Technical Trickery, A Pine Creek Photo Essay

26 08 2009

I like granite and I like bolts so this past weekend at Pine Creek was a blast. We clipped a ton of bolts on the long well protected routes of the Mustache and Ministry walls before heading to Gotham City at the Owens River Gorge for the final half-day.

The following photo from was the first time I saw or heard  anything about Pine Creek.  I had either just moved to California or was in the process of doing so and was psyched to see a pretty shot of a “local” area  and it stuck in my mind. During my two years here I have met the climber, Leah, who you have perhaps seen photos of in earlier blogs, the photographer, her husband, and the route developer Louie Andersen.  All of these things secured Pine Creek, in my head, as a possible destination.

Leah on Atomic Gecko (photo by Andre via

I read Pine Creek was great in the late summer,  since the walls go into the shade at 10,  and ended up getting some useful beta from friends, John and Shannon prior to our trip. Lizzy and I drove up from Pasadena to meet our friends Jamie and Nikki from Santa Barbara who had arrived the night before.

The weekend was great and I focused on onsighting routes and trying hard. My determination was rewarded with a 5.12 onsight which confirms that my fitness is returning. My other highlight of the weekend was climbing The Megaplex, a sustained three pitch 5.11c. Each pitch had a memorable section and I happily onsighted the 1st and 3rd, with my friend Jamie onsighting the 2nd. It was very cool to do a team free ascent since neither of us fell on our way to the top.

Jamie and I ended the second day with back to back ascents of Flamethrower which featured a techy slab up to a crazy steep roof, very wild for granite. Earlier in the day Lizzy had redpointed Window Shopper for her 6th 11c!  It was very cool to have everyone in the party send this climb and both of the ladies really did well with the technical crimping.

I found the routes on the Mustache wall to be very fun and the granite was nice and sticky. The two routes we did on the Ministry Wall were totally different than the Mustache wall and the hold and rock type dictated a different set of moves. I thought Never Believe was an awful warm-up and  just wasn’t very fun.  Burning Inside, on the other hand, was quite excellent  and featured very cool movement on a variety of holds that always seemed to face the wrong direction.

Enjoy the photos!

– Luke

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Jamie takes a warm-up lap on The Becky Route, 10a

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Jamie figuring out the no hands standup sequence on a fun 11a, Mr. Ridiculous

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Jamie figures out a technical sequence on Window Shopper

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Lizzy starting up Window Shopper on her 1st lead go.

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Lizzy works her way though small crimps and tricky foot sequences.

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Lizzy pulls through one of several fun mantles on the upper part of Window Shopper.

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Nicole on the way to her first 5.11 redpoint!

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Nicole tries not to get too excited about crushing small crimps.


Luke on his way to to a 12a onsight!


Luke manages not to fall off the crux of Stone Cold Fusion.

Day 2:


Lizzy starts up Never Believe the on the Ministry wall.


Jamie enjoying his flash of Burning Inside at the Ministry Wall.


Jamie sets off on the second pitch of The Megaplex

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Jamie works his way up the fun slab of Flame Thrower


Luke checks out the intimidating roof on Flame Thrower.


Luke pulls the lip on his onsight of Flame Thrower.


Videos Come to Dreaminvertical!

21 04 2009

Hey people,

Our friend Ben requested that we get some more videos on the blog. Although sometimes we struggle to even get photos if it’s just the two of us, it’s not too hard to do video while bouldering. Excuse the non-professional quality of the videos – these are just from my sweet little point-and-shoot Canon. Also, Luke is the awesome cameraman for both videos 🙂

This first video is from a short little V0 at Big Bend, UT. I saw some tall dude just reach the start hold from the ground, but it took me several tries to latch that start hold like I do here. Enjoy:

And this one is me taking a casual lap on one of my favorite boulder problems in Bishop. It’s not too scary for me anymore, but I still like to do it to warm up my mental space a little.

Ok, hopefully we’ll get a few more vids from Joe’s!

Spring Bouldering In Bishop

20 04 2009

We had planned on a Limestone excursion to Saint George but the weather gods decided that was not in the cards. After some searching on we thought Bishop would be a workable alternative. Bouldering is a good way for us to have a relaxing weekend with the hassle of ropes and Bishop is fairly close to Pasadena.  It was a rainy Friday (last week)  in both LA and San Diego and our drive up towards the sierras was much the same.  When it wasn’t raining on the 395 we could at see the clouds dumping snow in the mountains in the distance on either side of the road. The rain lessened as we approached the town of Bishop and when we pulled into the Pit, a local campground, the ground was completely dry.  

By chance on the drive up I had called Jamie and he was headed up to Bishop that night with two friends, Daniel and Megan, from Santa Barbara. We reserved them a site and were happy to share breakfast the following morning after their midnight arrival.  Jamie and crew spent Saturday at Dale’s Camp and the Buttermilks and we went to the Sads. Lizzy prefers Volcanic Tablelands and wanted to work on one of her projects from last trip, Sad Parrot. My fingers are still not in top shape so I focused on flashing easier problems and climbing on slopers. We were quite successful on Saturday since Lizzy sent her project and I flashed my first V5 and did another in three tries.  Daniel took a bad fall off Evilution and hurt his ankle so Jamie and Megan decided to join us on Sunday at the Happies. This left Daniel to spend Easter morning at the local Casino before the SB crew returned home.

Sunday started for me with a Flash of the super fun Slap Happy and Pirate Booty. Slap Happy is very simple and has fun moves on large slopers that requires commitment and body tension. Lizzy worked on Mr. Witty and Jamie and I both sent Will’s Arete, which I had tried on a previous trip.  Jamie sent first and I had a surprise send when I took Jamie’s advice and really pushed with my feet to stick the crux throw.  This problem is meaningful for me since I tried it on my first trip to Bishop in November of 2007 and it seemed impossible despite being V5. I appreciate each piece of progression as I am able to work through my weaknesses.

Lizzy ran a few laps on, Heavenly Path, and Megan, despite being fairly new to climbing, topped out this heady highball. Near the end of the day I got on my other main project, Every Color You Are V6. On the last three trips I had fallen off the second to last move before finally seeing an essential bit of beta. I had yet to try the  high right heel hook, but was convinced since I had seen it work. I fell off a few times trying to figure out how to throw up my heel before some other climbers stopped by. A strong dude from Portland sent Every Color first try using the heel hook and I was impressed.  On my next try I got up to the second to last hold and unable to figure out the proper technique threw my lower body to the right. My feet cut, legs making a big arc and all of a sudden my heel was in the right place! I bumped up my left hand, like I had just seen, but stalled not knowing if I should go left or right to the final jug. I was barely holding on using both hands and my spotters were encouraging me loudly to go for it, but how! I bumped my right hand and my fingers wrapped around the elusive jug. I was ecstatic but shaking from the extended effort and carefully moved my feet up through the final easy moves to top out! Sunday was one of my best climbing days in months with my fingers fairly pain free and  two projects sent. I carried my excitement and cooled down on a few more climbs before heading to The Loony Bean for a celebratory Chai.

It seems this will be our last trip to Bishop for the season and I was happy to put a few of my projects to rest. Next season I hope to recover my crimp strength and get on Los Locs and The Checkerboard which have been in my mind for the last year or so.  Lizzy has been doing awesome bouldering and is working her way up through the grades. She even has a few projects and is excited to get back on Mr. Witty and Action Figure.

Enjoy the photos!

– Luke


Lizzy sizes up the shady warmup.



Lizzy makes the warmup look good!



Lizzy works out some sweet mantel beta for a fun problem on the Reward and Treason Boulders. 



Lizzy enjoyes the stress free bouldering lifestyle.



Using Lizzy’s beta Luke flashes the  Space Suit.



Luke plays around on an fun unknown problem.



Lizzy sizes up the next move to the small chalked gaston on Sad Parrot



The crux finger pocket of Sad Parrot



Luke starts up Pirate Booty



Jamie makes quick work of Pirate Booty



Luke gets ready to throw for a sloper on Slap Happy. 



Lizzy pulls off the ground on Mr. Witty


bishop-april-09-146Lizzy pushes left into the tricky rockover start of Mr. Witty



Megan works her way up the fun V1 right of Solarium



Jamie figures out some beta for Solarium


bishop-april-09-176Jamie tops out the sandbagged Solarium



Cause for Celebration

15 04 2009

Things have seemed so busy recently… I think I may not have written anything on the blog since just after Indian Creek, which is probably a month ago at this point. I will hopefully have time to catch up on my backlog of activities, but here are the highlights:

I went to Hawaii with other graduating seniors and grad students during my official spring break. It was sweet to learn a bit about igneous rocks in the field – my classes tend to be heavy on theory and light on hands-on experience. Sadly, it rained almost the entire time we were there. I had been looking forward to some nice Hawaiian sun.


sunrise on the coast


a tongue of fresh (less than a day old – still warm!) lava


pretty orange flower in the botanical garden

The day after we came back, I went to JTree with Luke, Julie and Josh. I caught up on my suntanning that I’d missed out on in Hawaii while everyone climbed at Hemingway, then put my saved energy to good use on Gunsmoke in the afternoon. I made my furthest link yet and pumped out in the corner because I hadn’t gone over my complicated beta beforehand. Then I was just too tired and flash pumped to recover. Maybe next time. But it felt great! The “real” crux is way easier than my short person crux!

Then, I visited Stanford. I had a great time, loved the group that I would be working with and the research I would be doing, and was excited about the Palo Alto weather, which I think I would like better than Pasadena. After stressing out for 5 days, I got the good news that I was accepted to the PhD program in the Geology Department! I’ve officially accepted the offer now, so Luke and I will be headed up to Palo Alto for the fall! We’re really excited!

And last weekend, we went to Bishop. I had my best day of bouldering ever on Saturday, sending two V3s (my 2nd and 3rd ever) and flashing a V2. One of the V3s was steep and juggy, definitely not my style, so it was cool to have sent it anyways. The other one was a problem I’d tried and loved before – Sad Parrot. I’d figured out the crux beta before and this time I had the strength to pull the move. So I guess I’m somehow bouldering stronger than I ever have before, which bodes well for our upcoming Joe’s Valley trip. But I’m also hoping I can combine this newly found power with more endurance for the ultimate goal – Smith and Squamish in June/July.


I was stoked to be strong enough to pull off this micro pocket this time 🙂

I’m also attempting to train for a 22k trail race in Malibu on May 9th. I decided this could be a good substitute birthday challenge (1k for each year plus one bonus) and I’m hoping just to actually finish, run a good amount of uphill sections, and feel better than I did on the Montana de Oro 8k.

So now I’m busy finishing up my LAST TERM EVER at Caltech. Its crunch time now for writing my thesis, so I’m spending a lot of time working on my research (and loving it, which seems like a good sign for grad school).

Bishop, Bishop, Bishop!

10 02 2009

So far 2009 has been a bit ripe with injury. First Lizzy pulled a muscle in her chest and then about a month ago at the gym I heard the dreaded POP in my left pinky. I took some time off, got a new pair of running shoes and kicked into running mode.  Two weeks later my new shoes were causing me foot pain but luckily I was able to return them and ended up with a fancy pair of Adidas.

Running has been going well and Lizzy and I will be competing in the Montana de Oro trail race this weekend. The timing of this race is good since when we went to Bishop two weeks back I made my finger problem first. On the third day I started off with a quick send of The Clapper V5/6 without tape on my left pinky. I felt no pain and had simply forgot to splint the finger to prevent movement. So far all was going well!

Inspired by some comments by the Narc about traverses at the Happies, Lizzy and I went over to check out Sabers of Paradise. There are three tricky traverses on the west rim, Hand to Hand Combat V7, Sabers of Paradise V7+ and Less Poetry Please V8. Previously I had done Hand to Hand going Left to Right which is a bit easier than the reverse and was excited to work on the other two.

Sabers of Paradise starts with a sweet roof with heel toe cams and progresses through thin pockets to a bunch of jug hauling to a final tricky crux. After working through the start I wanted to try the first crux, a powerful three or four move sequence. With a good right hand pocket and way undercut feet you reach left to a shallow pocket, move your feet, bump to a deeper two finger pocket and then cross right hand over to a deep pocket. When I attempted the cross I got a jolt of pain in my hand when I failed to stick the move.

I immediately rested and was worried that I had blown another tendon pulley. I felt all the parts of ring and middle finger but could not find any specific pain. I relaxed for a while and then X taped my fingers. I didn’t want to try the crux again but thought it could be beneficial to work the juggy section. After a while I figured out the moves and we left so Lizzy could climb elsewhere.

Less Poetry Please links up a V6 pocket traverse into the tricky Wills Arete V5. After figuring out the sequences for the initial traverse I spent some time playing around on the Arete without much luck. The crux is a blind throw to a fairly good hold followed by a highball topout. I was getting the setup correctly but couldn’t quite make the reach. Hopefully when I return I can climb both of the sections and work on the link.

Lizzy sent a few hard problems as noted in her blog and Julie had fun exploring the table lands. The weekend was a blast and the first two days at the Buttermilks were quite good. My inability to crimp hard with my left hand was a handicap but I still managed to do the right exit variation of Go Granny Go.  For a photo check out the Julie’s blog for a great Trip Report. Despite only sending two problems I had a great time exploring Bishop and supporting Lizzy. As always I enjoyed taking photos and we got to experiment with the bounce cards my mom got me for Xmas. I returned to San Diego with more pain in my left hand so I have been taking it easy. I will try to stay motivated and finish off a few blogs I have been working on for a while.

Enjoy the Photos,



Lizzy warms up at the Roadside Boulders.


Josh takes advantage of the morning shade to work on the Mandala.


Lizzy enjoying the super techy Pope’s Prow


Julie starts off the Pope’s Prow. (We all had to stack pads to get off the ground)


Luke tries to hold on to the south arete of the Green Wall boulder.


Julie works her way up the Sunshine Boulder.


Lizzy contemplates the first crux on the spicy Good Morning Sunshine


Luke makes due with the tiny crimps of Junior’s Achievement


Lizzy figuring out how to Buttermilk Stem


Luke tries his hand at 7 Spanish Angels AKA the Rukus


Luke is way excited to be in the shade!


Luke feels out the top moves of Get Carter


Dan Kovner crushes Get Carter


Lizzy is happy with the edging prowess of her new Muria VS’s after a send of Bad Parrot


Lizzy contemplates the starting crux of Sad Parrot


Lizzy works her way up the tricky left problem on the Pig Pen slab.


Luke makes quick work of The Clapper


Luke works through some brilliant moves on Sabers of Paradise


Luke sets up for the final crux on Sabers of Paradise


Luke tries to keep the tension and make the reach.


Lizzy takes a casual lap on the classic highball, Heavenly Path

Getting Back in Business!

4 02 2009

It’s been over a month since my injury and I am finally start to feel like I am getting better. My chest still feels tight, but I can breath deeply and run and climb, which makes me so happy. I’ve been really focusing on the training that I could do the past week or two and it really seems to be making a difference. I worked out in the weight room on campus – biceps, triceps, shoulders, and abs for climbing along with working on my calves in (long term) preparation for Sunshine Dihedral and my hamstrings to help prevent my knees from hurting in anticipation of doing more running.

Despite not climbing very much or very hard, I had a pretty successful weekend in Bishop with Luke, Julie, and Josh. Although the Buttermilks are not really my favorite (or most successful) climbing area in Bishop, I had a good time on Friday trying Pope’s Prow (V6) which I definitely hope to spend more time working on, along with the Buttermilk Stem (V1), which I just couldn’t figure out. I think the key is more yoga and stronger shoulders…


Working the initial moves of Pope’s Prow (V6)


Julie makes the most progress on Buttermilk Stem (V1)

On Saturday we went to the Sad Boulders in the afternoon, which was pretty sweet. I headed up to the Sad Parrot Boulder and climbed a couple of fun, tricky problems. I figured out some sweet Lizzy-appropriate beta for Sad Parrot (V3) involving perching on my foot with it next to my hand and reaching into a small pocket/slot. I lacked the strength to make the next move, but it was very cool getting as far as I did and I want to go back next time I’m in Bishop.


Preparing to reach the tiny pocket slot on Sad Parrot (V3)

On Sunday Luke and I headed to the Happy Boulders and visited a bunch of new areas up on the West Rim (avoiding the crowds!). I tried a lot of fun problems and ended up flashing two V2’s – a balancey slab problem and a pocketed traverse. I also climbed a thin, awesome Unnamed V3 in the Hall of Mirrors. It took me several tries, but it was sweet to figure it out – I discovered some key hidden holds, trusted my feet, and innovated a different move at the top instead of giving up when my anticipated sequence didn’t work. I don’t really keep too much track of the boulder problems I do, but I think this might have been my first V3… I also started working on Mr. Witty (V6) which is a very cool thin, balance-y, and tall problem that I really want to do some day. I still need to gain some strength to get through the bottom section, though.


Working the thin moves on the way to my send of Unnamed V3 (photo thanks to Julie and Josh)

Anyways, Luke will have a full rundown of the weekend soon. For now, I am psyched to be gaining back some strength and going full steam ahead as far as motivation is concerned. One last picture for your enjoyment:


HEHE butt shot! (Luke working on Sabres of Paradise, a V7 traverse)


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.  


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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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,