Monday, September 30

Wyo -> IMF -> Utah

Sitting here at the Ibis Cafe in Logan, Utah. Yesterday morning I felt semi-lost, kinda confused, but mostly I felt a pretty incredible sense of freedom. The Idaho Mountain Fest had just wrapped up (I'll get to more of that soon), the weather was beginning to turn again and with a few nice sends in the bag at the City and Castles, I looked onward. Idling outside of Rock City for a while... Back to Lander? Back to Colorado? Maybe Rifle, or maybe Maple? My Weather App was getting quite the work out. I could kinda go anywhere. I had everything I needed right there in the truck, and for the first time in a long while I had no certain, immediate plans. It was a cool feeling, one that I'm fortunate to experience often. 

Ian Cavanaugh photo of myself on the first repeat of his route 'Straight Out of the Ghetto' .12+ R at the City. 
It goes without saying but I chose to link up with my good buddy Pawel in Logan. I drove through Logan Canyon on my way down from Wyoming and I was shocked by how incredible the fall colors were. Super Tweak is a roped bouldering test-piece originally established by the powerful Boone Speed in 1994; it was America's first 8c by an American. Being something of a history buff, and having done 'Scarface', 'Necessary Evil' and 'Kryptonite' - I knew I needed to check this thing out and hopefully fill in the gap. I'll be hanging here for a few days to hopefully take the beast down. 

Now to backtrack... Pretty incredible times finishing up at Wolf Point last week. After finishing off my new route 'Stalk and Ambush' .14+, I moved on to a massive route that (coupled with heinous heat) thwarted my efforts back in July. It's called 'Spitting Venom' and it's over 40meters of climbing with very little fluff. The crux is super high on the route, after 90 feet of solid .14- resistant intro, you hit a reachy and powerful crux pulling onto near vertical terrain. From here it's an airy and engagingly run-out section to the very tip top of the cave. I really wanted to finish off what I started this summer and leave Wolf Point with a few more, new, proud routes done.

After a day rehearsing the movement and getting back into the mental game on this rig I was ready for redpoint burns. The first few tries ended predictably - on a huge, accurate right hand move late in the crux - where I had been falling in July. Last light in the day I ripped up the intro, eager to get another good go on the route before the sky totally blackened. BJ was on the belay and my good friend and photographer Caroline Treadway was there cheering me on. I stuck the move, and with a good amount of effort I made it through the finishing, ultra thin boulder problem to clip the chains in twilight. A huge sense of relief and stoke. 'Spitting Venom' .14c was born and my 2013 mission at Wolf Point was complete. 

The next day we shot guns and shot some photos at the Cave with Caroline as BJ took down 'Reemed Out' 13+ and I cleaned some of my draws. The following morning I was off to the Idaho Mountain Fest at Castle Rocks.... 

A new route I did - bolted a few years back by Mike Spaulding and mostly forgotten. He called it 'Chumming' and I'll give it .13a. A killer route on the Sharks Fin. 
The event was awesome. Well organized, a great venue, a great group of people and not to mention some kick ass climbing right behind us. My clinic and slide-show both went well and I was really stoked all around on meeting new climbers, sharing stories and enjoying some kick ass pitches at the City of Rocks and Castle Rocks. I was mostly keen to try a controversial and historically intriguing route called 'Red Rum' .13+ on the comp wall. This was the Men's final route, created (literally) for an outdoor competition in the late 80's. It was a topic of much conversation and criticism over the years, but remains one of the areas hardest routes and as far as I can tell is seldom climbed. Well, it's true-- the route is heavily manufactured, down to the perfectly 'placed' feet. Regardless, the movement is actually exceptional, and the position is radical and thrilling. For an almost entirely created route, I really enjoyed climbing it. 

The opening 5.12 slab on RedRum

And that pretty much leads me back to the beginning of the post.... happy Monday everyone!

Monday, September 23

Stalk and Ambush

Suddenly... it's cooler. The sun is lower in the sky, nights are longer and the breeze chills your skin as it brushes past you. Maybe autumn is soon, or here... or perhaps it's finally just not hot. It's pretty damn nice for rock climbing though, and I'm stoked to be where I am. Back in Lander.

The first week I returned to Wyoming, climbing was mostly shut down because of severe storms. Meanwhile Boulder and much of the Front Range in Colorado was under water, and I selfishly complained about missing climbing days... Several friends and family have suffered extreme damage to their homes and communities. I'm sorry that I wasn't there to help you all. It was clear from mid week that the area was getting an intense storm, but no one could have predicted the degree of tragedy. Glad to hear that people are lending a hand and also drying out. Best wishes to everyone recovering from the floods.

As things dried out here we hit the crag. Wolf Point. We busted ass and laid a lot of ground work in the early summer there and now the temps and psych are all lining up. I've been out at the crag 6 of the last 7 days. A touch more cleaning, rehearsing and even some welcome sending. First objective was a forgotten Steve Bechtel project that I revitalized back in June. I moved several bolts, extended it and thoroughly cleaned this impressive route. It begins with a savage 4 bolt boulder problem through tough pocket pulling, monos and deadpoints - a solid V12 boulder problem itself. From here, without rest, 9 more bolts of resistant ~.14a on two and three finger pockets takes you to an exciting finish at over 100 ft. The bottom was so difficult that I worked the route in sections - aware that if I made it through the opening boulder problems that I would want a good shot at the send. So I wired the upper section, and then tried the bottom until I made it through, and thankfully nailed the ending. I'm calling the route 'Stalk and Ambush' after a number of run-ins with Mountain Lions on the hike... and as for the grade it's been a topic of much consideration. If there was one more hard move on the route I would not hesitate to call it .14d, but somehow .14c also seems too shy of an estimate. I've got no 8a scorecard to report to, so I'm not afraid of vague grading. I'll suggest 5.14c/d and we'll see what its repeaters have to say. BJ, you're up next dude...

so much hard climbing here.... 

Also well worth noting is a brilliant Tom Rangitsch rig that I had the pleasure of opening yesterday. It extends his killer 13b, 'Remus', to the very top of the cave. Barely climbable with an 80meter rope, this .13c is officially the first route to the top and the longest sport pitch in Wyoming. Come and get it...

On to the next project... another towering .14+ that ends beyond the 40m mark. Ultra resistant, run-out and huge, It's called 'Spitting Venom' and I'm giving it everything I've got. I'm in much need of a rest today but we're heading back out tomorrow and wednesday before another storm hits, and then I'm off to Idaho for the Mountain Fest! 

A throw-back ANDY MANN photo of me climbing 'The Heretic' at City of Rocks, circa 2009. A great trip we did together. Can't wait to revisit this amazing place. 

Monday, September 9

Off from the Fins

My trip back to the Fins is all but wrapped up. As expected, Idaho, and it's lovely inhabitants showed me an incredible time. I was really not sure exactly what I would find on this return trip to the area. I had spied a handful of potential new lines on my previous trip, but I hadn't rapped anything - and knowing this zone - blank areas of featureless stone are commonplace. Excitingly, the last 2 weeks were super fruitful. I tried my best to be productive and stay on task, to either climb or bolt something almost everyday I was out there.

Hard work paid off, but also *I got lucky* and moreover, this is just such an exceptional crag that it's hard to go wrong. Basically, as long as you do a decent job cleaning you're bound to end up with a worth while route. Last night as I packed up camp and descended the steep road out, I felt sadness leaving another rad session at this crag, but I was stoked with what all had come together... 

Lindsay Gasch taking down Son of Discovery
good friends.
One way or another I got 7 new routes in at the Fins this year. Marc Hanselman opened up his incredible Bushido extension to me, the 'Bare Knuckle Boxer' which turned out really cool. Pumpy, excellent pocket pulling to finish either Bushido or Mothership. Tom Smart bolted a really kick ass yellow streak that I had spied last year  - he freed the first half at 13a calling it 'Hapacholo' and I finished the job taking it to the top with 'La Cabanita Especial' 13c. I bolted an ultra thin extension to 'Skeletor' 12+ that remains undone and open. I also bolted and finished the incredible 'Vesper' 14a and its equally kick ass neighbor, 'The Manhattan Project' 14a - a journey through dynamic movement, pocket pulling and unique grips. Up the hill I finished a barely there edging and thin face climbing test-piece that I bolted last week. Complicated movement, extremely difficult footwork and creative thinking is what it takes to get through 'Better Living Through Chemistry' ... a one of a kind route that, I'm not gonna lie, is kinda hateful - but also strangely enjoyable and definitely bad ass. My gut reaction was 14c for this rig, but I can imagine the crux being slightly easier for a tall climber. Hopefully someone out there is as sick (read: messed up, not 'cool') as I am and stoked to repeat this gnarly route someday! My last day was yesterday and I impulsively bolted and cleaned another route that I had peered at. It wound up being pretty sick climbing and, as always, much harder than I thought. 'Yellow Brick Road' 13d was born and my trip was over.

Leif Gasch taking dumps on Son of Discovery - one of the best 5.13s at the crag.

Turns out Seth Lytton can climb the vertical. Bare Knuckle Boxer 5.13
Better Living Through Chemistry
Better Living... see for a bunch more photos
Much like my trip there last year, I had such a warm reception from the Idaho community - it was really cool to see how supportive everyone is and how much excitement there is over the Fins. It's not the biggest, or most extensive crag in the country but if face climbing is your stoke then honestly this area can not be missed. The discovery wall alone hosts nearly a dozen 5.13s and 5 5.14s, with a slew of 12's to fill in the gaps. I doubt that it will ever develop into a uber popular crag - it's in the middle of nowhere, it's generally hard, the road to the camping is super burly and the hard routes are quite sporting. But for those of us that love this place - here's to another rad season and hopefully I'll see you out there again!

for those interested. I recently added an updated topo for the Discovery Wall to Mountain Project...