Reflections on 2009

31 12 2009

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

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

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

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

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

On Planet of the Apes in Joe’s Valley

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

On the Incredible Hulk with Lizzy!

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

Climbing high on El Capitan

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

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

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

Happy New Year’s Eve!

–   Luke

Reflecting on Smith Rock.

6 08 2009

It has been about a month since I got back from Smith Rock and thoughts beyond disappointment have started to flow. For all intensive purposes I had performed poorly on the trip despite having fun. I only managed to send one hard climb on my tick list and I neither felt strong nor was I able to maintain a good mental space in smith.

Sending the reachy Toxic.

However Smith did accomplish a big goal of getting me in shape for my successful ascent of Positive Vibrations. I have been writing up a climbing bio which made think about my strengths and weaknesses. In my first many years at Smith ( I went each May from 2002 -> 2004), I saw good bits of progress and was able to really push myself. This was not true in June, as I only finished off a climb I had gotten close to years prior. While I was able to do harder routes than I have on previous trips to Smith I did not find my self at the proverbial “next level”.

Trying not to show how scared I am at the thought of the Monkey’s Face highline

My main realization was that I really like pulling down on holds. I am not so good when the sequence is unclear or I am required to apply substantial force to footholds. While climbing granite I have gotten used to keeping weight on my feet but this did not translate so well to Smith Rock tuff. Lizzy, well versed in small footholds, had a very good trip and sent her hardest route yet. When I top roped Sunshine Dihedral it was crazy to learn how little pulling was necessary despite the high grade. Most of the time the moves were one hand barely making a lock or crimping the crack and the other hand palming against the wall to help move one of my feet up. The climb varied in steepness and some of the smears were pretty desperate. I was very happy not to fall since I expected my feet to give out at any moment. Big props to Lizzy for the lead and for believing in such footwork intensive climbing.

Standing above the void unable to go any further.

Since January, when I tore a finger tendon, my fitness has been slowly decreasing but I have managed to send many “difficult” routes by trying really hard. I have learned that mental determination can help me overcome both physical and mental issues on a climb. Putting in closer to 100% or even 110% will make the physical part of the climb possible. When I really want to send I can push through my fear and keep climbing. However when this mental drive was absent I could not rely on my strength to get me to the top of a climb.

The beautiful columns of the lower gorge.

In Smith I had a great first day and it was likely the best climbing day of the trip. I sent one of my projects, onsighted a climb on my ticklist but in all my enthusiasm tired myself out. Thinking back, I should have been pacing my self more and getting used to the climbing instead of throwing myself at the routes. Day two I had to take it easy since I had tweaked my right shoulder on a powerful gaston the day before. The sun was quite hot and really made me struggle to find climbs to do. It was hard for me not to be able to chose a project to work on for the rest of the day due to the changing shade. I attempted a few 5.12’s – Latin Lover and Take a Powder – with little success and only got to the top with much trickery via stick clip. I was not doing well with the hold size and could not easily commit to the spaced bolts.

Lizzy Starts up Pure Palm.

The morning of the 3rd day I was quite happy I was in need of rest and went on a nice run to the monkey’s face while the girls slept in. My finger skin was suffering and Lizzy was excited to do some jamming so we headed to the lower gorge that afternoon. The weather was much cooler than the previous day and we enjoyed climbing in the shade. After a warm-up my first lead was Pure Palm which I had finished a few years prior with a few hangs. I started up the holdless stem box and made good progress to the 3rd bolt. After much experimenting I took  and tried to figure out the mental and physical crux section.

Lizzy making her way up Pure Palm.

The main idea was to stem up with your feet above the last bolt and some how make it to the next couple of “holds”. I took a few falls, which helped my lead head, before backing off since I didn’t know what to do. Lizzy went next, made it up a bit higher but then fell off and lowered.  Maddy was next and figured out some crazy hand foot match beta which I tried to memorize and  she almost made it all the way to the top (which would have been a flash) but whipped on one of the final bolts. I tried again and was able to figure out slightly different beta and made it all the way to the top. This route was not at all my style but after seeing a solution I was able to commit to the scary crux. Later in the day I onsighed an amazing finger crack called Last Chance that was quite pumpy but super fun. The last route of the day was On The Road which Lizzy styled on lead and I top roped as the light faded.

Lizzy figuring out the tricky gear on the start of Sunshine Dihedral

The rest of the trip I never seemed to regain my usual power, but was happy to onsight a number of 5.11’s, including the super exposed first pitch of Monkey Space. My lead head never quite came together either and I was unable to put 100% into the climbs I tried, falling off the onsight of P2 of Monkey Space and hang dogging all over the first pitch of Astro Monkey. With three people we had to split up our time and make sure everyone got to work on their projects. Since I was not highly motivated I tried to support Lizzy and Maddy on their routes.

Over the trip Lizzy strategically worked through a few Smith 5.11’s before jumping on her onsight Project, Sunshine Dihedral. Lizzy spent the whole “send” day resting and preparing for her lead. The many days before she had tuned her  stemming and gear placements on many easier routes. I believe taking this approach to a project is key since training really works and getting used to the rock and specific body positions pays off.

Lizzy making her way up in to the crux section of Sunshine Dihedral

Despite not having climbed harder than 11b on gear and 11c on bolts Lizzy onsighted Sunshine Dihedral 11d! for her hardest route to date! As I said above the climb was stout and I was very happy to climb it on TR. Her performance was one of the best of the trip and shows how important desire and commitment are to sending hard routes!

One thing I was really excited about from Smith was how well the following photos turned out. I took the time to stick clip my way up a neighboring route and managed to get a nice angle while Maddy was climbing Latin Lover. The wall was still in the shade and the orange hue of the rock really jumped out. I am learning ever so slowly how to take better pictures and I think these are pretty cool.

If you haven’t read Lizzy’s day by day breakdown of our trip be sure to take a look.

Look in the comments of Lizzy’s send list for some of my suggested routes.



Smith Rock Send List!

30 06 2009

So, before going to Smith Rock, I posted a ticklist of the routes I wanted to do. I ended up doing a lot of them, plus plenty not on the list. So here’s everything I lead, in order of increasing grade (R=redpoint, O=onsight, F=flash; sport routes in italics, trad routes in bold):

Hop on Pop, 5.8 (R) – always a classic

5 Gallon Buckets, 5.8 (R) – another classic

Light on the Path, 5.9 (R) – ditto. watch out for the bird crap, though, in one of the upper huecos (gross!)

9 Gallon Buckets, 5.9 (O) – only 5.9 to the first anchor

Helium Woman, 5.9 (F) – this route is more fun than the Watts guidebook gives it credit for

Moonshine Dihedral, 5.9 (R) – although I’d already onsighted this one many years ago

Captain Xenolith, 5.10a (F) – not quite as fun as its neighbor, Helium Woman

Cosmic, 5.10a (F) – the easiest knob route at Mesa Verde, not quite as fun as the harder classics

Cruel Sister, 5.10a (O) – gosh, this got pretty wide for my little hands at the top, bring a #4 camalot (or two!)

Chicken McNuggets, 5.10b (R) – the start is deceptively tricky

Wedding Day, 5.10b (O) – this route is not very fun

Screaming Yellow Zonkers, 5.10b (F) – a classic! love the knobs!

Badfinger, 5.10b (R) – fun!

Rim Job, 5.10b (O) – this one is very cool, despite looking intimidating-ly thin

Wildfire, 5.10b (O) – super cruiser above the initial tight corner

Cornercopia, 5.10b (R) – the last 4 are all on the Wildfire Wall – what a mecca for 5.10 and 5.11 trad climbs!

Barbecue the Pope, 5.10b (R) – maybe not the best route to climb in the sun (oops)

On the Road, 5.11a (R) – this route is incredible! don’t miss it! maybe my pick for the best 5.11 at Smith…

A Woman in the Meadow, 5.11a (F) – pumpy!

Pure Palm, 5.11a (R) – by far the hardest 11a I did this trip…

Vomit Launch, 5.11b (R) – this may be the best (sport) 5.11 at Smith

Moondance, 5.11b/c (R) – this was good training for Pure Palm…

Sunshine Dihedral, 5.11d (O) – my crowning achievement 🙂

Still many projects to get back on, but consider this a list of recommended routes at Smith (except maybe for Wedding Day, which wasn’t that awesome). Hang tight for some blogs from Luke (right now I have the advantage since I’m DONE WITH SCHOOL WOOO).

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.

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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.

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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.

Traveling and Trying Hard when the School Year Ends

19 06 2009

It takes a lot to be successful and in the past many months, as well as the last 4 years, Lizzy has been working hard at Caltech on her Bachelors degree in Geology. She graduated one week ago and is currently celebrating in Smith Rock! It was a bit cloudy for graduation and it even rained a little bit, way out of character for SoCal. Lizzy and I had fun showing her parents around Pasadena between various graduation activities.

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 014The CalTech Class of 2009

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 016Lizzy with friends Deepak on the left and Gabe on the right.

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Lizzy lost in a Sea of graduates.

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Lizzy did it!!

Caltech Graduation - June 09 - 104Lizzy with her Hawaiian lei.

After bringing Lizzy and her parents to the Airport on Saturday I snuck away to Idyllwild to get in a bit of climbing.  Saturday night was a bit surreal as much of Idywilld seemed to be stuck in the clouds. Konstantin drove up from San Diego and we camped at San Jacinto State Park which is quite pricey but convenient to the climbing.


The idea for the day was to do Vahalla as a warmup for the Edge. The Edge is supposed to be super scary and if I could style Vahalla it would most likely not be a problem. Way back in 2005 Hartley and I had tried to climb Vahalla hot off reading stories of the Stone Masters byJohn Long. Hartley brilliantly lead the first pitch which I some how followed and I’m sure both of us fell at least a few times. The 2nd pitch contains the business and neither of us could commit to the insecure smears on lead while above the bolt. We bailed and went to work on Insomnia another climb that was well above our head at the time.


Now in 2009 I was confident, perhaps too much so, that I could climb Vahalla and so I started up the first pitch. The granite is wild with knobs and scoops and I slowly nervously made my way up to the 1st bolt (there are only 3 for the pitch).  Following Konstantin’s advice I got up a little higher with some tricky stemming and clipped the 2nd bolt and prepared for the crux. I must have spent at least 10 minutes trying to find a way around the next few moves but nothing worked. After too much consideration I transitioned my weight to my right foot while deadpointing for the next crimp.


The crux was not quite over and I magically held on to nothing as I slowly worked right evidently doing a good job of keeping my weight on my feet. At one point I thought for sure I would fall but I tried hard, as hard as I possibly could, and made the final bump right to a better crimp end eventually the jug. I was relieved as I manteled the next ledge and clipped the final bolt. After a bit of shaking out and advice from Konstantin that I was through the crux and should avoid falling, I made the final few traversing moves and manteled again to log ledge.


My confidence was a bit shaken but I still had a lot of climbing to go. After following the pitch I lowered Konstantin to an old bolt and tied him off to the anchor as a backup. At the lower position there would be more  rope out and it would follow a straighter line reducing rope drag. I made the traverse right to the bolt and stared at the crux. This time I would not have beta and would hopefully be able to figure out the moves. Shakily I moved up on the poor holds before getting stuck not knowing where to go. Using both hands in opposition just to stay on, I couldn’t make progress. I tried to shift my weight around but lost my balance and fell. I was barely above the bolt and Konstantin gave me a nice catch which helped put my fear of falling at rest.


I lowered back to the hands free stance below the bolt for my next attempt. It seemed silly and unnecessary to un-clip from the bolt and traverse to and from the belay. Konstantin gave me some beta about going right to a rectangular hold and then up. I saw the hold he spoke of and figured out a better sequence. As I went back up the smears some how felt more secure and I got established with my left on a slopey hold and my right on the poor rectangle. I kept my weight in and reached up left for another sloping crimp.  It was crazy that these holds were keeping me on the wall as I reached up and grabbed an incut divot for my right hand, bringing my feet above the bolt.  I thought I had made it and shook out on the good crimp. Not wanting to blow it and take a big fall I felt around and eventually manteled up with my foot on the good hold. Two moves later I was at the bolt and was ready to enjoy the rest of the 5.10 climbing to the anchors far above. I wandered through the golden granite with a big grin on my face amazed that a climb could make its way up this blank undulating face.


I didn’t quite sling everything properly and reached the anchors with a bit of rope drag.  For the final pitch I went up and left missing a bolt which I had to down climb and clip after I had given up hope and tied off a big knob. After the Sundance anchors I kept climbing into the SunDike variation which I felt was quite insecure and difficult especially for “5.10a”. I think my mental ability was sapped and I was ready to be done.  We rapped off and I was happy both for sending Vahalla and for taking real fall which is hard for me to do. It seemed that I was not yet ready for The Edge so we made our way to Disco Jesus so Konstantin could have some fun on the sharp end.


All of the above photos are of  Konstantin leading the 2nd pitch of Disco Jesus. The 2nd pitch features insecure dime edging followed by a crazy smearing sequence on underclings finished off with a hand foot match mantel to a jug rail that leads to the anchors. Photos  thanks to Darshan who’s name I recognized from and happened to be climbing in the area.

After finishing the three pitch Disco Jesus we ate lunch and I got back on the sharp end for Miscalculation. Konstatin had tried it previously but bailed at the first crux.  As usual I took my time sewing up the crack and slowly making progress with thin locks and insecure laybacking. I got through the first crux and prepared for most difficult part protected by two #5 stoppers before getting in a small finger sized cam. The locks were thin and I suppose that it may have been easier to lay back than to jam it straight in. At the top I remebered to stem and after a bit more climbing I made it to the anchors for the onsigh of the  full value 90 foot pitch.  I had placed all of my small nuts and cams and was left with way too many big pieces on my harness.. Oops!

Even though it was only only 3pm we had climbed 7 hard pitches and were ready to relax. Back at the car we ate a second lunch with a bit of wine from the night before. I was hoping to see a few friends at Tahquitz and while we didn’t see who we expected we ran in to Leah who needed a ride home.  It was a great weekend and really good for me to work on my slab climbing weakness.

This week has been quite busy as Lizzy made her way from Seattle to Smith Rock and I finished up as much work as possible. Tomorrow I will fly up to Portland to relax and enjoy many of the classic routes at smith.

Hope everyone has a great weekend,


Lizzy’s Smith Rock Ticklist

10 06 2009

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

Wooden Ships/The Gullies

Blue Light Special 5.11a bolts

Toxic 5.11b bolts

Chicken McNuggets 5.10b bolts

Vomit Launch 5.11b bolts

Morning Glory Area

Overboard 5.11a/b or 5.11c bolts

Magic Light (the 5.11a part) bolts

Gumby 5.10b bolts

The Dihedrals

Karot Tots 5.11b gear

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

Moondance 5.11b bolts

Christian Brothers

Wartley’s Revenge 5.11b gear

Barbecue the Pope 5.10b bolts

Mesa Verde Wall

Screaming Yellow Zonkers 5.10b bolts

Moons of Pluto 5.10d bolts

Bad Moon Rising 5.11a bolts

Monkey Face

Monkey Space 5.11b bolts

Lower Gorge – West Side

Wildfire 5.10b gear

Badfinger 5.10b gear

Gruff 5.10a gear

On the Road 5.11a gear

Pure Palm 5.11a bolts

Cornercopia 5.10b gear

Last Chance 5.10c gear

Blood Clot 5.10b gear

Crack-a-no-go 5.11b gear

Cruel Sister 5.10a gear

Lower Gorge – East Side

Master Loony 5.11a gear

The Road to June and our Contest Winner!!

5 06 2009

It is June already and Lizzy will graduate in a week and then 8 days later I will fly up to Portland, Oregon for a week at Smith Rocks.  It has been exceptionally busy at work and we have been making the most of our weekends leaving little time to write stories and post photos. Climbing as been going well and I am finally starting to get back the the same levels from six months ago. My various finger injuries have been more bothersome than expected but I have been enjoying “moderate” routes at gym and have been mixing up my workout routine .

Mt Charleston - May 09 002

Lizzy trying to catch up on sleep after our post midnight arrival.

First off we held a little contest for a SuperTopo shirt and despite our efforts its been over two weeks without posting a winner.  Via a random number generator we have a result and I will be sending John M from North Dakota the Shirt!! Congratulations to John and thanks to everyone who left a comment. Hopefully in the future we can give away something desirable to a large audience and perhaps get more then seven responses.

Mt Charleston - May 09 058

All dressed up for Phantom.

As Lizzy already posted on Twitter, back in May, we spent our Anniversary in Las Vegas. We dressed up and went to a show between two days of sport climbing. Phantom was awesome and it was quite impressive to see how many people go to casinos. The show was a ton of fun and it was great to see all of the classic songs performed. Previously Lizzy and I had been through some of the cheaper, dirtier casinos that made me wonder why people gamble. This trip our show was at the Venetian and they had some crazy sights. The photo below was taken inside; needless to say I was impressed.

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A far too realistic scene inside the Venetian Hotel and Casino

We were able to climb before the show on Saturday and all day Sunday. The limestone at Robbers Roost did not disappoint and Lizzy and I checked out a few routes we had yet to try. The climbing varies greatly depending on the angle of the rock and it occasionally seems like you are climbing at different areas. We started on some slab routes with small sharp holds and features caused by drips. After a super fun 5.8 warmup Lizzy and I both lead this exciting 10+.  It was likely bolted on lead and often the climber was doing a cruxy move with a bolt well below their feet. I also tried a hard 5.11 slab which I onsighted until the final bolt. Unfortunately I was quite pumped and did not want to commit to a long fall while pushing into the unknown. I hope to keep a cool head and redpoint the route this weekend.

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Luke uses a double stick clip to put a draw on the third bolt.

After I tried Prince of Thieves, seen above, we moved back to the main area of Robbers Roost. The morning had been quiet and we had not seen very many people. The central section of the crag is in a tall canyon/corridor which really traps sound. We were impressed to see a decent crew of people with the occasional tourist. I had wanted to do the super extension of The Rooster and racked up 20 quickdraws for the 40+ meter pitch. The standard version of the route is 10c with 9 bolts in about 95 feet. It is sharp and a bit scary but a good mental exercise. The 1st extension is 11b and another 3 or 4 bolts. The final extension goes up steeper rock with an additional 5 or so bolts for a total of 17 (which I only figured out after climbing it). It was my first time on the extension and I made it to the 2nd set of anchors onsighting the 11b crux. However I was drained mentally and did not want to commit to the steep upper section and chose to rap off which just barely got me to the ground with our 70m rope.
Mt Charleston - May 09 048

Stick clip magic!!

Lizzy enjoys projecting at Robbers Roost and after sending Los Banditos, her 2nd 11c last season, she turned to Five Finger Discount for this years project. This route is a bit harder and requires more power than endurance to complete its shorter steep crux. I put a set of project draws on the route  stick clipping through the crux to save energy. The 4th clip is fairly hard and having the draws on makes the climb more fun.  I taped the upper gates closed and hopefully the gear will still be there when we return this weekend.

Mt Charleston - May 09 031

Lizzy skin is losing the battle against the limestone.

Lizzy made great progress over the two day weekend and relearned the beta she had developed the summer before. There was no send but hopefully this weekend we will have workable weather and Lizzy can nab another 11c.  With the help of some locals I was able to send Highway Man on my third try for my first 12a at Mt Charleston. I also climbed a very fun unknown 11+ route to the right of Five Finger Discount that had a very cool crux involving body tension on slopey holds. I was happy with my weekend results and to be regaining my sport climbing fitness.

As I previously noted we spent Memorial day weekend in Zion and had a blast. I think that my body is now recovered from our day on Sheer Lunacy and am excited for the summer season in the Sierra’s. The short and medium term effects of a very long hard day of climbing are curious and I am still learning how best to prepare and recover. We learned the hard way that it is best to budget for more water than you expect to drink even if it is heavy.

This past weekend Lizzy and I had initially planned to go to Idyllwild with some of our friends from Santa Barbara but a last minute cancellation left us with some free time. We decided to skip the trad climbing and clip bolts on granite at Keller Peak. Josh and Julie met up with us mid day and showed us some of the different crags. Julie took a few photos and I expect they will be on her blog at some point.  We decided to go exploring at lunch and somehow got caught in a impromptu rainstorm. This is pretty strange since Keller Peak is only about an hour or so east of Pasadena but I suppose that once above 7000 feet one can be subject to different weather.

Mt Charleston - May 09 063

Plenty of tourists visit Robbers Roost full of misinformation from this sign.

We decided to bail since all the rocks were wet but while driving down the mountain the rain mysteriously stopped. In fact the road was bone dry meaning the the rain had somehow been stuck higher up. After reconsidering options we choose adventure and went to the Dinosaur Wall. This crag does not have a guidebook and we were a bit unsure of the approach. However we could see the rock from the road and made our way their safely despite an encounter with a sleepy rattlesnake.

Mt Charleston - May 09 022

Lizzy cross the road to start the killer 5 minute approach to Robbers Roost.

The Lower Dinosaur wall had a few bolted routes and I was feeling good and jumped on the middle line with no idea of the grade. I was able to onsight the route and it was quite fun and easy until the last two moves which allow one to clip the anchors. I swung right and put a TR on a harder route that Josh had attempted in the past. This gave us two TR’s which was nice way to relax after escaping the rain. After a short nap the ladies did the left route while Josh and I worked the right route with a cruxy arete boulder problem start. I was able to do all of the moves and after getting to the top I re-tried the bottom crux and got ready for the lead. The bolts are a bit oddly space but I was confident since I had yet to fall on the moves.

On my lead attempt I must have been holding back a bit and my body was so tight that I could not reach a hold necessary for the tricky mantel. After a few tries I changed my sequence completly and managed to mantel using different feet  and make it through the crux. I found my self on the half way no hands rest much more pumped then on TR and was happy to hold on through the crimpy finish  trying not to pull the wrong way on a very low quality sidepull while clipping the anchors.

Mt Charleston - May 09 016

Lizzy objecting to my morning enthusiasm at Mt Charleston.

We did one more route the front of the Dinosaur wall and moved to a corridor on the inside with a plethora of newly bolted routes. It was very nice to be in the shade and despite a previous to the area  trip Josh had not climbed any of these routes. We were both excited to have our choice of routes and I chose an easy looking line with two bolts to a flaring hand crack. I grabbed an assortment of cams from Josh and led up the grainy chossy rock. After making my way into the crack we could tell how new these routes were as lichen and rock cascaded down onto Josh’s head. I was not excited with the gear and ended up placing 3 pieces from the stance as Josh laughed at me from below. I moved up, adjusted one of the cams, and started face climbing now that the crack had vanished. While there were no more bolts but the climbing was easy and I made it to the top.

Mt Charleston - May 09 008The summer air is cool at the high altitude Hilltop Campground

By the time Lizzy and Julie arrived in the corridor Josh was half way up the 50 ft “pitch” and we were both laughing uncontrollable. The rock was  not the best and Josh now saw why I had been a bit sketched out and placed so many pieces. When Josh had tugged on 2 of my cams the lobes had just continued to open in the soft granite. Not the best sight. Josh and I finished the day with a few more TR’s and are excited to go back with some pads to try and headpoint one of the TR’s that had not been bolted. It looked like the climb could be protected with a couple of cams in a horizontal that would keep you off the deck for the crux follow by some unprotected crimping before a final crack and mantel top out. Hopefully I will have time to go back before it gets too hot.

Mt Charleston - May 09 013

Lizzy doing a final bit of relaxing before we went climbing at Robbers Roost.

We are taking Lizzy’s final weekend before graduation to do a last minute sport climbing tune up at Mt Charleston. If all goes well Lizzy will send her project and I will send the slab route and perhaps the Rooster super extension.  Lizzy is working on a blog with thoughts from Zion and I have a ton of photos to post in the next few weeks.