climber

Corner Pocket

By Mark Anderson

The small town of Ouray, in southwest Colorado, is one of my family’s favorite places to visit. The town has everything we look for in a vacation spot—good climbing, endless rest-day activities, and a place for the kids to swim. With extra sweeteners like a great bakery, plentiful ice cream, the best scenery in Colorado, and heated pools, it’s the perfect road-trip destination.

The 4th of July parade in downtown Ouray. If you stand on the sunny side of the street, expect to get soaked!

This year our climbing focused around the aptly-named Pool Wall, an angling cliffband that looms above Ouray’s legendary hot springs pools. The rock appears to be stuck somewhere in the geologic process between sandstone and full-on quartzite (which is metamorphosed sandstone). It looks like the former, but feels and climbs like the latter. The rock quality varies a fair bit depending on the sector, but where its good the rock is quite good.

The Pool Wall. The Bay of Pigs sector is the clean lower wall in the center.

We primarily spent our time at the killer Bay of Pigs sector, which features a number of super-high quality face climbs. The Ouray community seems to have a proclivity towards stiff grades, and this was certainly on display. Some of my favorites were Empire of Dirt (5.10d), which culminates in a classic but no-joke slab crux right below the anchors, and the namesake Bay of Pigs (5.12b) which has excellent rock and weaves up the center of the sector on generally crisp edges (and a few committing slaps).

High on Bay of Pigs.

The highlight of my first day was scraping my way up Matt Samet’s standout route Breaking the Waves (5.13a) on my first try. The crux climbs over a Rifle-esque blocky bulge with powerful underclings that lead to a committing dyno, but the upper headwall is stacked with desperate stabs to thin edges. It’s easily one of the best sport climbs in the Ouray area, and perhaps the best of the grade.

For my next climbing day, I set my sights on an open project on the far left end of the Bay of Pigs sector. According to Jason Nelson’s fantastic book “Climbs of the Million Dollar Highway,” the route was bolted by my friend Luke Childers but never sent, and features a “small, sharp pocket” at the crux. When I stumble on opportunities like this, I’m both intrigued and apprehensive—I would love to contribute a first ascent to an area I enjoy so much, but I also don’t want to “waste” a few precious vacation burns on a route I may not be able to finish.

Pulling onto the headwall on the “open project.”

With a few good sends in the bag I figured it was worth the risk, especially considering how good the route looked from below. After an easy approach, the route climbs a slightly overhanging arête with well-spaced, rounded edges. The rock was a bit “muddy” from neglect, but with a light brushing, it cleaned up really well.

The business is a 12-foot bouldery stretch along the prow. In the middle of this section is a slightly incut mono pocket that angles to the left, creating essentially a PIP-joint-deep sinker sidepull for the right hand. This pocket was actually pretty easy to pull on, but it was also a “Keeper.” Meaning, if you fall with your finger in that pocket, you better yank it free before your weight comes onto it or else that pocket is going to “keep” your finger!

Yarding off the keeper mono.

The opening boulder begins with a big incut edge, but then nothing for the next 4 feet except an out-of-view, sloping 2-finger dish. Right off the bat I struggled to get off the ledge and established onto the prow. It’s really important to be patient in situations like this. When you know a route has been climbed, and you know the approximate grade, even if you can’t figure out how to do a move, at least you know the move goes (and should be within a certain range of difficulty, or else you’re “doing it wrong”). With a first ascent, you really have no idea. Maybe it’s been left undone because the move is V14?

Pulling past the sloping dish on the lower arête.

Fortunately having gone through this countless times gave me just enough confidence to keep at it until I figured out the right footwork to snag the dish. The upper boulder, yarding off the mono thread, is probably a bit more physical (certainly more finger-strength intensive), but much more straightforward to figure out. After sussing the final panel I gave the route a final brushing and rested for a redpoint attempt.

I climbed quickly to the ledge below the prow, bouldered up a couple moves to clip, and down-climbed to rest and chalk one last time. I powered easily up to the big edge, moved my feet onto the prow, and slapped for the 2-finger dish. I came up empty-handed, but got enough friction from my grating right hand to stop my descent before I sagged onto the rope. Try again: same result, still managing to arrest my fall with a hard left arm lock-off. I took a deep breath, leaned back to get a better view of the target, and tried one last time. This time I got just enough of the dish and bounced my fingers in. I made a quick slap to a rounded edge, snagged the mono thread and gingerly clipped.

The next crux is moving off the clipping stance with a huuuge reach off the mono. Fortunately due to its orientation I could lock it off below hip-level. My Mundakas did their job and I snagged the distant edge with minimal drama and all fingers intact. After a brief shake I snaked up the brilliant 5.11 headwall (well, 5.10 by Ouray standards, haha) and clipped the chains.

Unwinding from the big mono reach.

People often ask something to the effect of “The places I climb don’t have pockets, do I still have to train pockets?” Obviously, we don’t have to do anything in the context of training, but I try to encourage people to train a wide variety of grips and this route is a perfect example of the reason. If you aren’t training comprehensively then you are training weaknesses into your climbing. I haven’t had a goal-specific reason to train pockets for at least 5 years. Had I decided not to train pockets over that time I seriously doubt I would have been able to do that route, and certainly not 2nd go.

Logan enjoying another of Luke’s routes, California Stars (5.10a) at The Alcove sector of the Pool Wall.

Grade-wise, I always struggle to grade tweaky routes, but comparing it only to the mono-intensive routes I’ve done, I’d say its much harder than Manly Bulges at Shelf or One Love at Sinks, about the same as Todd Skinner’s Smoke Shapes (13d), and maybe a bit easier than Ghettoblaster (13d/14a) in the Frankenjura.

Many thanks to Luke for putting the route in. Luke’s done a tremendous amount of development all around Colorado, including at the Pool Wall, and we enjoyed a number of his routes during our trip. We always have a blast in Ouray and this trip was no exception. I can’t wait for our next opportunity to visit.

The northern San Juan mountains from the summit of Wetterhorn Peak.

Corner Pocket

By Mark Anderson

The small town of Ouray, in southwest Colorado, is one of my family’s favorite places to visit. The town has everything we look for in a vacation spot—good climbing, endless rest-day activities, and a place for the kids to swim. With extra sweeteners like a great bakery, plentiful ice cream, the best scenery in Colorado, and heated pools, it’s the perfect road-trip destination.

The 4th of July parade in downtown Ouray. If you stand on the sunny side of the street, expect to get soaked!

This year our climbing focused around the aptly-named Pool Wall, an angling cliffband that looms above Ouray’s legendary hot springs pools. The rock appears to be stuck somewhere in the geologic process between sandstone and full-on quartzite (which is metamorphosed sandstone). It looks like the former, but feels and climbs like the latter. The rock quality varies a fair bit depending on the sector, but where its good the rock is quite good.

The Pool Wall. The Bay of Pigs sector is the clean lower wall in the center.

We primarily spent our time at the killer Bay of Pigs sector, which features a number of super-high quality face climbs. The Ouray community seems to have a proclivity towards stiff grades, and this was certainly on display. Some of my favorites were Empire of Dirt (5.10d), which culminates in a classic but no-joke slab crux right below the anchors, and the namesake Bay of Pigs (5.12b) which has excellent rock and weaves up the center of the sector on generally crisp edges (and a few committing slaps).

High on Bay of Pigs.

The highlight of my first day was scraping my way up Matt Samet’s standout route Breaking the Waves (5.13a) on my first try. The crux climbs over a Rifle-esque blocky bulge with powerful underclings that lead to a committing dyno, but the upper headwall is stacked with desperate stabs to thin edges. It’s easily one of the best sport climbs in the Ouray area, and perhaps the best of the grade.

For my next climbing day, I set my sights on an open project on the far left end of the Bay of Pigs sector. According to Jason Nelson’s fantastic book “Climbs of the Million Dollar Highway,” the route was bolted by my friend Luke Childers but never sent, and features a “small, sharp pocket” at the crux. When I stumble on opportunities like this, I’m both intrigued and apprehensive—I would love to contribute a first ascent to an area I enjoy so much, but I also don’t want to “waste” a few precious vacation burns on a route I may not be able to finish.

Pulling onto the headwall on the “open project.”

With a few good sends in the bag I figured it was worth the risk, especially considering how good the route looked from below. After an easy approach, the route climbs a slightly overhanging arête with well-spaced, rounded edges. The rock was a bit “muddy” from neglect, but with a light brushing, it cleaned up really well.

The business is a 12-foot bouldery stretch along the prow. In the middle of this section is a slightly incut mono pocket that angles to the left, creating essentially a PIP-joint-deep sinker sidepull for the right hand. This pocket was actually pretty easy to pull on, but it was also a “Keeper.” Meaning, if you fall with your finger in that pocket, you better yank it free before your weight comes onto it or else that pocket is going to “keep” your finger!

Yarding off the keeper mono.

The opening boulder begins with a big incut edge, but then nothing for the next 4 feet except an out-of-view, sloping 2-finger dish. Right off the bat I struggled to get off the ledge and established onto the prow. It’s really important to be patient in situations like this. When you know a route has been climbed, and you know the approximate grade, even if you can’t figure out how to do a move, at least you know the move goes (and should be within a certain range of difficulty, or else you’re “doing it wrong”). With a first ascent, you really have no idea. Maybe it’s been left undone because the move is V14?

Pulling past the sloping dish on the lower arête.

Fortunately having gone through this countless times gave me just enough confidence to keep at it until I figured out the right footwork to snag the dish. The upper boulder, yarding off the mono thread, is probably a bit more physical (certainly more finger-strength intensive), but much more straightforward to figure out. After sussing the final panel I gave the route a final brushing and rested for a redpoint attempt.

I climbed quickly to the ledge below the prow, bouldered up a couple moves to clip, and down-climbed to rest and chalk one last time. I powered easily up to the big edge, moved my feet onto the prow, and slapped for the 2-finger dish. I came up empty-handed, but got enough friction from my grating right hand to stop my descent before I sagged onto the rope. Try again: same result, still managing to arrest my fall with a hard left arm lock-off. I took a deep breath, leaned back to get a better view of the target, and tried one last time. This time I got just enough of the dish and bounced my fingers in. I made a quick slap to a rounded edge, snagged the mono thread and gingerly clipped.

The next crux is moving off the clipping stance with a huuuge reach off the mono. Fortunately due to its orientation I could lock it off below hip-level. My Mundakas did their job and I snagged the distant edge with minimal drama and all fingers intact. After a brief shake I snaked up the brilliant 5.11 headwall (well, 5.10 by Ouray standards, haha) and clipped the chains.

Unwinding from the big mono reach.

People often ask something to the effect of “The places I climb don’t have pockets, do I still have to train pockets?” Obviously, we don’t have to do anything in the context of training, but I try to encourage people to train a wide variety of grips and this route is a perfect example of the reason. If you aren’t training comprehensively then you are training weaknesses into your climbing. I haven’t had a goal-specific reason to train pockets for at least 5 years. Had I decided not to train pockets over that time I seriously doubt I would have been able to do that route, and certainly not 2nd go.

Logan enjoying another of Luke’s routes, California Stars (5.10a) at The Alcove sector of the Pool Wall.

Grade-wise, I always struggle to grade tweaky routes, but comparing it only to the mono-intensive routes I’ve done, I’d say its much harder than Manly Bulges at Shelf or One Love at Sinks, about the same as Todd Skinner’s Smoke Shapes (13d), and maybe a bit easier than Ghettoblaster (13d/14a) in the Frankenjura.

Many thanks to Luke for putting the route in. Luke’s done a tremendous amount of development all around Colorado, including at the Pool Wall, and we enjoyed a number of his routes during our trip. We always have a blast in Ouray and this trip was no exception. I can’t wait for our next opportunity to visit.

The northern San Juan mountains from the summit of Wetterhorn Peak.

Maui Mixed Plate—Part II: Pacific Heat

By Mark Anderson

When we planned the Maui trip, I assumed it would be my climbing off-season, and I would be content to spend a week laying around in the sand and sipping mai tais. Silly me. Various factors contributed to me being smack in the middle of a particularly productive hangboard phase when we departed Denver, so I was desperate to get some type of climbing in during the vacation.

If anything, the Hawaiian Islands are known for their lack of climbing. However, Maui has, by far, the best climbing opportunities, thanks to prolific author and former Rock & Ice editor (and current Editor-at-Large) Jeff Jackson. Jeff moved to Maui a few years ago and has been scouring the island for climbing potential ever since. You will rarely encounter a more dedicated lifer than Jeff. He eats, sleeps and breathes climbing. His positivity and drive fuels the stoked and resilient Maui climbing community and I felt incredibly fortunate to climb with him.

Climbing in Hawai’i? It’s even better than it looks! Photo Jeff Jackson.

After a morning of snorkeling that included close-up encounters with a reef shark and several sea turtles, I joined Jeff and his buddy “Coco” Dave for an afternoon of climbing. We hopped in Dave’s pickup for a bouncy, twisting, white-knuckle drive on one of Maui’s many under-developed highways. I was never quite able to extract the latch for my seatbelt, and spent most of the drive wondering if the next corner was the one that would send me through the windshield. The scenery was gob smacking as usual, and before I knew it we were on the trail.

The hike flew by as Jeff excitedly pointed out various boulder problems and aped crux sequences. The narrow canyon was lined with bullet basalt and stacked with Jeff’s inventive problems, from obvious classics on free-standing blocks, to hundred-foot traverses and even a 30-foot roof crack. A raucous heard of feral mountain goats observed our march from above, and provided questionable entertainment throughout the evening, complete with loud farting noises and a high-speed demonstration of their procreation methods.

Raucous goat party.

The cave itself is a basalt/lava rock* version of the Arsenal at Rifle, with big tiered, stair-stepped roofs and corners (*Wikipedia tells me that 90% of the Earth’s “volcanic rock” is technically basalt, so I’m assuming all the black rock you see on Maui is basalt. That said, calling it “basalt” is a bit misleading since it feels and climb so much different from most mainland US basalt). The climbing is quite steep, physical, long and pumpy, with many burly undercling moves and long reaches or throws to generally big holds, often split with strenuous rests. The rock was incredibly solid and formed a wide array of novel shapes. Typically lava rock comes in two flavors: Razor Sharp and Just-Go-Ahead-and-Order-the-Blood-Transfusion-Now. For whatever reason, the rock here was far more—well, I’m not gonna say “skin-friendly,” so let’s just go with “climbable”—than typical lava. There was the odd spiky hold, but for the most part the rock was smooth-but-featured, and I didn’t get any flappers or cuts the entire trip.

Climbing a stellar 13b in the big cave. Photo Jeff Jackson

Then there was the heat (which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans). It was just damn hot, apparently unusually hot, even for Maui. And surely humid too. I would guess it was well into the 90s, but with the humidity it seemed by far the hottest conditions I’d ever climbed in. I like to think I’m training myself to be resilient so I can climb through Colorado winters, but really I think I’m just adapting increasingly towards colder temps. Jeff, Dave and Justin (who joined us at the crag) showed me what it’s like to really be tough. I took the initiative and led off the complaints, but the local hard men did their best to coddle my ego by joining in periodically (thanks guys!). If you consider the wind chill on Grand Sentinel, and compare it to the Heat Index in Maui, I suspect I’ve climbed in conditions spanning more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the past year!

Dave cruising the 12b, just about to enter the unusual crux.

Once the approach sweat evaporated it was time to climb. I started up an excellent 5.12b, the crag warmup, whose name had something to do with goats. A boulder start led to an easy middle section and a no hands stance below what appeared to be an easy exit pulling around a short roof. Not wanting to appear soft, I pretty much skipped the big rest and charged into the devious finish. I dug deep into my bag of tricks, including clipping mid-crux for extra credit, ultimately resorting to a head jam behind a protruding flake. Higher I chimneyed into the same feature and my back was so thoroughly drenched in sweat that I thought I might Slip-and-Slide right out of it. I appreciated the guys’ letting me climb first, since I’m sure my sweat upped the grade to at least 12c for the followers.

Approaching Crux #1 on the 13b. Photo Jeff Jackson.

After a nice long break to cool down, I jumped on a brilliant 5.13b that climbed out the center of the cave. This was the type of climb that would be a 4-star classic at any crag in the country, even the Arsenal. It was essentially a series of five boulder problems split by rests of varying value. The rock is nearly flawless, and sports some of the most unusual holds I’d ever encountered. The route gets going right off the ground with a burly boulder problem to reach the first bolt and a no-hands shake. In classic Smith Rock-style, the locals have elected to ignore this when considering the route’s difficulty, and instead refer to the next boulder problem as “Crux #1.” This crux comes after a questionable, scrunchy, power-sapping “rest,” and involves a big, committing move to a protruding jug and a tenuous sequence to unwind. “Crux #2” was even harder, with another long move to an incredibly featured hold, before a fun exit of interesting stems on killer rock.

Sticking the long reach in the middle of Crux #1. Photo JJ.

Before we knew it, the sun set and we made the short walk back to the truck. Dave treated us all to a round of fresh-from-the-husk coconut juice, and Justin passed out some delicious fresh lychee fruit. Mercifully, it was pitch-black on the drive home, so I couldn’t see all the road hazards we surely narrowly-missed. Before saying goodbye to my new friends, they graciously shared beta another crag I really wanted to experience, known to the locals simply as “PK.”

The left half of the incredible PK wall.

PK is a totally different experience than the cave we visited, and shows how varied Maui’s basalt can be. The cliff is more columnar and vertical, but it is covered in strange, bulbous mushrooms of protruding stone that climb a bit like tufas. The rock was impeccable and the setting was serene, right on the beach under a canopy of short trees.   The climbing here was much more fingery and less physical—right up my alley.

Warming up on the right end of PK. Some of the bulbous mushroom features can be seen to my left.

Since I was climbing with the family, time was short, but I jumped on a set of excellent routes. Each one was better than the last, with perfect stone and interesting climbing. I quickly learned the mushrooms were all a bit worse than they looked thanks to sloping topsides and generally rough textures, but they were still super fun to climb.

Climbing a 5.12(?) on the steeper, harder, left side of PK.

It’s not often I get a truly new experience on rock, so I try to appreciate it when I do. Climbing in Maui was completely unique. I feel like I barely scratched the surface and I look forward to the opportunity to return and explore a bit more.

Thanks to Jeff, Dave and Justin for showing me around and sharing their little slice of paradise with me, I hope to return again soon. Fingers crossed for a Southwest-Airlines-instigated price war!

See you next time!

 

An Addendum to the Spring Sum-Up

Entering the crux

When I wrote a re-cap of my spring climbing season 2 weeks ago, it was 95 degrees, and jungle status humidity.  Today feels similar.  But this past Saturday brought a rare respite from both heat and humidity.  And I don’t mean an “it was a few degrees cooler” kinda thing.  I’m talking, lows in the 50’s, high’s in the 70’s, and 30-40% humidity.  Such a shocking departure from the norm that it seemed almost providential that CragDaddy and I rearrange our schedules to be back at the New on Saturday – because by Sunday it was going to be summer again!  

That said, all the hectic-ness of Friday afternoon was well worth it on Saturday night when we drove back with a pair of sends in our pocket.  After a quick warm-up on Workman’s Comp 10d that morning, we went straight to the project, Bosnian Vacation 12d.  The one that I came up juuuust short on at the exit move of the crux a few weeks ago…and then thankfully stopped juuuust short of hitting the tree.  Although we initially got on it a few weeks ago because it was literally the only dry route we could find, we stuck with it because it’s actually pretty awesome. 

Mark Paulson sums it up pretty well on Mountain Project“Bosnian Vacation is a smorgasbord of NRG features and styles, cramming just about every New River trope into a seemingly compact 90′.  A V4 power problem right off the deck?  Check.  An immediate transition to a laughably thin technical crux on the tiniest of crimps? Check.  A huge horizontal where you can get it all back?  A requisite section of choss? Reachy 5.11 jug hauling? Crazy, exposed dihedral moves? A looong easy romp to the chains that protects well with anything from a blue to orange TCU?  Multiple checks.  Not a classic, but undeniably fun.”  

This cutie got to be an only child for the weekend!

Worth noting is that a VERY key part of my crux beta involved a hollow pinch that doesn’t seem long for this world.  CragDaddy felt pretty sure he would rip it off if he used it, and he was able to avoid it entirely, but with my (lack of) reach, not using it was not an option for me.  In fact, I used it multiple times – first as a right hand undercling as I’m stepping my feet through, then as a left hand undercling intermediate to help me stretch to a right hand sidepull.  So if you get on this route and find you need to use this hold, tread lightly!

Also worth noting is that the exit move out of the crux is a little scary, as implied earlier.  My beta involves cranking off a so-extended-my-shoulder-isn’t-engaged left hand sloping dish and a terrible right foot smear to a hero jug flake for my right hand.  Twice a few weeks ago that right foot slipped, swinging me closer than I wanted to be to a good-sized tree.  With an aware climber and heads up belayer, it’s probably fine – just don’t jump “out!”  The good news is that better conditions meant better friction, which meant significantly better contact strength on that sloping dish, and on Saturday I was able to stay a lot tighter to the wall for that committing move.  (FYI CragDaddy’s taller beta enabled him to get to the good flake before having to smear on the bad foot, so by the time he got into “pendulum territory,” the moves weren’t as committing.  Your mileage may vary, so just be aware!)

CragDaddy exiting the crux on a TR burn a few weeks ago.

After the crux is a big ledge traverse – endure the slightly awkward feet and the reward is a rest where you can get it all back before tackling the 5.11 face.  The face is slightly overhanging – the moves are big, but so are the holds!  Once you reach the 60 ft mark or so, the route rolls over into a wildly exposed dihedral (but first a no hands rest with a great view of the river!)  The dihedral to the top is probably no harder than 10-.  You’ll probably want some gear though – a blue Trango flex cam/.3 BD is easy to place from a pedestal under the final roof.  Make sure you sling it long.  Even with the gear you’ll probably want to avoid falling while pulling the roof.  

After hanging the draws and rehearsing some of the harder moves multiple times, I was feeling great about every move but the last deadpoint on the 5.11 face – it’s a big windmill move for me, and though I don’t think I’ve ever fallen on it, it always feels desperate and lower percentage than I want it to be.  After his run, CragDaddy was feeling great about all but the very first move off the ground – which he had yet to be able to do even once.  

But after a quick lunch break and some snuggle time with the little one (the big one was away at church camp this weekend!), we both pulled the rope and sent!  Not without some excitement though – I was blinded by the sun starting up the face, and my foot almost popped while heading to the final no hands rest.  CragDaddy probably tried the starting move an additional 30+ times…then finally made it and just kept right on going up for the send (also amidst an almost fall mid-crux and a bout of sun blindness towards the top.)  The moral of his story is to never stop fighting – he only ever made that move once, but when he did he made it count! 

Burly start

Afterwards we still had some time left in our day, so I figured I’d give Just Send It 13b a try – we were there, the route was there, and multiple people had recommended it to me as a potential longer term project.  Maybe it was the previously exhausted forearms talking, but that thing is hard as nails!  I wasn’t expecting to be able to do all the moves after just one lap of course…but I thought I would at least be able to visualize the harder sequences!  I did fine until the double dihedral, when confusion and disorientation set in for a few bolts.  I’m not going to write it off for good, but I’m not itching to get back any time soon.  (Also all praise to the mighty Trango Beta Stick for getting me to the top!) 

And now I think I can FINALLY say “That’s a wrap!” on spring climbing.  Wanna know a secret?  I’m getting an SUP for my birthday (which is in August but we’re getting it early so we can use it all summer!)  So be on the lookout for some upcoming paddling posts!  

 

 

 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Maui Mixed Plate – Part I

By Mark Anderson

In my youth I made many work-based trips to Kauai, vacationed on Oahu a few times (including running the 1998 Honolulu Marathon), and even visited the “Big Island” of Hawai’i. I never made it to Maui despite strong recommendations from several friends. Earlier this month I finally made it.

Waterfall swimming with Logan at 3 Bears Falls on Maui’s North Shore.

This wasn’t supposed to be a climbing trip; this was an opportunity for the kids to go to the beach, the pool, and back to the beach again. I mostly wanted to explore a new island, eat some Thai food, and keep my hands as dry as possible (OCD sport climber at work).

One thing I really wanted to do was ride a bike up Haleakala. Haleakala is the massive volcano that essentially created the island of Maui. What remains of its summit rises to an altitude of 10,023 feet above sea level, and there is a paved highway all the way to the summit—an obvious cycling objective. It is said that the road to the summit is the shortest climb to 10,000-feet of any paved road in the world. Perhaps this is tourism propaganda, but Haleakala is a worthy objective regardless.

My road-cycling interests revolve completely around “climbing”, which in cycling terms means riding uphill. I’ve ridden the ten highest paved passes in Colorado, and completed a number of other noteworthy “climbs”, including riding to the summit of three Colorado 14’ers. I think my friend Rob first turned me on to the idea of riding Haleakala nearly two decades ago, but as soon as Maui entered the discussion, I knew the ride was an absolute must-do.

Haleakala from the west side. It’s steeper than it looks, haha.

The “official” route starts at the ocean in the north shore town of Paia, and winds 38 miles to the summit (gaining the full 10,000 feet). As a hack cyclist, I generally couldn’t care less what is “official”, and instead concern myself with only the interesting parts of rides. An 80-ish mile ride would consume an entire day (and probably wipe me out for the following day as well), so instead I started where the climb begins in earnest, in the town of Kula. This left me with 7,000-feet of completely unbroken climbing over 21 miles—still a bit longer (in terms of both vertical gain and mileage) than any continuous climb I’d ever done.

While prepping for our trip, I learned that a popular tourist activity is to drive up Haleakala early in the morning to watch the sunrise from the summit. This has become so popular/cliché that you now need to reserve a parking spot in advance (barf). I wanted to start early to avoid getting rained on—generally in the Hawaiian Islands the weather is best in the morning, then gets cloudy (and potentially rainy) in the afternoon. Since I was coming from four time zones to the east, starting early was no problem, so I decided I would up the ante a bit by trying to get to (or near) the summit by sunrise. To illustrate my lack of commitment to this goal, I never bothered to find out what time the sun rose (but I figured it was between 5:30 and 6:00am).

I woke up a 2:45am and started riding around 4:15am by headlamp. Once above treeline, the stars were so bright that I could navigate just fine without the lamp, but I switched it back on whenever I heard a car approaching. The road surface was immaculate, with well-painted shoulders and centerlines the entire way, which made nighttime navigation a breeze.

One of the coolest things about the ride is that it features ~32 switchbacks. Switchbacks are fun, to the extent that riding a bike uphill is fun. The most famous cycling climb in the world—Alpe D’huez—is renowned for its 21 switchbacks over 8.6 miles. Though not quite as steep, Haleakala starts with an onslaught of 22 consecutive hairpins in the first 7 miles! Eat your heart out France! The opening hairpins are followed by a long straight stretch, then 10 more less-tight hairpins over the last ~10 miles to the summit.

The view to west Maui, in the National Park but still a bit before sunrise.

Since it was too dark to see mile markers or altitude signs, I passed the time and marked my progress by counting these switchbacks. I reached the National Park entrance station at 5am on the nose, an altitude of 6,800’ and almost exactly half-way in terms of mileage. The ranger seemed pretty surprised to see me at this early hour, but I reassured her that this was totally normal behavior for me.

Selfie while pedaling, just before sunrise.

The station had a sign that tipped off the day’s sunrise—5:37am. It had taken about 45 minutes to do the first (and presumably easier) half, so there was no way I would make the summit by sunrise. Instead I aimed to get to one of several lookouts on the north ridge by that time (most of the road climbs the west side of the mountain). It looked like a thick layer of clouds to the east would prevent viewing of the actual sunrise anyway.

Sunrise—just missed it.

By now I could see pretty well, and the views were absolutely stunning. The air is so clear on the islands that it seems like you could reach out and touch the shimmering beaches over ten miles away. As the sun creeped through the clouds I pulled over for the first time to snap a couple pics of Haleakala’s shadow stretching over the island of Kaho-olawe and the sunrise to the east.

The shadow of Haleakala (on the left) descending to the southwest.

The grade kicked up a bit in the last two miles, finally culminating in a leg-burning stretch over 10% a few hundred meters below the summit. Just as this section leveled off, I pedaled past a cinder cone and caught my first glimpse of the Big Island (aka Hawai’i) to the southeast. I reached the summit just after 6am—it was clear, calm, and teeming with tourists. I’m not a summit lingerer, so I took a few selfies, pulled on my windbreaker, skull cap and extra gloves, and prepared for the long and frigid descent.

On the summit. You can barely see the twin summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Lua, on the big island of Hawai’I, just left of center. The Maui Space Surveillance Complex is on the right.

Typically, descending is the best part of climbing, but there are exceptions. If it’s “too cold” you can expect to suffer, often including uncontrollable teeth-chattering and upper body cramping as your body fights hypothermia. On one occasion—Pike’s Peak—the descent was just plain too steep, too twisty, and too packed with motorists to enjoy. Haleakala was 95% joy. It was a bit on the cold side, but I was able to stay warm enough by pedaling and drafting off the numerous cars. It was never so steep as to be scary or out of control, although often the cars were too slow for my taste. The one unpleasant bit was on the upper mountain when the northeastern cloudbank crept onto the roadway. The temps dropped to sub-freezing in an instant, and the road soon became coated in water. Fortunately, this section was brief and completed without incident.

Enjoying switchbacks on the descent.

I was back to my car by 7:15am and back to our house in Lahaina by 8:30. The ride was incredible, and after thinking about it for a week, I’d say it’s easily one of the top 3 rides I’ve ever done. The road surface is flawless, the views are unparalleled, and the difficulty is reasonable and consistent. Frankly it was easier than I expected, and had I known, I wouldn’t have trained so hard, haha (ya, I know—maybe do the whole thing before talking a bunch of trash, eh?). The rides in Colorado are generally not as steep or sustained as Haleakala, so I expected to be under-prepared. However, my rental bike was so superior to my home bike that it made the ride fairly casual. Surely the fact that more than half the ride was below my home altitude of 7500’ was a big help too.

The view in to the crater on the east side of Haleakala.

With Haleakala in the bag, and the kids happily splashing in the waves, there was only one thing left to do—find some rock to climb….

Spring Sum-up: Because Summer is Already Here

A little over a month ago, I wrote a “here’s where things stand midway through spring” post.  After enduring 90 degree temps in Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend, I’d say it’s time to officially close out the chapter on Spring 2019.  Despite being riddled with rain seemingly weekend after weekend, I actually had a pretty successful season.  Although the heat came way before I was ready to be done climbing hard,  I’m currently finishing up this post on the back porch of my in-law’s beach house overlooking the ocean, so life isn’t too terrible right now!  Here’s some highlights from the past month or so…

Here Comes the Rain 12b, Photo by Bryan Miller

HERE COMES THE RAIN 12b – Last time I mentioned this I was only 4 same day tries in.  Since this one is a 2hr drive and roadside approach from my house, the kids and I were able to sneak away for a couple of mid-week day trips.  On the first of those, I got in 2 beta burns before the rain ended our day early.  I figured out some alternate beta for the finish, but couldn’t decide which option was easiest/better, and I still hadn’t managed to actually clip the last bolt without grabbing a draw.  Then the next week we had a beautifully cool spring morning…but I hiked in only to discover that there was a waterfall running perilously close to my line.  The good news is that the rock that was dry felt amazingly crisp.  The bad news was that avoiding the handful of wet holds made a couple of sections a bit harder.  More good news was that the waterfall answered my “which finishing beta” question for me , and that a double draw on the last bolt enabled me to find a fairly okay clipping stance using a soaking wet but surprisingly secure toe hook.  

Ironically though, all of my clipping rehearsal was for naught, because when I got up there on the sending go, I couldn’t get into that position again.  I tried to clip, dropped the rope, and decided to keep climbing.  A couple of moves later I tried again, again no dice, and I barely saved my body from a big barn door.   I only had 3 more hard moves left and I was about 80% sure I could do them, but the more I hung out trying to clip this bolt, the faster that percentage was being depleted.  If this route was anything but a slab, I probably would have skipped the bolt in question and been at the top by now.  I decided to smear my feet up a little higher, and if I still couldn’t get it clipped I was gonna keep going. I held my breath as I tiptoed up.  The unclipped bolt was now at my knees, but the undercling I was on felt better with the higher feet, and I managed to get the rope in.  A few moves later I was at the top – a little more epic than anticipated, but hey it’s done! 

GREEN ENVY 12c – This milestone deserved it’s own post, so rather than rehash all of it, you can just go here if you missed the play by play! 

Funky footwork on Bosnian Vacation 12d

KID FREE WEEKEND – Believe it or not, prior to earlier this month, CragDaddy and I hadn’t had a kid-free weekend at the New River Gorge since 2009 – before we had any kids to bring!!!!!  True to form, our master plans of efficient and flawless crag-hopping didn’t exactly pan out.  Temps were in the high 80’s with jungle level humidity, and the 2 inches of rain in the previous 18 hours made for some of the wettest conditions I’d ever seen.  But all that aside, we managed to have a fabulous time – AND we found a new project for the fall!  

BOSNIAN VACATION 12d – I’d be remiss if I failed to admit that I’m SLIGHTLY disappointed that this one is still a project.  On the one hand, I certainly wan’t EXPECTING to send 12d in a weekend, especially a weekend with the forecast we had.  Our intentions were to just have fun project shopping  for fall, not really trying to send anything.  But after doing all the moves on it Day 1, and allowing myself to get sucked back into a second round the next day, it did sting a little to come up half an inch short on the final move of the crux at weekend’s end.  It also stung to graze my back against the wall during the crux fall, but probably not as much as it would have stung to slam into the tree, which was the other option.  That said, I’m hoping that my efforts will painlessly pay off this fall!

Big C crushing Rorschach Ink Blots 5.8+

MEMORIAL DAY AT THE RED:  Our spring season “grand finale” was a little anti-climactic.  Conditions were more reminiscent of what we’d expect in late July rather than end of May.  It didn’t stop us from trying hard, but it DID stop my sending streak…unless you count warm-ups, and even those weren’t necessarily a sure thing!  The silver lining of the weekend was that CragDaddy not only put down Hippocrite 12a, but managed to do so before lunch on the last day, which enabled us to get back early enough for me to get a head start packing for our next day’s adventure – 4 days at the aforementioned beach house.  

It’s times like these that I’m really thankful to live where we do, having both the mountains and the coast close enough to visit on a whim.  And while I’m certain we’ll get our fair share of climbing adventures in over the summer, my guess is that we’ll probably spend just as much time in the water as we do on the rock.  Tis the season for pools, kayaks, and trompin’ in the creek!  

My favorite partners in climb

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Spring Sum-up: Because Summer is Already Here

A little over a month ago, I wrote a “here’s where things stand midway through spring” post.  After enduring 90 degree temps in Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend, I’d say it’s time to officially close out the chapter on Spring 2019.  Despite being riddled with rain seemingly weekend after weekend, I actually had a pretty successful season.  Although the heat came way before I was ready to be done climbing hard,  I’m currently finishing up this post on the back porch of my in-law’s beach house overlooking the ocean, so life isn’t too terrible right now!  Here’s some highlights from the past month or so…

Here Comes the Rain 12b, Photo by Bryan Miller

HERE COMES THE RAIN 12b – Last time I mentioned this I was only 4 same day tries in.  Since this one is a 2hr drive and roadside approach from my house, the kids and I were able to sneak away for a couple of mid-week day trips.  On the first of those, I got in 2 beta burns before the rain ended our day early.  I figured out some alternate beta for the finish, but couldn’t decide which option was easiest/better, and I still hadn’t managed to actually clip the last bolt without grabbing a draw.  Then the next week we had a beautifully cool spring morning…but I hiked in only to discover that there was a waterfall running perilously close to my line.  The good news is that the rock that was dry felt amazingly crisp.  The bad news was that avoiding the handful of wet holds made a couple of sections a bit harder.  More good news was that the waterfall answered my “which finishing beta” question for me , and that a double draw on the last bolt enabled me to find a fairly okay clipping stance using a soaking wet but surprisingly secure toe hook.  

Ironically though, all of my clipping rehearsal was for naught, because when I got up there on the sending go, I couldn’t get into that position again.  I tried to clip, dropped the rope, and decided to keep climbing.  A couple of moves later I tried again, again no dice, and I barely saved my body from a big barn door.   I only had 3 more hard moves left and I was about 80% sure I could do them, but the more I hung out trying to clip this bolt, the faster that percentage was being depleted.  If this route was anything but a slab, I probably would have skipped the bolt in question and been at the top by now.  I decided to smear my feet up a little higher, and if I still couldn’t get it clipped I was gonna keep going. I held my breath as I tiptoed up.  The unclipped bolt was now at my knees, but the undercling I was on felt better with the higher feet, and I managed to get the rope in.  A few moves later I was at the top – a little more epic than anticipated, but hey it’s done! 

GREEN ENVY 12c – This milestone deserved it’s own post, so rather than rehash all of it, you can just go here if you missed the play by play! 

Funky footwork on Bosnian Vacation 12d

KID FREE WEEKEND – Believe it or not, prior to earlier this month, CragDaddy and I hadn’t had a kid-free weekend at the New River Gorge since 2009 – before we had any kids to bring!!!!!  True to form, our master plans of efficient and flawless crag-hopping didn’t exactly pan out.  Temps were in the high 80’s with jungle level humidity, and the 2 inches of rain in the previous 18 hours made for some of the wettest conditions I’d ever seen.  But all that aside, we managed to have a fabulous time – AND we found a new project for the fall!  

BOSNIAN VACATION 12d – I’d be remiss if I failed to admit that I’m SLIGHTLY disappointed that this one is still a project.  On the one hand, I certainly wan’t EXPECTING to send 12d in a weekend, especially a weekend with the forecast we had.  Our intentions were to just have fun project shopping  for fall, not really trying to send anything.  But after doing all the moves on it Day 1, and allowing myself to get sucked back into a second round the next day, it did sting a little to come up half an inch short on the final move of the crux at weekend’s end.  It also stung to graze my back against the wall during the crux fall, but probably not as much as it would have stung to slam into the tree, which was the other option.  That said, I’m hoping that my efforts will painlessly pay off this fall!

Big C crushing Rorschach Ink Blots 5.8+

MEMORIAL DAY AT THE RED:  Our spring season “grand finale” was a little anti-climactic.  Conditions were more reminiscent of what we’d expect in late July rather than end of May.  It didn’t stop us from trying hard, but it DID stop my sending streak…unless you count warm-ups, and even those weren’t necessarily a sure thing!  The silver lining of the weekend was that CragDaddy not only put down Hippocrite 12a, but managed to do so before lunch on the last day, which enabled us to get back early enough for me to get a head start packing for our next day’s adventure – 4 days at the aforementioned beach house.  

It’s times like these that I’m really thankful to live where we do, having both the mountains and the coast close enough to visit on a whim.  And while I’m certain we’ll get our fair share of climbing adventures in over the summer, my guess is that we’ll probably spend just as much time in the water as we do on the rock.  Tis the season for pools, kayaks, and trompin’ in the creek!  

My favorite partners in climb

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Slice of Time—New Eldo 5.14b

By Mark Anderson

Injuries suck. Last October I (partially) tore my forearm flexor muscle. At first the injury was relatively minor, but like a climber, I kept climbing and training hard on it for several weeks, and so it evolved into something more troublesome. I spent the next five months or so rehabbing the muscle, thinking I was close, aggravating it, and starting over again (over this process I eventually developed a solid rehab approach which I will describe next week).

By early April I was starting to feel healthy again. My latest batch of hangboarding ended strong, I was campusing without restrictions, and my bouldering was progressing rapidly. It was time to shake off the rust with some actual rock climbing, so I started considering options.

Eldorado Canyon

I hadn’t trained with a particular goal route in mind—the goal was to get 100% healthy. I decided I needed a route hard enough to inspire a proper effort, but not so hard as to be overwhelming or beyond my current, not-exactly-tip-top shape. Mike was coming to Boulder the following weekend, and we wanted to take advantage of the rare opportunity to work a project together, so we tried to find a worthy objective nearby.

I scoured my Black Book (actually a spreadsheet—nobody reads books anymore), and was reminded of an old abandoned line in Eldorado Canyon.  Eldo is a narrow canyon composed of colorful Fountain Formation sandstone, and stacked with thousands of multi-pitch trad climbs, including legendary classics like Bastille Crack, Yellow Spur and The Naked Edge.  It was the epicenter of Colorado climbing for many decades, until the sport climbing revolution took over and the best climbers moved on to other crags.

Photo-0a.jpg

Slice of Time climbs the center of the shaded, left-leaning panel.  Nobody wants credit for this photo.

The line we had in mind follows a sheer panel of slightly overhanging stone on the upper end of Redgarden Wall. This incredible panel first caught the attention of Christian Griffith and Chris Hill, who made the initial forays onto the wall, but the big prize remained unclimbed. I first noticed it in 2008 while climbing nearby classics Ruper and Green Slab. A few years later I finally got around to hiking up to the wall to properly scope out the line from the ground, but other priorities kept it on the backburner for several more years.

Now was my chance—for the first time in many years, I was relatively fit with no particular objective in mind. I had no idea how hard it would be, but I was willing to waste a day to find out. Mike was up for it too, and so we dusted off our trad gear and set out.

IMG_4616

About half-way up the towering wall. Photo Mike Anderson.

We were instantly impressed with the quality of the route. Its literally 40-meters long, almost to the centimeter. It overhangs about 5 meters in that length, and except for a single 1-meter-deep bulge, it is sheer and continuously around 5 degrees over vertical. It’s a beautiful panel of clean stone that begs to be climbed, and the rock is among the highest-quality I’ve encountered on the Front Range.

The movement is outstanding, albeit rather 1980s in style—precise technical edging with grippy holds and challenging footwork. It generally gets harder as you ascend, interspersed with numerous rests. The climbing opens with fun 5.11 jugs, then engaging 5.12 climbing that makes for a nice chill warmup, to a good shake below the bulge. The business is the final headwall.  This headwall begins with a couple bolts of easy 5.13 to clear the bulge and gain a crescent-shaped, right-facing arête/dihedral feature that offers intricate liebacking and arête-style movement, reminiscent of the mid-section of Smith Rock’s uber-classic Scarface.  The headwall culminates in a desperate forearm-bursting boulder problem 120-feet off the deck. Simply put, it’s a King Line.

IMG_4685

Low on the Headwall, just over the short bulge, traversing into the shallow dihedral. Photo Mike Anderson.

Between the two of us we were able to work out all the moves on the first day. It’s really helpful having an engaged partner to work these things out with—especially one who is pretty much the exact same size and shape, has the same climbing style, and similar strengths and weaknesses! We felt the route was possible, and we were both completely stoked. We set our heads to the primary challenge of shuffling our increasingly busy schedules to dodge the erratic spring weather and find enough opportunities to put it all together.

While we felt it was feasible, we were both a little concerned about the low-percentage nature of the crux moves, and the fact that the crux was so high off the deck. It was hard enough to do these moves off the dog, how would they feel after 120+ feet of climbing (and rope drag)? As we made the long trudge back to the car, we reminded each other of similar climbs, with low-percentage, distant cruxes, that we had each overcome in the past. It’s easy to forget that the process works, especially if you haven’t been through it recently. Over the next few days we eventually convinced ourselves, for the Nth time, that routes really do become easier with practice.

IMG_4783

Mike working up the shallow dihedral. Photo Mark Anderson.

Despite some interference from the weather, eventually it all came together. We were consistently waltzing up the lower wall, arriving at the headwall “without the hint of a pump” (as our hero Alan Watts would say). Once we added a couple servings of Try Hard, the route went down.  After putting our heads together we’ve settled on the name “Slice of Time” for the full panel.

Besides a pair of sends, the process of working the route produced several really important side-effects. The first was that it gave me something to strive for again, for the first time in about six months. I’m accustomed to having tangible goals, and without them I struggle to find motivation.  Working the route made me feel like I was a climber again.

Additionally, having a legitimate objective in the balance gave me the extra push I needed to complete my recovery. Often we struggle to overcome the mental impacts of injuries—we “hold back” for fear of re-injuring ourselves. By the end of the process I was training every facet of my fitness without restrictions, and pining for a send rather than obsessing over my forearm. I recall hiking back to the car one day and realizing that, at no time during the previous session did I think about my forearm. It was the first time in six months I’d gone more than a few minutes without thinking about it. Slice of Time was exactly the distraction I needed to get back to normal, both physically and mentally.

IMG_4835

Mike entering the crux of Slice of Time, ~120-feet off the deck. Photo Mark Anderson.

Finally, the best outcome of the process was climbing with Mike. Despite living in the same state, we rarely climb (hard) together because we both have our own agendas that send us in different directions. We spend the odd day together on less-serious objectives, but I think the last time we worked a proper project together was literally ten years ago. It was really fun, not only to spend time together, but to geek out over micro-beta, weather forecasts and redpoint tactics.

We’re both really stoked to climb such a stellar line, especially in such a historic venue.  We’d both like to thank the many folks who put effort and hardware into realizing this route over the years.  It’s an instant classic and should become a popular testpiece for the canyon, and the entire Front Range.  The best compliment I can think of to recommend the route is: its so good, it reminds me of Smith Rock.

Gettin’ Sendy on Green Envy

I am quick to profess my love for the New River Gorge.  It is the gold standard by which I measure all other crags against.  I’ve been climbing there since 2007 and it just never gets old.  But for all that love, there’s just as much frustration, as the nature of NRG climbing seems to know just how to expose both my strengths and weaknesses, sometimes even on the same route.  

Generally speaking, the New is known for being “reachy,” and is stereotypically harder for shorter climbers.  This is the major reason why the really strong climbing team kids mostly go to the Red.  This also helps explain why there have been countless female 5.14 ascents at other major climbing destinations, but only 2 women can stake that claim at the New.  (And those achievements have only been in the last few years – prior to 2015, the New had seen one 13c ascent by a female, despite lots of 13b’s.)  Obviously, as routes get more difficult, there is an expectation that the distance between holds could get larger.  But at most other areas, there will often be intermediate handholds or a higher foothold to mitigate the height factor.  The rock at the New is less featured, and it’s not uncommon for everyone to be making moves off the same holds.  

Hangin’ around on Yowsah 12a

As for me, one of my only two 5.13’s was at the New – The Ruchert Motion 13a, sent in December of 2017.  But aside from that, my hardest NRG sends were 12b’s.  And considering that Ruchert is an 89 degree slab where the crux was all about footwork and terrible holds (aka everything I love), it has been easy for me to write that one off as an anomaly.  With that obvious exception, I’ve sort of considered 12b to be my ceiling at the New, and have rarely ventured on anything harder.

But a season training with Power Climbing Company last year has inspired me to think bigger and try harder.  Since then I’ve been throwing myself whole heartedly into working on my most obvious weakness – big moves requiring big power.  

Spring rains keeping approaches exciting!

 

I was greatly encouraged to see my training paying off a few weeks ago when I was able to do all the moves on Green Envy 12c on my first day of working it.  I even managed a 2 hang…but all on toprope.  There is a fairly big, fairly swinging fall potential between the 3rd and 4th bolts, and I can sometimes be a fairly big pansy.

Anyway, after finally finding a 12c that seemed both doable and enjoyable, I was psyched to see a cooperative weather forecast this past weekend.  Unfortunately, the rain from the night before had drenched all warm-up possibilities, which meant we had to warm up on the project.  

There was a lot of stick-clipping, pulling on draws, and other shenanigans that are common when your warm up isn’t really a warm-up, but at least the rock felt great.  Conditions were supberb, save one key jug with a puddle in it.  We stuffed a microfiber towel in it to suck up the water, and it was good to go!

With my second attempt came the debate over leading vs toproping.  After the “warm-up lap”, plus several crux rehearsals on the way down, I was feeling pretty good about all the moves except the initial boulder problem I’d had to skip (and couldn’t lower back to.)  Most importantly, I’d yet to come anywhere close to linking the crux into the run out, and the thought of heading into that terrain pumped made me feel a little nauseated.  If I led it, I was pretty certain that I would automatically hang at the crux bolt.  

Hitting the jug slot after the runout.

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided to have one more “dress rehearsal” on TR before giving it a redpoint go.  I knew I could give it hell on TR, and get a realistic picture of how the runout would feel physically when it’s go time..  Once I’m in redpoint mode, I’m not thinking about the fall anyway, and I figured the confidence boost of a long TR link might be more beneficial than a hesitant lap bolt to bolt.  (Honestly you guys, the fall is probably not that bad.  I’m not trying to make a huge deal out of it, just trying to be authentic on the blog!)  

Sure enough, I TR’d it clean, with only a slight pang of regret when I made the final hard move and stepped into the rest before the 5.10 terrain leading to the top.  It’s all part of the process.  If I did it once, I could do it again – and most importantly, because my brain wasn’t cluttered up thinking about the falls, I was able to find a surprisingly good shake out stance a few moves before the runout, which assured me I wouldn’t be doing scary moves with a scary pump.

After a nice long rest, it was time to git er done.  The initial boulder problem went well, as did the second crux just after that.  I sunk down low in my newly found rest stance and slowed my breathing.  I moved smoothly into the runout section, but when it came time to rock onto the high foot and latch the side by side crimps, the filtered sunlight blinded me for a second, and my right hand accidentally found the hold my left hand needed.  I discovered my mistake when I tried to bring my left hand up and there was nothing there, but after a flash of panic I just flagged my left foot harder and locked off to the clipping hold…crisis averted!

The final test was a very powerful sequence launching out diagonally to a big pocket.  The move requires every millimeter of reach I’ve got, and is exponentially harder to do when pumped, but this time it was more solid and controlled than I’d ever done it.

Another couple of lock offs and a bobbled clip on a twisted draw had me coming in hot to the last rest, but I was able to get it all back and finish it up.  Yay for first 12c at the New!  Also, if anyone is interested in the video, you can check it out below…beware, I climb like a sloth, so I’m not offended if you need to fast forward to the good parts! 😉

As for the next day, what better way to stay balanced after a hard send than to get on something that exploits all your weaknesses?  After hanging draws for my man on Out of the Bag 11d, and trying out Not on the First Date 11c, I headed over to The Hole to get stomped on Yowsah 12a.  It went about as I expected, although I made significant progress between my first and second attempts.  I’m not gonna move heaven and earth to get back to it, but if opportunity presents itself, I will definitely get on it again!  After all, who doesn’t love a long whipper that’s nothing but air!!!

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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The Bolting Life

By Mark Anderson

The alarm sounds. I scramble to shut it off before I wake the kids. I grab my bolt kit and slink out of the house into the eerie darkness. After 45 minutes of driving I shoulder my bulging Crag Pack and trudge through the brush. My knees aren’t what they once were, and I wonder if these sacks stuffed with steel bolts, hammers, drills, batteries and rope have something to do with that. I bushwhack up the endless slope until I finally pull up at the lip of the cliff. Dawn is just tickling the tips of the Indian Peaks off to the west, and suddenly, its worth it.

Bolting Pic

All geared up and ready to create some front country recreational opportunities.

I sling my 70 around a solid block and chuck it into the void. El Cap, Temple, Denali, The Totem Pole—and yet somehow I’ve never gotten used to that first step over the lip when my full frame finally falls firmly onto my harness. The loneliness makes it worse, and yet I wouldn’t want it any other way. I lower down the wall, always scanning for possibilities. Today’s itinerary is pre-determined though—no time for the whack and dangle shenanigans of the weekend. I have to drain my two batteries, slam in 30-some bolts, and get to work ASAP. Sure, that means no shower, sitting through staff meetings with a thin film of rock dust covering my body, but its worth it.

I arrive at the desired altitude and set to work. Insert the drill bit, lower my sunglasses, and drill, baby drill. Blow out the dust and hope the wind is sufficient to push it away. Nope, right back into my face it goes. In this game, you have to pick the right moments to inhale. Swap out the bit, grab a pair of bolts from the sack and hammer away. Wrench, tighten, lower to the next spot. Now that I’m under the roof I can’t reach the rock, so I embark on an awkward display of aerial acrobatics, hook-in-hand, groping for some purchase. I snatch the lip of a recessed flake and place my hook, precariously lowering my load onto it. PING! The acrobatics resume. Finally I get a tipped out came in a shallow groove—just enough to lean back and bite the drill into the grainy stone. A few more bolts like this and my abs, back, and shoulders are totally wrecked, but its worth it.

The wall ends in a slab, where the bolts go in fast and easy. Jug like mad, back to the top, then down again to repeat this exercise ten feet to the left. Jug like mad, back to the top again, then another ten feet further left, and so on until my second battery sputters to a halt, just a few inches too-shallow for the last bolt of the fourth route. Goddamnit! Now I have to come back to this same spot next week to put in one more lousy bolt. Shoulda bolted the anchor last. Oh well, it’s worth it.

Jug like mad, haul the rope up, buttefly coil as fast as you can, shove it all back in the pack, then down I go—this is what really wrecks the knees. At least I don’t have the weight of the bolts on the way down. Jump in the car and push the speed limit all the way to work, driving with my knee, changing clothes and combing what’s left of my hair as I go—don’t try this at home, kids. My work day is only beginning, and yet I feel like I just crossed the finish line. Running on fumes, I have to plow through a mountain of emails and get psyched for three hours of meetings. At least its worth it.

And just what is it worth, exactly? Will anyone ever climb these routes? If so, will they enjoy them? Will next year’s guidebook author doom them to the trash-heap of 1-star obscurity, saving the best ratings for his own creations? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. I don’t consider this philanthropy or community service. I’m doing it because I like it. I like to explore, to lay my hands on a piece of stone un-fondled by previous climbers. As much as it sucks–and it certainly sucks–I stil love it: the work, the dust, the wasted days when hoped-for crags don’t pan out, the exhaustion at the end of a well-used day. I will climb these routes, and I will enjoy them. I will enjoy them with a small handful of close friends, without the blare of some hipster’s tinny dub-step from a nearby iPhone. That makes it worth it. It provides a sense of purpose, and a sense of fulfillment in my climbing at times when such things are hard to come by. Maybe someday some other loner will discover the fruits of my labor and enjoy them as well. Hopefully, but either way, its worth it.

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.

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