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All posts by Jason Haas

Jeff Lowe Tribute

Last night I had the honor of helping with an event to celebrate the life of Jeff Lowe and also raise money for his medical care. Jeff has an an unknown neurodegenerative disorder and has been repeatedly been told he has weeks at most to live.

 

The tone from the beginning was how I picture Irish funerals. It was festive, upbeat, and good humored. Climbers that hadn’t seen each other in decades were hugging and laughing as the roar of the room drowned out the live music. The conversations were atypical of many climbing events – they were reflective, introspective, and focused more on friendships and memories, with little to do about achievements and sends and who the baddest man in the room was. And believe me, there were a lot of bad asses in the room. As a history geek and someone that has been captivated by the lore of these living legends for years, I always appreciate talking with the climbers of yore. I have always felt embraced by them, welcomed as a brother, but tonight, I started to feel like one of them. Not because of the countless interactions and festivals and meals we’ve shared together, but because I realized I’m starting to become one of the “older dudes”. I don’t quite fit into the Jeff Lowe and Lynn Hill age bracket (or climbing caliber), but I also don’t fit into the young-gun Daniel Woods age category (or climbing ability) either. This transition, perceived or not, was sort of comforting. Lots of talk of aching body parts and a focus on family over recent ticks felt refreshing, as did the realization that some of the speakers talking about Jeff were my peers, not an older generation.

 

Richard Rossiter and Steve “Crusher” Bartlett

 

But regardless of my own introspective ramblings, the event was incredible. Climbers from all over the country flew in to attend the event and celebrate Jeff’s life. The last count I had was 200 pre-sold tickets with probably another 300 at the door ticket sales, plus about $10,000 in auction sales meant the Boulder Climbing Community achieved its goal of raising enough money for Jeff to remain in his house and have the much-needed around-the-clock medical support. The event was a huge success and again, I’m very pleased to have been a part of it.

 

Jeff Lowe and family on stage

 

As one final cool thing – I brought a copy of Climb!, a book on the history of climbing in Colorado. I had a bunch of climbers that have made an impact on Colorado climbing sign the book. The BCC will auction it off at a later time to raise money.

 

 

Signatures include: Jeff Lowe, Huntley Ingalls, Lynn Hill, Roger Briggs, Paul Sibley, Steve Cheyney, Richard Rossiter, Tom Hornbein, Chris Revely, George Lowe, Michael Kennedy, Mark Wilford, Jim Erickson, Pete Takeda, Josh Wharton, Henry Barber, Bob Horan, and many many more.

 

We’ll try and get a few more signatures before we sell it off, but let me know if you’re interested in it – or keep an eye out for an upcoming benefit put on by the BCC.

Jeff Lowe Tribute

Last night I had the honor of helping with an event to celebrate the life of Jeff Lowe and also raise money for his medical care. Jeff has an an unknown neurodegenerative disorder and has been repeatedly been told he has weeks at most to live.

 

The tone from the beginning was how I picture Irish funerals. It was festive, upbeat, and good humored. Climbers that hadn’t seen each other in decades were hugging and laughing as the roar of the room drowned out the live music. The conversations were atypical of many climbing events – they were reflective, introspective, and focused more on friendships and memories, with little to do about achievements and sends and who the baddest man in the room was. And believe me, there were a lot of bad asses in the room. As a history geek and someone that has been captivated by the lore of these living legends for years, I always appreciate talking with the climbers of yore. I have always felt embraced by them, welcomed as a brother, but tonight, I started to feel like one of them. Not because of the countless interactions and festivals and meals we’ve shared together, but because I realized I’m starting to become one of the “older dudes”. I don’t quite fit into the Jeff Lowe and Lynn Hill age bracket (or climbing caliber), but I also don’t fit into the young-gun Daniel Woods age category (or climbing ability) either. This transition, perceived or not, was sort of comforting. Lots of talk of aching body parts and a focus on family over recent ticks felt refreshing, as did the realization that some of the speakers talking about Jeff were my peers, not an older generation.

 

Richard Rossiter and Steve “Crusher” Bartlett

 

But regardless of my own introspective ramblings, the event was incredible. Climbers from all over the country flew in to attend the event and celebrate Jeff’s life. The last count I had was 200 pre-sold tickets with probably another 300 at the door ticket sales, plus about $10,000 in auction sales meant the Boulder Climbing Community achieved its goal of raising enough money for Jeff to remain in his house and have the much-needed around-the-clock medical support. The event was a huge success and again, I’m very pleased to have been a part of it.

 

Jeff Lowe and family on stage

 

As one final cool thing – I brought a copy of Climb!, a book on the history of climbing in Colorado. I had a bunch of climbers that have made an impact on Colorado climbing sign the book. The BCC will auction it off at a later time to raise money.

 

 

Signatures include: Jeff Lowe, Huntley Ingalls, Lynn Hill, Roger Briggs, Paul Sibley, Steve Cheyney, Richard Rossiter, Tom Hornbein, Chris Revely, George Lowe, Michael Kennedy, Mark Wilford, Jim Erickson, Pete Takeda, Josh Wharton, Henry Barber, Bob Horan, and many many more.

 

We’ll try and get a few more signatures before we sell it off, but let me know if you’re interested in it – or keep an eye out for an upcoming benefit put on by the BCC.

It’s Done

Six years ago I started working on a guidebook to the South Platte with Ben Schneider. About a year into it Craig Weinhold joined the team. Almost three years after that the Northern Volume to the Platte was released. With well over 1,500 routes, and most being multipitch, it was quite the undertaking. But it only documented half of the Platte, with literally hundreds of established, but undocumented lines from secret crags most had never heard of still remaining.

 

The journey was far from over, but sadly, Craig’s time on our adventure had to come to an end. Well, not sad for Craig – he’s an amazing dad now. Just sad for the book as he is also an amazing climber and writer. And then a month into the new volume, Ben tore his ACL and has basically been sidelined ever sense. So it’s just me now… and while it’s hard to fight back all the girls throwing themselves at guidebook authors, it can be difficult to stay motivated to find partners and when you can’t do that, you’re forced to rope solo all by yourself. But you do it by being hyper-organized and setting milestones for yourself. You celebrate when you finish a crag and you go out to dinner with your wife when you finish a chapter. And you threaten to punch your friends in the face when they add a new route to a chapter you’ve already finished and have to go back and climb it.

 

So where does the book stand now? Well it seems it is only right for the book to come full circle. The second volume started with a day at Sheep Nose and it only seems fit it should end there. And with Ben nonetheless. We started on the far left and climbed the iconic Ten Years After, a magnificent layback and stem corner that goes at the modest grade of 5.8. We returned to the scene of the crime for the last action shot for the book with my good friend Matt Clark, who was subjected to more bushwhacking and choss than any non-guidebook author deserves. While I can’t thank him enough, hopefully this two-page chapter opener makes up for it in some respects.

 

 

We then ventured over to the remaining routes I needed to climb on the far right side. After watching torrential downpour after torrential downpour drop down on the formations all around us, including Turkey Rock only a few miles away, we decided to hightail it to the summit. Just as we got to the packs it started to rain on us and we called it a day, about two hours worth of climbing shy of completion.

 

 

Ben was gracious enough to come back with me the next day to finish off the few remaining pitches. And while I wish I could say we ended on a high note, at least we finished all the routes. Sadly, the majority of the climbing that day was the worst covered in the guidebook, but hey, at least I pulled some bail gear off the route, including a few (formerly) fixed pins with zero effort.

 

 

And as I type this I’m listening to the hum of my office printer as I print a hard copy to proof while on a family vacation back to the Midwest. So long as everything goes well, the book will be sent to the real printer as soon as I return. I owe a huge amount of gratitude to everyone that has come and climbed with me, has hiked around to look at formations with me, has offered up information, and just showed support in general. You guys are the reason I stayed motivated. Thank you all.

It’s Done

Six years ago I started working on a guidebook to the South Platte with Ben Schneider. About a year into it Craig Weinhold joined the team. Almost three years after that the Northern Volume to the Platte was released. With well over 1,500 routes, and most being multipitch, it was quite the undertaking. But it only documented half of the Platte, with literally hundreds of established, but undocumented lines from secret crags most had never heard of still remaining.

 

The journey was far from over, but sadly, Craig’s time on our adventure had to come to an end. Well, not sad for Craig – he’s an amazing dad now. Just sad for the book as he is also an amazing climber and writer. And then a month into the new volume, Ben tore his ACL and has basically been sidelined ever sense. So it’s just me now… and while it’s hard to fight back all the girls throwing themselves at guidebook authors, it can be difficult to stay motivated to find partners and when you can’t do that, you’re forced to rope solo all by yourself. But you do it by being hyper-organized and setting milestones for yourself. You celebrate when you finish a crag and you go out to dinner with your wife when you finish a chapter. And you threaten to punch your friends in the face when they add a new route to a chapter you’ve already finished and have to go back and climb it.

 

So where does the book stand now? Well it seems it is only right for the book to come full circle. The second volume started with a day at Sheep Nose and it only seems fit it should end there. And with Ben nonetheless. We started on the far left and climbed the iconic Ten Years After, a magnificent layback and stem corner that goes at the modest grade of 5.8. We returned to the scene of the crime for the last action shot for the book with my good friend Matt Clark, who was subjected to more bushwhacking and choss than any non-guidebook author deserves. While I can’t thank him enough, hopefully this two-page chapter opener makes up for it in some respects.

 

 

We then ventured over to the remaining routes I needed to climb on the far right side. After watching torrential downpour after torrential downpour drop down on the formations all around us, including Turkey Rock only a few miles away, we decided to hightail it to the summit. Just as we got to the packs it started to rain on us and we called it a day, about two hours worth of climbing shy of completion.

 

 

Ben was gracious enough to come back with me the next day to finish off the few remaining pitches. And while I wish I could say we ended on a high note, at least we finished all the routes. Sadly, the majority of the climbing that day was the worst covered in the guidebook, but hey, at least I pulled some bail gear off the route, including a few (formerly) fixed pins with zero effort.

 

 

And as I type this I’m listening to the hum of my office printer as I print a hard copy to proof while on a family vacation back to the Midwest. So long as everything goes well, the book will be sent to the real printer as soon as I return. I owe a huge amount of gratitude to everyone that has come and climbed with me, has hiked around to look at formations with me, has offered up information, and just showed support in general. You guys are the reason I stayed motivated. Thank you all.

Freeing Aid Lines – The Side You Never Read About

There are a lot of climbers out there I respect, but all fall short in comparison to Tommy Caldwell. Not because when I told him he should warm up before a photoshoot we were doing he campused a V10 and said “ok, I’m ready”, and not because he’s the most talented, humble, down-to-earth, genuinely nice guy out there (which he is by the way). It’s because time and again Tommy meets the rock on its own terms and through the means of those that came before him. Someone else climbed through this section (via aid) without a bolt? Fine, then I don’t need a bolt either, even if I’m using my fingers instead of aiders. How amazing is that attitude!? It shows respect for the past generations, leads by example for the new generations, and inspires others to take a minimalist and environmentally-conscious approach. Even if you don’t agree with it and want to bolt everything in sight, you have to respect his approach. At least I do. And I try and follow his example in my own way.

 

Now I do think that aid climbing should give way to free climbing and I am not ethically opposed to adding a bolt to an existing aid line in order to keep the free climbing within a reasonably “safe” range (although let me clarify that I do not agree with a unilateral “let’s bolt this to make it a clip up” – you know the difference I’m talking about). But Tommy just goes up El Cap and clips bashies and manky beaks and peckers and takes monster whippers a thousand feet off the deck and I am floored. First off most climbers nearly wet themselves even rappelling a fixed line or aiding a splitter one-inch crack on El Cap, let alone taking a lead fall onto aging fixed hardware that was never intended for anything beyond body-weight placements. Some people are inspired and think “I can do that!” and others think “that’s crazy!” but it’s hard to really know until you try it for yourself.

 

OK so I’m not trying to free the Dawn Wall or any other new route on El Cap, but I do enjoy freeing other aid lines, from longer, more involved projects on the Diamond to single-pitch cragging routes around Boulder. I enjoy trying to think like an aid climber (because I’m not one – I’m terrible at aid climbing. Just ask Andrew Burr.) and trying to see the line as they see it. I enjoy taking that vision and then trying to translate it into free climbing – taking an old problem and re-examining it with new eyes, new tools, and a different approach. I like the work that goes into it because hard work strengthens who a person is fundamentally and I value things I worked hard for more than things that came easily to me. I enjoy becoming a part of that route’s history, yes somewhat egotistically, but it’s much more than that. I enjoy becoming a part of the narrative – feeling like I belong to a larger community that spans generations and includes people I’ve never met. I am in some respects tied to those individuals for the rest of time.

 

That’s the romantic part. But the blog title is not “Why Freeing Aid Lines is Amazing”. Because like any truly good homeric saga, there must be a dark side. Yes it’s hard work, but it’s often alone. You tirelessly hump multiple racks of cams and several ropes up the hill to rig anchors and mini-traxion the line by yourself so that way you only need a partner for “the send” because otherwise no one is willing to belay you on it, especially multi-pitch projects. Ever slog 80 pounds eight miles through the dark at 2am by yourself to then peer over a 1,000-foot cliff at sunrise by yourself? It’s breathtaking – but frickin’ scary. But not as terrifying as rigging the fixed line and then committing to leaning over the edge for the first time all by yourself. I don’t know why it’s different. But it’s different. And if it’s your first time inspecting the route and you’re dangling 40 feet out from the wall, while a gentle breeze twirls you around on your thin spindle of nylon, you can’t help but get a little lump in your throat and grip the rope just a little tighter. But that dark side is just in your head. Build a solid anchor and there’s nothing to worry about. The real battle is when you tie into the sharp end, whether it’s a ground-up attempt or a rehearsed, headpoint-style ascent, there’s generally a reason why an old line hasn’t been freed yet. It’s hard and more often than not, the gear is not always straightforward or even good, if present at all.

 

For the past few months, I’ve been working two aid lines out at the Turkey Rock area, but abandoned one to really focus on the other – the king line on Turkey Rock itself: Turkey Challenge. At 330 feet tall, it tackles the proud upper headwall of the south face, sitting front-row-center on the tallest part of the cliff. A mellow pitch follows the start of the iconic and well-protected Turkey Shoot to a big roof, then branches left into a different crack system. When the crack dies out I’ve been building a gear anchor where I believe the FA party originally did. But I combine the next two pitches into one since I couldn’t find anyone willing to do a hanging belay from the two fixed pins in the horizontal – especially since one is only halfway driven in.

 

But above and below this hanging belay is an incipient seam sporadically protected by archaic bolts with homemade hangers – the best combination. Buttonheads and star drives, quarter inchers and rusted out wedge bolts. And it’s not the crux that really gets to you, which boils down to a 15-foot V7 to V8 vert slab problem kind of thing above RPs, offset Aliens, and an old bolt. No, what really gets you is the unprotected 40-plus feet between the last bolt and the belay ledge.  Yes the climbing eases, but not until you’re fully committed to a 5.11 slab with the last bolt well out of sight and your belayer out of ear shot, so that extra slack they gave you to make sure they don’t pull you off ensures you go whizzing by them before coming to a hault (if the bolt holds of course).

 

 

When my leg quakes on those “easier” moves to the point that I feel like I’m going to shake myself off the route entirely, making the worst case scenario that plays through my head come true, I really wish for a bolt. And on an obscure line like this, with a poorly-drawn printed topo to boot, I know no one will know I added one. But I think of Tommy taking bigger falls than I’m even risking taking and doing it hundreds of feet higher off the ground than I am, and I find the fortitude to climb onward and to do so by the means of those that came before me. It can be debated whether or not this has the community in mind as not many people will climb a route with such a long runout, but for now, I’m content to meet the rock on its terms and honor the ascents of the past. Is it right? I don’t know. Is it better to add bolts and make the route more “accessable”? Depends who you ask I suppose. Today I’m just thrilled to have made it through unscathed.

 

So what’s next? Not totally sure, but first thing’s first. I gotta track down the first ascent party and invite them out for a beer to share our experiences and continue the route’s narrative. After all – they saw the king line long before me and they had the balls to establish it ground up (with some really committing and mandatory 5.11 climbing between pieces). I hope they get as much of a kick out of hearing about my ascent as I do hearing about theirs. And I hope that continues as someday others also get inspired enough to try and climb the line and want to tell me about their experience. Let’s keep the story going.

Turkey Rock Renaissance

My last blog post was about Turkey and I’m sure my next one will be too as this place is amazing! I have climbed here for years, but it is the last area I need to fully document before the next South Platte guidebook edition can go to press so I’ve been scouring over every nook and cranny. Forgotten and poorly-documented classics have been “rediscovered” and contemporary test-pieces and neo-classics have been unearthed. And if it weren’t for the latter, I’d have been done writing the book months ago. But I can’t seem to move on from the undone and overlooked cracks, the forgotten aid lines and abandoned projects. I feel like it’s as much of a renaissance as an area so picked over and so steeped in history can have at this point. New lines have barely been more than a blip in the last 20 years, and yet, it’s virtually the only place I want to climb at for new lines right now. In addition to putting up a three-star 5.12 on the north face of Turkey Tail (I called it 11+ in an earlier post and got called a major sandbagger by attempted repeats), there’s at least two more lines I’d like to do on the south face of the Tail, not to mention many more smaller prizes on the north face. It’s an exciting time for high-end free climbing with attempts on the second pitch of In Search of Unicorns. It will go, the moves have all been done, but what’s the ethic of replacing a fixed bashie with a bolt on an aid climb that probably hasn’t been aided more than twice, if that, let alone in the last 30 years? From the bolted anchor 70 feet up, you climb a few feet higher, place a #4 stopper, then climb hard, unprotected face moves to a dihedral. It was here that I clipped and weighted a fixed pin, then took a 40+ foot fall, only 100 feet off the deck when the pin pulled. Falling half the route is pretty heady, especially with a massive tree nearby and on vertical terrain. And you still have to go another 10 feet or so to an old, rusting, quarter-inch bolt. As the guidebook author, I don’t know if I want to mess with local politics and place the bolt (regardless of it being ground up or on lead), but I am in favor of one. I passed on the project about a month ago and handed it over to other friends like Cody Scarpella and Joe Mills, but my heart hasn’t seemed to let go, nor my mind… I will most likely return to it.

 

But until that time there’s plenty to do elsewhere. On Turkey Rock itself for example, I brushed off the cobwebs on a 20-year old abandoned sport route put up by Kevin McLaughlin. It sits between two of the most-done routes at Turkey – Gobbler’s Grunt and Southern Exposure. Yet no one seemed to even notice it was there. The line is one of those delicate slabs where there may be a definitive crux, but you could fall at any point. In fact, just below the an

chor I let my guard down and took an awkward, helicopter-style fall while casually traversing a small scoop. I had my legs crossed from stepping through, with one hand behind my back chalking and the other hand sort of palming the wall. My belayer said something, I looked down, lost my balance, and spun off the wall like a top. I took two more lead falls that day just to make it back up to my high point. You sneeze and you’re off. You stay too long in one spot and your shoes ooze off. You don’t pick the right little pimple to step on or micro-depression to crimp on, and you’re off. Move too fast and you’re done-zo. It’s a route where everything has to come together just right and at 130-feet of continuous climbing with old-school bolt spacing – that’s a lot of magic happening at the same time. I called Kevin up that night to tell him I did his route – his excitement was through the roof, which couldn’t be a bigger compliment. But then he asked how hard it was. “I don’t know man, hard. And hard by slab standards, so real hard. 12b?”

He didn’t even laugh. “It’s the only route I ever started that I didn’t finish and I was fit back then. It’s not 12b.”

 

Coming from a guy who put 5.13 on the map in the Platte (even if old books call his routes 5.12 – some of those lines are legit 5.13s), it was hard to argue with. Still, all I could say was “yeah well no one climbs slab anyway so let’s call it 5.12. No one will know the difference. Besides, if someone thinks it’s sandbagged and gets mad, at least I’ll know someone else got on it.”

But that’s what’s been done, how about what hasn’t been done? There’s another half-dozen undone lines I’d like to do, some easy, some hard, all worthy of a couple stars. But all fail in comparison to the last remaining test piece aside from In Search of Unicorns. Three pitches going up the tallest part of Turkey Rock, and on the best stone on the formation. Something says I shouldn’t draw attention to it, yet something also tells me this revival of new routing at Turkey is far from over. Just be sure to get them in before June as I have a dozen routes on the north side of Turkey Rock to climb before the book is printed.

Alias

Jason Haas

Hometown

Denver, CO

Motivation to Climb

My motivation to climb is ever evolving and multi-dimensional. I got into climbing because I liked the physical aspect of it combined with three-dimensional problem solving. As the years went by I felt like I needed something more from climbing and began to shift my focus from sport to trad. I feel like trad climbing still has the athletic component to it and adds an extra twist to the problem solving component because you’re not only unlocking crux sequences but also working through where to place gear, what kind, etc. It also has taken me to some truly special places sport climbing alone just can’t reach – such as up El Cap, a desert spire, the jungles of South America and wild peaks

Most Memorable Climb

I have many memorable climbing experiences, both good and bad, but one that has stayed with me over the years took place 10 years ago in Red Rocks. I was living on the road and was beginning to switch gears into trad climbing. I met a guy in Vegas who was in a similar point in his climbing career and was looking for a partner for Epinephrine. Neither of us had chimneyed before, done really any multi-pitch climbing to speak of, nor knew how to place gear very well. The night before the climb we were crashing at some guy’s house, and as a party went on my partner and I were seeing if we could both fit into a bivy sack together. We packed the food, rechecked the rack, then tried to sleep while people boozed into the night. We awoke as most of the others were going to bed and set off into the desert night. I followed the first wide pitch and immediately got fully stuck when I tried to chimney with a pack on. After much cursing and effort, I freed myself and we carried the pack between our legs instead of hauling (a term I learned afterwards). We kept replaying the horror stories in our minds of people getting benighted up top and so we climbed as fast as we could. Pitch after pitch of classic 5.9 climbing blew by in a whirlwind and despite being noobs to gear, it never seemed to bother us. We topped out with plenty of daylight but saw all these impromptu bivy coffins on top and got nervous. We started sprinting down the descent, afraid of being stuck up on top and got back in the fading light. It wasn’t an epic, and it wasn’t even close to my onsight limit. It was simply a cruiser day with a friend and it changed the course of my climbing career.

Favorite Climbing Spot

My favorite place to climb is Joshua Tree. It’s a vast, endless desert with every type of climbing imaginable. Steep face routes, roof cracks, desperate slabs, classic bouldering, desert solitude, and a wonderfully vibrant camp scene in Real Hidden Valley. It’s the best place to just roll in and find a partner in the parking lot, or to go the other extreme and simply disappear for a few days into the desert and solo to your heart’s content.

Bio

Jason Haas, 32, originally hails from the flatlands of Michigan where he learned to climb at the soft sandstone cliffs of Grand Ledge, MI. The joke always was, if you don’t like a route, wait a week and something will break, making a whole new line. He would regularly drive the 7.5 hours to the Red River Gorge until eventually moving there. Jason now lives outside Boulder, CO where he runs Fixed Pin Publishing and teaches math and special education. Despite the move, he has never forgotten his roots and is still known as a sketchy choss-junky to all his climbing partners. This has paid off well with first ascents all across the desert as well as FFAs in the Fisher Towers. Jason has redpointed as well as established both sport and trad routes up to 5.14. He prefers climbing something new over repeating a line he’s already done, which has lent itself well to writing guidebooks, of which he has authored six. He has also climbed in 38 states and on four continents, doing at least one FA in 23 of those states and on three of the four continents.

[full bio]

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