Tuesday, May 28

The Point...

The final frontier.... well... maybe not quite, but it sure feels like it. I've always held a special place in my heart for Wyoming, especially the Lander zone, so naturally when I heard about a mythical new crag with featured 40 meter walls, a burly approach and miles of potential, I listened.

Wolf Point. I'd heard the words here and there, but it wasn't until a beer infused conversation at the International Climbers Festival last year that I really got the low down. Anyone who knows pocket-master B.J. Tilden knows that he keeps his vibe regulated at cowboy cool for the most point. Not that he's a downer at all, but when I saw how fired up he was about Wolf Point one warm July evening at the Lander Bar, I knew that this could be a legit crag -- and immediately the gears started grinding about my return.

Then after I saw this photoBJ's review of his test-piece 'Kill em All', I was locked in. I planned to make it out to Wolf Point last fall, but I got sucked into the Fins... well... I finally made it, and I'm in it to win it.

I'll be hanging about Wyoming for the next two months. Getting my fix of the frontier, climbing on burly dolomite pockets, exploring and learning a thing or two from these modern cowboys. I love the scene here. Lander has always felt like a very authentic place, and the community out here is a crew of solid characters. No bull-shit. Just hard ass climbing and plenty more where that came from. It's refreshing.

Okay so Wolf Point... Todd Skinner and others of course checked out this crag back in the day but it was not his preferred style - and with so much more around to develop he decided to focus his efforts elsewhere. It wasn't until the mid 2000's that long time Lander local Steve Bechtel made the demanding trek to Wolf Point and sunk metal, creating the walls first 4 routes - only to be more or less forgotten for nearly 10 years. Others had checked out the crag, but with an intimidating approach and plenty of hard work cleaning and bolting, it stayed quiet at Wolf Point until last year. The crew rallied and started rapidly developing. Kyle Vassilopoulos, Tom Rangitsch, Vance White, Tilden, Bechtel and Zach Rudy really jump started the efforts and within a season the crag had plenty of metal. Now the second season is off to a killer start, with plenty of projects to be finished, new lines going in, and routes to be climbed and cleaned.

The drive in is no joke - 30 minutes on pavement from Lander, followed by 30 minutes on rough roads. The hike in is no joke - on foot you descent 1500 feet to a river crossing before ascending over 1000 feet to the cave. It's a solid 45-60 minutes of serious hiking both ways, off the top of my head I can not think of a more brutal approach for sport climbing in the country. It's mostly south facing so the sun can be brutal. The cave is seemingly a sanctuary for rattle snakes, and one unfortunate climber has already been bit this year. The walls are dirty and tall. New routes take serious cleaning and effort. It's true cowboy country out there.

Okay now, before you turn the page, here's a taste of the brighter side... The crag is immense. It's very reminiscent to the Killer Cave in Sinks Canyon, but 50% taller, 30% broader, and generally more sustained and much more difficult. It's pumpy, pocketed, and burly. On the flanks of the cave is room for literally hundreds of 30 meter routes -- mostly moderate terrain. The sun bakes the crag but late afternoons and evenings are shaded and magical. The rock is very high quality below the filth, and produces amazing movement and holds. The tallest part of the cave likely requires a 90 meter rope to lower - and it overhangs it's entire length. Every route I've climbed there has been, yes, a little dirty, but down right incredible to climb on. There will be a very high concentration of 5.13 and 5.14 pocket pulling test-pieces here. As it cleans up, I predict this could be one of the better crags for hard climbing in the West. Since I arrived last week I've climbed 'Kill em All' 14b, 'Alpha Male' 13d, 'Twice as Loud as Reason' 13a/b, 'The Beholder' 13a, 'Remus' 13b+, and 'King Thing' 14a ... all of these routes are sick, and we're adding more routes every day out.

the sector......

Bottom line is, this crag is sick and despite some clear downsides, we remain stoked. As BJ said 'I'm more motivated with each visit here'. That says something. Crags take tons of work, and this one definitely still needs work, but it's turning out to be something really special. Wolf Point baby... come get some.

 At the moment I'm out in Moab, UT doing a photo shoot with the rad dudes at Smith Optics. We're having a ball playing in the sand, climbing and bronzin'... Check back for updates on the week in the desert!

Saturday, May 18

Setting, Meetings, Running

I've been setting routes for nearly 7 years. It's something that interested me from early on in my climbing. Something about the symphony of mechanical knowledge necessary, physical demands, creativity and logistical considerations makes it a strangely satisfying work. Over the years I've set for a plethora of comps, set for big recreational gyms, for elite climbers and just for fun. I've always felt that it made me a better climber, and helped me to envision sequences and be imaginative with my climbing. 

My favorite form of setting is certainly comps. You slave for days, making the best routes you can and also (more accurately) making the routes as specific as possible to challenge the competitors and create separation in the field. There's so much mystery when the morning of the comp arrives... you've forerun everything countless times, tried to think outside the box, tweak this, tweak that... but you'll never know who exactly will show up, how they will feel and ultimately, what the outcome will be. It's always something of a nerve-racking event to watch, but also super satisfying. 

Last week I set for Youth Regionals over the course of 3 long days. We built some really rad routes, and the turn out was awesome. Seth Lytton is a great friend of mine and he was the head setter for the event. He's done tons of setting for the last decade, and is super skilled at what he does. However, he's also strong well beyond his own beliefs, and I've been called a sandbagger a fair number of times as well -- I think our routes ended up perhaps a touch too hard..(?).. but there were no ties so that's what matters. It was awesome to see the Team BRC take the Regional Champion as well. This is a very burly region, and the kids fought hard to secure this huge victory. Very impressive work kiddos !!!

I am super stoked to be part of the event. Thanks for the invite to set! 

Shortly after finishing up the comp I was off for Vancouver, BC to attend the Arc'Teryx Global Sales Meeting. Over a action packed and rapid two and a half days I watched presentations, hung out with the crew, explored Vancouver and peered into the numbers, into the money, into the business. Athletes rarely see this side of the operation and I think it is important. The backbone of any functioning business is the bottom line, no matter how rad the products are or how cool the vision is - businesses need money to survive - and it was eye opening to see how the sales side of things function. Hats off to the hard working Reps out there... and big thanks to Arc for bringing me out to be part of the program!

I did a couple awesome runs through downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park during my stay -- it really made me reconsider Van.. it's a pretty damn cool place. Overflowing with life.. beauty of the maritime business and harbor.. skyline in reflections on the water.. snow-capped mountains in the background.. maybe I could live here? not while I care this much about climbing though, the weather (although it was briefly acceptable) usually sucks. I'm aware. 

RT Beak Peak Mission.... 
For a few years, running was mostly painful, but I was addicted to cardio activity after racing bikes for so long. I've grown to love trail running now. Behind climbing and music it's becoming one of my favorite things in life. My runs are usual short and brutal, but this last week I took it up a notch and developed a running goal. I've hiked Bear Peak from the convenience of my parents home many times. Mostly at a brisk pace, but also just for fun. I always thought a quick time would be fun to go after. Originally I was stoked to go for a summit time of sub 45 minutes, but after my first attempt last week went quite well, I decided to up the ante considerably. On my first attempt last week I made the summit from my parents house in about 46 minutes, and I hauled ass back-down to make a RT time of under 1:15 from my folks house which is maybe ~.6 miles from the trailhead. On this attempt I stopped on top for a few minutes to drink water and chill. I also stopped lower for a minute or so, and my pace was definitely burly but not max by any means. Whoa! maybe I could make the car-to-car happen in under an hour? 

I started searching on-line and discovered that this time is kinda coveted. For a non-runner I was going to need to push pretty damn hard I thought, but it was a cool challenge and for whatever reason I was really stoked on it. I did a few runs last week, but mostly recovering and saved my legs for my next attempt. I assumed that it would take 2 or 3 more tries. Yesterday, after a solid 3 hour route climbing session in the BRC, I chilled for a few hours and convinced myself to go on a run. My plan was to pace to the Nebel Horn Ridge and see what my time was against ultrarunning bad ass Dave Mackey. I pushed at a reasonable pace to Fern Canyon and kept with the fire as the trail got steep. I told myself that if I made the ridge in under 26 minutes I must try for the summit. There I was, at the ridge around 25:30... shit. This is where the run gets heinous. Burning vertical, no respite from stairs and uphill til the summit. I pushed hard and arrived on top, touching the summit marker at around 38:20 or so. No time for water like last go, I was ripping down. I actually felt okay. As I passed 'The Mentor' 12b just off the trail, suddenly my legs were not happy. Uh oh. 

I kept pushing. I had no idea how demanding the downhill would be. It really took a lot out of me - and I consider myself a very fast downhill runner, but nearly 3k downhill as fast as you can is super burly. Rounding the bottom of the slab I ate SHIT! Getting pretty tired and couldn't quite pick my feet up very well... Not even a flinch... all covered in dirt.. ha!... I knew I needed to keep crushing if I wanted to make it down. With Arty blasting in my headphones I hammered to the car and stopped my watch at 58:20! I was definitely surprised to make it happen, and also pretty stoked. I think I could maybe shave a minute or 2 but anything more than that would take considerable training. Stoked! Thanks to Sportiva for the incredible Vertical K's -- they were perfect for this run, and thanks to Suunto for my new Ambit watch! 

now......   Countdown til I leave for Wyoming.... STOKED STOKED STOKED!

Sunday, May 5

Leaving Las Vegas

Left Las Vegas. On to the next step. Echoing the spirit of my homeboy Joey Kinder -- I'm always on the move. Packing up, looking ahead, unpacking, moving on, hitting the road, etc. It's like the change of seasons to me now-- right when I've had about enough snow, spring seems to emerge. In this same way, typically by about the time a trip wraps up I'm ready for what's next. I think this is one of the greatest motivating factors in my climbing life. When it's time to move on, I can move on. No matter how crappy the conditions, there's always a crag that's in season, there's always something out there waiting, there's always somewhere or someway to move forward. Having the flexibility and support to move freely like this is really incredible -- and I'm thankful for it nearly everyday.

Despite my affinity for change, over the last few years I've developed a special attachment to Las Vegas. If I look back and total up my time spent there, I realize that in a sense Sin City has become my home; I've lived in Vegas substantially more than I've lived anywhere else since 2010. I've made some amazing friends, enjoyed the surplus of wintertime desert sun, climbed on and developed some stunning routes and of course, at times, immersed myself in one of the best nightlife's this planet has to offer. I peered sorrowfully into my rear view as the sight of the Stratosphere escaped my vision... It was an amazing season in Vegas -- one complete with personal growth, good climbing, great people and the seeding grounds for much ambition as I carry on with my climbing life. Onward.

Before I left Vegas I tried to pack it all in, as I usually do. Sometimes the prompt of time running out is all it takes to finally get some things done. Many of the things on my list were social, but climbing was certainly of importance too. I checked out Mt Charleston again - a super classic zone that I had spent very little time at. Usually the season is just starting up there by the time I'm leaving the area. I really like the hang up there, and it really is the Vegas area's saving grace from an otherwise horrendous summer. At over 8,000 feet, the climbing, hiking, running up at Charleston is radically cool even when the Valley below is sweltering.

Charleston is super old school and burly. I would venture to say that the grades and style here feels harder than Smith or even the VRG. Obviously it's very different but, regardless, it's not a vacation grade zone and as I remembered from last year - you've got to battle for any grade. Heading up there with this in mind I was planning to play around and climb on some 14a's or 13d's in an effort to hopefully have some last minute success before leaving town, but I couldn't keep myself from trying 'Hasta La Vista' - an old school test-piece that, despite it's fame, had still only seen a handful of ascents over the 16 years of it's existence. During the 90's this pitch, which was prepared by Tony Yaniro and freed by non other than Chris Sharma himself, was one of the hardest pitches in the country. Along with 'Necessary Evil', 'Just Do It' and 'Super Tweak' this pitch was one of the baddest at the time. It has been on the life list for some time.

Very much to my surprise, it came together really well, and by my 2nd day on the route I was giving it redpoint attempts. The route opens with some strange 5.13 climbing on (you guessed it) pockets - the same beginning as the classic and super hard 14a, 'Closing Down' - from here you do a straight rightwards traverse through awful feet and interesting movement to a few decent holds but downright horrible foot options. Apparently this is the 'rest' but I was never able to fit in here well enough to chill. I stopped briefly, chalked up and exhaled before entering the crux - a long move out of an awkward undercling to a mono stack, then a jump pounce move to another mono stack, before tossing your feet on and powering up to the first anchor - 'Hasta Manana' - which is certainly super hard 8c in and of itself. From here, with only a piss rest, you finish on the extension, culminating with a hard dynamic move off of a crimp to a flat finishing hold. I imagined falling from here repeatedly on link (as I'd heard many have) but thankfully on my fifth try I nailed the crux, and carried on to the top. This was a special send for me, both because I had been seemingly striking out over and over this year but also because this route is historically very significant and that kinda thing is really inspiring to me. I imagined a scrawny, 17 year old Sharma clipping the chains on this beast, and then 3 years later when the incredible Liv Sansoz snagged the (still) only lady ascent of Hasta - which was certainly one of the hardest female ascents ever at the time. As burlmaster Ethan Pringle suggested last year with his repeat, it's hard for me to imagine calling this rig 14b, and while it may not be the hardest 14c in my opinion, I certainly think it warrants the grade. But then again, given how incredibly hard some of the 12b's and c's are at Charleston... maybe this thing is 14a? ha!

I tried the neighboring 'Facile' 14b before taking off but didn't manage to get it done before my departure. Next year..

little stop over in Utah on the way home... 
Little Wild Horse Canyon, UT --- so, so cool. 

Now, for the meantime, it's all Colorado again. I love it here. I'll do some training, some bitchin runs, see all these rad people around here and then soon enough I'll be off -- onto Wyoming living for much of the summer. So many things coming up, so much to do! so damn busy! life is good.
CHECK IT! I'll be at the Idaho Mountain Festival this summer -- you can see some of the other events in my plans on my Events Page...