Friday, August 31

Work. Stoke.

Staying busy out here in Idaho. The temperatures are beginning to cool off, and my focus is narrowing in. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming when you're face-to-face with so much potential, and as many developers know- bolting can become downright addictive. There have been times in my life where I could imagine being entirely content just bolting, cleaning and chalking up routes... without ever climbing them. It's crazy! it's like a laborious spell cast upon me that eventually bursts when my legs are numb, my knuckles bare and I've had enough of rock dust caked to my arms and face. Oh yeah! Rock climbing!

Marisa Ware climbs the brilliant 'Yellow Man' 11b
I didn't get much into the details about the Fins in my last post, so I'll try to sum it up. The Fins are just that, fins - of limestone - that jet out of a rolling hillside overlooking the vast high-desert terrain of Eastern Idaho and the sight of Idaho National Labs (home to the first working Nuclear reactor). Hundreds of formations exist in the area, resulting in a very cool landscape of spires and walls. Most of the walls are small, or broken up, or not climbable, but a few of them are exemplary for climbing. In the main zone, there are essentially 6 separate walls. Since the area first saw bolts, in the mid-late 90s, locals from Sun Valley, Idaho Falls and other surrounding areas have made the drive and established a few dozen routes (maybe 45 total?), primarily in the 5.11 to hard 5.12 range, with a half dozen or so 13a's and b's. Much wall space remained, frequently cursed by absolute perfection (entirely impossible to climb), but, as I've found out-- many portions of cliff are just barely featured enough to yield amazing, very hard face climbing.

Matt TeNgaio's new rig... 'High on Fire' 12d!!

this wall is well over 100 ft... just sayin'

The Discovery Wall / Mothership Sector is where I've been spending most of my time and energy. This wall is one of the biggest uninterrupted pieces of limestone I've seen in the states, and quite a bit of empty wall remains. Many of the existing routes end about half way, as the wall tends to blank out above here. Thankfully, after rapping in many times I've found a number of lines to the top, that take advantage of this enormous cliff. The first thing I spotted was an extension to an open project. I added half dozen well spaced bolts and anchors, moved a few bolts below and started cleaning. The movement on the hard routes here is super cryptic, sequential and surprisingly powerful for such an angle. This rig, previously dubbed the 'Route of Discovery' project is now ready to go. After a number of work sessions (it took me at least 5 or 6 hour long efforts just to suss all of the moves), I've gotten it down a couple hangs and am making quick progress. It's incredible, huge, and unquestionably will be Idaho's hardest pitch. I can barely lower with my 80 meter rope!

Marisa Ware takes down 'Pure Rock Fury' 13a/b
I also rebolted, extended and cleaned another open project next door named 'Beginners Mind'. It now also climbs to the top of the wall, but I decided to add an anchor at about 90 feet due to difficulty. I think the bottom 3/4 will clock in at 14b or c, and the top is even harder - but I'm confident it goes - a little too reachy for me unfortunately, but the full version will certainly be NAILS.

Myself, just after the mid-way point of the 'Discovery' project

I bolted an extension from a shared anchor that clips the top of the cliff as well. It's amazing! Nice and thrilling, brilliant movement and super clean rock. I climbed it from one of the cliffs best 12a's 'Shaken not Stirred' and named it 'Make it a Double' at 12d (maybe 13a?) and it can also be climbed from 'Dinner Roll' 12c, this time named 'Shortcake' at 13a or b. A must do route!!

I've explored a number of other options on this wall also. Yesterday I started equipping what will be an incredible line to 3/4 height of the wall - the finishing boulder problem reminded me of the powerful crimp sequence on 'Lightning' in Yangshou. It's sick.

Lastly, I've cleaned and installed anchors on a truly, one of a kind route on the Solstice Wall. It's a limestone crack system, that runs for close to 100 feet up twin tips-size lightning bolt cracks. It's like nothing I've ever seen and it climbs incredibly well. Aside from a short face climbing section at the bottom, the entire route goes on gear. The crack is shockingly clean and needed very little attention. I've mini-trax on it a few times now to suss gear and work out the moves. Originally I thought it could end up being mid 5.13 but with a series of definite cruxes and the way it overhangs throughout, I'm thinking it could feel a bunch harder on link.

Burly rig required.

Damn. So much to do. So much to do that I ended up chopping my static line in half in order to work on two new routes at once. Okay, enough spray. Wish me luck on all these new projects!

WAIT! You must check out this interview I just did with bad ass Alli Rainey! It's one of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 22


Right now I'm sitting passenger, on our way back eastward to climb after a nice rest day with friends old and new in Sun Valley. I've been through Idaho a number of times over the years, but I've only spent a few days actually hanging out or climbing here. It's a unique state, offering a diverse scene and it's stocked with quite a few motivated people. Sun Valley has a distinct mountain resort town vibe, except that it seemed more family oriented than most - there are a lot of lifers there - it's not just second homes. We saw some free live music last night and enjoyed the company of the Ketchum community. There's great restaurants and bars. It's very much alive in the summer despite its primary reputation as a ski town. It's a pretty cool spot for sure.

Just a short drive south and you're back into rural, country style Idaho. Huge, irrigated farm lands and miles of sage brush fill the middle of the state. A thick haze floats over the horizon from some severe fires in the area, making the expanse feel a little more desolate. Just around the corner to the east is small mountain range that features a series of dramatic fins of limestone rising up from the hillside. This area, called 'The Fins', has been on my mind for several years - since I first visited a few years back. I didn't have as much of an eye (or drive) for development back then, but even so, I knew that the Fins were something special and offered quite a bit of potential. Well, I'm glad the place stuck with me, because over the last couple days of dropping in on these huge walls, exploring the area and talking with locals-- I'm convinced that the Fins have a lot more to offer. This place is amazing.


I think the Fins has the potential to make a serious impact on climbing in the states. The style may not exactly be en vogue, but with areas like Ten Sleep Canyon and Smith Rock getting increased attention recently - I expect that the Fins could be next on the list of must visit zones in this category. Very tall, uninterrupted walls, incredible stone quality, great hang and killer movement... it's a gem. There are many more routes to go in - especially hard ones. There's much more to add, but for now I've got to sign off... we're almost there, and I've got tons of work to do!

Tuesday, August 14

Idaho Bound!

The last week... wrapping things up in Estes. I had started bolting a sport route out at one of my favorite little cliffs - the Monastery - that I needed to finish up. The route turned out super cool, and quite a bit harder than I originally expected (seems to be the theme). It climbs a rad arete feature for a few bolts and then breaks onto the face for some classic Monastery style awesomeness. I named it 'Hyperdrive' partly to stick to a slight futuristic route theme there and also in response to the ridiculous pace of my life recently. It seems like for the last month or two, if I wasn't traveling I was hiking or training or busting ass I was probably writing or packing or strategizing or something. It's been hectic. I could never keep at it like this if I wasn't passionate about what I'm doing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I'm stoked.

just a few days of rest (ish) and... we're bored
I also took one last trip up the North Face of Longs Peak to help my good buddy Andy Mann set up an anchor and rap into the Diamond to shoot some really cool images of Mayan Smith-Gobot on 'Hearts and Arrows' 12a, what seems to be the new Diamond favorite - nice one Chris and Bruce! He came away with some kick ass shots as usual and I got to spend the day relaxing on the summit. Not bad. 

I came down to Boulder a few days ago, eager to get in a few gym sessions in preparation for the next trip. As it turns out, weeks of hiking, altitude, climbing mostly cracks, dihedrals and dead vertical terrain is not super kick ass for your sport climbing game. I got my ass kicked in the gym a little bit for sure, but after a couple days I'm feeling it come back. 

Otherwise, I'm packing up my life, getting ready to head to Idaho and Wyoming for a month on a bolting mission. I'm super stoked about this trip, the areas, the people, the potential. Should be awesome! I'll be making a fun short video for Climb On! along the way, so keep an eye out for that sometime next month. Also, I'm interviewing bad ass Alli Rainey for my next 5Q's - I'm really looking forward to her answers, I think it'll be a good one! check back for it soon. 

Alright... time to pack the truck!

Tuesday, August 7

The Honeymoon is Over

I flew home early from Salt Lake because I got word from a good family friend Dan Gottas about an upcoming dry spell breaking into the typical rocky mountain rhythm of afternoon thunderstorms and rain. Dan (a Meteorologist at NOAA) had been giving us amazing beta on the weather for the last few weeks, and with already too many variables in play, I wanted to get the best day of weather possible for an attempt on the Honeymoon.

I rested hard on Saturday, trying my best to literally sit still, which came with ease after a whirlwind 24 hour trip to SLC. After a super lazy day my Dad and I packed up the gear and crawled in bed around 9, prepared to wake just a handful of hours later.

first light on the Diamond - during our first failed mission due to seepage.

With such a long day ahead of you, you can't really get wrapped up in the little things, but the morning went perfectly. We held a great pace all the way to Mills Glacier, cruised the North Chimney and I flaked the rope, first in line.

'The Honeymoon is Over' was originally an Aid route (VI- 5.10 A3+) and later was equipped with bolts for free climbing, largely in an effort by bad-ass Eric Doub in the mid 90s. Tommy Caldwell freed the rig in the summer of 2001, in an extremely impressive effort, calling it one of his hardest days out (still). It has not seen a repeat since. It begins with the first 2 pitches of the 'Casual Route' at 5.9 before taking the first 2 pitches of another Diamond test-piece 'Eroica' .11b and .11+. We made great time on the first three pitches, landing us at the 'ramp' just below the large, right-facing Dihedral that defines the first difficult pitch (in my mind) around 9 a.m. I had somehow managed to onsight this supposed .11c corner years ago when I climbed on Eroica, but it was not easy. Let's just say that for me, I considered this pitch to be easily as hard if not harder than some of the mid 5.12 terrain on the upper Honeymoon. The left side of the corner had been taking some water from above (much like it had when we were 'bouted on our first free attempt the previous week) except I was not willing to go down this time. The wetness proved to be manageable, and I fired the first hard pitch. My Dad switched into jugging mode and followed behind me. The next pitch starts the actual Honeymoon. It continues up the narrowing corner, traverses across a small face and surmounts a mini roof crack. Tommy estimated this pitch to be 13a, and despite a couple mini-trax visits, I could never get this thing to feel easier than pretty honest 13b. I made my way through the stemming, laybacks and crimps to a hanging belay below a shallow right facing dihedral. Stoked. I was climbing well, the sun was on my back, and we were making great time.

The crux pitch, 13c, begins with an ultra techy right-facing dihedral, with a few opportunities for fingers in the corner, but mostly I found myself grabbing the arete, shuffling feet up on dime edges and using body tension and position to weasel my way through it. It takes a couple small cams and thin wires. After this 50 foot section you fire through some juggy flakes with a 12+ cruxy bit, fire in a few medium cams and then bust left across a blank face for a huge span-crimp-mantle move that was just barely within my reach. The holds here are shockingly bad, but the feet are good. It's uniquely powerful and delicate. A bolt protects this move but I decided to skip it to save my momentum. Thankfully I fired it. Very, very stoked because a fall on this pitch, especially up high, could be bad news.

The next pitch (13a) starts with a harder section, then rides a flake for 30 feet before blankness. An 11 move, bolt protected boulder problem suddenly slows you down. It's a powerful, crimpy section of climbing, and reachy as well. Afterwards, a couple well-spaced bolts take you through relatively mellow (.12a/b?) terrain to an anchor above Table Ledge. At this point, after doing every pitch first try, I was very optimistic. It was a splitter day, we had plenty of time ahead, and I was climbing just as I needed to - confident and efficiently. I could definitely feel fatigue setting in, having climbed 7 pitches above 13,000 feet and three 5.13 pitches above 13,500. 'It's a whole different game up here' I kept saying to myself as I trained and sussed the Honeymoon in the previous weeks. Recovery is dramatically inhibited, and every action seemingly takes 10x more energy, but regardless, at this point I was sitting right where I wanted to.

I took off above Table Ledge for the final 13a pitch. It's defined by a left-facing flake that, at 1/3 height, tappers off briefly and produces a short, but super tenuous, footwork intensive crux. After pulling through this crux, I immediately felt some deeper fatigue set in. I rested as well as I could in the undercling flake, before turning the corner, punching in a couple TCUs and pushing for the last moves in the pitch. At the top of the pitch lies an awkward foot match and off balance rock-over move. At this point I was gunning for the anchor, I skipped a bolt and I fumbled my feet, I second guessed the move and just went for it.................. lots of air. With a crowd of climbers watching, I took a pretty massive whipper off the top of the last hard pitch. Normally I'm pretty well put together, but being this tired, and running into this kind of setback this high on the route- I kinda lost it. A mini wobbler ensued.

very tired.
a comfy belay ledge
My Dad lowered me to the belay, and I tried to gather myself. I felt like I could puke, and then fall asleep in my harness. At this point we were nearing 14,000 feet and I was not certain as to whether or not I would have the energy to repeat this entire pitch. I rested and rested. Shoved some food down my throat despite our lack of water and my complete lack of hunger. Deep breaths, I pulled the rope and tied in. I set off. Recovering at every possible stop, I was breathing heavily from the beginning. Edging my way through the first crux I rested where I could afterwards. I paced myself as well as I could, moving through sections and smearing my feet trying to convince myself that this was the first pitch of the day. As I neared the top I clipped that bolt I skipped before, and nailed the last hard move. I was very excited. Just one pitch of mid .12 was between me and the very top of the Diamond.

The last pitch was wet, but I knew there were many places for me to rest, so I took it slow and diligently wiped my feet off on my pant legs. As I pulled through the upper, finishing crux with damp hands and feet, I could see the top and I could see the end of this burly day. When I clipped the 3 bolt anchor I let out a cry of relief and excitement - repeating this route had been a dream of mine for 5 years. It was an emotional finish for me and it was a day that I will remember forever. So much effort, thought, planning, stress and excitement went into this route -- which made the send that much more satisfying.

My Dad really busted his ass on Sunday (and the previous weeks for that matter) to help me accomplish this goal, and it really meant a lot to me to see him jug over the lip of the Diamond, smile wide and proclaim, 'I love this shit!' He's been an integral part of my climbing life and many of my biggest victories. I'm really happy that he was there to share one of my best days -- Thanks Dad.

Saturday, August 4

Hiking and Hiking, and OR

I think it's fair to say that I've really established myself as one of the nation's premier hikers as of late - although the CMS boys would likely give me a run for my money. Regardless... I've spent many long days up on Longs, 8 (I think) to more precise. Some were just acclimation days, others hauling loads and a few rapping in from the top of the Diamond to mini-traction, clean and suss the Honeymoon. I've really fallen in love with the route, and since I first began my journey with the climb I've been thinking about it and planning ahead non-stop.

A few elk enjoying sunrise

It's been a very refreshing break from the typical process of sport climbing to take on a project such as the Honeymoon. As I've said in the past, longer, bigger climbs is definitely the direction that I want my climbing to eventually go and this has already been such a cool and eye opening (also exhausting) project. 

I tried the route from the ground last week. I actually ran into fellow Arc athlete Jason Kruk, the man himself Tommy C and Jesse Huey on the wall. With a good weather forecast, the nearby support of TC and the boys, and a fresh body I figured that this would be the perfect day for my freshman effort on the route. However, after groveling through 3 wet pitches only to see the bottom of the Honeymoon getting pummeled with water pouring from above, we soon thereafter turned back. Days later the route was still wet, and even when I dropped in from the top this last Wednesday, the route was still a little damp. Thankfully, another dry spell has just begun, and it looks like I'll get my opportunity here soon. 

Look to the middle of the frame to see me danglin'
looking down on the crux pitch of the Honeymoon
After hiking like a champion for a few weeks, I took a brief break from the mountains and flew out to Salt Lake City for the summer OR trade show. It was a very fast trip - just over 24 hours, but I packed in a bunch good friends, and made the rounds to nearly all of my sponsors. It really is a gathering of the tribe - so many of my friends are there that even over the course of the entire event, you could never shoot the shit and catch up enough. You always feel like you're rushing in and out of conversation, double booking every lunch dinner and drinks afterward, and not quite hearing the full story on what people have been up to. But alas, it's a good time and this quick trip was very productive for me. 

great crew as always...
I saw lots of rad new gear at the show, but here is a quick sampling of what's truly badass in my mind. Arc'teryx is constantly producing newer, better gear. Next year you will see a new line of packs, including a redesign of the popular climbing bag - the Miura - that is lighter, simpler and very cool. The harnesses are getting a rad color overhaul, and they really ramped up their 24 line, which is their casual wear. Look out for a few really comfy hoodies. Metolius is pushing their colored mini-biners to help organize your rack, and they've got a new biner and quickdraw that is a medium size - slightly larger than the mini, smaller than the classic inferno. They also have a redesigned and super badass hangboard with worse holds (awesome) a beefy pinch and great texture. La Sportiva is going to have a big year. Almost the entire running / approach line has been upgraded with new colors and design (very impressive collection) and they launch their apparel and ski outerwear line as well. Maxim is steady with production of the Airliner in two awesome colors. Smith has got a huge selection of new goggles - check out the interchangeable lenses - and a few new models of shades as well. ClimbOn is steady with production of their balm (which I doubt could be improved) and although they don't have any new products I would bet you didn't know they made awesome, earth friendly bug repellent, deodorant and sunscreen! Whew... okay, enough spray. 

flipflops are finally back! with dot rubber sole!
One of many new running models
the boss hangboard

Wish me luck and stay in touch with my next move on the project via my Twitter account. Hope everybody has a great weekend!