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

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2009 – A Milestone Year

29 12 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy (almost) new year!

Lizzy





A Week of Splitters in Indian Creek

8 12 2009

There are many things that are awesome about Stanford. One of these many awesome-tastic features is the fact that we get an entire week off for Thanksgiving. At Caltech, we only got Thursday and Friday off, and most professors considered it a normal week of school when scheduling work for the week. We decided to take advantage of this awesome opportunity to head to Indian Creek for a week of excellent desert splitters.

Day -1 (Friday): Travel Day

Sarah Kate and I set off from Palo Alto around 2pm. After getting stuck in some traffic and losing over 2 hours because of a little snow over Donner Pass, we made it to Winnemucca, NV at around 11pm and passed out in a Motel 6. Meanwhile, Luke, Konstantin, and Lindsey had left San Diego around 6pm and were driving through the night so they could get some climbing in on Saturday.

Day 0 (Saturday): Travel Day / Cat Wall

Sarah Kate and I rolled out of bed at 5:45am and were on I-80 heading east by 5:55am. It was good that the speed limit was 75mph, because we had a lot of distance to cover to make it to the Creek by dinner time.

Meanwhile, the San Diego crew was just rolling in to Moab when we were leaving Winnemucca. Even if Sarah Kate and I had driven through the night, we would not have been in Moab yet. We were glad we stopped to sleep. Luke, Konstantin, and Lindsey drove out to the Creek, set up camp, and headed to the Cat Wall to get some pitches in. Luke sent Johnny Cat (5.11+), one of his former projects, as a warm-up. They also got on Mad Dog (5.11+) and Pitbull Terror (5.11). Luke took a (rare) lead fall on gear when a foothold broke unexpectedly on Pitbull Terror.

Luke flashes Mad Dog (5.11+). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

After a rushed water fill-up/gas fill-up/grocery trip in town, Sarah Kate and I managed to make it out to the Creek Pasture by about 7pm to find a crackling fire and three hungry climbers. We had excellent beer sausages for dinner. Sarah Kate and I were again happy that we had stopped to sleep on our drive out based on how tired the crazy drive-through-the-night folks were already.

Luke about to whip on Pitbull Terror (5.11). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Day 1 (Sunday): Optimator / Battle of the Bulge

From our previous trips to the Creek, Luke and I have learned that it’s good to start slow. Manage skin, get used to climbing splitters, get comfortable with your cam sizes. We had decided that Optimator was a good place to go for Sarah Kate’s and my first day. There was one sweet route there for Sarah Kate and Lindsey to try to onsight and me to get some revenge on – Soulfire (5.11-). I’d pumped out just before the anchor before…

Lizzy watches Luke on Long Island Iced Tea (5.10+). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

We got on Lady Pillar (5.10-) and Long Island Iced Tea (5.10+) for warm-ups. Sarah Kate, Luke, and I headed over to Soulfire, while Konstantin racked up for Annunaki (5.12-). Sarah Kate onsighted Soulfire, a great start for her Indian Creek trip! Then I got my revenge redpoint, feeling relaxed and unpumped the whole time, which really helped my confidence for the trip. Lindsey also onsighted the route (she hadn’t watched either of us climb it).

Lizzy sends Soulfire (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Meanwhile, Konstantin took some falls on Annunaki, but made it to the anchor. After watching me on Soulfire, Luke headed back over for a flash attempt, which was successful, for Luke’s hardest Indian Creek flash!

Lindsey onsights Soulfire (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke and I walked over to the base of Optimator (5.13-) and found two dudes toproping it, which was pretty awesome. Optimator is definitely a route I’d like to get on eventually, although I know I’m nowhere near ready for it yet (long very tight hands and stacks). It was cool to watch someone on it, though.

Luke sends Annunaki (5.12-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

After sending Soulfire, I was pretty much out of motivation for routes at Optimator and Luke and Sarah Kate agreed to go with me to Battle of the Bulge so I could get on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-), which, as you may remember, was one of my projects on both of our previous Indian Creek trips. It was a very low stress situation, since I still had plenty of days to send, so even though I fell, I felt much stronger and actually climbed through all the moves to the anchor (rather than cam-jugging the last couple feet, which I had done before). Then it was Luke’s turn to redpoint (he had lead it on my gear before), so he racked up and sent! He was happy to go second so that the quickdraws would already be hanging from the anchors. 🙂

Day 2 (Monday): Battle of the Bulge

After our warm-up day(s), it was time to go to Battle of the Bulge to get on some projects. We headed over to The Warmup (5.9 sandbag) to warm up. Luke, Sarah Kate, and Lindsey all sent Our Piece of the Real Estate (5.11-), but I needed to conserve energy. I racked up with the small cams and headed over to Digital Readout (5.12) with Luke. I had been on this route once before, on our first trip to the Creek, and had struggled a lot. I surprised myself and made it to about 3 feet below the anchor, where the footholds disappeared. I tried to figure out a sequence, but my feet slipped and I was off. After a short rest and the discovery of a very small face foothold, I got back on and easily reached the anchor. I was frustrated and exhausted when I got back to the ground, but in retrospect, it was pretty awesome to be so close to sending a 5.12 on only my 2nd try… I tend to be kind of hard on myself.

Luke closing in on the anchors of Digital Readout (5.12). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke got on the route next and fell a lot, struggling with the thin jams and tricky feet. Later, he got on for a 2nd time and nearly sent, getting just a little below where I had fallen on my attempt (so frustrating). We were both pretty tired by then. It took me probably 3+ hours to feel recovered enough to climb again…

Meanwhile, Lindsey tried The Jane Fonda Total Body Workout (5.11-, probably sandbag), managing to work out the chimney with some takes and figuring out the gear and size beta for the long upper crack. Konstantin took a TR lap on Big Baby (5.11), which Sarah Kate’s friend Dave had put up. Luke and I took a break to watch Andre and Leah working on Ruby’s Cafe (5.13-).

After I’d finally recovered from Digital Readout, I wasn’t very psyched on getting back on it, so I decided to try to onsight Quarter of a Man (5.11++). I knew it was a long, sustained route (35m+), so I hadn’t tried it on previous trips because I’d known I didn’t have the endurance. But, I was feeling strong this time, so I went for it. The crack was smaller than I’d expected – mostly sustained black Metolius cams (all the red Camalots were very tight) and there were not many rests. I focused on moving forward and not wasting energy. I had expected the top section, where the crack zigzags steeply, to be the crux, but luckily it was not – there were stem stances and layback jugs, which were great after the long sustained corner. In no time I was clipping the anchor – tying with Sunshine Dihedral (5.11d) for my hardest onsight!

Lizzy on the final section of Quarter of a Man (5.11++).

I gave Luke the beta and he set off on his flash go. The crack had felt tight for me, so it must have felt even smaller for him. He tried pretty hard, but fell just before the rest pod. A little rest and he sent to the top – it’ll go next time! Then Sarah Kate got on the route. I’d rounded up a total of 5 black Metolius cams from our gear and our friends’ gear so she’d have better pro for the route. Even though she didn’t quite have the endurance to send the route, she stuck with it, climbed every move, and even took a big whipper on a green Camalot near the end – a very proud effort.

Sarah Kate on Quarter of a Man (5.11++).

The sun had gone down while Sarah Kate was on the route, so it was time to head back to camp for dinner and campfire sitting.

Day 3 (Tuesday): Scarface

Scarface (5.11-), Wavy Gravy (5.10-), and Mantel Illness (5.11) were on various people’s to-do lists, so we headed to Scarface. Lindsey and I warmed up on Unknown 5.9 to the left of Wavy Gravy, while Luke, Konstantin, and Sarah Kate got on Wavy Gravy. Lindsey also sent Wavy Gravy after warming up. I was feeling pretty tired and not psyched about leading it (or TRing it, because I like leading anything that’s not a warm-up at the Creek – it’s good for me mentally), so I abstained. Andre, Leah, and Luke all sent Mantle Illness and Sarah Kate, Lindsey, and Konstantin headed over to get in line for Scarface.

Luke sends Wavy Gravy (5.10-).

Meanwhile, I had scoped out a thin crack corner called Way of the Gun (5.12) and wanted to go for it. I made it through the initial corner (easier than I’d thought) and the roof, but took when I realized I didn’t have the right rack for the corner after the roof. I got more cams from the ground support crew, which was good because, although it was short, the upper corner was definitely the crux, with some very sport-y climbing (i.e. not straight-up jamming). Leah and Luke both toproped the route, having more success on the upper section (they are much stronger crimpers than me) than I did.

Lindsey on Scarface (5.11-). Photo by Andre Kiryanov

Luke had belayed Andre on Twitch! (5.11), which he and Leah also TRed. We all headed over to Scarface to check on the other group’s progress. Sarah Kate had sent first try, Lindsey was in the process of sending after many falls at the beginning, and Konstantin sent soon after. Success! While Scarface was being sent, Luke onsighted the Sicilian (5.11), a short, fierce off-fingers crack.

At this point, everyone was starting to feel ready for a rest day, so we called it a day and headed back to camp.

Day 4 (Wednesday): Rest Day

It had been 3 days on for Sarah Kate and I and 4 days on for the San Diego crew, so it was time for a break. Luke got up early to go put an anchor on an unclimbed crack we had spotted on our last trip and the rest of us rolled out of our tents a little later and directly into Lindsey’s car. We had delicious breakfast at the Diner in Moab, then amazing showers at the Texaco, then some chai, internet, and sandwiches at the Love Muffin.

The Love Muffin closed early (2pm – winter hours) and Sarah Kate and I still had more work to do (this whole 1st year grad student thing…) so we headed to the Moab Library. In case you haven’t been there, the Moab Library is awesome. It is an excellent place to do work (if the Love Muffin is closed).

After a quick grocery store run, we headed to the Moab Brewery for some dinner and beers, then back to the Creek Pasture to sit around the fire a bit. It was an excellent rest day.

Day 5 (Thanksgiving): Battle of the Bulge

The post-rest day plan was to return to Battle of the Bulge to get back on some projects with renewed energy and the built-up endurance of the first couple days of climbing. We warmed up on Railroad Tracks (5.10-) and Unnamed 5.10-, then went straight to projecting. I checked out Christmas Tree (5.12+) and was totally inspired, but not totally confident I had the guns for the steep upper layback corner (the first half looked not so bad). So I decided to devote my energy for the day to some more attainable goals.

Lizzy chalks from a fingerstack on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-).

Konstantin wanted to try Swedin-Ringle, but let me go first so he could check out my beta. First, Luke onsighted Three Strikes You’re Out (5.11) with my camera on his harness so he could take photos. Thanks Luke! I felt really smooth and relaxed, solid even on the stacks, but my foot slipped unexpectedly when I was adjusting a cam out of a foot pod. I got right back on and easily sent to the anchor. I was frustrated, but also felt like the route was very attainable on the next try. Konstantin got on the route and essentially learned to stack as he went. He was obviously trying pretty hard and took some sweet falls that involved me (the belayer) flying into the air.

Konstantin trying hard on Swedin-Ringle (5.12-).

When Konstantin lowered off, I got right back on the route and, with only a little bit of struggling at the grey alien section (my worst crack size), sent the route – my first 5.12! It felt great to send, on only my 8th time on the route (all attempts on lead, which I am very proud of) and for most of the route to feel so smooth and relaxed. I’d even say I might use it as an intermediate warm-up for other 5.12s in the area in the future (yes, it is that fun).

Meanwhile, Lindsey had gone over to get back on her project, The Jane Fonda Total Body Workout . Although she made progress and climbed higher than her first attempt, exhaustion and pump took over and she had to take. I’m sure it was a valiant effort, because she was exhausted for the rest of the day. Afterwards, Sarah Kate (who had belayed) came back over to the Swedin-Ringle area and flashed Three Strikes You’re Out, her first solid 5.11 at the Creek.

Sarah Kate flashes Three Strikes You’re Out (5.11).

Luke and I then headed over to Digital Readout so he could have another redpoint go. He felt much more solid than on his previous tries and clipped the chains, for his first solid Indian Creek 5.12.

I had thought about getting on Digital Readout, but remembered how draining it had been on my other try. I really wanted to get back on Coyne Crack (5.11+), so I decided to try that first and leave Digital Readout for a later time (or day… or trip). Luke headed over to Supercrack Buttress with us ladies and we congregated below the base of Coyne Crack. Although it had been a busy day at the Battle of the Bulge/Donnelly/Supercrack area, I don’t think Coyne Crack had seen an ascent all day. That was about to change 🙂

I was FULL of psyche, so I convinced everyone else to let me go first (I guess they like to have my beta…). The initial crack felt WAY easier than when I had gotten on it on our first trip. I was able to get very thin hand jams from the very beginning (probably because I was much stronger on this trip) and quickly made it to the money section (which is most of the route) of red Camalots forever. IT WAS SO GOOD. I was a little sad when it ended. Sarah Kate flashed for her hardest trad lead ever! Yay! Luke also flashed, with a bit more struggling than the rest of us due to his larger hand size. Lindsey also got on, but ended up taking a couple times, being still tired from doing Jane Fonda in the morning.

Sarah Kate flashes Coyne Crack (5.11+).

It had been a great day of climbing and I would’ve kept going, but it was starting to get dark and we had Thanksgiving dinner to make. Together with food from Bob and Heather, we had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, complete with mashed potatoes (real), stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and chicken cooked in the fire. Somehow everything was ready at the same time, but I guess that’s just the magic of Thanksgiving.

Day 6 (Friday): Cat Wall

We headed back to the Cat Wall. Luke and Konstantin wanted to try King Cat (5.11+) and Sarah Kate and I had been told that we should try Mad Dog (5.11+). After warming up on Unnamed 5.10 and Cat Man Do (5.10), we headed over towards Johnny Cat to get on the projects of the day.

Konstantin on King Cat (5.11+).

Luke and Konstantin both made valiant efforts on King Cat, but had trouble figuring out the beta for pulling the roof. I tried to onsight Mad Dog, but got pumped for essentially the first time all trip (while climbing, at least) and fell. After resting and unpumping, I sent the rest of the route cleanly, but my psyche and energy were pretty much gone for the day. Sarah Kate and Lindsey both got on the route afterwards and struggled with the tight green camalots, but eventually made it to the top also. A project for all of us for another trip to the Creek.

Lizzy on her onsight attempt on Mad Dog (5.11+).

Luke tried to onsight Cat Burglar (5.12) and fell just short of the anchor, but sent on his 2nd try for another Indian Creek 5.12! Luke ended the day with an onsight of Bachelor Party (5.11+).

I discovered a potential pre-Christmas Tree project in this vicinity, too: Cathedral of the Mad Feline (5.12+), a steep Lisa Gnade tips corner. It was gorgeous and would definitely be good training for the steep section on Christmas Tree.

Day 7 (Saturday): Way Rambo / Travel Day

Everyone was starting to feel pretty tired and we’d heard forecasts for rain and other bad weather coming in on Saturday afternoon, so we decided to pack up camp in the morning, go climbing, then start driving home whenever we got tired or it started raining. Bob wanted to go to Way Rambo to work on Slice and Dice (5.12), so we decided to go there, too. Luke and Konstantin were psyched on Way Rambo (5.12-) and I was considering trying to onsight Layaway Plan (5.11+).

Luke getting sucked into Way Nutter (5.9 OW).

We got on Blue Sun (5.10-) as a warm-up, while Luke and Sarah Kate also did Way Nutter (5.9 OW). Lindsey had brought a fleece Mickey Mouse Christmas themed onesy, so she wanted to do some climbing in it before we left. So she lead Blue Sun in the onesy, which was pretty awesome to watch.

Lindsey climbs Blue Sun (5.10-) in the onesy.

After warming up and checking out Layaway Plan, I decided to go for it even though I was deeply intimidated by the roof. Everything went pretty well until just before the roof, when my foot slipped off a sandy foothold – no onsight. Even though the pressure was off, I was still worried about pulling the lip of the roof, the crux. I placed my gear, transitioned into the undercling and, with much effort, pulled around the roof. The rope drag was awful on the last couple feet, but luckily there were good stances. An awesome route! Luke followed to clean my gear.

Lizzy underclings out the roof on Layaway Plan (5.11+).

Konstantin got on Way Rambo, but took several falls at the beginning of the stacks section, and lowered down off two cams so Luke could have a try. Despite feeling tired (on his 7th day of climbing at the Creek), Luke sent first try!

Luke sends Way Rambo (5.12-).

Meanwhile, Sarah Kate and Lindsey had both taken TR laps on Slice and Dice and we watched a dude flash it with beautiful style – very inspiring. Everyone was pretty tired by this point, so we decided to call it a day (it was already 4pm anyways) and load into the cars to head home.

Luke, Sarah Kate, and I drove into Moab to enjoy some dinner at Zax before driving north to Salt Lake City and finding a motel for the night, happy to have cut several hours off our driving time for Sunday.

Day 8 (Sunday): Travel Day

We had a pretty uneventful travel day driving from SLC to Palo Alto. There was barely any traffic, which was awesome (especially compared to the post-Thanksgiving Vegas-LA traffic). We took a little break in Reno to check out the Patagonia Outlet, which was pretty cool even though the prices weren’t quite low enough for me and most styles I actually liked weren’t in my size. Luke got lucky with a couple shirts and pairs of pants, though.

Reflections

This was by far the best trip Luke and I have had at the Creek. We came into the trip feeling strong, started slow, conserved skin, and tried really hard (at least I was super comfortable pushing and falling from above gear by the end of the trip, I don’t know about Luke, but he did take a couple falls, too). It was awesome to finally have some success (and some near success). Sending Coyne Crack and Swedin-Ringle and onsighting Quarter of a Man were really big accomplishments for me and I’m super happy. Coming so close to onsighting two other 5.11+ routes (1 fall each on Mad Dog and Layaway Plan) isn’t so bad, either. Too bad it’s not Squamish season, because I’d love to take my strength and confidence onto some of my projects there.

For more photos, check out our Picasa Indian Creek gallery.





Philosophical Musings on Rock Climbing

9 11 2009

Prompted by a recent post by Jamie Emerson on Grades.  I thought it would be good to dig up a few older thoughtful posts on climbing mixed with some classic climbing quotes.

“The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.”

– Alex Lowe

Grades, Grade, Grades.

“As we unloaded packs at the parking lot, two young ladies approached us to ask if we were THE Yosemite climbers… They asked if it were true that Yosemite climbers chafe their hands on the granite to enable them to friction up vertical walls. We assured them that the preposterous myth was true.”

-Chuck Pratt – 1965

What is Trad?

‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.’

– Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear” from Dune by Frank Herbert

Hesitation and Commitment.

“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.”

– Doug Lawson

Training, Progress, Belief

Enjoy,

Luke





Climbing Free While Having a Blast, a Weekend on El Capitan.

29 10 2009

Lizzy has spent almost two months in the bay area and I was due for a visit . We started off with a weekend with new friends in Yosemite where I was happy to redpoint my first Yosemite 5.12a, Underclingon. A bunch of fun was had sport and trad climbing at Pat and Jack’s Pinnacle before snow fell on Saturday night. Only the first weekend of October and snow already…

I spent the rest of the week reading, working from home, and sleeping – trying to recover from my cold which had flared back up. My friend Stein was flying in Friday morning so we could head to Yosemite to start working on Freerider, an easier free variation to the classic Salathe Wall on El Capitan.

It had been almost two years since I had been to the valley and I am quite a different climber.  These two weekends helped break down mental barriers and encouraged a go for it attitude. With these thoughts in mind Stein and I were at the base of the Free Blast at first light. Surprised by the warm weather I ended up climbing in a t-shirt all day.

El Cap - Oct 09 003

Stein starts off on the first crux slab pitch of the FreeBlast.

Despite warnings otherwise Stein and I enjoyed the Free Blast. The pitches had dramatic variety and pin scars were ever present. I made quick work of the first two pitches linking them and enjoying the glorious fingerlocks.  The next pitch was the first 5.11 crux and I made my way across and while searching for holds when my foot came off. A nice rope burn and a hidden hold later I figured out the crux move. I lowered and repeated it again, making sure I could do it again in the future. I linked this to the next pitch for a fun long romp of fingery fun!

El Cap - Oct 09 012

The pin scars require tricky pro.

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Looking up at the Big Stone after Stein climbed the first crux slab.

The tricky first slab pitch was Stein’s lead. Odd pin scars and tricky friction lead to a bolted slab that I’ve seen rated anywhere from 5.11b to 5.11d. Stein made good progress before coming off a bit over half way up the pitch. He worked out the moves and made it to the anchor. I somehow squeezed it out clean as a second, almost coming off at a tricky horizontal move shown in the video below. I was sliding off and Stein told me to jump for it. So I set up a crappy cross through foot and pressed right dynamically catching the next hold. Very cool!

Stein wanted to be sure he could redpoint the pitch at a later date so he lowered down and figured out the moves on TR (seen in the photo below and video above).  It was getting a bit warm but we still had another 5.11 slab pitch to go. This one is less sustained but with a very tricky move between the 5th or 6th bolt and a fixed pin. Stein fell on this pitch and I did too, but we both figured out the moves and continued up the route. There was no one behind us and we had all the time to relax and sort things out.


El Cap - Oct 09 022

Stein on the first crux slab pitch.

I was back in the lead and had a easy pitch to get up to the Half Dollar. We decided to link these two pitches to get us quickly to the Mammoth Terraces. This required a bit of simuling on 4th class and 5.8 terrain which is pretty reasonable. Some how I figured out the really awkward entry move into the half dollar chimney and onsighted the long ~250 foot pitch. On the Mammoth terraces we were almost done. Doing everything in good style we did Rock-Paper-Scissors for who would lead the downclimb to the Heart Ledges. Going first (on lead) was better than following since you would essentially be on top rope the whole time. I won, and lead down placing lots of gear to protect Stein. There was one tricky section and then I chose the wrong way and climbed down an awkward unprotected chimney. I didn’t want to have Stein risk a 20 foot ledge fall so I had him rap the fixed line which seems more logical. It was good to do the downclimb and I doubt we would ever do it again since it is pretty contrived….

El Cap - Oct 09 046

Stein the Ropegun, El Cap edition

We finished rappelling down the fixed lines having to wait for a few guys who were hauling. The lines were in fairly good shape and we only had to pass a few knots.  It was only about 3 or 3:30 but we decided to hang out so I could spend some time with Lizzy and relaxed at the base of El Cap. Lizzy onsighted the first pitch of the Salathe for her first 5.10c in Yosemite. Sarah Kate and I did a lap while Stein explored the base and saw Tommy and Kevin working on freeing Mescalito.


El Cap - Oct 09 052

On the Mammoth Terraces on my way to rap to the Heart Ledges.

The next day saw another pre-dawn wake up so we could climb the Free Blast again and venture as far up El Cap as daylight would allow. This day the route was super crowed with four parties of free-climbers and one aid team.  We were first to the base but a Swedish team, as mentioned in Stein’s post, showed up soon after. Had I known they were so talented I would have let them pass but there was no way to know and it’s awful to get stuck behind a slow party, especially if you arrive first.  The respective leaders redpointed the 5.11 pitches from the day before and we were soon below the Half Dollar. Despite moving much faster, the sun was in an awful place and the entry moves into the chimney were quite hot. I was tired and failed to figure out the tricky move again, opting to aid into the chimney and continue up.

El Cap - Oct 09 050

Stein pointing back down at the FreeBlast, after redpointing the slab pitches!

With the Freeblast behind us we rapped to the ledges and had a relaxing lunch around noon. The climbing had taken a lot less time and we were about to launch into the unknown. Feeling tired, I was happy when Stein volunteered for the first 5.11c pitch. He made quick work of the pitch, showing his crimping skills on the hard balancy slab. I was unable to commit with the heavy pack and aided the 11c move and freed the rest. We switched leads and I set off up the Lung Ledge. I was unsure where to belay and ended up going a bit too high. Stein was up the 4th class quickly and I was soon lowering down to the Hollow Flake. I was happy to exchange the hard leads for the first of the “Death Chimneys”. This section is a No falls zone since 8-10″ gear is hard to come by and heavy to boot.  On the advice of the Swedes, I brought two finger sized cams, one of which I placed in the singular small crack. This gave me horrible rope drag but prevented a swinging falling.

El Cap - Oct 09 051

The party ahead of us getting ready to lower down and pendulum to the Hollow Flake

The Hollow Flake was not too difficult but was not as secure as I as hoping. Due to the lack of protection and possibility of 50+ foot falls, I moved very slowly and wasted a lot of time on this pitch. Finally I made it to the top and we hauled the pack (putting a nice hole in the front) so Stein could climb gear free.  Without the possibility of falling, Stein climbed in about 1/3 of my time but still said it was quite strenuous.

El Cap - Oct 09 066

Stein crimps hard and onsights a 5.11 slab.

Even though I was exhausted, I wanted to keep leading to allow Stein to conserve as much energy for the Monster Offwidth.  After fooling around deep in the next chimney I remembered that its easier when its wider so I set off, no thought of placing gear, as far out as seemed logical. I made good progress and it almost felt 5.7 (well, not really). After skipping a few super hollow gear placements I got a hand full of pieces in and continued up the chimney. This was a mistake causing another loss of time. I was supposed to go on the face and climbed a likely 5.9 (Yosemite Sandbag) chimney requiring our #6 C4 as protection. I linked this to the next pitch and made it to the belay exhausted but happy with the onsight. Stein had no problem with the crack, stemming out at the right spot and was to the ledge in no time.

El Cap - Oct 09 069

Luke gets lost in the dark Chimney…

It was starting to get late and the wind had picked up. For the first time all day we put on our jackets and Stein took over the lead. The next pitch was one of the best of the day and started with some easy 5.10 before the angle steepened. There were long sections of 5.10+ laybacking – very cool features. Stein really had a blast on the nearly 60m pitch, skipping an optional belay/rap station in the middle. Realizing we were out of time, I left the pack and followed weight free. This was an amazing change of pace and I got to enjoy each fingerlock and bit of movement. The view was icing on the cake as the sun was dipping low in the sky.

El Cap - Oct 09 035

Ah the glory of El Capitan!

Darkness was coming and we were almost halfway up El Capitan. With two ropes we started rapping and noticed that a 70m rope would have worked as well. We got really lucky with the pulls and managed not to get our ropes stuck. There was also a fixed line from Hollow flake ledge to Lung Ledge that we used. This allowed us to rap really easily and I hope it is there in the future.  A 35m rap put us on the Heart ledges (but not at a bolted anchor) from the lowest Lung Ledge station. From here we took the now familiar fixed lines down to the ground. At the base by 7 pm, we had a full 12 hour day but had much success and Stein had not taken a single fall!

ElCapSpire

Luke looks up at the at the Monster Off-width

The next day we worked on ascending by going up the Fixed lines to Heart before driving back to the Bay and flying back to San Diego.  Our next trip will hopefully have us climbing the remaining pitches from the Ear to the top over Halloween Weekend. I am excited since it seems the best of El Cap is still waiting for us. Stein and I both enjoyed the last pitch which indicated the steep sections that are yet to come. I am a fan of steeper angles and look forward to a few more holds on the harder pitches.

El Cap - Oct 09 086

Last chimney of the day sent! Luke is excited but way tired…

Enjoy,

Luke





Just Another Sweet Weekend in the Valley

27 10 2009

I first became interested in South by Southwest (5.11a, 5 pitches) on Lower Cathedral Spire when a dude from Colorado mentioned it when we were chatting at the Penny Lane crag in Squamish. He mentioned something about it being easy for the grade in the Valley (hey, if I’m trying to break into a grade, I have no problem trying the easiest objective first) and having red camalot hand cracks (RED CAMALOT HAND CRACKS!!!).

So I investigated – looked it up on MountainProject, checked it out in the guidebooks, and asked my personal climbing information guru, Luke, for info on the route. It sounded like a great objective – not too long, not too much hard climbing (but with good climbing on the hard pitches) and a spectacular summit. Even the long (at least by Yosemite standards) approach didn’t seem like too much of a negative because it would keep the crowds away.

Yosemite - Oct 09 002

Looking down into the Valley from the approach hike.

I’d planned on doing the route with Luke the first weekend in October, but I picked up a nasty cold/flu the week before and was in no condition to hike far or climb hard. The following weekends, I climbed with Sarah Kate and we realized that we had a pretty good climbing partnership going – we motivate each other to try harder. When thinking of routes to do last weekend in Yosemite, we tossed around the thought of doing South by Southwest and realized it would be an awesome idea. Although we knew the crux climbing would be challenging, the rest of the route would be pretty relaxed for us. Plus, it’s a rare opportunity to climb a hard multipitch route with another girl, where you can swing leads and both feel like you’ve really pulled your weight on the ascent.

We awoke at 7am in our Lower Pines campsite, broke camp, ate some oatmeal, made sandwiches, and headed for the parking near El Cap Meadow. We discovered that Sarah Kate’s partner from Friday had forgotten to give all her gear back (some of which we wanted to bring with us), so we made a quick trip back to the campsite (where he was luckily still packing up) and then back to the meadow. With tremendous effort, we took off our jackets (it was chilly) and hiked briskly to the start of the approach trail.

Yosemite - Oct 09 003

Looking up at the third (5.10d) pitch from the belay (you can’t see the crux section).

The approach was not as bad or long as we had expected (except for a short section of steep dirt when we got kind of off track) and we were at the base of the route in under 2 hours, including a short excursion further up the gully (slight confusion about which Spire was which). Sarah Kate said I could lead the crux 11a pitch (the money pitch) since I’d been psyched on the route for so long. This meant she would take the 10d boulder problem pitch.

We lead the first (Sarah Kate) and second (Lizzy) pitches without much trouble. Sarah Kate then lead a mini pitch to the base of the third (1od boulder problem) pitch. Then it was time for the business. A tricky 5.9 section brought Sarah Kate to the base of the 10d section, which was well-protected but a bit airy and mental (as soon as you commit to the pitch you get a lot of space beneath you). After some deep breaths and sequencing, she committed to the moves and sent to the jug and easier ground above to a small belay ledge. I followed, falling once at the crux when my feet kept popping (sadly, just a move below the jug), but then easily figured it out on my second try.

Yosemite - Oct 09 004

Higher Cathedral Spire

Rest, water, Shot Bloks, and deep breaths at the belay, before setting off on the crux pitch. The first part was in a small, kind of awkward corner. We both felt the crux came before the “tight hands crux” in the topo, where there was a wide pod we had to thrutch past. But I made it to the start of the roof, rested, and set off into the undercling section. Magically, it did not feel particularly hard (the undercling was a jug and there were some decent feet). The rest of the pitch was fun, wild laybacking to a bolted belay on a nice ledge.

Yosemite - Oct 09 007

Looking down at the fourth (5.11a) pitch.

Sarah Kate followed the pitch clean (awesome!) and we high-fived at the belay ledge – the hard climbing was below us! We exchanged gear and she set off on the final pitch to the summit. We ate our lunches huddled behind a rock (it was quite windy) before walking over to the true summit (no summit register 😦   ) to take some photos with El Cap in the background. It is a pretty sweet view from the summit. Two climbergirls, 5 pitches, 5 onsights, 1 fall, 1 gorgeous summit!

We rapped uneventfully and headed down the talus, ready for chips, salsa, and beer. We also chilled with a bunch of climbers at the Stanford Alpine Club campsite and Nina, Jeremy, Adrienne, Jeff, and Kelli, who happened to be camping two sites over.

Yosemite - Oct 09 006

Lovely fall colors in the gully

In the morning, we were tired and sore, but still got up at around 8:15. We ate and packed up camp, then headed to curry for coffee/tea and decision-making about what to climb. After long deliberations and considering of soreness, we decided cragging at Reed’s Pinnacle would be a good decision. It was almost lunch time when we actually got there (after stopping in the meadow, then realizing we needed to go back and fill up water) but we were in no rush.

Yosemite - Oct 09 009

El Capitan from the summit of Lower Cathedral Spire

We’d hoped to warm up on Ejesta (5.8), but two older dudes said they were planning on doing it. After considering their speed (not particularly fast), we decided to climb a 5.7 nearby. We then headed to the base of Lunatic Fringe (5.10c) to eat lunch and wait for it to get less hot up there in the sun.

Two guys showed up to do the route and I decided to let them go first (I was in no rush to climb in the hot sun), but I didn’t watch (I wanted to onsight it…). I started up the route, trying to conserve my gear (I still ended up backcleaning and leapfrogging some pieces because I hadn’t anticipated the gear size quite right). The last moves were a bit exciting, but luckily I had two yellow aliens, so it was quite well protected. It was Sarah Kate’s turn next and with a little beta and gear advice she was off. She cruised the route (even the top moves), hesitating only at a tricky off fingers section.

Yosemite - Oct 09 015

Obligatory summit photo with El Cap

Afterwards, it was getting late in the afternoon and we were both a bit tired and sore, so we decided to call it a weekend and head home via Chipotle.

It was a pretty fantastic weekend. I think we both felt really proud of ourselves for doing South by Southwest together, because I think both of us have previously climbed harder multipitch routes only with guys, who tend to be the ones to lead the hard pitches. Both of us lead our hardest route in the Valley on South by Southwest and I think we really benefited mentally from not having the security blanket of a stronger partner. It was also nice for both of us to relax more on Sunday (especially Sarah Kate, who’d climbed all of Friday, too) because we’re so busy during the week that we don’t always get any time to relax. We were both psyched on sending Lunatic Fringe – definitely a very classic, fantastic route.

Lizzy





A photo essay from the Original Route on Rainbow Wall

25 10 2009

They tell me fall is the time for sending, the best climbing time of the year. Well now is October and the desert is starting to cool down.  With these thoughts in mind I drove to Vegas.

This past weekend I had the chance to climb the Original route on Rainbow Wall. This experience flowed beautifully as I embraced a feeling of relaxation and avoided nervousness. I talked my self up, filled my coffer with positivity, and went to Red Rocks to climb this great multi-pitch.

This would be my second 5.12 long multi-pitch of the year but I was unsure how I would fare. My friends, Josh and Stein, had loved this route and recommended it highly. They gave me tips and I set out ready to slay the beast. I had to stay psyched because deep down I still fear failure.  I have come to learn that failure is not absolute and can even be acceptable. This allows me to climb more freely and I am a better climber because of it.

Roberto and I managed not to get lost on the hike in, despite hiking the final section in darkness, and bivyed at the base. We were helped out by a pair of Czech climbers who were rappelling by headlamp. Their lights on the wall helped guide us up the slabs to our eventual buggy bivy at the base. We had no tent and were tormented by gnats and mosquitos throughout the night.

The morning was spectacular and we were climbing around 7am. The first hard pitches were stunning and I crimped my way up, reveling in the technical climbing. The cruxes were many on these two pitches and I marveled how face holds would appear at the perfect time when the crack seamed out.  We were making great progress as Roberto lead the next two easier, but still 5.11, corner pitches to finish the first hard block.  In no time we had climbed the next two 5.10 pitch, linking them, and simuled and then re-belayed to get to the Over The Rainbow Ledge.

Overcome by our excitement we forgot to stop and eat although it was just about noon. Roberto led the exciting traverse, no falls please, and set me up at the base of the Red Dihedrals. The next few pitches were the final crux and I was stymied by a baffling stemming move. I was not committed and could not visualize the sequence. After a quick rest I magically stuck to the wall, made the tricky reach and finished the pitch. The next dihedral pitch involved a bunch of grunting, foot slips, and honest hard work. A onsight was in the cards for me with enough holds to pull myself to the next belay. One more 5.11 pitch and an awkward 5.10 pitch put us at the top.  The sun shown brightly and I was quick to lose my shirt. We had been in the shade all day and it was at least ten degrees warmer at the top.

The quality of the rock and the climbing was excellent and this route is a red rocks Must do! I’ll write another blog soon with approach and descent info for future parties.

Enjoy the photos from our crazy journey!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 014

PB and J for life!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 028

The Rainbow Wall. So tall, so beautiful!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 036

First pitch completed, oh man this is going to be a good day!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 038

Two pitches down, Roberto’s turn to lead.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 048

A stunning 5.11 corner (P3 as we climbed it)

Red Rocks - Oct 09 051

Pitch four with the scary loose pillar in the bottom of the frame.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 063

A cool little roof at the end of pitch four. Belay bolts seen on the right.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 068

Luke starts up P4 with the ground slowly growing further away.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 069

Such high quality rock and  very nice to be climbing without a pack.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 074

Killer fingerlocks and laybacking.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 075

Roberto placing a TON of nuts while  linking the two 5.10 pitches, our P5.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 081

Enjoying early lunch and some  shoe free time at the first ledge.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 085

Thanks to hauling a mini-bag we had lots of food and water!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 098

Looking down at the spectacular final corner pitch of Cloud Tower.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 101

Roberto still grinning ear to ear on the traverse pitch, P8 from Over the Rainbow Ledge

Red Rocks - Oct 09 110

Still smiling on the first Red Dihedral Pitch, P9… I must not have realized the next move was the trickiest of the route.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 128

Luke almost done with the business on the sustained crux pitch (the 2nd Red Dihedral Pitch aka P10)

Red Rocks - Oct 09 130

I’ve seen this look before, must have just tried really hard!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 132

Roberto is still psyched and ready for the crux tenth pitch!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 136

Strenuous steep laybacking with poor feet. Wow!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 144

5.11 is nice after 5.12  Lets go UP!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 146

Wahoooo! Sweet stemming rest! Thank goodness for all the face holds.

Red Rocks - Oct 09 148

At the cave belay. Holy crap we are almost to the TOP!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 151

Summit was so warm! Oh man we made it!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 160

Wow! Original route on Rainbow Wall – 12 pitches, 2 people, only 1 fall .

Red Rocks - Oct 09 161

Looking out at Vegas after signing the Summit Log!

Red Rocks - Oct 09 174

Roberto going down the fixed line below the slabs.

What an amazing route. Still hasn’t hit me yet.  Can’t wait to go back  the climbing is SOOO good! Rainbow Country next time!!!

– Luke