Mutli-Pitch Bliss at Mount Charleston

12 08 2009

Most of the time I think of myself as a sport climber but I really enjoy being high above the ground. Mutli-pitching takes one beautiful places but it is usually reserved for trad climbers. Two weekends ago we indulged and brought only quickdraws and slings while climbing Cathedral Rock at Mt. Charleston.  Despite the many other cool climbs we did during the weekend the three pitch Cathedral Route was the highlight for me.

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3rd classing up some loose choss.

Our weekend started on a negative but enlightening note. Despite arriving Friday afternoon and driving around for more than an hour to the five campgrounds we were unable to find an open. Most of the sites were empty but reserved for that night. In the future it seems that reservations are a MUST HAVE for the the summer at Mt Charleston. We pitched our tent at the free area near Mary Jane falls and took the short walk into the Mary Jane crag since we had lost so much time driving around.

The weather was perfect in the shade up at Mt Charleston and it was nice to be a bit chilly in August.  We both tried to warm-up on an awkward 5.8 and then started working our way through to some of the harder routes.  I soon got on the namesake climb, Mary Jane, and it was amazing. I thought that Lizzy might be able to flash it and so as I climbed I tried to let her know what the moves were like and where the holds were.  This added to the pump but I still managed the onsight. With all the looking up Lizzy was feeling a bit off and I’m sure the elevation (7000+ feet) didn’t help.  Lizzy decided to take it easy and we relaxed while I depumped. Up for a bit of adventure I got on a route that wasn’t in our guidebook and it was exciting with an awkward crux and a fun finale at 5.11-. I convinced Lizzy to TR this route which she sent with a few falls even though it was not her style. It was getting late but I had a bit more energy and did a few 5.10b’s at the end of the crag onsighting one and doing the other 2nd try.  Looking at the book  a bit later I realized I had misread the descriptions and the climbs were actually 5.10a (left) and 5.11a (right) which made more sense and I felt silly for misreading the book.

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Lizzy checking out the upcoming climbing after Pitch 1.

One of the big reasons for going back to Charleston was to give Lizzy a crack at her project from last season, Five Finger Discount.  She had done all the moves and linked different sections but could not get through the techy crux from the ground. Saturday we warmed up on an awesome 5.8 at Robbers Roost before I decided to give Future Days an attempt. This was one of the first routes bolted at Charleston and I had previously been too intimidated to try it. I soloed 15 feet to the first bolt doing multiple 5.10 moves on the way. Some tricky reaches got me to the 2nd bolt and the crux. I felt around for a while trying to find holds but eventually gave up, unwilling to set off  into the unknown and the distant bolt.  A few false starts later I figured out the tricky foot moves and made it through the crux and to the next bolt. The rest of the route was much easier than expected though I still hung at the last bolt before a final hard move and the 20 foot runout to the anchor.
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Looking out at the surrounding hills (The hood is just right of center behind an obvious yellow buttress)

With the crux sequence memorized I sent the route 2nd try and Lizzy climbed it on TR only falling at the first crux. With our warmup complete we left the sunny side of robbers roost (it was hot) and went to the main breezy corridor. Fortunately the project draws we had left on Five Finger Discount were still there and Lizzy was all set for the send! The first part of the route went very smoothly and she took at the crux to save energy and remember the complex sequence. The first few tries were unsuccessful but all of a sudden Lizzy found her zone and did the crux move easily, got the tricky next clip and went to the top!! On her next try Lizzy made the bottom section look super casual and sent the route without a problem!! It was cool to see Lizzy step outside of her box and climb a route that required bigger moves on a steeper wall. In between her tries I had given a burn to my project, The Burgler, but the final moves still seemed hard from the hang so I still needed to gain fitness before any real redpoint attempts.

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Lizzy follows the “alpine” like second pitch.

We spent a bit more time after lunch looking for a campsite for Saturday night but no luck! We were really hoping to move from the free lot since we had not slept well the previous night due to a group of screaming crazies from Vegas that were running around at 3am.

We moved on to The Hood which had a few 5.12’s that I had not tried yet. When we got there the first 5.12a, Rappin Boyz, was wet so I attempted what I thought was Jazz Ma Taz. It had fixed chain draws so I knew I could always bail if it was too hard. The moves were really cool and I made good progress bolt to bolt until the 2nd to last bolt. The final boulder problem involved a powerful undercling sequence followed by a huge reach to a decent hold by the anchor. This section was a show stopper and I lowered off not sure what to do.

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Lizzy shoes a bit of attitude.

We found the other 5.12 that I wanted to try, I believe it was called Borne a Snake, and it looked really desperate and there was no chalk meaning it had not been climbed recently. After talking to a few locals I realized the route I  had just tried shared the start with Jazz Ma Taz but had a totally different finish. This explained the chalked 12+ that I had seen on the rock though the local told me he thought it was super hard and likely 13a. The final boulder problem had been really desperate and everything made more sense. With no other routes in mind I wanted to see how far I could link and gave it another go.

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Out of the shade for a summit shot!

My lack of limestone fitness showed instantly as I had to rework the sequence to the 4th bolt on the fly since I couldn’t hold on the same way as my first try. I thruched a bit got the clip and fully committed to the next sequence making a hard pull left to a sinker jug. My fingers stalled on the deadpoint just beyond the hold and I though I wasn’t going to be able to fall into the big pocket. With encouragement from Lizzy I made it a bit further but found another sequence where my beta was too strength intensive for the link. After a few falls I made some good progress on the top boulder problem but still couldn’t work out how to get my right hand in the last undercling.

Lizzy was a bit low on motivation, which often comes after sending a hard project, and we moved on to some easier climbs. I lead a painfully sharp 5.10a slab just left of the Corrosion cave which I knew Lizzy would not like and we decided to call it a day. The night seemed to be going well, at the free lot, until two groups of loud campers showed up and dashed our hopes of sleep. One memorable and loud saying from the group was how it “only midnight” and there was lots of night left (I assume to keep us from sleeping and continue partying).

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Trying not to get too excited by keeping it silly!

The next day I was not feeling up to trying any more hard climbs and Lizzy was not ready to start climbing on the hard routes at the Hood. I wanted to climb either the Imaginator (of which I had done the excellent first pitch) or the Cathedral Route. Lizzy chose to go to a new area and after a bit of a long hike for Charleston (45mins) we found our self at the very chossy base of Cathedral Rock. A few loose rocks fell from the summit while we were racking up and I was a bit anxious that I had left my helmet at home.  After some exploring the multiple ledge systems I found the bolted starting belay so Lizzy and I got ready to climb. The Cathedral Route is on a north facing wall and we both changing into pants and Lizzy brought her R1 and light windbreaker.

Cathedral Route TopobA topo I made thanks to Beta Creator.

The book noted the route could only be rapped with two ropes so we brought our shoes to walk off on the hiker trail from the summit. The book also said the last pitch was 120 feet which we though might be workable to rappel with a 70m rope. The first pitch was the crux and a brutal warmup. The start seemed steep and I had to fight the pump on the many reaches between flat edges.  A little over halfway up the holds ran out and I was faced with sharp quartz bands running across the limestone face. I was right next to the arete and had to make an off balance move to get established on the slab. The next 25 feet were full on and I thought I might fall off at any point. Luckily I made it, passing a sporty runout in some bad rock, to the final crux before the anchor. I must have spent 20+ minutes at a good stance trying three different variations before discovering a small sidepull. This tiny hold helped me get my feet up and I made a few laybacking move to the anchor.

Lizzy followed with only 2 falls some how avoiding the flash pump that plagued me. The 2nd pitch was much easier since the dark bands now stuck out a good ways from the wall leaving one to two inch edges. Pitch two was almost vertical and I thought it felt more like 5.10c/d compared to the 10b given in the book.  I made it to the anchor knocking off only one rock from the chossy corner that led to the anchor. Pulling hard got me through the funky first 2 bolts of the final pitch. The next section, to the 3rd bolt and above, was so fun with perfect jugs appearing at the limit of my reach. An exciting slab move with my feet noticeably far above my last bolt had me yelling with joy. A nice rest set me up for some more steep jug pulling and the crux of the last pitch. I struggled to hold on to awkward underclings while reaching as high as I could search for the next hold. A small crimp gave way to a series of triangular flat ledges and more slabby limestone. The last part was a bit less feature and I was moving as fast as possible pinching large limestone features trying to avoid the pump.

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Luke cleans up some trash from Cathedral Rock

At the anchor  the middle mark of our rope was at the 3rd bolt so Lizzy decided to carry our shoes on the final pitch. I confirmed her decision when I pulled up the rope and the middle mark was almost 10 feet below me.  For convenience someone could easily double up the final protection bolt to create a rap station which would allow the whole route to be rapped with a 70m rope. Right now the final anchor is in a very logical place since it allows you 3rd class access to the summit. We strolled down the hiker trail and then I hiked a very direct route back to retrieve our packs. On my way back  I filled  my crampon pouch with bottles and cans and saw so much trash that still had to carry the final cans to the base.  Check out those old Budweisers!!

We had a great weekend but it will sadly be a long time before we go back to Charleston.

– Luke


Shivering, Sweating, and Sending in Smith Rock

30 06 2009

It happened. We graduated and packed up the Rav to head down to Smith Rock out near Terrebonne, Oregon. I hadn’t been in almost 5 years (since the summer after my junior year in high school) and was stoked to go back and lead some of the routes that fired my initial love of rock climbing. We were there for 12 days and 11 nights, my longest climbing trip in quite a while.

Day 1

Maddy and I packed up the car in the morning and headed down to Oregon. With some stops for food and gas, we made it down to Smith Rock in about 7 hours. We pulled up to the campground, set up our tents, and headed down the trail to get a couple of routes in and start getting our Smith Rock faces on. We headed to the 5 Gallon Buckets area, but there were people (not surprisingly) on all the easier routes, so we continued up to the Peanut to start out our trip on Hop on Pop (5.8). We both lead the route, and I didn’t freak out too much about the knobs seeming to flex when I pulled on them. Then we headed back and both sent the 5.9 to the right of 5 Gallon Buckets before heading back to the campground for the day. Nothing too challenging, but it was good to get on the rock after a long drive.

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Checking out the guidebook cause WE’RE AT SMITH ROCK!!!

Day 2

When it wasn’t windy, it was pretty hot in the sun, so we decided to start out in the shade by heading over to the Mesa Verde Wall. We’d never been there before and knew there were a good number of classic knob routes. We warmed up on Cosmic (5.10a) – an onsight for Maddy and a flash for me. We wanted to get on the ultra classics Screaming Yellow Zonkers (5.10b) and Moons of Pluto (5.10d), but another party had just started Screaming Yellow Zonkers and we were not sure our rope was long enough for Moons of Pluto. Instead, we decided to go for Bad Moon Rising (5.11a). It was my turn to go first, so I got on the sharp end and went for the onsight. I made it past the tricky moves on crappy rock down low, the stellar 5.10 knob climbing in the middle of the pitch, and up to the last bolt, below the roof. I jumped right into the roof moves, since there wasn’t a good rest and I was already feeling pumped. I managed to get one of the knobs over the lip, popped my right foot out onto a knob, then struggled to get up onto the upper slab. There was another, better knob, but I couldn’t reach it. So I fell. It was a long, but safe fall and after resting and de-pumping for a second I easily pulled the roof by using some better footwork to gain the second, much juggy-er knob to pull over the roof. Instead of trying to redpoint the route, I had Maddy clean it after following on TR so we could try the other classics at the crag. We both sent Screaming Yellow Zonkers first try, but then the sun came before we could get on Moons of Pluto.

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Smith is so pretty.

We headed back to the front side to play on the 5 Gallon Buckets and Overboard walls a bit more. But they weren’t in the shade yet, so we stopped at the Dihedrals and climbed Wedding Day (5.10b) – an onsight for me and redpoint for Maddy. Then we headed over to tick 5 Gallon Buckets (5.8), both redpointing it. We were both interested in Magic Light (5.11a) and Overboard (5.11a/b), so we decided to try one of them (Magic Light) as the last route of the day. I got about 2 bolts up before I got awful hand cramps in both hands (simultaneously) and dropped my chalk ball on the ground. I decided it was Maddy’s turn to lead. She headed up and couldn’t figure out how to move left onto Magic Light, so continued straight up on Overboard instead. She took a couple falls at the crux, but finally figured it out (which was good, because I was pretty much out of commission for the day) and made it to the anchors. She cleaned the route and we headed back to the campground, deciding we definitely needed to bring more water the next day.

Day 3

This was our first gorge day. I remembered loving the basalt columns of the Gorge on my first trips to Smith and was excited to go back and lead many of the routes I had tried on toprope. We spent the whole day on the West Columns because it was somewhat cloudy and breezy all day, making the temps good even in the sun and rather chilly when we were in the shade. Maddy isn’t super into the trad leading thing, so I lead everything and she followed and cleaned. We warmed up on Badfinger (5.10b, redpoint), then climbed Rim Job (5.10b, onsight), Wildfire (5.10b, onsight), and Cruel Sister (5.10a, onsight), with many rests in between since I hadn’t slept well the night before. To finish up the day, we both toproped Crack-a-no-go (5.11b), which I wanted to eventually try on lead, but after toproping since the tricky gear placement is supposed to be the crux. I flashed it on toprope and started working out the gear beta. But we were pretty tired, so we hiked out, made dinner, and went to bed early, only to be woken up at 3am by some people noisily setting up their tents.

Day 4

We were glad this was a rest day – not only were we tired, but the campground was absolutely swamped with weekend people – mostly not climbers (or people paying to be guided for the day) who thought it was ok to leave their stoves, coolers, etc. set up at one (or two!) of the ~10 picnic tables for the whole day. Apparently the concept of shared space was not apparent to many of these people. We had a lazy morning, then headed to Bend to get some Chai before going to Portland to pick up Luke. We got some yummy baked goods from Great Harvest Bakery and shared a slice of pizza from the Bite of Bend food fair. We drove to Portland via Salem (since I’d never been that way and we had some time to kill), then after some furious phone calls by Maddy, found the only retailer in the greater Portland area with Miuras in Luke’s size, since he’d called to tell us he forgot to pack climbing shoes. Shoes in hand, we picked up Luke from the airport and headed back to Terrebonne. We had a very delicious dinner at the Terrebonne Depot, a relatively new restaurant near the train tracks on Smith Rock Way. The fish tacos were AMAZING.

Back at the campground, we met up with Kevin and Jon of Climbfind and chatted for a bit, making plans to meet up at Cocaine Gully the next day, before heading to the tent for the night.

Day 5

Luke and I scrambled up “the nostril” into Cocaine Gully, while Maddy headed over towards the Dihedrals to meet with some friends from the Vertical World team who’d moved to Bend. Our plan was to warm up on Chicken McNuggets (5.10b), which, like many classic 5.10s in Smith Rock, I’d done before on toprope. The beginning part was trickier than I remembered and my nerves contributed to my taking an accidental warm-up fall on the first bolt. Then, with the falling jitters mostly subdued, I proceeded to send the route. The huge nubbins on that last wall are wild! Luke lead the route also, before moving up-gully to Powder Up the Nose (5.10d). Luke lead the precarious tiny-nubbin-pulling and we decided that I would just toprope this one, which I did, since the crux pulls were an uncomfortable distance above the last bolt for the second route of the day. Then Luke went up to remember the moves and put the draws on Freebase (5.12a), which he’d tried on a previous trip to Smith. We were also joined by Kevin and Jon, who hopefully enjoyed TRing the routes we’d done and borrowing my rope to lead Chicken McNuggets. It was my turn next, so I got on Vomit Launch (5.11b), which I’d been told was really awesome. I decided not to go for the onsight, because I expected I would get super pumped trying to figure out the sequences. I took a couple of rests on my way up, but didn’t find any genuinely hard moves (just some delicate footwork-y ones, including a lockoff that allowed me to static the move to the big jug that is apparently a deadpoint for most). Then Luke sent Freebase! His first 5.12 of the trip!

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The Climbfind guys on Chicken McNuggets (5.10b)

While Luke onsighted Bloodshot (5.11c), I went to get Maddy, who I thought would enjoy Vomit Launch. She did very well, taking only two falls. This encouraged me, so I went for the send. I focused on moving efficiently so I could minimize the pump and in no time I was on the final crack jugs and clipping the anchors. That route is way fun and I would definitely recommend it for someone just breaking into the grade since there weren’t really any “hard” moves.

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Maddy attempting Vomit Launch (5.11b)

We finished the day with 9 Gallon Buckets (5.9) and then Luke lead Overboard (5.11a/b) so Maddy could work the crux on toprope. I abstained. I was beginning to realize I really wasn’t a fan of the ridiculously greasy and polished routes in the Morning Glory area – I like my footholds to be sticky! We finished the day with breakfast burritos for dinner and a bit of slacklining and hanging out with Kevin and Jon before they headed down to California.

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Lizzy sends Vomit Launch (5.11b)

Day 6

The morning arrived without a definite plan. We slept in a bit (Luke was so excited the first day that he was pretty tired, which is unusual 😀 ) and headed to the Dihedrals. Everything was in the sun already, but we found some routes to warm up on  – Helium Woman (5.9) and Captain Xenolith (5.10a), which Luke onsighted and the rest of us flashed. When we finished, everything was still in the sun (we were still getting used to the whole sun/shade issue at this point, as our first several days had actually been fairly cool). Luke and Maddy worked on Latin Lover (5.12a) and Take a Powder (5.12a/b), which were in the shade (amazingly). Latin Lover worked well for Maddy’s small fingers, but not so well for Luke’s man fingers and Take a Powder had a very hard crux section (which I did not do, because I was reserving my energy for 5.11 projects, since I’m learning I don’t have as much energy to expend as Luke).

It was hot in the sun at Helium Woman and Captain Xenolith.

Finally, Moondance (5.11c) got in the shade, so I nervously roped up for an onsight attempt. I fell once in the runout section below the rest jug, having gotten myself too far to the right on bad holds. After resting, I sent the remainder of the route to the anchors. Maddy then flashed the route (her first lead of the grade), which kind of made me feel lame. But I made up for it by sending the route next try. Maddy and I were both tired, but Luke still had a little leftover energy, so we stopped by the 5 Gallon Buckets area for him to do a few jughaul cooldowns.

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Lizzy on the crimpy slab on the first half of Moondance (5.11c)

Day 7

We decided to take this as a half rest day, with a full rest day a couple days later. We thought that two full rest days might limit our climbing time too much, while only one rest day would just not suffice. We had a relaxing morning, then took a trip to the grocery store, followed by some reading time and a leisurely lunch at the campground. We headed down into the Gorge around 3pm, when we knew the West Columns would be in the shade. Since Pure Palm (5.11a) was one of the goals for the day, we warmed up on Cornercopia (5.10b). I lead it first (a redpoint, since I’d TRed it before), then Luke and Maddy followed it to warm up their stemming muscles.

Lizzy warming up on Cornercopia (5.10b).

Luke went first at Pure Palm, but couldn’t figure out and commit to a sequence at the first crux, which comes when your feet are at the 3rd bolt. I tried next, but fell while trying to make the move, so it was Maddy’s turn. She used some ridiculous beta involving taking both her feet off at the same time and doing a hand-foot match. She unfortunately fell near the upper crux or it would have been a very impressive flash. I decided to try the ridiculous beta on TR so I would be more comfortable on lead, climbing up to the rest ledge, then lowering to rest for my next go. In the mean time, Luke sent the route, but highstepping his right foot (whereas Maddy used the left). I ended up doing the same thing on my lead go, making it safely to the rest ledge and facing the unfamiliar territory to the anchors. The last couple moves were extremely thrutchy, since I couldn’t seem to get back in the stem, but I somehow managed to send and clip the anchors.

Lizzy palming and stemming up the beginning section of Pure Palm (5.11a)

Luke wanted to try Last Chance (5.10c), so he located it and onsighted it. Maddy followed it, since I wanted to save it for another day in the Gorge when there was time to lead it. Instead, I used the waning light to get on On the Road (5.11a), which I’d TRed a long time ago. I psyched myself up for the crux bit from the ground, but once I got up there the “crux” didn’t even seem hard. I reminded myself to stay focused and not mess up the send after floating up the “crux”. The hardest part was probably the section of off-fingers (purple camalots) before the crack went to thin hands and then hands. Even though the guidebook said to bring a “big hands piece” for the top, I only placed one yellow camalot and could easily have managed without it. This was an awesome send for me because it felt fairly easy in comparison with my struggle a the top of Pure Palm.

If there had been more light, I would have kept going, but it was getting dark, so Luke cleaned the route and we hiked out of the Gorge for a late dinner.

Day 8

Although our half rest day was awesome, it was not very restful and everyone was feeling a bit tired the next morning. After a somewhat slow start, we decided to start the day at the Northern Point and take it from there. Although Northern Point features many short, easy topropes, more recently there have been some pretty cool sport climbs added, too.

We arrived at the cliff only to find that we hadn’t slept in quite enough and the easiest route, a 5.10c/d, was still in the sun. So we decided to “warm up” on one of the 4 star 5.11s the cliff offered, because it was actually in the shade. Luke onsighted A Woman in the Meadow (5.11a) and Maddy flashed up to the awkward and powerful undercling crux. She took a fall that tweaked her ankle, so it was my turn. I flashed it, but got super pumped in the process. Then we moved on to Limbo (5.11a), which Luke also onsighted. I was still feeling pumped, so I just toproped this one and Maddy lead it with a fall or two. We also did Jungle Fever (5.11b), as well as a 5.12a (only Luke did this one, but he sent on his 2nd try), a 5.10d which may have been a bit harder due to a missing hold, and a 5.11c. I was having a crappy day, so I didn’t do all of them, but Luke and Maddy climbed well and we ended up having a full day of climbing at Northern Point.

I love this picture of Luke 🙂

Day 9

This, finally, was to be our full rest day, although it was not devoted entirely to resting. Luke had wanted to try to do the highline out to the mouth cave on the Monkey, so we got up fairly early and hiked up Misery Ridge (it was quite hot). Then Luke and Maddy rapped down and climbed the Pioneer Route (5.7 A0) to the mouth cave. I helped them set up a tyrolean off the Monkey, then Luke went back across with his webbing to set up the slackline. It took us a while to set it up, but we were able to get it pretty tight and Luke and Maddy spent some time trying to get established on the slackline (I’m not very good at slacklining to start with and I knew the exposure wouldn’t help…). In the end, nobody really got far off the ledge, but setting it up was good practice and Luke realized that he needs to slackline more often to mentally prepare himself better for highlining.

Luke considers the exposure of the Monkey highline

It was after 1pm and we had dinner plans in Bend, so we hiked the hot trails back to the campground, piled in the car, and headed to a deliciously greasy Taco Time lunch (normally my stomach can’t handle fast food, but I’ve had Taco Time since I was little and it is my one guilty pleasure whenever I come back to Washington). We returned to the campground to shower and reorganize the car, then headed to Bend, where we picked up some more yummy baked goods and sourdough bread and killed some time at the local REI before heading to the home of Maddy’s friends for dinner and socializing.

Maddy on the tyrolean out of the mouth cave

We got back to camp a little late and went to bed right away in preparation for an early morning.

Day 10

We headed down to the Christian Brothers and hopped on Barbeque the Pope (5.10b) as a warm-up, even though it was already in the sun. I went first, barbequing my toes, and Luke and Maddy both lead it also. Then Luke racked up to redpoint Wartley’s Revenge (5.11b), a steep juggy crack line that he’d tried before. He sent, with plenty of worrying about gear in the questionable rock, and Maddy and I followed (I, at least, was into energy-conservation mode again in preparation for an attempt on my top goal, an onsight of Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d) later in the day).

Lizzy’s toes getting cooked in the heat on Barbeque the Pope (5.10b)

Maddy lead up Latin Lover (5.12a) with a couple falls, but afterwards everyone else’s project was still in the sun (as usual). Luke walked over to Aggro Gully and found that it was not only breezy, but also shady over there, so we headed there to climb and wait out more shade at the Dihedrals. Luke sent Toxic (5.11b) on his second try and Maddy wasn’t able to figure out the dyno, so she cheated a bit to the right and eventually got to the anchors. After letting Maddy and I take naps, Luke got on Up for Grabs (5.11d), which he lead with a couple of hangs.

Luke makes the clip on Toxic (5.11b)

It was getting a little cooler, so we figured we could head back to the Dihedrals. I re-warmed up on Moonshine Dihedral, which I’d onsighted 5 years ago, finding it a bit slipperier than I’d remembered, but good practice for placing lots of nuts. I traversed over to the first anchor on Heinous Cling (5.12a) and set up a toprope for Luke and Maddy to play on while I rested for Sunshine Dihedral.

Maddy eyes the faraway jug on Toxic (5.11b)

It didn’t take them long to toprope Heinous, so it was my turn again pretty soon. Full of nerves and doubts, I racked up – a double set of itty-bitty nuts (RPs and some other little nuts called “Stones” that Luke got me and I love), the smaller half of our normal set of nuts, purple C3, green C3, 2 blue Aliens, a blue Mastercam, 3 green Aliens, 2 yellow Aliens, and 2 grey Aliens. I was deeply intimidated by the route, since the crack looked thin and tricky to protect, but I kept repeating encouragment to myself – I’d done routes almost this hard (three 5.11c sport climbs, plus my 5.11 onsight in Indian Creek), plus I had already done some difficult stemming on Moondance and Pure Palm and Sunshine Dihedral is actually a lot less steep than Moonshine Dihedral. As I struggled to place my first piece, a #5 RP, I worried that I was not qualified for the route. But I continued pushing down my doubts and was making more progress. Before I knew it, the first bolt (there are 2 bolts and a fixed pin on the route) was in sight. The moves getting to the bolt were some of the trickiest on the route, but I had it clipped and moved on above, into the section I’d thought was the crux. The stemming and jamming were tricky, but never impossible. There were some strenuous moves below the pin, but before I knew it, I’d clipped that, too! Only a couple more moves and there was a big jug (not really that helpful since my legs, not my forearms, were pumped). Then I clipped the 2nd bolt and did a couple more strenuous moves to pass the little roof at the bolt. Above the roof, I could see the anchors and the climbing started to get slabbier. I tried not to think about the anchor yet and only focus on the moves in front of me. I placed a couple more pieces and then I was clipping the anchor before I knew it! I had onsighted Sunshine Dihedral, my hardest lead ever. I was so thrilled and had a rush of adrenaline and excited energy that lasted a good half an hour! (Then I started to feel tired and my legs realized that they were actually pumped from stemming continuously for 30m!)

Lizzy getting into the groove on Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d)

The gear had been tricky and not the most bomber (I placed some #2 and #3 RPs and Stones that made me nervous), but it was all there. I cleaned the route on my way down and Luke toproped it, struggling a little more since his larger fingers couldn’t fit in all the pods. As I was putting the gear back on the rack, some older dudes walked by and asked what route we were doing. Upon learning the grade and fact that I had just onsighted it, they were very impressed (yes, sometimes its nice for the chick to impress the dudes!).

We celebrated by heading to Redmond for pizza. I was thrilled and felt satisfied with my climbing trip, even if I didn’t climb anything else.

Day 11

This was Luke’s day for the Monkey, so we got up reasonably early, hiked over Asterisk Pass, and headed to the West Face of the Monkey. Luke wanted to try Astro Monkey (5.11d), which started with the crux 5.11d pebble-pinching and slab-climbing pitch, followed by some easier pitches, a 5.11a pitch, and finishing by climbing Monkey Space (5.11b) up to and out of the West Cave.

Smith Rock - Jun 09 - 196

It was pretty hot on Bohn Street…

The initial pitch turned out to be pretty hard and it didn’t seem like many people climbed the route at all. Luke ended up rapping off and we decided to just climb the West Face Variation at ~5.8 to Bohn Street, then do Monkey Space to the summit. With some simul-climbing, we made Bohn Street in one pitch from the ground, then Luke lead the first, wild, traversing pitch of Monkey Space (5.11a). Maddy and I both had some scary following to do, but we all made it safely to the West Cave.

Smith Rock - Jun 09 - 201

Luke leads off into space on the first pitch of Monkey Space (5.11a)

The last pitch pulls onto the roof of the cave and up out on steep jugs. Maddy and I struggled following it due to our shortness and our difficulty removing gear, compounded by the fact that we aren’t used to climbing hard multipitches with 3 people and the rope management proved tricky. After rapping on the Monkey, we hiked back to the campground (it was already ~5pm) and got some ice cream from the climbing store, which was nice after the hot hike. We made dinner and went to bed early again, hoping to get some early climbing in the next day before taking Luke to the airport and heading back to my parents’ house.

Day 12

Maddy makes the clip on Latin Lover (5.12a)

This last morning was the time for everyone to get some last sends in, but I was still feeling fulfilled and not particularly motivated after having sent Sunshine Dihedral, so I was happy to mostly just belay Luke and Maddy. We got up early and headed to the 5 Gallon Buckets wall, where Luke “completed the wall” by sending every route (that he hadn’t already done this trip) except Zebra Seam and one of the extensions. Maddy warmed up by following a couple routes. She had wanted to get back on Overboard, but some locals were hogging the Overboard wall, so we decided to head straight over to Latin Lover. Maddy racked up her draws and set off to put the draws on the route. However, she kept not falling and made it up onto the arete, clipping the anchors and sending her first 5.12a (I think her hardest previous route was Moondance (on this trip) at a soft 5.11c). She was pretty stoked and gained the same fulfilled feeling I’d gotten from Sunshine Dihedral.

Luke wanted to squeeze one or two more routes in, so we headed back to Morning Glory, where Lion’s Chair (5.11a R) was still in the shade. Luke decided to go to the first anchor (5.10c) and then decide if he wanted to continue up the full pitch. The climbing turned out to be weird and awkward, so he decided to call it a day at the first anchor. Maddy followed, rapped, and we were hiking back up to the campground to pack up the tents and the car.

We made good time to Portland and had an hour before we needed to drop Luke off, so we stopped by the Portland Patagonia store (I LOVE visiting Patagonia stores, even though it pains me that I can never afford to buy anything…). Then it was time to say goodbye to Luke (I won’t get to see him for almost 3 weeks!) and drive north back to Poulsbo.

Overall, I think it was a fantastic trip. Maddy and I both sent a lot of routes at the harder end of our difficulty range and though Luke didn’t end up doing as many 5.12s as he’d hoped, I think he learned a lot about mental space. If you’re interested in any of these routes and want more beta (I’ve tried to keep this post pretty beta light or it would be EVEN longer), comment and we’ll be happy to fill you in.

Jamming in Paradise, a week in Indian Creek

27 03 2009


Lizzy on our 13 hour driving day to Utah

Last year we went to Indian Creek with a plan and a Tick list.  We had looked online and at the 1st edition of the Bloom guide and came up with 27 classics  at 11 different crags.  These climbs were our main objective and we were not “interested” in doing much else.  We  managed to get on more than half of these selected classics and at least 13 were either sent on lead or top rope by one of us.  This was an interesting approach but added unneeded pressure and while limiting our exploration to the creek. In 2009 Lizzy and I decided to eschew the ticklist and try to climb as many routes as possible at crags we had never been to hopefully finding some of IC’s hidden gems.

Enjoying the Utah scenery and the 75 MPH speed limits!

This year we also decided to come two weeks earlier which meant colder weather, forcing us to to chase the sun. The weather was not a big concern since the previous March we had to leave the Cat wall since it was too hot.  The drive to Moab took about 12 hours from  San Diego with plenty of gas stops and the mandatory visit to The Orange Peel in Saint George for bubble tea. We rolled through the creek just after dark and headed for the Creek Pasture campground at the far end of the 211 past the Super Bowl (which is often quite dusty). We saw only one other group and happily snagged a “site” with a picnic table. Having a normal table was a big improvement from the  make shift  knee height table we used in 2008. Being able to cook standing up and keep the stoves and food out of the sand is a really nice creature comfort.


Getting ready to lead the first route of our 2009 IC trip!

Our first day we wanted to keep things easy so we headed to the Original Meet wall for a hearty helping of 5.10. By starting on easy climbs we could get some fitness and have both Lizzy and I lead the routes. I started on Ladies First, seen above, did Wee Doggie which was super fun and then hit Tofu before lunch. These three routes were all 5.10- but definitely varied in difficulty. I had an eye opening moment on Tofu, which was described as off-fingers, when I was run out above my tipped out .75 wondering if it would be safer to keep going at least another 8 feet to where the crack thinned down or if i should jump… I kept it together and laybacked to safety and learned that I should be more careful with my gear selection. At times the guidebook suggests and incomplete rack and it can be safer to bring a few extra cams.


A potential Indian Creek FA

The climbing was pretty spread out at the Original Meat wall but the one advantage is the potential for First Ascents! On our way to the far right side of the cliff to do Wee Doggie I stumbled across the gem pictured above. The line is obvious but very thin and I am sure that it should be at least 5.12. There was no chalk, no anchor and the first foot hold was a piece of loose rock that could easily be removed.  If I had my drill and some bolts I would have aided it and sunk in an anchor that day. For better or worse I am going to have to wait until at least Thanksgiving before going back and trying it. I don’t know why it hasn’t been climbed other than that it may be a bit slabby for some people’s preference. As well it is thin but with all the pods in the middle it seems doable.


A very excited Luke at the thought of doing the First Ascent!

After climbing a fun unnamed corner that,  unknown to us at the time,  was on our 2008 ticklist we made the long walk to the Sacred Cow wall. From the book it seemed that it would not be to far but it took us at least 15 to 25 mins to reach Fatted Calf. This climb was supposed to be the Scarface of the Sacred Cow wall and since I enjoy thin hands I wanted to gave it a burn. It was my hardest climb of the day at 11- and I struggled at the start but managed to hang on as the crack widened to #2 camalots. Unlike Scarface the crack thinned back down to #1’s at the top and made me fight for my onsight. There was small horizontal at the anchor that allowed me to tap some of my unused crimping strength to clip the anchor. A gem of a climb for sure and my first 5.11 onsight of the trip!!

indiancreek-march09070Hanging out in the sun at the Origonal Meat Wall !

We spent the morning of day two at the Optimator. We warmed up on Lady Pillar which was fun and simple and then did a tricky unnamed twin crack before I went on to lead Hayduke Lives. Hayduke was very fun and involved a karate kick move to get established in a wide hands crack. I channeled Didier a la  From Switzerland with Love made the move and onsighted the route.  Lizzy was up next and got very close to an onsight of Soul Fire falling just short of the anchors. I managed to pull of a flash but was pretty pumped by the end. This route was hands to tight hands with a bit of stemming in the middle. It was pretty splitter and Lizzy and I both placed seven!! red camalots.

indiancreek-march09074Lizzy before her attempt at Soul Fire 11-.

In the afternoon we stopped by Donnelly canyon to do the classic Generic Crack. True to it’s popular nature there were people on the route and funny to see other parties after our quiet morning. We did Binou’s Crack to wait for the other party to finish and then I onsighted the classy 120′ hand crack.  It was super fun and amazingly consistent in size with some tricky sections through some larger pods. After Lizzy top roped Generic I gave it another burn to use up all my energy before our rest day.


Looking across at the Cat and Reservoir walls from the Optimator

Monday night would be our first night in the luxurious yurt and the timing was perfect. A storm rolled thorough Utah  and deposited 8 inches of snow outside our door step and 4 inches in Indian Creek. Tuesday was our rest day so the timing of the snow was not too bad.  After a long night of feeding the wood stove to stay warm it was nice to sleep in before going to Moab.


Luke tends the stove to stay warm in the snow storm!


Luke gets ready to drive to Moab.

After shoveling a bit of snow we got the rav out on the un-tracked road and started our snowy drive to Moab. I had heard good things about mountain biking in Moab so I was excited to take a rest day and rent some bikes. Lizzy and I had a bunch of fun riding around despite pretty chilly weather and were happy to let our skin recover from all the jamming.

indiancreek-march09099Getting ready to make some fresh tracks with the Rav

Our second night in the yurt was not as windy and it was super easy to cook and clean with a large propane stove and a water jug fed sink. Best of all the huge bed allowed us to fully recover from our long days of climbing.  I surely slept well and enjoyed having a bit of comfort.  The Yurt has a solar panel allowing us to turn on lights at night and there is a detached bathroom.


Lizzy looks happy to be staying in a bed at the Yurt.

Our first day back after resting we went to the Cat Wall. We had previously visited the far right side of the wall but hadn’t gotten past Johnny Cat. This time we approached via the left trail and worked our way right. We had a chilly morning but things warmed up fast when the sun hit the wall. After a ok unnamed 5.10 warmup I hopped on Deseret Moon. I wasn’t ready for the 11+ start and skirted around the crux on sketchy loose blocks. It took me a bunch of time to figure out the best way to go up and I had Lizzy pass me a 3.5 camalot to protect the wide moves on this alternate start. I was trying not to place gear to avoid rope drag and spent way too much time getting freaked out.


8 inches of fluffy snow outside the yurt.

The upper part of Deseret Moon was amazing and one of the more memorable climbs of the trip. It started off with off fingers to thin hand lay backing with some tricky foot work on a twin crack to the right. The difficulty eased once I could get thin hand jams and the crack widened to #2’s forever.  Confident with my hand crack skills from doing Generic Crack I ran it out savoring the wavy wall and the perfect size. I managed the onsight but will need to go back for a proper send via the direct start. The Cat wall is home to so many hard climbs and Lizzy was psyched to try the thin Puma. It was rated 11+ in our book but the 12- plaque gave Lizzy a few butterflies. She had a great lead falling a few times at the crux before making it to the top. I was even more impressed by her performance when I struggled with the start that was off-fingers for ME. I hung twice at the crux and then finished the climb.   We moved on to Kool Cat which and struggled since I was trying to jam the off fingers crack straight in. Lizzy showed me the beta when she one falled the crack on top rope, easily laybacking between the good stances.  I know that next trip should yield a redpoint for both of us.

indiancreek-march09144Lizzy on the crux direct start of Deseret Moon

On Thursday we were expecting rain and decided at the last minute to go to the creek instead of climbing in Moab.  This worked out amazingly well and we had our best day yet at Pistol Whipped.  I got a bit confused with the directions and the first few routes we did were chilly in the morning shade. Lizzy and both lead Short and Stupid 5.8+ and then I did Skid Marks 5.10 which she followed. I decided to get my layback on and climbed Revenge of the Rock Gods 5.10+ which was super fun and forced me to place gear while laybacking. It looked like the storm was coming so I made Lizzy wait to each lunch while I tried Spaghetti Western. I had read on Mountain Project that this was an amazing steep hand crack and I was hoping for an onsight. Luckily it was a bit thinner than Think Pink and I made good progress through the initial steep bulge, smartly placing gear at my waist instead above my head. The top was still tricky and I wished I had a bit more gear as I slowly funked my way to the top. The weather cleared up and after lunch Lizzy onsighted Coyne Crack simulator 11- and I barely eked out a flash.  Next I did Wounded Knee 10+ which was fun but I would suggest having a #4 or 4.5 to protect the cruxy offwidth move. There was still plenty of daylight so we did a bit walking around and stumbled on the climb in the photo below.

indiancreek-march09164Lizzy below Rump Roast II 5.11 after her onsight!

Lizzy got super excited by the description of thin hand and (5) 1.5 which are tight thin hands for Lizzy. She pre-visualized the sections and thought the climb would be doable. It looked hard to me and was excited to have Lizzy ropegun the pitch. The start was a bit harder than it looked but in no time she was at a good rest below the final crack. She slotted some gear, worked through the jams and clipped the anchors!!! Rump Roast II was her first 5.11 onsight of the trip and one of her hardest sends to date. I top roped the climb, happy not to be worrying about placing gear in the .75 sized camalot crack and then cooled down with one more hand crack.


The yurt was complete with a stove, sink and couch!

Thursday night was our last night in the yurt and the next morning we packed up camp and headed into Moab for our final rest day.  After all our shopping and some fun bouldering at Big Bend we headed back to the creek to grab a campsite for our final nights. The creek pasture was a bit more crowded but we still managed to find a site with a shaky table and passed out after our long day. Saturday was initially going to be Lizzy’s Birthday Challenge but we decided to keep things mellow and take the chance to work on Swedin-Ringle. We knew Battle of the Bulge would be crowded so we got up early and started on the far left side of the wall. This was a bit of a mistake as we froze on our warm up, Pigs in Space 10+, since it was in the shade.  A plus was that we were able to rap down and set up a top rope on Cold Corner 5.11+.   This climb, which started directly to the right of pigs in space, had two bolts protecting some tricky laybacking to some hard moves in to a flare. I was able to flash it on TR and would like to come back and lead it. The moves after the 2nd bolt were quite desperate and my cold fingers didn’t make things easier.

indiancreek-march09139Looking out from the Cat Wall.

We both rested and warmed up in the sun on a large rock before getting on Crack Attack 11-. Our timing was perfect since I was just ready to climb as anther party came over to try the route. A year before we had tried to climb Crack Attack and it had been occupied. While the business was the pumpy thin hands crack at the end I struggled the most on the the start since the gear was less than ideal ( I was missing a #4.5 and a second #3 camalot). We moved back to the main part of the crag and were instantly HOT.  Everything around the corner to the left of Disco Machine Gun was super cold but around the Big Baby and Our Piece of the Real estate we had T-Shirt weather.

I was resting up and getting psyched for my main goal of the day, an onsight of Ruins crack. This changing corners finger crack looked super fun and had been too intimidating for me to lead the year before. The start was hard and after a nice rest the business began with some more laybacking until the crack thinned down to green aliens and then pinched out. After making the “crux” switch the the right crack and moving up a bit higher  I was greeted with a nice rest and could see the crack widen to hands.  After my brief recovery I cruised the sandy tight hand crack to the top and happily clipped the chains!

indian-creek-march-08-430The gorgeous Swedin-Ringle 5.12- (photo from 2008)

Lizzy’s main goal was to give Swedin-Ringle a good redpoint burn. She had gotten close falling 8 feet from the anchors on two different attempts the previous trip and had saved up enough skin for one effort this year. We figure out gear beta and Lizzy set off easily climbing the start and getting in to the meat of the crack. She got higher and higher and I could tell she was closing in on her bad size. After the last .75, a purple .5 Camalot when in and I knew Lizzy must be struggling.  .5’s meant fingerstacks for Lizzy’s small fingers and she had another couple feet before the crack thinned down.   Another few moves and she was off.  Another effort from her high point allowed her to slide her cam higher and get in a grey alien. Still a few feet shy of the anchors she was beat and  after a few tries lowered off, cleaning one of her cams.  I wanted to take the easy way out and got ready to lead the route with all of Lizzy’s gear preplaced. I adjusted a few cams and really struggled at the top. As I worked my fingers into the thin locks next to the chains my left foot was shaking in the thin crack. I reached blindly and grabbed a quickdraw from my harness and clipped it to the chains. But when I looked it was a cam, not a draw that was hanging from the anchors. I was being punished for my poor style I thought as I switched my jams and tried to shake out. I grabbed again and this time got a draw and got it onto the chains, instantly having to switch to a lower lock to shake out yet again. I worked my fingers back into the high left jam and grabbed the rope and brought it to the quickdraw just barely getting it into the gate before being overwhelmed by pump. I slumped on the rope happy for the send yet frustrated by the desperate finale.

With this final climb Lizzy and I were both tired and ready to go home. We still had plenty of sun but thought it would be better to get back to California. We packed up the tent and bee lined for Saint George.  After a nice night in a motel we saw the VRG up close and then made it back San Diego ready to give our skin some rest. This year we took it easy and didn’t put ourselves under as much pressure yet overall we both climbed more routes and onsighted at or near our limits. We are already thinking of going back and hope to make time in November to return with friends and do Turkey Day at the creek.

I will be writing another gear beta post on the creek as well as some information about what to do on rest days. This year I had a bunch of fun being in Moab on our rest days and I want to share that great experience.  I am sure that Lizzy will also have some thoughts about the climbing as well as some more thoughts about trying hard routes.



Winter… in Red Rocks!

15 01 2009

This past weekend the weather was perfect and we had an amazing couple of days in Red Rocks. There were a staggering eight of the San Diego crew out at the Gallery on Saturday so Lizzy and I were able to take a bunch of Photos. Sunday Lizzy and I opted for some solitude and had a fun time at the Stone wall. While the rock is a bit soft the routes are longer and we enjoyed being alone while we were there.


Sonia on the super crimpy Minstral in the Gallery. 



Felix starting across the Sissy Traverse



Konstantine on Where the Down Boys Go



Felix making good progress on his project, the Sissy Traverse



Konstantine high up on Where The Down Boys Go


red-rocks-jan-09-060Leah on the opening moves of Nothing Shocking



Leah making progress on Nothing Shocking



Sonia on Fear and Loathing



Sonia gets ready for some hard clips on Fear and Loathing



Luke on the beginning moves of Fear and Loathing



Luke working through the left variation of the crux of Fear and Loathing






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.

Bishop In the Snow

9 01 2009

Lizzy and I spent our New Years vacation in Bishop and Mammoth. After a series of winter storms we were worried about the weather in Saint George and the consequences of becoming a belay popsicle while sport climbing.  


With plenty of jackets and the strong California sun we thought we could brave the weather in Bishop. To stay motivated we split the time by snowboarding  in Mammoth on our rest days from bouldering. We had many sunny days and our trip was stress free and fun. After visiting Bishop each of the last two months I am more psyched than ever on bouldering. 

After spending Christmas around the DC area we came back to San Diego on the 27th. Lizzy had managed to escaped a snow locked Seattle and we had a great Christmas with my Mom and family.  After repacking we headed up to a chilly night of camping on snow at the Pit in Bishop.


Lizzy warming up on sweet jugs!

The cold night and snowy landscape had us overdressed for our first day at the Buttermilks.  While Christmas had been brutal with a mix of rain and snow the midday time temperatures were quite reasonable. A seemingly cold morning quickly warmed up and although I was brushing snow out of the occasional finishing jug, I was wearing a T-Shirt and Pants. 


Starting up Flyboy (stand)

The friction was excellent and I was happy to do many problems on the Tut Boulder that I had stayed away from due to the heat on previous trips. The highlight of the day was trying Flyboy. I had heard much talk of this classic V6 but had yet to try the problem. Dynoing is far from my style and I was apprehensive about the dynamic last movie. I was able to latch the lip twice but did not believe enough to commit to the massive swing. 


Luke reaches for the last crimp before the jump on Flyboy

Catching the snowy lip was very exciting and really pushed my mental limits. I look forward to going back, controlling my fear, and sending this this problem! We stopped by the Ironman Traverse for a little while before the sun fell behind the mountains. While there was still plenty of light the temperatures quickly started dropping and we were back in the car by 4pm. Plenty tired we spent the rest of the day looking at hotel rooms and got to bed early.


About to fall off Flyboy.

The next morning we drove up to Mammoth and enjoyed a bluebird day. The sun was out and the snow was good. It was pretty warm at the bottom of the lifts but higher on the mountain it was colder.  It was my first time to Mammoth and my first time snowboarding in over three years. Lizzy had been to Mammoth around the same time two years previous. The day was fairly fall free and we got back in the groove of snowboarding. We met up with Dan Beall, from San Diego, who was up in Mammoth skiing with his family and girlfriend

We spent a very warm New Years Eve at the Happy boulders. I was able to finish up a few projects from previous trips and checked out some sweet new climbs. First I dispatched Rave, easy V7, from the sit start. On a previous trip I had done the stand but couldn’t hold onto the crimps of the start. The rest of the day Lizzy and alternated trying problems to stay fresh.  After she worked on Wavy Gravy, a crimpy and sharp V2, we moved on to The Gleaner V6. I had tried this problem breifly but hadn’t made it past the first two crimps. After attempting the  drop knee beta, I figured out that a toe hook was necessary for me. This allowed me to move staticly through the crux to gain a sharp deep pocket. Two tries with the toehook yielded a send and the day was going well.

I had never tried or seen the classic Serengetti V5 and had wanted to give it a good flash go. There weren’t any people near by but a few dudes stop by and I mooched some beta. I had a good first try and fell two moves below the jug. A different method on the 2nd go yielded the top and I was stoked to climb this classic problem so quickly. We moved from the sun into the cold shade of the rim. I was anxious to try Every Color You Are V6 . I had tried the problem a month prior on our pre-Thanksgiving trip and had gotten close to sending. After a few tries I stalled at at similar high point and vowed to return with more energy. We headed back towards the Hulk and after briefly trying Big Chicken, three-star V2, Lizzy was able to flash a fun V1 to the right of Solarium

My last objective of the day was to try out Redrum. This probe is hidden in a cave right next to the Hulk and follows a steep set of pinches to a much easier headwall. My energy was quite low and I no longer had the body tension for the moves. The holds were quite amazing and I am psyched to get back to it. 

New Years yielded perfect conditions at Mammoth and before noon the lines were super short. I think we managed more runs between 9am and 11am than we had in twice the time a few days previous. The afternoon was a bit crowded but we still had a bunch of fun. Our final day snowboarding was quite the different experience with wind, mixed ice/snow and low visibility. Because the mountain was so windy the upper lifts were closed concentrating the crowds on the lower areas. We stubbornly braved the conditions and the first few hours were quite good. 

On the morning of the 3rd we moved camp back to the Pit and got ready for our final day of bouldering. As Lizzy mentioned she pulled a muscle while coughing and was unable to boulder on the last day. Being a trooper she still agreed to hike up to the Druid Stones since we had never been. The hike was long and icey up a steep hill but it was quite worthwhile. There were no other climbers, aside from a guy hiking around with a guide book. In an effort to keep the day short I did not bring a pad but still brought my shoes. This turned worth while as the area was quite beautiful and the problems interesting. Inspired by a photo of Tiffany Cambell in the guide book, who evidently developed some of  problems in the area, I hopped on The Greatest Imperfection. This V6 looked pretty fun and the crux was close to the ground. I was able to work out the moves with a series of knee bars to a final dead point. After sticking this sequence I jumped off to err on the side of safety. While patina jugs lead to the top the final moves were a grovely series of slopers. The guidebook warned of these awkward and scary moves and I did not want to risk it.

We moved on to the Thunder Wall where I quickly worked through the moves of the classic ThunderV3  and Kredulf V4. It will be fun to go back with a pad and top out these problems! Prostrate to the Higher Mind, a short V5 lies on the right side of the wall on much different holds than the main patina covered face. Small sharp crimps stick out of the steep wall. This problem finished on jugs and after a few tries I was able to top it out. For a non climbing day I was doing well! The harder lines on this boulder warranted padding so I only fooled around for a short while before moving on to the Skye Stone. 

The Skye Stone was another amazing piece of rock and our final stop so we didn’t spend too much time on these tall problems. The routes all look spectacular and have a nice position overlooking Bishop. Despite the long hike it was well worth it. The setting and solitude alone make it a worthy detour from the more popular areas of Bishop. If all goes well Lizzy and I will return one of the next few weekends with pads and I will get to complete some of these classic problems.

Our six days in the Sierras left me yearning for more climbing. The snowboarding was fun and a good distraction but no where near as cool as playing on the amazing holds of Bishop. The bouldering is like no other granite I have climbed on. There are so many more crimps and features that allow for spectacular movement on boulders in a spectacular setting.

Happy New Year,


Facing forward while looking back.

11 12 2008

This past Sunday on my 4th try of the day, after a nice nap, I lead Equinox without falls. In the same fashion as my previous attempts I preplace gear from TR and then clipped all the cams on lead placing one final cam before topping out. In the way that I climbed the route on top rope 3 weeks ago it flowed and felt perfect. My foot slipped once but I hit all the jams and made all the clips. Earlier in the day I refined my sequence and the new way worked! I reached the top a bit tired but not too pumped. Back on the ground I joked about doing it again since I felt so good. 


What a perfect splitter!

This route has been a big deal for me, a pure hard crack and a test of my endurance.  Sending this climb has been a big priority for 2008 but even though I sent I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to keep working on it even though, for now, I am done. It is a mental struggle to want something and invest all your time and energy. Training for the moves on Equinox, spending each weekend driving out to and working on it, visualizing the sequence and replaying all the moves. I am ready for a break from that routine, happy to have no definitive objectives, yet I still desire the redpoint.  I don’t want to have to make excuses about pre placing the gear to bring the climb down to my level. I want to have the mental and phsyical ability for a proper redpoint.  But I know with time fitness will come and I can wait until Lizzy starts leading Equinox before I start working on it again.


Back in November working on the Equinox.

The next few weeks should be interesting as success from a long term project sinks in. Dave Macleod has talked about an emptyness following a long term investment. I wonder if projecting Equinox was the way to fill a hole after I sent Control Freak back in September.  Will our trip to the Virgin River Gorge fill the hole that Equinox will leave?

No matter it has been an excellent season. After the summer season sport climbing we had an awesome fall in Joshua Tree.  The weather is far from cold but the day light hours sure cut into the weekend. I was up by 6:30 both Saturday and Sunday!

On Saturday morning I attened the Riverside Quarry Cleanup and saw many of the San Diego climbers from the gym. We made a big dent in the trash with multiple truck loads going to the dump. While I have only been climbing at the quarry for the last 18 months Stein tells me there has been a huge reduction of garbage. It was also fun to help build trails for a new area at the far right of the quarry called Schoolhouse rock. 

This new area, with freshly built trails, has slabby routes from 5.0 to 5.10+. This addition by Chris Miller and Louie Anderson gives a place for budding leaders to climb in a predomintantly 5.11+ crag. The routes range between a week old to just over a month old so they are still cleaning up. Be careful of loose rock since they not seen many ascents. 

Lizzy is out in the field so I am bouncing between partners for the weekend. Hopefully the weather will stay warm enough and I’ll get in some climbing.