Sunday, August 2

North Westin' (road trip part 2)

August has arrived, and with it comes great relief in the North-West. The worst of the 2009 mega heat-wave has passed, although temperatures remain above yearly average. We have been grittin' our teeth and just going for it, despite the tropical climate. Extreme laziness characterized by loathing in air conditioned places and dangerously early happy hours ALMOST overtook us, but NO! On Thursday we got all pumped and sweaty over at the historic Vertical World- Americas first commercial indoor climbing gym (second was the mighty BRC in boulder). This facility may show a little history, but the great angles, unique features and solid course setting at this classic gym definitely still inspire. Adam (manager), was super inviting and and offered us some free passes- he even waived the mandatory shirt policy on this 95 degree day. If ever I'm through Seattle during record breaking temperatures again, I will be quick to stop in Vert World.

After our session we were invited to hook up with our friends Keith Ladzinski and Lauren Lee over at the on-going Lee family reunion. We were greeted with some truly awesome hospitality that continued through the evening. Nothing like a little home cooking and some 'Apples to Apples' to refresh a couple of traveling rock climbers.

By Friday, the heat had subsided enough to inspire a trip to Exit 32, aka Little Si. After taking a spin through the guidebook I was thoroughly stoked to take a crack at this cliff. A nice, mellow 25 min. hike through overgrown forests in the heat.. and we were there, before a beast of a wall, all shaded. Stoked. Andy Mann and Keith Ladzinski were quick to ascend some fixed lines and Lauren and I eagerly started tying in. Little Si is the shit.. enough said.
Everything I climbed at Little Si was wicked and I found myself continually impressed with the quality of this crag. Most of the wall is broken into 2 or 3 pitches (it's giant), which can be run together with a 70m to create MEGA climbs. The upper section of this wall kicks back to a healthy steepness and is just featured enough to allow passage. Many of the classic pump-fests are a full 70m rope length, including stretch. The rock type is different than anything I've climbed on, although it shares many attributes of limestone and sometimes even granite. The wall features climbs from 5.9 (Andy Mann insists that it is the best 5.9 sport climb he has ever done), through 5.11 and right up to the business. Needless to say, we returned to Little Si for a second helping on Saturday. Bret Johnston happily pointed me in the direction of the classics and was nothing but stoked about his local training cliff (who wouldn't be).
I made some memorable ticks, including a stupidly close onsight attempt on 'Porn Star' (13d), falling from the final 5 feet on this humongous pitch - such a stunning climb packed with cruxes - it didn't feel much easier second try, so I was excited to finish it up. I did succeed on a flash of the powerfully delicate classic, 'Chronic' (13b) that day however, which I'm really stoked to hear is potentially the second ever flash (behind the great Lynn Hill). Saturday I did another amazing 70m rope stretcher called 'Black Ice' 13b/c that climbs through an amazing 12+ called 'Propaganda' before firing into a steep, sloppy and powerful head wall. I also nearly flashed 'Flat Liner' 13c, catching some serious air time off of the final move - the falls on this wall are unreal! I had to dig a little bit to finish this climb 2nd try- time for a rest day...

After three days climbing hard in the heat we are back to our favorite Seattle coffee shop, Verite, straight chillin. Today is the culmination of our trip in some ways - my good friend from high school is getting married. I'll be there to make fart noises during the ceremony and Andy is there to shoot amazing photos. This should be interesting.

Tomorrow we are hoping to get out for our last day in the North West before trending back towards the front range. Brett has offered to show us around, as has our friend Marshal - Seattle locals are bad ass.

Photos: Compliments of ANDY MANN - I'm gunning for the O-Box on Porn Star, Keith Ladzinski fires some photos from 35 meters..