Enjoying Variety, from Joshua Tree to Joe’s Valley

22 04 2009

I can’t help but laugh at the places climbing has taken me recently. From stress free pulling in Bishop to the no fall zones while headpointing  in Joshua Tree. Variety is the spice of life and I have been taking a full helping. My climbing bubble is doing well, full of adventure and my fingers are finally starting to get strong again!

A few of my college friends are flying out to Utah for  a long chill bouldering weekend in Joe’s Valley , a new area for all of us. It seems the weather should hold up and with the help of the web we have a full plate of things to do.

Back in the Seattle area the local trad climbing mecca has been threatened. Index holds a special places in my heart since it is where I lead my first multi-pitches and did my first 5.9 trad lead. Hopefully all will turn out well in the next couple months and I will make sure to post updates when I see them.

In other news it looks like Peter Mortimer and the Sender Films crew secured a new TV show backed by National Geographic.  In related news Alex Honnold pushing his limits with an all-star crew and getting on on some First Ascent Action in Borneo.

Lizzy and I will be back next week hopefully with a camera full of photos and videos! If you are going to Joe’s this weekend be on the lookout for a Silver Rav4 with Washington plates. Feel free to stop by and say hi if you see our orange Marmot tent.

Take Care,



Cause for Celebration

15 04 2009

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

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


sunrise on the coast


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


pretty orange flower in the botanical garden

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

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

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


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

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

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

Intersection Rock BBQ, A J-Tree Photo Essay

14 11 2008

This past weekend Lizzy was in the Field studying Geology so I headed out to J-Tree for the 3rd Annual Intersection Rock BBQ. The idea of a BBQ on top of one of the most visable J-Tree features seems like a crazy idea but we had no injuries and no tickets.

Two grills, lots of beer, guitars and burgers were hauled up to the top of the rock and people steaidly made there way up way after the sun went down. At the high point there were at least 40-50 people on top. There was lots of dancing thanks to the two guitarists. 

Many beers were drank, hot wine was consumed, and everyone had a blast.  But what about the climbing? To get the most of out the weekend Shay, Alex and Angelina drove out early Friday morning. We snagged camp sites in prepration for the mass of San Diego climbers coming for the Saturday night BBQ. We then headed out to Geology Tour Road. 


Shay about to start up Knack.

The tick list was Knack and Perpetual Motion and then Equinox.  Angelina and I did Perpetual Motion, which I was able to onsight, while Alex and Shay did Knack. Perpetal Motion started a bit pumpy and then there were some hard moves followed by a super fun hand crack. 


Angelina showing her bloody finger after coming out of the tricky jams of Knack.

Knack was super technical locks. You had to keep your weight on your feet and make sure not to slip out. The cold wind gave perfect temps since the jams were far from locker. After Angelina and Shay lead the route I got on and luckily got a flash. At one point I was slowly slipping out of the crack and was able to pull hard and keep it togeather. 

We headed out to Equinox and I had my best performance yet. After working a few sections on TR I was able to lead it on pre-placed gear in two falls. I had screwed up the gear and that caused my 2nd fall. Everyone top roped the crack and I ended up TRing in the dark with 2 falls. My fitness is increasing and I am hopeing for a send this weekend.

Saturady was a mixed bag of climbing and work and partying. The highlights of the day incude sends of Course and Buggy by both Angelina and Shay. As well Nate CRUSHED left ski track. I followed him clean but could not match his grace. It was very impressive.


On Sunday we woke up to much colder temps and a raging wind storm. We headed to Hot Rocks since it is in the sun.  The crew managed a lot of sends despite the variable weather. 


Ian starts out on his Onsight with a minimal amount of gear beta. 


Starting out the crux. After you get your foot on the crimp its all over.


Ian calmly working through all the hard moves.


Kostas, tights and all, past the crux and about to get into the amazing hand crack.


Nate fingerlocking his way through the crux. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-2051Luke working his through the technical finger locks.

It was funny how Hot Rocks went down. Both Nate and I used the crack with different sequences. Kostas, Scotty and Ian used the crimp out right to gain the better holds higher up. I was happy for a 3rd try send. Top roping it twice, with the second time clean, gave me confidence to lead it. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-2641Scotty reaching for the Crimp.

We headed over to Sport Challenge rock to work on Leave It To Beaver and Clean and Jerk. I had pumped out on my last try on Clean and Jerk and was happy to get to send it. I climbed the bottom differently than before and the top was a bit easier. Kostas followed me while nate belayed Ian on Leave it to Beaver.

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-279Luke heading up Clean and Jerk, which is on the cover of the new Joshua Tree West.

We all met at the top and Ian had sent! A very proud lead with a very hard crux.  We used both ropes and some of my gear to setup a top rope so we could all try it.  Nate and I both had no problem getting up to the crux. However neither of us could do the move. A long reach to  a jug froma left hand slot with bad feet. I took full advangtage of the TR and cheated through the hard moves and then did the top clean. It was amazing crimping on horizontals for the last 30 feet. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-3501Ian, Nate and Kostas 

I was able to figure out the hard move but I started with my feet much higher than I could get on my own. I am anxious to try the route a bit more when I am less tired. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-322Lin commiting to the thin crack on Spincter Quits.

We finished the day on the other side of the sport challenge rock with Lin, Scotty and Charles. Too tired to lead Rap Bolters are weak we waited for somone to get to the top and setup a TR for us. In retrospect I should have 4th classed up the decent and setup the rope since by the time we had everything setup everyone was ready to go.

My one try was horrible and made me wonder if holds had fallen off. I had done the route on TR three years earlier without falling. YIKES! After my flailing we packed up and ate some food and made our way back to San Diego. I got a ride back home from Ian and Rick which was pretty uneventful. A great weekend and a ton of fun with the Pullhader crew. 

If you want to see everyone else’s photos be sure to checkout Facebook.



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 AKtionPhoto.com

– Luke