Tuesday, October 22

Change of Plans

After a few days at Logan Canyon early in the month I was headed to Colorado. The plan was to pack, temporarily say goodbye to Zeke dog and make a sharp turn back westward to Yosemite. Plenty of times my climbing plans have changed over the years due to weather, maybe skin or injury, lack of partners, sudden shift in psyche - but I can safely say that this was the first time that federal government indecision has effected my plans. In-fact, I think this in some ways is the first time in my life that a change in the federal government has had a direct effect on me at all.

Well regardless of the details I was antsy. My October was ticking by (with a trip to Asia coming up on November 7) and as I tirelessly checked the news it seemed like a resolution to the government shutdown wasn't at all close at hand. So, rather than waiting around I rolled with the punches and headed eastward to seize the closing window on my autumn season.

I've been wanting to visit the New River Gorge for several years but I always got sucked into the Red, and realistically, it's just so damn far away from the West. Well I finally made it, and just as I expected, I'm blown away. Naturally I'm bummed that I'll be missing the Dawn Wall push this season, but I have confidence in my friends out there and I'll be following along just like the rest of the world. Ironically I was actually in Washington DC on the very day that Yosemite reopened, I planned to stand in front of the Capital with a cardboard sign reading 'Free the Dawn Wall!' but I guess just my presence was enough.

Definitely saddened to be absent for the mission on El Cap, but it would be a lie to say that I'm not stoked to be here also - it's not that often anymore that I get to see entirely-new-to-me zones with this much quality. The NRG is truly world class.

Bullet hard textured sandstone featuring edges and ledges, slopey crimps and the occasional pocket. Beautiful streaks, striking aretes and features in a rad setting just outside of a pretty rad little town. There is an enormous list of classic routes, gear and sport, for almost everyone's ability level. Nice people, good scene. I can see why people love it here.

On my way to victory against a gaggle of gnarly spiders, mid-redpoint, up 'Ride the Lightning' 13b. Please note the Spider Wand - a tool of the trade in the New. Reynvaan photo
Bridge Day at the New. Hundreds of BASE Jumpers let it rip off the bridge while tens of thousands eat various hot dog dishes and devour funnel cake. 
The first week or so that I arrived was still every ounce of summer in my opinion although locals were diligent in telling me that, 'dude, it gets MUCH worse'. Well hats off to you people, seriously, because those were some of the worst conditions I've ever climbed in. Locals here climb at their limit in the summer months.... I am convinced that these people have some kind of genetic mutation because they are also drawn to wear puffy coats when the temperatures dip below a baltic 71ºF, meanwhile I am still bathing in my own sweat and rattling off complaints faster than my partners can even respond. 

Needless to say, I took it down a notch for my first several climbing days here. Which was something of a blessing in disguise because I got to sample some of the area classics that I may have skipped over otherwise. 'Travisty' 13b/c, the mega steep 'Apollo Reed' 13a, 'Dial 911' 13a, the world class 'Quinsasa Plus' 13a and stunning arete climb 'Satanic Verses' 13c, 'Pocket Route' 13a, the start to 'Trebuchet' 13b and the underrated 'Xanth' 13b, 'New World Order' 12a, 'Bullet the New Sky' 12b and 'Add Lib' 12d all stood out to me. But it was still muggy and hot, so I left. Visited DC, saw some rad stuff, and came back to shockingly better temps. 

Air and Space Museum. So rad.

Another kind of Astronaut -- Scott Franklin. Every ounce as American as walking on the moon.

In the new New River Gorge I was amazed at what was possible. Beloved friction had returned! I did a Mike Williams classic, 'Picket Fence' 14a/b that was amazing and checked out his also mega 'Coal Train' 14a - stoked to get back to that one. The best day yet was at the Meadow where I managed the 1988 All American Classic, 'Mango Tango' - one of the first 5.14s in the country thanks to Scott Franklin and remains one of the best. The neighboring 'Fruity Pants' 12d is without question one of the best sport routes in the nation, and 'Puppy Chow' 12c is... well... just do it.

Over the last 2 days I belayed Mikey as he continued his new routing mission at the New, with 3 new trad routes - the raddest being his new .13a R, 'Color Blind' which I did as well. A really cool vision on his part and a cool addition to the Central Endless.

Lastly, I just posted a new Gear Review on the ripper MSR Reactor Stove and there's a really cool new Five Questions with my buddy Steve Bechtel. Enjoy!

Hopefully much more rad stuff to come in my remaining 2 weeks here! For now, it's rainy and crappy again.

Monday, October 7

Super Tweak

I've never thrived from the pressure scenario one is likely to find in a comp setting, but sometimes a little environmental or circumstantial pressure has helped me put down projects. There are so many variables in climbing outdoors that it sometimes amazes me that they do occasionally line up. Especially when you're traveling alone, and decisions are made on the fly. Uncertainly is definitely incredible, thrilling and in a big way I search for it - but it can also make for some unanticipated stress.

upper logan canyon colors... 
Last week when I decided to quickly swing through Logan I felt the pressure. I had my beta for Super Tweak mostly honed in, but I was looking ahead at the weather and it was clear that Thursday was the beginning to a pretty substantial storm. Last Monday night inner dialogue - 'should I go 5th day on tomorrow after the Idaho Mountain Fest and two sessions on Super Tweak? or should I rest and then give it a hail mary burn on Wednesday before the storm hits?' Secondly, I had a for sure partner for Tuesday but Wednesday Pawel had to bail by 3 at the very latest - giving me 2? hours of shade? I chose to rest, and thankfully I felt recovered and ready to send on Wednesday morning. Okay. It was overcast too so I got lucky with early shade. The finishing crux of Super Tweak was giving me some trouble. I had climbed up to the last big move on Monday from the ground, but warming up on Wednesday I couldn't even seem to stick the upper crux in isolation. Shit. 

I threw myself at the upper section, trying out various methods. 'Who's bleeding anyways?' - 'oh, I am'. I ripped a sizable flapper messing with sharp holds trying to find a way. In the background the storm was brewing. I didn't have a few more days to waste - I needed to leave today - send or no send. So here I was bleeding, not confident in my beta with only a few hours before I needed to hit the road. When would I ever be back in Logan for good temps? Damnit. Pressure. But somehow it worked out. I tried hard, blood oozing through my tape, feet cutting as I pulled off the make-shift beta for the upper crux. 

Pretty stoked after sending - nearly 20 years after the FA... 
The man, Chris Sharma getting stoked just before his 1996 repeat of Boone Speed's 'Super Tweak' 2 years after the first ascent.
It's not as though Super Tweak is the hardest, or the raddest, or the most beautiful (okay, I'll stop here) route I've ever done, but it has significant historical meaning, and really it was the process - the stress - the desire - that made it so relieving to send. I was very, very stoked. Thanks for an incredible addition Boone! and thanks for the awesome Logan tour Pawel.. 

I finished the day with a flash of SlugFest .13d and another random .13a link up that I've forgotten the name of. That night I made it to Colorado and began planning for the next trip...