Tuesday, January 26

airports and trade-shows

For the frequent lay-over-er, killing time in an airport can become something of an art form. After my 18th flight in the last 2 months, and unquestionably the worst lay-over of my life (11.5 hours in the middle of a 40 hour international), I feel that my airport time killing technique is getting quite honed. Here, I've revealed a few of my best secrets, some of which were developed just days ago on my return from a two month trip to Asia.. 1) Internet- the ultimate time waster. This one seems like nothing of a secret but in-fact finding FREE internet can be quite tricky.. I've found that many of the VIP lounges offer free internet that often manages to seep through the fancy brushed glass doors- post up outside and freely facebook for days. Another cheap (not free) option is to head to the local coffee spot and buy the cheapest thing on the menu (typically an apple or a cup of tea which can still run $3.75+ depending on the airport) they will have an internet code and you will be golden for hours. 2) Sleep. Finding a quiet, semi-comfortable spot is not easy, you will have to wander a while- but remember we are trying to kill time so wandering shouldn't be frowned upon. Empty gates are always a good bet, and shoes can make surprisingly good pillows. If you need something to take the edge off first, the kind people at Ever Rich Duty Free would be more than happy to help you sample 5 varieties of Johnny Walker.. it's called the duty free night cap- don't be ashamed. 3) Magazines. If you don't mind standing for a bit, you can post up in a news shop for a good 45min+ before being asked to purchase or leave (has happened to me many-a-time), but don't fear, within a hundred yards you'll surely find that very same issue of Home and Garden. Remember.. every airport has its own lay-over secrets as well. You would do right to ask a local about what time wasting resources may exist.

Needless to say, it feels good to be home. I clocked more flying time in the last two months than I typically do in two years, but, looking back on a killer solo trip to Asia while the front range was in the deep freeze is not such a bad thing. As soon as I got in (literally), I turned back west to Salt Lake City for the Winter Outdoor Retailer. Nothing like some bright fluorescent lights and an overwhelming amount of socializing to help you through a 14 hour time change.

There is always a handful of friends and interesting characters at the show that I would otherwise rarely see- which is often reason enough to attend. In addition however, I got a chance to catch up with my sponsors as well as support Paige on her way to a third place finish at SCS Nationals. She has proven herself yet again in the comp scene, taking another podium position despite her ever-growing interest in climbing outside (and with it, a waning interest in comps). While she managed to remain shockingly calm under pressure, I was on the sidelines sweating, biting my nails and bellowing nervous laughter.. truly not cut out for competition- Stoked for Paige though.

Among notable industry news.. the unstoppable minds at Arcteryx have developed the most advanced glove system on the planet (sounds dorky, but I'm 100% serious) and we have got a completely re-designed base layer system for 2010- including underwear! The Atom jacket is a light weight, super packable, well priced insulating layer that I've been using and loving for months- it's available in three cuts and four colors. La Sportiva is releasing a women version of the super versatile Miura VS and a brand new running shoe with sticky rubber that is perhaps the coolest looking shoe ever created by mortals, the Raptor. Sterling Rope is making the slim Nano in 7 colors now, including extension cord orange and barbie doll pink (PSYCHED). Metolius has got a new helmet that actually covers your whole brain basket and is super comfortable. Innate Gear continues to kick Bisphenol A (BPA) to the curb while making simple, yet elegant vacuum bottles and food containers- I'm a self-proclaimed thermos critic and I must say the Kaze warrants 5 stars all day.

Now I'm back in Boulder town, happily un-packed and enjoying my own bed. I've got a refridge full of goodies and a hot shower with water pressure to spare... mmmm.. comforts.. I'm excited to train, set some routes and enjoy the crisp temps on some front range sandstone. My plans for the next few months are rapidly solidifying and despite some reluctance regarding ever setting foot in another airport, I'm STOKED on the near future. stay tuned for details.

Speaking of stoked, I am extremely honored to receive the Golden Piton Award for my climbing efforts in 2009. Every year I diligently read through the January Climbing Magazine, admiring all of the athletes fit for the award while shaking my head at the scale of their achievements. I've always enjoyed this issue, and quite honestly I never, ever imagined I would personally receive one. I'm very proud of how much I've grown as a rock climber over the last few years and 2009 unquestionably represents a breakthrough year for me. I'm super humbled to accept the award among such talent and forever thankful to my community of friends and family whom I climb, eat, sleep, bullshit and relax with (among other activities). Thank you Climbing Magazine!

Monday, January 18


It was exactly two months ago that I found myself frantic. Hunched over a 'to-do' list, scribbling down non-sense tasks faster than I could ever imagine crossing them off. Last-minute joys and responsibilities alike would invariably have to be dismissed in the face of an impeding departure. It's in the last few days before a trip (or return) that I find my bubbling excitement and expectations suddenly flip. It's as though I'm into my running start off the high-dive with a smile ear-to-ear, but the moment I bend my knees to jump, I immediately start thinking about how I can somehow grab the edge on my way down. Ever since I re-booked an early return ticket to the states I have admittedly been day-dreaming about cool temperatures, lengthy BRC training sessions, Paige's pillowie comforter (and her company too of course), Whole Foods bulk isle thievery, my amazing friends and family, micro brew beer and so on.. but now, in my final few days in Asia I'm suddenly coming to terms with all that I'm leaving behind, and similar to two months ago.. struggling to fit it all in.

The truth is I've had an amazing trip, and looking back over my photographs has thoroughly reminded me of it- adventures like learning to drive a motorcycle in rush hour traffic, a traditional Northern Thai wedding, exploring Hong-Kong on a tight budget, completing my first (well first 6 I suppose) 5.14 on foreign soil during a 2 week trip to the Chinese climbing mecca of Yangshuo, laying siege to dance-floors across Shanghai with great friends and re-connecting with the amazing climbing community here in Northern Thailand. A copious amount of stories are laced between all of said experiences that will have to wait until we have a chance to bullshit in person. I love traveling in Asia and I'll surly be excited to share a few tales.. so buy me a beer and I'll get right into it!

After a heinous couple days of travel I will be rolling into SLC for the culture-shock inducing experience that will be the Winter Outdoor Retailer, but for now I've got delicious food to eat, favorite temples to see, markets to wander and exhaust-filled traffic to weave through- time to soak it up.. its my last couple days!

hope you enjoy a handful of (fresh) photos celebrating my last two months- I feel very fortunate to have had such a varied, successful and inspiring trip.. cheers!

Tung Lung Island, Hong Kong
population.. DENSITY- Mainland, China
a humbling rest-day at the HangDong golf course, Thailand *read: I SUCK at golf
Thunder 14a, Yangshuo
No Guarantee 13b/c, Yangshuo
singha induced spin class

Saturday, January 9

Shanghai Nights

The night before the New Year I moved between distinct polar opposites, from the limestone towers of Yangshuo to the concrete towers of Shanghai. In a daze, one could actually confuse the two landscapes- where wandering rivers meandered through endless karst mountains, now narrow channels of pavement flow between massive buildings that stretch for miles in every direction.

Shanghai is one of the largest cities on Earth, and is the epicenter of China's powerhouse economy. It is nothing short of a mega-city, that has seen staggering levels of consistent growth since 1991 when the city was granted the ability to economic reform post communist takeover. It's growth is epitomized in the emergence of Pudong, which, in the early 90's was literally a swamp and farmland- is now one of the worlds most powerful financial centers on the planet and is littered with dozens of skyscrapers including the worlds third largest building and the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.

While it does rival the economic thrust and growth of Hong Kong, Shanghai differs greatly in feeling. Shanghai may exhibit the same excessive wealth and opulence as Hong Kong, but it also has the grit and rawness of a large scale Asian city. This of course includes the traffic, pollution, trash, filth, noise, interesting smells and hustle- but it also includes an element of Chinese culture that I found seemingly absent in Hong Kong- something that I experienced on my first trip to this mega-city three years ago, and something that was intriguing enough to bring me back.

In addition to the richness of culture to experience in Shanghai, it is also host to perhaps the best, most accessible night life of anywhere I've ever been (all of my well-traveled friends who have visited or live in Shanghai have agreed). With my best friend living in Shanghai and New Years Eve on the close horizon I could not resist a trip.

While these photos may not do justice to the weekend, they do give an impression for how we tenaciously tore up Shanghai.. lets just say the legendary nightlife has proved itself once again...

Aside from a couple wicked nights out, celebrating the coming new year and the amazing year passed, I did get a chance to climb at one of China's largest indoor climbing facilities (finally! some climbing related content... geeeezzz....). Inside of the mighty Shanghai Stadium, this urban-gym features interesting, albeit not very well designed bouldering walls with age old grips caked in chalk- not actually all that bad of a thing when you're out to get over-gripped and pumped. However, I could sense the local struggle to stay motivated. There is also a huge (20m?) route wall, which unfortunately is mostly top-rope and overhangs only a few feet. But, the tireless quest of the urban climber is mostly just to grip plastic and forget about the busy city- and again I admire their ability to make use of what they've got.

Now I'm back in Northern Thailand, working with CMRCA to develop some training programs and route setting standards for the Thai climbing community, along with hosting a slide-show and attempting to flush the remaining toxins in my body from a week in Shanghai. It feels great to be back.

And speaking of coming back, I'll be on my way back to the good old coloRADo here shortly- I've changed my tickets and will be flying home to attend the Outdoor Retailer Show and cheer on my girlfriend Paige Claassen as she DESTROYS SCS Nationals! shortly after I'll be Boulder bound, and motivated on the coming spring climbing season.

Hope you're all enjoying an awesome 2010.. it's gonna be a good one, I can feel it!

Saturday, January 2

Time Warp

Time warp.
Last time I tuned in I had just finished two kick ass, back-to-back days at Yangshuo's best crag, White Mountain. The following day I was ambitious to return and take a crack at one of the two remaining burl routes on the far left side of the mighty cliff. Wednesday was a brilliant, sunny day in Yangshuo and I started off on an area classic, 'The Phoenix' 12b/c, which differs in character greatly compared with the other White Mountain routes I had sampled. Located on the right side, this striking, orange streaked and pleasantly textured route reminded me of a signature Shelf Road technical masterpiece- it was simply amazing in my opinion, and remains one of my favorite climbs in Yangshuo. A couple more great warm ups and I was prepared to try hard. I jumped on the power-house route, 'Blue Magic' 14a, which begins with brutally difficult thuggery- a struggle to escape two slopey pods and explode right to a decent edge before long moves to a rest. From there the route continues through a series of open pockets and a couple edges.. body position is crucial on this very short, ultra steep test-piece. After unlocking the beta to escape the pods, I felt confident in my method, but also fatigued from the previous two days. A fumbled second attempt lead to a stronger third one, and happily, a send. I finished the day with a few classic routes, including the newer, 'Two in the Pink' 12c and 'White Devil' 12d. Little did I know that these would be my last few routes at White Mountain..

After a well deserved rest day, Abond and I returned with a crew to session on Christmas Day. I was fired up to get a taste of Chris Sharma's 'Spicy Noodle' 14b/c, which I had saved for last. Unfortunately long standing political 'differences' between the two villages just beneath the cliff, mixed with our presence over the previous three days resulted in the closure (a cycle of sorts) of White Mountain. The Yangshuo Access Initiative is working hard to secure the permanent opening of this world class cliff, and updates on the progress can be found here.

While the closure was indeed a full scale buzz kill for my Christmas day, it will most likely be a temporary closure. All in all, I feel STOKED to have had the chance to crag at this place, and at this point I mostly hope, for the sake of the local climbing community and traveling climbers, that an agreement can be made surrounding access to this cliff- locals are very optimistic, so therefore so am I.

Realizing that my time at Yangshuo was running low and that White Mountain was currently off the roster, I took a second look through the guidebook to find inspiration for my last few days of climbing. Day after Xmas was headed out to Lei Pi Shan, were I cleaned up a couple 5.13s I had not yet had a chance to check out, including a great Scott Milton route (name?) at 13c to the right of Single Life that was surprisingly rad.. offering a short, albeit engaging crux. Another super long (45+m?) 13b/c route called 'No Guarantee' offered a wicked pump along with some grueling rope drag. I even had a chance to open a new route, bolted by my buddy Andrew, called 'Black Cloud Dreams (something like that?)' at 12+, to the left of the main wall at Lei Pi Shan. New routes and undone projects litter the crags around Yangshuo, and the process of either bolting your own or grabbing someone elses (open only of course) is almost an essential part of any visit to Yangshuo. Apparently I opened another 12c at Banyon Tree as well, bolted a few weeks ago by a visiting Spanish couple.. literally there are so many new routes that you can accidentally F.A. one if you're not careful.

After some clean up at Lei Pi, I had but one more objective.. a beast of a roof climb, clipping 24 bolts out of the giant Moon Hill formation. 'Sea of Tranquility' 14a was first done by Alan Moore in 2007 and at the time was China's hardest route. After a long section of 5.11 climbing, the angle steepens considerably as the quantity and quality of holds gradually declines. Finally, you find yourself literally up-side down, swinging between stalactites, completely disoriented and pumped silly. The crux involves a long, anti-gravity move from an in-cut crimp to a horrible tufa pinch, which you use to swing your body 180 degrees over to a massive hanging stalactite and rosey through to grab it- upon which you can wrap your legs and completely chill. On my second attempt I was able to burl through the crux and found myself sitting on a huge hanging stalactite right in the middle of Moon Hill, peering down to Yangshuo in every direction. Brilliant. Totally unique from anything I'd ever climbed. But it was not done yet, and I had no knowledge of the last 40 feet because when I fell previously, dangling in mid air, I decided returning to the roof was impossible/too much of a pain in the ass. Pressure was on- for real.. it was my last day of good weather in Yangshuo, I was tired and felt relatively certain that I would not be able to climb the 80 feet of steep thuggy movement including the crux to get back to this spot. I had 3 too few quickdraws hanging on my harness, and some involved exit moves were directly between the chains and me. DAMN man! this is why I don't do comps.. I hate pressure!

After a solid rest, I fired into the exiting, crimpy and long movement. Grabbing sometimes very questionable stone, I was nervous about my send.. but stoked on this incredible route and I knew how kick ass a success would be to finish an awesome two week trip to China's greatest sport climbing area.. I sent. Very stoked... and I was right, it was a killer way to finish the trip. Especially cause the next day's weather was less than inspirational, and the day after that I was on a plane to Shanghai.

Which is where I'm at now. Still recovering from a very long night celebrating the end of a killer year with some great friends. Shanghai is a trip- a Mega city that redefines what the words busy, polluted, huge and wild along with many others. It deserves it's own post, and so I'll keep my embarrassing New Years Photos and a city wrap up for my next blog- stay tuned.

Yangshuo was rad. Thanks to a number of hospitable and awesome individuals I had a killer time being there, despite arriving alone. The weather and access did cloud my psych in a few instances, but overall I left with a great taste in my mouth and a list of sends that I'm proud of. Thanks for all the help and love everybody! I'll be toasting a Liguan at Bar 98 again in no time..

Happy New Year.

Photos: Thanks to Bob Keaty.. A gang at White Mountain.. the right side.
The Amazing MoonHill.. Sea of Tranquility rides the arch of the cliff..