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Category Archives: First Ascents

Tenaya Mundaka: First Look, First Ascent

My latest climbing project—a 5.14 wall of thin edges that gently steepens into a cresting wave of granite at Devil’s Head, CO—presented me with a significant dilemma.  The climbing is 80% Smith Rock, precise edging on micro-chips with your hips plastered to the face and most of your weight on your feet, followed by 20% Rifle, gymnastic moves on steep rock with feet toeing in and hooking on glassy features.

I began the campaign in my trusty Tenaya Intis.  These are the ideal edging implement, with a stiff and precise forefoot that excels on credit card chips.  I was crushing the lower sections, routinely climbing up to the lip of the steep wall, but struggling to make progress on the wildly dynamic exit.  I decided to switch to Tenaya Oasi’s, my go-to shoe for gym-style climbing, where sensitivity and flexibility facilitate monkey-style pulling with your feet.

My progress in the steeps improved instantly, but it came at a price.  Though I could still climb through the technical start in Oasi’s, I had to pull a bit hard with my hands, compounding the wear on my already heavily-worn finger skin. I needed a shoe that could excel on both types of terrain—technical thin walls and gymnastic overhangs.

At that pivotal moment I had the opportunity to test-drive Tenaya’s ground-breaking Mundaka.  It was just the shoe I was looking for.  The Mundaka is perhaps best described as a sock with rubber on it, although that’s not doing it justice.  The toe box is tight and stiff—ideal for thin edging.  Yet the rubber sole ends at the forefoot, creating a nearly-bare arch that is completely flexible (you can easily bend the shoe in half at the arch).  This enables tremendous toeing power on steep incuts, allowing the climber to wrap the fore foot around features and pull with your feet.  It’s almost like getting an extra pair of arms delivered in a 12” cardboard box!  Throw in a perfectly sculpted heel cup and it’s got everything a serious climber could ask for.

When I slipped the Mundakas on for the first time at the base of my project, I joked about how tightly the shoes formed to my feet, promising my toes would only tolerate a brief burn.  Yet amazingly I climbed happily for well over an hour.  The Mundakas are so well-shaped, pain was never an issue, and if anything, the shoes became more comfortable and sensitive the longer I climbed.  Also worth noting is the vastly improved Velcro tabs at the end of the adjustable closure system (similar to that of the roundly lauded Tenaya Iati closure system).  The new tabs offer so much sticking power I had trouble removing them as I lowered off the route.  There is zero chance of these coming un-stuck mid climb!

My new footwear gave me the confidence and peace of mind to focus on my climbing.  In a few more tries I finally stuck the burly dyno to the lip, mantled onto the lime green lichen-covered slab and waltzed up to the summit, finally completing the first ascent of Walk Tall Or Not At All, the hardest route at Devil’s Head at 5.14c.

It’s hard compare Mundakas to anything else I’ve climbed in.  Most shoes excel in one aspect and fall flat in another.  Not the Mundaka.  These shoes easily matched the performance of my best edging shoes and far exceeded the toeing/hooking power of my best gym shoe.  They will definitely be my new go to shoe!

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:

Canadian Tour

Pitch 1 on East Colombian Indirect 5.12+, Tom Egan Wall– Snowpatch Spire 
Q.B leading up the Endless Struggle Pitch, Snowpatch Spire

When you type in your Google search bar “genuine, good-spirited, ego-less hard mutherF#^&ing crankers,” I am positive the search will mention or show photos of a Canadian rock climber.

For years I have fallen for their niceness.

This trip sealed the deal.

Gratitude fills me to the brim!!!!

I basically had the raddest 3 week tour in the Bugaboos, Lake Louis, and Canmore.

After our first day’s first ascent, local hard man Chris Brazeau proceeded to shuffle me around the best new free lines in the Bugaboos.  Many of these climbs were old aid lines that Chris and his buddies, Jon Walsh, Jon Simms, Simon Meis, Cody Lank and others opened up with much effort over the last six or seven years.

Sendero Norte was the tour opener.  This 13 pitch route is stacked with pitch after pitch of 5.11 and 5.12 climbing.  Links to Jon Walsh’s blog with topos and a photo of the route line.
http://alpinestyle.ca/sites/default/files/Snowpatch%20topos060.pdf
http://alpinestyle.ca/sites/default/files/Bugs-Snowpatch%20e%20face%20best%20copy%20copy.pdf

Both Chris and I fell on the lower thin seam crux pitch and both had a fall or two on the upper roof crux pitch.  The rest of the route we both climbed clean.  Rappelling down I kept saying, “this was my favorite pitch, no wait THIS was…”  Sendero is one of the highest quality routes I have climbed!

Following the lower seam crux on Sendero Norte

Our next foray on the North Face of Snowpatch Spire had us climbing another new route….
one that will be fully ready for next season!

Dark Prince starts out with a spicy 5.10 corner to a facey run-out.  Pitch 3 continues up a left facing thin and technical seam/stem over a roof.  This is sustained and difficult 5.11 maybe 5.12 pitch.  I led up the next 200 foot pitch—and would recommended splitting this into two pitches.  Climb up a steep wall on your left with dual and pumpy splitter hand cracks, 5.11, bop right to climb under an off-width/dihedral roof to a nice cozy ledge.

This ledge can blast you off two directions.

Hell or High Water.  http://alpinestyle.ca/2012/10/15/recent_favorites  

The Dark Prince or Hell or High Water.  Both stellar lines.  Chris just sent the Dark Prince earlier this season…check out the Canadian Alpine Journal cover!
(You can see the top of Dark Prince in the right-hand corner of photo above).

Leading a 5.11 Pitch 7 on Sendero Norte

This day Chris choose to finish on Hell or High Water.
I followed it clean.

AHH!!! We didn’t make enough time in trip for me to give it a lead go…”never not enough!”

Chris is pretty sure it hasn’t been sent yet….next season, next season!!

Off-width after the bolt ladder or 5.11 slab 

Brazeau also wanted to add a few bolts –anchors and protection on Dark Prince.   As we climbed, he would occasionally rap back down to do a little work.  I entertained myself and everyone near the North Face with my very loud personal renditions of ‘Man in the Mirror’ and ‘Elderly Lady Behind the Counter in a Small Town’ and maybe a few other classics.  🙂

Next on the tour was the Cooper-Gran, on Bugaboo Spires East Face.   Not a new Chris route, but an old line that has been freed with a sketchy 5.11 slabby rivet bolt ladder mid-route.

Between summits on Bugaboo Spire

A quick summit handstand!

It didn’t seem to have been climbed since its first ascent……either way it had some fun heads-up climbing.

After 8 or so pitches, the route gains the popular 5.8 north ridge of Bugaboo Spire about 300 feet below the North Summit.  We simul-climbed this portion.

An epic storm began her grumble as we tagged the north summit.  With a quick handstand, we nibbled a little chocolate, I spread some of Andrew’s ashes and then we high-tailed down the Kain Route.

C.B Racking up on Bugaboo Spire

Mmm, what was next.  I believe we had a failed effort on something on the Minaret.  We climbed two soaking wet waterfall pitches while getting totally baked in the sun.

Odd day.

We contemplated (I tried to convince Chris to climb) the Beckey-Chouinard but heard rumours of a line-up 6 or 7 deep (he wasn’t totally opposed but has climbed it a few times already).

Q.B heading up a stellar 5.11+ Hands to fingers on East Colombian.

So we bailed and did a walk-about around the Spires through glaciers and snow on our way home.

The last new route of the tour was another Brazeau route.  Stellar stacked pitches called East Colombian Indirect.  This blasts off on the left side of the Tom Egan Wall.  Pitch one starts off heavy but sweet.  A 5.12 (lead bolted) traverse climbs into a lay back flake.  The pitch continues on dicey face moves around a corner and leads up to a small stance.  From there a steep and long hands to fingers second pitch dihedral keeps you fighting.  Pitch 3 is a finger roof pitch.  The crack widens as you gain the lip and continues as a 2 inch crack for a 60 more feet.

Balance and reach through a couple of face moves to gain more moderate terrain.  A short moderate pitch lands you on a sweet lounging ledge…. Hobo’s Haven.  We hung out here for minute…spread a few more of Andrew’s ashes (seemed a perfectly named place for him to rest…I chuckled with tears!).

I regained my composure and with the nicest of encouragements from Chris, started up the looming pitch, “The Endless Struggle.”  This is the last pitch of another wild route called The Power of Lard.  The old guidebook gives it a wicked difficult rating….realistically mid-5.12.

Chris on Pitch 3 of East Colombian

This is a high quality 120 foot overhanging hands to fingers pitch.  Probably one of the best I have ever stepped up to lead!

The crack arches left so one foot jams as the other smears the sheer wall.

Fight the pump through a short finger rail traverse right and a jug over the arete to the north side of Snowpatch Spire.

WOW!!!!

Another amazing climb, pitch after pitch of clean splitter granite.  

I can’t believe I have waited this long to visit the Bugaboos!!  An adventure there next summer is in order as there is much on my tick list…new routes abound and many more scrubbed up routes by the Canadians that need help sending (I need to get stronger stronger)!!!  
Oh Man!  

In addition I got to climb with some rad ladies in Canmore and Lake Louis.  90 Meter over hanging sport routes in Lake Louis with a backdrop that is surreal!!  Canmore much of the same, limestone amphitheather.  Radical! 

Michelle Kadatz and Andrea Eitle were among the few that were kind enough to tour me around, 
hook me up with other partners.  It was sweet to meet and hang with some rad ladies, giggling!!  

Taking the long way home.  Snowpatch Spires south face in the background

Again not quite long enough!  I need to make more time to climb in Canada!!

So beautiful.  Can’t wait for next summer!

Resilience

Base Camp.  Barnes wall right of sunlight.

Greenland was a bittersweet adventure!  I have been home for 8 days.  As I write, I realize that reflection occurs only now, simultaneous with the blinking of my eyes.  

Nestled in our craggy fjord, a Satellite message brought Colorado reality rushing in.  My favorite person-a man I loved dearly– perished in the Black Canyon. 


The mood abroad altered immediately.

My heart moaned, the echo lapped far across the shores in the deep blue water abyss.  The granite walls quivered, as did my soul.  

  
In this piddle of a blog, I find it difficult to give an accurate and passionate detail to our climbing adventure.  
My mind drifts off, contemplating the loss and my love for the outstanding Andrew Barnes.  

When rock climbing, whether it be soloing or establishing new routes on unfamiliar terrain, I feel enlightened with a certain ethereal clarity.  This feeling fulfills my being, is addictive, and gets me through another day, another week, another year.  




On Morning Luxury…looking south…Brazil do you see it?



The handful of long traditional routes we established in the Torsukatak Fjord may or may not be climbed again.
Man, I sure hope they are!!!
“Morning Luxury”–our second big ascent– is a glorious rock climb and an equally amazing summit!!  It flirts a south facing ridge for 8-200 foot pitches.  Stacked with dreamy finger stem-box corners, jaw dropping views, and an adventurous summit block wrestle.  All on high quality granite with a dash of burnt potato chip-like lichen.    

Over time, perhaps, the rock will recover from the minor abrasions of our traffic and it may appear we were never there at all.  


The rock, lichen, and vegetation is resilient.  


: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change


AB and the Grand Canyon. 

I seek this quality for myself.

The death and hard lessons in this year, draw my gaze downward.  I need to remember there is also so much beauty. 

   
With Andrew, though, I don’t want the memories to fade… the vegetative re-growth in the fissures to mask his presence.  
I certainly do not want the world to appear that he was never here at all.  I fear with time these events playing out in all of us.     

These routes we established. The roots we established. 

They are life altering.  
Built from the ground up, first try without hesitation.  Without artificial means of support….intuitively.  With love, with passion and a little try hard.   

We were lucky to have found such compelling and natural lines.  To climb an 1800 foot granite wall first go is surreal.  Yet, we did it and three days later we ascended another in similar fashion.  My two lady friends and I…giggling the entire way–oh yeah and the token male, John Dickey.  (He joined us for all but the first one).  

Morning Luxury ascends the left ridge to summit. 


“Plenty for Everyone” that was our first climb in the Fjord, on an unclimbed wall we named Barnes Wall.  10 rope stretching pitches with a mixed bag of face wandering, waterfalls, loose rock, a #5 off-width dihedral, a finger crack over a roof, splitter hands, and finishing on ridge with a tiny box summit.  

I am lucky to have had such a natural and compelling man in my life as my best friend and love.  Someone who taught me how to compassionately love with no expectations.  To remind me that “nobody is better than anyone else.”  

A man who believed genuinely that there was always plenty for everyone!  
Live like Barnes!!!

Thank you for reading.     

  


  

Beauty

   

The Breakfast Spire.  Morning Luxury ascends middle ridge.

Barnes Wall.  Lizzy leading Pitch 5.

4 Quickies.  John Dickey leading the 1st pitch.  

Pause on Morning Luxury

Morning Luxury


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