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!



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

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.



Welcome to 2009…

5 01 2009

My first “class” (only kind of a class since it’s an interesting seminar with free dinner) is tomorrow and will signal the end of my winter break. I’m definitely excited to jump into the new year – the last 2 terms at Caltech, hopefully a grad school acceptance letter, and lots of new adventures.

I’d been thinking about writing a “goals for 2009” post, but I’ve decided against it because, as I’ve already been shown, life is full of unexpected turns and challenges and I don’t want to be frustrated by having a fixed agenda. Suffice it to say that I’d like to climb a bit more, run a bit more, go on more cooking adventures, and be less stressed. Those sound general enough, right?

My break has been pretty fantastic – restful, lots of visiting, a bit of climbing, and a bit of snowboarding. Marred only by being sick for almost the entire month of December. In fact, I managed to strain one of my intercostal muscles on Jan. 3rd from coughing too hard. Surpisingly to me, this muscle is involved in a lot of things – breathing, coughing, sneezing, laughing, laying on my side, using my abs, picking things up, etc… Although ibuprofen and rest seem to be helping a bit, my 2009 training will have to wait a few days. But I’m addressing one of my other goals by not worrying about it.

Luke sent some projects at Bishop (I’ll let him blog about that) and we managed to do a bunch of snowboarding without getting too bruised in the process. On our last day we checked out the Druid Stones, which we definitely want to return to next time (this was the first day of my intercostal strain, so hiking up the hill with my crashpad and then bouldering seemed out of the equation for me).

Happy 2009,


Frolicking on Limestone – A Long Weekend at Charleston

13 08 2008

It was another crazy, eye-opening excursion to Mt. Charleston. We left San Diego on Thursday, set up our tent in Hilltop campground (this time, the slightly less awesome site 27), and passed out.

View from the alpine woods of Mt. Charleston down into the Nevada desert.

On Friday morning, we headed to The Hood, which is home to several crazy limestone caves and many of the harder (and by harder, I mean 5.14) routes at Charleston. We decided to start out at Pine Tree Ledge, which has some 5.10s and 5.11s that would get us back into the swing of climbing on limestone. However, the routes at Charleston seem to give us something new every time. Our first route was a slabby, balancey 5.10 with a crux mantle to the anchors that involved standing on a smear with absolutely no handholds. Luke onsighted this and I decided to just follow it because it traversed a lot and I had a headache. Next, we tried a steeper, juggy and pocket-ed 5.11c called Heating Up the Hood. This was yet another experience. Luke also onsighted this and I decided to follow it to see if it was a good route for me to project. There was a tricky move at the first bolt that took me a couple tries to figure out and a reachy move to a small, 2-finger pocket that I managed to hurt my right middle and ring-finger tendons trying. Although the route was cool, my fingers really hurt and I decided not to push my luck and try to lead the route because I wanted to be able to send my other Charleston project from last visit. We were joined by some cool dudes from San Diego, who proceeded to climb Heating Up the Hood, while we tried out the route next door, a 10d called Witness This, which has extensions that go at hard and harder. Luke onsighted this also (we are pretty much the onsight masters…) and I followed it. It was a balancey route, but not quite as frighteningly bolted as other Charleston routes, so I decided to lead it, which was fun and entirely uneventful. I guess 5.10d is becoming a lot easier for me.

At this point, I was feeling kind of crappy with my headache and all, so after Luke redpointed a pocket-y 5.11d on Pine Tree Ledge, we took a break to check out the caves – Souls Cave and Compton Cave – and for Luke to flash a 5.11c traverse across the Corrosion Cave called Across the Galaxy. Then we headed back to the campground so I could take a nap and try to rid myself of the headache, which was worse than anything I’d had in years.

The next day, I awoke feeling a little better, so we decided to hike up to the Imagination Wall to try the Imaginator, a long, 3-pitch route (5.11c, 5.11a, 5.11a). We warmed up on Egyptian Sandfish, a 5.10b with widely spaced bolts that we’d done on our previous visit. Luke also redpointed Collective Peace, a 5.11b that he’d “wussed out on” (his words) on our previous visit. Then it was on to the business. I put all my jackets on because although it was shorts and tanktop weather in the sun, the Imagination Wall is windy and north facing – quite cold. Luke did well on his onsight attempt, but was shut down by some weird sequences at the crux. In our pre-climb discussion, he said it was okay for me to decide not to go through with the whole route as long as we could stay long enough for him to send the crux 1st pitch. My tendons and head were still feeling awful, so I told Luke to rap down to rest and try again, rather than belaying me up. He sent it on his second try and we headed back down to the car, deciding to head into town to get some cash (we needed more for the last night at the campground) and some oatmeal, making it a rest day for me so I could feel up for sending my project on Sunday. We had some extra time, so we caught a movie – the new Mummy – which was ok but not anything particularly special. That is one of the nice things about climbing in Charleston or Red Rocks – you’re never too far from civilization if you need it.

Crazy limestone at the Robbers’ Roost.

Sunday found us on the short walk out to the Robbers’ Roost, home of my project, Los Banditos (5.11c), and Luke’s project, a crazy 5.12c called The Burglar on a big yellow wall. We warmed up on a short, unnamed 5.10c that we had done before and Luke re-redpointed the crazy Rooster, which follows a waterchute past bolts that are a tad far apart for comfort. Then I went on an exploratory first try on my project, where I downclimbed from the crux clip a couple times before I could get the beta right, then took a break before climbing through the last, boulder part of the route to the finish jug. Luke made me redo this whole sequence from the crux clip before I lowered, which was probably a good decision because I got the moves really dialed and still did them (except for falling while lunging for the jug) even when tired and pumped. We then headed over to Luke’s project, where we worked through the tricky sequences through powerful undercling moves that lead through the opening bulge, as well as remembering the moves on the rest of the route. Then it was my turn again, so I got back on Los Banditos. Everything went perfectly until the 2nd to last clip, which took me a while because the carabiner on the chain-draw was upside down, and I made my life more difficult by causing the draw to start swinging in my efforts to flip the carabiner back. However, I made the clip and launched into the final, tension-y sequence to the jugs. I matched the final crimp, moved my feet up, and lunged for the jug with my left hand. I got the hold, but could feel my hand slipping, so I lunged with my right hand, thankfully held on to the jug, and made it to the anchors – my 2nd 5.11c redpoint, and only a week after my first!

The upper part of The Burglar (5.12c). After heading up the slabby section, the route traverses left under the roof on underclings, with some powerful final moves to the anchor.

The rest of the day found Luke giving a lot of effort to The Burglar, but he was worried about getting injured and perhaps needing to be stronger to send the route. I scouted out another possible project for me, Five Finger Discount (5.11c) and got the first 3 draws on it before getting mystified by the crux (and the crux clip, which could only be done before the crux if the draw was already attached… hmm…). So Luke helped me out and climbed the route, even though he was tired, to the top so I could have all the draws on and get a toprope to work out the crux moves, which I did. The route was very cool and had a tension-y, boulder-y crux involving a long reach to a non-hold in the bottom of a pod, which you then have to pretend is a hold to clip and move your feet up. Limestone can let you do some amazing things. After all this, we were pretty exhausted, so we headed back to camp where we read our books and ate some dinner before passing out.

On our last day, I gave Five Finger Discount three lead tries (we’d left the draws on), one-falling it every time, although I fell higher and was nearly through the crux on the last try. However, after these efforts I was pretty exhausted and decided the route will have to wait for my next visit. Meanwhile, Luke redpointed Five Finger Discount and worked, then sent the neighboring route, Shotgun, another 5.11c of totally different character with slopey holds and heel hooks.

Overall, it was a really fun and successful trip. It was great for Luke to try a harder project, although I think he’s still limiting himself by worrying about injuries, etc. I feel really psyched on climbing right now, more than I have been in a while (or at least since Indian Creek) and I hope I can keep my momentum of training and projecting up into the school year, since I really should start working on 11d and maybe even 12a if I can one-fall my “project” the third time on the route… Also, in case you didn’t notice, Luke was the 5.11c master this weekend, climbing 5 routes of the grade – 1 onsight, 1 flash, and 3 redpoints.

Anyways, now I’m in Washington for a couple days, so stay tuned for news about my upcoming brief foray up to Squamish!


Injuries and Recovery

24 10 2007

This week has been pretty crazy down in San Diego with the out of control wild fires. What this mean in climbing terms is no time outside for cardio and no going to the gym. I usually bike to work and because of air quality issues I have been quite hesitant. I may try it out tomorrow since the wind has been calming down but we will see. The climbing gym has been closed the last two days and we will see if it is open tonight.

What this means for me is that I forcibly got a bunch of rest. While I don’t like to take so many days off from climbing I think it has been really good for my finger. I have had some minor tendon pain that occasionally was a bit intense. This has been an injury that is usually solved with tape. It gives me little pain while climbing and is tender afterwards. A bit of massage and stretching help a lot and this injury doesn’t really affect my climbing.

About a year and a half ago in March of 2005 I dislocated my right shoulder at a climbing comp. I was on some thuggy boulder problem and was doing the typical cut feet campus beta. I was not working on technique I was just trying to get it done. I hit the next hold with my left hand but in that instant I felt my right shoulder lift out of its socket. I jumped down and walked out of the cave with my right hand in the air. It felt weird but not very painful. I moved my arm around a bit and it popped right back into the socket, lucky me. I had what is considered a subluxation and I was pretty lucky.

This injury put me out of climbing for the next few months and really changed my attitude towards how I climbed. In the past I was a very dynamic climber and didn’t really consider movement very carefully. I had learned how to propel my body in the right directions and to pull really hard. As well my training was to get huge forearms and be strong, not at all considering that I would need muscular balance.

As Lynn notes it is important to pay attention to our bodies and make sure to develop them correctly. Personally I need to make sure that I get the proper amount of sleep and adequate days off between hard climbing days or workouts. After injuring my shoulder I had to make sure to pay lots of attention so that I did not re injure it. My doctor told me that if I could keep from dislocating it again for the next few years the likelihood of a complete recovery would be much better. I started physical therapy and after the sessions I would ice and massage my shoulder. It was amazing to see how weak my shoulders really were and how much I how little weight I could lift.

In addition to more cross training I am constantly trying to learn how to move better. I have been inspired by a lot of the blogs that Lynn Hill has written lately. This one on prevention really strikes true because I know campusing that boulder problem led to the dislocation of my shoulder. As well, as she notes, staying injury free is really key to continued improvement. How can a climb expect to climb more routes if they are nursing old injuries?

Having hurt my shoulder has led me to climbing in a new style. While some times I am more hesitant I am climbing stronger now than I was before my injury. I have to step away from certain routes and problems because of reachy or dangerous moves but I still have plenty of things to climb. In terms of climbing harder and more routes I am constantly looking to improve my technique. By climbing more I have been increasing my move vocabulary but I want to keep learning. This blog about visualization is pretty cool since I am not that much in touch with my body yet. I still am struggling with how to do some of the moves that I am already familiar with.

Hopefully in the future I can learn how to better listen to my body and how to use it while climbing. Currently I pre-visualize sequences, foot positions and which ways my hips point. Taking this a step further to examine forces and where my center of gravity is may allow me to climb routes while expending less energy and using smaller holds. It will be exciting to try these techniques out next time I am at the crag.

– Luke