th bolt and an obvious dead spot some 15 feet from the end I was tied into. I chopped the line to just after the dead spot, eliminating 15 feet off the rope only a few months after the date of purchase. However, due to the nature of the fall's size and my extensive previous hang dogging, I wasn't yet disappointed. The next phase of usage came during the month of May while on a 3 week road trip. My partner and I used the rope on multiple long free routes either as a lead line or a tag line (See Catch Up). I was astounded by the the line's resilience during the trip despite the punishment. We did have to make a special stop in Springdale, UT near Zion to find a hot knife and chop another 10 foot section of the end of the cord due to another dead spot (notice a pattern yet?).  The cord held up incredibly well on multiple 10 - 15 pitch climbs and was a dream to have at each belay due to how easily it stacked and fed. In June, I headed to The City of Rocks where the rope received another core shot over a patina flake due to a fall and another 10 feet later off the line. My now custom 62m special worked like a dream in Index, WA for cragging and a multipitch venture. Combine this with a summer's worth of cragging around Bozeman and I'm now just looking at getting a new cord. After all this abuse, the rope has recently started to show signs of ovaling and is noticeably softer than ever before. Had it not been for the multiple core shots on the ends, I'd give this rope a strong recommendation. This is the first rope I've ever core shot . . . and I've managed to achieve this destruction 4 times.

It appears that the core of the rope is solid, but the sheath is what wears. This is purely assumption, but I speculate because of the tin diameter, Sterling must use a thinner sheath on their Nano's resulting in multiple core shorts. In each of the incidents, the core of the rope was intact, but the sheath appeared to have failed in the damaged area. Overall, I feel the rope's small diameter combined with the extent of usage; created a scenario in which the rope had repeated failures. However, I this in no way is a reflection of Sterling's quality. Bottom Line:

  • Incredible handling
  • Very light 
  • Stacks great at hanging belays 
  • Durable as a mother given how skinny she is
  • Easily wore near the ends 
  • Received multiple core shorts due to falls and sharp edges

If your looking for a great rope thin line for going fast and light on big routes or sending your project . . . this is the rope for you. However, expect the sheath to wear out pretty quick near the ends if your doing a lot of hang dogging or falling. Unless you can afford to update your rope every year, I'd go a bit larger in diameter. Any damage the rope sustained during my usage does not represent Sterling's construction. The damage was caused by the way in which I used the rope. In searching for a new cord, I think a Sterling 9.5 Ion might be perfect balance between light weight and durability.

Aug 23, 2011

95 degree cold

Before I digress into the meat and potatoes of this post. I'd like to share a video with the 5 of you who read this. (BTW I've got some trivia up on the right side so feel free to make me feel like someone actually reads this and answer the dam trivia question). I made this video a while back to commemorate some great times I had up in AK with the best partner I've had!

The Mantana Expedition from Kevin Volkening on Vimeo.

To all others who define their occupation as "student", I wish you the best of luck at making the most of your last week of freedom. Don't take this precious time for granted, because all too soon you will re enter the world of homework, quizzes, midterms, cramming, sleep deprivation, and an all around feeling like even though you think you control your own time . . . you really don't. Some professor sitting in an office arbitrarily assigning papers, homework sets, research projects, etc is indeed the puppet master controlling nearly how you spend (or at least how you "should" spend) every waking moment of your life.

If I seem to be a bit bitter about the upcoming arrival for school, it is only because my pitiful excuse for an immune system has once again let me down . . . during the worst time it could. The last week before school. Instead of spending the dwindling hours of summer trying to cram in one more pitch, one more day at the crag, or one more guilt free hour climbing; I've been sitting in front of my computer watching people do the very things I'm describing. Dynoing, deadpointing, grunting, sending, scared, and free while I'm sniffling, sneezing, groaning, moaning, and sick.

However, being the self proclaimed optimist that I hope I am, this time of sickened retreat has caused me to do a bit of self reflection in regards to my climbing life. (I chuckle to myself when I use the word climbing life . . . Lets be honest, I don't have a life other than climbing). The result of my introspective state has turned my gaze toward the future of cooler temperatures, sendtember, and rocktober! I hope the following list of desired sends will give me something to report back on in the coming months.
  • The Fugitive: I've tried this climb more this summer than any other. As of last week I was able to two hang her. My most coveted send and the top of my list! Amazing climbing with super crimptastic cruxes . . . this guy would be a 5 star pitch anywhere!
  •  Stranger Than Fiction: Began working this lovely short route last fall and have watched it go from an udder struggle to several one hangs. A great powerful line featuring a gnarly slap to an undercling! Try me try me!
  • Irukandji Syndrome: Again, a carry over project from this spring (or winter). Again, another one hang wonder. Hopefully the Boulder River drops a bit in the next few weeks and I can actually get to the base for the first attempt of the summer. Who says Montana doesn't have beautiful limestone? Incredible rock, incredible climbing, don't let the grade deter you from getting on this one, she's a beaut!
  •  Weapons of Mass Destruction: Got heartbreaking close to sending last winter before I pitched off attempting to make the 5th clip. Thanks to my now wonderful wife, she caught me just shy of the first bolt. This guy will have to wait however until the depths of winter due to the fact that I think there's more friction on a granite counter top than on this climb. Close your eyes and do these moves on some slightly more aesthetic rock and you've got a great climb! 
  • Songline: Had the wonderful opportunity to top rope this gem of route during the summer of 2009. Haven't been back since, but at the time I was able to complete all but one move. I hope this one falls quick as I'm not super keen on the hike up there! Perched high above all other in the canyon on some incredible stone. Setting up the TR is more dangerous than sacking up and leading it . . . so SACK UP!
  • Stigmata: The local list's wild card. Walked by her a million times, but I've never been on her. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful line in the canyon. 
  • If Peterbuilts Could Prance: Very excited about the potential of this line. I've taken several top rope laps and have the moves pretty well dialed. Think the lead attempt is going to be my next go! The safety rating only applies to the easier climbing above the bolts . . . if you can pull the moves down low than you better be able to pull moves up high.
Some Travel Required
  •  Tensleep, WY
    •  I don't want to offend any of the pocket pulling junkies out there . . . but this place just isn't my style. However, looks like climbing club is going to want to make a trip down there this fall. (I'll try to give everyone a fair warning of when this is happening . . .) Think this trip will feature a lot of attempts to onsight some rad pocketed stone!
  • Zion, UT
    • If anyone actually reads this . . . tell Marge she needs to get the weekend off to head down there with me! My big goal for this area is getting my beloved on her first mini-big wall!
    • Moonlight Buttress . . . Free: Mr. Dyess will be returning to the west for Thanksgiving and has planted another crazy idea similar to the B-Y in my head. But hey, at least this one is just C1 if you fall.   
  • Indian Creek, UT
    • So just in case anyone was wondering, Thanksgiving is in 84 days and thus that means the creek is in 84 days! 
      • Fingers in a Light Socket 
      • Sweeden Ringle 
      • Big Baby
      • Quarter of a Man
      • Big Guy 
      • Pente
      • 9 Lives
      • Puma
      • Kool Cat
      • Mad Dog
      • Bad Cat
      • Johnny Cat  

Aug 17, 2011

Married Man

I GOT MARRIED! So, now that life's had a chance to settle after the big day, I'm finally getting back to what I promised in my last post. A more detailed account of this summer's adventures.

My last post more or less described the events and experiences of the summer's first road trip. In case you missed it a quick recap can be found in the following photos. Enjoy . . .

One night spent at a rest stop, one busted tire, and nearly 30 hours of driving finally reviles the first road sign stating "Yosemite"

  A sleepy Captain

The Bronco made it! Washington Column dominates the skyline

Tate on one of the final pitches of "The Prow"

The view on the third morning looking toward our starting point

The final rays of the day striking Half Dome's North Face

Zion and the Streaked Wall . . . lifetime climbing goal

The beautiful sport climbs of Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park, UT
Thanks Conrad!

Since the "big" trip I'd been focusing primarily on getting ready to be married . . . however, I did manage to sneak out for a generous handful of adventures. These included many trips into Gallatin Canyon to work The Fugitive. One notable trip was with a good buddy, Lawrence, who nearly sent in one of the most fluid styles I've seen anywhere.

He heartbreakingly fell only a few feet higher after waling both cruxes . . . next time buddy!

The Sunlight Basin Region near the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone got a new two pitch route when my partner in crime Loren (see his blog and I headed that direction for some summer fun. We were returning for a second go at an established line called Salsa Verde which we had epically failed on weeks earlier. However,  with a Bozeman alpine start and a bit of intimidation from the weather forecast we found ourselves staring at a nice looking unclimed crack system in a nearby drainage. The route can be easily accessed from above from the Sunlight Creek Bridge parking area. The climb is on the upstream side of the bridge. If anyone is interested in the lines exact location give me a shout . . . it awaits a second ascent!

After nearly two hours of hanging, scrubbing, and anchor equipment we finally were able to climb two pitches of wide cracks separated by a dirty but comfortable ledge. Loren had taken the cleaning duties on the first pitch and thus sent his with no problem. This pitch offered extremely varied climbing with skills required from almost every page in the book. I took the lead on the second pitch rewarding our efforts with a long sustained slightly overhanging hand a fist crack.

 Looking at Cameltoe from across the river. Dotted line indicates location of first pitch is obscured by the large tree.

Route topo

Loren beginning to rappel over the first pitch for the route

 Loren sending the offwidth crux pod near the bottom of the first pitch

 Myself high on the second pitch

The condition of the jug line after inspection upon completing the route. Watch your ropes!

Finally, if all this wasn't enough to satisfy the endless need to climb one more pitch, my wonderful fiance turned her head one last time as I sneaked off to Index, WA with two of my best friends for several days. We had originally planned a small expedition into the Cirque of the Towers, WY. The record setting snow pack had other ideas, and 4 feet of snow at he trail head blocked our entry. Thus, we shifted gears and headed toward a new area for all us. Index, WA home of rain, drizzle, vagrants, mist, meth addicts, some more rain, incredible rock which is usually wet from the rain, trains, a little more rain, rocket dogs, Ricco's Pizza, and the Koren BBQ . . .  Despite the weather's refusal to cooperate, we were still able to get in multiple pitches each day as well as one longer route. Check out obviously lower town wall if your there, but don't miss Japanese Gardens, Godzilla, Sagittarius, Iron Horse, and Thin Slice. If your up at the Upper Town Wall make sure to walk to your left and get on Dana's Arch! Also, the local Korean-American couple who runs the general store serves up an incredible deal on their home made Korean BBQ. $4 for more food than you can eat, plus if your really nice it might even come with a free corndog! If camping in the area long term, the large pullout with the "Honey Bucket" has great riverside camping. Any of the sites up the road from the said area are on private property. The local sheriff was patrolling the area while we were there and removing trespassers. 

 Top Rope tough guying it on Dana's Arch (5.11)

 B-Rad on Steel Monkey, this pitch stays dry even while it is actively raining (5.12)

 Todd making some tech nasty moves off the belay on Davis-Holland to Lovin' Arms  (5.11 a/b)

 Myself venturing into the crux on Davis-Holland to Lovin' Arms

 The sleepy town of Index

 B-Rad finishing the crux pitch of DH-LA

 Greg making quick work of the final pith of DH-LA

Finally, the day of the wedding came and passed with ever so much joy! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who attended, helped, hung lights, put on the catering, played the music, laughed, cried, drank! It was a blast . . . to all of you who are considering it. If she's the right one for ya' then there shouldn't be ANYTHING holding you back. Sadly, I don't have any pictures to share due the the current format of the one's we have in our possession. However, facebook is a plentiful source as well as our photographer's Flikr account.

Last but not least, Marge and I went on a splendid "mini-moon" to the great state of Wyoming, visiting two of the regions premier climbing destinations. Cody and Tensleep . . . We spent our first day lounging around the Antelope Boulder with Marge coming extremely close to sending the Tuk while I got heartbreakingly close to Meat Hooks. However, the day was not all disappointment. The landing to Sir Hugeness has recently been Mworked and is much more attemptable. Sent after a few goes. We then went up to the Sheep Camp area and did more looking the climbing. The following day we spent most of our time exploring the Maze area with considerable time working on a really neat "V3" on the Heuco Simulator boulder.

Off to the land of buttery sickness . . . and into a style of climbing far from anything I've done before! I just keep telling myself Tensleep is a lot like calculus, just because it doesn't come easy doesn't mean you have to hate it. We were able to get on a few of the classics with my personal highlight being spending some quality relaxation time with my beautiful new bride.

Marge on "The Tuk", V3 


Cody night rodeo

Marge on a The Watchtower, a V2 arete on the Fort Boulder

Great sloper problem, Friender Bender, on the Rhombus Boulder (V3)

Marge Crucifying the Serpent on the Serpent Boulder, (V1)

"That was really only V2?" While Lhotse stares at ants in the background

"Dad, look I can hit myself in the head with a stick"


Jul 20, 2011


Long time no blogging friends. I've been up to a lot, buts let's be honest here I just plain old got lazy. The "yosemite trip" ended up being tour de west's climbing areas with stops in yosemite, J-tree, red rocks, and Zion with lots of bad weather to keep things interesting.
In yosemite we found much more inclement weather than anticipated. With our trip goals being center around trips up the captain (which periodically was snow free) we quickly realized shift our destination of choice might be the best course of action. However, we didn't leave empty handed. A 3 day epic on Washington Column's Prow made for good post epic comic relief. An endless sea of beautiful granite punctuated by stunning features, two nights, one broken wall hauler, and the only weather window in two weeks all combined to create a highly recommendable experience to anyone getting into some more serious aid.
With low hearts but open minds we turned our back on our dreams of nights on the captain and headed to the climbing area in the western US which wasn't either wet or buried in snow, J-tree. Warm weather and unimaginable scenery returned the psych and we soldiered on. High points were some crazy slab arĂȘte route and the major dihedral course and buggy.
However, the call on the adventure and the need for air below our feet, Tate and I set off the lofty towers of Red Rocks. A wet day of sport climbing lead to better weather and the ambition to get our muscles woopt. A successful almost free ascent of Cloud Tower gave some real feeling of accomplishment to the trip. The crux is not bad and is very much all there. Get psyched and go do this route. If you've been to the creek the final pith is 5.10 and the off width has face holds on the outside of it!
Alas, our search continued for an area which might just might rival the valley. Who were we kidding though...there's no where like the valley. But we did find a pretty good second place contender, Zion. The nearly creek quality cracks which run for miles captured our imaginations and our fingers. We decided to up the ante by attempting the ultra classic Monkey Finger. The first crux pitch worked me and resulted in some french free action. Up next, Tate decided to hang it out there with a 40 footer and a black alien sitting in his lap. The next hand pitches were amazing but the splitter monkey finger crack was just a little too real for us. We attempted the final two pitches of choss but decided to bail after I took a bouncing digger down a chimney. We licked our wounds and got on a newer line called George the Animal Steel. Dirty but fun climbing on great rock should clean up well to become an area classic. We then headed over to the Kolob canyons for some radical sport climbing on one of the most beautiful pieces of rock I've seen in a long time. We had enought of that softy clipping bolts shit and returned to plugging gear by trying touchstone at 5.11 C2. Mother nature had other ideas and after two pitches we bailed in a downpour. We decided we had one last shot at climbing something incredible. Incredible we did indeed find. Shunes Buttress maybe the best route ice ever done. Perfect stone top to bottom with extremely varied climbing in spectacular setting make for a 10 star route. Go Climb This!
More updates to come! Get psyched and get out there! Photos pending a computer...

Apr 6, 2011

A Change of Pace

 To those of you who know me (which in reality are probably the only ones who would are reading this), I typically depart for the frozen lands of the north each spring. My purpose is typically mixed between conducting glaciological research for the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, and Dartmouth College & extending my alpine season in the most incredible alpine destination in North America if not the world. However, as American political scene changes and science focused on understanding global climate change is quickly blacklisted from the federal budget, the project I typically work was scaled back this year (thank you Tea Party). This post was supposed to reflect my enthusiasm to return to the Kahiltna Glacier, but it has now changed into something quite different. As you may or may not remember I initially began this blog (I really hate that world), to help motivate myself to prepare for the Bachar-Yerin route this fall. So, I figured if I'm not headed to Alaska why not focus (and write) on spawn of these ramblings. Thus, with growing excitement, I am planning an extended trip the the Yosemite Valley in Californ IA!

The Plan:

  • May 9th: Depart Bozeman with trusty partner in crime Mr. Tate "Check Your Safety" Shepard 
  • May 11th: Warm up wall: "The Prow" on Washington Column 
  • May 14th:  The Business: "The Nose" on El Capitan referred to as possibly the greatest rock climb on Earth 
  • May 19th: The Business Continues: "Salathe" on El Capitan referred to as the greatest climb on Earth second only to "The Nose"
  • May 24th: Play Time: Free climb as many classics as possible. Ideas as of now are: 
    • Serenity Cracks into Sons of Yesterday 
    • El Cap Buttress
    • Royal Arches into Crest Jewel 
    • Snake Dike 
    • Something on Cathedral 

Mar 30, 2011

The Creek

Trying to describe Indian Creek, the beauty of the lines, the simplicity of life, the sand between your toes, the endless perfect jams, is like try to describe being in love . . . you can't. Roughly a week ago I returned from an amazing trip to Indian Creek with stoke beyond anything I've experienced before. The incredible group of friends made for a great environment to push yourself, with plenty of firepower cheering you on! I am truly over winter and ready to feel rock under my hands and feet.

I spent most of my time trying to get off the 5.10 hand cracks and on the 5.11 wide hands or tight hands/ring locks. My goal was successful with only one notable send nearly 2 years in the making. The first time I flipped through the pages of and Indian Creek guide, I was struck the by a full page photo introducing the Meat Walls section of the book. The photo is taken from above focused on the terrified face of a man. This man is precariously balanced, standing on what appears to be an edge only an inch wide. He appears to be literally hugging a either side of a very blunt arete, with the apex of the arete splitting his body in half. His right hand is clearly side pulling on a crack the viewer assumes he just climbed. However, his left hand is outstretched to maximum length, reaching for an adjacent crack. The kicker is, he appears to be feet from this crack. The photograph captures both this ridiculous crack switch move and the terrified yet determined face of the climber. I saw this photography and instantly knew I wanted to someday climb this route. Nearly a year later, I finally popped my Indian Creek cherry with a Thanksgiving trip. During this time, I quickly realized any hopes of climbing this route were out of the question. I simply wasn't good enough. However, I did take a top rope lap on an incredible and wild route called Dead Crow on the Cat Wall. This amazing 155 foot enduo fest had it all from a funky stem box problem to start you out, to a a roof pull on tight hands, to sustained hands, to run out sandy face climbing, to the piece de resistance . . . a left arching, nearly horizontal wide hand and fist crack. My return to the Creek for this trip brought me back to the Cat Wall and face to face with Dead Crow. I looked at the line, felt the horrible feeling of fear well up in my stomach, and went home for the night. We returned to the Cat Wall the following day so I could face my fears. The route went amazing until I tried to clip the anchors and fell. Returning to the ground another climbing party was beginning to gather on the routes adjacent to Dead Crow. This group was obviously not your ordinary group of Colorado home boys. These were certified desert rats. For any non-climbers reading this a desert rat is someone vagabond who lives somewhere in the desert southwest of the United States and traded society for climbing the desert. These people also typically talk in terms of how the routes "speak" to them, the universe is either balanced or unbalanced, and the living right now not in the past or in the future. Anyway, being in such close proximity to this group a conversation was inevitably started. The man I was conversing with wore no shirt, pants riddled with holes, and no shoes. He asked if I had lead Dead Crow and how the route was. I described my ascent and the heartbreaking fall at the top. What came next out his mouth I never expected. He told me if I liked Dead Crow than I had to climb Sinestra. (Sinestra being the infamous route featured in the photograph which introduced the Meat Walls section of the Indian Creek guide.) My desire to climb Sinestra entered my mind every time I spoke or thought about the creek. During the weeks leading up to this trip, this was an occurrence multiple times per day. Thus, in this single moment in which a strange man suggested I climb a route I felt somehow like the cards were stacked and my destiny already set. 6 days later on the last day of the trip I stood below Sinestra, gear hanging from my harness and the lead line tied to me. I set off the ground, trying to put the terrified face of the man in photo introducing the Meat Walls out of my head. I climbed 50 or 70 feet of challenging offwidth / wide hands until the crack stopped. To my left a small inch wide ledge ran half the distance to another crack around the nose of a blunt arete. There I was, the man in photo, as I began to gingerly reach for the next crack. I tried several times with no luck to reach the crack, until I finally committed to a slow leaning fall directed at the next crack. Before I knew it the move was over and another 110 feet of crack lay above me. With renewed confidence I charged the remainder of the route with a few major difficulties toward the top. I'll save these for as a surprise to anyone who might try Sinestra in the future.

Long story short, I couldn't have asked or imaged a more wonderful trip. Marge had her first Indian Creek experienced and walked away loving it. We've both promised each other a several month stint there before our lives get too serious. Just one more reason I'm the luckiest man in the world! All of my closest climbing friends and partners were there, the weather was perfect, and the break from life was much needed.

I had planned on concluding this post with a short discussion of my upcoming trip to Alaska. Originally, this would've been a research focused trip. However, I've recently found out that due to a lack in funding it appears I won't be headed north. I feel this might be the perfect opportunity to continue the climbing stoke and head somewhere which could truly push my climbing to the next level. The birth place of climbing in America . . . Yosemite  

Mar 4, 2011

Indian Creek

For the last 7 weeks, every Friday, I've been making a mental check of the date. Counting down the Fridays until I was in the Creek. Finally the last check has come, and in one week desert bliss will be upon me! This will be me second trip to the area, and I'm excited to push my skills even that much further on the splitter desert sandstone. Myself, Marge, Loren, Bridget, Eric, Susan, Brad, Jo, Scott, Tate, Pat, & Wilson will have 9 days to see who can destroy their hands the most. My primary goal on this trip is enjoy life to its fullest and the company of such an amazing crew. They are some of my best friends, and the desert setting is truly unique and captivating. Second however, I'd like to figure out 5.11. On both the big end and small end of the grade. As wonderful as it is to walk up the multitude of 5.10 hands splitters (don't worry, I'll climb my fair share) I'm very intrigued by more challenging sizes and jam configurations. Indian Creek is the only climbing area can truly shut you down on a grade. We're not talking about your normal sandbag or perhaps a sustained route. We're talking shut down to the point where after hand for several minutes and you finally discover how to move several inches . . . your so excited that you are utterly compelled to continue climbing. This was the experience which typified my last visit to the sandstone mesas. I have, for some severely deranged reason, decided the big end of the grade might be an easier goal to obtain. Thus I have borrowed and bought more #4 camalots than most people would like see on in hopes of having a respectable go at Big Guy & Big Baby. Time to nut up or shut up. Here are a few photos from my first trip to The Creek last November.

The incredible Coyne Crack

Todd cruising Anasazi 5.11

Ronan Guy at the base of Super Crack of the Desert. Strangely enough his expression is very similar to mine.

Feb 22, 2011

And So It Begins

Call it what you will, call it what you like. This is the beginning of a dream. Two years ago I saw a photo which has stuck in my mind since the moment I saw it. The photo I saw was not only beautiful, it was commanding. From a distance you could barely even tell there were human figures in the photo, the immense sea of red granite stained with a dominating vertical charcoal streak, hid the figures well. After admiring the shear beauty of the rock, I finally realized there were indeed three people huddled together at a hanging belay; ropes neatly flaked across one's lap. At the time my climbing abilities were in their infancy stages, but without care for anything but the pure aesthetic of the stone, I knew I wanted to climb the beautiful route I was staring at. However, this desire was quelled as quickly as it formed when I discover the route I found so attractive was the Bachar-Yerian on Medlicott Dome. My desires weren't halted because of any normal reason which might stop one from climbing a route. The route wasn't located at one of the ends of the earth, garnering a massive price tag just to travel to the routes base. In fact, the B-Y is located a very short walk from a major US highway running through Tuolumne Meadows, CA. The route does ascend some massive pile of junk rock waiting to topple over at any second. Again the exact opposite is true, the route ascends some of the highest quality granite on the face of our tiny planet. And finally, the route didn't require a massive list of expensive gear; just a small rack of quickdraws with a puny assortment of gear to supplement, a rope, a good partner, and more confidence than anyone of the cast of Jersey Shore. This last bit about confidence is what left me crumpling the idea to climb the Bachar-Yerian into a small wad and tossing it to the trash receptacle in my mind. The Bachar-Yerian might be one of the most (if not the most) mentally challenging routes found anywhere. I'm sure this claim could be debated for as long as the debate surrounding where it is and where it is not appropriate to place bolts. So to save us all from that and provide my top three reasons why I define this route to be the most mentally challenging route found anywhere.

1. 11c X . . . to anyone who doesn't understand this, the 11c means the route is difficult. I don't care who you are or how long you've been climbing . . . nearly every climber can remember a time (as brief as it may have been) where 11c was HARD. The part means X if one were to fall during certain portions of this route, you might not come home.

2. That whole part about falling I mentioned above, well its validity has been tested, by some of the best climbers in history. They survived to the tune of broken limbs. Thus, the thought that I (I meaning me, meaning the climber who still feels pretty nervous on 11c, meaning the climber who is far from elite) am going to attempt to do something that challenged the top elite climbers only 10 years ago . . . well its like being a college basketball player who is going to show down with Larry Bird . . . you know your a baller but facing off against the Birdman isn't going to be a walk in the park.

3. Last but not least, this route is incredibly consistent. There isn't just one pitch in which you could become royally fucked if you blow it, you could become royally fucked if you blow it on any pitch during nearly any move on the entire route. . . for 500 feet. That's 50 stories for anyone who is having a hard time imagining this.

So without further ado . . . this is my formal announcement that I plan to attempt the Bachar-Yerian in September of 2011. Stay tuned for updates on climbing, training, fun, and more!




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