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Category Archives: Climbing achievement

Sending Spree: Drew Ruana takes on The New

 

Wow. I can truly say that the New River Gorge was one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever been to. I feel so blessed to have opportunities to visit special places like these. My dad had learned to climb at the New; he had always talked about it to me, telling me I needed to go there sometime with him. Until I actually went, it was hard to visualize just how stunning the area is- not just the climbing. The wildlife, the scenery, everything about this area is just beautiful. Day one back home, and I already can’t wait to go back.

 

Before I got here, I didn’t really have specific goals. I wanted to play around on some hard stuff, but when I got off the plane on the first day and got to the wall, all I wanted to do was climb. Climb climb climb. I decided that I would have a much more rewarding and fulfilling trip if I did more mileage- so I did that. I think I averaged around 9 pitches a day? Something like that. Most of them new routes, and in new areas. I managed to send 20 new 5.13 routes, and 4 5.14s in my 6 days of climbing there.

A couple of the routes I tried stood out to me. I know I’ll remember them for the rest of my life. One of them was Puppy Chow, 5.12c- I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun climbing on a route as I did on that. If you’re in the area, get on the route. I don’t care how hard you do or don’t climb- it is 100,000,000% recommended. Also in that area is Mango Tango. This route is the most strikingly beautiful arete I’ve ever seen. It looks and climbs like pure artwork. Although a bit cryptic, figuring out the beta and sending was one of the most memorable climbs of my life.

The thing is that trips like these aren’t just about the climbing. They are made great by the people you’re with. Piper, Miriam, Quinn, and Laura were one of the best crews I’ve ever climbed with.

I met a bunch of my dad’s old climbing buddies, which was cool to see who he grew up with. The local vibes there are awesome – shoutout to pies and pints, the pizza and atmosphere is rad there.

Special thanks to Michael Williams for being the sickest guide/guru around. Can’t wait for another trip like this!

Here’s my ticklist for this trip:
5.14b
Still Life 2nd go
Journeyman 3rd go

5.14a
Mango Tango 2nd go
Sword of Damocles 4th go

5.13d
Natural Progression 2nd go

5.13c
The Project OS
In the Flat Field 2nd go
Satanic Verses 2nd go

5.13b/c
B.C. 2nd go

5.13b
The Racist 2nd go
The Pod FL
Crossing the Line OS
SR-71 OS
Against the Grain OS
White Lighting OS
Fuel Injector OS

5.13a
Quinsana plus FL
Apollo Reed OS
El Chapo FL
B-52 OS
Massacre OS
Skull Fuck Direct Finish OS
Mighty Dog FL
Next Time OS

Photos by Trevor Blanning

First Ascent: Ethan Pringle Sends “Blackbeard’s Tears” (14c gear)

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I finally clipped the chains after freeing all 110 immaculate feet of “Black Beards Tears” yesterday at the Promontory, placing all 15 cams and one stopper on lead! This is definitely one of, if not the coolest and most unique FAs I’ve ever done in my life! I’d fantasized about how this fabled crack climb might look and feel for weeks before I saw it at the start of the month. When I first laid eyes on it, my jaw hit the floor.

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On September 2nd I rapped in and installed an anchor right below the very top of the wall. I knew as soon as I saw the line up close that it was going to have some bad ass climbing on it and it did not disappoint. After 10 days of the usual kind of hard work and of course a fair amount of blood, sweat, a few tears right there at the end, I nabbed the red point.

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Once I started giving it legit red point burns I pushed my high point higher every day (including one fall from the very last move on Saturday) so I thought I might get off easy without entering the realm of pre-send stress, the realm of manifesting worst case scenarios.

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But of course as happens with the most meaningful projects, progress wasn’t linear and I had a heady couple days of “regression” before realizing how dialed I had it and taking advantage of a one hour window of the right kind of wind yesterday. The important ones always get heady, break you down and force you to check at least some of your ego at the bottom. That’s what I love and hate about hard projects: they force you to surrender.

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I have soooooo many people to thank for hours of belaying, catching big whips, generally showing up and supporting both virtually and in person. You know who you are. Thank you so much! HUGE thanks to @jimthornburg for his dedication to supporting and documenting this project until the bittersweet end.

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Now I can finally leave the black hole/golden triangle of Humboldt and Del Norte counties for a while, reintegrate back into civilization and probably hear the words Trump and Clinton a lot more.

See you later Promontory. Thanks for everything. It’s been real.

Oh and since everyone wants to quantify climbs with numbers, I’m thinking 14c. Come try it. It’s good.

Video: Drew Ruana Establishes 14d at Smith Rock

On February 13, 2016, Drew Ruana made the first ascent of “Assassin” (14d). “Assassin” toppled the classic “Just Do It” (14c) and the unrepeated “Shock and Awe” (14c) as the toughest route at Smith Rock. The first ascent of the Aggro Gully linkup pushed Smith Rock’s highest grade upward for the first time in 13 years (the FA of “Shock and Awe” – still unrepeated).

Drew Ruana on the First Ascent of Assassin

Drew Ruana on the first ascent of Assassin (14d), Smith Rock’s hardest route.

Here’s a quick route synopsis and send footage from Drew:

Alex Johnson on Projecting, Sending, and Lessons Learned

So much of climbing, especially projecting, is puzzle piecing. It isn’t whether or not you’re strong enough to do the climb, or do each individual move on the climb, but figuring out how to do each move, and configuring the most efficient way to combine multiple moves in a row while expending the least amount of energy. I think “projecting” is “perfecting.” Working something so much you get it so dialed that it almost produces imminent, consistent success.

Alex Johnson Red Rock

Alex Johnson Sending Monster Skank. Photo: Ray Davalos

That’s how it was for me working Wet Dream Right (V11/8A Red Rock, NV). When I first started trying, I could do a couple moves, but some were so inconsistent, I couldn’t link sections of the boulder in a row. By the time I wrapped it up, I had perfected the climb’s movements. I was able to do every move on its own 100% of the time, and so efficiently, that I even when I linked them, I expended very little energy by the time I got to the final hard move.

Sometimes after I send things, I feel weird. Like I don’t know why they take so long to finish… During the process, you forget where you started. By the time you send something you’ve been working for a long period of time, it’s hard to recall how difficult the climb in its entirety felt at the beginning. This is how I felt about Monster Skank.

Alex Johnson Projecting

Alex on Day 1 of the Monster Skank Project. Photo: Kati Hetrick

You spend a few days, weeks, months on something, and then when you finally do it, you could feel so inexpressibly victorious you almost cry… or you might feel unsatisfied. Like, “Hm. I wasn’t fighting tooth and nail for every move of this climb. Maybe it really isn’t that hard. Why couldn’t I just do this last season?” When in fact, it could be that you’ve so perfected each sequence, that when you eventually finish the climb, all you really had to do was execute, in exactly the way you know how—because you’ve been doing the same moves for months.

There’s also the typical cliched opinion that the more time you spend on something, the sweeter it feels to finish, and of course that’s true. But often for me, it’s the opposite, the previously stated lack of satisfaction, almost disappointment in myself for not completing the climb faster, sooner.

Alex Johnson Day 1 Monster Skank

Day 1 Try-Hard Face

And then all these other questions race through your mind (or mine, at least) like, are the temps better today? Am I stronger? Fitter? Climbing better? Is my breathing more controlled? Am I less afraid of falling?

What was it? What was the determining factor in today’s success, versus all the other days of failure?

I heard on a (non-climbing related) podcast recently, that there’s no such thing as a failed relationship, no matter the result, how shitty it may have been, or how epic it seemed in the end. The entire time you were in that relationship you were learning; about yourself, about how you deal with conflict, emotions, etc. You were growing.

I think I want to start applying that to working projects more. I mean, I know every time I try something I learn something new, even if I don’t send it… But I get pretty in my head about things sometimes, especially when I “can’t” do something. I hate not being able to do something. It’s probably the most frustrating personal issue in my climbing life; being shut down. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Alex Johnson Monster Skank send

Controlled Movement on the Send. Photo: Ray Davalos

And I’m not saying that by needing to project something I’m “being shut down” on it. I’m just saying that sometimes I lose track of the amazing process in my race to success with myself. Being able to climb awesome things is a gift, and if they’re difficult they require more time and commitment. Sometimes I need a little reminder that the process can be just as fun and exciting, if not more, as the end result.

Send Footage: Ethan Pringle on La Reina Mora (14d)

After a month-long battle of hope, frustration, failure, emotion, and eventual success, Ethan Pringle sent the Spanish test-piece, La Reina Mora (14d).

Ethan Pringle Spain from Facebook

 

“Well, I really couldn’t have imagined a better last day in Siurana. For the first time in over a week I felt only love instead of frustration and anger. With a wide open heart full of excitement and happiness, though not really caring how I did, I finally climbed to the top of La Reina Mora and clipped the anchor in a swell of emotion. It’s been a wild ride, and the process of projecting this climb and putting everything I had into it taught me more about life and compassion (especially for myself) than I could have thought possible…” – Ethan Pringle post-send

Ethan Pringle and La Reina Mora (5.14d) from The RV Project on Vimeo.

After sending La Reina Mora, Ethan went on to polish off his long-standing project and North America’s hardest sport route, Jumbo Love (15b).

Ethan Pringle Sends ‘Jumbo Love’ 15b

Yesterday, Trango and Tenaya athlete Ethan Pringle made the second ascent of ‘Jumbo Love’ (5.15b), North America’s hardest sport climb at Clark Mountain, California. Pringle has been working the route since the mid 2000’s and has spent much of the past two months on redpoint attempts.

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Jumbo Love was established by Chris Sharma in 2008. The aptly named route climbs from Clark’s third tier through a ~70ft 12d, the crux headwall boasting about 100ft of 40 degree overhanging bullet stone with a V11/12 crux, and then a ~70ft 13d headwall. The scale of the route is immense.

While projecting Jumbo Love, Ethan also sent notable Clark routes like ‘Jumbo Pumping Hate’ (5.14a) and ‘Jumbo Glass’ (5.14c).

Trango Product Manager Adam Sanders had this to say about the ascent: “The scale of this accomplishment for American rock climbing is huge, and I’m so thankful that Ethan stepped up and put in the effort to make the second ascent. This climb means a lot to me. I’ve been wishing for years that someone would commit to it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Congrats and much gratitude to Ethan!”

Woes of Failure.

Levitating up Levitation and Eagle Dance

Failure.  

ARG!

I suck with failure!!!


I find sometimes I am avoiding moments where failure is the most likely outcome.  

Following the crux on Cloud Tower

I don’t project rock climbs.  I on-sight.  If I don’t think I can on-sight it I shy the lead away.  

Its not even that I fear falling.  I don’t fully commit to friends, relationships, plans….because what if it doesn’t work out.  It is better to be illusive.  

HA!  I fear failure.  It isn’t really working out any more, this fear of failure thing.  

I turned to Justin Dubois this spring when I was having a little head epic in the Valley.  In one week last April I climbed three big walls in a day in Zion, climbed to Dolt Tower and had my first run up the Regular Route on Half Dome.  All-in-all, 10,000 feet of climbing in 6 days.  Yet, I was frustrated with my progress in mid- May.  My intended objective was pushed out of sight by partner miscommunication and sickness. 
I emailed Justin, “am I a sissy if I bail?”

He sent back something short…probably not knowing that I really needed advice, an outside voice.  

“No, crazy…settle down!”  

This fall again Justin’s words ring around the vast space between my ears.  

Settle down. 

Baxter and Andrew on top of Mt. Wilson–Red Rocks


Ironic as Justin drops me a note today, 
“I think I have your disease…I can’t seem to take a rest day!”

Yup.  It is a disease and it is catching up with me hardcore.  
I feel that I have been battling it, so quickly moving on to the next project…the next adventure that I might not be enjoying the present moment.  





Cory Jammin up the last pitch of Cloud Tower

The pain of my stubby right toe jammed into the one inch crack 600 feet off the deck.  

The grunting exhale that escapes my lips as I shove my left index finger in the space between the parallel sandstone.

The tingling sensation as my hand cranks, forearm burning, pulsing.  Breath labored.
Mind twirling, eyes darting.  ‘

Finding comfort in the uncomfortable.
Taking control or just taking.

Maybe falling.  
Hopefully sending.  
Whatever it may be, pushing because that is what we do it for. 


I backed off a lead today, because my shoulders hurt.  Because my right elbow aches.  Because my shoes are all blown out.  Because I was afraid of not sending.  

Afraid of Failing.
  
My ego hurts as does my body.  I had a great time in Vegas last week.  Trying hard, succeeding.  Clay suggests that I may be too hard on myself.  
It allows me success, but it hinders the smile.  
It fogs the sunset, slogs the movement, mutters the conversations between friends. 

………and this is how it is now.  
Clinging to a pin scar on the first crux of Rainbow Wall.  

Red Rock Routes
Resolution Arete 5.10–11 hours C-T-C
Cloud Tower 5.12a
Rainbow Wall 5.12 
Levitation 29 and Eagle Dance Link-up 7 hours C-T-C
Rock Warrior, Dream of Wild Turkeys and Prince of Darkness link-up
Some cragging at Brass Wall, Gallery, and others
Zion Routes
Moonlight Free Attempt 5.12d (did not complete)
Sheer Lunacy 3 1/2 hours on route
Force Boyle 5.11
Bits and Pieces 5.11
Monkey Finger 5.12
some cragging at Touchstone Base and Kung Fu Theater, and others

I did my long-term project!

Last summer, I decided to project my anti-route: Lactic Acid Bath.  I’ve definitely climbed a bunch of routes at the grade, infact, I’ve even flashed a route at the grade, but for me, Lactic was hands down, the hardest route (for me) that I’ve ever done.  As the name implies, Lactic Acid Bath is a pump-a-thon, though it is by-no-means, pure enduro, but rather, 70? feet of power enduro.

My major weakness for some reason has always been underclings.  I’m not really all that tall (5’8″), but I do have just shy of a 6′ wing span, so face climbing has always been a strength of mine.  No roofs…not so much.

Lactic Acid Bath, New River Gorge, Kaymoor.

The crux of Lactic Acid Bath is a 7-move undercling section with high (jacked) feet.  Because of the bolt placement, you can’t really work the moves unless you stick clip; if you fall on any of the moves, you’re hanging and space and have to either lower or boink and since you’re gonna be pumped silly, you’re only feasible option is dirt…

Anyways.  Last summer, my buddy Matt and I did “hole” sessions where I put 5 or 6 burns in on lactic at least once a week after work.  I essentially had to high point every under cling hold and basically did that high-point only once in each of those sessions.  My first few times, I couldn’t even to get to the undercling section, the start-in-of-itself being maybe 11+ or 12-.  I distinctly remembering sticking the first undercling and trying-but-failing to match it as a high-point on several sessions.  Through the summer I managed to progress through it, sometimes, doing the entire sequence off the hang, though only once actually making it through the underclings on point, only to fail at the second crux.

I blew my finger out this Winter as you may have read about earlier, so I did P90x which was actually quite awesome for my climbing.  Once thing that I majorly trained was “curls” as I worked especially hard at these during the p90x workouts.  It paid off too.  My first session this season on Lactic, I managed to high point through the undercling section!!! I was so excited, and nervous, that I totally fubbed the upper section (still 12- or 12 off the hang.)

Devil Doll, New River Gorge, Kaymoor.

Last week, however, on an after-work session, I got through the underclings to the knee-bar rest before the last crux.  I wasn’t even pumped, which surprised me.  I figured, what the heck and just fired it!!! I was so excited.  And funny enough, I was being videoed for both my warm-up and send!!! A friend of mine is doing a video series (not specifically climbing) about photographers and we decided to that Lactic would be an easy rig.  I’ll post the video once its up, though I have a feeling it’ll be a while since video is such a pain!!

My next project is Devil Doll.  After working out Lactic (they share the 12- start), it feels laughably easy. Last Thursday, I managed to RP all the way to the anchor clipping jug, falling going for it which was my third try on it!!  If weather permits, I’m hoping to do it this Thursday!!

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