Monday, November 26

Mission Complete

Nothing quite like dangling on the wall and tip toeing around on the Captain to get you stoked to sport climb and get pumped again. I developed a surge of motivation during my weeks in Yosemite, and since I've been back around Colorado the last week, I've been essentially going non-stop - training, setting routes and getting out as well. I was actually planning to rest all of December... which gradually turned to 2 weeks rest... then 5 days rest. In the end, I rested 2 WHOLE DAYS! Earlier this fall, I felt like I needed rest because I was kinda burning out, feeling like the intense summer traveling schedule had worn me out, and feeling like I could use a longer period of chill time (something I never, ever do)- but instead, my motivation just kept creeping up and so I figured I'll just run with it.

Whenever I'm around Boulder for a longer stretch of time (which is becoming less and less frequent) I try and get into the Boulder Rock Club and set some routes. I worked as a route setter all through college, and I've developed a real love for it. Another thing I did through college was basically live at the BRC - working, training, hanging out. I still very much feel at home there and it's been cool to get back in the scene. 
standard unpacking mess pitcure
Thanksgiving at the Siegrist house!
In more exciting news, I did a really cool route yesterday. A route that I tried once back in April before I took off for France. It was bolted by Jay Samuelson a few years back, he named it 'Mission Impossible'. A few people had told me about the project over the last 2 years, but I was always traveling too much to have a chance to really try it. When I finally got around to sampling the route earlier this year I was pretty stoked on it - and excited to check it out again when I had the opportunity. Daniel Woods was just getting back into the sport game and ended up taking it down a few weeks later.

Mission Impossible is a pretty cool line, and a unique style. There are two obvious boulder problems separated by a good rest. The lower boulder problem is very tensiony and sustained on a mix of bad sloping holds and some crimps with generally poor feet. A solid rest breaks up the climb, before the upper boulder which is defined by a strenuous undercling move, some bad feet and a finishing sequence with a gnarly razorblade edge and a mega high heel hook / lock-off to a crimp. The route is not easy to suss out and the style is such that you're kind of always on edge. 

Mission Impossible on the left, Interstellar Overdrive on the right - two kick ass Clear Creek routes. 
Thanks for the cold belays dad!
Grades seem to be a huge topic these days, so I suppose I will give my 2 cents to the cyberworld. Daniel originally suggested this route was 14d or maybe potential 15a. Which, of course is super intimidating, but I remembered being able to do nearly all of the moves and even some links in my one session back in April so I decided to give it another try. After checking out the video on DPM, it seems our beta was almost identical. I had pretty awesome conditions - which I know Daniel struggled with, and I also think this route suited me very well. It's for sure a burly climb, however, compared to classic front range test-pieces like 'Vogue' and 'Grand Ol Opry' (both 14b - be it old school, hard ass 14b) it's tough for me to suggest this route is too much harder. So I suppose it's 14c? or wicked hard burly Colorado 14b? Whatever, who really cares? It's a cool route, and a great addition to the front range on Jay and Daniel's part. Nice work fellas! A route like this - so accessible and fun to climb on - I'm sure it will draw the attention of many local hardmen and women. Just like Daniel suggested back in April - leave it to more repeaters to cast their vote. 

If you are going to be around the Boulder area later in December, come out and support myself and Andy Mann at the Boulder Rock Club on Dec 20 at 7:30. We're showing a handful of slides and our film on the Verdon, 'Viva La Vie'. It'll be free, and Arc'Teryx and Maxim Ropes have both contributed to a killer raffle to benefit the Access Fund. THERE WILL BE BEER

Lastly, if you need to kill some time, I took a series of candid videos of our days and nights in Yosemite over the season for exclusive for La Sportiva. It's primarily ridiculousness so don't expect too much climbing action - but there are a few good laughs to be had for sure, and some insights into wall life. Check them out here:

Thursday, November 22

Valley Review

Kevin joined us on the wall just as things started to get really exciting. As I mentioned before, for nearly 2 weeks Tommy and I had been working hard on the main crux pitches in the center of the wall. These pitches are the missing link - the only pitches on the wall that have yet to be freed. Living out of a pretty comfy camp we established just beneath the traverse, we made our daily commute to the crux pitches and during the cooler evenings and early nights we steadily made progress. We attacked this section of climbing just as we would a single pitch project - dialing in every little foot and hand movement, working towards a redpoint. By the middle of last week, I was feeling pretty confident that Tommy would pull off pitch 15 and I would hopefully put to rest pitch 14, both in an extreme realm of 14+... 85-90 degree slabs, traversing (descending at times), on absolutely horrific feet and skin shredding crimps. I know I'm making it sound heinous - because it is - but despite thin tips, unimaginably delicate movement and at times crushed egos, we get stoked on this climbing.

I felt like something big was primed to happen. Kevin showed up super stoked and on the second day up there he showed us how it was done by sticking the ballistic dyno twice with very little warm up. Tommy was overlapping sections on pitch 15, and had refined beta that helped one of the hardest moves go much more effortlessly. I had linked from the beginning of the hard climbing on pitch 14 to within 2 moves from the finish. There was good energy there, and despite Tommy and I's deteriorating skin and bodies, I really thought that we could pull some redpoints off. 

the second pitch of the dike traverse (pitch 15) and our hotel on the wall below... 
We planned to leave the valley on November 20th - which gave us 4 or 5 days to get shit done and clean up our camp. Then, in much the same fashion as years past, a pretty substantial storm rapidly built up and authorities predicted up to 3 feet of snow on the summit of El Cap. It all happened so fast -- one day we all looked forward to the weekend as our window to crush before the year came to a close. Next thing, we were on our last day, stuffing sleeping bags, breaking down portaledges and jugging out, hauling thousands of feet of rope. Dang. 

No sends happened, so naturally it's hard to quantify and communicate progress - but anyone that has climbed enough knows that clipping chains is not always a must to sense accomplishment. I can't speak directly for Tommy, but even in freezing rain I left the Valley with a wide smile. 

my first hand tooled bolt....!

In just under 6 weeks, I learned years worth of wall logistics, techniques and climbing skills. My goals for the trip were very simple - support Tommy in his efforts and soak up as much of this experience as I could. Just to be involved with such a next level project is very, very cool - something I could only dream about just a few years ago. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Yosemite in early October, but I can say that this trip has changed the direction of my climbing life and my goals for the foreseeable future. That's awesome. I have to especially thank Tommy for luring me into this project and exposing me to an entirely different world of climbing. Yosemite really is a unique and very special place.

For a quite entertaining way to kill some time, go over to Sportiva's YouTube site and have a look at a collection of candid videos I took over the season - not much climbing action - but a few good laughs for sure, and some cool little insights into wall life.  

I went out of my way to check out the Grand Canyon on the way to Colorado. Amazing. Go there. 
As excited as I am about long routes and bigger objectives, I can't wait to sport climb. I feel ULTRA motivated returning from the Valley, and I've set aside a stretch of time to stay put and focus on training - in the hopes that I can get after a host of goals I have for the Winter. Onward!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 1


Park Life. For those who have never been to Yosemite, the Valley is essentially a fully functioning town. There are a number of restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, hundreds (thousands?) of campsites, there is a garage, a post office, pools, and a clinic. It's not only hard to leave, it's surprisingly easy to stick around. I can completely see how people can get trapped here for an entire season... or even a lifetime.

As I tried to describe in my previous post, the park is stunningly beautiful. Waterfalls, towering walls, massive trees and wildlife all around. We've been spending quite a bit of time on the wall, but when we find ourselves on the ground it's not at all a bad thing. I've been super motivated by the bouldering here - it's not hard with such a plethora of world class problems spread about an exceptional setting. We haven't rested in nearly 10 days - Tommy has been offering me the classic bouldering tour on 'rest days' and then we're back on the project. He's revisited and I've climbed a handful of incredible blocs such as, Midnight Lightning, The Force, Thriller, Hexcentric, King Cobra, Bruce Lee, Montezuma's Revenge, Diamond, and a bunch of others I don't know the names of. It's been rad. Rarely am I stoked on bouldering - but rarely do I boulder on such good boulders.

Wall Life. We began this year's journey on the Dawn Wall by climbing up from the ground. The first section of the wall is hard (the whole thing is hard), yet the first handful of pitches are surprisingly digestible -- which is likely just in comparison with the rest of the rig -- given that the first 7 pitches of the project alone would be one of the harder free routes on the Captain. Secondly we came in from the top of the wall, bringing rope, water and camp. The business on this thing ends at Wino Tower. With only 13a max climbing above, you're basically in there if you make it to Wino. 

Our next step was to base from Wino, and work the pitches just below it. 3 5.13+ pitches, including an absolute STUNNER, the well photographed pitch 18, an absolute dream of a face climbing pitch. Bolt protected, exposed and super pure. After spending some time warming up to the wall, and getting a taste of the climbing, we went for the meat of the route. The mid-section contains ridiculously hard and sustained climbing, in a totally unique and brutal style that I've never encountered anywhere on any of my climbing pursuits. There are many 5.14 pitches on the project, but the bottom line for success on making this a free route is redpointing pitch 14 and 15 (aka the dike traverse), as well as pitch 16 (ballistic dyno).

We moved base camp to an aid anchor a hundred feet below the traverse. We commute by jugging the line and working the two crux pitches from a belay in the middle. We focused our energy at first on pitch 15. This beast of a pitch features a continuous beginning, with awful feet, strenuous movement and jaw dropping exposure. We clip a mix of bolts and fixed copperheads. After several days of work we've successfully beat this section of the pitch into our 13+ warmup (there's really no other option). At the end of the pitch lies a vicious boulder problem on small edges. This piece unfortunately has one crucial, arm stretching move that I've yet to do. In-fact I can't even reach between the two holds, but I'm remaining hopeful that another option will present itself. Tommy and I are linking to this move quite frequently and confidently, and Tommy is nearing in on a solid one-hang. 

Lately we've switched modes to pitch 14 - this is the pitch that shut down Tommy's efforts from the ground two years in a row - so redpointing this thing is a top priority. This short pitch is packed with difficulty. Three distinct, very hard sections make up the climbing. I said this morning that this pitch probably has the most intensive footwork on rock (perhaps an overstatement), but as for what I've seen, I stand by my statement. The sequence of climbing just before the anchor is the hardest, which climbs through impossibly thin edges and poor, well spaced feet. Although my psych was waining a bit from repeat failure at the reachy ending of pitch 15, now after 2 days sieging pitch 14 and making some great progress, my stoke is back up. We've decided that this is likely the hardest single pitch on the route, and in my experience is well in the 9a range. It's kind of ridiculous really. Climbing such insecure, super difficult terrain with 1300 feet of air beneath your ass.... it's sick. 

It's been so damn rad to climb with Tommy on this thing. We each bring something unique to the project -- unique vision, strengths and stoke. He's been a driving role model of mine for many, many years and it's been a total pleasure to spend so much time together. I've had my moments of doubt, as I know he does too, but a project this huge - this insane and this hard - something about even just trying your best is super rewarding. I'm starting to see the cycle; when your skin is thrashed, your whole life smells like urine, you're mentally exhausted, thirsty and hungry, you can't wait to have dirt under your feet. But then you get a shower, eat some good food, check facebook and a few hours later, you can't wait to get back on the wall. other news. I've just gotten word that our film, 'Viva La Vie' that I made this spring in France with Andy Mann, Nina Caprez and Keith Ladzinski will be touring the globe with Banff Mountain Film Fest. Andy cut a sick trailer-- check the dates and see the whole feature in a theater near you!!!

  Viva La Vie - Official Film Trailer from 3 Strings on Vimeo.