climber

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer Climbing and Training in the East

In the east (West Virginia), summer is the worst season.  The high temperature and more-so the high humidity is overwhelmingly oppressive.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and get some routes in, but what and where we can climb here is extremely limited.  The New River Gorge area has several separate gorge valleys for climbing.  The New River itself is hand’s down the most awesome and scenic climbing area, though Summersville Lake is God’s gift to the summer climber (more like the Corps of Engineer’s gift to climbers.)  In the heat, the lake keeps the temps down a bit and often offers a nice breeze.  That, and the fact that a quick, cooling dip in the lake is the best way to end your climbing day (it feeeeels so good) makes this the ideal summer location.

Instead of doing my normal summer hangboard session, I’ve decided to go off the Mike and Mark Anderson reservation some (The Rock Climbers Training Manual is my training bible.)  Some of the new(er) climbers at our gym (only been climbing for 3 years) came from a gym training background.  We have a pretty awesome training section to our gym, and those guys are always doing rings/pull-ups/ all kinds of weird stuff etc.  Some of the other “strong” guys in the gym do a series of gymnastic training including one-arm pull-ups, front levers, ring dips, etc.  Just for fun one day, I figured I’d try to do a one-arm and some ring dips.  It was bad.  Really bad.  Ditto with the front lever…pretty pathetic…I was really stoked!

Julia Statler on “Under the Milky Way” 5.11d at Summersville Lake in 2009.

In climbing you want to “train your weakness” instead of your strength.  Many training methods including P90x revolve around “initial gains.”  This simply stated is that if you’re really bad at “x”, if you train “x” for a short period of time, you’ll make dramatic initial gains.  As you continue to train “x” you’ll peak, then plateau.  The key is to stop at the plateau and move onto the next exercise.

I’m not recommending this training program for all climbers, but for me, I look at it as touching up in areas that I can use a lot of work.  I start my session by doing some project bouldering for about 30 minutes, including maybe 1 or 2 problems a grade below my limit.

Me on Mercy Seat 5.13a.  That move is a BIG pull of one-arm.

I then do a ¾ campus workout.  I go hard, but not too far past my peak.  (I don’t hammer myself into the ground.)  I then do the following exercises:

1.     Weight assisted 1-arm pull-ups (I use a thumb on the board to keep me straight in the 90-degree position.)
2.     Horizontal ring 1-arm (feet on ground, alternate 1-arm)
3.     Ring Dips
4.     Front Lever on Rings
5.     Toe Points (abs)
6.     Compression Band Training

The gains have been impressive (for me.)  The first time I tried a ring dip, I couldn’t even hold the “dip” position.  My last workout, I did 9 of them my first set!  And I went from barely able to do a 1-arm at -70lbs to doing 3-3.5 1-arms at -50.  My front levers are getting…well…almost to not pathetic which is a huge gain!

What I’m hoping to gain is the climbing equivalent of the 1-arm pull up.  There are several routes which I feel this is my limiting factor.  I can hold all the holds, but I just can’t do ONE BIG pull.  The route at Kaymoor, “Against the Grain” 5.13b is like that for me.  It’s a big move over the lip of the roof.  I can hold the hold, but I can’t let go with my other hand and pull hard to get the next hold (big punch!)  Dial 911 at the New River proper also has a hard move like that.  A lot of routes, really, require ONE BIG PULL off one arm. 

Last weekend at the lake, I climbed the route “All the Way Baby” 5.12b.  A short 15 move route.  I’ve done the route a bunch, but could definitely feel my increased pulling power! I was super happy to see the gains and I can’t wait for the fall season to roll in.

I’ve also been route developing.  More about that when I send the routes.

We managed to find a paper wasp next.  Poor Dustin got hit pretty bad.  I got one to the forehead.

 

Rule 1 of summer training – ice cream.  (With sprinkles.)

Don’t (try not to) Let Grades Intimidate You.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m the worst about this; I’m really writing this one to myself.  Or another way to take this one is to: “Do as I say, not as I do!”
I spent a lot of time as a 5.10 and 5.11 top rope tough guy.  Maybe the first 4-5 years of my climbing career.  I remember the first time reading through the guidebook of my childhood climbing area, McConnells Mill.  I saw the hardest route there was a 12d.  I was currently projecting (on top rope) the route: Sunshine 5.9+.   12d.  Wow.  That’s impossible!  I’ll never be able to climb that.
Matt Patterson on Mini Ovest 5.11d at McConnells Mill
 I’ve now climbing a lot of 5.12s and a handful of 5.13s in my life.  Still, though.  I will walk up to a route, see that the route is rated 5.12c or 5.12d and think….nope, its impossible.  I’ll never do this route.  Its just so hard for me, mentally, to get over that.  The only way is forward; I talk to my inner self (it puts the lotion on the skin), tell myself I can do the route…I’ll rationalize it to myself and say some of the following:
1.      You can do this route Dan, how hard can it be right?
2.     I bet I can find some sneaky technical beta.
3.     I’ve trained hard and it will pay off.
4.     I can always just stick clip past the crux, or bail (bail-biner.)
5.     If it IS impossible, I can sand bag my friends!
For me, tying in is the hardest part.  Once I get on the route and start breaking it down, then I realize that I can do the route…and then I typically do.  Breaking the route down is the best way to get it done.
Me climbing Five Fingers Arête – 5.8 at McConnells Mill
Lauren Brayack climbing Ross Boulder at McConnells Mill.
Last Friday, we had decent day at the New River Gorge.  I seem to be telling you all a lot that this is rare for this time of year.  It really is!  I think maybe God just loves me a little more than most people; I’ve sure been lucky lately.
Bob Value climbing on Ross Boulder at McConnells Mill
Barb Miller climbing “Laid Back” 5.10b at McConnells Mill
My friend Matt Fanning and I did the epic hike out to the First and Second Buttress at the Meadow.  Conditions weren’t dreamy, but a nice 65 degrees and 50% humidity and a cooling breeze is pretty good.  We did a couple easier routes to warm up, then set our sites on a route put up by Doug Reed in 1996, Red Bull.
Matt Fanning on Red Bull 5.12d at the Meadow, NRG.
Matt looked at me, I looked at Matt.  I go…so you wanna go first?… No….  I don’t want to go first….  Hmm…  Well…  I guess….  Well…..  OK I can always stick clip or bail.
I got on the route and fell at the first bolt, then climbed the route from bolt-to-bolt.  It turns out getting past the opening moves is the crux, with some easier moves leading to an almost full recovery, then one more boulder problem – hard-to-hold small, but positive crimp move and a long pull.  The second half of the second crux is pretty scary, a desperate pull over the roof to some small but positive holds.  This section of the route is pretty run-out, but I put an extended trad draw + a normal quick draw linked so I could clip in the middle of it.  Then its butter.
The route went down for me pretty easily the second go.  Boom! 

Though the next time I walk up to a 12d, I’ll have trouble convincing myself that I can do it.

It’s Nice When the Work Pays Off.

 We don’t get a very big “awesome” window in West Virginia.  This spring, we got more awesome days than one can expect – maybe a month’s worth of cool temps and low humidity.  Then it started raining.  And it really didn’t stop raining.  In-fact, over the past month and a half, its only stopped raining enough for me to cut grass twice.  Pretty bad right?
Sarah Canterbury on “Tar Baby” 5.12b – 1st Buttress, Kaymoor, NRG
Last Sunday we actually got an awesome day of climbing.  The temperature/humidity gauge read 55 degrees and 45% humidity.  That’s unheard of for May!
My past few days out had been pretty bad – conditions were terrible.  The previous Tuesday was our election day in West Virginia and being the good citizen that I am, I went climbing!  The roads in Charleston (WV) were dry, but as we got closer to Fayetteville, things got worse and worse.  By the time we were at the parking lot, the roads were soaked, even though it hadn’t rained.  That pretty much means that the rock will be soaked – even under the roofs – condensation – the worst for climbing.  Falling rain will typically leave a lot of routes dry, especially the steep ones, but condensation is the devil. 
Thankfully enough “The Tantrum” 5.12d was “dry enough” and the holds on it are pretty good anyways.  Despite all the holds feeling “sort of wet,” I was able to do all the moves off the hang and I hit it pretty hard.  Why try hard when the conditions are bad?  A fluke change in weather, and good conditions will make the route go down easy (at least, that’s what one would hope.)
David Statler at the slab crux of “The Tantrum” 5.12d, 1st Buttress, Kaymoor, NRG.
Saturday night was my bachelor party.  I don’t really drink; you know – empty carbs etc though we stayed up pretty late – which isn’t my norm (I’m usually in bed by 9-930 – I’m so boring) but what the heck right?  We slept in a bit and then hit the crag feeling pretty awesome.
I’ve talked in the past about how just “warming up on your project” is the way to go for getting routes done.  I did that, hanging the draws on the route.  Hanging the draws on “The Tantrum” is pretty tough, though once hung, especially with some long draws, clipping is pretty easy!
The route starts with a pretty rude and height-discriminating move right off the ground.  With my 6-foot wing span, I can make the long move over the low roof to an OK hold, scamper up and then get some good holds.  From here, there’s a few easy moves to a good stance and jug below the second clip.  This is where it gets crazy.  Now, the 5.14 climbers just grab some really bad slab holds and crank off of those.  Me not being a 5.14 climber, I have to use some tricky beta. 
From the ground, the slab looks “easy” and the roof looks “hard as crap,” but its really the other way around.  Though…maybe the roof isn’t exactly… “easy.”  An awkward undercling move leads to a key knee-bar and a hard stand-up move to a bad hold.  With my height and choking up on the undercling, I can then make a hard span move to a good hold.  Boom.  For me that was the crux.  I had done the move twice on the bad conditions day off the hang, so I was feeling pretty confident that I would be able to do it.  That just left the 10-foot horizontal roof and some ridiculous moves.
Ryan Smith on “Blood Raid” 5.13a, the Hole, Kaymoor
I’ve heard a lot of people argue that the Red River Gorge has the best stone in the country.  Those folks say that the stone at the red river is clean and super solid, the movement world class.  I would agree the movement there is excellent, but I can’t think of any route where you have to monkey out a roof, helicopter your feet out over my head, get a hand-jam, hand-foot match a foot-jam and hand-jam, then unwind from it.  That’s right.  You heard me right.  It’s perfectly ridiculous, though really, if this were the crux, I bet the route would only be 12b or so.  It REALLY does look ridiculous to watch someone do it…but it works.
Knowing what to do, I took a big long rest under the roof (and kicked off my knee-pad,) then launched into the sequence.  It went pretty easily for me, though I definitely grunted some and boom.  Another check mark in the book.  At the chains, I thought…you know, those check marks are pretty tough sometimes!
Matt Fanning on the crux of “Blood Raid” 5.13a, the Hole, Kaymoor
My current life goal is to hit 500 career 5.12s.  Its getting hard because I’ve done just about every 5.12- at the NRG. Also, a few years ago, I started climbing 5.13s too which don’t count toward the 5.12s.  Right now, I’m up to 473.  Maybe a fall trip to Rumney or somewhere else new will give me a new pool of 12- routes to climb!

I’ve done all the other routes at 1st Buttress at Kaymoor except for two, both of which I think I will never be able to climb, so I spent the rest of the day taking pictures.  Its nice when you send your project early right?.  I never seem to get climbing images of myself since I’m the one always taking the pictures….Maybe I’ll get some pictures of me at my own wedding coming up this weekend!

What to Do When the Rain Just Won’t Quit!

Its been a pretty hard going spring season here in the east.  The first half of spring was awesome – lots of great climbing days, low humidity and no rain.  But we are paying for it now.  I swear, it has rained almost every day and heavily for the past three weeks, making climbing outside quite unpleasant.  Between rain storms, the humidity has been so oppressive that conditions would just be terrible.
Bouldering at Moore’s Wall.  (I’m working on the guidebook.)
So what do you do?  Well, there area a few options.  Gym climbing aside, when the season turns on you, its good to focus on another aspect of training and health.  Myself, I’ve been running.  Running a lot.  You can run in the rain, and I have been.  I’m tentatively planning on running a half marathon in August.  Not that I really care one way or another about it, its just an excuse to put in some miles (well I run kilometers.)  I got a new Garmin watch.  My old one finally bit the big one…but after using it for 5 years, I didn’t hesitate to get a new one.
Here’s a log from Seneca Rocks:
And another from Coopers Rock:
Me personally, though, I’ve been route developing.  I equipped a line at Area 51 at the Meadow River in West Virginia on one rainy spring day (before the current rainy stretch.)  There’s been a lot of debate recently about gear/sport routes and mixed routes.  I’ve never been much of a gear climb climber myself, but I love equipping and sending clean, hard, technical face climbs.  The routes I bolt typically have little enough gear to bolt on, let alone, climb safely on.
Walking down the cliff, I noticed an excellent, blank-looking section of white rock.  Exactly what I look for in a new route.  Though blank-looking from the ground, the rock here in West Virginia typically has enough features to go, albeit in the 5.12 or harder range.
I equipped the route and had some doubts about whether I would be able to do it.  The crux itself was located in the white rock; All the holds seemed to be facing the wrong way, positive, yet small.  It turned out that the crux section comprised of 3 distinct sections.  Two of the three cruxes turned out to just be “really technical” and once I figured out the sequence on them, I was able to do them maybe 2/3 or 3/4 times off the hang.  The third crux, however alluded me the day that I equipped the route.  I just simply couldn’t figure out how to do the moves!  Nor be able to brute strength my way through it.
I knew I was pretty beat up though.  Equipping the route itself takes as much out of me as would climbing half a dozen routes.  Bolting routes is hard work! 
I came back the following weekend.  It felt like it was going to be the last good spring day so the pressure was on to send the route. I warmed up by going bolt-to-bolt up the route and was able to do the first two cruxes fairly easily off the hang, and I spent a good 20 minutes working the third crux.  I just linked two draws together and clipped directly into the bolt so my belayer could just chill and not pay attention.
The sequence was really balancy and technical; the feet were mostly good.  However, no matter hard I tried, I couldn’t find a static way to finish the crux – a move to a ¼ pad crimper.  I finally gave up trying to climb static and settled on the plan:
A right hand gaston on a good hold, an ok right foot.  The sketching part – standing up on a terrible, off-kilter left foot smear and a precision dead-point (more like a jump) to the ¼ pad crimper.  I was able to do that move 1/10 times off the hang…actually…I tried it about 15 times, got it once and kind of half got it once.  Not very good odds….
I took a long rest, waited for the route to go into the shade, then tied in for what I thought would be a long shot attempt.  I even tied a project tag on the first bolt as I climbed up it.
I managed to make it through the first two cruxes fairly easily (Oh….boy…really put the pressure on myself.)  I was so surprised to even be at the crux on red-point…. poised to set-up for the crux, got into it and got to the point of the jump…amazed I was even there…..  I looked at the hold…focused all my attention down to that pin-point moment…..and was like…please get it, please get it, please get it….My heart was fluttering and I was really nervous, almost shaking.  I really had to focus to not shake myself off….. I put my trust into my left Tenaya Iati.   It held and I went hard for the crimp, sticking it perfect…oh so perfectly….I screamed of course, but it was my “I know I got it, but TRY HARD.”  I did. I matched, and then did several more moves to a good jug.  Boom!  I figured it would be exciting to have a bit of a run-out on 5.12- climbing after sticking the crux jump…well…I usually curse myself for that sort of thing, but this go it went no problem.  The final roof pull was a little difficult from what I remember but I just tried as hard as I could and did it fairly easily.
The grade on this route was pretty hard for me to determine.  I would previously just have called it 13a or maybe 12d, but a recent discussion among locals here at the NRG has me starting to question route grades.  I don’t want to be soft, so I figured I’d just say 12c and call it good.  How do you grade something that you feel like is impossible for you?  I still can’t believe I got so lucky as to send that route. Everything went right.  I feel like my MAX is like 12c or 12d (V5 or V6.)  But how much should I include luck?  The first boulder problem, the odds were 2/3, the second 3/4, the third 1.5/15.  I just always feel like I get lucky on stuff like that…
I equipped another route at Cotton Top on a rainy Friday morning.  This route is short, but climbs up this really neat arête feature.  Coming down the route, I wasn’t sure if I was going to equip it, but once I saw the features, I knew I was going to love it!  The route starts with an easy/broken start (ledge) but immediately fires out a body length roof (pretty easy.)  A really tough power move establishes the climber on the left side of this really pointy arête.   There are so so to OK holds on arête (right hand), but there is hardly anything on the slab for the left and and very little holds to pull down on.  After the big power more, the route does maybe half a dozen really balancy and techy, core intensive high-step and body position moves.  I was able to climb this one second go with the help from my friend Ryan who told me that he was going to take me off belay if I fell (just kidding, he gave me great beta!)  I decided to call this one “Two Girls, One Tomahawk” 5.12a (or b?)

It looks like another week of rain here in West Virginia….So running, gym climbing and route developing.  Life is hard.

Tactics for getting it done. Aka. Stacking the odds in your favor.

Anyone who has read my blog or talked to me knows that I’m straight forward with my motivations for climbing. Climbing is my life and I work very hard to climb as hard as possible.
 
Sticking the crux on “The Beast in Me” 5.12a R.  Photo Jared Musgrave

I will note that I am referring to sport climbing and bouldering. When I gear climb I will typically try to climb the route “well” as in not be a chuffer with my gear, climb efficiently etc.

Here are a few tips to stack the odds in your favor: 
  • Work out beta; Look around too.  Don’t just follow the tick marks, look for new holds and new beta.  Especially at the Red River Gorge, I’ve found “new holds” many times.
  • Stack gear for dangerous sections.  If you are placing small gear, place more than once piece.  The extra energy is worth the headspace.
  • One sporty sport routes, consider hanging really long slings on bolts so you can clip, and then clip up. With some smart sling-work you can put a “bolt” anywhere you want it.
 
David Statler with the extended sling on “Harlequin” 5.12b.  Endless Wall, New River Gorge.

For a hard start and dangerous second clip, just stick-clip the second bolt.

Climb in good to ideal temperatures/conditions

For a difficult lead, especially a trad climb, work out all the gear and the moves, then try to send the rig.  Once you’ve worked it out, visualize the movements; chalk and tick key holds (I know people talk smack on tick marks…so brush them off when you’re done.)  When you’re climbing, you don’t want to have to think, but just connect the dots.  A great way to mess up a techy sequence is to try and change beta, or forget your beta half way through the crux.

For sending routes at your limit (grade-wise) pick stuff that is your strength.

  • If you’re in bouldering shape, then pick short, but hard routes.
  • If you’re good on pockets, then pick a route with pockets etc.
  • Stick to the steep juggy routes (if you’re good at those.)

Temperatures and conditions are huge. Ideal conditions make hard routes easy and bad conditions make easy routes miserable!  I will typically try to send the hardest routes (peak my training) during the ideal conditions window for the area.  Based on day-to-day conditions I follow:

  • When it’s cold, climb slopers
  • When it’s low humidity, climb crimpers
  • When it’s hot, go swimming and climb jugs!
 
Slopers on a cold day.  Chronic – V7 at Stone Fort, flashing the problem.  Photo Lauren Goff

I decided that I would try to climb the route: “The Beast in Me” 5.12a R at the New River Gorge this spring. I don’t think this route gets the “R” rating in the newest book, but by most definitions, it should.   The crux has a bolt but there are two cruxes before it (V3 or so) with long falls on good, but must-not-fail gear.

We set the route up on TR and I loaded up my harness with gear. I climbed the route as if leading placing the gear and I works out all the gear beta my first go (and the moves).  I figured out the crux sequence and brushed all the holds.  

 
“The Beast in Me” 5.12a R.  Photo Jared Musgrave
  

As I attempted to lead the route after top roping it, I had the gear on my harness in order with the draws already on them. I also sorted the gear on the left and right side of my harness based on the placement.  The plan was to have no extra gear and as I clipped the anchor I had no gear on my harness!

I was poised to “slam dunk” the crux before the crux. I was waaaaaaay over my last piece of gear, a good cam in a horizontal, and for a split second imagined what would happen if I shorted the long move. I quashed the thought and went hard!  Sticking the hold. ……woah boy !!!!…..that was a pretty sketchy 1/4 of a second.   If that cam were to blow, it’s would likely be a fatal or serious ground fall from about 40+ feet.  Climbing is dangerous.

I didn’t get it, I fell at the crux.  I didn’t listen to my own advice and tried to do a different sequence.  My buddy Neal was also working the route and between the two of us, we refined the beta (finding a key foot.)  I wasn’t going to try the frightful lead a third time so I sent the rig on Top Rope to get some confidence and muscle memory.

I wrote down the gear and sent the route my next trip out, once again clipping the anchor with no gear on my harness. I topped out and enjoyed the view before downclimbing and lowering.  I’m not sure if this is my hardest trad line, though it was definitely exciting.  When I climbed the route, it went pretty easy for me, but I was on edge the whole time.  As I went through the dangerous section, I once again imagined what would happen if I fell there.  On Neal’s previous attempt, he figured out better gear beta; we stacked two cams into the horizontal instead of the one.  Cutting the chances of death by falling on V3 in half is a good idea. 

 

I had a lot more on this, but figured I’d make it a “part two” where I talk about temperatures and bouldering! 

The Big Year Part 3: Upping the Ante

Two in the afternoon, and I’m shaking uncontrollably.  One second I’m freezing, the next I’m burning up.  It hurts to move, to breathe, to blink my eyes!  I reach for the phone, and call for life support.  Uncle Stu, in his warm apartment in Bishop picks up the phone.

“Stu,” I meekly say, “The flu has me in a death lock.  Can you get me some Gatorade and chicken soup?”

Sitting in the campground, all alone in my van, the big year has come to a screeching halt.

I think to myself: What am I doing with my life?  I don’t have a job, I don’t have a girlfriend. Climbing feels like a chore.  Gosh, this is the unromantic and difficult part of the big year.

March slowly passes into April, and before I know it, I am about to leave for Alaska to tackle my next big alpine objective.  Just prior to departure, I manage to completely and totally throw my back out traversing an undercling pitch. Laying on the ground and writhing in pain, I wonder how I will manage to recover in time. I’m supposed to be landing on the glacier in a weeks time!

Days later, with the help of some muscle relaxers, I manage to pack my bags and hobble onto the Alaska bound aircraft.  To my good fortune, a storm is ravaging the Alaska range.  My partner Alik and I hole up with my good buddy Mad Dog in Anchorage for seven days while the storm settles and my back mends.

As we crest one of the final hills en-route to Talkeetna, we can see the entirety of the Alaska Range.  Suddenly, like a strike of lightning, my stoke is rekindled!  As we pull into town, you can feel the excitement in the air.  Climbers from around the world have come to test themselves on Denali and neighboring peaks.  We fill up on coffee and a lumberack’s breakfast at the Road House Cafe and waddle over to Talkeetna Air Taxi to manifest ourselves.

1.  the Alaska Range

The Alaska Range

We land on the Buckskin Glacier, at the foot of the massive and incredibly imposing East Face of the Moose’s Tooth.  With 5,000 feet of vertical relief, we are left staring in awe and admiration.  Alik, in his always calm and casual demeanor, comments.  “Looks good.”  I take a gulp, try to act cool, and respond: “Yup, sure does.”

The East Face of the Moose's Tooth Our route takes the most direct path directly up the center of the headwall

The East Face of the Moose’s Tooth Our route takes the most direct path directly up the center of the headwall

The next morning, drinking my coffee in the Alaska sunshine I have to turn and face away from the Moose’s Tooth.  My stomach is doing somersaults and I’m nauseous with uncertainty and fear.  Alpine climbing at its best.

Our eyes are set on a new route:  2,500 feet of snow, rock and ice, leading to a 1,200 foot rock headwall, sequining to another 1,500 feet of snow and ice to the summit.  We hope the rock will go free at a reasonable dry tooling grade.  Our first attempt proves solid, but we are thwarted by heavy snowfall and forced to retreat in a gully of torrential spin drift and powder avalanches.  Character building at its best.

Retreat from the storm

Retreat from the storm

Once back in camp, we make a few satellite phone calls to family, gorge ourselves on steaks, chicken, and bulky carbs, and patiently wait for the weather to clear.  As luck would have it no more than 48 hours after returning to camp we get the all clear.  Back up the mountain we go, fatigue still deep in our legs.

The first two days go well, and we are established half way up the face.  The morning of the third day onward melt into a blurry haze.  Alik and I push ourselves far into our reserves.  We opt to employ El Capitan speed climbing tactics to the headwall.  The leader short fixes climbing in blocks, while the second jumars.  Eighteen hours later, exhausted and with no good bivy platform in sight we employ our bat hammocks.  They prove almost non useable, I am too cold to sleep, after two hours we opt to continue.  Looking out across the Alaska horizon in the near 24 hours of light, I feel as if I could be high on a Himalayan face.

Alik taking in the veiw, 3rd pitch on the headwall

Alik taking in the view, 3rd pitch on the headwall

The climbing is loose, sharp and tedious at a grade of 5.9, A4.  Topping out the headwall in light snow flurries at 4 pm, we push onwards through 1,500 feet of fantastic moderate snow, ice, and rock to the summit plateau in a 48 hour push!  We take in the view, snap a few pics, and relish in the moment – but our peace is short-lived.  Worried about a encroaching storm, we’re determined to keep moving, and thus begin the 32 hour decent back down to the valley floor.  Sometime on the third day, I drop my ATC and am forced to finish the rappel with a carabiner brake rack!  Our timing is perfect. Snow began to fall the second we touched flat ground.

Arriving back in back in base camp, we had been on the move for 80 hours.  Sipping hot toddies and frying up some meat and pasta, Alik and I savored finally being at rest.  Endorphins, exhaustion and sleep deprivation had us feeling incredible, but also talking gibberish to each other.  I’m sure we looked like drunken fools!  Some time later, we realized that we had both been hallucinating the squawking of ravens for much of the route.  Hence a route name was born:  Illusions of the Raven. (Read the full story here: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15s/newswire-new-route-on-east-face-mooses-tooth)

Upon my return to civilization I felt like I had endured the Spartan battle of 300.  I was totally and complete wasted.  For two weeks I holed up, slept, ate and kept good company with friends.  It would take months to recover mentally from this effort.  The mountain had required much more of me than expected. The Moose’s Tooth had given Alik and I an experience of a lifetime – an opportunity to look far inside ourselves.  Adventures of this magnitude settle deep into one’s inner core and radiate out.  Reflecting back now, I find that I have been sculpted by my most challenging experiences.

Coming back from this adventure, I often think of what Ammon McNeely, says:  “There is a fine line between bad ass, and dumb ass!”  In my mind, the line is there for us to creep up to.  It feels incredible to get close to it, but it’s up to each one of us to decide how far under (or over) the line to go.  The freedom to explore these boundaries is intoxicating and exhilarating, but also humbling when things go wrong.

Weeks after Alaska, I hobbled back into Yosemite Valley.  A good friend of mine (and current women’s El Cap Nose speed record holder), Libby Sauter, suggested we climb the classic East Buttress of El Cap.  Chatting like song birds and swinging from holds like monkeys, we simul-climb the route with smiles and an extra helping of laughs!  But as fate would have it, this climb would be the straw that broke the camels back or, in this case, my back!  I had eked out the Moose’s Tooth, but now I was paying the heavy price and my back was injured.  I sat in the cafeteria at the Yosemite Lodge, grimacing in pain, angry that I was showing weakness, depressed that I needed to rest.

 Enjoying a great day out on El Cap with Libby Sauter

Enjoying a great day out on El Cap with Libby Sauter

I opted to try new things and relax.  Whale watching, hiking, cycling, sea kayaking.  I started physical therapy and tried to mend.  Six weeks came and went, and still no relief.  Instead of setting up a tent in the Dolomites and pushing my rock grades, I rented a room in Bishop from a good friend and focused on PT, lots of cycling, and top rope climbing.  Instead of climbing El Cap in a day or linking high Sierra peaks to prepare for my upcoming expedition to Nepal, I was doing mini traxion laps in the Gorge.  I found if I climbed with perfect upright form like a stiff robot, it didn’t hurt.  This is not how the big year is supposed to go, I thought.  But in life things do not always go to plan.  Sometimes we are served up a plate of humble pie.  I remained optimistic.  The months passed, the MRI came back negative, and slowly I regained form.

 

Victor Garcia Joins Team Trango

Trango is proud to announce the addition of Victor Gacria to Team Trango. Victor is based in Salt Lake City, Utah and spends much of his time exploring Joes Valley and other climbing areas closer to SLC.

“I am very excited to be joining the Trango family!   The talent and overall stoke that the team is comprised of is awesome and it is a blessing to be apart of it!”, says Garcia.

LCC 022116 Photo 1

“I was introduced to climbing around age seven but was terrified of heights.  It was not until high school that I discovered bouldering.  Bouldering was exactly what I needed, it allowed me to be an athlete.   The first bouldering competition I participated in I came in last place and almost gave up the sport all together. I decided to stick with it and I am glad that I did”, Garcia states.

The Big Year – Part 1 (casting off)

What would you do with a full year off of work?

A few years back a friend of mine proposed that question.  Hmmm.  Like school kids we sat around and day dreamed.  Patagonia, Pakistan, Nepal, Italy, Spain…. the list went on.  About a year after this conversation, I decided to start saving my money and make this dream a reality.  Eighteen months after that, I finished up my last work stint in Western Africa and moved what I needed into a 94 Chevy van.  Late December, with music blaring and sunglasses on, I headed towards a year of adventure!   Here is a recap of 2015, my big year:

I have always had an affinity with the east side of the Sierra in California.  With countless seasons spent in Yosemite Valley, many of my friends reside in the small high desert town of Bishop.  I spent my first three weeks here, clipping bolts in the Owens River Gorge and bouldering in the Happy’s and the Buttermilks.  Rest days usually involved hanging at the Black Sheep coffee house and soaking in the local hot springs.  Amazing how easy I found it to fill days even though I didn’t have a job!

The author climbing in the Gorge, Photo credit Jean Tucky.

The author climbing in the Gorge, Photo credit Jean Tucky.

In the third week of January, I made a last minute decision to attend the OR trade show in Utah.  Expecting to be away from Bishop for only a week, I even made climbing plans for my return.  But after a great trade show I received a call from the inventor of the big year, Justin Griffin.  “Its going off up here in Bozeman,” he said, “come on up.”

Well I thought I am already half way there.  The stars are pointing me towards the north! 

About a week later, I found myself bouncing and bumping on a Montana back road with a PBR in hand, riding shotgun with Bozeman hard man Justin Griffin.  “Its going off in Cook City, stuff that hasn’t come in in years is in shape,” Justin said.  “I have my eye on a three pitch unclimbed line.”  That night we slept in his beater old tow behind travel camper just minutes from the climbing.  We were up early and stepping outside the cold bit my face hard, my eyelashes freezing together.  That day we established a new line: Thunder Bird, 600 feet M7 WI6.  It was a spectacular day out with a good friend.  As luck would have it, I would forget my ice tools below the last pitch hanging perfectly off a stone.  The second ascent (which still awaits) will receive a nice little prize!

Thunder Bird

Thunder Bird

Feeling confident after our ascent of Thunder Bird, I asked Justin for the beta for Winter Dance, a cult classic in Hyalite Canyon.  I had been dreaming about this climb for the last 15 years.  A monstrous four hour approach is required for this gem established by Alex Lowe and Jim Earl in 1998.  It’s a beautiful four pitch climb rated M8 WI6, that starts a dizzying 3,000 feet off the valley floor.   To my good fortune, a good friend of mine, Ken Kreis happened to be in Bozeman looking for a climbing partner for his first ever trip to climb in Hyalite.  “I have the perfect climb for us, Ken,” I deviously said!  The climbing proved steep and exhilarating, this combined with the interment snow flurries, gave it a big mountain feel.  Fun day in the hills, and Ken did great!

Winter Dance pitch 2

Winter Dance pitch 2

Ken Kreis atop pitch three Winter Dance

Ken Kreis atop pitch three Winter Dance

When I finally arrived back into cell reception, I got a voice message from Justin, “Get some chow on your way home.  We are climbing with Jack Tackle tomorrow.  4:30am wake up call.”  I looked at my watch.  11:30pm.  Oh man, this is gonna hurt, I thought to myself.  But, I had never met Jack before, and being a long time hero of mine, I knew I had to go!  We climbed Petrified Dreams, a climb in Yellowstone National Park that Jack had put up back in the 90’s.

Jack Tackle, Justin Griffin, and I, Petrified Dreams in the background

Jack Tackle, Justin Griffin, and I, Petrified Dreams in the background

Sadly this would be the last time I would climb ice with Justin in his home territory. Justin tragically passed away in Nepal nine months later pursing his dreams as an alpinist.

Stay tuned for my five part blog series the big year.

Craig DeMartino Joins Team Trango

Trango is proud to announce the addition of Craig DeMartino to the Trango athlete team.  “I’ve been a fan of Trango’s gear for years and the chance to join such an elite team athletes is amazing. I’m stoked to take the gear out on all my adventures and work with the team to spread the Trango vibe to the tribe”, says DeMartino.

craig hvar1

The Trango athlete team strives to support strong climbers, like Craig, who are good stewards and contributors to the climbing community at large. Craig returned to climbing in 2002 after a 100 foot ground fall that resulted in the loss of a leg, a fused back and neck, and a renewed love of being outside and the simple movement found in climbing. Craig’s determination to climb hard, give back and provide motivational speeches and clinics to other disabled climbers makes him an ideal addition to the team.

The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

Meet the Team

Featured Events

There are currently no upcoming events.

All Events

Partners

black_logo_new AMGA Color Access Fund LNTlogo_COATED

Archives

Authors

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
eGrips Tenaya Fast Rope Descender SMC Stonewear Designs

© Trango - All Rights Reserved