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.

James Cratered, JB's Gone, and I Still Climb Cordless...What Gives?

James Lucas making use of the gift of life: North Overhang (5.9), 4 years out from the fall that almost killed him

"James was climbing in joshau tree on friday (I think it was friday maybe saturday) and fell. He fell about 70 feet hit a ledge and fell another 30 to the ground. Not sure as to why he
fell and or the general nature of the climb (if he was free climbing or not). He was climbing by himself. He was airlifted out of the park and to a hospital here in palm springs. He has shattered several vertebrae, his shattered bones in his left ankle, shattered his left elbow, broke his clavicle and sustained a head injury. He's alive, he has feeling/movement in his legs and sh#t. Which is good. He has several cuts and buises as well as a decent amount of swelling. He hit his head on the way down and got a concussion which caused some bleeding in the brain and a blood clot."

The moment I read these words my world forever changed. Gone was the innocence of life without limitations. I was human. I could fall. I could die. James didn't, but he could have, should have. A few weeks after the accident I visited him in a Palm Springs hospital. I was at a loss for words, my ability to think shut down by the intensity of seeing one of my best friends broken in front of me. A few mornings later, after arriving in J-tree for another winter, I sipped coffee with my monkey brethren. The air held an awkward silence. No one was moving for their shoes and chalk, each one of us dealing with the fear instilled by James' dive off the North Overhang. I toed a meaningless pattern into the sand at my feet unsure of what to do or say. When I couldn't stand it any longer I slunk off into the desert. I felt I needed to make peace with this issue. Little did I know it would be a life long process.

Old favorites...Givler's Crack (5.8) and Catapult (5.8)

Although I have climbed for a few decades, It was eight years ago that my mind was opened to the world of bold granite free climbing. I immediately felt I had found my position in the sport. Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Index, Leavenworth. The stories, the legends, the inspiration. I climbed into these iconic tales through soloing and connected with my heroes and the stone. For a few years this lifestyle flowed free of tragedy and provided me with many beautiful moments. My breathing echoing off lonely canyon walls as I shook out on a jug, the soothing cadence of a rope less morning in J-tree; the intense thrill of jamming up Yosemite's cracks without a s
afety net. After James fell I couldn't even manage the easiest pitches without thinking about decking. Instead of the freedom that solo climbing usually brought me, I was now a prisoner of my own fear.

La Cucaracha (5.10d)
For years I did not push myself without a rope. It was not that I didn't want to, I just couldn't. When I solo at a high level I feel confident and 100% clear in my head. No hesitation, only action. In those moments I am on it as they say, locked into a concentration that cannot be broken. Every time I laced my shoes in front of a pitch hoping to regain my feel for soloing I felt distracted and scared. Frustrated, I drifted further from rope less climbing. Maybe it wasn't worth it.

Living the monkey lifestyle...cordless on Castle Rock

The next few years saw me climbing mor
e and more in the alpine realm. All of the sudden I started to salivate about solo climbing again. If I could regain my confidence then I could run around the world's mountains making quick, simple ascents of big lines. One morning, I found myself charging towards Dragontail Peak in the Washington's central cascades. The wheels were turning, my mind and heart locked into the solo groove. That day I on sight soloed a 2000 foot 5.8 route. It felt wonderful, but I wasn't officially back in the game. I continued to solo very little compared to my earlier days, but I had re instilled a bit of confidence.

High on Midway Direct Direct (5.9)
As time marched on, I started to want to be high above the ground, hanging from a jug, the contraction of muscle and the relaxing of mind my only saving graces. I found myself climbing alone more and it felt good. My love for solo climbing began to out weigh the fear that James' fall had instilled.

Direct Direct
John Bachar was an icon in climbing, especially the solo variety. He inspired and awed with every move he made. With the confidence of a true master he soloed climbs most couldn't dream of tr'ing clean. He started up Acopa and all of the sudden every climbing mag had ads showcasing a fit JB still on top of his game. Little did I know that his charmed career would end a few year later on a small cliff above Mammoth Lakes, California.
JB living life to the full...cordless on Spiderline (5.11c)

So that brings me to today. I dealt with James' fall and now I am dealing with JB's. I am climbing rope less on a fairly regular basis, but with a knew maturity that only age and living bring. JB's passing has affected me differently than James' fall. I am at a different point in life. I realize that soloing is dangerous. James taught me that. I also realize that we have to follow our hearts and instinct even if they put us high on a rock face without a rope. So for now, I listen to my heart each day. Some times I soar above the pines alone, the wind whipping at my hair, the mountains slicing the sky behind. Other days I pull on the hang board or go running instead and even though soloing will always be a roll of the dice, I feel confident about my decisions to live and climb the way I do.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Couple Thangs...

Hi guys, just wanted to point you towards a couple of fun links. First, check out:

I have a feature detailing (in only 700 tough for such a big trip) our recent Alaska adventure and my friend Blake has a great write up about Gorillas in the Mist, our new route on Mt. Stuart. Kelly Cordes and Dougald McDonald do a great job with this newsletter...thanks so much guys! Also, take a look at for some news about DOE...there are a few pics there, but we hope to share more in the coming weeks...Max still has not released the "good" shots.

Next week should be busy as I am going to bottle some wine...lot's of work! I will hopefully squeak in a few training sessions around all the work, so I might have an adventure to share, if not, check back soon for a trip report about my up coming Incredible Hulk trip. Should be a blast!

Here are a couple of shots of that Bad Ass Max Hasson killing it in AK... stay psyched everyone!...

Max on the key diorite pitch (5.9, very scary) and Max running it out on pitch 2 of the NPR