Ibex Addict

Ibex, UT
Ibex, UT

“In our ever more crowded world, what the pioneers once despised has turned out to be, by virtue of the very fact that it was shunned and therefore lightly settled, our last refuge for quiet and contemplation.  So it is that deserts are refuges not by choice but by default, as if driven out of cathedrals we were forced to hold services on beds of nails.  But on the positive side, what are cathedrals anyway but monuments to the old comfortable cliches, the old, often unworkable ways? If “the Desert is where God is and Man is not,” as Balzac tells us, what better place to find, if not God, then ourselves? And if finding ourselves in scarcity rather than in plenty, what better place to learn to get along with others in a resource-poor but humanly rich world?”  Peter Wild: The New Desert Reader

High on The White Arete
High on The White Arete
GDub on The White Arete
GDub on The White Arete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the help of Matthew Irving and a really nice camera, we captured some slow motion shenanigans and a wee bit of climbing. How much slow motion, well, some might say my overuse of it in this video is Juvenile. So enjoy a video (all beautiful shots by Matt Irving, all crappy quality-poorly framed shots by this guy) of idiots and stellar lines in Ibex. Climbs include Wing Chun V12, The Bone Collector V11 and Bruce Lee V10.  Shenanigans include tokyo drifting, slingshot-run-n-jump dyno, gap jumping and apple eating.

Both Griffin Whiteside and Joe Meiners were able to nab ascents of Wing Chun as well!  Good work boys.

Disclaimer #1: I blew my back out shooting this video and now sound like I have Tourette’s Syndrome while attempting simple tasks of life, like say, getting out of bed, up out of a chair, off a toilet and sometimes just breathing.  So, go ahead and try this at home kids… live it up you resilient little bastards.  30+ year old males needing to relive their youth and compensate for their underachieving lives, don’t do it… it’s not worth it anymore. Haha, just kidding, it’s always worth it! Now if I could just turn my back to reach over and get some toilet paper off the roll. Yeah, so what if I’m writing this while pooping, I’ve been stuck on this toilet for 2 hours now… figured I’d do something productive. Don’t judge, who are you anyway, Judge Reinhold?

  • Franklin: My name is Judge.

    Franklin on Mock Trial with J. Reinhold
    Franklin on Mock Trial with J. Reinhold
  • Gob: Whose name is Judge?
  • Franklin: My name is.
  • Gob: That’s a silly name.
  • Franklin: Judge, my name.
  • Gob: Yes, I am judging your name. It am silly.
  • Franklin: Is.
  • Gob: Oh, now, you’re correcting my grammar.

Disclaimer #2: This video was edited by me, I don’t possibly want anyone thinking that Matt’s talents were wasted here.

Sendero Luminoso Partly Free

Lisiniopril reduces hypertension and cardiac workload.  Aluminum Hydroxide neutralizes stomach acid. Salmeterol prevents something.  I stared at 160 drug flash cards for hours.  I kept Nostalgia Coffee Shop in business studying the absurd names for my pharmacology final.

 

Between studying, I dreamed of climbing.  I stared at Instagram pictures of thin alpine cracks.  I remembered an August trip to Mount Hooker four years ago.   Seven inches of snow and frigid temps kept us on the super chossy but sunny Red Light District.  The rock on the right side of Hooker looked amazing but cold.

 

I couldn’t remember what the Salmeterol prevented but I passed the pharmacology class, the hardest class in the hardest semester of nursing school.  I felt liberated.  School would easier from this point on.

 

Instead of dreading the next day of cramming,  I packed two weeks in the Wind River Range, camping at the base of an incredible 2,000 foot wall with my friends Mason Earl and Dave Allfrey   We stocked up at Walmart, Costco, Trader Joes.  We cruised by the Black Diamond headquarters.  We stopped at a Wyoming liquor store for whiskey and scotch.  We prepped for the trip with food, equipment, and our vices.

 

Three horses carried 450 pounds of our supplies through an early August thunder storm to our campsite, 3 passes, 5 meadows, countless lakes, and 20 miles from our car.

 

Mason pumps water out of a pristine river
Mason pumps water out of a pristine river

We dropped our gear.   A slope of talus guarded Hooker.  Below that sat an alpine lake.  On the other side of the lake was more talus and a perfect view of the steep formation.  We brought the binoculars and stared at the wall.  Our goal was to climb the steepest, blankest most beautiful route.  We wanted the king line!

 

King Line!!
King Line!!

 

That’s when we realized we had forgotten to bring a topo.

 

The hiking destroyed our bodies but we woke the next morning psyched.  We hiked to the base of the cliff.  Mason and I stared at the first pitch.  Rotten, loose blocks marked the start.  I lost in a game of rock, paper, scissor.  The hollow rock bonged when I hit it.  I climbed high above a small cam on 5.10 face climbing.  I reached a ledge, scared.  Mason followed and set off on more difficult but better rock above.  Mason placed difficult gear and sent the 5.12 pitch.  It was a commendable lead.

 

Dave giving it his all on a 5.12d pitch
Dave giving it his all on a 5.12d pitch

The sky darkened with ominous clouds as Mason built the anchor.  We retreated  to a cave on the approach trail.  The storm lasted for an hour.  Then the sky cleared and the rock dried.  We convinced Dave he had to lead the next pitch.  He was not psyched to leave the comforts of the cave.  We’d been indulging in the vices.  We jummared to the top of the second pitch.  Dave nailed, hooked, and equalized beaks on the next pitch.  “Watch me, “ he said.  I was happy to be belaying and not leading.  Dave made his way up the pitch.

 

We were satisfied with our progress for the day and headed back to camp.  The second day began with a  slowly thinning corner.  Lichen caked onto the rock.  My feet felt slick.  I tried to trust them.

“It’s probably 5.12,” I said.  Dave followed the pitch easily.

Dave not letting the lichen get the best of him
Dave not letting the lichen get the best of him

“It’s 5.11c.” Dave said.  Dave nailed beaks and placed the occasional cam in the seam of the next pitch.

“This pitch will not go free,” Dave shouted down.  “It’s A3!”

My heart sank.  I believed him.

“I’m going to look,” Mason said.  He jummared the pitch and got very excited.  “It will go but at a high grade.”

The next day, we brought the brush and cleaned the slick lichen from the pitch.  After two days, we had done all of the moves.  Linking the thin laybacking would be a difficult undertaking.

 

Mason explored the pitch.  A powerful crux off the belay lead into sustained 5.12 climbing above.  Mason equalized beaks and climbed into difficult territory with marginal gear. He remained calm and confident.  He deadpointed to a flat ledge high above his protection, sending an incredible 5.13a pitch.   With his beta, I managed to flash the pitch.

Mason lunging for the finishing jug on the 5.13a pitch
Mason lunging for the finishing jug on the 5.13a pitch

Perfect weather allowed us to keep climbing. The weather brought me confidence.  I gave the crux pitch a lead attempt.  I climbed relaxed, fluid, and felt strong.  The crux went by quickly as I focused on each hold.

 

Suddenly my body felt out of control. I was falling.  My foot had slipped.  I dropped my head into my hands. “The route was done,” I said.   “I  did all of the hard climbing on the pitch.”

 

Nik trying not to punt on the 5.14a crux
Nik trying not to punt on the 5.14a crux

I grabbed my warm down jacket after lowering down the pitch. I hoped the goose feathers would restore my motivation and take away the emptiness I felt inside. Mason tried the pitch.  He made impressive links and inspired me. I was back on lead.  Entering the crux, I placed my foot more precisely on the sloping groove. This time my foot stayed. I felt the euphoric. “Whoo HOOO!” I yelled.  The final moves to the anchor felt easy.  I clipped into the belay and slumped onto the rock.  I could relax. Everything looked prettier.  Everything felt better.  It was one of those moments when all of the hard work seemed worth while.  We had team freed the first 7 Pitches of Sendero Luminoso at 5.14a and added one traverse pitch into an existing line.

The Topo completed by Dave
The Topo completed by Dave

Bad weather followed and forced us to rest.  We played games, fished, listened to NPR, and enjoyed our vices.  When the weather cleared, we returned to the wall.  Mason sought the euphoric feeling I had.  He climbed with his typical confidence and calmness.  At the crux, his body came out from the wall and then he  hit the end of the rope.  My head dropped.  His did too. He rested and tried three more times with similar results.  His skin resembled cracked glass.  Blood oozed from his tips. He knew that the odds where stacked against him with his skin being so atrocious.

Mason catching us fish for our fish tacos!
Mason catching us fish for our fish tacos!

“We are coming back next year to complete the whole aid line,” I said.  “That’s what really counts.”

“Yes,” he said. We rappelled and pulled our ropes in the rain.

We woke early the next morning.  It was time to leave.  Dave had school. Mason needed to see his parents.   I had flash cards to study.  We packed over 80 pounds into our bulging haul bags.  The first few miles went by easily.  Our spirits were high from our success.  As the hills came so did the pain in our legs.  Our waist belts dug into our hips.  We burst out in painful cries. The moaning momentarily distracted us from the pain.  After the 20 miles we arrived at our cars.

Mason, Dave and I wheezed.  I suddenly remembered what Salmeterol does.  The drug is a bronodiliator.  It relaxes your airways so you can breath better.   Unfortunately, I forgot the Salmeterol at home.  We headed to the Lander bar instead to wash away the pain.

 

Seek and You Shall Find

The sun beats against the white lacquered walls of the Tuolumne Meadows store as the grease sizzling in the grill filters out the door. A breeze rattles the notes, flyers and pictures tacked to the cork board out front; climber partner wanted, gear for sale, looking for a ride, missing persons – it’s always the same year after year, week after week yet checking the board, scanning the names, looking for some bit of inspiration scribbled on a scrap has become regular habit. A faded and sun-bleached picture of John Bachar soloing adorns the left side of the board, written in marker below it says, “Bachar Lives.”

Tuolumne is riddled with the imprint of Bachar – while he passed on in 2009 much of him still remains and it’s arguable whether or not what’s been left is a positive force (or not.) We all know the story of the ground-up days of bold in the 80′s and early 90′s – where anything from 5.5 to 5.11 could be so run-out that injury and possibly death become factors of the climb. Bachar wasn’t the only one establishing hairball routes but he did have an immense role in the legacy that modern day climbers are left to face.  Some more modern routes still follow this style but what it’s all led to on the whole are mystery routes not oft repeated; routes that hold an allure but scare off those not seeking the questions or the answers of, “What is going on up there?”

This year makes my 8th summer in Tuolumne and through the years I’ve found myself on quite a few precarious smears and stances searching for the next hold, the next bolt, the next gear placement and the passage that will unfold. Originally, I was drawn to Tuolumne by the Masters of Stone videos – Dan Osman not only soloing but dynoing way off the deck on Blue’s Riff; Ron Kauk crimping his way up the pebbled streak of Peace. I heard tales of having to be head strong, sure footed and unwavering in motivation for the domeland of Yosemite.

Since my first summer in Tuolumne I have picked my way through many of the classics and many of the more obscure, making many second ascents, some possible first ascents and learning a lot in the process. In 2009 I partnered up with Lonnie Kauk and together we made the 4th and 5th free ascents of Ron Kauk’s contribution to Medlicott,  Peace. In over a decade this superb piece of rock had only seen less than a dozen ascents. With a successful red-point of this 160 ft knobby crimpfest my ego made me feel special but I wondered why such a beauty had been left alone for so long. This route opened up a new world to me of Tuolumne climbing and in my search of the climbs of lore what I found were mossy holds, old bolts, weird bolts, run outs, technical test pieces and few people who wanted to embark on these journeys.  It was becoming clear to me that these gems of the past were being looked over for safer, easier, more traveled terrain.

Sometime in the 90′s Dave Bengston put up a one-pitch climb on Daff Dome which exits left off the sloping ledge from the 1st pitch of Cooke Book.  His long and lanky figure spanned from distant hold to distant hold and he rated the pitch 5.12c and aptly named the route The Albatross. However, two more potential pitches loomed above and yet it wasn’t until some 8 years later that they were unlocked and red-pointed by Mikey Schafer. Mikey’s smaller stature and technical prowess laid to rest what Bengston’s longer frame couldn’t pull and thus The Rise and Fall of the Albatross was established going at 5.13a/b. Another 6 years went by before another ascent was made of the steep, technical and slightly run-out route when Ben Ditto and I both subsequently red-pointed every pitch summer 2012.

While I was temporarily pleased with our accomplishment I was intrigued by a line that was veering off to the far right from the second pitch belay. I realized that this was the crux pitch of the infamous Bombs Over Tokyo. Rumors and mystery surrounded this climb and the words, “hariball and runout” seemed to drip off the holds. Just after our red-points of Albatross we left Tuolumne for the Cirque of the Unclimbables and then Europe. We wouldn’t be in Tuolumne’s graces for another year, yet my interest was piqued by this mysterious route and I vowed to return later.

In July of this year I went from the ground to search out the mystery of Bachar’sBombs Over Tokyo. After the first and classic 5.10c pitch we encountered the 5.11dR pitch. A Bachar route in all its glory as a fall going to the first and only pin some 20 plus feet up would result in a fall into a ledge and broken ankle. We went around and lowered in. The thin, closed-off seam turned out to be more of a technical crimp fest than a lieback and the possibility of any real solid gear was questionable. According to local hardman Bob Jensen, some friends had tried to pound in another Lost Arrow but couldn’t get it in and they bailed. I was equipped with tiny nuts and managed to get two odd-ball placements of a small brassy and small offset. If they held a fall they would at least keep me off the ledge and even if they pulled they would hopefully slow me down enough to not totally smash my world apart. Hopefully all of my technical training on runout slabs would prove useful on this one.

Then came Pitch 3, the real mystery of the route. Originally the aid line went straight up from the belay and then around an arete into a right angling crack. Bachar’s account is that this is the line he freed; after a few attempts he red-pointed and rated it 5.12c. It looked ok, but what really had my interest was a bolt line going up and then way out right out of sight over a roof. The “hairball traverse,” that maybe hadn’t gone free but had been attempted and was probably in the 5.13 range

I ventured up placing some cams and then moved down to the first bolt and the start of the hand traverse out fairly positive edges and knobs for 20 feet to the next bolt. A fall from this zone would have been terrible and resulted in another ankle breaking possibility. Relieved at having made it to the second bolt I peeked around the corner at what lay ahead and what I saw was both amazing and intimidating. 40 more feet of traversing on thin edges to a down mantel to some hand traversing across a roof to another mantel up to hopefully some holds and then 40 more feet to the anchor. In all of that terrain there were 4 more bolts. They were newer, shiny and egged me onward.

I took some deep breaths and set out around the corner and out of sight of my belayer. Climbing across fairly delicate and pliable holds I had made it to the roof and set about hand traversing out it. The exposure was surreal and it was starting to give me the creeps. I thought to myself that all I had to do was mantle up, make a couple of moves and get to the next bolt.  Except the holds were dirty and covered in lichen and every time I pulled up with a heel hook into the mantle my hands would slip a little and every time I would climb back down and way back left to the last bolt 15 feet behind me. I did this about 5 times, each time looking back at my 9.1 rope draped across sharp knobs, wondering if the sideways fall into the unknown below the roof would cut my rope. Eventually I returned to the belay, leaving behind two lowerout biners and we rapped to the ground. John Bachar Lives played over and over in my head as we walked down the trail and I was more intrigued than ever.

I spent time thinking about the route, asking around about it’s possible ascents and was left with questions. I kept climbing on other lesser known and less-repeated routes. Ben Ditto and I made an ascent of one of Drug Dome’s newer, forgotten classics called Anatolio (5.12+R). A route put up by Chad Shepard in honor of his departed grandfather. While on this route I became intrigued by yet another newer, forgotten classic put up by Sean Leary called Acapulco Gold, going at 5.12cR.  It took me three different trips up the route before I could pull the moves on the wildly steep (by Tuolumne standards) crux pitch. In my attempts to stick the polished and sloping knobs I took a few large wingers out into space as there are no bolts which protect the crux moves making this route stiff and committing, (not to mention the R first and last pitches). It was fun to have such air time in Tuolumne and I relished the moments of flying. Eventually with the belay of good friend Patrick O’Donnell I made possibly the second ascent of this route.

Continuing on with my tour of the harder, technical and less-repeated routes of Yosemite’s high country I set to work on another Ron Kauk contribution to Pywiak Dome called European Vacation (5.13b); A definite technical test piece and one rumored to be too reachy for the shorter folks I was determined to sort out a sequence. In asking Ron about it he could hardly count on two hands the number of known ascents of this route. He did mention that Lynn Hill red-pointed it but as far as other women it was unlikely. My dear friends and fellow petit crushers, Maki Grossnick and Thea Marie and I tried it out one evening. Initially unable to pull the intro moves but managing to crimp and balance and steady our way through the rest of the route I was immediately hooked. Two more sessions in this beautiful spot hidden from the crowds and the noise of the road I managed to figure out the opening sequence and was blessed with another Tuolumne free ascent making possibly the second overall women’s ascent of the route.Continuing on with my tour of the harder, technical and less-repeated routes of Yosemite’s high country I set to work on another Ron Kauk contribution to Pywiak Dome called European Vacation (5.13b); A definite technical test piece and one rumored to be too reachy for the shorter folks I was determined to sort out a sequence. In asking Ron about it he could hardly count on two hands the number of known ascents of this route. He did mention that Lynn Hill red-pointed it but as far as other women it was unlikely. My dear friends and fellow petit crushers, Maki Grossnick and Thea Marie and I tried it out one evening. Initially unable to pull the intro moves but managing to crimp and balance and steady our way through the rest of the route I was immediately hooked. Two more sessions in this beautiful spot hidden from the crowds and the noise of the road I managed to figure out the opening sequence and was blessed with another Tuolumne free ascent making possibly the second female ascent.

On August 10th I once again set out to solve the mystery of Bombs Over Tokyo. Cruising up the most enjoyable 5.10 intro pitch I arrived at the 5.11R. Having placed two small nuts in shallow, precarious placements the thin, technical climbing was now protected with three pieces in it’s entirety. As long as I stayed calm I could keep the balance and precision. I recalled the stories of this pitch with it’s original two fixed pins and how one of them had fallen out. My nuts seemed solid enough and keeping my breathing regular I gently made my way to the anchor, hoping that the next crux pitch would go just as well. I belayed Ben up as he did spectacularly well on the foot chips and centimeter edges of the crack.

So, here I was again on Pitch 3 climbing over and around the arete, crossing my left hand over my right onto half-pad edges and smearing my feet on the steep gold wall. I reached the breakable, incut flake edge and shook out. I had a wicked forearm pump and was starting to consider the terrain ahead. Another cross to a bad, layered crimp and then the down mantle to the roof traverse to the final mantle to the balancy, technical face. Two more bolts stood between me and the anchor.

Before setting off I had told Ben to just have a lot of slack out, as a fall from anywhere out there could result in a crater into the roof. I figured at least with a lot of slack I had the hopes of falling past the roof into space. I wavered between totally calm and confident to scared silly. I yelled back at Ben who was out of sight 60 feet away that I was scared and he replied, “It’s ok, nothing bad can happen.” That was all I needed to hear, a light went off in my mind. I just needed to let myself pull the moves. With some tenacity and assurance I climbed down to the roof, one foot below me, one foot heel hooking and into the sloping knobs and mantled up to edges. Soon enough I was balancing on both legs, pressing up to reach the high half pad crimp to clip the next bolt.  I stood up, exhaled, chalked up and kept moving. I made it to the anchor and let out a “WOOT!”

A party below us was on the 1st pitch of Bombs and the belayer yelled up in excitement. With two more moderate pitches to the summit I had done it, I had made the first free ascent of this route.  All summer I had sought out the questions and pulled through the mysteries.  I had just put myth to rest and what I found to be truth wasn’t so bad after all.

New Damn Boulders

Trail to the Damn Boulders
Trail to the Damn Boulders

The spring season is winding down here in Utah, hinting at the hot summer to come, but yet again Joe’s Valley has provided new boulders. . . hell, a new area in fact.  We have dubbed this new area in left fork The Damn Boulders due to the fact that it has an irrigation dam crossing for access to the opposite side of the river.  The interactive map at the top of this site is marked with parking for access to the area, although parking on the road may be the better idea as this is also a single campsite. In Joe’s Valley boulders hide in plain site, blending into the crowd.  Park along the side of the road, stare at the 100’s of boulders on the hillside, and you’ll discover finding a great boulder problem is like playing Where’s Waldo.  The thing about Joe’s is that almost all the boulders have been looked at by a dozen people over the last decade and a half, and hell, some of the new problems have surely been climbed before. . . this just happens. . . but the difficulty of developing boulder problems in Joe’s is not in finding boulders but stopping to climb them instead of searching for more.  I mean what if, just over there, and over there, and across the canyon, and look at that hillside, holy shit do you see that giant boulder, oh man, that one boulder has to have a 4 star line on it. . . lets go check it out.  Wait, what was I saying, oh yeah, the problem I’ve encountered while developing in Joe’s Valley is that I have boulder A.D.D. . . always wanting to check for the next best thing.  Our whole game plan these last few seasons has been to just stop and climb what we find.

The Damn Boulders
The Damn Boulders

The Damn Boulders were introduced to us last fall by Anthony Chertudi.  Anthony had a super project high on the hillside that he graciously wanted to show stong man boy Griffin Whiteside.  Anthony’s The Last Great One Project was a real beauty.  Steep, powerful enduro climbing out a long horizontal roof that climbs some of the best gym sandstone holds around.  Perfect rock has been left behind by years of melting water.  I watched the snow melt while G Biebs, Joe Meiners and Pete Lowe worked the project early on and as the water trickled down the rock it only touched the good black rock, leaving the white rock completely dry.  A few sessions later, in a snow storm I watched Griffyndor nearly slip from the wet lip of the boulder but somehow hold on to establish The Last Great One V13, keeping the project name in respect to Anthony, his vision, and all the work he and his wife did to build an amazing landing.  Great job on this one Griffin.  Paul Robinson got the second ascent a few weeks ago.  See video at bottom for footage of send.

Griffin on The Last Great One V13
Griffin on The Last Great One V13
A giant Bieber sticks the last move on the Last Great One.
Bieber sighting! Sticking the last move on the Last Great One.

Last fall, when we first walked up to look at The Last Great One Project, I found a line of my own on a nearby boulder.  I immediately started cleaning holds and went at fixing the landing a bit.  I’ve found and established lines in Joe’s but nothing that has ever taken root in me.  This time I was hooked, unable to sleep for days, finally driving down in a snow storm to rap and clean the problem as snow flurried around.  Somewhere along the way the problem began to personify my efforts, or thats the way it seemed to feel . . . in reality it was just a rock.  Griffin and Joe recognized my renewed motivation and passion, leaving the first ascent for my taking.

Lonesome Animals Boulder
Lonesome Animals Boulder

I will be 32 in a week so maybe they were just respecting their elder, but I truly appreciate it.   It is very difficult to get any first ascents climbing with those young bastards.  The experience grew even more personal thereafter, as I spent 4 sessions alone on that hillside unlocking a perception of movement that I was confined to move within.  When I finally escaped to the top of the boulder and stood alone with the FA behind and below me I was content. . . as always, the joy was fleeting. Happiness came from the process and experience and my excitement grew again only with the idea of sharing what I believe to be one of the best lines in Joe’s Valley. Video of problem at bottom of post.

Lonesome Animals
Lonesome Animals

Close friend and childhood mentor, author Bruce Holbert, recently wrote a book titled Lonesome Animals (I’d reckon you ought to check it out, especially if you enjoy the styles of Cormac McCarthy, Check it out here: Amazon).  It is prefaced with the following John Steinbeck quote:

Quality Alone Time
Quality Alone Time at Lonesome Animals

We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say — and to feel — ”Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”

As is typical with my light hearted personality, I had 3 or 4 funny(to me, stupid to you) names to choose from for naming the problem, but as I sat below the problem for one last time, the Steinbeck quote felt real and befitting.  The story was complete but I was alone. . . all that was left was to share it.

Scott Hall on Lonesome Animals
Scott Hall on Lonesome Animals V12

After establishing The Last Great One and Lonesome Animals we went to work filling in the gaps and to our surprise, hiding in those gaps were amazing problems of all grades and styles.

The Guppy V7
The Guppy V7

As you walk up the hillside the first boulder you will come to is The Guppy Boulder.  Here is a great little boulder with an obvious jug start and an anything you can do to get to the top V7 of the same name.  Griffin did this first on our way out one day but this is one of those problems that certainly could have been climbed back in the day.

Wax and Wane V4 Start Holds
Wax and Wane V4 Start Holds

The next boulder you will come to, after a steep hill climb, is the Nerf Wall (aka moon wall).  This boulder is tall and uniquely riddled with nerf ball impressions that give it a moonlike texture.

 

 

Max Paget climbs Wax or Wane V4
Max Paget climbs Wax or Wane V4

 

 

 

As of writing this there are 5 lines on the Nerf Wall.  I will list them from left to right. On the far left is a sit start problem that climbs up and right to a femur bone jug then to top.  This is Nerf or Nothing (V4).  Wax or Wane (V4) starts sitting on a little boulder with a Euro start of any holds you can reach.  Just to the right of this at standing height is Dark Side of the Moon (V5) (probable FA by Chad Parkinson a few years ago).  This is an amazing problem and possibly the best of the grade in Joe’s Valley.  Perfect holds lead to a sequential committing crux 3/4 the way up the wall.  Thankfully, this problem also has the easiest mantle of them all.

Start holds of Dark Side of the Moon V5 and First Impressions V7
Start holds of Dark Side of the Moon V5 and First Impressions V7

 

 

 

To the right of Dark Side of the Moon is the start of First Impressions (V7).  After Kyle O’meara’s appetizer send of Dark Side of the Moon he had to have more of this wall, and who could blame him. . . and so, he added the beautiful First Impressions up the center of the wall that eventually shares the same top out as Dark Side of the Moon.

Chad Parkinson falls from Kyle O'meara's First Impressions.
Chad Parkinson falls from Kyle O’meara’s First Impressions.
Chad Parkinson says "first impress that" . . .
Chad Parkinson says “first impressions that” . . .

There is also a travers that starts on the far left line Nerf or Nothing and links into Dark Side of the Moon called Ballogy (V7) (O’Meara FA).  This problem is a great excuse to use more of the best hold set in Joe’s Valley.

Point Break V8 - Johnny Utah and Bodhi Approve
Point Break V8 – Johnny Utah and Bodhi Approve

Point Break (V8) sits right next to the Nerf Wall and is a techy slab climb to a dyno? or big static reach? FA Griffin Whiteside, 2nd Paul Robinson.  Very cool climb.  Utah! Get me two!!!!

MPBDirectly above Point Break is a smaller boulder with a sit start V7 called Male Pattern Baldness (V7) (FA Chad Parkinson).  Looks like crap, climbs surprisingly well. . . wait, am I talking about me and my hairline or the boulder problem. . . you can decide.

Chad Parkinson on Pommel Horse V4
Chad Parkinson on Pommel Horse V4

Continue up and to the right of MPB boulder to find the Wrecking Ball Dyno (V8) and Pommel Horse (V4) (FA Steven Jeffery).  Wow, these are two amazing boulder problems.  Pommel Horse is quite possibly my favorite V4 in J’s Valley.

 

CP30 on the airy top out of Pommel Horse
CP30 on the airy top out of Pommel Horse
Holding the swing with the death scream.
Wrecking Ball Dyno: Holding the swing with the death scream.

The best dyno in Joe’s Valley was found as a joke, by me.  Disclaimer: I dont dyno, in fact, I’ve never done a two hand dyno in my life, no kidding, my nickname has always been Fat Kid Dynos b/c I look like you’d imagine Chunk from the goonies would look if he tried to dyno.  Anyway, I jokingly showed this to Chad, Griffin, Joe, Kyle and Steven Jeffrey. . . b/c there was a jug and then nothing but the top of the boulder arching behind you.  It seemed improbable to them and impossible to me. . . but the team got to work on a landing and two hours later we were literally throwing ourselves at the finish hold.  The video below shows it best, this dyno is about absolute commitment or you could be a wrecking ball.

Adam Healy gets redemption after ripping the original finish jug off.
Adam Healy gets redemption after ripping the original finish jug off and impaling his head with it.

Last fall, when we first checked the Damn Boulders out, I put up a line adjacent the hillside from the Nerf Wall and just down canyon.  See map at top.  This line is Pleasant Valley V7(retro upgrade) and climbs a short powerful roof.  Video and information on this climb can be found in an early post I wrote:  http://climbingcollective.com/2012/12/31/tall/

Bareskin V10 and The Happy Spaniel V6 Starts
Bareskin V10 and The Happy Spaniel V6 Starts

Griffin completed another old project in the area.  Just up canyon from the Lonesome Animals boulder was the Two Move Project which is now Bareskin (V10).  This sombitch is tough and a classic example of how strong stupid Griffin is, in fact, he originally called it V9 but I think that’s because he can’t count.  Someone that pretty can’t be good with numbers can they? What, he is an accounting major!? Balls, nevermind.  You’ve all been sandbagged.  Enjoy.  To the right of BareSkin is another Kyle O’meara FA called The Happy Spaniel (V6).  This is beauty of a line and a nice conciliation prize after getting your dick punched on BareSkin.

Kyle O'Meara getting ready to pull onto his FA The Happy Spaniel
Kyle O’Meara feeling the grips of BareSkin

 

Portia Menlove can feel it on Thintensity
Portia Menlove gets a grip on Thintensity

Lets see whats a good segue away from BareSkin.  That’s a hard one.  How about on to the The Trojan Boulder.  Griffin cleaned a few really fun lines on a boulder named after condoms.  Grow up Griffin, oh wait, you are actually growing up right now. Nevermind.  The Trojan Boulder has 3 good sandstone climbs that think they are granite climbs.  All problems start on the same low jug in the middle of the wall.  For Her Pleasure (V5) climbs right on cool slopers and pinches. . . and that’s just the tip, same start and stright up is Thintensity (V5).    The most difficult problem to climax on is Ultra Ribbed (V10), same start then left to the arete and up through some crazy climbing.  FU Griffin, I don’t think I could ever do this one. . . you might be young, smart, strong, and good looking but are you old, balding and washed up?  That’s right, I didn’t think so.  I win.

Just the tip of the Trojan Boulder.
Just the tip of the Trojan Boulder.
Portia readys herself for the mount as she reaches for the saddle horn.
Portia readys herself for the mount as she reaches for the saddle horn.

 

 

 

 

Portia Menlove added a fun little problem that begs to be climbed simply because of how cool it looks. Rodeo Queen V2

 

Rodeo Queen V2
Rodeo Queen V2

Well that’s about it for now. Although, there are still projects to be had up there.  Just around the corner from Lonesome Animals is an obvious project that starts on a jug.  There is also a short black wall straight uphill from Pleasant Valley that I already cleaned for you with a possible hard line on the left side.  This area stays cool on hot days and provides enough problems for a days worth of fun.  I’m headed to Leavenworth for a few weeks but will be back to play here for the rest of May.

Thanks to all those that have helped contribute to this area: matt pincus, steven jeffery, kyle o’meara, joe meiners, chad parkinson, adriana chimaras, serkan ercan, diana jenson, hayden jamieson, anthony chertudi, portia menlove and many more.

I will also be adding a WikiBoulder guide today that can be accessed at the link at the bottom of the post.

 

LonesomeAnimalGreatOne2nd from Climbing Collective on Vimeo.

 

A Fontainebleau winter wrapped up

November. I arrived in Font in just in time for the ideal perfect fall conditions which turned out to be the perfect timing for the arrival of what was to be the worst and darkest winter that has befallen northern Europe since the 1960’s. And so the story goes… I debated between waiting it out or going to the sun in Spain or even to Germany to get an early start to training for next year’s competition round. After a lot of procrastination and pro/con lists I had finally made a decision. I was going to Spain. Screw the rain and climbing alone and lets just forget about training for now. My good friend Claudia was in Spain and so was the sun and I wanted to see both.

The next day I went to drive to the only local Internet spot which I know of, a McDonald’s which is considerably different from the average Mc’d’s in the states. A little cleaner, more upscale but not enough to make me feel guilty for sitting freely in there poaching the internet. Claudia was going to get some good news! But, things didn’t go as planned. After being here for so long and having experienced so many epics, i have come accustomed to the way things work. I make a decision and sometimes, life decides otherwise. That’s OK. I mean, I don’t need the sun to survive. I don’t needddd dry rock. But friends… Hmm. Well yes, friends are nice.

My big red home on wheels decided to pee out of a spot which it shouldn’t be. A long trip to Spain was clearly not in our fortunes and mechanical talk replaced the awkward conversations gaps that are usually filled in by weather updates. Look out the window, it’s raining. Who cares. My van is raining. Again, who really cares. I am not quite sure if I cared. Besides, one never knows what is good or bad for them until later.

 


At the mechanics, the keeper who was a somewhat overweight man stared at me in his dirty overalls with the kind of stare that makes you feel 2 feet tall. I tried to brush it off and continued my one way conversation in broken french about my mechanical symptoms for what seemed like an eternity. He finally admitted after ten awkward minutes that he wasn’t the mechanic and the real mechanics wouldn’t be there until Wednesday. I wondered what was up with the dirty overalls and why he didn’t kick me out earlier. This started some kind of vicious cycle with other mechanics who I visited and I have concluded that french mechanics either don’t want to work, don’t like strange red vans littered with pine cones and lapis brushes or maybe, just maybe, they don’t understand British made vehicles that behold french engines. Eventually I gave up and fortunately, after a month, the leaking subsided to a mere dribble but I was not trusting the road worthiness of my van anymore and so we were to stay put in Font for the cold and wet winter.

December. I became accustomed to following random people around the boulders similar to how a cat chases a mouse. After some time I met some cool locals who became the sort of friends that you might actually hang out. Unfortunately it seemed as fast as they had entered my life, they disappeared just as quickly. Not remembering anything that I did that would be considered offensive I decided to not take this one personal. People come and go and then,well, we die.

Event after event stirred a mental struggle between wanting to stay and wanting the comforts of home and friends. At this point, spending the apocalypse and Christmas alone, seemed unbearable. This proved to be my hardest time in Europe. Ditching the van and the European dream seemed more inviting than all the sandstone boulders that Font could have offered. But somehow, barely, Font won. We stayed. And thankfully, things only got better.

 

It was now very cold, very wet and I was getting warnings from older french ladies about a killer that was nearby that had tied some poor girl to a tree and well, must i go on? That shit is bad for the soul to hear. I smiled politely as they spoke and watched them as they acted out the drama. I thanked them for caring and promised that I would not let any strange men into my van. I continued my day with a smile on my face, not because they gave me a huge bag of Kinder chocolate bars, but because they reminded me the kind of old ladies who say that type of thing that i have encountered throughout my whole life. Sure bad things happen but I am not about to start living with a mask of fear over me.

But there is a bit of truth in everything and in the end part of me listened and of course, part of me didn’t.  I decided to change up my camping spot a bit more and one evening I stayed in a new spot. It could have been the heavy rainfall that made the atmosphere just plain spooky but something didn’t feel quite right. Sure enough, as I was delaying going to bed a random car pulled up: a man walking his dog. I immediately felt fear run through my veins for unknown reasons and i searched for all tools of defence that i had nearby. Knife, check. Heavy frying pan, check. Yes i am prepared..! Minutes later i hear the scuffling of feet outside my van and then a quiet knock. Shit… what did i get myself into…! He said hello and sitting as confidently as I could, i responded in the deepest voice possible, ‘hello’ followed by a rude, ‘what do you want?’ After staring at each other for a few minutes through a foggy window eventually he cowered away. I guess he couldn’t tell how tall I really was. Minutes later he drove off. Quickly after that, so did I, thankful to be OK.

 

 

January came around bringing with it more cold, snow and ice. It was freaking freezing. It felt like Montreal. It was so cold that the fuel in my stove, my main source of heat had turned to slush and failed to work. Days started late and ended early as the suns appearance was just that. We spent our days walking through the leaf covered forest and later huddled at the Fontainebleau library or at Bloc Age which became my place to go.

Bloc Age is a local co-op style gym which became my second home outside of my van. It had heat, water, dry holds. It is the kind of place where everyone knows your name and that brings a smile to my face the moment I enter. In the beginning I was known as the Canadian but now i am known as Thomasina which feels rather welcoming. There is a feeling of a second family. It’s small but packed with psyched and motivated climbers who support each other, something which I yearned. And it has Farid. Farid has a smile that reaches ear to ear and he climbs and plays a game of memory like a zen monk. He is surely one of my most favourite people of all existence. Sure playing favourites isn’t cool, but come on, its Farid. Magic Farid. “Do you know coffee?”…

 

And then there is Fred and Sandra. Fred is the El President du Bloc Age and a known legend in these parts. He’s cool enough to let a Canadian like myself buy a membership to their french co-op, looks pretty good for an old guy and wears some pretty dank dancing shoes. Sandra is owner of Gite Arbonne which is a gite beyond perfection nestled amidst trees, singing birds and has an aura of permanent love and acceptance within all of its pyramids. I don’t know how else to describe this place which has become a home away from home for more than just myself.

 

Sandra is a petite, beautiful woman with a wild array of dark curls that that alternate between being tightly braided alongside her head or propped up in a wild bun with random bits hanging out gently from the sides. When her dark smiling eyes look at you they bring with them a feeling of love free from all judgements. She is the one to blame for my still being here, otherwise a plane ride would of been mine long ago. We received a text from her on one of the coldest days in January that urged us to come to her house because it was too cold outside. That was the middle of January and currently it is March and we are… still here. The winter was long and my recurring questions of leaving were brushed off with ‘no, stay. if it isn’t you, it will be someone else and you are perfect.’ These are the kind of words that would make anyone feel welcomed. So the next few months our European lives improved drastically. The once dominating thoughts of leaving subsided to a mere whisper. Cedar has the 4 girls of Sandra to play with and is learning french. Christine, Sandra’s mom who the kids call Kiki, has since become my Kiki as well.

 

As it got warmer, thoughts of returning to van life entered. As much as I love living with my adoptive family, it is their house and surely it isn’t cool to stay here much longer. It was around this time that my big red van decided to take a final plunge towards eternal death. While blue, black and grey smoke sputtered through the exhaust, the motor decided to run in a sort of unreliable cutting out sort of fashion. Every attempt to drive it ended up in some sort of adventure that I was pretty tired of. To fix it would be the price of 2 plane tickets and so the dilemma to stay or go reentered my thoughts. The good weather was about to come here as were the World Cups which I had wanted to do. To leave without having had a chance to climb much outside seemed almost too sad a story to fulfil as did passing up the chances to do the World Cups, something which was drifting from my thoughts before they had even started. But reality was knocking at my shoulder. I hadn’t gotten permission to compete yet. I couldn’t go climb as I wanted because my van was dead. How was I to buy a new van when my bank account was in the negative. My feelings fluctuated between despair and a baseline of acceptance.

 

One morning I was having a bit of a hard day and was in a bit of a foul mood mainly because of the situation with van and not having the freedom to climb where and when I wanted. As i looked at Sandra I apologized for my crankiness and she looked at me with the deepest respect and said in her sexy french accent, “I know who you are” with a gentle smile that reassured all insecurities inside of me.

So the past few months, rather, my whole European stay has given to me many opportunities to be free of the chains of unhappiness, stress and self loathing when things don’t go my way. This freedom is more powerful than any send because it’s liberating and only becomes stronger with more and more practice. Some days accepting what comes is easier than not. I can shrug it off, breath and keep walking or I may drown in it. In the end it is up to only me.

So, despite my dead van and the inability to climb where and when I want, I am truly grateful for my stay here. Sandra and BlocAge have been my saving graces beyond imagine. I didn’t buy a plane ticket home yesterday nor did i buy one today. Even though some people have told me that I am the most unrealistic person they know, I don’t care. I may not have any money. I may not have a car. I may not have a way to get to the competitions that I signed up for. But… I am not ready to stop.  I got ideals. And in my back pocket there is a some kind of dream. And those dreams are powered by some sort of faith in something that I know nothing about but fully trust. And the more i distress from everyday events and random “reality” checks, my life improves. I breathe, I relax. I can look up and see the trees touching the sky. I hear the birds talking. And those birds sing a song to me that says keep on truckin’ and keep on trusting. I ain’t lookin’ for some gold medal but I am looking to strengthen that little ball inside that is OK with things just as they are, climbing or no climbing, friends, or no friends, car or no  car. I ain’t worried. In the reality that exist outside of the head, life is pretty dang good.

The Dangers of Trying Hard

Bouldering is a sport of how hard you can try.  I learned this on a trip to Hueco Tanks to train for “real” rock climbing.  Yes, I said it bouldering is practice climbing, at least for me it is.  Being primarily a big wall climber, bouldering is a training tool to gain power.  Trying hard comes down to how much psych A.K.A. testosterone you can summon from those ostrich egg sized testis or ovaries that produce our testosterone.   Summoning this much testosterone is dangerous for many reasons that we will discuss.  Woman are at less risk because their inferior bodies produce seven to eight times less testosterone than the superior race of men.  Some of the dangers of too much testosterone include increased sperm production in both men and women, male pattern baldness in women, excessive facial hair, increased sex drive, increased impulsiveness, increased aggression, and elevated irritation.

Is it a dream or reality?  It is unknown, but my pelvic area is convulsing and there is some rigor mortis thrown in as well.  Slowly I come out of my hypnagogic state and realize I have gone through another pair of underpants.   The day before I had tried very hard on a boulder which produced too much testosterone.  Trying hard has its price, and that price is paid in many loads of wash.

Hueco is full of females who stay the whole season from November to mid March and their faces are becoming very strange looking.   All of their trying hard is transferring the hair from the top of their head to their face.  As seen in this climber who just tried very hard and summoned a dangerous dose of testosterone on D esperanza.

           bald w: facial hair

Increased testosterone can lead to an increased sex drive and impulsiveness.  Satisfying this urge can be incredibly difficult with all the dirtbag climbers in Hueco.  Showers cost a pretty penny and with a large portion of your funds being spent at the laundry mat washing crusty underpants a shower may be put on the back burner.  The repulsive odor of climbers and increased impulsiveness can lead to dangerous substitutes as shown in the picture below.

cactus

            The final danger of too much testosterone is escalated aggression and irritation.  I was climbing on the famous Martini Roof all by myself.  As the day progressed people began to show up until there were around twenty people.  With each burn I summoned more testosterone and with each additional person entering martini roof my aggression grew as well.  This caused my body to rumble with rage.   A kid walked to the start of the boulder problem I was trying with his sweaty unchalked hands and slippers on his feet.  He grabbed the crux holds, placed his dirt-crusted slippers on the footholds and attempted the move.  I lashed out and said, “put some chalk on before you grab those holds!”  He was taken back and was obviously ignorant to common bouldering etiquette.   His friend replied, “can you ask nicely?”  I retorted “its common courtesy!”  I thought I was going to get into a fight over someone touching a rock.  If this progressed I would most likely end up with multiple black eyes and a few forced rest days in Hueco Tanks, which is hell on earth.

Trying hard is dangerous due to the side effect of excessive amounts of testosterone.  As a wannabe nurse with no medical knowledge or authority I would advise you to only try hard when necessary or if you would like to get into cactus fucking.

 

WARNING: All the content above may be misleading and written in false context. Except the part about how men are the superior race.

Arco, Arco, county wicklow

With only two competitions left after Munich I was looking forward to some rest. My shoulders had taken a hard beating from the very start of this year and looked forward to some real rest as in, no climbing whatsoever. Bound for the world championship in paris, we made a short detour to Arco, Italy to take part in the rock masters international. Note… international, not invitational. One has to actually get invited to the invitational events in Europe and to get invited, one has to place well, real well.

Arco was an epic; getting there and leaving… Google maps said it was a 4 hour drive from Munich. It should be noted on the site that this is tallied at driving euro speeds. Leaving Munich at 5 pm hoping to arrive before ten we ended up pulling into Arco at 2:30am wide eyed and  bushy tailed. After spending what seemed like hours circling around looking for the next “this way to arco” sign in a downpour our driving was slow and slower. With no idea if the comp was even going ahead due to the massive amounts of rain falling from the heavens I hoped it was cancelled so that I would at least have time to figure out where I was meant to be in 6 hours time.

After pushing the snooze button one to many times, I reluctantly awoke at 9 am which was 15 minutes after isolation closed. Wondering why the hell I even bothered coming I cursed my tardiness, the lack of road signs and my  seemingly chronic inability  to be organized a bit better. Meanwhile, I thanked the rain which hopefully put the comp off long enough so that I could get my ass to it.

Unfortunately  the comp was not cancelled yet fortunately it was delayed. Some sleep and time to mentally prepare would have been of great assistance. I arrived just in time to hear tim announce the new start time and to hear people tell me that they had been looking for me for the last 3 days. I guess my withdrawal from the rope event was not finalized…!

All the stress that I had created was pointless as always. I re-told myself, see? things usually work out and even if it didn’t, does it really matter? No of course not and getting worked up about it is about as pointless as trying to control them. Cedar and I headed back to the van, ate some quick breakfast and prepared for some groggy warm up.

The comp itself was rather relaxed even with many top European climbers on the same wall as I. My mental status was not prepared for this comp to say the least. The chaos from trying to get there and the morning rush had not given my head the chance to enter comp mode. I tried as best I could but my focus was a mile away.

Despite that, I did have fun. The format was 8 problems in 90 minutes with lots of paper towel near by to dry one shoes from the puddles forming on the mats. The problems were hard. Harder than the two world cups that I had been to but really well set. Technical, very powerful, dynamic, and  confusing. I was inspired but the strength of the other women there and wondered what the hell was with the Russians.  Was it the water? How do they train? The Russian girl Olga was the only one to have  done 7 of the 8 problems with very impressive style. The most sent after her was 4, then 3. To make it to next event one had to do 2 problems fast. I did one and a bonus which was a little disappointing. Though the problems were hard, they weren’t impossible and wishful thinking makes me wonder if i had summoned my grrr from the start well… perhaps that would of been most helpful. Maybe there are benefits to isolation format after all, at least for me as I feel I have more focus with that format.

And with that over and the continuing rain we made a small tour of the beautiful town while cedar ate a cone of gelato bigger than her head. Finally, we headed to paris.
Well, at least we tried. First I ran out of gas. As my van chugged and sputtered its last breaths over the narrow mountain road,  i drove very slowly hoping to make it to the next town while trying to piss off the already impatient  Italians who were honking their horns at a rate faster than I was driving.

Luck had me come to a rolling stop in front of a gas station which was just about to close. I pointed to my van which was at that point blocking traffic and he laughed at me and handed me a half full Jerry can. Thank you!

When in Italy, eat spaghetti. We stopped at a cute town just before entering Austria and ate the most delicious plate of pasta and tomato sauce. how do they make something so simple taste like a bit of heaven?

Returning to the van with full bellies prepared for a long drive I found a dead battery or so was thought. I waved down the right couple. They tried to jump start my van while telling me about their cousin who lived in Canada. Unfortunately, the boost was useless. Fortunately they happened to know the mechanic who’s house I had ironically broken down in front of and who just happened to walk by. The next morning, on his day off, Christian came to my van dressed in green overalls and diagnosed it’s illness as the starter. Then he said in broken english that it was the engine. Very bad. A few tests later he discovered it was just a loose connection. Handing over a sweet fifty euros I thanked him for his kindness and time and thanked the universe that I didn’t have to abandon my van for a tent and long bus rides. We happily waved good bye to him and the local fat orange cat and eagerly drove north.

Paris, here we come!

Hueco: A Quick Trip

Quick trips to a bouldering destination sure are funny, not funny like cat videos but funny like “that smells funny” . . . cause it’s not that funny.  It stinks like shit from the get go.  Knowing 14 hours to Hueco Tanks is a hell of a drive for 3 days of bouldering we do it anyway, convincing ourselves it is worth it and feeling holier than thou dedication as we sip our 8th coffee during hour 10 of the drive.  I once worked 9pm to 9am, drove the 14 hours straight to Hueco without sleep and realized I needed 2 rest days(out of a 6 day trip) to recover from getting there.  But I am more dedicated than you so that’s cool.

Psyched!!
This little genius is saving mouth energy with a half smile in anticipation of the hours of deliciousness that are to ensue.  

Three days of bouldering in Hueco is great, and, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful but it’s like craving a footlong hotdog and getting a lil’ smokie.  It’s still delicious but you would prefer more girth and 11 more inches.  Wait, what?

Where was I, oh yeah, like eating a lil’ smokie there are no regrets, only an insatiable desire for more.  More, more, more.  More time, more chances to send.  If only, if only.  I totally would have sent that if I had more time.

 

Someday I hope to spend a few weeks to a month in Hueco. . . but I doubt that will happen.  So, I’ll continue quick trips every winter and continue to slowly tick off my life list 1 or 2 problems at a time.

Waiting to get on North Mtn can suck but sometimes the down time is productive.  The following video shows amazing Beta for El Techo de los Tres that I got from Mike Personick while waiting to get on North Mountain one day.  Thanks Mike!

El Techo de los tres B, V11 Hueco Tanks from Scott Hall on Vimeo.

I traveled with Portia Menlove and Serkan “Seko” Ercan.  Seko is a talented climber and a recent tansplant to SLC from Turkey.  A great guy and a better climber/setter, Seko was full of positive energy and stoked at the idea of climbing problems he has dreamt about since his youth.  Below is a video of the Turkish Tickler quickly crushing Loaded Direct.

Serkan Ercan, Loaded Direct. Hueco Tanks from Scott Hall on Vimeo.

The gallery below highlights our trip, while browsing through the pics just imagine Green Day’s Time of Your Life playing like it is a high school graduation slide show. One other note, new Collective contributor Nik Berry crushed Diaphanous Sea.  As a very accomplished trad climber it was impressive to see him put his energy into such a powerful boulder problem and realize his potential.  See what a try hard (not to shit your pants) face looks like in the photos of him, take notes, apply through practice then crush boulders while not shitting.

Mt.Proboscis all Free in a Day!

On the summit just before dark after 13 hours of climbing

The blades of the royal blue Hughes 500D rotated above my head. I could hardly breathe in the windswept air as I unloaded bag after bag onto the frozen, rocky surface. As the chopper lifted off I huddled on the ground, my gaze fixed on the terrain that would be our world for the next three weeks. There was no grass, no trees, no single soft spot in the whole basin; instead there was snow, ice, granite boulders of varying size, and the 2,000ft Mt. Proboscis — the reason we were here. We had traveled as a team of four to the isolated border of the Yukon and Northwest Territories via a series of aircraft — none of which we would see again until they came to pick us up. We were about 80 miles from the nearest signs of human habitation, on our own with the goal of establishing a new free route up Proboscis, as well as repeating another.

First view of the wall from the helicopter

In the months leading up to this moment, there had been much talk and hesitation on my part about committing to the trip. I had never been on an expedition before — sure I had done plenty of climbing in cold conditions, climbed some big walls, and had been in some fairly remote places, but never on this scale. With less experience in this kind of setting, and as the only woman, I was concerned I would be the weak link — that I wouldn’t be able to handle the environment, that I wouldn’t like it, that it would be too cold, too hard, too much. My mind changed daily until finally I decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity or the adventure.

The days went with each passing storm. We battled bouts of rain and snow — confined to our tents and tarpaulin kitchen — passing the time with crossword puzzles, Cormac McCarthy stories, curry dinners, expedition-style pizza parties, and bottles of whiskey until a break in the weather presented itself. Twenty days into it my husband, Ben Ditto, and I stood atop Mt. Proboscis. We had just made an all free complete ascent of the Original Route Variation (Women at Work) — grade VI 5.12 R. It had taken us 17 days and three attempts for this to happen. Weather had turned us around previously and we had gotten quite used to the cold, wet climbing as well as the possibility of retreat. As long as we were prepared we would be okay, so in our climbing kit for the day, aside from food and water, we carried jackets, rain jackets, webbing, pain killers, tape, and a knife — because you just never know.

Base camp and our home for 3 weeks

As we stood on the top of the wall reveling in its grandeur and the vast expanse of glaciers and peaks that stretched on as far as the eye could see, we knew we were only half way — we had to get down now. We would have to descend the entire formation, pulling our ropes and threading them through the established anchors as we went, to get back to the ground. Hopefully we could descend the wall with ease, as it had taken us 13 hours to climb and it was just about dark now. There would be no room for any serious error.

The first 13 rappels went surprisingly well, aside from a baseball-sized rock that I kicked off the wall, crashing into Ben’s helmet (thankfully he was fine) and some rope trickery to avoid any snags. Three hours had passed since we started rappelling. We were making good time and were feeling a bit at ease as we descended into the first five pitches of the route, territory that had come to be quite familiar to us as we had climbed it three times already.

These sections had been running with some of the coldest water on earth and we had jammed hands, arms, and legs into these crevices as we ascended the wall. On our way down we tried to avoid the wetness as much as possible; we had had our fair share of its icy demeanor. There were only three more long rappels to the ground. And we were feeling some elation now that the ground was in sight.

On the ascent

As we huddled together at the anchor pulling our ropes, they became snagged. They would not budge.

We pulled harder. We flung them around, hoping they would cut loose. Nothing, except a general feeling of devastation. We looked at each other, we looked above. Surrounding us was darkness, our headlamps only illuminating the immediate space around us, their light disappearing up the wall. We could just make out the blue and green pattern of nylon snaking its way up and around a series of ledgy flakes about 50 feet above and to the right. We had never really had trouble descending here before, but now it appeared our ropes were wrapped up in this mess. We were stuck up there in the dark, in the water, our friends asleep at base camp, the rest of the world hundreds of miles away.

We had two options: One of us could re-climb this soaking wet pitch and possibly sort out the stuck bits of rope, or we could cut the rope and continue with whatever was left. It was around 1am, we were tired, we were cold, and neither one of us could muster the psyche to go back up. We went for option two and out came the knife. The sharp metal cut through the rope and we hoped for the best as it sprang upwards and vanished. Down came a pile of cord at our feet consisting of one full 70-meter rope and what turned out to be only about 50 feet worth of the other line. Tying the two together would be useless — we would be better off using the one 70-meter rope. Relieved to be done with the stuck-rope scenario, we proceeded with our descent.

However, our line wasn’t long enough to descend to the remaining three established rappels. Alarm came upon us. All we wanted was to be back in our tents with the promise of warmth and comfort. But, because our line wasn’t long enough to reach the rappel anchors, we had to build intermediate anchors, leaving some gear and webbing behind on the wall. This took more time, patience, and awareness. With bleary eyes and swollen fingers, we set about the next task of placing gear into cracks and fissures and equalizing them with webbing and finally attaching a carabiner to them so we could run the rope through it to descend. A simple task that is standard practice for us, but something that felt like quite a chore during our 17th and 18th hours of hanging around in harnesses, the pressure of which was cutting into our legs and hips, making our bodies scream for release from this wall.

The last 500 feet — something that should have taken about an hour — turned into five rappels in three hours. At the last rappel, too tired and weary to build and leave yet another intermediate anchor, we fixed our 70-meter rope to the existing anchor and used it as a single line all the way to the ground. Its full length stretched thin, giving us our final escape to the world below. Around 4am, we were finally back on the rocky ground. It had taken us six hours to get down. We stripped ourselves of harnesses and helmets, stretched our weary bodies, drank our remaining sips of water, and staggered down to camp with the moon-cast shadow of Mt. Proboscis to our backs.

Cold and exhausted after a harrowing descent in the dark. So happy to be down!

The sun shone bright that next day — heating up our cold world. The excitement of our accomplishment kept me from sleeping too long that morning. I was proud of myself for having made the choice to be part of the expedition. We had become the second group in the history of the place, dating back to 1963, to free-climb Mt. Proboscis in a single day — a truly rare and unique experience. I was proud that I had been able to set aside all fear and worry about the what-ifs and unknowns and put myself out there.

all pics courtesy ben ditto

Southwest Videos

Joe Meiners and Griffin Whiteside put together a great video of some of the bouldering around St. George, UT including the often shown Moe’s Valley but also a newer area that Isaac Caldiero has been developing called Dalton Wash near the town of Virgin, Utah.

Southern Utah from Joe Meiners on Vimeo.

Check this link for a map of where to turn on Dalton Wash road from Highway 9 just East of Virgin Utah between St. George and Zion National Park.  Follow the road and stay left at the Y.  The boulders will eventually appear next to the road.

Great work to Joe Meiners for climbing Crusader for Justice V13 in Moe’s Valley.  This was Joe’s first V13 but I expect many more to come from this strong weaselly som’bitch. The first move on this problem is vicious and Joe repeatedly crushes it. . . even after he broke the good half of it clean off.

And, great work climbing Booka Booka Booka V13 (also in Moe’s Valley) Griffin.  In the spirit of the southwest, I put together this video of Griffin climbing the V13.  Be sure to watch G Bieb’s sweet dance at the end. I can’t tell if this video showcases Griff’s unbelievable bouldering potential or his amazing future as a male stripper. . . I mean, he already has a stripper name. . . Wolfstain.

 

Booka Booka Booka V13: Griffin Whiteside from Climbing Collective on Vimeo.