Friday, April 22, 2011

20 Laps at the Quarry Wall

The somewhat hidden and less traveled Quarry Wall on North Table Mountain in Golden provides good training ground for my upcoming trip in Yosemite Valley. The fairly continuous cracks allow me hone my crack climbing ability, and prepare for bigger and better climbs.
Other than the loud highway noise, the coors factory humming in the background, sewage aroma, muddy hike, and bird corpse filled cracks.... this place is great!

20 laps on 5 different cracks, ranging from 5.10 to 5.11+. (I keep attempting Bone Crusher (5.12), but overhanging .5 camalots are brutal)

My top rope solo setup is very simple. Tie off lead line at top of pitch. Rap down, start climbing, manually pull out slack through gri gri. I don't tie back up knots, I don't feel like that is necessary.

Lately I have felt like cragging by myself keeps me more motivated than with other people. I am always keeping El Cap in the back of my mind. I'm trying to get comfortable climbing alone. Soloing The Zodiac is going to be one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's The BIG Deal?

The recent fad of new and improved ultralight everything is essentially a marketing technique used by companies to sell all of their schwag. It's sold to their customers, where only a small percentage of those people actually need that new carabiner that is only a few grams lighter.

I've never paid attention to how heavy any of my gear was until recently where I feel that my performance could be improved... or maybe I am as guilty as the next by falling into the hip trend.

All of the upcoming goals that I hope to achieve seem to be speed oriented, and it make sense to put in the effort to climb as light as possible. It wasn't until I punched a few numbers that I realized that I might actually be able to climb faster with lighter gear.
When we are talking about 60+ pitches in a day, I can't ignore the stats. (Double El Cap linkup say whattttt???)

Let's talk about my rack for climbing The Nose on El Capitan.
Approximately 30 cams, 15 quick draws (two carabiners each), and 8 free carabiners.
That's a total of 68 carabiners on ONE person. (Not including lockers, belay biner, etc...)

If we were were rocking it old school with oval biners each weighing in at 65 grams.
Total: 9.74 pounds

Let's say a more realistic lighter(ish) rack of carabiners for the average climber half wire gates weighing in roughly 35 grams each and normal straight gate carabiners around 48 grams each.
Total: 6.22 pounds

Or let's be hip with the new Black Diamond OZ carabiners weighing in at 28 grams each.
Total: 3.95 pounds

Nearly two and a half pounds only from carabiners alone is enough reason for me to think twice about the whole weight idea. I'm updating some of my gear, and will be sporting the OZ biners along with a lightweight harness, grigri 2, and smaller diameter rope. Due to certain circumstances, I have the opportunity to purchase gear at a discounted price, so it makes sense for me make the cross over. I would otherwise just suck it up, lost time due to gear weight is a bad excuse.

Sorry everyone, gravity will never change, and your chubby bodies will still be fat. You will still have to lug your ass to the top even if you could fit your sausage fingers into the new ridiculously small Camp Nano or Metolius FS Mini carabiners.
You heard me, stop reading my blog and go for a jog! (At least that would be cheaper than buying new gear..)

Sunday April Tenth

Here are a few videos that I've made recently.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Out for spring break, and definitely ready to get away from the world for a few days. Previously I had only climbed in Indian Creek in mormon-land (Utah). Greg Howland, an up an coming big wall climber, and I were psyched to check out the seemingly endless sandstone splitters of Zion National Park. 

Photo: Emiley Greene
Sorting heaps of gear

Photo: Emiley Greene

Moonlight Buttress - A Sockless Ascent

No, I didn't take this picture. 

We were off to a medium/ok start. The weather forecast projected 60% chance of precipitation, and didn't look like the rest of our stay was looking any better. On our way from boulder, it started pouring rain as we were on the last 100 mile stretch of the drive. We were both quieted with nervousness because the possibility of being shut down by the weather. The short amount of that we had to spend there meant there wasn't really any room to wait around for the sun to come out, let alone dry out the rock.

I didn't lose sight of the fact the first rule of climbing on sandstone is that you do not climb on it when it is wet or has rained recently.
I'll post the link to the video of my friend Kurt Ross ripping gear out again to emphasize this.

We arrived in Zion somewhere around midnight, and could only hope the the park hadn't gotten rained on recently.

We were up by 6:30am the next morning to find cloudy skies, but no rain. I hung my head low as we paid the bivy permit fee to spend the night on the wall. Not only do the charge you an annual $80 national park's pass or a $20 day pass, but they charge you a non-refundable $10 bivy permit each night you plan to stay on the wall.
(Disregard my complaining, it's completely worth it.)

A river nearly the size of the missippi offered itself to be the first crux of the climb. While attempting to cross, I thought that it would be a great idea to throw my shoes across to the other side to avoid potentially getting them wet. An underhand toss with the power of a 10 year old girl insured my right shoe didn't even make it close to the dry sandy bank on the opposing side. Somehow I managed to get it back, my cotton socks were the only casualty.
With all the climbing I have done, I still have no idea why I still thinks its a good idea to wear cotton.
I was officially going to climb this thing sockless.

Greg heading up P1

After a weird pre-haul, Greg cruised up the first few pitches and we were ready to have a good time. With only 5 pitches to climb a day, there wasn't any real rush to get to any particular bivy because we were sporting a comfy double portaledge. That being said, I still crushed out my pitches as fast and efficiently as I could. I need all the speed practice I can get for the valley!

P2. The fun begins

Looking down P4. It reminded me of Fingers in a Lightsocket in Indian Creek... but on steroids. .4 and .5 Camalots forever!

Being graded at 5.12+, and totally free climbable, I aided and french freed the whole thing. I forced myself to top step in my aiders as high as I possibly could between each piece, and it made for quick progress.

Around 6pm we got to our designated spot half way up the route to bivy. After setting up this ledge approximately 15 times, I think I've gotten the time down to around 5 minutes. By the time Greg had jugged and cleaned the pitch I had led, the ledge was almost completely set up.

Chillin in the ledge on top of pitch 5. We realized that we were going to be bivy on St. Patrick's day, so naturally we were obligated to bring up a few cans of Guiness. Burritos and beer: glory.

The sun completely saturated our neon yellow rain fly and forced us to get out and start climbing. Again, emphasizing that we didn't have to go fast on the route, we slept in and started climbing around 10am.

Sporting the sending shades.

In all epic-ness, this route would definitely be a proud free climb. I don't feel that it is too far out of my reach, and some day I hope to send it. I almost felt guilty aiding most of the route. I think that if I did it faster in a single day, not having to haul, and carrying less gear, I would have been able to free certain sections and french free through the rest.

We summited to find a cement paved descent. 3,416 switchbacks later, we got back to the parking lot where we convinced a nice couple to give us a ride back to our car 4 miles down the road. 
The hike down provided me an hour of mental time to get myself psyched up to do another wall the following day. 

Touchstone Wall 

Groggy, but ready to climb, I turned the key to start the ignition in my '97 Jeep... dead. Frustrated, I walked over to our neighbors camping next to us if they could give me a jump. "Yeah sure, just give me about 30 minutes," the guy said. I bit my tongue and didn't grumble that I was about to go climb a grade 5 big wall, and needed to start climbing as soon as possible.

We eventually made it to the base, and started climbing around 10 or 11. We were definitely sporting the alpine starts on this trip.

Heading up the first pitch, very reachy pin ladder.

Some non-memorable climbing, and we were at the summit.
Just kidding, this thing was SPLITTER! We climbed and short fixed nearly every pitch without much problem. The weird C2 section on pitch 2 scared me a bit, but I got through it using our handy offset metolius cams. We were using 2 offset tcu's and 2 offset master cams.
The offset tcu's are just about the worst idea ever for aid climbing. The 'U' stem design seems to torque the cam outwards and make it pretty easy to pop out when you weight it.
(As soon as I got home the trip I sold them as quickly as I could in exchange for mastercams)

The forecast of rain thankfully was wrong, but we were still at the mercy of the elements. I would have to brace myself while when the strong gusts of wind would rip through the canyon. As long as I was climbing and moving, I stayed warm enough in just my base layer and rain shell.

Psyched to be on the summit.

The summit. 

We took the decent route which featured a series of 9 rappelles and some scrambling to get down. It was very surprising to me how sketchy the rap stations were, considering we were on one of the most well traveled routes in the park. Ideally I would say that rapping the route would be the way to go, but you would have to lug up an extra rope. The last two pitches would not be possible to rap, they do not feature fixed anchors.  

Sorry we didn't get more pictures. Greg kept complaining that the battery was too cold for the camera to function. Just kidding, but in all seriousness, most of the pictures that were taken didn't turn out.

This trip got me super psyched for the valley. Long routes are so appealing, that I just feel like everything inside me is gravitating towards yosemite. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Update: Life

I just got back from spending a weekend in Laramie, WY with my friend Becca Skinner. It was nice to get out and meet some people that aren't in the college funk that I'm getting a little bothered by here in Boulder. I ran into this kid Julian Poush that I met in the valley last spring. I found my palms getting sweaty as we started talking about a few things that we might be doing when we return in May.

Training is going well. I got slightly unmotivated after my trip to Zion, along with being scared of elbow tendonitis. I got the spark back though. I can honestly say that I have never been in all around better shape. I have mostly been doing everything by myself, and it feels great to be making progress.

My elbows are feeling better. I have been very persistent about doing opposition exercises to get rid of my pissed of tendons. I read nearly every resource I could to figure out how to deal with it. It made me very nervous because of how much I have been training and working towards my trip to the valley.

School. I don't want to talk about school.

I have money! I have almost enough saved up for travel expenses, new rock shoes, large cams, a new camera (get excited), and about 1000 lightweight carabiners.

Overall psyche level: 9
(I'm feeling psyched to the point where I can feel it in my chest)

I'm almost done with the Zion trip report. I know, I know.. you're at the edge of your seat just waiting to read it. Hold tight, it's coming.