Mental Toughness and a Full Moon in Jtree.

16 09 2008

Life continues to be busy and hectic but I was able to get a bit of climbing in this weekend. Conflicting schedules and a careful decision not to over train meant only one day at the climbing gym this past week. I got in a few nice bike rides to work and started running again. I even was able to push my 5k time down to 20:05. I am not a 5 minute mile runner or a marathoner but I love my 5k. Three miles seems to be a good distance and I can try to go fast the whole way. I am hoping to improve my cardio vascular fitness and finally run a sub 19 minute 5k. Having goals outside of climbing helps keep me motivated to train hard in the gym.

Stein and Leah below Control Freak. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

With a good week of rest and cross-training I was excited to go to the Riverside Quarry on Saturday. Stein and I were climbing by eight and I was happy to try a few new routes as warmups. Leah and her husband Andre were on Original Sin so we started on Exfoliator and worked our way to another 11c near by afterwards. I think it is called Afterburner and since it is a newer route it could use some more traffic to clean off the dirt and loose rock.  After warming up it was Stein’s turn to try hard and he put the draws up on Tattoo. It was his fifth day on the project and he was getting close. A few foot slips and some exciting falls later he made it to the top of the headwall. Confident that recovery would help give him back some power I got a turn.

Leah had just put draws on the first half of Control Freak and I was anxious to see how my fitness was. I hadn’t been to the quarry in a few weeks but I had been doing a bit of bouldering to help with my power. I fell in to mental weakness and grabbed the draw instead of committing to a foot switch. I just was not comfortable with the the move and it got into my head. I did the move a few times and moved on. I stuck the crux deadpoint first time and did the rest of the moves and lowered off. Leah got on the route again and Stein and I spent a bunch of time resting. After Leah took a long fall (see comment after post), the one I was afraid of, she figured out that we could use a double length draw and the clip before doing the first crux.

Luke on the final moves of Control Freak. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

With all the draws in place I set off for a redpoint. I had to reach pretty far to make the pre-crux clip but with the added confidence I committed to the foot switch. I made the cross over and was done with the mental part of the route. I did a few quick shakes and climbed up to the power crux. Clip, shake commit! I stuck the move with a yell. This was my longest link thus far and I needed to keep moving. Shake, crimp, hand foot match and balance up to a good hold. I had made it to the no hands rest! I was so excited but I needed to concentrate on my breathing and relax in order to get back a bit of energy.

Recharged, I climbed smoothly through the steep finale. Making the last jump and yelling again with joy as my feet cut. I mantled over the bulge and clipped the anchors! My first 13 was complete! I was so happy to have made it through and been able to focus and climb the route. Clipping early on the first crux eliminated my fear and I climbed deliberately through the hard moves. The September weather was perfect and everything had come together. Three days of climbing, 10 tries and I had done my hardest route yet!

Luke post-send! Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Inspired by my performance, Stein got back on Tattoo. He made the opening moves look easy and climbed very strong and executed the boulder problem perfectly!! He rested for a while and embarked on the headwall, the second crux. It seemed he must have spent too much time resting and his climbing lacked the flow and focus from lower on the route. He staidly made his way up to the final hard moves but came off. The feet on this section are precarious and you need mental toughness and solid crimp strength. He came down and I gave the route a go on TR.

I struggled just getting to the 3rd bolt with the odd underclings and bad feet. I made my way through boulder problem and onto the headwall. I was too spent for such technical climbing on small holds and gave up. We both tried a few more times and did not make much progress. Tired and happy we headed back to San Diego.

Taylor has come to love the smells of the Quarry and is at home scrambling around the base of the routes. Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Stein and I had met in Escondido and I had arranged to meet a friend, when I returned, to carpool out to Joshua Tree. We were going to the desert to celebrate the full moon and my friend Hartley’s birthday. Lacey, one of Hartley’s friends who I had met many years before at Smith Rocks, lived in Pacific Beach and needed a ride. We quickly made our way to J-Tree with a dinner stop at Crossroads Cafe. It had been months since I had been to Jtree and it was funny to going back with out any trad gear. I was told only to bring my bouldering pad and shoes.

That night after a bit of slacklining (which we found out is illegal in the  park) we wandered the desert by moonlight. It was fun to be scrambling around in the “dark” without needing a headlamp. The weather was cool but not cold and we had a good time. Joshua Tree looked beautful in the white glow of the moon and it was stress free to be there without any plans. No projects or obligations, no climbs that needed to be sent and no agenda for the next day.

In the morning we did a bit of bouldering with a stop at White Rastafarian. We had tried the problem the night before in the dark in sneakers with no success. With only one pad it didn’t seem reasonable to give serious effort to this tall problem. Hartley and I both got to the top of the initial flake without a problem. I was able to get my foot high and could visualize the reach to the top rail. Unfortunately it seemed like a dynamic move and the back breaking rock 10 feet below did not inspire me. We left and drove to Gunsmoke for something a bit closer to the ground. It had gotten quite warm and we were starting to suffer in the heat. I taped my fingers and did a lap on the route. It was quite tricky since I couldn’t feel the crimps and struggled to stuff my fingers in various slots. After Hartley worked various sections we bailed. He had done the route before and neither of us or Lacey were having fun.

Hartley treated us to lunch at crossroads and we headed home. We left Joshua Tree around 3:15 to head back to San Diego. We had left at the same time to come out the previous day so we had a mere 24 hours in the park. It was a blast and hopefully I can steal a bit of Hartley’s time from snowboarding this winter to come out to Jtree with Lizzy and I.

The weekend was a great success and I had even managed a good amount of sleep. To cap things off I went for a run when I got home. Trying to go fast was a bit of mistake since the glorious Grilled Coyote was still in my stomach (A grilled chicken burger with jack cheese, a portobello mushroom and bacon!). It was my last of three weekend away from Lizzy. I can wait to see her on Friday and we are going to an REI scratch and dent sale on Saturday morning.

I may update when I get some photos from Hartley, which would be a nice change from my wordy posts!

Update: Got some sweet photos from Andre! For more of his work check out his site

– Luke


Exploring Possibilities – Trying Harder Projects

26 08 2008

Surprisingly enough, Luke and I seem to be in similar places with our climbing right now. Neither of us is really climbing as hard as we could because we are limiting ourselves by what we think we can do and what we think is safe. Although it can be frustrating to be in this position, it’s good to recognize that our minds and fear are our main limiting factors because we can work on those problems.

This was one of the goals for our climbing last weekend. We headed to the Quarry on Saturday morning to meet up with Stein and Jake. Luke warmed up on Original Sin (5.11b, drilled pockets, which we’ve both sent already), I followed it, and we both toproped a neighboring 5.12, which I was able to get through except for pulling through one powerful move with the magical nylon jug…

Stein heads up Control Freak to put up the draws for Luke.

Then we headed over to Luke’s project, Control Freak (5.13a/b – his first 5.13 project!), which has a tricky mental crux followed by a difficult deadpoint crux that requires a lot of focus. While Luke was working on his project, I had the opportunity to try a potential project for me – Megalomania (5.12a, 12!! bolts) – which I was able to toprope twice in between Jake’s lead efforts on it.

This is the first 5.12 sport climb that I’ve ever considered projecting, which is a big step for me. I’ve already broken into this realm (although not sent anything yet) with several routes in Indian Creek and, of course, The Project itself, Equinox. Megalomania could definitely be a good project for me. It has two definite cruxes, one in the middle and one right at the anchor. The top crux especially is super powerful, involving a really long, powerful reach off an undercling to a sidepull that I really have to lean into to use. The middle of the route has some not as hard, but still interesting and pumpy, climbing on crimps and a no-hands rest that apparently you’re not supposed to use, but since it seems to me very contrived not to use it and chalk marks indicate that pretty much everyone does, I plan on using it. The main problem is that I can’t cheat through the lower crux, so in order to work the route I will have to figure out how to do this part.

Stein on Control Freak.

Meanwhile, Luke gave Control Freak several tries, but was repeatedly stopped by his mental crux, which was pretty frustrating for him. Stein tried Tattoo, which seemed harder than the 5.13a it’s given in the guidebook, perhaps since a large piece of rock that formed the 5.11 traverse, Feeding Frenzy, fell off the wall within the last year or two.

Sunday we planned on heading to Echo Cliffs to work on some old and new projects and get our pump on. We had a bit of a late start, so we were hiking out in the midday heat around noon, which was quite tiring.

Luke tried to warm up on Restrain This, a 5.11b that we’d never tried before. However, the route had a ridiculously long move that took him a couple tries to get. I followed the route, but was very frustrated by the extremely long move – it was literally longer than my armspan. There were some small, crappy holds that maybe could have allowed one to climb around the long move, but the holds were obviously not intended to be used – they were quite loose and scary. So I used the nylon jug again and sent the pumpy but not too hard climbing above. Not the ideal start to the day, plus I was still tired from approaching in the hotness.

Luke moved on to working on his old project on the Pink Wall, Meager and Weak (5.12c). He spent a while remembering and re-working the beta, then moved on to real redpoint burns. After a couple tries and mastering a mental crux, he finally sent, with much encouragement from his belayer! This was Luke’s first redpoint of the grade and I am SO proud of him! He kept going through the scary bits, even though he was still scared! Luke has been working hard recently, with help from Stein, to get past the plateau he has been experiencing recently and I think all this work is starting to pay off!

Afterwards, we headed back over to the Left Flank and Java Walls, which were in the critical late afternoon shade. I re-warmed up by onsighting a 5.10a on the Left Flank, which was not particularly exciting or hard (funny to think that this grade used to be difficult for me) but had rather spaced-out bolts. We had considered trying one of the many 5.11s on the Java Wall, which would all be good projects for me, but I felt too tired to onsight any of the easier ones, and Luke was too tired to do any of them. So we decided to call it a day and walk back out to the car (in the shade!) and drove to Wahoo’s Fish Taco in Santa Monica for dinner. Mmmmm shrimp taco… sooo good!

It maybe wasn’t the most successful weekend for me (especially compared to our last trip to Charleston), but it was still a great learning experience. Although Luke was disappointed about not sending his project at the Quarry, he did send Meager and Weak, which was still a great accomplishment. A weekend well spent!

Bonus photo #1: Me wearing a flying pig hat at the cute and eccentric Ajax Cafe in Port Hadlock, WA.

Bonus Photo #2: Maddy in her silly Ajax Cafe hat.


Pushing Limits by Projecting

18 08 2008

In the past I have been hesitant to project routes because I would not have the time to return and complete them. However in order to start sending harder routes I believe that I need to try things that are above my current sends. Currently I have been plateauing around 12b. While i have yet to onsight the grade I have send a few 12b’s 2nd go and have onsighted 12a. To make matters worse I haven’t even tried very many routes harder that 12b. I think that I have lead less than 5 routes 12c or harder.

Over our long weekend at Mount Charleston I was trying to allow my fingers time to recover while gaining stamina. A hardcore regiment of bouldering had proved detrimental to my tendons and my fingers had been hurting for two weeks. 11c is a good difficulty for me and one of my favorite grades. While I did my first 11c way back in March of 2005 I am still entertained by the climbing. It is not quite 5.12 so there can be good holds and a 11c in my style can be a good onsight.

Lizzy wanted to go to Robbers Roost and I was happy to do a bit of hard climbing on The Burgler. At 12c I had jumped on it last time because I knew it was good for me since I would need to try hard. But back in June I did not think that I could send it even though it was within my phyical limit. Talking to Felix, one of my friends at the gym, about his send of the route raised my pyche and helped me see that the route was possible. The blocky start had totally shut me down on my previous trip and I got scared on lead and didn’t even finish the route.  This time was different and I was able to find a powerful sequence through the opening holds. Body tension and underclings allowed me to gain the crimpy mid section and finally the upper underclings. More tenuous smears lead to the anchors and I had fallen my way to the top.

A few more trys and I linked through the bottom crux and was at the no hands rest. Keeping my motivation high i worked my way up to my second crux. A tricky right hand gaston led to a full exenstion left hand stab into an undercling. With a grunt I was still going but my arms were turing into putty. Motivation sapped I lost my steam and gave up only two bolts before the anchor. Even without the send I was happy. I had pushed hard through the bottom crux and had made it higher than I ever expected. The end moves are still physical and I need to add some endurance before I try again.

While Lizzy was getting cooked up in the Squamish heat this past weekend I had a nice morning at the Riverside Quarry. While it was supposed to hit 92 in Riverside a 6am start and shade until 1pm allowed for a lot of climbing. It was a bit muggy in the morning but with a nice breeze friction was great by noon.

I met up with Stein and Leah at Vertical Hold and we made our way to the quarry. We were climbing around 8am on the classic warm up, Original Sin. It felt much less pumpy this time and after everyone lead it we put a rope on the first part of Sky Pliot to the right. It was my first time on this route so I watched for beta. It was fun and despite mis-sequencing and falling it was a good time. Leah and I then top roped Sins of the Flesh 12d/13a to warm up our fingers for crimps. It was very fun and I climed it clean until the crux. A long lockoff from a good edge followed by some super small holds and then a powerful sequence on opposing side pulls to a jug. Stein skipped this one mentally preparing for his project, Control Freak 13a/b.

On his first try, this visit, Stein came close to sticking the crux deadpoint and then came down to conserve energy. The movement on the route was pretty straightforward but finding all the holds was tricky. A few easy moves lead off the ground to a tricky left traverse at the third bolt. After gaining the first ledge I got a good shake and then crimped up to a hidden left hand hold. This allowed passage to the fifth bolt and the best rest on two large jugs with good feet. Proper recovery was key because the technical first crux was next!

After manteling these two jugs you got a small right hand crimp and slapped out left to a poor sloper. Slapping up again gained a better sloper and allowed a crucial foot switch. Now well above the last bolt a high left foot allowed a cross off the sloper to a good crimp. It was easy to barn door off this move which would send you flying on lead. From the crimp you reached high to a good hold and the next clip. On this high left hand you recover best possible to get ready for the main crux. Directional crimps lead to the next clip and the crux deadpoint. From a good left crimp and a poor right sidepull you lunge for a diagonal edge just above the bolt. I was able to stick this move a few times but need to get it more dialed for the redpoint.

Once you stick the move you have to bring your feet up high on a bad right hand hold and do a dynamic left hand bump to a good edge before the next bolt. This leads to much easier climbing including a fun jump to a jug above the last bolt. A few quick moves on jugs and you are at the anchor.

We top roped this route a bunch of times and I lead it once with a bunch of falls. I was able to do all moves on lead and need to work on relaxing enough to link from the ground into the crux deadpoint. It was super exciting to be working on a hard route that was more in my style. Both Seduction and Sins of the Flesh had very small holds and I struggled to do many of the moves. With some more work I feel that Control Freak could be quite doable and hopefully I can try it again this weekend.

Even with falls it was very motivating to lead my first 13. The focus necessary for the first crux allowed me to move past my fear of being above the bolt. I was completely in the moment and had my cleanest link of the first crux on lead. I have been trying to get past my fears of falling and Stein has been very supportive. It was also helpful to watch him fall from the first and second cruxes without consequence.  Mentally this weekend was a big step and even though I don’t feel any stronger and didn’t send anything. As Stein has told me many times the key is to be relaxed. I agree and by letting go of my fear and just climbing I was able to perform much better.

– Luke

Alpine Retreat – Clipping Bolts at Mt Charleston

25 06 2008

I needed to get out, I just wanted to leave, go somewhere, change the flow of things. But I am not a spontaneous person, I like to make plans and follow them. This balance always strikes me and I don’t know what to do, which furthers my problem. I like doing things, keeping busy and chugging forward. I enjoy keeping my schedule full so that when I do have some free time I enjoy it and truly relax.

Friday came around and plans for the weekend were far from settled. Lizzy had been spending time in her Air Conditioned room away from 100+ degree heat while I had been plugging along at work. Even climbing in the shade we would be met with 90+ degree weather and would likely melt before sending anything. Our drastic times called for drastic measures and I came up with a plethora of plans. This can easily become a problem as Lizzy and I try to sort between the nuisances of each possible climbing location. The common theme was high elevation and camping. We would need to spend the whole weekend out of LA and somewhere cool. Fearing the hoards and with a slight dislike of the granite of Big Bear we decided on Mt Charleston.

Gas these days I at a premium and adds new words to the American vocabulary like “Stay-cation” but honestly who the hell wants to do that. I want to explore the world, I want to journey to new places and I want to get out of here. NOW! Adjusting to meet the best temperatures I worked on Saturday and we left for Vegas on Saturday night. The five and half hour drive was traffic free but required constant AC as we made our way into the Vegas heat. After passing by the strip we headed north on the 95 out into the unknown. A small turn off and a sign for Mt Charleston signaled our rise to elevation and a retreat into cooler temperatures. Reservations were suggested but required three days of advanced notice for the Kyle Canyon Campgrounds.

With the two main campgrounds full we headed to the Mary Jane Area. This multiple abuse site, once home to a historical ski tow, was a gravel parking lot near the Mary Jane trailhead. All of the “spots” on the periphery were taken so we parked near the center and set up our tent. Bugs instantly flocked to our headlamps but the temperatures had dropped and we were quickly asleep. With the sun rising around 5am, I was excited and anxious to go climbing. Getting up to go to the bathroom at first light I had seen towering limestone walls and had a hard time going back to sleep.Unable to wait any longer, I roused Lizzy and we packed up and had breakfast by 6:30. After a bit of confused driving, undoubtedly caused by our mere 6 hours of sleep, we wound up hiking up the trail next to the ski tow. Our trail led us to the base of the north facing Imagination Wall, 500 feet of glorious limestone. At the base of our warm-up the rock was intimidating and devoid of familiar features. Sharp crimps and runnels dotted the face and without chalk the sequence was far from obvious. The base of the Imagination wall is slabby and the rock offers excellent friction, the climbing requires subtle body movement and a keen eye for “holds”. After warming up I jumped on a 10d that might make a good lead for Lizzy. This however was far from the truth. After breaking a foothold, stick clipping the second bolt and shakely climbing to the 3rd bolt at 40 feet I decided to bail. The next bolt was 15 feet higher and I was not yet confident on this type of climbing. I had fallen prey to the Exacto Blade (the route’s name) and did not have the mental energy to complete this route that was undoubtedly bolted on lead.

Confidence shattered, we moved down the cliff to try a few of the other “moderate routes”. After bailing on three different variations of this 11a, I found passage on one of the harder neighboring routes. While not a clean lead I was finally able to make it to the top. The ending of this 11b had what I wanted, wonderful pinches and crimps, tricky footwork and tension moves, most importantly real HOLDS! Finally getting to climb after my flailathon Lizzy mad quick work of this balancey climb.

After one more fun 11b, evidently the good grade to climb at this wall, and a bit of heinous top roping we departed for Robbers Roost. The weather had been ideal and the wall was completely in the shade causing Lizzy to don all of our jackets. Even though we were a bit tired I convinced Lizzy that more climbing was in order and with the promise of a five minute approach we were on our way. The scene at Robbers Roost was the opposite of the solitude of the Imagination Wall. There were tourists and climbers sandwiched in the cave like venue. The walls were covered with fixed draws and chalk and most of the climbs were overhanging.

With some friendly advice from one of the locals we warmed up again and we did a few more climbs. While these routes had tricky cruxes they had nice holds and jugs and one even had a sit down rest. Excited by a more athletic style we decided to return the next day so Lizzy and I could work on some harder routes. Hilltop, the third campground in the area, was close by and we still needed a place to sleep. With showers and a toilet this was a big step up from the Mary Jane Area. Hiltop hade excellent views and is about 1000 feet higher than Kyle and Fletcher campgrounds. Since it was Sunday night we had no problem finding an excellent site in the shade. If you are ever there I suggest site number #21 despite not having a view it was fairly wind protected and had evening shade.

Monday we returned to the Roost and climb the namesake route (photo below). This climb, another lead bolted scare fest, was technical with bad falls on sharp rock. The movement and hold variety was classic limestone and excellent if you could move past a fear of falling. This climb had deep runnels and great pinches. I found the crux to be a tricky bit of stemming after a good rest about midway through the route. While this did not function as a good mental warm-up it got the blood moving and allowed me to focus on harder routes. First up was an onsight attempt on a route that had been occupied the previous day. After a bunch of tricky climbing I gave up a foot below a hidden jug. Lack of commitment and a bit of memory loss left me hanging but with no regrets as I made my way to the top I encountered a much more beta intensive crux that would have blown the onsight. Next go, much more relaxed, I sent Bubbleicous.

Lizzy was in the projecting mood and jumped on Los Banditos, an 11c that she had done clean first try on TR the day before. This would be her first of the grade and over the day she made excellent progress. Between my attempts on different routes she gave this route three good burns and on her final try fell one hold below jug at the end of the crux. She made good progress with each try and feeling fresh on our next visit I think this climb is within her reach.

I attempted some of the classic harder routes in the area but was stopped by tricky beta, fatigue and altitude. Leaving tired we made the journey back to San Diego happily avoiding Vegas rush hour. Despite a lack of hard sends I feel the weekend was quite satisfying and have a new respect for the complexity of limestone. I am excited to go back, since according to the locals you can climb there all summer.

– Luke

Climbing at Horse Flats and the Riverside Quarry

17 06 2008

Summer is here and we have been banished to the shade and the mountains. The sun quickly heats the rock and friction becomes non-existent. We spent Friday night camped out at REI to attend one of their Scratch and Dent sales. Despite arriving at 10pm there were 10 people ahead of us in line. Some arrived as early as 4pm. We managed to get a bit of sleep despite the random urban setting of Arcadia. The sale was fun but not very eventful. One of my friends, Hartley, from Santa Barbara was supposed to come down for the sale and an afternoon of bouldering at Stoney Point. A case of food poisoning kept him grounded in SB.

With my schedule free I decided to tag along with Lizzy and Julie who had been invited to go on a Mad Rock catalog shoot. One of the local climbers recruited these girls and was planning on a day of bouldering to get some shoe photos.

We headed up to Horse Flats which is in the Angeles forest in the hills just north of Pasadena. Windy roads and pretty scenery brought us up a few thousand feet to a granite boulder field. My last experience on granite had been less than fun and I was a bit skeptical of what this area had to offer. Fortunately the rock was highly featured metamorphosed granite. It has lots of crystals and despite being a bit flakey offered fun problems.

Josh Wagner, from the Arcadia Rock Gym, and I bouldered while the ladies played with new shoes and took photos. Josh gave me a tour of a few classics and showed me some problems that were not in the guidebook. After taking a look at a super-project we tackled a possibly unclimbed block. Crystals were still falling off at the base and showed no evidence of previous ascents. There was a steep holdless fin and that formed the right side of a dihedral. The angle and lack of holds prevented us from the obvious stemming solution.

Starting from a good right hand you could gain a small sharp two finger crystal with your left hand. Then you had to make a full span to a decent right hand pinch. The remaining moves to the top were less obvious. After reaching the pinch I could make not make any further progress. I shifted my focus to the arête on the left side of the dihedral. A span start and some tenuous smears on the arête allowed you to gain the same crystal as a gaston with the right hand. Using this to bump my left hand up the arête I was able to stand on a high crystal, bump to another sharp gaston and finally bump my left hand to a good hold around the top of the arête. Possibly a FA but most likely done by Wills Young back in the day. I needed a break after the send and went and check on Lizzy who had flashed a crimpy problem and was spotting while the other two girls tried it. Upon my return Josh had solved the right variation and was sitting on top of the boulder. A possible FA each within an hour, pretty good work 😀

My elbow, which has been hurting, needed a rest so I followed the girls around helping light the problems by holding a bounce card. The two bounce cards did an amazing job of adding directional light to the photos. I was super impressed and hopefully can get some in the next six months. I only saw a few of the photos but they looked pretty good and can be found on facebook! When we got back to Pasadena we crashed early with a serious lack of sleep and full day in the sun.

Sunday we got up early for some shady sport climbing at the Riverside Quarry. We had not been to the quarry in six months and it was fun to clip lots of bolts. Stein, my climbing partner from San Diego, met us with one of his friends for our early session. Stein is quite the quarry master and was excited to clip some bolts outside for a change. We have spent many more hours training on plastic than actually climbing routes. Stein helped me to get in a hard climbing mindset and put draws on a bunch of climbs for me.

After Lizzy and I warmed up we got on Salutations a nice 11c that Stein and George had just finished. The quarry is filled with boulder problems separated by good holds and hand free rests. This visit I embraced this style and had much more success. I flashed/onsighted (I saw a bit of beta) the first route and set up a TR for Lizzy. She cruised the starting moves but had to spend a bit of time figuring out the reachy crux. After finding a powerful sequence she pulled through the small holds and gained a good jug. After some slopey holds she finished off the route. The crux was definitely challenging. Focusing on the jug allowed me to commit to the 3 or 4 hard moves on the small crimps.

Stein had finished an impressive onsight of the neighboring Balrog 12b and I got to watch George as the top roped it. I got a sense of where some of the good holds were and what sections would prove difficult. There was an obvious high crux that I would need to save my energy for if I was to send. The first two bolts were simple with a fun mantle onto the slab seen in the first photo. The slopey holds in the second photo blew my confidence and I was insecure and overgripping. I made the third clip from a bad hold and was happy when I got the next hold which happened to be a jug. The next few bolts were easy until a tricky clip. Following this clip were more slopey holds and bad feet. I figured out a heel hook sequence that worked well but I was getting tired. I now was one bolt below the crux and was quite pumped and being unsure of the sequence I gave up. I figured out a way to set up for the clip below the crux but it was quite powerful and zapped my energy for the crux. I hung again and tried to figure out a good way to do the crux. A few more takes and I was through the crux and at the anchors.

Stein had enjoyed the route so much he ran another lap to get some mileage. I watched closely on the parts I had struggled on and figured out a better way to setup for the crux clip. After some rest I went up again making sure to stay relaxed and to flow through the moves. The crux was a tricky gaston cross over sequence right after a powerful clip. I got up to the clip and was able to make it but the next sequence Stein had used proved a bit too reachy and I could not get the same heel hook he had. Hands out of sequence I committed to a higher heal hook that I was able to perch on. This enabled me to rest a little and switch my hands to prepare for the crux. I got my high left foot and right gaston but it felt much worse than my last go. I grunted and fired left hand across to the next good hold. I stuck it and quickly move my feet up to the good holds on the right. A few more moves gave way to an ok rest. A few shakes and I set up for the final tricky move to a crack below the anchor. I trusted my smear and shot my right hand to the undercling crack. Two more adjustments and I was clipping the anchor! I was tired and my climbing was still a bit sloppy but I had committed at the crux and this was important mental progress!

Photos thanks to Lizzy!

– Luke

Guest Blog: Visiting Vegas!

7 03 2008

It was a dark and potentially stormy night when Luke and Lizzy picked me up at the Vegas airport. After we calmed from the inital joy of reuniting friends, and successfully picked up my checked bag, Lizzy fearlessly negotiated her way through the grotesque neon signs of downtown Vegas (and past one gorgeous In and Out sign) to the Red Rocks campground. To my utter delight, Luke surprised me at the campsite with two bottles of Diet Coke!!! True friendship. Inspired by the outline of the mountains in the darkness, we quickly went to sleep in preparation for a long day of climbing.

The next morning, we jumped from our sleeping bags into the extremely cold but sunny mountain scenery. To a girl from flat Michigan the tops of the mountain spires making a jagged horizion were awe-inspiring. Nothing can be more energizing than naked rock cutting across a clear, blue sky. As we sped through breakfast, I was greatly relieved to find that Lizzy had brought sourdough bagels from Noah’s! How some people can suffer through an oatmeal breakfast (without any cookies crumbled into it, even!), I’ll never know.

We packed the car and drove to the trailhead. It was a very fast hike in, with my short 5′ 2″ (total height) legs moving as fast as they would hike. If someone was to describe the morning/hike as slow/leasuirely, I would not be in agreement with him. This girl was moving! Exhausted, I arrived at the base of Birdland. Thankfully, Lizzy was to lead the first pitches of this climb, and I got a chance to rest.

The rock was a gorgeous myriad of cracks, plates, and pockets. Climbing was especially fun due to the fact that we were using doubles. After Lizzy gracefully led to the belay, Luke and I followed and had the fun of carrying on a conversation while climbing a very easy pitch. Not a typical climbing experience, but very fun all the same! After Lizzy led a few pitches, I got a chance to lead! To my utter amazement and surprise, I found that I was not the least bit scared to be climbing. Usually there is a little bit of anxiety or fear, especially when on lead. However, somewhere along the way, 5.6 became incredibly easy and not fear-inspiring in the least. Due to this fact, I only placed 3 pieces of gear on the entire pitch. I was having so much fun climbing that stopping to place gear seemed quite unnecessary. Though, it must be said, that the nuts I did place were “bomber.” (straight from the mouth of the “climbing-god” himself!) I will choose not to comment on my cam placements at this time. Lizzy effortlessly led the rest of the pitches, and we rappelled down with only one small set-back when a rope became stuck. Luke climbed to the rescue, saved the rope, and down-climbed on lead to top it off!

Another, thank goodness shorter, hike led us to Cat in the Hat. With an awesome mastery of mental and emotional control, I climbed past a blank section at the beginning and proceeded to link the first two pitches. The third pitch of the route proved to be the crux pitch. However, after some confusion was sorted out between interpreting a 5.5 unprotected 8 ft section of rock as a V5 boulder problem (that would be 5.Fun, right?!), this pitch was completed with relative ease. The fourth pitch was somewhat of a mental game, as it was getting quite dark by then, and I was very tired. I climbed past a necessary traverse, and had to downclimb to get back to it, which shook me up pretty well. But I toiled on and reached a ledge where I thought the anchors were. However, to my great surprise, when I got there no bolts could be found! After a shouting match with the wind, I managed to communicate my troubles to Luke, who yelled up that I might in fact have to climb higher to reach the belay point. Yet again, Luke’s wisdom proves to be invaluable. I climbed 6 ft higher and immediately saw my goal! After making an anchor, Luke quickly climbed to meet me and we rappelled, met Lizzy, and continued on to the base of the climb. Yet another hike was needed in order to reach the car. Good heavens, I’m not in shape enough for this!

As this is already getting fairly long, I’ll leave it to Luke’s good description to paint the picture of what our Friday was like. I will only pause to add that we also stopped off at Von’s to pick up additional cookies. We had already managed to put a serious dent in the first batch of cookies, and the Chewy Chocolate ones from Von’s were really necessary.

That night was a restless one, filled with fears of rain that might bar us from climbing Solar Slab. However, upon waking in the morning, we decided that we would go for it! We packed the car (and if I thought the first day was fast, it was nothing compared to the speed with which we moved on Solar Slab Day!), and ate breakfast in the parking lot at the trailhead. After double-time, heel-toeing it to the base of the climb, we quickly harnessed up. Lizzy beautifully led all three pitches of Johnny Vegas without any trouble. And then, the challenge began.
During Cam Lessons the previous day, Luke and Lizzy had decided it was necessary to strike the Fear of God into me about gear placements. All sorts of gruesome and grotesque images were floating in front of my mind as to what may happen as a result of bad placements or no placements at all. It was with great trepidation that I began the first pitch of Solar Slab. I scrambled up the 5.4 slab. I attained the first crack. I traversed left. I gained the second crack. I hand-jammed. I crimped. I swore. …And I placed gear.

With the Fear of God weighing on my mind, this 5.6 was not nearly as easy as the first climbs. It was with shaking hands that I placed cams, evaluated, readjusted, switched sizes (also dropped Luke’s yellow Camalot…oi), and finally secured a piece. This happened (with the exception of dropping the cam. That only happened once) about every 8 ft. Luke and Lizzy have the patience of saints. With crazy rope drag, I did run it out about the last 15 ft to the bolts. There, I made an anchor and belayed Luke and Lizzy up. My efforts had paid off when Luke pronounced my placements “much improved!” Even my cams (most of them) would probably have held in the event of a fall!

After Luke linked the next two pairs of pitches, I led another pitch where I got to back up a one-bolt anchor with a nut and a cam. To my great sense of gratification, both Luke and Lizzy trusted my anchor and climbed up immediately after me! With assurances that I had placed gear “very well,” Luke led our final pitch of the route. At the top of that pitch, we took pictures, ate a few Cliff bars, and turned our attentions downward. As he successfully (for the first time ever!) pulled the rope without any snags over the rappel of all the pitches of Solar Slab and Johnny Vegas, Luke proved himself a master rope-puller.

Upon gaining the ground, we celebrated with We-Made-It-Down-Alive cookies and began the trek back to Lizzy’s car. With a delicious stir-fry and more Diet Coke, we pronounced the day a success! Sadly, the next day we had to pack up. We climbed some more sport limestone (which left a very painful puncture wound in my palm), and among other climbs, Luke led (and I TR’d) an awesome 11a. Lots of side-pulls and angled holds. Very exciting.

Upon leaving climbing, we stopped at REI to secure a patch for my poofy which had ripped on the airplane ride out. It was a touch-and-go operation, but both my poofy and I have survived the patching procedure and are recovering tolerably well. At Panera’s we had a delicious lunch and discussed the relative risks of BASE jumping vs. rappelling. It was an arduous debate, but rappelling won out for most dangerous.

With a heavy heart, I said goodbye to Luke and Lizzy. What can be better than spending long days outside, climbing with good friends?! I spent the little bit of a wait for my flight talking to a few other friends from school, planning our next trip (Easter weekend anyone? The Red?). After all, the best way to end a climbing trip is to start planning the next! Red Rocks today, Owens River Gorge tomorrow!!!!(or, well, next year…but I’m excited all the same! 🙂 )
– Rebecca

New Years at Cochise Stronghold

10 01 2008

This New Years we decided to go on a mini road trip and check out the climbing in Arizona. The predicted weather for the Tucson area was temps in the 60’s and sunny. This seemed perfect and neither Lizzy nor I had climbed in AZ before.

So off we went to the Cochise Stronghold for a few quick days of climbing. Hope you enjoy the Trip Report; I tried to offset all the talk with some pictures from our trip since I usually write too much and leave out the pictures.

The steep approach combined with the warm sun allowed us to wear t-shirts even though we had to hike over ice. It was quite amazing to be so warm in the last week of December!
For our first climb we chose to do the classic What’s My Line. For some added mileage and a bit harder grade we did the direct start. We set off up the steep canyon to locate Cochise dome so that we could climb What’s My Line. I guess the direct start rarely gets climbed because we found a cam, a nut, a belay device and a biner on our way to the stance below the first pitch.

I was able to link the two pitches of the direct start and ended my lead at the first set of anchors of the regular route. Lizzy, happy to be climbing after the windy belay, zoomed up to my stance and got ready to lead the next pitches. She also linked pitches brining us to a tree belay just below the summit.



The climbing was quite fun and the weather was great despite being a bit windy. In the photo on the right you can see a sea of chicken heads that served as both hand holds and protection.
With most of the gear already on my harness I lead the last 30 feet to the rappel anchors. 

A team that we had caught up to allowed us to rappel on their rope which helped us quicken the decent and get back to the campground before dark. On the decent we stashed our gear for the next day so that we would not have to do the steep approach again with our ropes and rack.






The next day we headed back up the canyon but this time to the Rockafeller Group. We were hoping to do a few climbs on the south side of the end pinnacle. With light packs filled only with food and water we made great time getting back up the steep approach. We got to our climb early and it was still all in the shade. Based on the orientation of the two climbs we wanted to do we chose Days of Future Passed as our first route. While this route ended up being much more serious than we expected it was a good choice.

After three serious pitches of run out climbing we made it to a spacious sunny ledge. This was a most welcome change from the past two hanging belays. The climbing on the first two pitches followed a large crack system that had a numerous chickeheads along the way. when the crack ended there was one pitch of exciting run out face climbing.

After a bit of food we chose the easier path to the summit and I climbed past around ten bolts to the summit. This was more than three times as many bolts as the previous pitch which was of comparable length. After reaching the summit we snapped some photos and made our way over to the rap station. Three crazy rappels through a chimney and a crawl through a hole beneath a chockstone lead us to the ground.

After packing up all of our gear we determined that we were far to tired and it was much too late for another climb. We hiked all our gear back to the camp site and made a tasty dinner in celebration of New Years Eve.

This trip was a lot of fun and it taught me a bunch about traditional ethics and run out climbing. Why do you need gear when you will not fall? Bolts are not the immediate solution but the last resort. The climbing was scary and physical and expanded my mind. Most of all it really makes me appreciate all of the climbers of the last generation. While they may be a bunch of old die hard traddies they really have a lot of balls.


– Luke