Wednesday, July 29

Road Trip Inferno

"Sunshine with record breaking temperatures; extreme heat can be dangerous for outdoor activities" Not quite the weather forecast one might hope for while on a climbing trip.. But here we are, in Washington. It's basically my first time here, and it is definitely beautiful. We checked out an amazing area this morning - Leavenworth. Granite monsters sleep in this nice canyon above an entirely Swiss modeled town. If it were not so damned hot we would be having a ball on sticky boulders right now, but instead we are sipping iced americanos and loathing about the record breaking temperatures in the North West. Gosh dang it!! The forecast calls for continued ball-busting heat until the weekend. Any ideas?!?

God forbid we find ourselves climbing indoors on a climbing trip.. but I'll do it!! In the meantime we will remain here in Leavenworth wasted every hour in the comfort of air conditioning, drooling over the cool temps we experienced just two days ago.

Speaking of drool- Andy Mann donated an awesome shot of me on 'Heart n Cock n Balls' V10 featured below. Idaho is awesome!

Tuesday, July 28

THE ROAD prt. 1

A long awaited rest day has finally arrived. It seems like months since Andy Mann and I left Boulder on our journey to the North-West, when in fact it was little more than a week. We have remained ridiculously busy, from climbing to shooting photos, to OR meetings to Pioneer Day fireworks, from visiting friends to searching for new cliffs and boulders. It has been an awesome ride so far and our plans for the next few weeks are just as inspiring. But, before I even begin with our plans, I'll take a moment to review our past..
We left Boulder at the beginning of last week, my Subaru was packed up, relatively clean and full of gas. Our first objective was to check out something of a 'secret' crag called the Hoop we had heard so much about. Andy and I pooled beta from as many friends as we could on the elusive crag and faithfully bailed south out of Wyoming and into Utah in search of this limestone monster. It was actually not to hard to find, and once we did we were immediately stoked. The Hoop is a feature on a giant chunk of limestone hog-back that was eroded by a river, forming two arching spines of limestone. The wall with most of the climbing is stunning. It's streaked blue and orange limestone with sparse pockets and edges, and actually sits about two pitches off the ground. While climbing there you are always clipped into a fixed static line (MAD props to the party that installed this line so well), with a few spots to drop your gear and sit down. The wall features very few climbs, but the north facing aspect and the beauty of the position and wall itself is every bit of worthy. We sampled over half of the routes on the wall. Many were sharp, and obviously rarely climbed. The quality was good, especially on two of the harder classics I climbed, 'Blue' 5.13a and 'King Railer' 5.13c. The warm ups (few exist) are lower quality, but still enjoyable.

We were in absolute solitude out at the Hoop, only bothered by wandering cattle and ravenous mosquitoes. After a day and night there we packed up and began the drive to Salt Lake. I thought we could potentially make it on 'back roads', which turned out to be just barely passable winding mountain roads through the middle of nowhere. Keeping with the adventure theme, we went with it and explored unmarked roads through random rolling green hills and mountains. We eventually made a giant circle and found I-80 again.

We were greeted with great hospitality in Salt Lake. Justin Wood and his girlfriend Jessica put us up and offered up showers, chess games, basement floors, stove tops, you name it! Salt Lake was crazy hot. Melting-your-shoes-into-the-pavement-hot. 111 F is what the almighty spinning digital bank display was reading, and we were quick to trust it. It was also one of the busiest weekends in Salt Lake, with both Pioneer Day and the massive Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in session. The company of good people, good dogs (yeah pickles!) and nearby classic climbing was more than enough to make up for the heat and crowds though.

The Trade Show itself went well for Andy and I both. I checked in with sponsors, shook hands and scouted for new cool products. It's great to see all of the faces behind the emails and bullshit in person with the people and companies I work with. It always thoroughly reminds me that I am lucky to have such great support from top notch companies. Arcteryx is releasing a slew of new innovative packs and garments, and, as one would expect, the quality of craftsmanship is amazing. Metolius has got an AWESOME new line of chalk bags and gear slings that feature all retro, ultra bright, straight outta the 80's colors, definitely keep and eye out for these, although you won't have to look very hard for them- that shit is BRIGHT!! Sportiva has got a couple new shoes as well, both approach and climbing. The Katana Lace-UP looked like an awesome new edging shoe and the Speedster is an ultra sensitive aggressive slipper. Of course the show is full of other awesome, and not so awesome new stuff, but regardless of the number of free samples and espresso, it inevitably gets old. Thankfully we were only there for a few hours.

What's truly exciting is that despite the heat, we ventured out and cragged a bit.. American Fork limestone looks like super choss, and often is, but...well... welcome to HELL!! This area has got a long history of hard-men and holds the majority of the canyons test piece routes. There is a touch of beauty to be found within the hellish fire-scarred rock and blocky overlaps, plus the climbing can be really fun. I really enjoyed the pump-classic Burning 5.13b, which overhangs at a staggering rate for its entirety. The turbo-classic Hell 5.13a/b and High Water 5.13c were also some of my favorites. High Water features a stunning move sequence that includes compression, drop knees, cross-thrus and crimps- felt a little hard in 90 degree heat no doubt! Andy and I, along with Carrie Cooper also headed up to the bouldering mecca of Little Cottonwood Canyon for a day. I was resting while the two took swings at pleasantly warm (read: f*cking hot) granite sloppers. I went straight for a cool dip in Salt Lake's drinking water - I promise I didn't see the signs until I was already wet!.. Meanwhile Andy and Carrie were killing in on the boulders.. keep your eyes pealed for some awesome photos..

Pioneer Day.. or Pie and Beer day for us secular types, is a hell of an event in Salt Lake. I'll keep the details to a minimum, but July 24th is no joke- fireworks displays to rival any 4th of July celebration, thousands take to the streets for a massive parade and parties go all night on this state-wide holiday. We had a good time, as they say, when in Salt Lake, do as the Mormons do!

Enough of the heat.. we were off to City of Rocks, Idaho, a bit weary of all the hype. As soon as we turned the corner out of Almo, however, our worries were dispelled with titanic force. The City of Rocks / Castle Rocks area is truly amazing. It totally blew my mind. The quality of climbing is incredible, the landscape and setting is other-worldly and the potential is still boundless. Land ownership and relatively strict park regulation is definitely to be noted as a downer, but there is SO much stone here. New bouldering is being found every day and undone classic trad and bolted lines are plentiful. Our good friends Beau and Mike hooked us up with the tour and all the beta and then some. I climbed the awesome Tony Yaniro test piece, 'The Heretic' 5.13 a/b and the killer Electric Avenue 11+/12- trad, before taking an afternoon rest from the brutal sun, climbing some moderate awesome-ness on the mighty Elephant Rock. Our evening session was wicked, climbing until the sun set at 9:30. I did an absolute stunner there called 'Gigantor' 5.13 b/c, that totally took my breathe away. No cheesy-ness or mushy route-love intended. This beautiful climb is tall, exposed and has desperate technical movement on amazing patina while your last quickdraw hangs depressingly far below your feet- wicked! There are a number of other test pieces and undone projects that will surly inspire a return trip- There is hard climbing in the City and it's good.. The bouldering included. Yesterday we went to Castle Rocks and checked out the amazing Taco Cave and Green Wall. The bouldering was world class, albeit limited. Highlights for me included flashing 'The Smell' V8 and doing 'Out of Africa' V10 and 'Heart n Cock n Balls' V10, all featuring very, very cool movement on very worthy boulders.

After a filling dinner at the Rock City - go there, it is awesome - we hit the road, which turned out to be the wrong road in-fact, causing a nice 2 hour circle on our way to Boise. It did, however, foster an erie run in with a bunch of wild horses. Andy Mann reviews the experience on his blog.

Now we are blogging and sipping coffee at a 37$ hotel in Boise, trying to figure out our plans for the next few days and reviewing the quality of routes and boulders we have enjoyed thus far. I really, really need a shave so I'm going to sign off - stay in touch for more frequent updates from the North-West!

ANDY MANN donates some (B grade) PHOTOS!!! top to bottom- City of Rocks, ROCKS! 'High Water' Cruxin 'Electric Avenue' 'Out of Africa'

Monday, July 20

Spear Me

My Dad and I charged up to Spearhead on Saturday and had a killer time on the classic route, 'Spear Me the Details' 5.11+ III. The weather turned out perfect, and aside from passing an escaping party, it went almost too smoothly.. I combined the two difficult pitches on the route for an amazing 200 ft granite scratching slab fest. 'Spear Me' is a stunner!

We saw a really interesting creature tromping across the snow patch below, from a few pitches up. It looked everything like a wolf, and as far as we know wolves have been re-introduced in Northern Colorado, but in RMNP? It was a large animal, but was definitely not an elk or sheep. Super interested to find out what it could have been- do you know?

Andy Mann and I are hitting the road early tomorrow morning, and the plans are to try and find a somewhat secret and apparently amazing crag called 'The Hoop' for a few days on our way to Salt Lake City for the comfort of modern air conditioning at its best- the mighty Salt Palace (yes, Jabba the Hutt does have a booth at OR, no, there will not be dancers, but there will be informative literature and Jabba the Hutt keychains).

From there we will be heading north and eventually west. I've got my suit all packed up for the wedding, but don't tempt me- I will bust it out early!! Can't wait to hit the road, stay tuned.

Friday, July 17

Almost Launch Time

It's about time to take this show on the road. My good friend and wicked photographer Andy Mann and I are hitting the pavement and clocking the mileage starting early next week. The three week road trip all evolved from the news of my high school friends wedding. I got Andy hooked up with shooting the wedding, I sent in my positive RSVP and thus a road trip was born. The goals of the trip are very much in consistent evolution, other than being in Salt Lake one day next week, and in Tacoma, Washington by August 2nd. Everything in between, before and after is up for debate and given our over-the-top psych level we are being easily persuaded. A rough guess goes a little something like this:

-Mill Creek, UT
-SLC and the Trade Show
-City of Rocks, ID
-Boise Area Pebble Pulling , ID
-Riggins, ID
-Deep Creek, WA
-Index, WA

I would be more than stoked if this was the final roster, many of these area have been on my to-go map for ages. We might hit half on the way out and half on the way back. Or screw it all and go straight to Tacoma, Washington for their world renowned beaches!! oh wait, maybe I'm thinking of somewhere else. Anyways, we are stoked, and a number of locals have offered up tours and hospitality. I will be staying digital throughout the trip so expect some quality shots from the A Mann. Got any suggestions? What's the secret beta?! Want to let us crash on your floor?! feel free to post up.

In the meantime, I'm going to the big mountains again in search of a little misery (or perhaps a lot). My Dad and I are heading into Glacier Gorge tomorrow to tear up some tall cliffs. I'll be continuing to put the test to the Metolius Mastercam, which has proven to be an excellent companion to their TCU's. A set of each is a must in the Colorado alpine. The weekend looks great around here, so hopefully you'll be out as well. 

Photo: A squirrel gets caught eating my bird feeder (not the bird seed, the feeder itself) and flees the scene via 10 foot deck-to-tree jump. I laughed tirelessly at this photo- hope you do too. 

Monday, July 13


Alpine climbing offers a degree of reward that is unmatched by any other rock climbing discipline. There is something very magic about climbing up high, something that a lifetime sport climber will simply never understand. Describing an alpine day to a sport climber or a flat-lander can often sound like well organized self torture. However, those of us who do find the courage (stupidity?) to venture into the high mountains always seem to come limping back for more. At the end of a ridiculously long day, with battered legs, throbbing feet and growling stomachs, there is an unusually strong feeling of accomplishment. For me, the buzz from trying hard in the high mountains lasts every bit as long as redpointing a sport project. Nothing quite compares to leading a long beautiful pitch, with hundreds of feet of thin air under your ass, while the sun is shinning and a waterfall showers somewhere in the background. This is what the Colorado high mountains is all about, and it's worth the hike. 

As you could maybe tell, I got up high last weekend for my first Alpine outing this year. Marisa and I did an amazing classic on Spearhead called 'The Barb' 5.10c III. We decided to do it at around 10:45pm the night before. It was a long day, but the weather held out for us (until the minute we got off the climb), and Marisa onsight followed every pitch on her second ever Alpine climb. It was fantastic. My legs are still sore, but my head is filled with all the possible ways I can make it up high again in the next week.
Obviously, I did end up staying home from the Lander Climbers Festival, which is a bummer. I really felt like if I could stand to wait another week or two my finger injury would be totally healed, 100%. So I stuck to climbing granite and gave my finger an extra chance to get strong. This weekend I also got out to Animal World in Boulder Canyon for my first time. I was highly impressed with an old project that my buddy Chris Weidner finished up last year called 'Closer to God' 13c (aka Animal Antagonizer). This turned out to be a great climb, with a super tricky and engaging finishing crux sequence. It is one of those cruxes that at first feels stupid to impossible, then some 'oh-whatever-why-not' beta ends up working beautifully. I would highly recommend this route, but you're going to have to figure out the beta on your own for full value!! 

Photo: Notice the heard of elk in the foreground.. classic. and Marisa's gets her crux pitch send face on!

Monday, July 6

Bosch on, Bro!

Guys: Remember that little talk your Dad or Mom gave you when your armpits began to stink, zits emerged on your once rosy cheeks or you found a fresh pubic hair? It went something like, 'there comes a point in a young boys life, when that young boy becomes a man'. Well, they LIED. The answer? Power Tools, and more specifically, GIANT power tools, are the real road to manhood. And I'm more than excited to announce my right of passage- Within a few days I will be the proud owner of a massive Bosch 36V Rotary Hammer Drill, and it's about time! I'm 23 for crying out loud!! 
DISCLAIMER: Climbing Ethics Are Mentioned Below!
I've been clipping other peoples bolts for long enough. I feel strongly that those of us who have the opportunity to spend most of our time climbing and even get monetary or other support to do so, eventually owe something to the community. This could mean a number of things, but one of which is almost certainly establishing routes, or boulders, or trails, etc. This OF COURSE needs to be done in the upmost respect for the community's wishes, and remain in balance with local ethics and practices. New routing is a difficult process that few partake in, but many can benefit from. 

Naturally, there is a higher degree to which one must be mindful when establishing sport routes, in that they permanently damage stone. This is a tricky topic that many would be excited or equally intimidated to engage in. My personal ethics on the matter are constantly evolving as my opinion and experience is informed by those around me and the progression of the sport. Routes that may have been plugged with bolts 10 years ago are now left for the bold, such as the amazing 'Musta Been High' in Eldo. Access to cliffs themselves can be affected by the sound of drills and scarring of the rock. However, many lines still remain that can not be safely protected with traditional gear, and could prove enjoyable to the community for years if bolted properly. Please do post any thoughts you might have, this conversation will no doubt continue. I'll be cleaning new routes in the meantime.. manhood here I come!!

Some News:

Yesterday.. THE GREAT John Bachar died free-soloing. He has influenced this sport to a degree that is immeasurable. He will be missed, but he lives on as a legendary hard man and perhaps the boldest climber to ever touch stone. "$10,000 reward to anyone who can follow me for just one day" he stated in 1981, already a legend for his incredible free-soloing practices. RIP. 

Tonight- At Patagonia Store on Pearl Street in Boulder - Showing of 'Return to Sender' in memory of Micah, Jonny and Wade. Brilliant movie with some inspiring footage of these guys, produced by Wade. 

Tomorrow- At the b.side lounge.. Dirt Monkey kicks off the newly added Breakbeat night every other Tuesday called 'Breakin & Eggs'!!

This Weekend- The ICF in Lander.. (not sure about my attendance- I'm still healing, but I'm hopeful!)

Friday, July 3

Workin, Healin

For almost three years now I have been a Boulder Rock Club route setter. I take a lot of pride in my craft and really enjoy the process of creating a route. I often leave work without filling out my time card because I am too busy rehearsing moves or examining potential flaws of my routes. To me, this is a sign that I must like my job. 

The past few weeks at the BRC have been a bit crazy in that we have been remodeling the older portion of our wall. This wall was built by Eldorado Wall Company in 1995, and to our knowledge was one of the oldest standing commercial walls in the country. It was finally time for an upgrade. 

Anyone who has worked as a route setter knows that comps and other indoor climbing events take a staggering amount of labor to put on. Prep days typically start way too early and seem to never end. Well, this was definitely the case for the BRC crew this past week. We freakin' slaved Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We finished t-nuts, set a copious amount of quality routes, installed flooring and quickdraws. My buddy Seth and I woke early after setting until midnight, only to forerun and tweak all but a couple of the 32 routes the team set over a 36 hour period. We actually did a jumping chest slam with one another in celebration of our bad-assed-ness. 

The result? A killer opening night for the remodel. New routes throughout the room at all grades, and a fresh look and feel for a once aging wall. Come and check it out if you have a chance, we are all proud of it. 

This hard work was great for many reasons, but most notably it forced me to rest from climbing. Taking extended rest (more than 2 days) is important but terribly difficult for me. I especially needed some rest after my finger/hand injury last week, and building routes all day was a form of rest, I suppose. But, alas, here I am one week ago I had just injured myself and now my hand is feeling 90%. I remain hopeful to send when I return to Lander at the end of next week.

Thanks for the insight and good energy from all of you who called or wrote. It worked! I'll be climbing pockets in no time. 

Lastly.. Sharp End Publishing just released a sample of Steve Levin's new Eldorado Canyon guidebook. I met with Steve a little while back and had a chance to flip through this awesome new guide.. Here, have a look see