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!