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'