Thursday, September 22

San Fran

Climbing isn't everything... as much as it sometimes feels like it, and the more that climbing envelopes my life, the more I enjoy a good break from it. I spent the last 6 days visiting my girlfriend in her new home, San Francisco. I've been to nearly 30 countries, but somehow, this was the first time I'd ever visited California. We ate well, checked out the city, laid on the beach, rode bikes and relaxed. I did get a few quick gym sessions in, but this was not a climbing trip and the shocking heat did not inspire any real attempts at training... it was great.

Check me out, I'm in the Pacific Ocean!!

Now I'm back in Colorado, and eager to make the best of these next couple weeks. It's looking like they could be the last few weeks I spend in the 'Rado until sometime deep into 2012-- got a full plate of bitchin travel plans and I couldn't be happier. Commence Western Slope part 2!!

Friday, September 16

Rifle Wrap Up

After updating on this past Monday, I charged back out to Rifle, eager to make the best of my last few days (for now) in the canyon. I had yet to check out any of the real test-piece routes in the Bauhaus - a cliff well known for it's wild, steep climbing and extra blocky style. I asked around and it seemed that 'Girl Talk' would be a great introduction to the hard routes at the cliff. This monster route was equipped and cleaned by Rifle guru Andy Raether a few years back. Andy missed a season due to injury and the route was meanwhile opened by Dave Graham - then it saw rapid repeats over the course of a month or so. The route is technically a direct start (and a link-up), but it's popularity has galvanized it as a rifle classic. Originally thought to be one of the hardest routes in the canyon at 14c, many repeats and it's restful nature has settled the grade somewhere around hard 14b.
Low section. DPM photo
The climb features three distinct sections, separated by great rests. The bottom is thin, tricky climbing through a slightly off vertical wall. The middle is steep, gymnastic and thuggy. The finish (shared with 'Huge' 13d) is pumpy and long on beautiful stone. On tuesday I warmed up as usual except my good friend Melissa Love convinced me to rope gun on an obscure and beautiful edging climb called 'Hawaiian Two Foot' 13a. I highly recommend anyone in the area who needs a break from big greasy holds and thuggery should check this out asap! Pleased with on onsight, I tied in below Girl Talk with a hint of beta but apparently not enough... it was a pretty long attempt (thanks Joel!). Next try I sussed a better method for myself - pleased with progress but still feeling like I needed some real linkage to inspire confidence. The following day I returned, sensing some pressure knowing that I was leaving Thursday and the aspect of the wall is such that you really only get two good burns due to the heat and setting sun.
Melissa Love on Hawaiian Two Foot - Joel Love photo
Girl Talk - DPM photo
Another screen grab from DPM
I tied in with little expectation, but also knowing that I could maybe go to the top if I improvised a little and took advantage of the rests. I fired the bottom and rested up well before entering the mid crux - my feet unexpectedly cut on some of the route's worst holds but I reeled it in and finished the section, settling in to a great rest before attaching the top.... ending with success! Very pleased to get it done. I finished my day with a flash on 'The Path' 13c. It rained all night, and into the next morning - I decided to bail - reinforcing my excitement about getting Girl Talk done because as it turns out yesterday the canyon was soaking. I made it back just in time for a quick bouldering session at the BRC before checking out the premier of the Reel Rock Tour and seeing one of my favorite DJs, Wolfgang Gartner at Beta in Denver. KILLER way to end a radical two week stay in Rifle.
Mike Williams at Dead Point Magazine was there to capture my send of Girl Talk on film - look out for an upcoming video on Rifle crushers and life in the Canyon featured on the DPM website. In the meantime, Maxim Ropes has released another awesome video that Andy Mann and I put together on my new route in Washington that I did this summer, New World Order! have a look.

... and if that wasn't enough... I did an awesome interview with climbing legend Scott Milton on my 5 Questions page - have a look here..

Now I'm off to enjoy a few days in sunny San Francisco! Cheers

Monday, September 12

The Canyon

Whenever I spend a chunk of my life living outside I remember how much I miss while I'm inside. Being outside day and night and day and night is refreshing and humanizing - I love it. Our environment is constantly changing - you simply can't miss it when it's all around you. I've been admiring the arrival of autumn, taking notice to the ever-shortening days and steadily cooling temperatures. It has become pretty obvious that the season is shifting... the growing weekend crowds and widespread success on the Western Slope is a clear testament.
I've been keeping myself busy and challenged in Rifle. I'm learning the language of the rock better with every route, and I'm really pleased with the way my climbing is going - especially considering the imminent arrival of the fall. It's something of a shame that there is so much stone and such a short window of incredible conditions, but at the same time that's the very reason why the fall is such a sacred time for us rock climbing types. Get psyched people!!!
As I mentioned before, after finishing 'Bad Girls Club' and 'Planet X', I was keen to try some of the other test-piece routes in the canyon. 'The Crew' 14c was the next logical step given that it was widely regarded as Rifle's hardest route before the arrival of BGC. I starting working on The Crew early last week and immediately I recognized it as a pretty serious challenge. It opens with a very bouldery section of climbing between pretty good pockets - characterized by big moves up a steep section of wall. There is a marginal (at best) rest that separates this first section from a following, airy resistance section before two separate, very good rest positions 2/3 of the way to the top. A short and interesting low angle sequence leads you to a very powerful and steep finishing roof that features crazy only-in-Rifle style thuggery. Clipping the chains is no joke either. It's a very hard climb and I approached it as such. Once I figured out my beta I took every burn seriously... first falling from the mid-section and then finally making my way to the anchors - in full battle mode. I happily did The Crew on my third day but it was a fight to get it done.

I remarked on my experience climbing The Crew with respect to my ascent of Bad Girls Club in a Rock & Ice interview - My first impression was that, to me, the two routes felt about equally challenging. As I mentioned in the interview I did think that BGC suited my climbing strengths and also my size better, but regardless - they are both the real deal. One other factor that recently came to light, that could have played heavily in my opinion was a sinker knee-bar rest in the lower section of The Crew that I seemed to have missed - adding a bomber rest to the lower portion of this route would have been pretty damn helpful, but who knows - perhaps the rest would not have fit me, etc, whatever. I think to some extent we've lost track of the purpose of grades and the subjectivity of climbing. In my mind, what matters is the climbing, it's challenge and our process. Every climber is different, every route is different, and we all have strengths and weaknesses (and crappy days, brilliant days). These are both unique and really difficult climbs, I'm psyched to have done them!

Next on my list was a huge, endurance route up the canyon, Joe Kinder's creation, 'Waka Flocka Flame' 14c. This route begins on a killer 14b called 'Waka Flocka', climbing essentially all of it's difficulty before jumping right into the dreaded '5.8 dyno' on 'Living in Fear' 13d and continues up Living's extension, 'Living the Dream' 14a. It opens with a powerful sequence through underclings and edges, where for every one hand movement you're shuffling your feet two to five times.... This lower bit ends with a great rest, and then you continue for about 60 feet without stopping - doing the second crux on Waka Flocka before a tough move sequence connecting the routes and onward into the pumpy finish of Living the Dream. It's a sick route - a full 70m rope is required and there is really no wild jessery... just climbing. I tried the route on Saturday, sussing my beta for the lower section and rehearsing the top. Sunday I returned and managed to get it done, strategically handling pump where I could and otherwise trying to climb quickly and skillfully. Joe was the first to congratulate my success - respect. Joey is a model ambassador - not because he's ambitiously made dozens of contributions to climbing areas all over, not because he's climbed hard and been in the spotlight for 10 years, but because he's a freakin' psyched dude, who gets psyched on everyone's success. I've never thrived on competitive energy and people like Joe happily remind you that there's no need for it.

'Marry Me' Kinder Photo
...and I'm off
'Spray-A-Thon' Kinder photo
I carried on the day with a flash on 'Vision Thing' 13b, a really cool route with a nice variety of movement and holds. I finished Steve Damboise' new route 'Marry Me' 13c on my second try - a nice, bouldery route with a few demanding moves. Lastly I flashed 'Spray-A-Thon' 13c, a classic Arsenal route with everything from a dyno to some steep jugs and interesting sequences throughout. Just to keep me honest I fell off a 5.12 to really finish the day ... everybody falls. (except Ethan Pringle)

Today I'm resting and relaxing before another couple days in the canyon. Thursday I'll head back to the front range to enjoy a night out with friends and a brief trip to visit my lovely girlfriend in San Francisco. It'll be my *gasp* first time in California! Tourist suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, September 6

Bad Girls Club

Rainy day here on the Western Slope. You've gotta love it when you pick the perfect rest day. It rained through most of the night, leaving the canyon (Rifle) moist and seriously uninspiring.... perfect rest day.
Before I get too caught up in the rain and how excited my body is to rest I'll rewind to where I left off last week. After enjoying a rad birthday weekend in Estes Park I took off, straight over trail ridge to the Western Slope, eager to spend a few days attacking the canyon. Last year I spied homeboy Joey Kinder hanging on a rope, sinking metal in the Wicked Cave, up a less than inspiring line to the left of The Crew. As you can likely tell, I was a bit of a sceptic, but rumors of a sick, hard new route in the Wicked Cave roused my interest - then, a few weeks ago I saw photos of said route with crusher Matty Hong making a proud F.A. Whoa! this route actually looked killer - clean rock and cool holds. I was stoked to have a go. So I busted ass over to Rifle for a few days last week, eager to give 'Bad Girls Club' 14d an effort.
Jesse on the classic Pump-O-Rama
The climb begins up a chossy zone (as do all of the Wicked Cave routes) with some hard movement through a variety of holds. Around the 6th bolt you're met with your first rest - the best on the route. You've just climbed a solid 13c to here, and the route only gets harder. Out of the rest a long resistance section through dramatically improving rock takes you to a second, less beneficial resting spot, a roof towers above you. Enter the steepest section of the route with a few quick moves and fire through cryptic knee-bars, pinches, crimps and everything else. A long series of moves gets you through this relatively short section, ending with a super powerful undercling sequence, and a heartbreaker finish.

I was expecting to really struggle on Bad Girls Club - I have never really shined at Rifle, and the style is neither my best or my favorite - however, this route turned out to be mostly resistance with a bit of power endurance. It actually suited me quite well, and shockingly, on my second day I desperately linked to the top of the route. Day three I fell literally on the final move - going to the clipping jug for the chains. Unfortunately, at this point I was A) exhausted! B) needed to head to the front range for a few things, so I drove eastward, dreaming of the Bad Girls Club. I went to the dentist, saw some friends, did laundry, talked on the radio with the incredible Anna Stohr, Kilian Fischhuber, Cody Roth and Chuck Fryberger (I'll post the interview when it becomes available), and just 36 hours later, was heading back up I-70 to Rifle.

I warmed up and immediately went gunning for BGC, knee-pads duct taped on, Solutions strapped up, beta all fresh and rehearsed in my mind. 3 rests, nearly a hundred moves and 17 bolts later, I was clipping chains. Very pleased. First and foremost, Joey Kinder deserves a shout out - he put in tons of effort on this thing, cleaning it up, equipping it and giving it love. (sorry I doubted you man! this is a RAD addition, and a worthy Colorado test-piece). Secondly, Matty Hong - a really impressive effort... Matty has become a true king of this style, having done almost every hard route in the canyon, psyched for you man!
Joey working out his route, Bad Girls Club!
I've grown a lot as a climber in the last year (since I did my first 9a), and my experience in the 14+ range this year has been empowering, but also very confusing. I did BGC on my 8th try - much faster than my other 9a's, and almost twice as fast as I did Necessary Evil 14c earlier this year. I'm beginning to speculate that 'your number of attempts' is really a flawed standard for judging difficulty. Grades are everywhere, and differ for every climber, at every crag. I think the best we can do is try to keep consistency within areas, remain honest, and also expect to get shut down, and kick ass from time to time. On that note, I'd like to repeat a few other hard routes in the canyon before I feel confident to defend or deny BGC at 14d.
Wicked Cave.... Planet X is in the foreground... BGC in the background
I finished my Labor Day weekend by doing a cool Steve Hong addition called, 'Planet X' 14 a/b second try, and starting my journey on the burly, bouldery and long route called, 'The Crew' 14c. VERY excited to REST! .... and then psyched to get back... yeah!