Skyland!

Because of some reorganizations at work, we now have Columbus Day off (of course the school's don't) so I had a chance to climb relatively guilt-free while the fam was doing their "normal" thing.

When Codi decided to go to school in Gunnison, at Western State, we were psyched to have an excuse to finally check out Skyland.

After sending out my shotgun messages for people to drive out with I was lucky to have Wade interested - as expected, it wasn't a day off for anyone else.

I got my box o' bagels at Panera and we headed out to Crested Butte - a little frightened of a 4 hour drive with a malfunctioning iPod...


The drive went by fast and before we knew it, we were in a place with enough money to frame their road signs:



We found the trailhead without any problems and the weather was perfect. I'd lured Wade with pictures of brilliant Aspen leaves changing colors and bouldering on a soft blanket of yellow - but alas, we were about 2 weeks late. Almost all of the trees had already lost their leaves, but you can imagine what it would be like, right?

Regardless, the singletrack trail was awesome and once we saw the Hone Stone, we knew we would have a great day. We ran around for a while, and then warmed up - Wade did great for his first time climbing in a long time. Codi had classes in the morning so he'd meet us as soon as he could.

After the Warmup boulder, we went to The Wave and got on an amazing line called "Slabs Kick A$$" where after a slab move you huck for the lip in a two-handed dyno. I had to do it at least 6 times because it was sooo good.

video

After that, we moved over to The Wedge and did a few lines. Here, we saw our first climbers and after talking to them, learned that the locals call Crested Butte, CB. And then, although CB has a population of less then 2000, they designate a CB North and a CB South part of town. Cute.



Skin was starting to get a little thin so we wasted no time getting over to the Joint boulder. This is one PROUD boulder, clocking in at 23 feet, sitting out in the middle of the field. I HAD to get on Blunt Boy, a V1 going up the vertical face:

I was SUPER impressed that Wade busted it out too. Best send of the day!

What made this climb even better were the "karma pads" stashed underneath the overhang. Adding two more pads to ours made it much more chill to jump on this highball. Thanks KarmaPads!

We then played on a line called "Longshot" but without any sends. Then Codi showed up!

We moved over to the High Times Boulder to bask in its awesomeness. My goal was to send all the lines on the main face - so we started from left-to-right. After a fall on Left El Skyland, all the rest (Center, J-Crack, and Right) went down first try. This was thanks to an awesome local that showed up, on his bike (no pad) to do his circuit. He was the epitome of an older, seasoned, climber that had the whole place wired. Cool guy, who graciously foreran the problems on the face so I could benefit from his beta. (He was from CB North, by the way...)

Codi and Kegan had to leave and the weather was getting chilly. We'd foolishly left the Hone Stone for the last thing to get on before leaving, but I had to get on it before we left!

I gave Tick Fever a few good burns, but couldn't top it out on this trip. Just another excuse to make sure I visit again! Plenty more classics to get on and I know there have to be gems hidden up in those woods!



What a great area! We noticed how close the homes were to the trail and even the boulders as we hiked out and back. Wouldn't it be cool to have the trail and boulders so close? I started investigating fall/spring rentals for the fam when I got home and found this lot. I'm fairly certain this is where Wade and I turned around after seeing private property signs on the trail. This lot overlooks the hillside where all of these boulders live! Just a tad under $1 million... Maybe I can convince TGL Investments (http://investmentsmgt.com/) to buy it!

NorthWet, I mean NorthWest - Fall 2010

Jeff Russell is always telling me about how great the rock is out in Washington state. The huge drive to Seattle has always held me back, but when he agreed to include a visit to Squamish during the visit - I had to go.
Although the fall weather can be spotty in the NorthWest, I rolled the dice, found a sweet deal on a flight and committed. It's been a little while since my last fall roadtrip and Kim was super-supportive.

Once I got into town, we checked the weather and thought that Leavenworth was our best bet for Thursday.

Thursday
Leavenworth was sprinkling the entire day. Fortunately, there were periods where it would let up and we could also find enough to climb sheltered by the tall trees.

The layout for Leavenworth reminded me a lot of Joe's Valley, Utah, where many boulders were off a canyon road, most with a non-existent approach. We drove from area to area, hitting some high points, and climbing where it was dry.

First Jeff took me to a warm-up area and then to a sweet problem called Slingblade. I'd promised myself no more than 3 tries on a problem, so that I wouldn't burn out skin or energy too quickly on this trip - there was a lot to see. But I broke that promise right away. Slingblade took a few tries, but was awesome, and a great introduction to the quality of problems on the Leavenworth granite.

Then Jeff took me to one of the highlights of the trip: Sleeping Lady. This climb, where he got the FA a few years ago, overhangs right above the Icicle Creek with big holds and big moves. We both ran a few laps on it - Excellent!
I'd watched a problem called "Was" the night before at Jeff's house and really wanted to try it. Sadly, I had horrible tree coverage and when I tried it, I slipped off the arete, slamming my left heel into the ground on my fall. Next!

The Sword Area. I did some more warm-ups and a problem called Off The Couch, with some great crimps. I had felt a little twinge in my arm on that problem, so I was worried that I did the usual, and climbed too much too fast and would be done for the rest of the day.

Jeff was psyched to try a line called Prism, which had caught my eye on the way in. Super-cool slopers going up an arete, whose top was just dry enough to work. After watching Jeff immediately break his barriers and climb to a high point, I saw that there was a micro-edge on each of the large slopers that could be used. Stealing Jeff's beta, I was able to start throwing at the lip for the final big move - excited about maybe getting this beautiful line. I hit my right heel pretty hard on a fall onto a rock, barely missing the pad - which I'm still feeling almost a week later. After consistent progress (which counts if I feel that I'm touching the lip hold better each time), I had enough strength to send it! One of the proudest sends of the trip for me.

The rain had started up again and we ran around, looking at a few more areas. We crossed the creek since the water was pretty low and did a little exploring on the other side for a while, but without any luck in finding new boulders. The aqueduct was sweet though.

As we were thinking of heading home, we thought it looked a little drier up on the hill, where the Pasture and other areas were. Hopeful, we drove above town and looked at few other sets of boulders. Just as we were getting ready to climb, the clouds opened up again and we had to wait them out. I snapped this great shot of Jeff in between showers - I loved the setting for these boulders:
All in all, it was a great day, making the very most of the weather we were given.
DISCLAIMER: I have been using performance enhancing drugs on this trip. Jeff hooked me up with a substance that isn't available in the US, but I think helped me survive the onslaught of granite on my hands. I applied Antihydral to my fingertips at night and washed it off after 30 minutes or so - I don't know if it's mental, but I felt like my skin held up a LOT longer than usual... It's supposed to be good for stopping sweat, but Jeff praised it for helping his calluses. I might need to look into making a purchase...

Friday
Squamish weather had finally settled on "crappy" (80-100% chance of rain) but I had a passport and we were going to go up there and check it out at the very least. If it had a chance of drying out, we'd camp and climb Saturday too.

On the way, Jeff got pulled over and received a nice $175 speeding ticket. It reminded me of a conversation Ryan Sayers and I had one time on a roadtrip. He wanted to establish rules about who pays for speeding tickets on a roadtrip - and argued that if we both wanted to get to an area fast, then the responsibility of the ticket is on both climbers, not just the one who happened to be driving at the time. We debated back and forth, but the onus still ended up on the driver (it didn't help Ryan's case that he had just gotten pulled over in Utah a few minutes earlier...).

For some reason, we were flagged at the border and had to park and go into the office. We only had to wait a few minutes before they let us go. On the way out to the car, I checked and my passport wasn't stamped for Canada. I was kind of bummed since this the first time I'd been out of the country (except for an uplifting visit to Juarez with Ryan on a Hueco trip) and wanted some proof! Jeff convinced me to go back in and ask for it, completely against my nature, but I agreed. I ran back in, to the same two guys who had taken our paperwork originally, and said "I don't want to be the goober, but do you guys still do stamps on passports?" Pretty sure there was an eye-roll and one said "Get the goober stamp!" He even had to update the date on the rubber stamp for me, who knows how long it's been since they've had someone ask... I should have pressed my luck and asked if they could say something and end it with "eh?" for me...
Here's my goober stamp:
If it was wet, to make the trip worthwhile (4+ hour drive), we were going to do a session at the new Vancouver Temple, just dedicated in May 2010. Jeff got 5 Canuck points for seeing it first. We pulled into a pretty empty parking lot and changed into our church clothes, psyched about seeing the new temple. As we approached the entrance, we noted a flooring truck and joked for a second about it being closed for maintenance... No way... Yes way... They were closed. 4 months open and they were closed for maintenance... C for effort. I snapped some shots and we headed towards Squamish.
As we traveled I looked for Canadian "things." We wouldn't get a chance to talk to too many people, so I couldn't get my "eh?" but we saw red fire hydrants and acres of greenhouses.
We saw lots of metric signs - flustering Jeff even more post-ticket to not speed across the border. We definitely needed Ryan there to do some mental conversions for us. He was the poster-boy for metric, usually annoying us with quoting the temperature in Celsius.

I had to get some Canadian currency for the kids and was impressed by a grocery store in Vancouver, which took US dollars, converted it with an exchange rate (not sure how up-to-date it was) and gave change in Canadian dollars. Check it:


Of course, the weather actually got worse the closer we got to Squamish. This is what the Chief looked like as Jeff got 5 more Canuck points for seeing it first...
Wet, but willing to explore, we ran around the base of the Chief's main wall seeing AMAZING blocks - all soaking wet. The forest is unreal. So beautiful. Moss covered rocks, trees, green everywhere.I was psyched on this huge slug I found, but these NorthWesterners, like is Jeff now, see them all the time... He wasn't impressed by the big blackberry patch I found at Gold Bar either...

Note how many cars are in the parking lot at this WORLD CLASS CLIMBING AREA... One. That's right, we're special.

Dreamcatcher looked much more compressed than the movie, but still gorgeous and inspiring.

Aside from the weather, I did find one downside to Squamish... Noise. Infringing on this amazing setting are the sounds of the highway, which is right behind you - as well as a lumberyard on the bay. Bummer.

After checking out Shannon Falls and immediately dismissing the idea of hiking up to the top of the Chief, we had two options: Stay there, study probability (Jeff brought his Actuary study materials) and camp, hoping for a miracle tomorrow... or drive all the way back and find sun for the last day of climbing. Back to the US - Canada had spit us out, wet and disappointed, but psyched to come back someday.
Saturday
I woke up to the SUN shining through the windows at Jeff's place! YES! Although there was plenty still to show me at Leavenworth, Gold Bar was a new area and closer. So excited to climb today!
Gold Bar starts with a solid hike up switchbacks that used to be 4-wheeler trails. We did a bunch of exploring at the Five Star Boulder, a warmup area, Clearcut and Forest areas. It was actually too hot to climb out in the Clearcut area (I got smacked around on a V4 called Water) but the forest was PERFECT! It reminded me a lot of what we saw in Squamish - just less concentrated. Here's a shot of the forest from the Clearcut zone:

I was psyched to flash Doja, a climb whose first move felt like I was climbing "down" before some beautiful moves on slopers to a huge jug. We then went and worked Lighten Up for a while - amazing line. Jeff will bag it the next time he's there.

On our way out, we hit the Five Star Boulder and I got my dose of highball problems with Five Star Arete and the adrenaline-pounding Kombucha. Topping out those problems on little patches of clean rock among a green moss covered face was so much fun. I wish I had video of these last two sends to relive that feeling...

I realized how having a guide show me around was HUGE for making this trip a success. If I just had the guidebook, it could have been rough. Without Jeff's experience and generosity with beta, I know I wouldn't have been able to see such classic lines or climb them as quickly. Jeff rules.

I also noticed how much Jeff climbs like Ryan. Jeff's strong, thick strong and thuggy when he climbs. That's Ryan-style and it's sweet.

Great Trip. Thanks Jeff and Cherish. Thanks Kim, Brandon, Zoey, Ryan and Zac.

12 years in the making - The Castle

In the summer of 1998, fresh out of high school, I started work at Camp Firewalker as a climbing instructor (in reality, I was a belay dog for teenage campers all season). Our camp was in a beautiful part of Buffalo Creek, right next to Wellington Lake and a towering rock named The Castle.

Even though I was ruined by bouldering and clipping bolts, I felt the undeniable pull to ascend the long, clean cracks to the summit. But despite my youthful arrogance, I knew I didn’t have the skillset to do it myself. I needed Ryan’s bold style and trad confidence if I had any hope of success.
I told him about it a few times, but we never made the trip – and when he left in 2003, The Castle became just one of many lines that we had to leave unfinished…

Our family has been visiting Camp Firewalker each summer for the past few years, and I’ll look up at The Castle and think about how awesome it would be to finally climb it. I started to petition friends that had the trad skills and after a few seasons of prodding, Glenn Schuler, accepted!
Glenn is the man. Our start happened in 2006 when I emailed him about hearing of bouldering on Mt. Herman. He met me up there and showed me all of the development he’d done. I was impressed, but it only deepened when I found out how much development he’s done in areas like Shelf, Penitente and lately at Thunder. Jackpot!

After researching the routes we heard two things:
1. The approach is horrible
2. The rock is worth it

We originally chose The Throne Room, a 3 pitch 5.10 going up the detached Parapet, after which you rap down to the saddle and climb 5.8 to the summit. But, we heard that there were falcon nesting concerns (we heard & saw them quite a bit) and opted for the Castle Corner, another 3 pitch 5.10 route going up The Castle proper.

We left the Springs early Saturday and made the 2 hour drive out to Wellington Lake where signs like this would normally cause huge heartache:

Fortunately, I called ahead and Nanc’, the legendary Camp Firewalker Director, had the hook-up and left the gate unlocked for us. Glenn didn’t like the idea that we didn’t have the key for the lock and could possibly get locked in – neither did I, but how could that happen? (not foreshadowing here…)

We parked and Glenn went through the racks and picked out what he’d think we’d need. The gear descriptions were pretty inconsistent so we brought up a good chunk of pro. Glenn didn’t bring a helmet, so Ryan’s stayed in the trunk. How could I live with myself if Glenn’s head got bashed in while I was in a helmet? I’d borrowed some larger climbing shoes from Brian Shelton to use instead of my normally tight shoes. I hoped that it would help me last 3 long pitches and a walk-off – I’m still a little scarred from the Steeple Peak descent…



We started off on the well-established trail around the lake and turned toward The Castle after the waterfall slides. Even though we found some cairns and tried to stay south, we got sucked into the Baron’s Estate, a beautiful formation below The Castle, and hit a dead end.


We could either balance up the slab to the left (which had a nasty roof section) or bust up through the chimney. We opted for the chimney and mounted the first block easily, but the 2nd needed a little more attention. We took off our packs and I headed up with the rope for my only lead of the day. Glenn tied off the packs and I pulled them up, somehow wedging the buckle of his pack in a crack and sliding it right off its strap. Luckily it wasn’t broken (only one of Glenn’s beers was damaged in this mini-epic) and we got the heck out of that canyon as fast as we could.

We made it to the base of The Castle before 10, which was OK, considering. Awesome views, beautiful falcons flying overhead and sweeping stone made the thrash-fest worthwhile.

Glenn patiently taught me how to make my first pair of crack gloves – psyched! (I even shaved the back of my hands that morning in preparation… Glenn didn’t laugh too hard…)


Glen also knew how to channel the good mojo before we climbed by busting out the hoagie. We were set!

Pitch 1:

Glenn took off in the bright sun just as a chipmunk was scrambling up and down the route – humbling and cool… The pitch consisted of a fun detached flake (questionable stability in spots) most of the way – with an excellent crux: a big reach from an undercling to a huge jug past the flake. It felt pretty long for me and I was impressed by how Glenn styled it even though he’s a few inches shorter than myself. Glenn’s staring at the move here:


The big surprise on P1 is that there was poison ivy all over the belay ledge - 3 feet above, below and on the ledge itself.

Glenn and I carefully tried to avoid it and letting the rope touch any of it (I think we both made it without any reactions). I was feeling pretty good, stoked that Glenn had lead so well, and confident that my shoes would work for me.

Pitch 2:

This pitch was amazing. Super-long and creative, it followed the dihedral with supplemental cracks to the right. Excellent stemming, jamming and even compression moves. I absolutely felt like I was actually using crack climbing technique as I plugged away, thankful for Glenn’s chalk-marked beta. The gloves gave me confidence and it felt solid. The crux, again, was at the end where I got to do some laybacking through some smaller holds. Awesome.


Pitch 3:
Glenn chose the crack to the right for the last pitch (left looked a bit thinner).

It was kind of awkward position-wise, but P2 had prepared me well to trust my jams. After the first section, the angle eased up for 40 feet and then kicked up to an overhanging offwidth! I carefully used a rotten chockstone in the base of the flaring crack to nicely jam my whole body into the feature. After a long time slapping around for jams and face holds, I finally found a cool fist jam and combined that with a scissoring-chimney-thing with my legs to get over the bulge and into a neighboring crack. How the freak did Glenn do that on lead!?

With Glenn laughing down at me from the summit I finished the final moves and joined him. Did I say Glenn is the man? I am so glad he was there to chauffeur me up this thing! A handshake and some pictures (Throne Room’s plates looked gorgeous from there) and we started to scramble our way down.
We went west into the main summit and worked our way south until we found what looked like the gully that would take us down within 30 feet of our packs. Gloriously, we made it down without incident around 2pm and my feet were not screaming!

We had thrown around the idea of doing another route since we were up there, but felt pretty beat after rehydrating. Avoiding Baron’s Estate we walked down to the south and made it back to the waterfalls in no time (even after picking up a huge heart-shaped piece of quartz).

For 12 years I’ve looked at that rock and now it’s done! I’m stoked about going up to Aaron’s Camp this year and not feeling like I need to be climbing it. I’ve done it, I don’t need to do it again, I’m good. But now that we’ve got a better idea on the approach, Glenn and I both want to get back up and knock out the Throne Room. Gotta love the South Platte!

Ute Pass - Bobba Fett Arete

Always willing to share projects, Hayden, Nick, Byron & Chris introduced me to some new lines at Ute Pass. After some scary falls and broken holds, friction was good, and I was lucky enough to get the FA of Bobba Fett Arete. There's a HARD looking SDS that will be the next step for this beautiful line.

I've got to cherish these moments where somehow I squeeze out the first send...
(I try not to think about how everyone else was already burnt out or bleeding too much to try when I was still fresh...)

Thanks for the psych and to Hayden for snapping some pics!



http://iclimbrocks.blogspot.com/2010/01/bobba-fett-arete.html

New Years Day Rock

The appropriate way to start every new year is to immediately climb on some excellent rock.
Codi, Thor, Ben, Duncan and I found Ed Rock's southern-exposed, short limestone climbs just right.

Codi has been having some fun in Photography 3 this year: