Monday, November 30

Thai Coffee and Air Asia

The process of planning a trip has got to be one of the most exciting and empowering feelings. When I find myself anticipating a period of freedom and I have the means to explore and adventure, I can't help but enjoy the countless possibilities in vivid detail- to myself and even aloud to others (could be annoying, I know- sorry). 'Well! we could go here, and climb at this wall and then head into town and do this and then take a [bus, train, plane, car, bicycle, hovercraft] to this crag and then stay there and maybe we could...' it goes on and on. I love it. During this period of my life I feel both fortunate and privileged to be able to almost consistently enjoy such an activity as planning trips. This very statement no doubt makes some of you cringe- some HATE this process. I love it. I intend to continue the cycle as long as possible.

I was reflecting on this as I scanned innumerable Asian airline sites, Thai coffee on my left [basically drugs- how many violently shaky days will it take for me to finally learn my lesson..!?], in the attempts to book flights for a killer East Asian tour. I'm awaiting reply from my good friends Lauren Lee, Keith Ladzinski and Scott Milton (Sandra too?) to see if this will be a solo adventure or a group one- but the potential plans include a lengthy stay at Yangshou, climbing and exploring in Hong Kong, dance floor domination in Shanghai and a stay in Malaysia as well as a dip in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. STOKED.

After some relaxing and excessive alcohol consumption during an incredible Northern Thai wedding last week, I decided it's time to step up my game in preparation of this trip.. CMRCA is my crew out here. This guiding business has a bad ass retail shop and a bouldering wall out back as well, right in the heart of Chiang Mai. With the help of a couple buds, we tore down the bouldering wall, cleaned a sh*t load of grips and put up a plethora of wicked problems, that, if motivation persists, have the potential to get me buffed up before my East Asia trip.. I'm on it.

A little plastic love and some long days at the nearby crag, Crazy Horse (ass kicking good times out here) could be the training cocktail that I'm looking for. With the help of my crew at CMRCA I'm also on the look out for new lines and committed to bolt some classics before I leave Thailand.

Photos: ...before and after... View from the roof of my building, jyeah!

Tuesday, November 24

Doi Angkhang

I love Asia; If you can open your heart and mind, and relax your grip on comfort you will most likely find adventure. If you are able to surround yourself with like minded people then you certainly will. In my experience, it is that simple. My first week back in Thailand has only strengthened my understanding of this equation. Shortly after I arrived, a number of old and new friends of mine traveled from Chiang Mai to the far-north to celebrate the wedding of our good friends Josh and Kat. While there were chartered vans heading to this remote, amazing area, I also heard that a number of my friends were planning to rent motorcycles to make the trek. Stoked. Where do I sign up?

After a crash course in learning how to drive a clutch motorcycle in thick Thai traffic, I was ready for anything. Me and my Kawasaki KLX 250 were road ready and fueled up. The drive was incredible and we arrived after a number of hours to the wedding site- an organic farming area directly on the border with Burma, deep in a mountainous region surrounded by dense green jungle and rising mist. To my surprise this area was very cold- freezing even, and it felt great. The next three days were filled with lots of eating, celebrating, toasting and exploring. We bushwhacked through jungle in search of steep limestone, we stumbled upon cock-fights, we shared tea above mist-filed valleys where Burma was just a water-balloon launch away. Oh and of course, we shared a beautiful two-part wedding complete with both traditional Thai and western ceremonies for our good friends. In a days time we all (100+ Thai and westerners) changed from Lanna dress to casual clothes to dressed-up American. The nights were long and cold, the days were short and filled with incredible food. It was amazing- congrats Josh and Kat!

This morning we arrived back in Chiang Mai and are now remembering the heat that typically characterizes any authentic Thai experience. I'm trying to organize a trip to Yangshou and potentially Vietnam, meanwhile I'm looking forward to a routine and some solid hours training my arse off. Anybody going to be around China or Asia in the next few months?

In other news.. Arcteryx has put together a short video featuring some footage and interviews of / about my send on 'Lucifer' at the Red River Gorge. It is the first of many video clips to be released on a number of different climbs at the Red- stay tuned and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18

NOV 18

It's funny how a date becomes so loaded with anticipation before an event or a trip. I've said 'November 18th' so many times over the past few months, both out loud and in my head that finally seeing it displayed in the top right corner of my computer screen is almost shocking. Whoa, could it be?! could this mythical date actually exist?! Indeed, it does. And with it comes a lot of goodbyes, some last minute BRC training, heavy Metolius duffels and the satisfaction of crossing lines through my daunting to-do-before-the-18th list.

At any rate, I'm off. Like I mentioned before, I'm not altogether very certain about what the next few months will entail, but I've got a few good guesses and I'm quickly building ambition. Armed with a plethora of gear and enough Solutions, SuperChalk and glue-in bolts to get me through 4 months of steep and hot, I'll be getting after it. Stay tuned for adventures from the East.. and remember, just cause I'm on the other side doesn't mean we can't still be friends!!!

Saturday, November 14

Air Asia

After having just unpacked my duffels from the Red River Gorge, I already find myself scribbling a pack list in preparation for a long trip to Asia. I've had just enough time to settle in, put in some hours route setting, coach with ABC Kids, socialize, train and even celebrate, but now, almost immediately I roll into my next adventure. Next Wednesday I depart for Northern Thailand, where I will be crashing the long awaited marriage of two of my good friends, Josh Morris and Khaetthaleeya Uppakham (Kat) of CMRCA fame. After which my future is mostly still up in the air, with exciting plans and ambitions to climb in Yangshou, bolt new cliffs in Northern Thailand, clip bolts in Ha Long Bay, or even get another taste of deep water soloing and sea-side limestone on the Southern coast of Thailand.

I'm fortunate to have spent many months living and traveling in South-East Asia over the years, and to say I'm stoked to return would be a vast understatement. I have strong ties to an amazing community of climbers there, I love the food (but of course) and I really enjoy the adventure. As of now I am planning to stay climbing and developing in Asia until March of next year.. what's to come of the following months, I can only imagine. But it's safe to assume that weaving through heavy traffic on motorbikes, consuming copious amounts of poor quality Thai beer, limestone tufa pulling, temples, food illness, good laughs and ridiculous stories will be included. Stay tuned...

In the last few weeks I've had a chance to reflect on an amazing trip to the Red, as well as attempt to keep up my fitness for Asia. I had a chance to climb with one of my long time roll-models and source of much inspiration, Sonnie Trotter, who is passing through Boulder at the moment. Meeting Sonnie was awesome.. it's one thing to finally meet such legends as Sonnie or Tommy for instance, it's another thing to meet such people, only to find out that they are really, really cool individuals.

Other than getting out with Sonnie and a solid day doing eliminates on Flagstaff with my Dad and Andy Mann, I have been sticking to the plastic for efficiency- including a wicked day at RJ1 today with Paiger. Between some writing, and a bunch of work, I've been keeping myself quite busy. I did a pretty cool write up for La Sportiva on some general Red River Beta, that can be found here, complete with awesome Andrew Burr shots. I'm hoping that I'll have at least one more chance to get out and pull on some Colorado stone when this incoming storm has passed (sledding anyone?!). Considering how much I'll be perspiring over the next few months, a little bit of snow actually sounds okay with me..

photos: Simon Carter image of Yangshou. Josh Morris Photo of myself on 'Wild Ride' 13c - Northern Thailand. Sonnie Trotter sans bolts on the Mill Creek route, 'Aesthetics' 13a (let's be honest, 13b)- Andrew Burr shot.

Thursday, November 5

K'tucky to C'rado

Keep your lug nuts on lock down! We learned this the hard way about 50 miles past Louisville, ballin' on HWY64 when suddenly loud noises and a drastic change in my Subaru's handling forced a speedy pull-over. 'Must be a flat tire..' No, much better- three of the lug nut studs on my back wheel had sheered off, one was easily loosened by hand and the other was the reason why we were not in a Hospital. 9pm, no idea where we were, hmmm. Solution? iPhone-Tow Truck- Corydon- Holiday Inn Express- Folgers and a mini-muffin- Big O Tire- BooYA!!! Back on the road with a healthy portion of I-70 ahead of us.. if I hadn't been returning from a truly inspiring, ridiculously awesome trip to the best rock climbing area in the United States.. I might have been bummed.

Before all that wheel-almost-falling-off jazz, we finished the trip off right. Monday we headed back to the Motherlode. Paige had some things to do and I had been saving one last route in the cave.. 'Transworld Depravity' 14a. I wanted to be well rested and feeling maximum fitness for a proper flash attempt at this 120 foot beast of a route. I had heard rumors of reachy crux moves and of hard for the grade pump after a bouldery mid-section. At the end of the best two weeks of climbing I'd ever had, I wanted nothing more than to grit my teeth on this test-piece and clip some chains, or desperately fall tryin'. Peter Kamitses was there to offer up some crux beta and cheer me on- super nice dude. I took my attempt very seriously, as I did with Omaha Beach. I managed pump at every opportunity and tried to climb very accurately when entering the cruxes. I tried to be confident with my movement and choose my holds wisely. I've never been a good flash/on-sight climber, and going to the Red this was something I really wanted to work on. Entering the final crux moves I felt fatigued but capable. I ran into a little bit of wetness where I was hoping to put my feet which made me hesitate right in the business, but I felt a growing sense of urgency and decided to use dry, albeit kinda worse feet options. Shortly after I was facing a tricky exit move above a final rest that turned out to be much harder (and more reachy) than I expected, but at this point I really wanted it, and knew that I could not allow myself to fall. A few edging / lock-off moves above there and I was clipping chains- unbelievably stoked. Feeling heavily satisfied, I celebrated by offering my belay slave services to Paige. Which she used to fire 'Snooker' 13a and '40 Ounces' 13a onsight, as well as dispatched 'Skin Boat'13a. I cranked up '40 Ounces' as well and did a couple awesome routes over right; 'Team Wilson', 'Tuna Town' and 'Leave it to Beavis' (all 12d) to wrap up.

Flashing Transworld was a huge achievement for me. Mainly because I knew it would offer a challenge- I would have to really want it to do it- it was not coming easily. I celebrated my last night in the Red with a few glasses of wine and a tortilla pizza, hanging at Andy Mann and Keith Ladzinski's place surrounded by great people.. feeling very excited about such an excellent trip, while also realizing how much I would undoubtably miss this place.

On Tuesday we heading into the Gorge proper and to the Military Wall. I was highly inspired by the beauty of the burl there- both 'Nagypapa' 13d (how do you pronounce this?!) and 'The Legend' 13b. Warming up we quickly realized the honesty of the grades out here. I gave a good effort to onsight Nagypapa, but fell just below the anchors on a tricky sequence that took me a moment to figure out, completing this incredible line of uncharacteristic slopers and crimps 2nd go- one of my favorites of the trip. Next door, Paige was figuring out beta on the stunning 'Legend'. This powerful route is nothing of what you might expect out here- and fully worth an effort... redefines the definition of Red River 13b... Paige offered beta and I managed a flash. A few more warm downs and some good-byes and we were out. On the road and headed west, at least for a little while before the whole wheel-almost-falling-off event.

I'm sitting here, back in beautiful Colorado, flipping through photos from the trip and already missing the house, the mud pits, colorful leaves, cheep beer and the incredible walls- the Red River Gorge is a very special place that I'm very happy to have experienced.. Much thanks to all of those who have slaved to keep such a place accessible and developed. I am already planning an extended return trip, and I'm bringing my BOSCH!

Photo: ANDREW BURR - me kickin it before the biz on the Gold Coast.
Still Image of my flash on 'Transworld' captured from an upcoming ARCTERYX video featuring myself on a bunch of climbs in the Red!! stay tuned.. complements Scott Milton / ARCTERYX. Lastly- fall colors.. the RED in RED. complements Brian Goldstone / ARCTERYX.

Sunday, November 1

A Touch of Madness

Another brilliant day in Kentucky. Coffee and good friends in the morning followed by a short drive to the crag just long enough to get through a couple hype tracks and to reflect on your key beta. A quick approach through fallen leaves and an occasional mud puddle to the base of a daunting wall of chalk and quickdraws. Warming up can come to feel like a chore. It's not the quality of the routes- they are outstanding- it's how f*ckin stoked you are to pull hard. With so many inspiring, difficult routes all around us, it's a wonder we even warm up at all.

On Thursday we warmed up at the drive-by crag, on one of the Red's best 5.12s, 'Check Your Grip'. I can't get enough of this classic. It was warm, but Paige and Andy had just arrived and we were all fired up to get after it. The night before I chatted with my buddy Joe Kinder and he got me all stoked up to take a swing at his new route 'Southern Smoke' 5.14c, that lies beside 'Ultra Perm' 13d and actually shares the same crux finish. Right off a rest day, I was feeling very good although the sun was beaming on the route pretty hard. On my sample burn I negotiated through the bottom well and got an idea for what to expect in the Ultra Perm crux, eventually making it to the anchors. After a good rest, the route was in the shade, and I was (kinda) prepared for a good second go. I managed to pull through the bottom and into the Ultra Perm crux, but my beta was all jacked and terribly inefficient.. I was stoked on the progress though, so I made sure to get my beta figured out for the top. Southern Smoke is pure fitness, with no moves harder than probably V6, but in contrast to 50 Words, the crux lies at the top- in the steepest section of the 90 ft. climb. The crux of Ultra Perm (and Southern Smoke) is hard, and there are fairly desperate moves at the VERY top. Fitness.. fitness is the key, which thankfully I had brought to the Red, and after over a week of climbing here, I was feeling in some of the best fitness of my life. On my third attempt, I felt poorly through the bottom, but managed to get to the double draw on Ultra Perm for a rest. Deep breathing and aggressive resting techniques gave me some relief and more importantly, I could feel that I really wanted it. I pushed through the crux and found myself matching two bad crimps near the chains, with a big move, lots of lactic acid and a fatiguing body between me and the send. I freakin' screamed, and tried extremely hard, and sent. I was totally shocked, and I imagine so were those climbing at the Bob Marley- after my brave heart style scream, surely someone thought I had died or something.. far from it- I was stoked out of my mind! Definitely giving a shout to Joe Kid on this route- a brilliant addition to the Red, thanks for the effort man, proud to do the 3rd ascent! Andy wanted to shoot Paige on Ultra Perm, so I ran up it, this time trying so hard I couldn't even manage to make a scream, and made the top to pull up a static rope. Wicked day.

On Friday we were tired, and the heat was overwhelming, so we took it easy (er). We wound up at Gold Coast in the morning and I took another lap on the amazing 'Golden Boy' while Paige sampled the cliff and Andy shot some pics. We made our way to the Purgatory in the afternoon, just in time for South East Asian type temperatures and humidity... I was excited to do the plethora of high quality 13b at this wall, including 'Paradise Lost', 'The Castle Has Fallen' and 'Dracula'. All tired and beat I was very stoked to onsight Paradise and Dracula- taking two efforts on The Castle. I needed a shower, and a rest day. Back to the house to kick back with some wine and bullshit the night away- typical at the Red.

Yesterday we would have been smart to take a rest day, seeing in that we were both hurting and the rain was coming down HARD, but we were too stoked. I had yet to touch the Madness Cave, and was hoping to save it for a day fresh off a rest, but it was just about our only option on such a rainy day. We warmed up on another of the Red's best 12s 'Chainsaw Massacre' 12a, amazing climb.. Over in the Madness Cave a huge waterfall was ripping off the top of the formation, spewing water into the cold air like a humidifier. Thankfully it did not taint the steep-as-hell routes and the temps were cold enough that the humidity did not matter. In-fact I would say it was one of the best friction days yet- moisture and sandstone actually work together quite well. I popped my Madness cherry on an amazing route, 'Pushing Up Daisies' 13c onsight. Whoa.. This wall is ugly by Red River standards, but the length and steepness of the climbs is other-worldly. So much fun to climb.. Paige onsighted a 12d on the right side to top off her warm up and I scurried around to find some beta for 'Omaha Beach' 14a. Giving a really good flash attempt at this route was one of my primary goals at the Red.. local badass Andrew Gearing hooked me up with the spray down, although I definitely lost track mid-way through. I tried to be very smart about my climbing and take my attempt very seriously. I was breathing from the get-go and managing pump at every opportunity. I got through the steepness without issue and felt very prepared for the crux nearing the top. I tossed out the knee-scum beta when I saw the opportunity for a heel-hook and continued through the headwall crimps, still climbing very carefully even right below the anchors- I wanted to be super calculated. It paid off. VERY excited to have flashed this amazing climb. Definitely one of my proudest achievements of the trip; you only get one flash attempt and I really wanted it. I carried on with onsights of 'The Madness' 13c and 'BOHICA' 13b, eventually failing at redline above the chains of BOHICA- such a rad day, couldn't be more stoked on the day and excited on a rest day. OH not to mention that Paige pulled a super proud onsight on 'Flour Power' 13b. Wicked, very stoked for her.

Halloween night, last night, we broke some shit with a sledge hammer, had some wine and kicked back- Kentucky style. Now I'm updating the site while everyone else is slaving in the living room painting- I guess I should be helping out..

My trip is winding down.. this is my last rest day before a couple more climbing days and the inevitable heinous drive back. My next update will most likely be from home, back in beautiful Colorado, with a cup a coffee by my side and snow (?) outside my window- sounds alright for sure, but I'm still ambitious even in my last few days here.

Happy November!
Photos: MAD PROPS to Andrew Burr!! The Gold Coast, Rest days.. Kentucky Style..