Saturday, January 25, 2014


Still haven't learned my lesson.  You would think after five or so odd seasons in this place; this desert island, this anomaly of blue skies, dusty boulder filled canyons, plateaus, basins, sage, rabbit turds, and strange humans.  You would think after spending so much time in a place like this that I would actually learn something from my time here.  But sadly no.  However on the bright side there is still time left.  Even in the present one can change the past.  But I'm unfortunately like a small child that keeps getting burned on the range.  Coming back to those bright orange coils thinking this time it will be different. 
Friends come and go.  New friends are made, some old friends are discarded and forgotten, some relationships are simply made only to be destroyed like so many sand castles along the beach.  The fluctuation of people and personalities, sub cultures, lifestyles, they all start to sort themselves out after a while.  A real life pecking order is established so to speak.  I don't know if I enjoy figuring out who is who but I certainly find it interesting.  Climbing is raw, visceral, scary for lack of a better word.  This abstracts our true self; the ugly, the brave, the beautiful, the frightening, the angry, the envious, jealous, honorable, morale, kind, supportive self that lies inside of us all.  The interaction between community and independent, rock and man, emotion and unknown. 
This is a picture of Ben Herrington climbing Evilution (to the lip) probably the most easily identifiable V.10 or boulder problem period in the milks, besides of course Iron Man.  Ben is a quiet, reserved fellow whose soft spoken beta is not only helpful but true to form.  This guy is very strong, I'm pretty sure his fingers have steel cables inside of them.  It was fun and inspiring to watch him casually climb some of the hardest problems in the main area as well as in the tablelands. 

The almighty Checkerboard (V.8).  This is a picture of my very good friend William 'Wild Bill' Moore.  What to say about Will?  Hmmmm...generous, honest, caring, mischievous, playful, funny, uplifting, positive, and absolutely nothing dampens his spirits.  Above Will is having his first session on Checkerboard.  Unfortunately an injury ended his progress on this, one of the best problems on earth!  I'm psyched to be heading back to the NW just so I can hang out with Will Moore more!!

Juan Reyes, the kid from Columbia.  This handsome devil is trying (and would eventually go on to send) Freeze Short (V.8).  This problem literally has it all, from overhanging power moves, to one heinous rock over slab mantle finish.  In short, its a classic.  Juan is so genuine that its hard to find a flaw.  He's interesting, well traveled, funny, and a true spirit.  Although he battled with finger injuries during his stay he was able to put down some truly technical masterpieces.  I'm psyched to see this guy again.

Emma and Tika.  I didn't get a chance to hang out with Emma a lot, but you can tell from this picture what kind of a person she is.  Happy.  Love the smile. 

Wild Bill and Tika.  One day Will just decided he was going to get a dog.  He drove all the way to Sacramento  and came back with this little devil, Tika.  What an addition to our wolf pack, literally, we were the crew with all huskies.  At one point we had a pack of three, Lya, Tika, and of course old man Nook. 

Joel!  Another short term visitor and yet another great spirit.  Joel would literally pull onto anything, do some of the moves and then turn around and say, 'Yeah, I think this will go.'  Now that is confidence, miss this guy and his positivity.  One of the best sends of High Plains Drifter that I've ever witnessed belongs to Joel, one foot wrapped up with an ace bandage, shaking, locking every hold off for at least 15 seconds or more, I had the pleasure of spotting him and feeling as if I was about to be crushed at any moment.  But, he pulled it out and I couldn't have been more relieved or excited. 

This is what I mean when I say community.  Yeah, I'm all alone up there, and I'm the one who gets the credit for sending, but really all those hands and encouraging voices become a part of the send and ultimately it takes everyone in this picture or else I don't send.  Hell, I might not have even bothered to put my shoes on.  This was a battle that kind of came out of nowhere.  Magnetic North (V.8) is by far the best problem I have done this season and easily the proudest. 

My first hard boulder of the season, Jack of Swords (V.9), a project that rolled over from last season.  When I first got here all my sessions were solo so this fit the bill well since I had but one pad.  A heinous low percentage deadpoint to a very sharp crimp. 

Treebeard!  A.k.a. Kevin Riley, a true spiderman.  This dude is all muscle and tendon and arms and legs.  This is the guy that shouts beta at you, encourages you to get on the scary stuff you would normally just seek shelter under, and just overall crushes hard, high boulder problems.  His classic saying is "Lets do cool stuff!". 

RJ or Ryan Jacobs. I actually get to work with this guy!  He's a real life Californian from Ojei, and his thirst for crimpy boulder problems is unmatched.  Compact and strong RJ is a good climbing partner who pushes me to try harder.  Above he is trying One More (V.8), an under the radar masterpiece with thuggy pulls into a very difficult rockover.  I'm psyched to be able to climb with this guy for the next two months. 

This was an awesome send for me.  I season flashed Saigon Direct (V.8) and could not be happier to have this tick under my belt.  Saigon is just one of those strikingly beautiful and tall arêtes that has some really sweet features.  I tried this problem twice last season with bad beta and this season I strolled right up it, actually it was one of those moments where I just felt calm, calculated, strong, and ready to give myself over to the experience.

Steven Dimitt, absolutely one of the best people I know.  Steven has this calm, polite, genuine, mature approach to...well...everything in his life?!  He is a solid person who, every time he shows up things get sent.  Last season I climbed A LOT with Steven and we went on a rampage and this year things were no different.  Steven was only around for a couple of weeks but it felt like he had been here for a couple of months.  He is one of those people you just feel comfortable around, no pressure, no drama. just good climbing and of course a lot of jokes.

Here and above, Steven is climbing Cocktail Sauce (V.8).  This is kind of a dinky problem with some pretty good movement.  Overall, I really enjoyed climbing this two move wonder with Steven, I only wish it had really been V.10, like it says in the guidebook. 

And finally, last but surely not least, the man, the myth, the legend!!  Kevin 'Red Beard' 'Mini G' Erickson!!!!  The picture kind of says it all, he definitely enjoys hoodies, lamb wool lined jean jackets, native americans, beer, beards, bees, and oh yeah, crushing hard boulder problems.  I like climbing with Kev for obvious reasons, he kind of gets me and my sense of humor, he has a good head on his shoulders, he invests himself in what he's climbing, he dedicates himself to training and sending things in good style, and his style could not be further from mine.  Its good to climb with someone whose climbing style is so opposite of mine because I learn more that way.  I remember when Kevin finally arrived in Bishop. I had been climbing by myself for a number of weeks at that point and seeing him was like having some sudden wave of euphoria wash over me.  I just knew that everything was going to come together from that point on and in a lot of ways it did.  I wasn't always able to send the same heinous problems he was able to, but goddamnit having Kevin around just made everything feel a little easier.  Watch out for this guy, he is very strong. 

The sun sets, the temps drop, and sending commences.  Although this woman never sent. it was pretty awe inspiring to watch her crater from near the top over and over again and never seem to doubt that she was going to give it another go.  That is the kind of attitude you need out here!

Juan gets his slab on by sending French Press (V.6/15!!!).  I couldn't even do the first move on this rig which should tell you a lot about what kind of a meathead climber I am and how technically sound Juan is.  Venga Juanito! 

Kev flashing Professional Widow (V.4), this thing is very high and also very good! 

Me figuring out that flashing things is overrated and backing down from the crux of Professional Widow.  I'll need to go back for this one because it is so freakin awesome!  A massive overhanging brown wall sits atop the tablelands beckoning climbers to come and pull on its face.  The holds are brilliant, its high and committing crux is scary an d inspiring; basically it can bring some very good qualities out of you whether you crush V.12 or project V.4. 

Michelle on Strength in Numbers (V.5).  Hey you!  You want to have a good time?  Rally a bunch of friends and strangers for a SIN session and trust me, a good time is almost impossible not to have.  I think on this particular day we had something like 16 people spotting and 20 pads.  Music, laughter, encouragement, and great climbing.  Love this problem and what it brings out in people.

And of course we had to go see the Hobbit 2. 

Saigon (V.6), a beautiful problem.

Treebeard on Standing Kill Order (V.11), bumpin the wizard beats!  This day was amazing!!!!  The temps were frigid, the rock was out of this world sticky, and our crew was psyched to be in the Happy's for once..  This also marks a milestone for me in my climbing because I sent my first V.11, subsequently pictured above.  I was able to fire it second go of the day after having put many tries, effort, skin, and time into it over the last two seasons.  The one thing that bums me out is the community feedback about the problem, apparently its soft or not even V.11 to some, but for me it was a battle and when it all came together I guess I would be inclined to agree.  Grabbing the jugs I let out some kind of strange animalistic rage that had been buried deep down inside of me. It was a celebration of effort and unyielding commitment.  Progress, the best part about climbing.

Old man Nook.  This is not a dog, this is a cat in a dog suit.  No joke.  I've seen this dog lay around in the shade all day, and then at the slightest hint of the presence of another beast he would bolt right to the spot and make sure the other dogs in the area knew that HE was in charge.  Then, casually go back to lying around waiting for his pack to finally leave this boring boulder filled place they had dragged him. 

Little Tika!  Or otherwise known as Tika-pants. 

This was as much snow as the buttermilks saw this season.  Not sure how many people follow the weather for this area but we are suffering from a severe drought, one that hasn't been seen in these parts since they started keeping records of the weather!  Crazy. 

The Suspended in Silence boulder, and WHAT a boulder it is!  This behemoth of monzonite is jam packed with some of the best problems in the world.  Lidija's mouth (V.3), Suspended in Silence (V.5) arguably the best 5 in Bishop, Drone Militia (V.6), Droning Silence (V.8), Stamen Envy (V.10), and a heap of great warm ups.  Not to mention the setting is epic and the top out is easy and high.  Perfect. 

Some rando warming up on a V.2 highball arête that is amazing to look at from the parking lot but a little chossy.  Always good to see people getting after it when you first pull into the parking lot. 

A pensive trio of hombres, brothers, comrades, partners, friends.  I climbed with these three more than anyone else this season and there are obvious reasons for it.  Its funny looking back at this group, because it reminds me of a funny thing Dave Graham said in an interview about how climbers are sometimes like superheroes, they all have their unique super powers.  I couldn't agree more and this group is definitely like a group of super heroes.  Kevin just crushes anything with small crimpers and core intensive moves, Wild Bill is wild and dynamic and never scared, Juan is technical and powerful with a crazy good climbing IQ.  Together they form Voltron! 

The boyz!  You know we hit up the Pizza Factory for some tasty zah's and of course Big Buck Hunter!

The warm up spot.  A few of us decided to solo the slab in the background which is actually a stellar 5.4.  On this day however as we approached the top the winds picked up and I was almost blown off. 

Sarah has only climbed a couple of times (literally) before she decides to free solo the slab.  Amazing.

We haven't had a ton of weather period this season but on this day the weather gods decided to make up for their lackadaisical attitudes and bring the wind!  50mph gusts and a constant 25mph blowing all day.  We escaped to Jr.s Achievement (V.8) and then went and stood in the buttermilker cave that had turned into a wind tunnel.   

Kevin attempting One More (V.8).  The Solitaire boulder has three really impressive lines on it, all three stars.  This is one that I think is overlooked by a lot of climbers because of its neighbor Solitaire, but really One More might be better than Solitaire.  It has some really interesting and powerful movement and a committing and hard rock over slab finish. 

Wild Bill.  The story goes, one day in December, just before Christmas, Wild Bill decided to impress some girls by doing a back flip off a log in the local park.  No big deal Wild Bill thought to himself, I've nailed this trick a dozen times and its always gotten me laid.  Stepping up onto the wood rotted log, shoe laces dangling haphazardly and untied, Wild Bill zips his down jacket closed and bends at the knees.  Closing his eyes he lunges backwards tucking his knees into his chest and flipping with ease into the cold night air.  The landing left something to be desired.  While he sticks the trick with ease what he didn't account for was a rather large hole that decided to gobble his right leg up causing him to buckle at the waist and load his now twisted knee with all of his weight.  And so a gimpy Wild Bill was born.  Turns out he had sex with both girls that night playing up the injured warrior angle.  Classic Wild Bill.  (WARNING: the events of this story may or may not have been fabricated, tampered with, or completely made up.  However, it is based on real events that actually happened and caused Wild Bill to forgo a lot of climbing.)

One day we are out projecting this awesome dyno problem and Nook and little Tika-pants come trotting out of the bushes just as proud as they can be.  What's that in their mouths you ask?  Why its dead animal left overs!  Awesome. 

And now I have no skin left.  I took a true beating on this problem; huge double flappers, pointer finger destroyed, and blown out pinky finger pulley.  I'm recuperating, biding my time, saying goodbye to dear friends, working hard at my job, working hard at finding another job, missing the hell out of my friends and family back in Washington and trying to stay drama-free and out of trouble. 
What an interesting season it has been so far.  Of course 'interesting' is such an ambiguous term, who knows what it means when used in such a general context.  I guess what I mean when I say it has been an 'interesting' season is that I have never felt so challenged before by the rock, by my relationships with men and women, by money, by work, by life.  And what does that all mean?  There is this intricate balance that undeniably exists between selfish interests, interacting and engaging in a community in a  selfless way that not only benefits you but also everyone inside of that community, and figuring out how to exists in a genuine fashion when blending these two realms together. 
I clearly have not figured it out yet; however, realizing that something you have been doing over and over again is not working is such a great 'AHA!' moment to have.  It also sharpens your perception of what you really want and need in order to live a fulfilling life.  It goes back to that whole progress thing as applied to climbing.  I can't stick a move what can I do differently, what can I start to pay attention to that I never have before that could ultimately make the difference.  A small foot placement, adjusting on a hold, my attitude towards the climb, etc. 
The sun set turns the distant horizon into a dreamscape.  This season wasn't the best for temps but it did bring a lot of celebrities through, such as Fred Nicole, Chris Sharma, Mirko Caballero and Calro Traversi.  One of the most surreal evenings I had was walking up to the Grandpa Peabody boulder only to witness Sharma moving pads and conversing with Traversi about the newest possible addition to Bishop's already impressive resume as a world class climbing destination the 'Super Project'.  The floor was littered, I mean LITTERED with brightly colored pads for this insane effort and Traversi calmly mounts the steps of a faded blue ladder and grabs two horrible looking holds in the roof just beneath the lip of the boulder.  He pulls on, its absolutely silent.  The ladder disappears and out of nowhere he blasts to a juggy looking hold at the lip legs askew and flying out, his body goes horizontal and then returns.  He's still on, campusing and finally gets a heel on before testing the moves after the lip.  He drops off, the dyno goes.  Sharma is running around showing people pictures on his I-phone of the violent swing out Traversi just stuck.  This is apparently how the 'next level' is reached.  Here, in Bishop. 

I just wanted to take some time to list all of the people who have really made a difference to my climbing this season due to their attitudes, friendships, words of encouragement, and just overall presence; you guys are the inspiration, the motivation, the definition of community and purpose behind why we all climb, progress, send, and enjoy this world.
Thank you: Red Beard, Wild Bill, Juan, Treebeard, the entire Bellingham Crew, Steven the Sloth Dimitt, Jon Keto, Eric Keto, Marieta, Star, Swiss, Byron, Aunt Annie, RJ and Ty, Josh and Zach, and the plethora of others whose names escape me or whose pads I've used, whose encouragement was shouted, and whose hands were held high in anticipation of a ass rocketing back down to earth.  Thank you! 

1 comment:

jane ridley said...

wonderful blog Micah. The pics a great too.