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.