Sunday, December 13, 2009

One Step Too Far

The North Face of Dragontail: lean and cold

Dark air interuppted by sparks of light, my picks find no resting place. I hook an edge, match a tool, and throw the other in five-inches of snow on rock. Shifting my body weight onto the slab, unexplainable forces bond water and stone. I don't fall. As I go higher the snow is deeper and more secure, but I know it will only last until the next rock band. All too soon I am forty feet out again, trusting life and limb to a frozen disc of moss, feet splayed out on steep verglased blocks of granite. I don't want this challenge turned nightmare to last any longer.

Cole following low on the route

"Oohh!" Cole's monkey call pushes through the winter forest. I step akwardly over a fallen log and gaze at the north face of Dragontail. Even though I've summited many routes on this peak I feel intimidated. 2000 feet of rock and snow on a mile wide face has me feeling small, so I turn my focus to the trail in front of me. One foot in front of the other and we're setting up basecamp in a shifting fog. The sun falls, but light is constant in a rising full moon. I hold hot choclate between sweaty palms and let my eyes follow a cold path up skinny couliors and tilted snowfields. The cruxy rock bands that seperate easier ground look difficult, but passable. That night, Cole and I stare at the illuminated cieling of our tent, each lost in excited thoughts about the day to come. "Remember when we used to bike and bus to Little Si (the local crag we learned on)? I could never sleep before those days either," I reminicsed. "Tell me about it! I haven't slept in three nights!", said Cole. Between packing, approaching, and finally climbing, there had been plenty of excitement. Finally, I hear Cole snoring. I follow his lead into my own dream world just as the full moon slips beyond a ridge and darkness settles in.

The slow return of light and a new day evolves seamlessly from the night. A heavy fog obscures the rising sun as our Dragonfly roars through the gloom. Soon we crampon towards the Gerber-Sink and start up. We are prepared for a neve dash to the summit, armed with a few pieces. We use a 40 meter rope, hoping to move together up the face in a matter of hours. The difficulty of the first two rock bands suprise me. I'm using every trick in the book and fighting hard for pro. I think of retreat, but then a fun coulior and a snow field push me a few hundred more feet towards the next rock cliff. As always, Cole follows quickly and efficiently with no complaints about the long belays and difficult climbing. I make one more horrific lead to a hanging snow field that looks to promise quicker movement for the remainder of the route. Unfortunetely, challenging conditions have forced me to climb variations that are less direct and as darkness falls we hang from an off-route snag cemented by snow and stone and eat a bar for the first time all day. The climbing has been some of the scariest I have ever experianced. Every pitch I dig through snow to find a few pieces that are barely adequete. Most of the time those pieces are well below my boots while I execute hail-mary mixed moves. This brings up an important question. Why am I doing this?

I don't know.
But I do know we are not going down anymore. I look over my left shoulder and follow our boot tracks down the face until they blend into black granite. Our rope wouldn't even make that rappel, I think. I start off into the night shift, frustrated at our predicament, but committed to climbing as quickly as I can to the safety of the summit coulior. I arc leftwards for a few hundred feet, before moving up into the final difficult stretch of climbing. I begin to lead, but return to the belay, cursing the unprotected, scratchy mixed ground I am on. My brain is mush. "These leads are killing me Cole," I whimper. For a moment I feel the end of my ropes slipping through my palms. I arrest the lack of confidence, shove it deeply away, and find a place next to Cole to rest for a bit. Another bar and ten minutes of shut eye are all I get before I am out on the lead again. The final step holds a few inches of sugar snow over rock. I pendulem between different snow patches, trying to gain elevation any way possible. Finally, I am 40 feet from the end of the pitch. All I have to do is go for it. A thin snow finger wiggles upwards before me. I know there will be no pro, but I pray for a stick or two at the final bulge. Charging upwards I don't think of falling this time. Frozen moss and a kamikaze scream of adrenaline propel me through the pitch and into the coulior above. "600 easy feet to the summit," I think as the sun rises. Of course it is beautiful and Cole and I gawk at the views of our beloved Cascades. For a few minutes we forget the horrors of the past hours. Perfect, moderate snow climbing in an intense alpine setting takes us to the top. We high five and laugh.

Myself in the final coulior

Summit shot
Our descent is quiet. We both think about life, climbing, and our choice to push the envelope like we do. By the time we are back at base camp I am seeing visions. I am so worked. We fire up the stove and begin hydration and nutrition exercises. We need food and water badly. Cole tries to remove his boots, but finds the toe area of his right sock to be a solid block of ice. Only 30 minutes of thawing over the stove allows him to remove the sock and get his boot back on. His feet look wet, but normal and soon we are hiking the ten miles towards our car.

"What's up homie." Cole is still in bed. He sits up. "Are you going to work today?", he asks. Even though the last 48 hours stretched us beyond our limits, I have things to do and plan to resume normal life this very morning. "I think I bruised my toes in those boots. They are so damn small." I look at Coles feet and my heart sinks. Even though I've never seen frost bite in person, I can recognize a cold injury. After some research and a few phone calls I am feeling scared. His feet are clearly in serious condition. We end up in the ER and learn that he in fact does have a fairly severe case of frost bite on six toes. I stare at the steril white walls and curse myself over and over. Why didn't I bail when I knew the climbing was taking too long? Why wasn't I more concerned about cold injury, especially knowing that Cole's foot wear was questionable? Why, why, why...the wheels spun out in my brain.

Reality check
So, that brings me to today. Cole is recovering on the couch after a week of questions and finally anwers. It looks like he will be keeping all of his digits, which of course was a our major concern, but his road to recovery will last months. It hurts to see my friend in pain. Damn the mountains. But even now, I am dreaming of another winter battle. Climbing, no matter what, will always inspire me to push my limits for reasons known and unknown, but the past week has been grounding. I feel like I let my perspective slip up there on Dragontail. Our experiance wasn't worth Cole's pain. I should have bailed when I knew how difficult and cold the climbing was. It's hard not to fall into the hype of hard sends and high summits, but the reality is mountains are uncaring and kill with no mercy. 2009 has made that clear to the climbing community. Everyong knows the saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I certainly hope that applies here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nada Chance

Looks good, but behind the thin curtain the water rages

A few minutes after I read the words, Nada Lake Falls is in (thanks Craig for hiking up there!), shavings of metal fell from the picks of my axes. When they seemed sharp enough, I worked on dull crampons, then stepped out into the crisp evening air. A cold, star studded sky stole my imagination and that night I dreamed of good picks and the rhythm of ice climbing.

The next afternoon, Cole Allen and I pushed through fresh, knee deep snow to a bivi at Nada Lake, only 40 minutes from the base of the falls. We sipped on whiskey and cocoa and enjoyed the alpine bliss. But soon, I felt the dread of warm air pushing up valley. A pesky pineapple express had come to ruin our fun. Hopefully it would stay cold enough. When I woke up at mid night to hard rain and a soaked tent, I knew our chances of success were dwindling. Still, we made our way to the falls the next morning, establishing a tricky path through giant boulders only lightly covered with a wet, gloppy snow. The formation was there, but so was the rushing water. When I swung my axe into the ice, it easily punched through into the raging torrent behind. Getting creative, I started to work out a mixed start a bit to the right of the main falls, hoping to climb consistently crappy, but lower angle ice up high. After establishing a belay on top of pitch one, the sun kissed ice daggers above my head, melting them further and causing them to crash down around me. Clearly, this was not the place to be in the rising temps, now in the lower forties. So down we went. Back at camp, a large ice fall boomed across the valley. It seems we had made the right choice just in time.

Part of climbing in the alpine is making smart choices even when all you want to do is go up. That day at Nada Falls, Cole and I followed our intuition well, had fun, and came home safe. This is just the start of a season we are dedicating to major winter projects in the Cascades and the lesson learned in retreat was a great reminder that winter climbing is fickle. You gotta want it, but you gotta be level headed. Success can be rare on these short, dark days, but when it all lines up, there is nothing like a winter summit in the Cascades.


Sol hiking Pile Driver (5.11b) mid link

You gotta make training enjoyable. The more fun it is, the more you will do it. And remember, it doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

My good friend Sol Wertkin is perhaps my most motivated training partner. In a previous blog post titled The Games Climbers Play (May 2009), I rehashed another training "game" that we used this past spring where we tried to link Leavenworth's 15 most classic 5.11 pitches. Looking back, that little "game" provided a solid base of fitness and flow that flowered into a successful summer of goals reached and dreams established.

Last week Sol and I tried our hand at another self-imposed challenge, a link up of all the pitches on the Powerhouse Wall, a chunky, overhanging chosspile in the desert of Central Washington. Although the quality of climbing is nothing to write home about, it will get you pumped, a nice challenge for us low-angle traditional climbers (I rarely sport climb, although I should more for sure!). Anyone climbing these fairly short routes would find themselves pumped and confused. The blocky nature of the rock makes on sighting or flashing very difficult. A good hold always lurks close by, but will you find it? The extra time searching for the hidden jug makes for even better training.

The title of this piece speaks to the gusty wind that swept the desert basin that day. We started to make the connection between Patagonia's weather and our game at the Powerhouse Wall. I think it is really great that as climbers, we can be inspired and have fun on the world's most iconic walls and peaks (like in Patagonia) and then capture those same feelings on the state's scrappiest wall of choss. Bottom line, climbing is fun no matter where you are as long as you have the right attitude and good friends to share the joy with. So get out there, train hard, and have fun!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Get Some

Drew on Yellow Fever
A ray of sunshine casts itself over my wood, slatted floor. I sit up in my creaky bed, realizing the snow must have stopped. Outside my front door a silent world stands frozen in winter. But the storm of yesterday has lost its gusto, only whispy clouds over the desert east to remind the land how it was smothered in icy white crystals. The mountains stand out sharp against deep blue skies, north faces webbed with runnels and dark, black stone. I fire up the espresso maker and dial up my friend Drew. "Hey man, it's too nice. I can't go to work today." His voice is sleepy, but he too wants to climb through this wonderland of seasons. Soon, we slip around icy roads, craning our necks to catch a glimpse of high south facing slopes. In the canyon depths the dark cold of winter builds, but higher in the sun, the rocks stand their ground. We see a route shining in warmth above the iron gray Wenatchee River. Not even a water streak on it's steep flanks. We scamper over verglass covered granite eggs, kick dirt up a sandy gully, and then finally traverse into the sun and over to an exposed belay perch under our chosen route. "It's called Yellow Fever," I say. "It looks bouldery," says Drew. I shove off the belay, clipping bolts and stabbing at crimps. The 5.12 moves don't lend well to easing in to the day, so I ease off the rock, falling through steep air. We each warm ourselves with sequencing before redpointing the route. Already, the sun dips behind Icicle Ridge and our day is done. Short, but sweet, I'm thankful for any dry move this time of year. We coil the rope and stuff our packs with harnesses and draws. A tough cold slowly reels the hillside in. We slide down the stiff gravely slope, laughing at our fortune. The final hurrah of the rock season perhaps? I look higher on the hill where the sun still shines. I don't think so.
A clash of seasons: November in L-town

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eternal Dreams

Ganesh, Annapurna, Ama Dablam. In the bright darkness of the infinite world that follows, you see the mountains of your life. You summit each one again, alone, like usual, except now it is so easy, so warm, so perfect. On Nanga Parabat you asked, "How long do I have left – the eternal question? How long can I keep this up? How long?" Forever, forever. Bobaye, Nuptse, Dhaulagiri. The depths of hell in heaven itself. The highest, the hardest, your calling, your journey. And now, that path turns a different curve, angles of another universe. Through this new terrain you move as you always did, confident and courageous. Always upwards, solo through eternal dreams.

Rest in peace Tomaz...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Challenge of the Stuart Range

Coming home from the desert this week has been quite a treat. A nice high pressure system has made for great climbing. From the boulders of the river valleys to the winding couliors of the alpine realm, options for ascension this week were quintessential Leavenworth; pretty much endless. The only option you won't find in this varied mountain environment is sport climbing. Oh well, no skin off my back (I really do enjoy clipping bolts sometimes). I spent one day rope soloing at Careno Crag, one day chasing power on the boulders, and one, huge day in the Stuart Range.

The North Ridges of Sherpa Peak and Stuart, both wonderful climbs

Oh man, why do I do this to myself....

On Tuesday evening, my buddy Max drove me out to the Mountaineers Creek parking lot. Or he tried to. They had closed the dirt road to the trailhead extra early so I started with an unexpected extra four miles. No matter...good training for winter climbing, when the road is always closed, adding snowy miles to any adventure. Even though I was not planning on climbing (I took crampons and trekking poles, but no axe), I was challenged with early season terrain. Verglas covered rock, dustings of snow over icy blue glaciers, patches of slide alder football fields long, it seemed that even the easiest sections were difficult. Many times, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I bivied tuesday night under the NW flanks of Colchuck Peak. At first light I climbed up to the ridge between Colchuck and Argonaut Peaks. This ass-blasting slog through thick brush almost had me in tears at a point or two, but I pushed on. Gaining the ridge, I pushed through a few feet of snow, around Colchuck Peak, over ragontail and out the Snow Creek trail, where I arrived at 5:30 to find my friends celebrating my safe return. We swallowed a couple of beers and then went out for Mexican food, a perfect end to honestly, quite a hellish day. In 24 hrs (I slept for eight of those) I covered at least 30 miles, gaining and losing a total of 20,000 feet. The conditions were barely passible for me at points, but creative thinking always won the day. Even though this seems it would be an easy "hike", this was one of my toughest outings in the mountains. Perfect training for the suffering of the coming winter. Psyched.
Fun terrain, high on the traverse

Monday, November 2, 2009

Creek Life

The crispness of Autumn morning erased inch by red inch.
The rolling heat of new sun pushing down walls, through cottenwoods and sage.
Touching frosty tents, raising battered warriors.
Lick the grit off my teeth, savor the simple taste of earth.
Shoulder a pack and laugh with friends.
Find flow in in easy movement.
Seek limits in unforgiving fissures.
Do or fly.
Infinite walls march into hues of setting sun.
A steep descent to sandy dinner, fire light on smiling faces.

Hot and sandy: John enjoys creek life
Watch out for The Judge (5.12a)

*On my trip to the Southwest, I enjoyed four, fun filled days at the creek with friends. What a special place!

Tower Tales: Chasing Heroes in the Castle Valley

Tower power: Castleton, the Rectory, and the Fishers themselves
The mighty mountains and great walls of the world's largest ranges have and always will provide adventures of the highest intensity. But the overwhelming experiance of being plastered to swaths of ice and rock can be felt elswhere, namely in the uniquely distilled form of "tower climbing".

John praising the Most High on Jah Man (5.11-)
Across the American Southwest, muddy sandstone formations of the trippiest sort twist and convulse from dusty red earth. While only a few hundred feet in heighth, their sheer angles, dark wide cracks, and sandy, insecure stone simulate adventure twice as high, as cold, as forboding. Like kings, they command wide open spaces from thrones of talus, their form against a grainy desert sky unmistakable from miles away.

Inside and on top: Honeymoon Chimneys (5.11)

Into the sunset: Kor-Ingalls, Castleton Tower (5.9)

John saying his prayers on Holier Than Thou: The Nuns (5.11+)
Only days ago I left the comfort of my home peaks, granite cliffs, and pine studded hillsides for immersion in a foriegn landscape of crumbling rock, lonely space, and startiling simplicity. For me, adventure is what I seek in climbing. Grade chasing, redpoints, and onsights provide ways to measure myself as an athlete, but they do not define my life as a monkey. John Schmid, a desert conessuir and long time friend, picked me up in Grand Junction, Colorado and the next morning we raced through the sage towards Castle Valley, a land of towers tamed by popularity and accessability. That said, my longing for excitement was satisfied with each route we climbed. Spending a day and a half in the Valley our ascents included, Jah Man on the Sister Superior (5.10), the Corkscrew Route on Acient Art (5.10+), Honeymoon Chimneys on the Priest (5.11), Holier Than Thou on the Nuns (5.11+), Fine Jade on the Rectory (5.11-), and the Kor-Ingalls on Castleton (5.9). Although none of the ground we covered was too difficult, the giddiness of fear was present on each climb. Humility struck deep as I imagined the desert masters of old executing flannel arm bars, blue jean knee scums, and big boot foot switches all far above less than adequate protection. The self-reliance and creativity of the early explorers echoes in the bottomless chimneys and lonely summits of all desert towers, even the tame ones John and I were on. It was a wonderful reminder that climbing is not about sticky rubber, cams, and big sends, but rather strength of heart, belief in oneself, and a willingness to follow the rock where it takes you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shiverer Bivering!

Hi guys! Just wanted to point you to

This video, produced by my friend Cedar Wright, features Sol Werkin, Blake Herrington, and myself suffering through a cold night on the first ascent of Mt. Stuart's "Gorilla's in the Mist". I have to give major props to Cedar for taking my mediocre footage and doing something creative with it. The feeling that pervades the piece is not far off what it was like to be there that day. Cedar is behind two blogs that are making quite a stir in the climbing world. Not only does he generate fun material for, he also runs, always the first site I check out when I sit down at the computer. The amount of new material is amazing and the original footage and music combine to produce videos unlike any others in climbing media. So, finish reading this and check out the bluewater site or the's well worth it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Squeak of the Humiliated

48 years ago a talented foursome pounded this pin into a random roof on Lower Castle Rock, a scruffy, but classic formation on the east flanks of the Cascade Mountain Range. Eric Bjornstad, Guido Magnone, Les McDonald, and Jean Coure dubbed their three pitch route, "Squeak of the Humiliated", its culminating feature a curving roof crack 300 feet above the Wenatchee River. In 1962 it took every trick in the book to the tackle the bizzare overhang. Pin stacks and gymnastics in aiders saw them through to the easier, knobby cracks above. For the next 20 years the climb lingered in obscurity, it's difficult cracks awaiting an adventerous soul.

Although amusing, it is not suprising that a young Todd Skinner added his chapter to the Squeak story. In 1983, Todd was pushing the envelope of traditional climbing. Thin splitters and roof cracks fell to his crushing mitts all over the United States. Squeak was no exception. He rated the line 12b and left Washington to find more hard routes. When he returned in 1986 he made the first free ascent of City Park at Index, a 5.13d that still ranks as one of the most difficult cracks in the world. Point is, Todd was cranking and did crank for the rest of his life. His consistency in exploring new ground on the the world's cliffs and peaks will always remain a serious inspiration.

In 2009 I found my self below Squeak's crux roof. Not nearly as talanted or brave as those who traveled this ground before I quivered past ancient pins, trying to contort my body out the roof before gravity pulled me down. My on sight blown, I began to figure the moves out a bit. "12b? It seems stout." My partner was right, this thing was absurdley hard and the upside down pin stacks didn't seem to provide the feeling of security I wanted while hanging from a kneebar 300 feet off the deck. By the end of the afternoon, I was wrecked. My knee was bloody and bruised, and my arms felt like noodles. Never the less, I gave it one more go, jumping between jugs before launching into the crux boulder problem. The climbing went well, but I fell again off the last hard moves, my knee too mangled to really engage the crucial knee bar. Sailing through the air I wonder if the pin stack will handle this fall. It did, but only for a short second before calling it quits after nearly 50 years. I fell further, hit a slab and listened to the stack jingle and jangle down the slabs below. The pin pictured above remained with me, a reminder of a project left unfinished.
At the end of such an experiance I always leave with renewed respect for those who came before. There is no question that I will be back to Squeak this fall, the spirit of those who came before providing my inspiration in climbing this line.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

We all climb for different reasons. Some of us love to feel our bodies move over stone, others chase the burn of physical exertion, and a few base their passion in adventure and exploration. The wide world of climbing is an open game of possiblities; creative athleticism at its finest.

Jessica on Wildcat Crack (5.10c)
Personally, I enjoy the variety of climbing. It is not one dimensional. Being based in Washington state has allowed me to pursue a wide range of styles. I can climb granite, limestone, andesite, rhinostone, or basalt on any given day. Mountains, ice, mixed, dry tooling out doesn't matter. Wahington has it all.

Keelhauled (5.11d)

I visited two unique crags this week that reminded me how awesome and varied climbing in Washington is. On my birthday (Sep. 22) I visited Punk Rock (high in the Tumwater Canyon) with a few of my closest monkey friends. We climbed many of the routes there, finding challenge in obscure, heady lines. All of the routes at Punk Rock were established before 1980 and it shows. No bolts, no chains, no scrubmarks. I love these older areas as the routes force you to adapt to the rock, always believing in yourself. I was poignantly reminded of this 40 feet out, digging out a shady placement from a turf filled crack on the appropriatley named, "Big Balls", a 5.11 two pitch adventure route that I strung into one mega ropelength. Fun, but scary.

A few days later Jessica, River (Jessica's cute Akida pup), and I visited the andesite cliffs of the Tieton River Canyon. The Tieton features splitter, long cracks unlike any others in the state. Even Index and L-town have little to match the sustained fissures of this unique area. We warmed up on the super classic, "Wildcat Crack (5.10c)" and then moved on to "Keel Hauled (5.11d)", before finishing on "Anaphalactic Shock (5.12a)". All of these routes were absolutely awesome and totally different from the climbs of the last few months. I love granite, but climbing different stone was much appreciated...after all, variety is the spice of life.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Monkey Party!

Hey monkeys...come have some fun hanging with friends and looking at shots of a few adventures Max Hasson and I have been on recently. This event is especially important as the Redmond Vertical World has always been supportive of me as a person and a climber. My life has really grown from the roots I layed down there so many years ago. Thanks again Vertical World!

The Thin Red Line V 5.12c: 2nd Free Ascent

Drew & I after the successful ascent!

The air hangs still against the sheet of orange granite I cling to, only aggressive breaths and encouragements from below to question the silence. Above me hangs a hold less corner, its narrow stature forcing a balancey dance. I think only "trust your feet" before engaging the feature.

Quick reactions and creative thinking inch me upwards. I don't know exactly what I'm doing but it's working. Finally, perched on top of an oatmealy flake, leaning left precariously, my fingers find a good hold. The feet patter across the face and I mantel into the belay. When Drew follows cleanly we find ourselves in an amusing position. 600 feet up our afternoon free recon of Liberty Bell's Thin Red Line has turned into an unexpected sendathon. Until we fall our destiny is clear. For now, the sun goes down and we go up.

Swinging through the gymnastic roof of pitch six in the last moments of light I feel my arms tire. Opening my hips, my center of gravity finds its place above a high right foot, a wild perch that allows me to salvage the strength I have left and finish the pitch. Below me, a light in the darkness approaches. Up with Drew comes the chilly air of night. Adjusting headlamps and munching on snacks gives us a chance to rest. We can hardly believe we've climbed all free so far. With the 5.12 cruxes below us, I shift my focus to the dark 5.11+ leads ahead.

A few hundred feet pass quietly and efficiantly. Of course, I find my sting in the tail, a thin, difficult 5.11d lead past small gear, heads, and bomber pins. My headlamp glow jumps between the tiny features I use. At my limit, I put all trust in my aching feet. Staying adhered I clip the belay at around mid night and bring Drew up. One more ropelength seperates us from moderate ground. I pray it's easy, the strain of the night shift weighing heavy. Thankfully, the pitch is one of a few 5.10's on the route and before long I'm at M&M ledge. We are tired, but happy, psyched to have freed the route. The cold open bivy seems a small price to pay.

Of course the night is long and we shiver hard, but with the rising sun our spirits soar. The easier climbing to the summit is a splendid replacement for coffee, the views better than cream and sugar combined.

Wobbly, tired legs carry us down the descent. Climbers just beginning their days look at our crazy hair and bloodshot eyes and ask us where we've been. We mumble about an open bivy after an unexpected free ascent, but it doesn't make sense. The ride has been too wild to nail it down just yet. When we arrive back at the car, the east face of Liberty Bell towering above, I feel thankful for our adventure. The controlled precision of a difficult free ascent with alpine spices made for a most satisfying combo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just Another Diamond In The Sky

"Where is that?", I wondered, my eyes straining to catch the small caption at the bottom of the page. "Somewhere in the Cascades," was the only hint given. Brook and his pals sure have all the fun I thought.

Almost 10 years later, I found myself looking at that same inspiring shot that had graced the cover of the Metolious catalog so many years ago. This time though, the picture contained a line, and most importantly, solid beta from Brooke Sandahl himself. Der Sportsman has slowly (it has only had 5 ascents!) become known as one of the Enchantment's best routes, featuring everything from technical stemming to off-size jamming. One year ago, Sol Werkin and myself made the second ascent of this line, a birthday on-sight my gift that day. As we walked away from the peak, I knew I would be back to this climb soon. It's just so damn fun.

Pitch 1: 5.11+

Fast foward to last week. Audrey Sniezek, an old friend from the Redmond Vertical World, asked me if I would be willing to partake in an alpine rock climb with her. Immediatly, my mind fell upon those flawless fissures of Prusik's south face. What a place to introduce someone to the beauty of traveling in the alpine and climbing high in the mountains. Audrey is an inspiring athlete with 5.13+ sport routes and competion success under her belt. Her passion for climbing is huge and her work ethic solid. Instead of a trip up the South Face or the West Ridge (both classic mid-fifth routes on Prusik), I started hyping the Sportsman. Making the fifth ascent of one of the state's most beautiful routes would surely give Audrey the ultimate experiance.

Pitch 2: 5.11 R

An after work jaunt into the high country put us in position for Prusik, the night's darkness holding back suprises to be revealed with the rising sun. The next moring we bounded through a fairytale land, our feet barely planted in reality. The cobalt blue sky, turning Larch trees, and shimmering white granite gorgeous beyond words.

Pitch 3: 5.10

Der Sportsman takes a plumb line to Prusik's summit, following a challenging set of cracks the whole way. I stemmed, liebacked, and jammed my way up the first 5.11+ pitch, feeling inspired by the quality of the climbing and the views all around. The next pitches fell away from our feet, upward movement methodical and effecient. 5.11 slab moves, mini corners, and 5.10 hand cracks defined our trip up the spine of Prusik's south face. A mid-5.11 off hands crack right before the summit blocks provided a wonderful finish.

Pitch 5: 5.10

I was proud of Audrey for pushing through the whole day. She threw herself right into the fire with courage and ambition. Nice work Audrey! We had made the fifth ascent of Der Sportsman for her first alpine rock route. Not bad! Also, leading the whole route was an awesome training exercise for me as I have a silly link-up planned in the next few weeks that finishes on Der.

Good Job Audrey!

A falling sun cast soft shadows across the Enchantments as we descended back to reality. I was glad that Audrey had experianced the alpine at it's finest. Long walks, grueling moments, beautiful granite, the peace of nature; we lived it all. Nice work Audrey!

Der Sportsman: 5.11+, 6 pitches:

Pitch 1, 5.11+:

The route's crux. An easy start leads to 5.11- thin fingers, a rest at a large knob, and then sustained stemming and liebacking past 2 bolts and a fixed nut to a two bolt anchor.

Pitch 2, 5.11 R:
Brooke gave this pitch an R rating, although it is really quite safe. Just don't fall onto the belay! Awesome face and knob climbing past two bolts leads to a bouldery mini dihedral. Belay on ledge with two bolts.

Pitch 3, 5.10:
Great hands and fingers. Gear belay at rad ledge.

Pitch 4, 5.10:
Ditto pitch 3, except for the "peekaboo tower" finish...go do the route, you will see what I mean.

Pitch 5, 5.10:
One of my favorite pitches on the route. Climb fingers in a left facing corner, pull a crux, surf over some huge knobs past a bolt, and climb a 5.9 flake system to a belay below the crux. One bolt and a yellow alien at the belay.

Pitch 6, 5.11:
Flairing off hands with knobs for your feet. Sinking hand jams and placing green aliens. Crazy stuff. Airy and classic. Finishes in a beautiful chimney.

Big Success at LMS

Hey everyone, just wanted to give a big thanks to all of you who attended the slide show on September 3rd. We raised 300 bucks for our causes! We hope to continue to raise funds through this presentation, our next show being at the Redmond Vertical World on September 20th. This is an especially important event for me seeing that some of my original inspirations blossomed there. So come on out for good stories, incredible pictures, and kegs of Mack and Jack's!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Celebrate Balanced Rock

In preparation for the up coming slide shows, Max and I spent the week capturing incredible images of our friends on Colchuck Balanced Rock. I was four hard days of work, but well worth it.

CBR is quickly becoming one of the finest formations on the West Coast for alpine rock climbing. Two new routes have been added to the face in the last year and a half, each already finding their place among Washington's best routes. With an absurd amount of features to still play out, it seems the Cascades has found its Incredible Hulk

On Tuesday Max and I made the second ascent of The Scoop, CBR's newest line. The quality of the route is amazing, the style used in its establishment impeccable. I led the whole route in four pitches, making an on sight ascent, Max jugging behind with extra ropes and camera gear. The Scoop features classy 5.11+ crack climbing that rivals any splitter other granite locales offer. Believe it or not, Washington lacks physical jam cracks of this sort, most stout trad routes thin and incipient.

Once our gear was on top, we threw the ropes down The Tempest, CBR's only un-freed route and most definitely a line of controversy. I won't explore the issues in this forum, but they caused a change in our game plan. Still, we made the best of the situation, Max shooting me on the route's incredible head wall pitch. Max got some great shots and I had fun on sighting a long, beautiful pitch that I had not expected to try. Rapping in late evening fire light ended a great day and we retired to the bivy for an alpine monkey party.

The next day Max and I caught some much needed rest while our good friends Blake and Sol completed a double-scoop link-up of The Tempest Wall and The Scoop. I wish every rest day was filled with that sort of sports action.

Finally, Jessica joined Max and I for a photo shoot on the wall's original classic, The West Face (5.11+). Jess and I stretched, bouldered, and napped while Max jugged The Tempest and established himself above the amazing corners that define the upper part of the route. When the light was just right, Jessica began climbing the route's famed enduro corner. Butt shots of this pitch are inspiring, let alone the pics Max got! Darkness fell and the three of us monkeyed our way up the rest of the route, stars crowning black daggers all around. A dusty descent and nice bivy ended our week.

I gotta give props to Max for all the hard work he has put into capturing these very special images. His unique combination of skills are allowing him to show a side of climbing seldom seen these days. His art is full of the spirit of climbing. Nice job dude!

L-town Slideshow: Be There Or Be Square!

Beer and hot dogs starting at 6pm

Slideshow at 7pm

5 dollar minimum suggested donation

Hi there guys! Max and I are giving our first slideshow this Thursday (September 3rd) at the best shop in the East: Leavenworth Mountain Sports (thanks for hosting guys!). This is especially important for us as we are raising money for two causes that we really care about: The Tyrus Bachar Fund and the preservation of the Index Town Walls. Take care and see you soon!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Lucho Rivera ponders the day ahead

For years I have made it a point to check out any climb put up by Peter Croft. I have always enjoyed his routes, so when info started filtering through the climbing world of a heavenly piece of granite high in the Sierras with a plethora of Croft lines I knew I would have to visit. If Peter spent the better part of a decade infatuated with this face, then it must be-has to be the bomb diggady. It also must be stout, because it goes without saying that Croft is the real deal.

Lucho gives it 100% on the crux of Blowhard

My good friend Lucho Rivera and I hiked up to the base of the Hulk intent on trying a line called Blowhard (IV 5.12+). It was Croft's first "modern" route on the Hulk and one Lucho assured me was beyond awesome. Lucho, a stone crushing, Free-Rider obliterating, long time valley local also told me it was hard. He had pitched off the last few moves of the crux pitch last year. Known by friends as "the Cascades slogger" rather than "the Cali rock crusher" I knew I had my work cut out for me.

"The climb's centerpiece lies on the 12+ third pitch: first-digit finger jamming while palming and heel hooking the edge of the buttress." -Peter Croft

Both Lucho and I jammed, palmed, and heel hooked up this pitch over two afternoons, each taking a burn or two a day. We both kept taking a long whipper high on the pitch, the bouldery last moves made extra tough by the 20 foot run out (well for us, I bet Peter just stands on a nipple and widdles in thin nuts). No matter how kamikaze we got with the pitch it just isn't happening. At the end of day two, I let go of the project, feeling good about the progress we made. We had both climbed clean up to 12b/c on the lower hard pitches and came heart breakingly close to sending the crux, which to me, was feeling quite like 5.13 coming from sea level the day before. When you've done your best, you've done well and I felt good. I knew we might have a chance at sending the next day, but we decided to climb an easier line to the summit, just to round out my short vacation.

Lucho following on Sunspot Dihedral (V 5.11)

My last day at the Hulk Lucho graciously handed the controls over and let me lead the entire Sunspot Dihedral. At mid 5.11 it felt cruiser compared to the demanding climbing of the last few days. I jammed, bouldered and stemmed my way through smooth, improbable corner systems that just barely connected with each other. Every single pitch was alpine bliss. We rallied the ridge to the summit where I enjoyed my first real Sierra summit. The day had been wonderful and we descended into the alpenglow, happy to have been given passage through such a wonderful stretch of climbing.

Shade in the Sunspot

Because I only had three days to climb, I viewed this trip as more of a recon than anything else. Next year I will be back first for Blowhard, then the Venturi Effect (this is the ultimate line on the wall in my eyes!). A week or two in T-meadows will help set me straight for hard climbing at 10,000 feet and I will have the time to spend under these amazingly sustained routes. I can't wait to return.

Beautiful summits with good friends...what it's all about

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dreams of Kashmir 5.12b R: FFA

No alpine adventures to speak of this week due to a heavy work load and a trip to the Incredible Hulk on the way (I leave L-town tomorrow!). I did however squeeze in a few nights at the crags and bouldering sessions with my brother. He had never climbed outside before (he had pulled on plastic a couple of times) and I think I may have planted a seed. He seemed to really enjoy himself and I was impressed by his quick learning curve and natural ability. So impressed in fact that I took a bunch of video of him crushing. Look forward to some of that when I return from Cali...the kid was hiking v4 his first day ever on rock for goodness sake!

In the thick of it...Dreams of Kashmir

Taking a break from the mountains allowed me to visit a favorite local cliff called Rat Creek Dome. Rat Creek is rad because you get to wade a raging river, enjoy a typical Cascade bushwhack, and climb in a secluded, beautiful zone. The experience goes beyond just grabbing the holds which is just the way I like it.

When I first visited the cliff I noticed bolted/mixed routes all over the face, but found the most appealing line to be lost in the middle of it all. Later I found out that the line I was looking at had been tr'ed in 1993, but never lead. I relished the challenge of technical moves and thin gear. Choosing to skip surrounding bolts that I could have clipped also upped the anti, but I was committed to following a natural passage up the face. Dreams of Kashmir climbs 35 feet of unprotected patina edges (don't hit the deck!) before an incipient thin crack abruptly begins. The next section climbs out a bulge and slices an 85 degree face. Thin, balancey moves define this climb. You sneeze and your off. At the crux, you must hold your composure and fire in a questionable, upside down blue alien and a small hb off set, both of which are hard to wiggle into their crazy little pods. You then climb above the questionable gear and execute a very thin (almost a slab crux) sequence. You've gotta keep your mind in it and not think about those widgets far below. I make 4 placements (I place two pieces together at a few spots) in almost 90 feet, so the route is definitely heady. Max headed out and took some nice shots so get hyped and try a repeat! See ya next week with Hulk pics!

Crux sequence on DOK

Protein hit!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Off the Couch

Just wanted to keep the psyche up...

Jessica Campbell crushing the hardest v7 in the world yesterday! Nice job Jess...someday maybe I will send this one.