Monday, June 28

and so it ends..

It's funny how, no matter how long you're away, like a tape-deck you simply press play and the same old home-town song starts right up again the moment you return. It's like you never left.. I mean come on, the Whole Foods renovation project even looks the EXACT same! I'll admit that something has definitely changed however, and it's making my underarms perspire at a shocking rate- it's freaking HOT. But before I warm heartily passed the 'Welcome to Colorful Colorado!' sign I did have a couple brilliant climbing days at Wyoming's (once) best kept secret- Tensleep.
Myself on 'Hellion' 13c way back in '08!! Andy Mann photo.
I say (once) cause unlike two years ago when I first visited, now you can expect to see others, and at that, you might not get a parking spot on the weekends. The place has certainly blown up, and for good reason- it's wicked. I wanted to take Paige straight to the goods, so we started at the beautiful Sector D'or et Bleu / Grasshopper wall, home to many of Tensleeps classic pocket cranking vertical 5.13s. I had managed a quick ascent of perhaps Tensleeps most coveted hard route, 'Sky Pilot' 13+, on my previous trip, but had yet to sample the other numerous routes on the wall. I began with 'Rosy Pussytoes' 13b, feeling confident from the ground, but then BOOM! immediate-gnarly-crux-bitch-slap. I needed a second try to put this bouldery thing down. Next I moved to 'Super Mama' 13a, on a striking section of bright orange limestone with a recently added direct start. I *barely* managed to onsight this thing, holy crap it's sandbag!! WHOA. Next door is one of the best on the wall- 'Blue Light Special' 13b, unfortunately that pretty blue color is the result of running water, and this route, albeit dry, was filthy. I took a burn just brushing and chalking holds, and dispatched 2nd try- sustained, brilliant crimping for days.. excellent climb. Paige onsighted a burly 12d called 'Esplanada' and I followed suit, finishing off a great day at Tensleep.
Moonlight above Tensleep Canyon

The next day we returned to check out 'Sugar Mama' 13c, a short-lived, but powerful climb to the left of 'Super Mama' that was also filthy. After cleaning it up a bit and chalking some grips, I fired it second try. We then wandered over to another wall I had briefly checked out previous- the Superratic, home to some world class limestone and some of the canyons hardest. My intention was to try one of Kevin Wilkinson's new routes next to the amazing 'Hellion' 13c, but I couldn't help myself but to drop my rope in front of the recently opened, 'He Biggum Fucked' 14a. This route is a total stunner- gorgeous. Long, thuggy movement between good pockets with poor feet characterize the climb, which ascends a golden bulge of near perfect stone. I sussed the sequential beta on my first try, and fell in the final crux on my second... feeling a bit worn down, I contemplated saving it for another day- but couldn't seem to keep my eyes off it, and went for a third burn- which thankfully resulted in success. Stoked! I loved this climb.. one of my favorites of the trip, and unfortunately it would be one of my last..

The following day we moseyed on down to Thermopolis for a dip in the hot springs and unexpectedly, a wicked hot rod show. The crowds were hilarious, we got our AMERICA on for sure. Shit, I wore my tank top and even drank a beer in the park- it was a thorough rest day. We were planning on spending a couple more days cragging, but the pockets finally caught up to me and on our next day on I felt some soreness arrive after a strenuous mono. Paige talked sense into me (once again) and convinced me to rest. In three tries she skillfully dispatched 'Hellion' 13c, and so we decided to call it good and bail- and so it ends... six and a half weeks later, we're back in the 'Rado.. after a killer road trip that took us through almost exclusively new (to us) terrain and across nearly 5,000 miles of highway. We had a BALL meeting dozens of awesome individuals, exploring the great North-West and getting some hard rock climbs done. Thanks again to everyone who helped us out, pointed us in the right direction, sprayed us down and put us up- this community kicks ass.
the daily routine back in Terrebonne..
ahhh. Smith. Awesome. Ben Moon Photo

The soreness in my hand dissolved in a day or two, and I've been climbing ever since we got back. We escaped to the cool temps of Estes Park almost immediately, where I've been spending my days high above the valley at Wizards Gate, repeating killer routes I established last year as well as adding some new ones (BOLTING! YES!). It always feels good to come home, but I'll admit I miss the road already- thankfully it won't be long until I'm off again!
Alpine sport climbing on 'Cloak & Dagger' 13c at Wizards Gate. Andy Mann Photo

Stay tuned at SPORTIVA LIVE as well for some bonus photos and stories from our recent trip.

Saturday, June 19

The Homeland

America kicks ass. It's incredible how much geographic diversity this country exhibits. I've been fortunate to have traveled across oceans, too many times to count, and yet I'm still always impressed with my backyard. We've covered a lot of new ground in the last week, and the landscape, communities and stone continue to inspire.

Last week, after Paige put down 'Motley Crux' 14a, I felt a growing sense of urgency as a super hot front was moving into Spokane and we began to feel a bit antsy to carry on with our trip. After a restful day cruising Spokane and tirelessly rehearsing beta in my head, we returned to Deep Creek. It was a bit of a rainy day, but I knew it could potentially be our last 'good' day of weather for a while. 'Problem Child' (14c) was testing many of my weaknesses and with my number of attempts approaching double digits, it had already taken me more effort than any other 5.14 in well over a year. With moisture in the air, time pressure mounting and it's difficulties obvious, I was definitely nervous. It's no surprise that I had a horrible first burn (nerves KILL redpoints), and after being lowered I was not optimistic. Paige inspired by chucking a flash on the pumpy, fun, 'Masochist' 13b and pep talking me back down to reality. Next try, the Problem Child cracked and let me summit. It would be a lie to say it felt easy- it was every bit as hard as it felt days previous. I was stoked, relieved and pumped. On a high, I immediately turned my attention to the pump-fest, 'Motley Crux' 14a. I had given this route a half assed attempt a few days before, in a state of total exhaustion. Paige gave me running beta as I chugged for the anchors and managed to send. I cooled off with a repeat lap on 'Masochist', completing one of my best climbing days ever.

Problem Child. 14c

After one last mellow day in Spokane, packing up and saying goodbye to our friends and hosts Tana, Liberty and Marty we hit the road into Idaho- first stop would be the limestone ampitheathre high above the popular white water destination of Riggins. Not sure exactly what we expected, but the 'campsite' was literally a dead end shelf road- there's not even room to turn around. Thankfully we were the first and only car there. I had heard quite a few things about Riggins, primarily the rumors that it was super chipped, but that the climbing was fun. I expected a couple drilled pockets... but never have I ever seen such a display of manufactured routes- these climbs are literally 60-90% manufactured. Even the warm ups, the 5.11s, are manufactured.. You can't help but to be disgusted- however, we were there and if nothing else, it could be a learning experience. The movement, albeit obviously created by a taller person, was interesting at times, but it was hard to take your mind off the hopelessly chipped holds. I did 'Boo' 13b and fell heartbroken from clipping the chains on 'Yellow Man' 13+ when a hold broke. We were less than inspired.. so we packed up and bailed.

Paige, not SUPER psyched at Riggins

We took the long road to Sun Valley, camping off the road and enjoying some hot springs on the way. The next morning we explored the Sawtooths and hiked around beautiful Ketchum, Idaho to relax and celebrate Paige's Birthday. I had yet to see much of Idaho, but it only took a couple days to appreciate it- it's wild, big and diverse. Soon after we hooked up with our friends Beau Stuart and Steph Carter.. these guys BLEED Idaho. It's in their veins, and it was in their hearts to give us a proper tour for the next few days.

Nothin like a cool dip in the Sawtooths!

Just a little ways south of Sun Valley is a totally unique crag buried in the middle of no where. We parked the car on a random road with little sight of even hills in the vicinity. Beau tromped off through the sage, encouraging us to follow, although it appeared as though we were hiking into a featureless desert. Suddenly a hole emerges in the ground and below the surface shelves of basalt are eroded to create an incredibly steep, juggy and *sharp* climbing experience. The area is small so we sought to finish off the crag, which in the end was cut short by the pain our palms were subject to- it's sharp! We managed to flashed the fun, long pumpy 13a (name?) and sampled all the hard 12s there.

Lava Tubes. Steph Carter Photo.

That night we carried on Eastward towards a remote limestone area that Beau had been raving about for years. The Fins is a striking wall of towering limestone high above Craters of the Moon Nat. Park. The limestone here is bullet, and adorns the hilly landscape like ribbon on a christmas tree- there is TONS of stone up here. I was impressed. The larger wall at the developed area is massive, and definitely has space for some epic pitches. The angle is dead vert, but the climbing is generally difficult. I onsighted a nice 13a (name? sorry!) on the upper wall, sampled a number of the great 5.12 there and managed an onsight on a bomber 5.13 called 'Bushido' (i think...?). It was fun to spend some time with our friends and enjoy the unique solitude of this area- I'm quite inspired to return with a drill..

Paige climbs 5.12 at the Fins. Steph Carter Photo

5.13- at the remote and beautiful Fins. Steph Carter Photo

After a killer day at the Fins, we shot our way towards Jackson, Wy, where we crashed for a night with our good buddy Katrina, and quickly packed up for a rest day driving through Yellowstone on our way to Ten Sleep. I feel slightly more American for having seen Old Faithful erupt, although the degree to which Yellowstone is overrun with tourism probably removed that sliver of freedom- it's INSANE there! Literally thousands of people stood around watching the geyser. whoa.

We've made our way to Ten Sleep, finishing off our trip right- on killer limestone deep in the wilderness of lovely Wyoming. We can see the end now- it's only a half days drive away. The thoughts of heading back are sweet and sour- Boulder is not such a bad place to call home, but the inspiration and excitement that comes with being on the road is unparalleled.. I'd say I'm officially addicted. With only a handful of days left, we're ambitious to make 'em count- stay tuned!

BIG PROPS to Steph Carter for donating some killer images. Girl has got SKILLZ!

Tuesday, June 8


One of the most empowering things about road tripping is the sense of freedom that's present when all you need fits snug into a vehicle and you're always aware of your options. Your home, transportation, and storage unit are all one and the same- wanna move on?.. just turn the key and bounce. After quickly coming to terms with the aptly nick-named 'Squish' (a.k.a. Squamish, B.C.) and the depressing 10-day weather forecast, Paige and I made use of our freedom and pulled the plug. When it's raining in Squamish, it's RAINING. There is no hope of blue-sky hiding around the corner. There is basically no escape from the condensing, seeping, squishy nature of the granite boulders and cliffs- when it rains, you don't climb... you youtube, or facebook, or eat, or all of the above. Having just narrowly (but then again not entirely) escaped the rain during our week stay in Seattle, we were not motivated to try and wait it out.

Uma; looking laid back in Spokane
Before we did pack up and split, however, we did get a little taste of what Squamish has to offer. I got a long awaited tour of Arcteryx Headquarters in North Van. This new, very chic building is home to the great minds behind the leading innovation and attention to detail that puts Arcteryx at the helm of the outdoor industry. The building looks as cool as the products that come out of it and the employees were welcoming and stoked. Proud to be a member of the team!

They make maps for this place?
It was only suiting for us to drive directly from the Arcteryx headquarters to the base of the Chief. This is a huge chunk of stone, rising out of lush greenery to towering heights right near the water. Below this massive cliff lay hundreds of humongous, counter top granite boulders covered in glowing moss, exhibiting soggy chalk on edges and slopers above sometimes questionable landings. The Cacodemon boulder was the focus of my attention. This huge (biggest boulder ever?) detached block is home to the incredibly proud 'Dreamcatcher' 14d, a Chris Sharma climb that I had hoped to try a bit while in Squamish. This line is diverse, beautiful, begs to be climbed and, unfortunately, was soaking. It will have to wait for another visit I guess.

Thailand? Galapagos? SQUAMISH
On the semi-dry day we did have in Squamish, Scott and Sandra took us out to the wildly popular (basically only option on rainy days) crag, the Circus Wall- which features a nice array of 12s along with a large, super steep (and super seeping) visor called the Big Show- home to Sonnie's linkup, 'Superman' 14c among other B.C. test-pieces. It was great to get out, but this partially wet cliff hardly satisfied our desire for Squamish burl. The next morning we awoke to a downpour with no signs of slowing down. After some careful deliberation and frantic facebook chatting, we decided to bail and drove straight to Spokane, Washington. As great as it was to hang out with our friends Scott and Sandra, we were tired of waiting out the rain and ready for some dry stone- time to cash in our freedom tokens and hit the road.

We rolled right into the driveway of the long-time Eastern Washington legend and developer, Marty Bland. He and his wife Tana have generously put us up and showed us the gems that lay just outside of Spokane. Marty has been the driving force for Inland North West route development for many years, and you can tell by flipping through his authored guidebook on the area. Among a number of in-town crags, Deep Creek is perhaps the most impressive. This area is incredibly unique, like nothing we'd ever climbed. The water polished, overhanging blocky basalt induces a pump that is unparalleled- not even the Red can bulge forearms like Deep Creek in a matter of 50 feet. Although some loose rock does exist, and the crags are not the prettiest, this place rivals Little Si for the North-West's highest concentration of hard routes. The climbing is fun, athletic and often burly. First day out, Marty took us to the Main Wall, where we enjoyed our first super solid day of climbing in a what seemed like a while. I dispatched a flash through blocky edges and cool steep pockets on 'Quiver' 13c, an onsight on the thuggy 'Russian Arete' 13b, and a second-go summit on reachy and bouldery 'Left Bleeding' 13a. We left hopelessly pumped and super stoked. After a day of rain (what!? are you serious? more rain!?) touring downtown Spokane, we made our way to the Pit, a separate area at Deep Creek, to sample some of the hardest routes in Washington.

fighting the pump at Deep Creek
I had my eye on 'Problem Child' 14c, a Johnny Goicoechea route that had seen but two repeats. It took me a couple efforts just to suss clipping beta (lots of skipping bolts, long draws, etc.) and to create a reasonable sequence through the intensely thuggish mid-section. Once my beta was figured out, I invested a few more efforts making links on this beast, with my best performance yesterday- falling from the final move of the business, and 1 hanging twice with healthy overlap. All excuses aside, this climb is hard for me- it has already taken me more effort than any 5.14 I've done in the last year or more.. hopefully resting today will provide the necessary power to tackle the Child.

Motley Crux 14a
Paige deserves top praise for her efforts over the last few days. She has been working 'Motley Crux' 14a, a decade old test-piece that shares a common ending with Problem Child. On her 8th try yesterday, she exhibited her exceptional fitness with the first female ascent of this ultra-pumpy climb. Her rapid redpoint on such unique stone was super inspirational.. excellent work Paige!

wicked Andy Mann cover shot. yeah Kehl!
Lastly- Make sure to check out the hot-off-the-press Urban Climber Photo Annual, which is featuring a rad photo essay on Flatirons Renassiance that I authored an intro and photo captions for- always stoked on this area, and proud to have the chance to write a bit about it.