Sep 24, 2012


First off, Sendtember is nearly over and Rocktobers is right around the corner so what the hell are you doing wasting your time reading this shit? Let’s face it, I’m no Arno Ilgner with secrets of how to samurai your way to the top of your proj. As a penalty for wasting your time reading this and not climbing get your ass off the chair, couch, or rust colored momentum harness and a bust out five negatives! Here in the ol’ SLC temps are finally dropping and psych is on the rise. But, we all know from readying my summer posts that I don’t actually climb in SLC. Over Labor Day weekend I headed back to the great north for to sample . . . (you guessed it) the chossiest Gniess this side of barely being climbable. I had some pretty hi hopes for this trip: Send all the projects I’ve been working on in the Canyon for oh, maybe the last five years The Fugitive, Songline, and Peaterbuilts. After the dust settled I managed to bag none of those goals. However, I did manage to have a blast, take some whippers, and get on one of the better routes I’ve attempted in the Canyon. On a side note, but staying in the spirit of love for the Gallatin, I recently had the honor of writing some nonsensical blathering about this special place for the Black Diamond website.

Law on a great 11d in High Gravity Gully

McClean on Peaterbuilts

Saturday, after warming up on the south side of Skyline, we made the scramble over to the northern aspect. Next to the piece de resistance of the canyon (Fruh-Lowe) is a stellar gally crack leading to 5-6 lonely bolts. Strenuous yet controllable movement through the initial crack guarded the first bolt at a decent rest. Saddle em’ tight cause its gonna be a wild ride through perfect edges with no rest in sight. And that last bolt protecting the hardest moves of the climb, don’t even bother trying to clip er’ until the funs over. For the mere mortals in the group, I’d make sure to check your safety before embarking into this terrain as the consequence of failure lands you some 15 feet below your high point. Perhaps the most classic moment of the weekend was watching Tate “Ninja Dick” Shepherd remove the quick draw from his harness, grip the draw between his teeth, climb into the crux, and desperately attempt to clip the bolt as if he were swinging a hammer at it. To no avail, the result was a hysterical sight of taking the whipper (draw in hand) after no less than 5-10 vicious hammering motions of quick draw to bolt.
Old photo of Law on Fugitive
 Sunday, back in full force with the fun-o-meter set to send. After warming up on the climb, which after my first trip up it, had me swearing to never return (Mother’s Day) it was as they ON. The Fugitive loomed above me, seeing straight through my external shell of man. Instantaneously, I was turned inside out, reduced to a heap of self doubt. With some solid encouragement from good friends, I pushed my angst to furthest corner of my mind like the box of yearbooks we all have tucked away. After nearly two seasons of attempts, the lower half of the route is more or less a series of memorized movements, punctuated by the occasional placement. The real difficulties don’t kick in until the second and final crux of the route. A finger lock rest just prior to launching upward into the difficulties allows the placement of a small nut. In previous attempts on the route this nut had been fixed for several years. However, repeated failures of potential suitors rendered said nut unusable and justified the nuts removal. Placing my own nut in the quarter inch crack, knowing a fall would permanently add the small amalgamation of brass to The Fugitive, gave comfort to the thought of failure. Due to the insanely hot climate of SLC, I’ve been spending more time in the climbing gym this summer than any respectable climber would ever be pleased to admit. Despite my frustrations on prolonged regarding prolonged plastic pulling, the singular benefit of these extended gym sessions has been a noticeable increase in finger strength. Therefore, latching the crux crimp (no larger than the width of several credit cards) felt some degree of solid. Already updating my card in my head, after sticking the next move, the send train derailed in a fashion consistent with the dream of a young boy placing coins on the train tracks. Desperately searching for some semblance of a foot hold to stabilize myself, my grip relaxed and I launched into the air. The reassuring transition between acceleration and deceleration resulting from the arrest of your fall was brusquely interrupted and replaced by terror. The next few micro seconds of my life are a mix of adrenaline and fear twisted into a climber’s sick nightmare. By the time it was over, two quickdraws lay against my harness bull horn, one attached to a nut and one attached to nothing. The first a result of the small nut placed below the crux ripping and the other from the crux nut placement cable exploding. To this day, I don’t know why the nut failed. A 7kN (1570 lbf) piece breaking during use is a terrifying thought . . .  theoretically that piece should have been able to statically hold a small car. Instead, it now hangs in my living room as a reminder. A reminder to what I’m not sure. I could try to come up with some metaphorical nonsense “a reminder of the frailty of life and your gear” or connect the experience to some life altering regime it has come to usher into my life. In all reality I say fuck it . . . YOLO bitches . . . you don’t buy gear so it can look shiny on the wall in home. 

Aug 16, 2012

Party Tricks

As climbing has an inherently dangerous and adventurous undertone, a climber regularly performs feats in which he/she defies death. Naturally, I feel this can lead to the inflation of one's ego. I speak of this from personal experience as a young climber, pushing into "hard" grades fighting the urge to boast about his "epics". Forgive the overuse of quotation, but "hard" and "epic" are truly deserving of the hashes to indicate some question regarding how truly "hard" or truly "epic" they really describe. I've climbed for a little over 5 years now, and while many say I'm strong or climb well, I typically respond with: "Well if anyone climbed as much as I have in the last 5 years, your damn sure they'd be a hell of a lot stronger than I". True, I have put my time in on the stone, I can judge the type of placement a crack, seem, or pod will take from 100 feet below, but trust me my natural ability is among the least you'll find in the climbing. So what one may see as "hard" or "epic" is only a reflection of one of the dumbest ways to approach climbing . . . improvement gained by brute force of repetitive action with little thought put into thinking about how to truly improve. Despite the knowledge of my own meager ranking on the time invested versus ability chart; a pneumatic seed sprouts, establishes roots, and begins to flourish. Before I, or anyone else sees this, the pilgrimage to the crag is no longer motivated by why you left the ground in the first place. No, no, your now motivated by the hunger of ego. You can recite the most minute facts about product specs, you having an opinion on all things climbing, and you detest those whose forearms lack a bulging diameter greater than 1-2 meters. Sending, sending, sending is the only word in your new vocabulary despite the mass amounts absolute shit flow freely from your lips. Who cares if your buddy has success, as long as his success won't take the spotlight off yours. And you feel so justified in your own filth because you've finally accomplished something. One which was once labeled as an outcast by "normal" society, has finally found his place. I think that's why so many climbers develop a complex. How many talented climbers to you know who would fit in with the rest of America or Western civilization for that matter? Fundamentally, what draws many to the sport is connection with ability to accomplish something no one you know can. The drive to feel unique, to feel like your more than average. To feel like even when you bubble in "White" or "Male" or "Middle Class" on an exam or doctor's office quiz, you know despite the worlds judge of your character, you are far from average. I have no shame that this is what first captured me about climbing. Here was this community of misfits: the misunderstood, the mistreated, or the misshaped, who could complete feats which were physically and mentally light years beyond what even the "above average" citizen could complete. Finally, I belonged somewhere

Marge below The Drilling Fields on a recent trip to City of Rocks for our one year wedding anniversary
The Gallatin Tower . . . how I miss you so!
Tod on sending the lower crux of Dark Horse. This was Tod's first day back to climbing in over 2 months and he casually sent Gallatin 5.10 with minimal effort. Old Man Power!
. Ask Marge: "What is Kevin's automatically assumed assumption on strangers?" She'll tell you all about how it. Moving to Salt Lake has proved my misanthropic world to be totally wrong. Last week I was invited to perform the biggest party trick to date. Alex Baker, aka "the spider monkey" . . . he doesn't actually know anyone calls him that, and I'm not really sure anyone does, but this compact dude literally bounds up the wall like a spider monkey with less annoyance associated with throwing feces and what not . . . anyway, Alex dreamed up the excursion complete the Excel spreadsheet. His idea was to climb the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in Little Cottonwood Canyon in a day. This is where the Excel spread sheet comes in. Alex sat down and matched pitch for pitch, grade for grade, 23 routs in Little Cottonwood Canyon which would match the pitches for on the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. I was a bit skeptic on this grand scheme, but figured that if nothing else it would be a fun day out cragging. As per my normal blog style, I totally spaced the camera. Thus, I hope my wonderful prose can paint a picture of in a bit less than a thousand words. 5:30 am and Alex is already in the parking lot, post scooter ride in from Salt Lake. With coffee in hand, we headed up canyon to the Gate Buttress parking area. Rambling up the winding nondescript trail, I thought about what might be in store for the rest of the day. I'd never climbed more than 17 pitches in a day. Even then, those were short pitches stacked on top of each other with no lowering or walking between. I was skeptical of our chances, however the moderate span of grades we chose gave me hope that maybe, just maybe we could pull this one off. We started in the Perhaps area of the Green Adjective Gully warming up on some good 5.8-5.9. The first 5.11 pitch fell easily as it was truly a one move wonder (for us tall folks at least) . . . Gordon's Direct. Next up was a Gallatin Canyon graded 5.9 seam / slab. Body English, smearing, shallow finger locks, and a throwing caution to the wind on gear placements got us to the top of the area's name sake, The Green Adjective. Loonie Toones, a classic 5.11 layback was next. Alex was now into the start of his lead block, and cruised this classic. 10-15 feet of power laybacking on smears leads to a mediocre rest before firing a second crux to gain the chains. 7 pitches down, and one more to go in the Green Adjective. The hardest pitch of the day came early, a 5.12 layback . . . to more laybacking . . . to power underclinging. While Alex claimed to have struggled on Trinity Right, I couldn't tell. I was up for the top rope burn, knowing that if I could flash this pitch, I'd have a good chance at climbing the entire day without a fall. Thus far my climbing experiences on Little Cottonwood's harder climbs have been summarized by totally unpredictable foot "pops" during times when I feel my most secure. Unfortunately, Trinity Right fell into above category, with my flash attempt being blown by well, a blown foot in the initial power layback section. However, I was able to get back on the climb and send the remainder of the route (containing the 5.12 crux) without incident . . . great pitch. 8 pitches in the bag and off to the next area, a 7 pitch route termed Stiffler's Mom on the "Shady" side of the canyon. Building mountain thunderstorms over Alta saved our day by providing dry conditions under a cloudy sky, maintaining the temperature in the low 90's as opposed to 100 + as per typical Salt Lake summer weather. Stiffler's Mom fell easily (a few 5.6 / 5.8 pitches followed by a sustained 5.10 pitch, a one move wonder 5.11, and another moderate pitch) in a few hours giving raising our pitch count to 15. The Little Cottonwood classic, Pentapitch on some STELLAR rock was our next goal. With three pitches of moderate climbing, big runouts, and big time savings put us at 18 pitch down, with just 5 more to go. We headed back across the canyon to find shade at the Dihedrals area to finish our day off. 5.10 had never felt so hard to me in my life. Hell, 5.9 had never felt so hard either. The Dihedrals provide great corner climbing with physical moves separated by good rests. 5.11, 5.10, 5.9, 5.9, & a 5.8 pitch fell all before the nightfall and what I once thought impossible was now realized. A great day, with a great partners, on great rock made for the biggest party trick I've pulled (including the shannagins of the old 302 college house). 

Jul 8, 2012

Hell's Kitchen

Salt Lake is hot. Like really hot . . . hotter than "I've been sitting in the passenger seat of the car on the sunny side for 45 minutes in a down jacket hot". Hotter than the EP Remix of Foster the People's Pumped Up Kicks featuring Hollywood Holt. Hotter than The Real House Wives of the OC meets Real House Wives of New Jersey meets Jersey Shore meets I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Hotter than (yes, it really is this hot) "Sorry I was staring honey but its Jess Yonker". So how does this place produce so many world class athletes? So many 100% jacked, tan, ready to crush, pebble smashers? Unless they've all coughed up several grand to front the expense of having the sweat glads removed from their hands, you plain and simply just aren't climbing here June to September. I hope in the coming months to decipher the answer to this mystery, but until said point I can't help but miss my beloved Montana. Her cool summers, abundance of alpine adventures, shady crags, and cold nights have all lead me to dedicate this post to my memories of climbing in the Gallatin Canyon of Southwest Montana.

Jess Yonker (obtained from imgfave)
When I first moved to Bozeman, a future self would look back and refer to his predecessor as a gumby. I knew as much about climbing as Mitt Romney knows about how to fix the economy. The local guide book for the area was outdated and out of print. Thankfully the MSU library had a copy which I was able to take notes from. Though, at this point in my climbing career whether or not I had a guide truly didn't matter; there were probably less than 10 climbs in all of Gallatin canyon I could lead, I had 3 cams, a rack of stoppers, and my only climbing partner preferred aid climbing. I remember my first trip to The Canyon was in late spring, 6 months into my climbing career. What "climb" my partner and I had chosen alludes me, all I remember was being terrified. Somewhere in one of the numerous choss filled gullies, a typical to Gallatin Canyon, I struggled up what felt as hard as 5.12 does now only to find a ledge with absolutely "nowhere" to build an anchor. In what would become a common theme to many of my adventures in the canyon, I was too scared to lead the next section of 5.5 death blocks. Slowly, over many days spent rehearsing the phrase "your gonna die", I found my place in The Canyon. The soaring fins of "boy, we'd really like to be granite" rock hold gem after gem. To most, this area would be dismissed as a crumbling pile . . . and most would be totally right to label the area as such. In one of my last days in the canyon, before moving to hell's kitchen, a massive block dislodged from a classic 5.10 nearly striking two belayers and dog. However, to my 19 year old self, the rock held the all the things a 19 years old dreams of: somewhere allowing me to accomplish incredible feats resulting in a flock of girls who'd be sooo excited to talk to me. In all honesty though, even comparing The Canyon to a babe magnet makes me feel uneasy. For someplace that has given me so much, belittling my indescribable connection to the flares, crimps, and non-existant gear is down right petty. There's a huge part of me that wants to spill the beans and the beta about all the amazing lines sandwiched between lichened covered faces and crumbling rock. My experiences on these lines have been so moving so empowering, resisting the desire to spread this joy is torture. Untimely, if I were to do so, I'd steal the very thing which cultivated my love for The Gally . . . the adventure.
Callis' Worts and Corns

The Tower as Scene from The East Side

Jul 1, 2012

End of an Era

Morning on El Cap while driving into the valley for my 2012 adventures
What a beautiful activity climbing is. 5 years I've been climbing and 5 years I've been captured under its spell with no end to this curse in sight. While the novelty has passed, the excitement has only grown. The "sport" (if you can call it that) has given me so much, a chance to learn who I am, a passion to fill the void, and friendships I'll never forget. Since my last post nearly every aspect of my life has changed. I've left Bozeman, I started a new job, graduated college, endured a long distance relationship, and hit the restart button on climbing. 

Commencement at Montana State University, 6 years of hard work, student loans, and an education. I sit staring upward, not at my peers walking across stage, but at the parallel cracks of Indian Creek beckoning me upward. May 4th through the 11th Lawrence, Whitney, Marge, Loren, Bridget, and I climbed in Indian Creek. The weather was hot, but as always the climbing was magnificent. We spent most of our days chasing shade, with many visits to cliff new to me at the creek. I wanted to focus on leading #1 and #0.75 sized cracks. The virtue of the big hands places these sizes as my biggest challenges in The Creek. Thanksgiving of 2011 was my first trip to Indian Creek. Mostly a top rope hero show, I made it my goal to get up (regardless of how many hangs) every route I attempted. I nearly completed this goal failing on Coyne Crack. May 2012, as climbing often forces you to do, it was time to face demons. While I was no where close to redpointing the route (climbing the route bottom to top without falling), I did manage to lead the entire ringlock to tight hands fest. Marge herself had a great trip to the Creek, with an incredible improvement in her technique and ability. Soon I'll be handing her the sharp end while I watch mesmerized calmly hikes my projects!

While in Indian Creek, I had received exciting news about the next chapter in my life. Since November of 2011, I had been pursuing a quality assurance position at Black Diamond. After many months of wondering, I finally got the confirmation that on June 4th, I would start my first career. Along with the news came the realization everything was about to change. Back in Bozeman, I had a few days between returning from Indain Creek before I left for Yosemite. Pat, Todd, and I made got a day out in the Gallatin. We got on a newer line put up by the Magro brothers on the South Side of Skyline Buttress. The route follows the first few feet of Lay Back and Be Cool, before finding an independent line arching to the climber's right. Sequential hand jamming followed by power liebacking, made for a very fun top rope session. We finished our day on Songline with Pat redpointing the route in two tries and myself getting a clean TR burn. 

Continuing the "Tour de Last Month Before I Start an 8-5", I headed to Yosemite. Meeting up with two of Tate's roommates (JD & Dillon), we set our sights on Wet Denim Day Dream. My first attempt at C3 and JD & Dillon's first real wall. The 10 pitch route shares its first 4 pitches with the classic West Face of Leaning Tower route. With a 70m rope you can link these first 4 pitches into 2 rope stretchers, ending at the Awahnee Ledge. From the ledge, Wet Denim breaks left while the West Face breaks right. Both routes are extremely exposed as per Supertopo: the bottom 4 pitches are on average 15-20 degrees overhanging and the final pitches are 5 degrees overhanging. Upon arriving on Awahnee ledge, we met an aid soloist with quite a bit more experience than myself. His gear was still in the pitch from his ascent several hours earlier. In his words "I've only lead one A4 pitch in my life and a lot of A3, this C3 pitch was the scariest lead of them all". Perhaps this whole trip to Yosemite was going to be about knowing when you had bitten off more than you could chew. A limited discussion lead us to the conclusion to refocus our goal to the West Face route. On a nostalgic note, the West Face was my first big wall during which time I spent 25 hours in my harness, jugging every pitch, a considerable nauseated feeling summarized those experiences. Now, I was able to return to the route to lead every pitch over two days. Sitting on Awahnee ledge that night, I noticed the guide called for at least one 4" piece to protect a short section of wide climbing on the final pitch. We were equipped with only one 3" piece. Seeing as the guide also gave that section a 5.12 offwidth grade, I was a bit nervous about how we might progress past the impending obstacle. Furthermore, due to the overhanging nature of the line, rappelling the route requires significant down aiding. The aid soloist had a fantastic idea, we took several rocks off the ledge and duck taped slings around them. This way, in case we did indeed need a 4" piece above, our 3" piece could be placed against a slung rock to create a 4" piece. Low and behold, the section in question was no problem without a 4", and these stones never came in useful. Nevertheless it makes for a good story. We topped out the second day, and managed to make most of the descent in the twilight. 

Starting the traversing 3rd pitch

Toward the end of the traverse pitch

A sparrow was quite loudly informing me of his/her disapproval of my proximity to his/her nest, which was inside the crack somewhere near my position in this photo

Dillon taking the swing away from the belay at a grand off the deck

Keep in mind the steepness of the route, JD hangs in free space. His line hangs plum from my final position at the belay. 
The night we finished Leaning Tower, JD & Dillon left the valley. I spent most of the following day recovering from hauling each pitch on West Face, finding El Cap meadow to be the perfect location to rejuvenate. While watching the water streaks on The Captain mix; I began to come to terms with how my life was going to change in a few short weeks. I struggled with trying to understand how I could possibly continue to climb at a level I was content with, but not completely disappointed. I knew I was going to love my new job, I knew I would be happy, but I didn't know if the pay was good enough, or work conducive to achieving the western world's definition of success. These questions had long been nagging and had long been put off. Instead of being confused and discourage by the sheer size of the questions I sought answers, I found calm. I said it before and I'll say it again, how the naivety questions recently worried astounds me. 

With my partners gone, I met a very nice gentleman from France, Thierry. He was excited to climb some of the classic free routes over the next few days before Chris Welch (another Bozemanite) arrived. We climbed the Central Pillar of Frenzy, an incredible climb with pitch after pitch of world class granite cracks. The following day, Chris arrived and we set off to climb the ultra-classic Serenty Cracks into Sons of Yesterday. Much to my excitement, I was able to lead all but the first pitch of the route! Again, the climbing was stellar. I've heard it described as the best 5.10 in the world and I'm not inclined to argue. As always in the valley, after two days of staying relatively low to the ground, the walls called me back. Chris and I began preparing for our first trip up El Cap on The Nose. Of the may partners I've shared my big wall experiences with, Chris learned faster than any. The night before departing Terra Firma, we jugged and hauled to Sickle ledge. Chris had never jugged before, and by the 4th line, he was cruising. The following morning we set off. Leaving the ground I knew the climbing above would be awesome, but I never expected to find the terrain as good as it was. The rock and the climbing is . . . perfect. I lead the first pitch, while Christ linked a few above to put us on Sickle Ledge. Chris lead a great 5.9 off sickle an uncomfortable belay. Taking the lead, a series of challenging and exciting pendulums granted access to the stove leg cracks. Perhaps, the most exposed, run out, and capturing climbing I've done to date. Yes, these cracks gobble up #2 camalots, but when you only have 3, the climbing begins to be substantially more exciting. By the time we reached Dolt Tower, dusk had arrived and we were both pooped. We had planned to climb the route in 3 days before a storm was supposed to arrive on the 4th day. In order to do so, we knew we had to make El Cap Tower at the end of our first day.  3 pitches short of El Cap Tower, and the iPhone window to the outside world predicting the storm to be quite severe . . . we made the tough decision to come down. Tails tucked we hit the valley floor wondering if we had made the right call. Sure enough, the storm came and came with rain, snow, and high winds. A little reassurance that indeed we were glad to say "we are better safe than sorry!". 

Chris on one of the final pitches before Dolt Tower

Frustrated knowing we'd have to return to the ground from Dolt Tower
Returning to Bozeman, the chaos of moving set. Climbing has taken the back burner for what seems like more than a month now. It seems my biggest fear: loosing my climbing drive due to a busy work schedule, is on the brink of realization. However, I refuse to give in to the temptation, knowing that if I do, all my meaningless worries of El Cap Meadow will return. I've chosen to take on life in the manner which best fits the person I truly I am, not the person I thought I was. We constantly "redefine" our existence, with an ever present hope that each new generation will be radically improved upon the previous version. Each new version more complicated than the last. I feel this line of thinking guides us down the path to believe the our current state is out of sync with "who we should be" or "who we are". Thus, the continuous need to alter our definition of self, as if in each passing minute the world has handed us a new piece of information revealing one small part of who we are. So, how long must we wait to find out who we are and what our life should be intended to do? I believe the answer to this question comes from the ancient water streaks coloring El Captain I contemplated only a few short weeks ago. Our thinking is fundamentally flawed in waiting for the world to lift the curtain on who we are. Perhaps, instead of sitting back waiting for the transformation to occur, or perpetually facing disappointment, or frivolously wondering if we've made the right decision; perhaps the answer to inquiries we've been seeking is person we see in the mirror everyday. And, maybe that person, not the world, has been handing us these little new pieces of information all along. Perhaps the best example I can provide to support my claim lies in the very title of my endless ramblings "A Vertical Life in a Horizontal World". I've struggled, so frequently with accepting the life I was leading, always questioning if it was the "right" choice to climb, or to work instead of continuing to graduate school, or to take the high paying job over what I love. It looks like all along, I was trying to tell myself the answers to those questions, to live the vertical life in a horizontal world.

On a recent attempt to redpoint The Fugitive

Onsighting Anderson's Airlift . . . great climb!

Apr 27, 2012

Rise of the Gumby

Urban Dictionary elucidates many colorful returns to the request "rock climbing". While I will not digress into the rainbow of definitions provided (warning these definitions truly are "colorful" so buyer beware for those of you who are curious), one analogue caught my eye epitomizing anew feelings regarding the sport.

"Of all so-called "extreme sports" (activities that about 1/2 the time are undertaken, or claimed to have been undertaken, by otherwise boring people in a desperate attempt to become interesting), this is probably the trendiest way to give off a persona of ruggedness, danger, physical fitness, etc. Note that most people who express an interest in rock-climbing or purchase incidental gear such as carabiners, have never climbed and never will."

Enter "gumby". The gumby, also known as a poser or possibly noob in internet circles, is a bromidic sect of humanity native to local gear shops, Red Rocks, Nevada, and artificial climbing walls. Initially, a hypothesis stating all climbers were once derived from this genus was offered. However, this controversial assignment raised considerable discourse throughout social networks related to climbing (namely pertaining to the definition of "egociality" (term used for the highest classification on one's self) and the existence of other gumby-like classes found in skiing, kayaking, and other badass sports. The gumby has a highly unusual combination of physical and mental attributes allowing it to, not only survive, but thrive in environments considered harsh to most climbers. One such example of the gumby's ability to cultivate a niche in a typically discordant environment can be found at your local climbing gym. While the gumby is a commonplace in this climate year round, during the summer month the temptation of actually going rock climbing routinely drives most climbers from this setting. Be as it may, the gumby's superior adaptation of never actually having gone rock climbing allow this intriguing creature to reside within the climbing gym regardless of the heat. 

Recently, an evolutionary leap has occurred allowing the gumby to take on characteristics of a climber. At a growing number of climbing destinations the frequency of gumby observations has increased nearly 10,000% in the past ten years. It appears that somehow, gumbys have acquired the ability to climb outside. As gumby populations continue to spread the native species, climbers, are scratching their heads as to the cause of the gumby expansion. Even more troubling is progressively more gumbys are implementing a rudimentary tool allowing them masquerade as a climber, the internet. The influence the internet has had on climbing in the last five years is unparallelled in the history of climbing. In the past, the evolutionary process of human to climber required a genetic mutation of cell comprising the neocortex. It appears the gumbys utilization of this tool prematurely insights a substandard derivative of the normal climbing mutation. This mutation imparts the abnormality with a exaggerated knowledge of random or "gimicky" climbing gear, an increased capacity for memorization of guidebooks, and the inability to differentiate between desirable and undesirable climbing locations. 

Perhaps the most startling result associated with the rise of the gumby is the potential implications the internet has on those establishing the authentic climbing mutation. As exemplified by this blogpost itself, the pathway leading to development of the wildtype climbing mutation may be affected by elevated internet use. So, as summer and warm days at the crag quickly approach (if not already arrived) keep this little nugget of palaver in your back pocket. Remember why you climb and why we started climbing in the first place; was it to "affect a persona of ruggedness, danger, and physical fitness", appear more appealing to the opposite sex, gain praise from your peers, add a tick to or up your rating on 8a, gain fame and fortune, or mimic Stallone? Or were you driven to climb because wanted to explore the unknown, seek adventure, achieve something you never thought possible, travel, live, love, and/or be in the vertical? Despite my grandest efforts, I find myself succumbing the the temptations of the ego. But, as I repeatedly strive to remonstrate the evils of the id, I find my relationship with climbing more demonstrative. Elicit the inner gumby, force a mutation in your neocortex, and unmask your true rock climber. 

Mar 19, 2012

The unstoppable force and the immovable object

Las Vegas, Nevada. The city of sin, here the unstoppable force meets the immoveable object on a nightly basis. Lives are started and ended on the tables and in the canyons of Red Rocks. Through hallow motivation, the conception of the modern American and the modern climber occurs in the embrace of the continuous calming winds. Birth sees the inexperienced new born a welcoming environment. Schooled in the ways of credit cards and topless bars or quickdraws and gri gri's, youth's fantasy fades to teenage adolescence. Having experienced the confidence boosting, jug hauls of the Trophy Wall, I can attest to over inflated state of one's ego early in life.

As per life's great irony, the day a child's blinders are removed so that they may see their parents as people; the glory of fixed draws and white crimps at The Gallery fades. Life is now no longer a game, a chance role of the dice. Our hero's existence has become irrevocably interwoven with the game. The player can't stop playing and the fingers always feel sore. Just as a river strives to overcome but never achieves its freedom from gravity, so does the will of all self proclaimed dirt bags. Lucky for the player, he his afforded to the proximal comfort of the nearest high rollers section of his favorite hell. The journey is second rate compared to the intangible, fallacious wealth of the destination.

As a young adult, my sights were set on a new life. A new start to which the future of steep vertical days to come are shaped. A style unlike anything experienced before, wall climbing. Tri Tip ascends a Navajo quality face on discontinuous features for an incredible 180 ft first pitch. Somewhere high on the pitch, I became hooked by the continuously linked boulder problems, high above gear. This new style, unlike anything I've ever experienced before gave a poignant clear contrast to the destination focused self. Returning to the horizontal, I could feel my toes wiggling in free space above the precipice of change. Maybe the destination, the big win, the one life changing experience everyone is seeking out, maybe, just maybe it doesn't exist.

Almost as if it could be predicted, as if it was density, the foretold unstoppable force had me unknowingly in it. Swept up in a history running its course in the path left by "why not" and "suffer for it". The light of the Luxor split the divided the sky like the rich and poor it dictates, the morning we awoke to meet an immoveable object. Late per usual, our arrival at the slabs questioned my very dedication to this life. However, the time for questioning had long since past. The only time left was for action, action to climb and absolutely love every moment of it. The immaculate corner allowed for incredibly powerful climbing through exciting positions and into a space never previously known. Over the rainbow and through the red dihedral, the collision occurred. Small at first but in totality so large the heat of this reaction will always be felt. The same hallow beginnings returned to contrast the false reality in which we live. On the tables of Vegas fortunes are never made, lives are never improved, and hearts are never one. And, if one can ever be as fortunate enough to experience love, happiness, or freedom the true shining star is the work invested, not the moment of success. While it has been told to me so many times I wince even as I type these cliched words, the journey is truly what is important and never the destination. Objectifying this obvious fact inevitably invokes thoughts of all those who have made my accomplishments possible. I've been all so lucky to share my forays with only incredible people so, to all the nights we've spent immortalizing the lines, to all the times you've held my life your hands, to all we've invested, gained and lost, and to all the unknown futures we mights share, this post is for you.

Finally, before I go, I offer this one last tale. I hope it provides a clear underline to this whole notion of the journey in exchange for the destination. It was hot, far too hot climb. My Bronco II had and never will have air condition, so the cool air of Denny's was all but the only option to escape the sweltering sun. We sat at a small table in the perpetually uncrowded atmosphere typical of any Denny's you'll walk into in Anytown, USA. The food was terrible, but the companionship terrific. She was, still, and always will be the most beautiful woman I'll ever lay eyes on, and this day was no exception. I told her I never thought I'd climb 5.12, and questioned my very motivation to climb. I was a 5.9 climber at best and the destination was my only view. Simply put, the journey didn't even exist. Naturally, being a member of the opposite sex, she was blessed with the power to mature, and thus the journey did and probably always had existed to her. As always, she reassured my wavering confidence, bolstered my motivations, and played Devil's advocate all too well. We payed our bill, sucked the last drops of orange juice from their cups, and continued down the path of life together. Looking back on this moment now with more experienced eyes, this is the moment walls were removed and possibilities realized. Without this wonderful women, I would still be stumbling through the dark believe I could never climb 5.12, or ever be truly happy, or see a life outside the boundaries of rock, summits, and adventure. I'd be alive, but not living.

Feb 16, 2012

Whole lotta nottin

Blah, blah, blah . . . it's been a while since I've written. It's also been a while since I've done any cool shit. So, if you were tuning in to read about my latest romp into the vertical . . . I'm going to have to disappoint. This is not to say I haven't gotten out, I just haven't done anything blog worthy. My last post was exactly one week before the infamous Prince and Princess of Plastic bouldering competition at Montana State University.

Comp Recap:

SHAME ON ALL OF YOU WHO DID NOT COMPETE! We put more blood, sweat, and tears into this comp than any PPP before. However, we had less participants than any PPP before. In the end, the work paid off. Nikita won the men's beginner division and Kezia won the women's beginner division. For the open category, it was Ho down. No the previous sentence does not contain a spelling error, Sarah and Jeff Ho won the open this year. Mr. Ho at the ripe old age of 85 (he doesn't show it does he) performed a climbing feat to rival anything venga inspired send in ANY climbing movie, for all time. Men's final #2 was caped with a mantle onto two volumes using pretty much only grip tape on the volumes. As Ho was setting up for this mantle his foot popped, leaving the master swinging wildly with only one point of contact. Somewhere deep in his Crussian heritage, the power of crush was summoned. Not only did Ho Cakes control this swing to beat all swings, he more or less completed a one arm pull up and finished the route . . . flashing the problem.

The following weekend, I headed out to California Ice. Had this trip been more than a glorified hike, I might have something ligit to discuss. The Haus Boss and myself charged out to East Rosebud on Thursday evening, hoping to get an alpine start on Friday. We awoke to what looked to be a great day with clear stars above we headed up toward Cali Ice. We punched it up to the base in a few hours. The flow is in incredible shape at the moment. A wall of massive blue/green ice just wanted to be climbed. Or maybe it didn't. As we were mulling around the base, Law punched through into an ankle deep pond, soaking his boots and dashing any hopes we had about climbing. I have to Law props as he did attempt to lead the first pitch only to encounter frozen toes and fingers. We bailed and were home by just after dark.

I continued on the Montana comp circuit on Saturday with a visit to Billings where SteepWorld hosted the Montana Bouldering Championship. With a name like that, who could resist. It was a great comp with a lot of fun problems and a great atmosphere. Props to the Billings crew for putting on a fun event!

Superbowl Sunday followed the Saturday comp in Billings. Erik Christensen, The Groseths, my lovely wife, and I headed out to Whiskey. I'd had enough plastic as was ready for some real stone to chew up the fingers. As always, Whiskey allowed for a great day with an hour or two of T-shirt tolerable sending!

The following week I threw my back out . . . depressed and angry I bought Skyrim for PS3 and more or less have accomplished nothing except for leveling up to 20.

No review this week, just a bunch of non sense. Back with more later! 


Jan 21, 2012

Back to the Desert

West Yellowstone . . . 10 hours to go
Sitting in a warm comfortable coffee shop, off the road, and trying to regurgitate my most recent foray in climbing; I feel nearly ashamed for ever questioning my motivations. However, three weeks ago, while driving on the worst roads imaginable, I had a hard time swallowing my decision to drive all the way to Indian Creek for only three days of climbing. Following some invisible Zamboni, it became clear the damage to life and property would be similar if you drove 5 or 50 miles per hour through Island Park. As the road was a sheet of ice, any attempt to use the breaks would only result in Blades of Glory inspired shit show of sliding. But now, this stressful event seems but a tiny price to pay for three days of uncrowded bliss in The Creek. How could I even begin to question a chance to go to Indian Creek? You stupid American, only concerned with the now! As per usual, we rolled into the creek late on the night of New Years Day and attempted to head to our favorite camping sites near the Bridger Jacks. . . key word "attempted". The river crossing ended up being a full on 4X4, slap into a Slim Jim rally causing our trusty old Subaru Wagon to magically gain the sound of Turbo Charged, tricked out, STI.

M and Lhotse enjoying the desert's best 
The climbing was incredible, as if it could be anything but! Marge is on a climbing hot streak right now and pulled out the big guns with several leads and numerous impressive top rope sessions. The most impressive of which was a battle of all battles to reach the top of Dos Hermanos! We had the place to ourselves and spent a day at Supercrack, a day at Donnely Canyon, and a day at Reservoir Wall. To keep balance in the world, my climbing for the trip was much less impressive than my wife's (as been the case lately). I managed one hang every hard lead I tried only to fire the remainder of the route with minimal rests (heartbreaker).
M loving every inch of what could be one of the greatest wide hand cracks out there!
M finding some motivation to try hard on the incredible Left Crack 
The love affair with the desert continues 
As fast as we arrived it was already time to leave. It doesn't even quite feel like the trip even happened. The lack of other climbers, the short duration, and the overall dreamlike lifestyle Indian Creek ushers have combined to make my fleeting memories of those days more like a dream than reality. However, in contrast to Thanksgiving spent in Indian Creek, this trip was focused on the experience and much less the climbing. With this shifted focused, I've been remembered why I love Indian Creek. Yes, the climbing is world class, and yes I am a crack junkie . . . but Indian Creek offers something else. Something totally intangible sitting just beyond the realm of civilization. I've typed and deleted sentence after sentence and none of them sticks to further express my feelings toward the creek. I would say you have to go there to understand, but I don't think that logic works either. Indian Creek is special to me on so many personal levels, I could never guarantee a similar feeling would ever capture anyone else visiting the area. However, I do recommend that every person should find this sort of place, be it connected to the vertical world or not. It's the place that saves you, motivates you, and eludes you.

 On the way home from Indian Creek for Thanksgiving we stumbled into Pegan Mountain Sports in Moab to discover the rebirth of the small cam! Finally, a climbing gear company pulled their head out of the sand, sacked up, and started making nearly identical copies of the one and only original Aliens. I've climbed with a double set of the old ones now for just over a year and could not wait for the new ones to arrive (some of the oldies but goldies were in pretty rough shape). These are pretty much the exact same cam as before. Fixe has cleaned up some the cosmetic design features, but everything else remains the same. Which is how it should be seeing as NOTHING needed to be changed on these babies. While at Pegan back in November, I purchased a blue and a green and was very excited to place them when Marge and I returned to Indian Creek. They place, function, and hold just like the old Aliens. I hope the point I'm able to stress right now is that these cams are truly the same cams they were . . . so the numerous reasons why Aliens were so popular still apply.

  • Narrow heads which fit better than any other small cam in pin scars
  • Narrow heads also allow them to place well in pods 
  • Flexible nature of the entire unit decreases walking 
  • Flexible nature of the entire unit allows them to hold very well even when not placed in the direction of loading 
  • $80 is a high price to pay for one cam (TOTALLY WORTH IT)
  • Hard to find (even the new ones)


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I love to climb, everything.