Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Loss of Purpose

We drove across the frozen plains of Oregon.  I had been anticipating this trip for months.  I spent a lot of my free time pouring over the guidebook and researching areas on mountain project.  I was pretty excited to try put my onsight hat back on and go for volume on this trip but another part of me was also agonizing over the fact that I had still been climbing with an injured forearm/bicep for the last two months.  My time spent in the gym leading up to this trip was productive but every day after my training I felt that all too familiar ache and pain in the area of my right arm where my biceps meets my forearm.  Still, I thought I could climb well enough to meet some pre-trip goals I had set for myself and in the end I was also just psyched to climb on sand stone and soak up some sun and most important of all spend two weeks away from my less-than-inspiring job.

Not exactly how you want to be greeted on your first day driving out of the park at Red Rock Canyon.  Probably the most jarring thing I have seen in a while and I'm still kind of amazed I took a photo.  This is a picture of a dying burro.  While leaving the park on Blue Diamond we ran into a slow down and wondered what was going on, I had assumed it was some idiot driver.  My assumption turned out to be horrifyingly correct.  On the shoulder going the opposite direction was a black mustang with smoke pouring out of its mangled grill.  And laying forlornly in the middle of the road was this poor animal struggling to breath, a solitary trickle of dark red blood stained its nose.  I rolled my window down in shock and snapped a photo of it, one eye staring directly at me while its life slowly, painfully left its body.  I was haunted not only by the way the animal was able to look at me and but by the rise and fall of its rib cage, the sadness that encompassed the scene was overwhelming.  I immediately felt disgusted by my actions.  I wanted to throw my phone out of the car window.  This collision of the flashing trashy lights and shiny high speed vehicles of the human world violently tearing a small hole into the wild world of this solemn desert night air.  Slow the fuck down assholes.

Our first day we ran around the second pullout area wondering where the hell we should start our epic trip.  I was less than impressed with an area that seemingly held a vast variety of cool sounding climbs called the Black Corridor.  We spent little time there before ending the day at the Sweet Pain wall which was like an outdoor gym with a multitude of very nice 5.11's.  Or at least they seemed nice from the ground, it was hard to tell (or enjoy them much) while climbing them because of absolutely frozen fingers. 
Our second day we decided to give up the quest of staying off the well traveled paths and ended up at the Gallery, probably the most well known sport crag in all of Red Rocks.  It did not disappoint, much.  While it was an absolute shit show, flailing gumbies, gear and back packs strewn about everywhere, and the occasional dogs, unsafe behavior abounded, but we kept our heads low and worked through some of the classics.  I finally stepped up and onsighted a 5.12a called Fear and Loathing which I thought fun but underwhelming for the quality I had expected from this crag.  I was in full on punt mode for the rest of the day punting on the very top of an onsight of Promises in the Dark (7b) and The Glitch (7b+).

Our third and fourth days were much like the second, punting, classic 5.11's and sunshine everywhere.  I was feeling weak and timid when it came to trying hard and thus it set the tone for the rest of the trip.  Unfortunately. 

The Gallery (a.k.a The Shit Show wall) was definitely one of the best walls we climbed at.  My only regret was not actually climbing a lot of the better/harder lines there.  Pictured above is my short-term crag friend Ice taking a fall off a very good flash attempt on Where the Down Boys Go (7c).  A spectacular route with some reachy moves but awesome holds.  This would be our last day at the Gallery until the very end of the trip.

I think we had a 'sort of' rest day somewhere in there and then we decided to go to the Sunny and Steep crag pictured above.  It wasn't so sunny, which actually turned out to be a good thing.  This crag was FUN.  Full of nice overhanging lines that are short and juggy.  Which translates into = easy to onsight.  But even with most of the beta being served on a platter to me from the ground I decided to punt again off the very top of Tour De Pump.  I just couldn't get my shit together. 

Pictured above a climber on Gimme Back My Bullets (7a+), a super fun route and pretty much exactly the same as its neighbor Steep Thrills.  They both start out on huge juggy pulls into a very awesome bulging headwall on incut crimps and jugs.  Wish there were like 10 more of these at this crag. 

And, well, yes.  There was beer drinking whilst climbing.  A habit I thought I had broken until this trip.  Oh well.

Red Rocks might be the trashiest place I've been too.  There were multitudes of all kinds of garbage all over the place at each and every crag we visited.  This one seemed nice though. 

The rain moved in on us and with a high propensity for rules we tried not to climb.  Until we saw this crag getting gang banged like the last cheap prostitute before the apocalypse.  Cannibal crag is a sweet striped formation sitting atop a small hill.  It had some very nice routes and again I punted on a 7b+ and didn't even try the most popular route at the crag New Wave Hookers.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Ending the day after avoiding a wind storm at the Front Corridor crag.  No I didn't try Monster Skank either.  I did however send a very nice and crimpy technical master piece born from the choss called Megatonic.  A beautiful line but not nearly as cool looking as Sunsplash or Monster Skank.  Both of these routes would be the coolest looking lines I saw all trip, but I still didn't try them.  I have no idea why.  When your on such a long trip (two weeks, maybe not so long) and your at a new crag there is a schism that takes place inside of you as a climber.  One part pulls you in the direction of projecting the coolest lines at the crag (if you are a strong and confident climber); the other part pulls you in the direction of wanting to sample everything, whether its at your level or 8 grades below it.  The siren song of new routes and possible onsights can sometimes be too powerful. 


And then we went bouldering.

I wanted to rest.  I needed to rest.  And I walked out there with full intention of resting.  But...

It is so damn hard to rest when you're surrounded by that youthful, energetic, and most of all 'cool' energy of the boulders/boulderers.  I couldn't help myself.  When you see 10 different people trying a problem there is something inside of you that screams "I want in on that action!" and regardless of how sore your arms are, or how little skin you have, or how desperately you need to rest in order to actually climb well the rest of your trip, you just have to give into that voice and try a little bit.

So in the end I drank a beer and then strolled around the corner to this beauty of a boulder problem and ended up flashing it with no warm up.  Ha!

We also ran into some Seattle friends Will and Hannah who were crushing.  Will is pictured here working Progressive Guy (7c+) which he later sent with ease.

Ruth getting agonizingly close to sending the Pearl (6C).  After making some amazing adjustments to her beta she started tagging the crux crimp rail over and over again.  I was psyched for her and wanted this just as much as she did.  BUT sometimes even if you are physically strong enough to send a route or a boulder it can be even harder to convince yourself that you are mentally strong enough.  She made a very valiant effort but in the end she had to walk away.

Following our little bouldering adventure we decided to go to a crag we had checked out during our ambiguous 'is it too wet to climb?' quandary.  The Trophy area.  So glad I was feeling terrible the day we visited this awesome crag.  I punted on everything, climbed horribly, but still had a relatively good time.  The wind was howling all day and it literally blew the psyche out of me, as well as Ruth who spent most of the day huddled over in her parka. 

Visiting climber and Canadian Eli Dusenbury getting oh so close to the OS of Keep Your POwder Dry (7a+).

A beautiful yet holdless piece of sandstone.

Eli going all superman on the crux.

Our last week in Red Rocks was somewhat of a weird scramble.  The forecast kept changing on us, goading us along and kept us from taking rest days.  One day it would say rain, the next everything was all cleared up.  Then there was two days of absolutely unrelenting and hellish wind. 
On top of that I was getting increasingly frustrated with my arm and my performance.  In my head pre-trip I had built this trip up to be a veritable sending extravaganza but it just wasn't working out that way.  Each day I felt more and more tired and frustrated and it was really sad because, as Ruth pointed out, 'If you keep depending on the next send or onsight in order to have a good time you'll always be angry and frustrated and you'll never be able to enjoy this moment and this beautiful place we are in.'

And she was right.

Our time trickled away.  We moved into a new air B&B and suddenly what had started as an epic amount of time to tackle any challenge dwindled down to our last day.  We drove to the park one last time and decided to spend the last few hours we had of our vacation at the Gallery.  We hadn't been back in almost 10 days but damn am I glad we came back.  The weather was literally perfect.  Cold but warm in the sun, no wind, and a fantastic blue sky embraced us all day.  And we also each sent our short term projects.  The last time we were at the wall Ruth tried A Day In the Life and I tried The Gift.  Upon our return we each dusted off our first burn beta's and then fired them.  A perfect way to end the trip and yet also a somewhat cruel way to end it.  The psyche was high and we were ready to get back home but also ready to spend another two weeks here. 

Simon on The Gift after hi second go send of Where the Down Boys Go.

The sun went from one side of the canyon to the other and soon it disappeared over the shoulders of the distant red/tan/white mountains.  We stared at each other in bewilderment, not sure we were ready to accept that the end had finally come.  Regrets bubbled over and then were dismissed.  We reveled in our late trip sends, drank one last crag beer and hiked out of the wash.  The moon hung high and proud and as the rock glowed the redness of it all sunk in. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Naked and Afraid

I don’t really have a lot of words for this post.  My first Smithsgiving flew by and with the weather predictors constantly playing with our emotions it was difficult to predict (for ourselves) an appropriate rest day so instead we just climbed every single day we were there, eight days straight!
There was danger, sun, cold, wind, rain, frost, fear, zen, bliss, ignorance, hesitation, triumph, failure, and friendship.  Sweet, sweet friendship.  And in the end we all ate ice-cream. 
Smith is easily one of the best climbing destinations on the planet with striking lines, beautiful faces, fantastic movement, and a wonderfully grounded community.  I was disappointed with my abilities during this trip and my only regret, looking back, was that I did not open myself up to more possibility.  For whatever reason I held back and now that the trip is over I have a lot of mixed feelings but none of them compare to how proud I am of ticking a couple of super classic routes, and watching my girl friend conquer some of her fears.  I also feeling incredibly lucky and humbled and grateful to be friends with Steven Dimitt, uber local and Smith crusher.  Watching Steven calmly run laps on some of the longest and most drawn out routes in the park was nothing short of inspiring. 

Smith can be an intimidating place, but it's danger lies within it's ability to entice the masses to ascend upon its gullies, paths, and rock faces which can end up injuring/maiming/or killing the unlucky few who take for granted the stinging discipline of safety and focus.  While at Smith we bore witness to this very phenomenon.  A 30y/o woman lowered herself off the end of her rope whilst rappelling to clean a sport route at the top of Cocaine gulley.  The response effort was massive.  The above pictures spotlights illuminating the entirety of the crag in order to help the responders extract the woman from her position high atop the gulley. 


Visiting climber Paul DanD'minico warms down in the golden light of another fading day on Nine Gallon Buckets (5.10c).

Last day in the park and I decided to get after one of the prettiest lines around, Dreamin' (5.12a). 

Wish I could have gotten a more epic shot of our gracious host for the week Steven Dimitt, pictured here warming up on Phone Call from Satan (5.9). 

Now we prepare for Red Rocks!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Forecast

  I’ve enjoyed (read: endured) 11 days of rest.  ‘Rest’ in this instance is a bit of a misnomer since my idea of resting is adhering to a devout rehab routine, but we all have to get our kicks somehow.  Amidst my misguided fervor towards maintaining some strength, I actually developed a nice relationship with a thera-band, k-tape, and stretching.  I knew people did/used these things/activities to evade injury but I always thought those people were just weak minded old fools whose lack of good breeding and inefficient gene pools lead them to their anachronistic ends.  Little did I know.  Little do I still know.  But in any event time bends you to its will and there I was bent over a weight bench doing wrist curls, a bright pink piece of strapping adhered nicely to my upper forearm, digital seconds ticking away slowly on a nearby stopwatch, a jump rope lying limp across a set of box jumps taunting me and my weak calves.  A quick visit to a new physio, some good info on heating and icing, and a lot of Epsom salt soaks, and there I was again clinging to a rock face bathed in Autumnal light filtered through scattered clouds above, the sounds of day hikers galloping along the well-worn dirt path below. 




The past weekend was a blur of activity filtered through a lens of dense surprise.  After lurking inside for what seemed like a small eternity the sun came out and autumn was finally able to flash us those pearly yellows, oranges, reds, and umbers she had been waiting to reveal since early October.  We went from a trot, to a jog and then finally plodded up switch backs before gliding down the steep valley hillside that lead us to a small paradise.  Views on both sides of us emerged as we rounded more and more corners of the trail.  I had never been to this side of the mountain before and had no idea such beauty lay a short drive from my house.  Besides the burgeoning day hiker population there were parts of the trail that bordered Snow Lake that felt absolutely remote and pristine to say the least.  The views were stunning, the sun was even more welcome and rejuvenating however, the wind kept us moving. 

The following day plagued with sore muscles from our 10 mile jaunt the day before we said ‘What the hell?’ and surrendered to our ambitions to taste the golden light of the fleeting sun once more.  We headed out to Little si which was a gamble indeed given the fact that it had received over three inches of rain the week before.  But we just wanted to be outside, to breathe some fresh air, and to feel the crispness of Fall.  The big leaf maple leaves had fallen and they blanketed the trail trying their hardest to cover up the scars we have worn into the forest floor.  Large moss covered boulders alongside the trail appeared dry and we each raised an eyebrow at the idea of actually getting to climb.  Indeed, upon our arrival the wall was almost in perfection.  I dashed 11 days of rest by tying in and climbing up Abo.  Wow, it felt so good, like waking up from a very long sleep, or like tasting sugar again after some kind of twisted diet, or perhaps even like enjoying a really good book that has been lost at the bottom of your chest and that has recently resurfaced on your shelf.  I couldn’t help myself and nervously climbed four more pitches tasting Softliner, Techorigine, Rainy Day, and Chronic  Mmmmmm, I got my fill, for that day.  My hunger will never be satiated. 

Alex Fritz going big on Men's final problem #1 at the Seattle Boulder Project's annual Northwest Boulder Fest.  He was the only one to send this problem and it gave him the lead which he managed to keep and then win the comp!

Lisa Chulich striking a curious pose while attempting a difficult match on the finish hold of Women's problem #2, a punchy and delicate one.  Great to see Lisa competing as always and still crushing.  I've known Lisa since she was an awkward teenager obsessed with volleyball and tagging along with her brother on climbing trips and now, 10 years later, she has turned into quite the climbing celeb with an impressive resume of climbs and competition results under her belt.  Super motivating, keep it up Lisa!

Ashima Shiraishi calmly reaching up to a seemingly horrible little jib on that volume.  She climbed 3 out of the 4 finals problems missing the last problem by one move!  What can you say about Ashima that hasn't already been said?  Watching her climb in person it all makes sense.  Prodigy!

Ashima locking down the number one spot in finals on a very tricky and powerful mantle/stem problem, Women's #3.

One of the last days to really go for it.  Erich Sachs staring up at the last good burn of the season on Lost Horizons.  He climbed this thing perfectly to the very last hard sequence but could not seem to squeeze it out of the tube.  The last try, pictured here, he was thwarted by a seeping undercling and taking a nice 30' whipper he lowered and enraged flew up Pornification (falling at the last crux).  Back to back burns on 5.14?!  Yeah, that's a thing now.  I drew a lot of inspiration from Erich this season and garnered some good info from him concerning training regiments and resting.  Psyched to see him back out next season and with a brand new baby no less.  Hopefully I will be strong enough to project with him, instead f next to him.

Fall, Autumn, whatever you want to call it, it's my favorite time of year hands down.  I love all seasons but I enjoy AND love Fall the most.  I think it has to do with the fact that I'm such a visual person and during Fall its like a free always changing art show.  Everywhere you go, whether its an alpine lake tucked in the vast wilderness of the Cascades range, to a short jog through the neighborhood there are colors exploding virtually everywhere.  Every tree, bush, shrub, or sapling is trying to make a statement and draw your attention to the simple beauty of existing outside.  The changing colors have an effect on the simplest of outings enhancing them and emboldening your experience if you let them.  Even the down days when the sun hides and the rain pervades every nook and cranny of the city Fall is just another excuse to crowd inside of a local gym and cheer on your friends.  From the crispy temps and beautiful colors to the warmth of the community at the gym or the brewery, I just can't get enough.


Soaking up the sun on a run/hike to and partially around Snow Lake.

Playing back and forth on a small ridge the views of the Cascades and the sweeping valleys below open up and you start to realize how infinite this mountain range actually is.  Also great to see the snow level coming down a bit.

We came across so many of these cool little ponds.  Would have been great if a few of them were hot springs.

We finally had to stop for lunch, that blue sky has such a mesmerizing effect on a day like this. It feels so effortless to keep going, but alas, the hands of the clock ushered us back home.

An explosion of color!  We exhibited some pretty bad trail etiquette while dipping, dodging, and diving around the teeming mass of plump and sluggish day hikers that saturated the trail. 

The walk down from a surprisingly dry visit to World Wall.  My lovely partner is breathing down the neck of two of her projects and made some great progress on this day.  Looking forward to getting the honor of having that first 5.12a belay this weekend.
Today I was studying my training journal and realized that it has been a whopping 20 days since I have engaged in any training related activities (besides two small fingerboard sessions).  I won’t get back to the grind until next week and I’m really looking forward to it.  I have two upcoming trips, the first is an 8 day trip to Smith Rocks over Thanksgiving.  The second is a two week trip to Red Rocks with a few days set aside for Bishop during Christmas and New Years.  I’m very excited for these trips, it has been a year now since I have taken any vacation or gone anywhere farther than four hours away.  I do have to admit that I’m a little down about not being at full health or strength but maybe by the time the Red Rocks trip rolls around I will be feeling up to par again and ready for an onsight onslaught.  We will have to see…