New Feature: Favorite Routes

29 10 2008

We’re finally starting to take advantage of the awesome wordpress feature that allows us to have pages on our site in addition to the blog. Our first addition is the new Favorite Routes page. On it, we each have a list of ten of our favorite routes and a brief explanation of why it’s so awesome. If you happen to be in Squamish, Smith Rock, Joshua Tree, etc., consider trying one of them.

We’ll probably update the list as time goes on because we’ve only included routes that we’ve actually sent (i.e. lead clean).

Next up, look for our top ten tick lists for more awesome routes that we’re still working on.

Enjoy and rock on,


Long, Hard and Free in Red Rocks

27 10 2008

“Nervous?” Lizzy asked at the belay below the crux pitch. A whirl of thoughts flew through my head. I was distanced from my objective, an onsight of cloud tower, and was not feeling the stress. A little less that a year earlier Lizzy and I had climbed Levitation 29. On that route I had struggled with a fear of failure and had not given the climb my full commitment. While I was still able to do the route onsight I hesitated often and didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I had hoped. This year I was more detached from success and put everything on the line.

Staring up at the thin dihedral I was not afraid and was up for a challenge. After a funky start with some face moves and a couple of bolts (which should be replaced) you reach the base of the crux corner. The left wall overhangs slightly and the crack is THIN. I got a small nut in to back up the old bolt and used some face holds to get up a bit higher. A blue alien later I was standing on some good footholds. I worked my way up the face holds and found a good slot and was able to clip a fixed nut in the main crack. I made my way back onto the face and got a bomber Green (#0) C3. So far the moves had been hard to sequence and I was amazed to still be climbing. The crack was getting wider but far from my finger size. I could see a good jug on the left wall and made some tenuous stems to get there. Resting on this jug with an ok foot I was able to get in a bomber blue master cam (these are slightly smaller than the green alien which helped).

After hanging out on the jug I knew I had to get going, the crux was the next 40 feet and I would have to go all out. I stemmed up got in a green alien and started making the hardest moves thus far. Making long reaches between small pods I was laybacking up the crack, fingers barely fitting. I gained an ok foot and a made quick green alien placement. Pulling as hard as I could I made it a bit higher and was able to get a good stem and a bit of a rest. I was pumped and shoved in my last green alien, wishing I had a blue tcu or master cam since the slot was a bit small. There were no more feet in the next section but I knew the crack was getting larger. I crimped and finger locked my way up the crack and after 10 feet got a bomber lock. Two more pieces went  in and I kept going for the ledge below the belay. Pulling into the alcove I had made it!! A couple more quick placements including the suggested #3 Blue Camalot and I was on the anchor ledge.

Lizzy following the crux thin corner.

This past weekend Lizzy and I were out in Red Rocks. An early Friday morning departure from Pasadena allowed us to climb Friday night. With the parking lot at Black Velvet now open we could access BV Canyon via the standard road. While the road is pretty rough it does not require 4WD which was shown by the two PT Cruisers we saw, I still think it is advisable to have good clearance. Our climb was on Whiskey Peak so we approached to Frogland and traversed across the base. This approach gave us a good overview of the climbs in the area since Lizzy and I had not been to Whiskey Peak before. While simple, the approach was a bit on the longer side and it was mid afternoon by the time we got to the base.

Lizzy gives her opinon on the small crimps of Only The Good Die Young

Only The Good Die Young starts in a gully on the far right side of Whiskey Peak. Even though the line can be seen from the Black Velvet Wall I doubt people realize it is there. The climb is 5 super short (50 – 75 feet) pitches with closely bolted cruxes. The idea was to a bit of a tune up and get ready for Cloud Tower on Saturday. I linked the first two pitches by using long slings and running it out a bunch. The first crux was sustained small hold pulling past 5 bolts with bad feet. Lizzy and I both found this section hard but neither of us fell. The slabby ramp of P3 set us up for the crux traverse. The rock on this slab was a bit hollow and I was happy to have bolts protecting the fun crux. The rock was at such a low angle that the tiny holds felt usable. Staring up at the crux I couldn’t see the holds. After a bit of a rest I set off and made my way up to the crux move. From a good left hand undercling you were supposed to get established on small crimps and then move right to some bigger crimps.

I was only able to hold on one crimp with my right hand and could not make room for my left. I spent about 5 minutes trying things out and then carefully downclimbed the 10 feet back to the belay. I was stuck and couldn’t figure out how to get my left hand onto the one hold. I went back up and spent another 5 minutes trying to figure it out but to no avail. I gave up on a match or a hand switch and decided I had to make a reachy cross to the next hold. I got established in a stem, grabbed the right crimp and turned my body as far as a I could and just made it to the next left hand hold! I quickly clipped the next bolt and made my way across to a large jug.

The following section was quite exciting as you moved across this large rail with insignificant feet. There was even a fun clip where you had to reach below you to clip the bolt. The holds were large and I made my way to the end and pulled up and around the corner. With a long runner on the first bolt and I made my way through two more bolts of thin slab to gain a ledge. The rock was quite rotten and did not inspire me to stop so I kept going and belayed much higher at a notch. Lizzy followed the pitch clean, using a bit of A0 to clean a draw, and was able to match the crimps at the start and make the reach with your right hand. After reaching my belay Lizzy set off across some 4 class ledges and after a rope length we switched and I led across and down to our rappel tree.

Lizzy rapping down into the gulley.

A short rap and we were in the gully on our way down. The gully split and we took the easier left branch which did not lead directly to the base of the route. It seemed a bit easier but required us to traverse right at a big cairn, which might have just been 2 random rocks on a big ledge, and make our way over to our packs. A more direct hike down to the wash saved us some time going back to the car but we still finished the hike in the dark.

Saturday morning we got going a bit after 7am and drove into the loop road and called in a Late Exit Pass. The hike to Cloud Tower starts at the Pine Creek Canyon parking lot and traverses on some good trails towards Juniper Canyon before going up a large hill to the base of Cloud Tower. A few false turns and we were trudging up the hill towards our route and Crimson Chrysalis. When we reached the base there were many parties on this classic 5.8, one on route, one just leaving the ground and one patiently waiting. We made our way past this mess to the empty Cloud Tower.

Lizzy starting out on the 3rd pitch of Cloud Tower. 

Lizzy lead the first 2 pitches which we kept separate due to a lack of gear. I was carrying a few extra cams in our pack so Lizzy was a bit short on hand sized pieces, which I thought were only necessary for the last pitch. Having the full rack and a few runners would allow you to link these two pitches. We brought the following gear: #00 C3, #0 C3, 2 Blue aliens, 1 Blue Master Cam, 3 Green Aliens, 2 Yellow aliens, 2 Grey aliens, Red alien, #.5 C4 , 2 #.75 C4, 2 #1 C4, 4 #2 C4, 2 #3 C4, 1 #4 C4. Even with this massive rack we could have used more. At a minimum you NEED a second #4 C4 for pitch 5. I would also suggest another #1 and #3. Having another #2 would allow you to really sew up the last pitch. On the Crux pitch as I said previously I would rather have had 2 green aliens and 2 blue tcu/master cams. I did not use the #00 C3 but there were places on P4 it would have fit.

Lizzy in the middle of the hand crack on the 3rd Pitch. The wide 5th pitch can been seen above the crux dihedral.

After the first two funky pitches Lizzy lead off on the 3rd pitch, a sweet hand crack followed by a face traverse to the belay below the crux dihedral. Lizzy styled this pitch and made it look easy. After reaching the belay I went about swapping the gear. All the large gear save a #3 went into the pack and the trail line came out so that I could haul the pack for Lizzy. The pitch was awesome and I was happy to have gotten the onsight. I hauled our pack on the trail line, using a DMM Revolver for a pulley and Lizzy got ready to follow the pitch. She climbed without hesitation and fell only a few times due to the pumpy nature of the pitch. With her little fingers she was able to avoid the face holds that I had found quite necessary. Happy to have the hardest pitch behind us we had lunch in the little alcove before continuing on.

The next pitch started with a fun hand crack through a roof and gradually became wider as you got higher. I stubbornly had only brought two #3’s and one #4 and had to do a bunch of runouts and leap-frogging and backcleaning my cams. At one point the crack became too big for my #4, luckily the climbing was not too hard (10-). Shortly I was able to get some 1″ gear in a hidden crack that helped my lead head after the 30+ foot runouts. I found one final placement, where you could belay, to the left of the crack before tunneling through to the other side. The chimney was easy and while you were a bit runout from your gear you would not fall. Even if you fell you would just get stuck inside the crack. I belayed below the final splitter and used a high cam to protect Lizzy on the final moves. Lizzy laybacked much of the wide pitch and after shuttling the pack to me made it across the chimney.

Lizzy pulls up into the good rest after the thin dihedral.

We were both tired and were running low on water. After the last pitch I was nervous about having enough gear for the final pitch. I aggressively back cleaned as I led and wasted a lot of energy placing, removeing, clipping and unclipping my cams. About half way up I was exhausted and hoped that I had enough gear to finish. In fact I though the bulge I was climbing up was the end. With the motivation that I could be finished I pushed hard only to find out there was still more climbing. Luckily there was a no hands rest before the final crux bulge. I still had some gear and had to try for the onsight. The climbing was steep but the holds were good. I placed gear quickly, sure that I would fall at any moment. At one point after placing a high cam. I was unable to pull up the rope to clip. It took me three tries alternating between hands before I got the rope in.

Luckily some foot holds appeared on the left wall and I was able to get in some more gear. “I may fall at any moment” I yelled to Lizzy from the final bulge. I was so pumped and the steep climbing was getting the better of me. One last cam and I was at the top of the bulge. I was jamming my feet into the crack and had my hand in the wrong position for the reach over the top. I switched to a different jam, almost slipping out of the crack. From this new position I was able to reach a good fingerlock over the lip. With no technique left I pulled as hard as I could, flopping my feet over the bulge. I grabbed the next jug and pulled myself onto my feet. I was almost dry heaving I was so tired. The experience reminded me of thruching up an offwidth in Indian Creek. My core was so sore and my arms were rubber, but I was done! I tied into the five crappy bolts and pulled up the rope to belay Lizzy. She lowered the back pack to the ledge below and climbed up with the trail line. The crack was all the wrong size for her but she still made it in only a few falls.

We were happy to have finished Cloud Tower but were both thrashed by the final pitch. Its steep and powerful nature was a hard blow at the end of the day. We quickly rapped off, drinking the rest of the water before reaching the ground. On the final rappel, after walking across a big ledge, we got our rope stuck. The suggested rap route, down the first two pitches, didn’t look so good but it was getting dark and I was worried that an alternate route migh risk a big swing or cause rock fall. We ended up getting the rope stuck, with the knot connecting the ropes securely wedged in a crack. Luckily we could still reach the ends of the rope so I reclimbed the pitches self belayed by my Shunt. Even though it was quite dark the climbing was relaxing after the hard pitches and I was having fun despite having stuck the ropes. I made my way up to the stuck knot and adjusted the ropes so the knot was below the constriction. I rapped down to the midway station and pulled the ropes. I got our new Ion down without a problem but when it came time to pull the trail line I had no hope. I pulled as hard as I could but to no avail. I was now feeling the effects of a long day and didn’t want to have to relead the pitch and potentially get the rope stuck again.

I had Lizzy tie my knife to the end of the trail line which barely reached the ground. My though was to cut the majority of the trail line and rap with the 70m rope. When I tried to pull up the knife it got stuck in a crack; honestly you can’t make this stuff up! I was done, I was no longer having fun and was now accepting that we had lost the rope. I coiled our lead line and attached the trail line to the quick link on the mid anchor. I single rope rapped the trail line and was able to free my knife and make my way to the ground. In retrospect we could have re-climbed and then downclimbed the first 2 pitches but it was late and we were pretty tired and a bit dehydrated. Leaving the rope was a small sacrifice to be safe so we left it.

The hike out proved fast because we were going downhill. We made it back to the car in 1 hour and 15 minutes, almost a half an hour faster than we approached. With no ticket on the car we headed into town for some fast easy food and went quickly to bed. It took a little over 11 hours car to car. 

Tired from all of the hiking and climbing from the previous two days we decided to do a bit of sport climbing. It was hot and the Black Corridor seemed like a good destination. Moderate sport routes were our speed. After leading a few routes Lizzy was feeling the effects of the hard climbing of the previous two days and deferred to belay duty. I sampled as many of the climbs as I could manage. The two sides of the corridor are vastly different. One side is steep with deep huecos and jugs everywhere. You can easily crawl inside to rest or get a variety of knee bars. The other wall was devoid of large features and was slabby with small incut holds. The climbing was interesting and the rock quality was a bit lacking. I managed to do 9 routes up to 10d in the 4 hours that we were there.

We were tired from a long weekend and by 3:30 were ready to go home. A bit of Starbucks later we hit the road and made good time to Primm. Whenever Lizzy drives she tends to summon wind or traffic. For some reason the setting sun was a bit too bright and brought traffic to a stop going up the big hill just after the California border. We sped up for a while before hitting a major traffic jam before the Agricultural inspection station. We lost more than an hour to traffic and made it home around 10pm with a Baja Fresh stop for dinner.

It was great to get back to Red Rocks and I look forward to future trips!




23 10 2008

Today, I mailed my first ever vote for a presidential election, along with a variety of other Washington elections including an initiative to help reduce traffic (we really need some of that…). Yes, I was one of those unfortunate people who was not old enough to vote in the 2004 election. Because I was still in high school. But now, I can vote! So I did. (By mail, because Washington is far away.)

You should too!

I’m trying not to infuse too much politics into this blog, but what some people have been saying about a certain California ballot iniative (prop 8, if you follow Cali politics) – that some people are claiming that not banning gay marriage necessarily means that 5-year-old kids will be taught about homosexual relationships in schools. WHAT? I don’t care how you feel about gay marriage, but I’m pretty sure this is not really the best reason to vote to ban gay marriage in California.

Anyways, however you feel, you should still vote. It’s pretty sweet.

Joshua Tree this weekend!


Explore Your City, Commute by Bike!

21 10 2008

When I moved to California I bought a Trek road bike and often ride to work. I am no cylcist, I dont have the endurance for 100 mile rides or steep climbs but I still put miles on my bike. I love getting out of work and having the cool breeze on my face as I fly past traffic.

Even though gas prices have dropped from the lofty $4.75 of July to near $3.25 it still makes a difference when you bike to work. Here are some fun facts I found online today:

5 reasons to bike your drive

  1. The average person loses 13 pounds their first year of commuting by bike.
  2. 40% of all car trips in the U.S. are made within 2 miles of home.
  3. 60% of the pollution created by autos happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively.
  4. Just 3 hours of biking per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%.
  5. The U.S. could save 462 million gallons of gas a year by boosting bicycle trips just half a percentage point: from 1% to 1.5% of all trips.
From REI

Letting the Fall Fly By

20 10 2008

The fall has quickly come and its gaining momentum faster that we can imagine. The stacks of three day climbing weekends have been amazing and this blog has surely been neglected. I have to pack all my work in to a four day week and then we are off on some crazy adventure every weekend. 

Wild Clouds in Idyllwild on Friday

I got a email from one of my cousins a few weeks back so we meet them out in Joshua Tree for some camping. While Lizzy and I were nervous for desert heat we experienced quite the opposite. All of California got hit with a cold front and it was beyond chilly. At the Owens River Gorge, the week before, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt climbing in the shade. In Joshua Tree we were wearing down jackets in the sun and were still quite cold. This storm signaled the start of the Santa Ana winds which were blowing hard on my drive down to San Diego the following Monday. We saw some crazy clouds in Idyllwild on Friday and were chilled by the wind on Saturday and Sunday in Joshua Tree. Our friends Julie and Josh even got some snow in Bishop. Returning to our cities has not provided much respite. San Diego is a bit chilly and parts of the LA area are on fire, fueled by the wind. 

Lizzy getting to belay me on Insomnia Crack

Lizzy did a good job summing it up and I will add some of my perspective. The following is a quick rundown of our weekend two weeks ago. My vacation hours had been burning a hole in my pocket so I decided to take Friday off to enjoy some of the fall weather. This started with a viewing of the Reel Rock tour in Riverside. This showing, at the Threshold Gym, was a bit unconventional and only featured part of the tour. Even though we were looking forward to seeing more films we still got to see the Sharp End and the Big UP dose from South Africa. I was impressed by the number of young people in attendance at the showing. It seems that Threshold, which is located close to UC Riverside, is able to draw a much different crowd than Vertical Hold. At Vertical Hold there seems to be a lack of college age students which is odd since UCSD is nearby. Perhaps they go to the smaller climbing wall at the university or the nearby Solid Rock gym. Before the movie started I had a nice chat with Louie Anderson who was in attendance and got some route beta for our upcoming Red Rocks trip which ended up being helpful.

The Sharp End was fun and it was great to see everyone putting it on the line. Like others have mentioned there was a lot of non-climbing footage and I would have liked to see more climbing action. Seeing Ammon on El Cap was nice but short and the section of climbing in the Czeck Republic really stood out. Overall it was a great collection of stories and I want to watch it again to see more of the details in regards to the specific climbs. 

Lizzy on the super thin crack of The Pirate 12c/d at Sucide

As previously mentioned the weekend at Jtree was cold. We did a frigid ascent of the Left Ski Track which was quite hard and a bit awkward. We hung out with my cousin, her husband and their two daughters and we spent a bunch of time out at Equinox.  I worked Equinox on TR and found a bit of an easier way to do my crux. I was able to re-sequence and do a series of smaller moves which should be easier when fatigued. Lizzy had a go and unlocked a bit more beta, finding a finger stack to get her through the wider top section. After doing the top section clean a few times I was able to do the whole route on TR with one fall, removing the gear as I went up. Since it was my third try my fingers were quite torn up and I was happy with my progress.

Luke and Cousins in J-Tree

My cousins departed after breakfast on Sunday to continue their road trip to Scottsdale, AZ so Lizzy and I relaxed, waiting for Equinox to come into the sun. We were a bit unsure of the correct time so we decided to hike out and see how cold it was. For reference the route came into the sun slightly after 2pm. The wind had picked up from the day before and it was really cold at the base of the route. Stubbornly I scrambled to the top and had Lizzy lower me over to work the moves and place all the gear for a lead attempt. While I was not quite ready to redpoint the route I thought that climbing it on pre placed gear would be a good first lead attempt. Lizzy suffered in the cold as she patiently waited for me to work out the moves.

Putting in some gear on Equinox.

After heating up in sun for a while we pulled the rope and I tied in. I had my best link on the first section and it felt great. I hit all the jams and in no time I was right before the crux. I was a bit intimidated so I hung and shook out to get the energy back. It took me a few tries to get through the middle section and I had to hang on gear to work through the moves. Eventually I made it to the last section but half way across the final traverse I ran out of confidence and hung again. Next try I committed to the moves, placed a few more cams and topped out. I felt good with the first and last sections but was pretty worried about the middle. Hopefully I can get a bit more confident by working more on the moves and try it again next weekend.

This past weekend we hit up Red Rocks for a few hard multi-pitch routes. We were afraid of cold weather but it ended up being perfect. We climbed in the shade in pants and had no wind. On Friday after our drive out we did Only The Good Die Young, 11c – 5 short pitches. On Saturday we had a long day on Cloud Tower, 11d 7 long pitches that ended in darkness and a stuck rope. Sunday we did a bunch of easy sport climbs in the Black Corridor. I was trying to work some endurance so I ended up doing 9 routes 10d or easier. It was a crazy gym like environment but the routes were quite fun.

We had a great weekend despite a bit of silly traffic on our drive back. Lizzy or I will have a formal trip report in a few days. 



An Equinox Day in Photos

16 10 2008

Some Excuses for my Slacking

16 10 2008

If you are one of the few who actually follows our blog, you may have noticed that there has been a slowdown in posting recently, especially on my part. It’s not that we haven’t been climbing (we have, this coming weekend will be our 3rd 3-day climbing weekend in a row) but that somehow life has become ridiculously hectic.

Even though my class schedule isn’t that bad, I am also a TA this term and I now have less than 3 weeks until my first two fellowship applications are due (the NSF and the NPSC), which is kind of scary. So in addition to my homework and reading The Self-Coached Climber and trying to train for Equinox, I also have grading labs and writing three of the more important essays that I’ve had to write in my life.

Hence a little less blogging…

But meanwhile, a brief update of what we’ve been up to (other than trying not to stress out too much):

Last weekend we headed to Idyllwild on Friday so Luke could try to send Insomnia. He got it on his second try, but not a true redpoint because our rope was too short to clean all the gear from the first try (long story…). Then we toproped the Pirate (5.12c/d) which was AWESOME and really fun. Then we went out to Joshua Tree to camp with Luke’s cousin and her family and do some more climbing. Luke lead Left Ski Track (5.11a) which I found to be extremely unenjoyable, despite it’s “classic” status. Then we headed out to Equinox, which Luke TRed 3 times and I TRed 1.8 times. It was January temperatures in October – really cold. We woke up feeling like we had been run over by several trains on Sunday morning, so we had massages, relaxed, then packed up camp and headed back to Equinox. I felt really physically exhausted, so decided not to waste my time trying it when I couldn’t give enough effort. Luke placed gear while I lowered him from the top and went for a pre-placed gear lead attempt. He did pretty good and linked up through the crux. It was even colder today. I was wearing 2 down jackets, a fleece, and an R1 and was still cold. Brrr. We rewarded ourselves with sandwiches at Crossroads and a visit to Nomad before heading home.

This weekend we’re headed to Red Rocks to hopefully send Cloud Tower among other routes.



Bolt Clipping at the Owens River Gorge.

9 10 2008

With the fall season in mind Lizzy and I took the weekend for a bit of a climbing tune-up. This weekend the goal was to climb a lot but do nothing too hard, use no trad gear and simply focus on endurance. Lizzy often solves climbs with her balance and technique and I try to pull hard and use my power. We both lack serious endurance and get easily pumped on longer climbs.

After a brief scouting mission a few weeks back I was anxious to get back to Owens with a partner. There were routes everywhere and they all looked good. We drove up Friday morning arriving in Bishop a bit after 11am. A bunch of shopping and setting up our tent at Horton Creek Campground put us at the parking lot around 1pm. Decending into the gorge we were greeted with interesting geological features and Lizzy explained to me the different cooling patterns and types of rock.

Leaving the the trusty Rav4 in the parking lot. 

We chose Gotham City, located in the upper gorge, for our first place to climb. This was home to a bunch of long 5 star routes from easy 5.10 through harder 5.11. We warmed up on a long 5 star 10a with lots of bolts it was supposedly 37.5 meters in length. We had brought my new Stearling Ion this weekend and were happy to have the 70 meters of rope. We were surprised that the new rope lacked a middle mark but I safely lowered off proving that the route was shorter than 35 meters. The next climb, Dr. Evil, on the right was much more fun required crack climbing skills. Evidently Owens is a bit notorious for bolted cracks and this was no exception. The climbing was fun and we didn’t mind clipping the bolts.

Lizzy on the “technical” decent into the gorge!

Based on suggestions from a few locals that showed up we did the five star Grindrite 11b and Flex your Head 11c. I was able to onsight Grindrite but fell on my onsight attempt of Flex Your Head. I was able to do it 2nd go after Lizzy made an impressive top rope flash. These climbs were technical and diverse and were far different from the climbs we would experience on the rest of the trip. I finished up the day by linking the 2 pitches of Super Fly into a monster 45 meter 19 bolt monstrosity. I was doing well using long slings to limit rope drag until I made it to the 2nd crux. The quickdraw I used greatly exacerbated the ever increasing drag, next time I will use a long sling. Unfortuneately things got worse as I got into the upper crack; the holds were covered in bird poop and everything smelled awful. I kept going, fought hard for my onsight and eventually made it to the top. This route has be praised as the best 5.10 in the gorge and I was not impressed. While the position was excellent the quality of the rock combined with all the poo really turned me off. Since it was getting dark I rappeled and then lowered to clean the route, another mistake. It would be much better to do the climb in 2 pitches so that your second can clean the crux pitch one roof.  

Day two we hit up the central gorge via the gully approach which is pretty steep but short and thus quite manageable. We started the day on Orange Peel 10c which was a forgettable climb only significant since it was one of the first climbs established in the gorge. Next at the Social Platform, the name of the crag, was a sweet 10d. A tricky sequence off the ground led to a series of ledges and the first crux. The bolts were a bit spaced on this climb but placed to perfectly protect the hard moves. A balancy section over a bulge led to some small holds and a nice head wall. After climbing up to a roof you reached over and clipped a high bolt. Pulling over this roof was supposed to be the crux but Lizzy and I both found it to be easier than the technical section below. The last headwall had cool pockets in the horizontal breaks and was a pleasure to climb.

Lunch in hand, Lizzy catches up on some sleep.

We were tired from a sleepless night and Lizzy took a little nap after we ate lunch. A storm had blown through Bishop and dusted the mountains in snow. Our campsite only got a small amount of precipitation but we were buffeted with wind throughout the night. Our 3 season REI tent held up fine in the wind but the fabric flapped loudly with each gust. We moved around the corner to Express Way. This five star 11b was dead vertical on slippery rock with small crimps. After a technical section down low you had to keep the pump at bay to get past the bulge protecting the anchors. I reached the anchors first try with burning forearms and Lizzy TRed the line with a few falls. A curious fact that I learned after returning to San Diego was that John Bachar had down climbed this route after soloing a nearby 12b. Clearly my endurance needs to improve a lot since I was fully pumped when I reached the anchor.

Next on the list was a stop at the Faulty Towers, an area I had checked out on my previous visit. While the technical Crybaby ,12c, called my name I needed to work more on endurance and racked up for LalaLand 11c. This steep jug haul was 35 meters long and had 12 bolts, exactly what I needed to work on. Many weeks prior I had pumped off the onsight of the first Pitch of the Imaginator, 11c,  when my endurance failed me. I was hoping to improve by onsighting this climb. An easy crack led off the ground protected by 2 bolts in 30 feet. If you are worried about falling it would be beneficial to have some finger size gear. A long easy slab got me warmed up for the business but at the second hard section I faltered. Instead of committing to a small hold I tried to figure out a better sequence. I spent way too many minutes trying to work something out and the pump got the better of me. I conserved energy and fell my way to the top. The last section was committing and technical and would have been hard to onsight. After a rest I fired the route second go bringing some longer draws to eliminate some rope drag on this monster pitch.

Lizzy took over the sharp end and we moved to the Great Wall of China. This sprawling wall is home to jugs and easy routes. They have a few four and five star 30 meter 5.9’s and easy 5.10’s. I wanted Lizzy to get some mileage on lead so she ran up one of the 5.9’s onsighting it easily despite the greasy holds and now hot sun. It had be perfect in the shade all day thus far and you just had to wear a jacket when belaying. The heat had us taking our shirts off and wishing the sun would go down. We moved to the shade and I climbed a supposedly five star 10b at the Solarium. The description mentioned pockets and I thought of the sweet 10d we had done in the morning. After a low bolt there was a 30 foot runout on 4th class ledges, if you fell before clipping the second bolt you would hit the ground for sure.

The first section of real climbing was interesting and as the holds disappeared you had to make your way around the arête. The sun was directily in my eyes so I rested on a jug and waited for it to dip below the horizon. A few minutes later, with a bit less glare, I pulled around the arête to be confronted by a bolt and an anchor a few feet higher. I stupidly clipped the bolt and continued up the arête. This bolt was for another route and gave me horrible rope drag for the last crux section. I was tired and the last part was super exposed. I was mentally fried and I had to fight hard to make it through the last slab moves to the anchor. Lizzy followed the climb clean and after I lowered her  I rapped off. We did one more 5.9 on the great wall of china and headed out.

One of the great things about climbing in and around Bishop is that the town is very accessible. For hotel types there are all scales of accommodations and all necessities can be found within a short drive of the climbing. Thus we made the short drive into town and had pizza and a stromboli at the Upper Crust. Between slices of pizza we sorted out our last day and chose the Pub wall. Lots of quality routes and a short hike from the gulley decent. Eating out allowed us to get to bed early and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Lizzy and I at the end of the day! Fresh snow can been seen on the moutains in the background.

The next morning, shortly after parking, a car drove up with music blasting, a slight glimpse at the drive made me think … Bachar? I had never met the man but knew he was tall and rolled in Acopa shoes. While we couldn’t see this stranger’s face,  his Acopa shoes and matching shirt were good clues. Anxious to get climbing we hiked down the gulley and were the first ones at the Pub Wall. We were happy to have the routes to our selves since we had seen quite the crowd the previous day. Our first climb, Abitoffun, was a long 5.9 with 13 bolts. At just over 30 meters it was a blast and a great warm up. After we had both lead it we moved on to the neighboring Abitofrot 10a which, according to the guide book and a fellow who just showed up, was excellent. With only 6 bolts in a similar 20+ meters this was definitely run out. As we had previously found the bolts were in all the right places and you just had to beable to climb confidently on easy terrain with a bolt well below your feet. I offered Lizzy a TR, which she took, and the day was off to a good start. Unfortunely after finishing the route Lizzy informed me that she had managed to tweak her arm and needed to take a bit of a break.

While we were doing these two warm-ups the place had become crowded so we moved around the corner. One of the nice things about Owens is that almost all of the anchors have lower-off’s. Two or three large hooks adorn the top of the route to provide a quick return trip to the ground. The frustrating thing about this is that some people think its ok to Top Rope directly off these anchors. This is in excusable since with a sling and two biners or a pair of quick draws you can easily set up a good anchor.

After our break we did a nice 10c which had distinct cruxes and insecure moves it made me pay attention and felt hard for the grade. After doing this Lizzy wanted a longer break so I hopped on a pair of 11b’s Hammered and Hungover. Hungover started on crimpy vertical rock and continued up to a big ledge and then a roof. The crux was supposed to be pulling this roof but I found the thin moves a couple of bolts higher to be quite tricky. The redpoint crux is holding on at the end with your ever growing pump. I managed the onsight and felt a bit better after strugging to onsight the prior 10c. We broke for lunch and after a nice meal in the sun I got on Hammered. A tricky slab start yielded access to the large ledge that runs across the pub wall. As soon as you step off the ledge the wall kickes back through a series of roofs. The idea is to climb fast and efficiently since the steep jugs quickly sap your energy. The moves were long and it was a good mental challenge to constantly be committing to these moves. In no time I was at the top to finish off my 4th onsight of a five star 11b.

Sometime during or after my climb of Hammered the tall fellow with the Acopa shirt turned up at the Pub Wall. It turned out to be Bachar and he was there to shoot some photos. After having a camera man lead a near by 5.7 John had to wait for a few other climbers to finish on Abitoffun. To Lizzy and my surprise the couple did a few more top rope laps before turing the route over to Mr. Bachar. On our hike out lizzy and I speculated that they must not of known who this guy was since we both would have been too intimidated to keep TRing a 5.9 in front of a legend. John causally soloed Abitofrot and then traversed over and finished on Abitoffun. It was cool to see him in such control and casually talking to the photog about lighting and position. It will be interesting to see if the photos turn up in an Acopa ad in the future.

Lizzy and I finished our day on Hardly Wallbanger a steep crack that had originaly been climbed onsight on gear but had since been bolted. Since this was one of the most popular 10c’s in the gorge it was a bit polished and heavly chalked. It was very fun and I managed to arrive at the anchors only slightly pumped. This was a great last climb for our trip and Lizzy even hopped on it to bid farewell to the gorge. I would certainly like to come back and try some of the harder routes in the future. Our experience showed us how varied the rock can be which encourages us to explore a bit more of the gorge. Over the course of the weekend I climbed over 550 meters of routes, which is over 1600 feet,  up to 11c. I managed to onsight four 11b’s all that had five stars. Lizzy climbed over 400 meters of routes and had an impressive TR flash of an 11c. Hopefully this will give us a good base level to improve on in the following weeks.



The Vampire and Insomina, remembering the past.

7 10 2008

Who am I? What makes me a climber? What does being a climber mean to me?

Climbing is a large part of my life and it impacts my actions, my thoughts and my dreams.  Beyond the flow of movement over rock I am intrigued by the history of this sport. The characters of previous generations paved the way and established the routes that are popular today. Along with this history comes a certain weigh of the past, a necessity to live up to expectations. As climbing has progressed we have continually redefined what is hard, what is possible and what is for the next generation. In this mess of routes, grades and ideas I ponder where I stand. What are my skills and why does any of this matter?

Tahquitz and Suicide rocks were the stomping grounds of the Stone Masters. Old school masters such as John Long, Rick Accomazzo and Mike Graham cut their teeth freeing aid lines and establishing new routes. This place has a bold aura and requires a competent lead head, slab climbing skills and refined jamming technique.

Two weeks ago Lizzy and I made our way to Idyllwild to get our dose of SoCal granite. The summer was ending and the fall trad climbing season was soon to be upon us. The end of September boasts excellent weather at the slightly alpine Tahquitz and Suicide rocks. A strong summer season sport climbing gave me a bit of an incentive to start working on ticking some harder trad routes. High on my list were The Vampire and Insomnia Crack.

Years ago, on my first trip to Idyllwild, I had tried to top rope Insomnia. At the time, laybacking through the thin hands crux, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. Pasting my feet and keeping a tight core to prevent from barn-dooring I barely managed to fall my way up the route. The striking crack still lingered in my mind yet 5.11 no longer seemed so impossible.

The Vampire brought a different vision to my mind. I had only heard stories and read about this classic route. Three amazing pitches each with a tricky yet unique crux. With much encouragement from the San Diego Crew I thought I might be ready.  I had a lot of anticipation about trying to onsight this route and worked extra hard at the gym to be ready.

Saturday morning turned out beautifully and Lizzy and I were the first ones to the base of the route. We were familiar with the West Face Bulge after our previous visit to climb Super Pooper. I climbed the easy pitch to the base of the direct start and Lizzy followed up with the pack. The first pitch, called the bat crack, has the most straight in jamming on the route and is a test of endurance. I brought a good number of cams for the 40 meter pitch but ended up wanting different sizes. After getting pumped through the start of the pitch you get rewarded with 20 feet of perfect hands (#2 camalot) before a tricky move at a piton. Next comes a nice rest followed by another hard section getting past a bolt. Unsure of the sequence I up climbed and down climbed this part a few times before committing to a high foot. I was even able to get a sweet knee bar rest between my attempts.  After passing the bolt you climb up on jugs and ledges an place a high piece (#3 camalot). You then traverse left to a set of good holds and mantle up to the anchor. I found the mantle to be quite difficult and am sure that I used the wrong sequence. Fortunately I made it and belayed Lizzy up.

The second pitch starts immediately with the crux and eases up with fun climbing on bomber flakes. After many false starts I finally committed to the dime edges, got my foot way left reached the flake and made my way to the jug.  I was happy to have the second pitch of the route in the bag and I was able to enjoyed the exposure on the rest of the pitch. Lizzy followed this pitch brilliantly making the traverse without fallingwhich helped lift her spirits after the pumpy first pitch.

The third pitch remained and had foiled many suitors onsight attempts. One of my friends had taken quite the whipper when a cam poped after he made it over the bulge. Of all the pitches I knew the least about this one. I had heard of a reach to a seam and a bad foot hold but I had no idea of a proper sequence. After leaving the belay you romp up these beautiful flakes, clip a bolt, and then traverse right over a bulge. I made my way up the flakes quickly and started examining the features. I saw the seam but could not discern any feet below it. Fortunately there was a good stance to the left of the crux and I stayed their a while checking out my options. I finally found a few foot holds and was able to establish my left hand in the seam. Next I blindly groped around with my right hand for any small feature that would allow me to get my feet up higher. Luckily I found a small crimp, smeared my feet up and made the crux reach into the next pod in the seam.

The lock I found was bomber and I quickly moved my feet up and made the next few moves. There was a random nut lying ON the crack that I quickly moved to my chalk bag. Out came the RP’s and I slotted a bomber #3 in the tiny crack. A few more moves and I was at the undercling!!! I had made the onsight and only 5.9 climbing remained! I kept moving up caucious not to make any wrong moves and linked the 3rd into the 4th pitch. The final moves up the overhang were amazing with jugs appearing just where you needed them.  Reaching the top I set up the belay and yelled for Lizzy to climb.  At 5′ 5″ Lizzy was a bit short to make the reach into the seam. However once she established herself with the nylon jug she was able to crank the crux move and followed the rest of the pitch clean.

We rapped off with a 70m rope and made our way back to town. We celebrated with a loaf of the local Blueberry Streusel bread, a delicious pastry that we had discovered on our last visit. Tired from the full day we went to bed early so we rise early for a day at Suicide.

Lizzy swears I always take pictures of her putting her shoes on.  I must have mis-timed this shot.

Sunday was another gorgeous day with clouds that gave us the occasional shade. The Weeping Wall was our first stop and Lizzy led up Serpentine. This old school slab test-piece is quite heady and technical. Small holds, smears and widely space bolts all packed in to a 5.9 rating. I had lead this climb as my intro to slab climbing 4 years prior and the goal was for Lizzy to do the same. A month off climbing didn’t help with Lizzy’s lead head so I lead the crux 2nd pitch. The ten to fifteen foot run out after the 2nd bolt on the crux section and was a bit beyond what Lizzy wanted to climb. I still managed to get off route and almost slipped traversing back to the anchor. Lizzy lead the last pitch brilliantly and we made our way down to have lunch.

Lizzy scoping the best way to run it out on pitch 1.

After eating we traversed across the top of the buttress of cracks and set up a top rope on Insomnia. A short rope helped extend the anchor over the lip and I put some directionals in on the way down. The climb has three sections. The first is a “5.9” chimney that goes for about 40 feet and ends with a bit of face climbing. This part is very insecure before you can get a stem off some face holds. Once out of the chimney and onto the face you have two options, start laybacking or get into the crack. Some opt for a combination of the two to get though the crux section.

While I had previously laybacked this part I couldn’t get myself to commit to the slick feet. Instead I jammed my way through the very tight hands (#.75 camalot) and made my way to the ok rest before the final crack. This last section of thin hands slants to the left making it quite pumpy. After a few insecure #1 camalot jams the crack opens up a bit and you get a good face foot. From here you do a few more moves and get a huge jug. A bit of traversing and easy climbing leads to the top.

After doing the crux section clean on TR we decided to head home. We were pretty trashed and I did not have enough steam to give it a go on lead. Hopefully we be back this Friday so I can lead it and get the redpoint. It is some pretty thin jamming at the crux but as long as I relax it will be fine. The gear is bomber and the fall is clean so it will be safe.