Good News!

27 01 2009

This morning I awoke to a very exciting message in my email inbox – my first grad school acceptance! Long story short, I’ve been accepted into the Geology Department at UT Austin and I’m planning on visiting Austin in February to check out the town, the people, and the geology department. I’m excited and relieved to be into at least one school, especially since I had pared down my choices to only 3 schools that I felt would work well for me in terms of science and location.

Any words of wisdom about Austin while I wait to hear back from my two other schools?

~Lizzy

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Sweet Gear: A General Rope Review

22 01 2009

Back in 2001 I bought my first rope a Mammut Tusk at 10mm 50 meter. I had been climbing on partners ropes for the previous year or so and it was time for my own rope. It’s main purpose was short sport climbing so I didn’t mind the 50m length. This rope has aged well and I still use it for occasional top roping or anchor duty. It is a bit fuzzy after almost 8 years of use but I have managed not to get any core shots. Since pitches keep getting longer I doubt I would ever buy a 50 meter rope again.

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Practicing the Portuguese Bowline on Sickle Ledge on The Nose with the Mammut Tusk

My next rope was a Maxim Whippet bought the first year of college at REI. It was the only 70m rope they were selling at the time and it was on sale!! This rope made its way to Australia where I sold it to fund a bouldering trip to New Zealand. During its two years of use it was my main rope, lighter than the Tusk and a joy to use.  It was my first skinny rope, 9.5 mm, even though it was supposedly a bit heavier than average. It wore well and I would have kept it except I was able to sell it for close to what I payed for it and didn’t have to carry it home to the US.

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Lizzy having fun during our short stay on El Capitan

Upon my return I purchased a 60m Mammut Infinity 9.5mm . This rope has been awesome and quite durable. While it is marketed as 9.5 it feels fairly thick and definitely fuzzed up a bit over the years, so it doesn’t feed super fast in a Gri-Gri. Regardless, I enjoy the clipping action and even though we had to cut the ends off, making it only about 155 feet,  I still like using it.  So far this is my favorite rope and at some point I will likely get a new one of the 70 meter variety. It is light enough for a hard redpoint but still durable to last on day of projecting.

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The end of a fun day in Squamish with the Infinity.

Around the same time I got the Infinity I picked up a pair of Beal Verdon II double ropes. At 9mm and 60 meters they were perfect for taking multiple followers on trips to the Gunks. These are a bit heavy for doubles but have worked well during their limited use. Lizzy and I used only one of these ropes as a superlight way to simul Royal Arches and Cathedral Peak. The use as a fast and light single as well as a lighter rap line adds value to these two ropes. I would not purchase such a thick set of doubles again but would consier the Beal Ice Line 8.1 mm orthe Petzl Dragonfly 8.2 mm.  I have used my friend Hartley’s Ice Lines and they are quite thin and light, though not as durable as our current doubles.

n3802675_31410505_8253Coiling the doubles on Solar Slab in Red Rocks.

Also in 2006 I got a Beal 8mm by 60m static trail line that I use for rappeling.  Initially purchased for aid climbing I worried about its long term durability. This rope was super light (40 g per meter) and went up many multipitches before it got stuck on Cloud Tower (Red Rocks)  in October of 2008. It was the perfect small rope for stashing in the pack for when one needed to do double rope rappels.

yosemite-june-07-252Lizzy is ready with the Beal Verdon II after a fun trip up Cathedral Peak.

Also in college I got another Mammut Tusk this time in a 60m length. We found this rope at the RRG and after multiple postings at Miguels it came home with me. Wary of a used rope this has been relegated to TR and Aid climbing duty.  It has seen use and spends most of its life in our rope box.

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Enjoying the 70m Petzl Fuse at Suicide Rock.

After graduating college I was anxious to get a 70meter rope again and bought the 9.4 mm Petzl Fuse. This rope was excellent until it got a core shot in the middle while descending the Incredible Hulk. We got super lucky because while we were unable to retrieve the cord, we ran into another party who hiked it down and I was able to pick it up at the Bridgeport ranger station. Fortunately I was able to salvage the pieces of the Petzl rope and kept the two parts since the rope was  still fairly new. I use the shorter section for a lead rope at the gym and the ~35 meter piece is perfect for short sport climbs such as our recent trip the Gallery in Red Rocks.

One of my ropes came to me by chance when I won a Sterling Marathon Pro 10.2 Bi-Color 60meter rope. This is the thickest rope I own and it shows. It however has been a great workhorse and accompanied me on my first 12c redpoint. Lizzy doesn’t like this rope at all and with a dry coating it is quite dirty but it has worn well despite constant use as a TR rope. It feeds ok through the Gri-Gri, mainly due to its slick dry coated sheath which is slowly becoming fuzzy. I wouldn’t buy such a thick rope but it impressed me enough with Sterling to buy one of their thinner ropes.

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The already fuzzy BlueWater static line with the frog we found on El Capitan.

After chopping the Petzl rope in half I was again in need of a 70m rope. I purchased a Sterling Ion at 9.5 mm and have only used it a few times. The main disappointment was the lacking middle mark. However it runs smoothly and clips well. It is quite small and feeds fast through the Gri-Gri. You have to be a bit careful lowering which is similar to the Petzl Fuze. Once this rope gets a few more pitches I will report back on it’s durability.

We also own a Bluewater static haul line that I bought for a trip to Yosemite. During the short time on the Nose, we bailed from Sickle, it showed alarming wear. As well the rope was super stiff and did not handle well. This along with some experiences with Bucknell Climbing Club ropes in college, makes me stay away from Blue Water.

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Lizzy and Rebecca and a pretty pink Beal rope at Rumney

Lizzy has a pink 60m  Beal Flyer II which is 10.2 but feels really skinny, more like a 9.8.  Lizzy loves it for its soft catch, even though I think it is too stretchy. It handles well but kinks easily due to it’s supple nature. She has had it for many years and I am anxious to turn it into a RUG…

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The well loved Edelrid LiveWire

Lizzy also has an  Edelrid Livewire. 70 meter 9.8. This rope has been our long route work horse and has taken a lot of abuse since Lizzy bought it back in 2006. Despite being fairly cheap at REI this rope has held out really well and cleaned up nicely after we washed it. It is still the go to rope for the 100+ foot pitches at the Riverside Quarry. Between this rope and a 10mm Edelrid of Leah’s (I think its a Hawk) that I used I have respect for the durability and handling of the brand. Even though it is getting old I hope that we won’t have to retire it any time soon.

Overall I think my ranking is as follows:  (Top being the best, in my opinion)

Mammut – Clips well and last a long time.
Petzl – A bit on the stiff side but handles and wears well.
Sterling –  Soft and a bit kinky but durable.
Edelrid – Feeds and clips well and stands up to abuse.
Maxim – Heavier than average but clips well.
Beal – Too stretchy and seems to fuzz easily.
PMI – A bit slippery but clips well.
BlueWater – Heavy and not very durable.

Cheers,

Luke





Sweet Gear: Coming Soon!

21 01 2009

Between holiday gifts and sales, I realized I have a ton of new gear to test out in the next couple months. A lot of it is relatively new, so keep an eye out for some upcoming reviews if you’re considering any of these items:

Mountain Hardwear Women’s Cloud Rest 5° Sleeping Bag – this is my new down sleeping bag. It’s not warmer than my older sleeping bag, but it is much lighter and is actually the right size.

Mountain Hardwear Cima Mitt – I needed some mittens for cold days climbing and snowboarding. These have some really good features and some not-so-good features. Stay tuned for more info.

Patagonia DAS Parka – This is my new warm jacket. Not that I’m getting rid of my down jacket, but this is way better. It’s built to be a belay jacket and the hood keeps my head warm. 🙂

Arc’teryx R280 Women’s Harness – Luke got me this sweet new harness for Christmas. All I can tell you so far is that I definitely forgot that I was wearing it.

La Sportiva Miura VS – I think Miuras are probably the best all around climbing shoe there is. I was very excited to try these tweaked Miuras, but due to my lame chest injury (which is still not better) I haven’t gotten to use them too much yet.

Camp USA Women’s Armour Helmet – Just got this on sale (screaming deal) at REI. My old helmet was not the most comfortable, so we’ll see how this one works out.

PMI 9.7mm Arete 60m Standard Rope – this rope was recently on sale at REI. I haven’t had a non-dry rope in a while and my beloved pink rope is probably nearing retirement age.

Also look for a couple of reviews from Luke pretty soon. If you are interested in any of the items and want to know about them (or tell me about them) feel free to comment.

Lizzy





Winter… in Red Rocks!

15 01 2009

This past weekend the weather was perfect and we had an amazing couple of days in Red Rocks. There were a staggering eight of the San Diego crew out at the Gallery on Saturday so Lizzy and I were able to take a bunch of Photos. Sunday Lizzy and I opted for some solitude and had a fun time at the Stone wall. While the rock is a bit soft the routes are longer and we enjoyed being alone while we were there.

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Sonia on the super crimpy Minstral in the Gallery. 

 

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Felix starting across the Sissy Traverse

 

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Konstantine on Where the Down Boys Go

 

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Felix making good progress on his project, the Sissy Traverse

 

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Konstantine high up on Where The Down Boys Go

 

red-rocks-jan-09-060Leah on the opening moves of Nothing Shocking

 

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Leah making progress on Nothing Shocking

 

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Sonia on Fear and Loathing

 

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Sonia gets ready for some hard clips on Fear and Loathing

 

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Luke on the beginning moves of Fear and Loathing

 

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Luke working through the left variation of the crux of Fear and Loathing

 

Enjoy,

Luke

 

 





Setbacks and Optimism

14 01 2009

It’s now been twelve days since I injured my chest from coughing. It still hurts. Despite the advice of the campus nurse (although her advice wasn’t that great – she recommended elevating and compressing my chest muscle – what?!?!) I decided to try exercising through my injury last week. This involved jogging slowly for 2.5 miles on Thursday and climbing some easy routes (5.9-10c) in Red Rocks over the weekend. The result was a dramatic increase in pain.

Thanks to Wikipedia, check out the intercostal muscles.

I guess I’ve learned my lesson. It’s so hard to not be able to run or climb, what with two really awesome and motivating trips in the next 6 months (Indian Creek in March and Smith Rock + Squamish in June/July).

However, I’ve been slowly discovering things I can do that don’t aggravate my injury. For example, I can work out individual muscles in the weight room on campus because isolating a particular muscle means my intercostal muscles don’t get used. I think (although I haven’t tried) that I can ride my bike, although not aggressively, and I’m planning on starting to swim (again, not aggressively) next week.

My goal is to really get back into climbing and training a lot, in addition to starting to run again because I have some big plans for the next month. Despite not having a tick list for myself for 2009, I must admit that I have at least two routes that I really want to do this year. They are both at Smith Rock, and one is kind of the warm-up for the other.

The first route is Pure Palm (5.11a), a gorgeous stemming route in the basalt gorge at Smith. I climbed this route 5 or 6 years ago and was SO impressed by the line and the movement. It’s not the only awesome 5.11ish route I hope to climb in the Gorge, but it represents a line I have admired for such a long time that I will be very excited to finally send it.

Thanks to MountainProject, Pure Palm 😀

But the real goal is an even more beautiful line. When I walked under the perfect dihedral the first time, I was instantly drawn to the line. Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d) is a stunning corner located near many classic hard lines of Smith (To Bolt or Not to Be, for example). It’s a thin crack in a gorgeous stemming corner – a trad line that requires a clear head, gear placement skills, and calves of steel (hence the running).

It would be a huge understatement to say that I’m really excited. 😀

Anyways, if anyone has had to deal with an intercostal strain before, I would love any suggestions, words of wisdom, etc.

Best,

Lizzy





Goals for 2009.

13 01 2009

2008 was a great year. I climbed in a bunch of new areas and gained a lot of endurance that allowed me to complete some of my previous goals. I didn’t get out to try any 5.12 multipitches but in retrospect I doubt I would have been ready. I was able to redpoint some hard routes at the sacrifice of onsighting.  The biggest thing I learned in 2008 was the power of projecting. Spending multiple days on a route is very effective even though it really tests ones mental resolve. Being faced with constant failure is tough but the reward at the end of the journey is sweet.  Doing any of the following climbs would be great and I am excited for all of the challenges of 2009!

Indian Creek:

Swedin Ringle 12-

Way Rambo 12-

Digital Readout 12

I tried all of these routes on our trip to IC last year. I was able to do all of  them clean on top rope and now have to get back and lead them. Hopefully I can stay fit until March when we plan on going back to the creek.

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Looking up at Swedin Ringle

Smith Rocks:

Chain Reaction 12c

Heinous Cling 12c

Darkness at Noon 13a

Churning in the Wake 13a

Monkey Space 11b

Growing up in Washington Lizzy and I have been to Smith quite a few times. Having broken into many grades at Smith I am excited to return and push my limits once again. It will be nice to finally climb some 5.12’s and try out some of the harder lines.

Joshua Tree:

Acid Crack 5.12d

Equinox 12c

I have written a lot about Equinox and how it has changed over the last two years.  Before we leave SoCal (possibly in September 09) , I hope to lead Equinox placing all the gear.  After seeing the a photo of HB, a super strong and friendly Aussie, I knew I wanted to try Acid Crack (The photo has recently been removed from mountain project… I’d love to find it!) Perhaps it will be the next step from Equinox!

John Bachar on the first lead of Acid Crack

(Photo by Randy Vogel, Linked from Supertopo Thread)

Tahquitz and Sucide Rocks:

Pirate 5.12c/d

Vahalla 11b

The Flakes 11c

Even though Idyllwild is so close we didn’t spend much time climbing there in 2008. I would like to spend a few more weekends and do a few more of the classic multipitches as well as The Pirate, seen below. This super thin climb involves more crimping and smearing ability than crack technique. Lizzy and I tried it once and found it to be quite fun. The first 40 feet are the crux and then it easies as you approch the top.

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The Pirate

Red Rock:

Gift 12d

Riverside Quarry:

Vertigo 13a

Kingpin 13a

Seduction 12d

Taboo 12+

I feel that the best way to stay strong for trad climbing is with a heavy regiment of bolt clipping. 2008 was full of trips to the Quarry as I learned to be come a Quarry master. This area, while far from picturesque, has numerous  hard routes and is quite close to both LA and San Diego. In addition to incidental trips to the Quarry, I would like to spend a bit of time clipping bolts in Red Rock. After trying The Gift this past weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bachar soloing the route. WOW! Hopefully I can get strong at the Quarry and then go back to Red Rocks for a redpoint.

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Bachar soloing The Gift

Bishop:

Morning Dove White V8

Checkerboard V8

The Hulk V6

Every Color You Are V6

Mr. Witty V6

Saigon V6

Lizzy and I don’t tend to go bouldering very often. However we have many friends that boulder and they give ample motivation to get out to Bishop. With an upcoming trip to Joe’s Valley and a mild winter in Bishop I feel that I may have a chance to climb some of the routes listed above.

Climb at least one of the following:

Original Route on Rainbow Wall – Red Rocks – 12 pitches – 12b

Romantic Warrior – Needles – 8 Pitches – 12b

Moonlight Buttress   – Zion – 10 Pitches – 12d

So many things need to fall into place to climb a long route at your limit. One needs the right weather, proper rest, a motivated partner and enough juice to last the whole day.  This year I upped the ante a bit with 5.11 trad multipitch onsights. While I know the above routes are beyond my limit, I am willing to just try and not worry about onsighting them.

2009 is bound to be a year of change. Hopefully I can stay uninjured and continue learning how to climb better both mentally and physically.

Cheers,

Luke

Images courtesy of MountainProject.com and Climbing.com

Sorry about the multiple posts. WordPress has been kicking my ass.





Bishop In the Snow

9 01 2009

Lizzy and I spent our New Years vacation in Bishop and Mammoth. After a series of winter storms we were worried about the weather in Saint George and the consequences of becoming a belay popsicle while sport climbing.  

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With plenty of jackets and the strong California sun we thought we could brave the weather in Bishop. To stay motivated we split the time by snowboarding  in Mammoth on our rest days from bouldering. We had many sunny days and our trip was stress free and fun. After visiting Bishop each of the last two months I am more psyched than ever on bouldering. 

After spending Christmas around the DC area we came back to San Diego on the 27th. Lizzy had managed to escaped a snow locked Seattle and we had a great Christmas with my Mom and family.  After repacking we headed up to a chilly night of camping on snow at the Pit in Bishop.

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Lizzy warming up on sweet jugs!

The cold night and snowy landscape had us overdressed for our first day at the Buttermilks.  While Christmas had been brutal with a mix of rain and snow the midday time temperatures were quite reasonable. A seemingly cold morning quickly warmed up and although I was brushing snow out of the occasional finishing jug, I was wearing a T-Shirt and Pants. 

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Starting up Flyboy (stand)

The friction was excellent and I was happy to do many problems on the Tut Boulder that I had stayed away from due to the heat on previous trips. The highlight of the day was trying Flyboy. I had heard much talk of this classic V6 but had yet to try the problem. Dynoing is far from my style and I was apprehensive about the dynamic last movie. I was able to latch the lip twice but did not believe enough to commit to the massive swing. 

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Luke reaches for the last crimp before the jump on Flyboy

Catching the snowy lip was very exciting and really pushed my mental limits. I look forward to going back, controlling my fear, and sending this this problem! We stopped by the Ironman Traverse for a little while before the sun fell behind the mountains. While there was still plenty of light the temperatures quickly started dropping and we were back in the car by 4pm. Plenty tired we spent the rest of the day looking at hotel rooms and got to bed early.

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About to fall off Flyboy.

The next morning we drove up to Mammoth and enjoyed a bluebird day. The sun was out and the snow was good. It was pretty warm at the bottom of the lifts but higher on the mountain it was colder.  It was my first time to Mammoth and my first time snowboarding in over three years. Lizzy had been to Mammoth around the same time two years previous. The day was fairly fall free and we got back in the groove of snowboarding. We met up with Dan Beall, from San Diego, who was up in Mammoth skiing with his family and girlfriend

We spent a very warm New Years Eve at the Happy boulders. I was able to finish up a few projects from previous trips and checked out some sweet new climbs. First I dispatched Rave, easy V7, from the sit start. On a previous trip I had done the stand but couldn’t hold onto the crimps of the start. The rest of the day Lizzy and alternated trying problems to stay fresh.  After she worked on Wavy Gravy, a crimpy and sharp V2, we moved on to The Gleaner V6. I had tried this problem breifly but hadn’t made it past the first two crimps. After attempting the  drop knee beta, I figured out that a toe hook was necessary for me. This allowed me to move staticly through the crux to gain a sharp deep pocket. Two tries with the toehook yielded a send and the day was going well.

I had never tried or seen the classic Serengetti V5 and had wanted to give it a good flash go. There weren’t any people near by but a few dudes stop by and I mooched some beta. I had a good first try and fell two moves below the jug. A different method on the 2nd go yielded the top and I was stoked to climb this classic problem so quickly. We moved from the sun into the cold shade of the rim. I was anxious to try Every Color You Are V6 . I had tried the problem a month prior on our pre-Thanksgiving trip and had gotten close to sending. After a few tries I stalled at at similar high point and vowed to return with more energy. We headed back towards the Hulk and after briefly trying Big Chicken, three-star V2, Lizzy was able to flash a fun V1 to the right of Solarium

My last objective of the day was to try out Redrum. This probe is hidden in a cave right next to the Hulk and follows a steep set of pinches to a much easier headwall. My energy was quite low and I no longer had the body tension for the moves. The holds were quite amazing and I am psyched to get back to it. 

New Years yielded perfect conditions at Mammoth and before noon the lines were super short. I think we managed more runs between 9am and 11am than we had in twice the time a few days previous. The afternoon was a bit crowded but we still had a bunch of fun. Our final day snowboarding was quite the different experience with wind, mixed ice/snow and low visibility. Because the mountain was so windy the upper lifts were closed concentrating the crowds on the lower areas. We stubbornly braved the conditions and the first few hours were quite good. 

On the morning of the 3rd we moved camp back to the Pit and got ready for our final day of bouldering. As Lizzy mentioned she pulled a muscle while coughing and was unable to boulder on the last day. Being a trooper she still agreed to hike up to the Druid Stones since we had never been. The hike was long and icey up a steep hill but it was quite worthwhile. There were no other climbers, aside from a guy hiking around with a guide book. In an effort to keep the day short I did not bring a pad but still brought my shoes. This turned worth while as the area was quite beautiful and the problems interesting. Inspired by a photo of Tiffany Cambell in the guide book, who evidently developed some of  problems in the area, I hopped on The Greatest Imperfection. This V6 looked pretty fun and the crux was close to the ground. I was able to work out the moves with a series of knee bars to a final dead point. After sticking this sequence I jumped off to err on the side of safety. While patina jugs lead to the top the final moves were a grovely series of slopers. The guidebook warned of these awkward and scary moves and I did not want to risk it.

We moved on to the Thunder Wall where I quickly worked through the moves of the classic ThunderV3  and Kredulf V4. It will be fun to go back with a pad and top out these problems! Prostrate to the Higher Mind, a short V5 lies on the right side of the wall on much different holds than the main patina covered face. Small sharp crimps stick out of the steep wall. This problem finished on jugs and after a few tries I was able to top it out. For a non climbing day I was doing well! The harder lines on this boulder warranted padding so I only fooled around for a short while before moving on to the Skye Stone. 

The Skye Stone was another amazing piece of rock and our final stop so we didn’t spend too much time on these tall problems. The routes all look spectacular and have a nice position overlooking Bishop. Despite the long hike it was well worth it. The setting and solitude alone make it a worthy detour from the more popular areas of Bishop. If all goes well Lizzy and I will return one of the next few weekends with pads and I will get to complete some of these classic problems.

Our six days in the Sierras left me yearning for more climbing. The snowboarding was fun and a good distraction but no where near as cool as playing on the amazing holds of Bishop. The bouldering is like no other granite I have climbed on. There are so many more crimps and features that allow for spectacular movement on boulders in a spectacular setting.

Happy New Year,

Luke