Social Media Overdose: a programming note

So, clearly, I haven’t done a very good job of keeping this blog up to date since I’ve been on the road. Partly that’s due to the WordPress software handling large photo albums remarkably poorly, and I’ve found captioned photo albums to be the best way to share the day-to-day details of my life. I’m just not an eloquent enough writer to show readers the beauty of these places without photos!

I’ve been sharing photo albums on Facebook, but that’s not ideal since not everyone has Facebook and their photo compression is pretty severe. And I haven’t been posting on here because, aside from the photo issue, I just haven’t felt like doing long-form writing lately. On the flip side, I’ve become super into Twitter and microblogging. Because it’s so much lower commitment, and I can do it so much faster, it works well with my occasional internet access and lackadaisical approach to writing.

I’m going to try something new. I’ve set up a Tumblr for myself. I’ll be trying to post small updates there on a regular basis, in addition to Twitter. When I post photo albums, I’ll have a few of the best previewed on the Tumblr with a link to a higher-quality Picasa web album that everyone can see. I’ll reserve this blog for less day-to-day stuff and hopefully some more interesting or funny pieces of actual writing rather than journaling.

If you’re just tracking me via Facebook or Twitter then none of this means anything to you; updates will still be posted automagically via those mediums. If you’re trying to track me via the blog, then you might want to start following my Twitter or Tumblr for best results! I’ll try this for a month or so and see how it’s working…

Moablandia

So, for those of you who have found me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen my photo album running down my time in Moab. I’m enjoying the photo journal as a way to easily show off brag explain to people what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately there’s no really good way to present such a photo album here on WordPress. So for now, if you want to find out the nitty-gritty of what I’ve been doing, you’ll have to check out the photo albums (which I’ll link here).

As I write this I’m sitting in a Starbuckles in Reno, NV. I wrapped up my three week stint in Indian Creek on Monday and took my sweet ass time getting up here to pick up Laura for our week in Lover’s Leap. Definitely stoked for some time in the Leap — there are a lot of moderate classics I still haven’t done, not to mention old projects that were out-of-reach a year ago that I can likely crush, and new projects to thrash on. It’s a beautiful area and I’m looking forward to continuing to push the boundaries of my hard-won confidence on gear.

The Creek was amazing. Not only was I able to summit several desert towers–Castleton, Ancient Art, and the South Six Shooter–but the value of the Creek as a training ground blew way past even my wildest expectations. In a little less than three weeks, I went from feeling like I had to top-rope everything (really unusual for me) to routinely manhandling cracks sized thin hands through fists.

For the non-climbers out there, crack-climbing is a discipline of climbing very different from what I’m used to. The sort of rock climbing you see at climbing gyms involves climbing on holds which protrude from the rock. This is called face climbing, and is probably the most common style of climbing these days, as it is typically protected by bolts and thus easy for beginners to get into.

Supercrack of the Desert  5.10+ (from MP.com)

By contrast, crack climbing involves climbing what’s not there. You’re trying to move up a fissure in the rock by cramming your body parts–mostly hands and feet but sometimes shoulders, knees, or your whole body–into the crack in a way that lets you stick and make upward progress. Because you can build a safety system inside a crack without modifying the rock, i.e. without bolting it, crack climbing is sort of the rough and tumble old-school way of climbing. It takes a bit more thought than climbing on bolts, and a totally different sort of technique.

Anyway, three weeks in the Creek served me very well, and my crack technique has improved dramatically. Likewise, my confidence climbing on gear I’ve placed myself (as opposed to bolts) has also increased quite a bit. By the end of the trip I was jumping on 5.11 cracks no problem, and even managed to send a very sporty 5.12 called Anunnaki. Granted, this climb was mostly face climbing, but you’re doing it on gear–climbing 5.12 face on gear is something I’d have thought I was a year away from before I came to the Creek.

Anunnaki 5.12-

Learning a new technique like this is pretty intense. You can make an incredible amount of progress very quickly when you’re such a novice, and it almost seems like magic. You can recognize improvement not just from day to day, but from hour to hour. Even when you take a few days off and come back to it you find your technique has improved. It’s pretty amazing.

Crack climbing in particular is special since it has such a long and storied history as the “original” climbing style in the United States. Having marched up the classic Supercrack, which was originally led on hexes, a type of gear not well suited to the crack’s geometry and thus very unlikely to catch a fall, I have a much better appreciation for that achievement.

On the one hand, when you have the technique dialed, crack climbing feels incredibly secure. You know that you could hang your entire bodyweight from that one good handjam without falling. Even on easy face climbing, there’s always some feeling of insecurity. You never feel as safe as you do when you’re really wedged into a good crack.

On the other hand, moving up these jamcracks is a much more full-body experience than face climbing. Although you feel secure, staying in these things can hurt your hands and feet. At Indian Creek, many of the cracks are exactly the same size for 50+ feet, meaning all you have to do is pull the same move over and over. Thus, when you figure out how to move, the tendency is just to keep moving and not stop until you’re done–the better to limit the pain and risk of wearing out. In a lot of ways, climbing these things, once you figure it out, becomes less of a technical challenge and more of a workout. The stairmaster from hell.

Huffing and puffing on Generic Crack 5.10-.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my time down there. My sport has probably degenerated while I’ve neglected it, but the skills I learned there will stick with me for a long time, and open up a lot of new options to me, which was exactly what I wanted. I’m feeling ready for the next step, which is the legendary Yosemite Valley. I won’t get there until the fall, but I’m looking forward to continuing my education there!

In the meantime, I’m psyched to climb at the Leap with Laura, whom I haven’t seen in six weeks! After that I’m off to Red Rocks to climb with Juan and Marie. Since I haven’t been sport-reaching in a while, I’ll have to figure out some way to shoehorn my newly acquired jamming skills into the sport climbing down there. I think I can handjam those crimpers if I tape my hands in just the right way.

I still want to talk about the towers I climbed, which were gorgeous and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I think that’ll have to wait until another post. Until next time!

Castleton Tower

No news is good news

Back in town today to run some errands and catch up on the internet. Having an absolute BLAST in the Creek. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll have time today to really put together an actual, honest-to-goodness blog post. In its place, please accept this brief photo-journal of my past few days here.

I’ll get up some more detailed thoughts when I’ve been here for longer. So far, meeting lots of cool people, climbing lots of interesting routes, and learning a lot. Need a little more time to process it all! I will say that climbing a new style and being back on the steep end of the learning curve is both frustrating, because you suddenly kind of suck, and amazing, because you improve so quickly. I’m looking forward to honing my crack technique over the next few weeks!

Parting shot

This video is fucking awesome, and I had to share it with all of you before I left. Good inspiration for the Creek this next few weeks–even if the style of climbing is totally different! Psyched!

PS If you go watch this on Vimeo you can see it in high-def by clicking the “HD” button, which I recommend.

In My Element

Hey all! It’s been a while, I know. Things got a little crazy after the last post–it’s been a blast being home and surrounded by my friends and family, but with all the socializing and work prepping the car for the trip, I haven’t had much time to write!

Actually that’s a huge lie, I’ve had plenty of time but the toxic combination of a lot of free time and a brand new Kindle has led to a hopeless addiction to reading. I haven’t read this much since I was a kid! I’m loving it and excited to head out to the desert area around Moab tomorrow with a huge stockpile of books and a hammock. Rest days are going to be great.

Here’s the brief highlights of the last few weeks: Continue reading

Scarlet Stone Showdown

Well, the initial leg of my trip is over. The house that Bob built (well, rented) is empty, and the gang from Portland has all gone their separate ways. It was a hell of a week, and I was sad to see everyone go, but I’m excited to really be out on my own now!

Agent Orange and Jesus

It was a heck of a week. Climbing-wise, I put down my old project Yaak Crack (11d) with surprisingly little effort. My beta-burn got me to the last bolt, and after watching twelve-year-old Max flash it with a busted foot, I was inspired and managed to redpoint my next go. Didn’t feel anywhere near as hard as it did in Thanksgiving. I also managed to put down Sweet Pain (11d) in two gos, as well as flashing several 11- climbs throughout the course of the trip, including Slave to the Grind, and 11b/c which is likely my hardest flash. Bob told me it was a 5.10. That lovely bastard!

Probably the highlight of the trip was Fear and Loathing, a 12a I’d played around on in Thanksgiving. Although I hadn’t reached the chains then, it seemed vaguely doable, and being the first 12a I ever laid hands on, it’s got some sentimental value. Amazingly, moves that seemed almost impossibly hard before went down fairly easily, and I was able to one-hang the route, falling near the end of the crux after running out of draws on my right side and having to awkwardly reach across my body. I don’t think I would have redpointed it anyway, but lesson learned!

Sadly, despite a few rest days, a combination of heat, fatigue, and wanting to get the kids on some multipitch meant I never managed to get back to F&L to seal the deal, but I’m still extremely happy about how the week went. I definitely had my lead head screwed on straight, and I was climbing extremely well. I’ll get back to F&L in May; in the meantime there are plenty of other climbing areas to visit and hard routes to send!

Climbing with the younger members of our group was a special treat. Max was the youngest at twelve, while Lila, in her first year of college, is the oldest. All of them are a blast: Lila climbs gracefully, Max is a bonecrusher with a great attitude, Kira is quiet and modest but pulled down every bit as hard as the rest of the crew, Taylor hasn’t been climbing as long as the rest but clearly has a lot of enthusiasm for the sport and stepped up to lead some things that were tough for her, and Andrew, at 14, is friendly and really gets through the typical teenage fogginess in order to focus and climb hard when on the rock. I normally feel a little awkward around folks who are much younger than me, but this was a great group–they all know each other well, have a fun time together, and were very welcoming to me, the one “new guy.” I think the tights probably helped break the ice.

The adults on the trip: Bob, Scott, Jenny and Kip, were awesome as well. It was super fun rope-gunning for the kids with Bob and Scott (even if the kids can all outclimb me any day of the week), Kip kept us all laughing, fed, and in good spirits, and Jenny made sure everything ran smoothly–not to mention kept Kip and I from getting too graphic around the kiddos.

On the last day we took the kids to the Lotta Balls wall for some old fashioned trad multipitch. For many of them it was their first time climbing more than one pitch up, and I was honored to take Taylor up her first multipitch, Black Magic, on her 16th birthday!

Anyway, everybody left and since the Red Rock Rendezvous was going on I wasn’t able to find space in the campground, so I decided to roll out here to St. George for the evening. I got totally hosed by a windstorm last night, and after spending 30 minutes wandering around an unfamiliar national forest in the dark in 70 MPH winds, I gave up on finding a spot sheltered enough to pitch a tent and found a hotel. I am a terrible dirtbag, but I’ve learned two good lessons: don’t arrive at unfamiliar camping after dark, and secure your campsites before the weekend onslaught.

Happily, it’s now Sunday, so I should be able to find a place to camp in Zion, and I can hang out there for a few days hiking and recuperating from all the hard climbing last week. Then I’ll head back towards boulder for the SCS nationals, family-time, and my first time climbing in Eldo and Boulder Canyons! Psyched!

Punch it, Chewie!

The last few weeks went by at lightspeed. I finished moving out, I gave away about 3/4 of everything I owned, packed up the rest, said goodbye to my friends, and hit the road for Vegas with my buddy Bob!

My goodbye party went really well, despite me unknowingly exposing everyone at it to strep. We partied exactly as hard as I wanted to, considering that I felt like hammered shit, and I was really touched to see all the people who wanted to come see me off. Portland has been very good to me–I have a lot of great friends there. What hit me during the goodbye party though is that you folks aren’t just my friends, you’re my community. My tribe! Considering what a deviant weirdo I am, I feel very blessed to be part of such a great group of people.

I definitely want to give a special shout out to Juan. Juan has been a really important climbing mentor to me, and although we haven’t been friends for very long, it feels like we’ve been buds forever. I don’t think I would have pulled it together to make this trip happen if it hadn’t been for Juan’s boundless enthusiasm and the positive impact he’s had on my attitude towards climbing. Juan, I’m proud to be your weekend boyfriend slash mancrush.

The trip down to Vegas with Bob was pretty uneventful, all things considered. We drove from 3:30pm straight through the night, arriving in Vegas at around 10am. After we turned off onto US-95 south, we went 200 miles without seeing a single open gas station, arriving at a Chevron at 6am. The fuel light went on at the exact moment we pulled up to the pump, which seemed like an auspicious start to the trip!

I’m here now with a bunch of Bob’s Club Sport proteges and friends in a house we’re all renting for the week. After they leave I’ll be out on my own, probably to the Owen’s River Gorge, and then I’ll turn back towards Colorado to visit my family for a while and get the platform built in my car. For now, though, I’m enjoying the company, the climbing, and the kitchen!