Reflections on 2009

31 12 2009

As the year comes to a close and climbing trips seem a bit less frequent, I feel it is important to reflect.

As a climber I like to focus on progress and usually push myself to increase my abilities.  While I have been climbing for about ten years, I have only been setting goals for the last five. I have most of these written down in various word documents and it is interesting to look back and see where I was at.

Was a certain level of climbing intimidating? Did I tend to try only a particular style of routes? What was my most proud accomplishment of the year?

Lizzy had a good idea to put events in chronological order to make everything more readable. Here are some of my important events of 2009.

  • Pinky finger pulley rupture at the climbing gym.
  • Strained ring finger  bouldering on pockets in Bishop.
  • Competed in my first trail races since high school (25k, 15k, and 22k).
  • Had a very fun and relaxing trip to Indian Creek. (No grade chasing)
  • Regained bouldering strength and met up with college friends in Joe’s Valley, Utah.

On Planet of the Apes in Joe’s Valley

  • Climbed a number of diverse 5.11’s in Joshua Tree.
  • Continued improving and took a first trip to Zion and onsighted all but one pitch of my first 5.12 multi-pitch, Sheer Lunacy.
  • Climbed Vahalla at Suicide Rock. (Stonemaster!)
  • Got taught a lesson in fear and footwork at Smith Rock.
  • Started off a great alpine season with an ascent of Positive Vibrations on the 4th of July.
  • Climbed two awesome 5.11+ bolted multipitches, The Cathedral Route at Mount Charleston and The Megaplex in Pine Creek Canyon.
  • Continued alpine climbing all summer and brought Lizzy to the Hulk to finish off the pitches I had missed on Positive Vibrations.

On the Incredible Hulk with Lizzy!

  • Did a new 5 pitch route on Mt Langley and a new finish variation on the Keyhole Wall. (Yeah first ascents)
  • Had an amazing trip to the Needles and climbed Atlantis and Spook Book!
  • Re-climbed The Vampire at Tahquitz and stepped it up by leading The Flakes and following Stairway to Heaven.
  • Climbed my first Yosemite 5.11 (The Tube) and 5.12 (Underclingon).
  • Started training for Freerider by climbing the Free Blast.

Climbing high on El Capitan

  • Climbed the Original route on Rainbow Wall with one take. Likely my best single day of climbing all year.
  • Climbed El Capitan via Freerider over 4 days. Free climbed almost 75% of the pitches.
  • Had an amazing trip to Indian Creek and climb my first handful of 5.12 crack routes.
  • Finished the year in Sunnyvale ready for more trips to the Valley.

I think the most important thing this year has been a change in attitude. In the past I have been bent on doing things in a particular style. Climbing onsight and not wanting to get on climbs that I couldn’t do first try. This limited me mentally and I wouldn’t push myself as far as possible. This year my positive relaxed attitude really helped a lot and my climbing has noticeably improved.

I really hope to get in to a good routine in 2010 with more regimented training to prepare for climbing El Cap again as well as finding a few hard projects to keep me motivated.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

–   Luke

2009 – A Milestone Year

29 12 2009

The year is drawing to a close and I’ve begun to realize that, even though I didn’t allow myself to literally write down a list of goals for the year (I find this just results in too much pressure and disappointment…), I did in fact have a bunch of goals and I accomplished a big number of them. In fact, I hit some pretty big milestones this year. So without further ado, here are the highlights (in chronological order):

  • First time: pulling a chest muscle by coughing too much. And then taking 2+ months to recover.
  • Onsighted my first Indian Creek 5.11, Rump Roast II. After several months of not climbing because I had pulled a chest muscle.
  • Turned 21.
  • Accepted as a PhD student in geology at Stanford.
  • Awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
  • Ran my longest ever trail race: 22k in Malibu.

  • First time: in Zion, and first time on a multipitch free route in Zion – Sheer Lunacy.
  • Graduated from Caltech with a B.S. in Geology.

  • Returned to Smith Rock after not visiting for almost 5 years.
  • First time: onsighting 5.11d (or sending any 5.11d, for that matter) – my dream route, Sunshine Dihedral.
  • Returned to Squamish, one of my favorite areas to climb, and finally sent Crime of the Century, right before onsighting Yorkshire Gripper.
  • Moved to Palo Alto, started climbing at Planet Granite Sunnyvale.
  • First: duathlon. Competed in the Luna Bar Women’s Duathlon at the Luna Bar Women’s Triathlon Festival: 2mi run, 20mi bike, 4mi run.

  • Met Sarah Kate, my awesome climbing partner. 🙂
  • Started my first term of grad school at Stanford.
  • Biked to school every single day.
  • Visited Arkansas for the first time, on a geology field trip.
  • First: Climbed my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Yosemite 5.10s – 2 onsights and a redpoint.
  • First: Climbed my first Yosemite 5.11, the crux pitch of South by Southwest, which I climbed with Sarah Kate.

  • First time: Feeling like I am getting over being cripplingly intimidated of climbing in Yosemite.
  • First time: attending a tweetup: #jtreetweetup!
  • Finally sent Gunsmoke! (First tried it in April 2005)
  • First time: getting the whole week of Thanksgiving off, prompting an awesome trip to Indian Creek.
  • First: 5.11++ onsight in Indian Creek – Quarter of a Man.
  • First: 5.12!!! Swedin-Ringle.

  • First: 5.11+ that felt easy… Coyne Crack.
  • Finished my first term as a grad student at Stanford.
  • First time: living less than 2 hours away from Luke – he moved to Mountain View!
  • Finally met theclimbergirl 🙂

So, as you can tell, it’s been a great year, in both my lives (as a climber and a geologist). I think 2010 will be a really exciting year as well, as I start to get more involved in my research at school and I continue to train (and hopefully not get injured). Sarah Kate and I have a really big goal for next year in Yosemite, so hopefully that will keep us motivated! Also, Luke got me a triathlon wetsuit for Christmas, yet another reason to start training for a triathlon (or two!) in 2010 – hopefully a sprint distance first and, if all goes well, an Olympic distance.

Happy (almost) new year!


Lizzy’s Smith Rock Ticklist

10 06 2009

I am SO excited about my ticklist that I thought I’d share it with you all. I haven’t been to Smith in an incredibly long time (5 or 6 years, I think) and last time I was there, I wasn’t doing much leading yet, so I have a lot of things to get back on. Hopefully this will be a good warm-up week for my Squamish rampage. I mean, I am hoping to start climbing 5.12s (somewhere other than Indian Creek) at some point, but I think it will be good by doing this 5.10/5.11 sending spree. If 5.12s happen, I’ll be psyched. If they don’t, I’ll still be psyched. 😀  So, without further ado, here’s the list:

Wooden Ships/The Gullies

Blue Light Special 5.11a bolts

Toxic 5.11b bolts

Chicken McNuggets 5.10b bolts

Vomit Launch 5.11b bolts

Morning Glory Area

Overboard 5.11a/b or 5.11c bolts

Magic Light (the 5.11a part) bolts

Gumby 5.10b bolts

The Dihedrals

Karot Tots 5.11b gear

Sunshine Dihedral 5.11d gear (this is the main event!)

Moondance 5.11b bolts

Christian Brothers

Wartley’s Revenge 5.11b gear

Barbecue the Pope 5.10b bolts

Mesa Verde Wall

Screaming Yellow Zonkers 5.10b bolts

Moons of Pluto 5.10d bolts

Bad Moon Rising 5.11a bolts

Monkey Face

Monkey Space 5.11b bolts

Lower Gorge – West Side

Wildfire 5.10b gear

Badfinger 5.10b gear

Gruff 5.10a gear

On the Road 5.11a gear

Pure Palm 5.11a bolts

Cornercopia 5.10b gear

Last Chance 5.10c gear

Blood Clot 5.10b gear

Crack-a-no-go 5.11b gear

Cruel Sister 5.10a gear

Lower Gorge – East Side

Master Loony 5.11a gear

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)


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.



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.


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.

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.

Bachar soloing The Gift


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.



Images courtesy of and

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

Projects and Goals

7 12 2007

I dream about rock climbing all the time, the routes I want to do, the places I have been and the people I have climbed with. Climbing is so much more than an extreme sport or a test of physical prowess it really is a lifestyle. My climbing lifestyle is motivated by the places I read about and the routes that I want to go out and climb. I train, go to the gym and work on getting stronger so that I can climb all of these projects. To be able to travel the world and sample the best routes at a given area is my ultimate goal.

There are just so many places to climb in the world and so many stunning routes. From simple boulder problems at Bishop to the tall granite walls of Yosemite. Because I want to be able to climb them all the majority of my goals revolve around being a well rounded climber. My list of projects varies in both style of climbing and global location. While there is a clear focus on long hard traditional routes I also enjoy single pitch sport climbing and bouldering.

Motivation is very important for training and a key element in a day to day climbing routine. It can be hard to keep doing those sit ups every week or those hang board sessions when you don’t have some goal to shoot for. I find that medium term goals are very important so that I can stay excited about climbing. Even though a medium term goal may not be your dream route it will keep you positive about climbing. Going all out when training can be problematic since you have to make sure to pay attention to your body and avoid injury. If a climber sets there short or medium term goals too high it can be hard when you can not meet your expectations. It is much better to be honest and set a moderate goal before worrying about finding a really difficult project for a long term goal.

When attempting a new project it can be necessary to gain new skills and fitness in order to succeed. To determine where you need to focus your training energy it can help to break the climb down and compare it to your strengths and weaknesses. One of my project routes is Romantic Warrior 12b. This is an eight pitch route on the Southwest face of the Warlock in the Needles. It includes four hard pitches one 11d, two 12a and one 12b. While I might aspire to onsight this route it will most likely take me multiple visits so I will get a feeling of the climb before I send it. In order to train for this climb I know that I need to elevate my endurance so I can handle leading so many hard trad pitches. As well the 12b and 11d pitches involve tricky stemming and RP’s. This has motivated me to find other routes with similar characteristics of lower grades to provide a ramp up. These medium term routes will help me gauge my fitness and let me know when I am ready to go try to climb Romantic Warrior.

This fall Lizzy and I traveled out to the Red River Gorge for the Petzl Roc Trip. This was a very motivational trip for the both of us and we spent a lot of time doing specific training in preparation. Instead of doing a jumble of bouldering, trad climbing and sport climbing we focused on clipping bolts and training endurance. With all of the work we put in we were really excited for the trip and both climbed very well and pushed our limits. The trip was an excellent motivator and gave us a time line to train and get into the proper shape for hard sport climbing.

Projects and Goals are really important as we come into winter. This weekend looks like all rain and last weekend was a bust as well. The temps are dropping and climbing must be done inside to maintain fitness. Many people don’t enjoy the gym but if you can find a way to make it fun it will greatly help you ability get back on projects in the spring. Training hard all winter has helped many climbers push the grades much harder than if they had just stayed home.

If you have a big list of routes to do it can put a lot of pressure on you since there is so much to do. It is important to remember that there is a lot of time and that you do the best at climbs that you train for. At the Red I excelled on crimpers since that had been what I was training on. When I did a slopey route I had a lot of trouble since I had not been climbing on slopely holds. So take one goal at a time and maximize your skill level for the climb you are focusing on. Pressure while climbing will only distract you and keep you from pushing to the limit. Remember Climbing is FUN!!

Here is a list of climbs that I want to do in my lifetime. I would like to do most them in the next five years or so but its tricky to know where I will be. This list comes from reading climbing magazines, chatting to other climbers and reading guidebooks. Many climbs are area classics or are very aesthetically pleasing. Desire for many climbs has stemmed from a really nice photo of the climb. Enjoy!

– Luke

Grand Wall

The Needles:
Romantic Warrior

Steck – Salathe
The Rostrum

NW face of Half Dome
Nose in a day
Free Rider

Toulumne Meadows:
Bachar – Yerian
Lucky Streaks

Red Rocks:
Cloud Tower
Original Route, Rainbow Wall

The Gift

Smith Rocks:
Astro Monkey
Chain Reaction
Heinous Cling

Joshua Tree:

Indian Creek:
Ruby’s Café
Way Rambo

Red River Gorge:
No Redemption
Table of Colors Direct


Birdman from Alcatraz
Mr. Joshua
The Totem Pole