Friday, November 27, 2009

climbing in sin city

so yeah, i got ditched by two indian creek crews, dirty bastards, so instead of sitting on my ass, i went to vegas!

the idaho alpine club, based in idaho falls, takes a yearly trip to red rocks, a huge complex of crags near las vegas, nevada. the routes here range from 30 to 2000 feet long. almost seemed to me like a combo of joshua tree and indian creek in a way. lot's of sketchy trad routes, aka my favorite kind of climbing. plus, there was no snow! kinda nice after digging my car out of 2 feet of snow and ice up in montana. plus, with trad climbs, you have to take every route on it's own terms, as 5.8 can be the scariest thing you've ever done, and even though you may cruise 5.10 on a regular basis, you may run into sketchy pro on bad rock and have to bail. the most common accidents tend to be strong 5.12/13 gym climbers fucking up on easy terrain.
(photos courtesy of julie g.)

check out my rad shades! i found these on a rock after crawling through some bushes to the base of the willow springs wall. i kinda got lost... oh, and that's bruce, staring off into the magic that is rock climbing.
there were a pair of sketch fest 5.8 routes here that were really fun. or at least, i thought they were fun. the better of the two is a dead vertical route, with no cracks for the first 30 feet or so. all you get is some big huecos and pods to pull on. i hear you can find a shitty cam placement in these pockets... but the most solid piece i found pulled right away when i tested it... so after thirty feet i found a stopper placement that was pretty bomber, not going anywhere. from here i found 3 more iffy to decent placements to protect the last twenty feet. although the climbing was easy, it was a total mind game dealing with the serious consequences of this route, a game made harder when climbing with a large group watching you. definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but i really enjoy it.

tami-loves belaying at the black corridor. a pretty kick ass little crag in a 8 foot wide corrdor. lots of good easy routes.

julie g. steppin it up and placin' pro! leading a 5.4 at the moderate mecca crag. I hear this route was pretty sketch.
the route directly left was one of the scariest slabs ever, with horrid mank being passed off as bolts (as in a steel bar that had been bent into a hook and riveted to the rock, and there was maybe 3 pieces of protection in 80 feet), loose flakes for footholds, and required creative use of stoppers to add some sense of safety.

dunno what route this is, but the climber is one matt L. who is a total bad ass.
later in the trip, matt and i climbed a route at willow springs called "ragged edges", which is superb. no photos as we were the only two there. i took an alternate start on the first pitch that upped the grade from 5.7 to 5.9+, and it was brilliant, best climbing of the whole extended weekend. anyways, at the top of this pitch, after the finger sized crack died out, is a ridiculously smooth ramp that slants down to the right to join the main crack and the second pitch. not gonna lie, it was pretty tough. matt's limit is somewhere around 5.9 or 5.10, and i was belaying him, standing above on the good holds he was gunning for. he totally pulled it! then he went on to lead the offwidth second pitch, which was really just run out face climbing with a few huge cams plugged in the crack.

jesus, hardest thing ever! i have no idea what this route is called or rated (5.10?), but it was hard. it's an off-hands roof crack, that is, it's too big for solid hand jams, and too small for fist jams, requiring some awkward finagling to find something to pull on. at the lip, you throw a heel over, find a left arm bar, and try to mantle up over until you hit a good hold. pretty burly. the last 70 feet or so is super easy, and due to rope drag created by climbing a roof into a slab, i pretty much soloed the rest of the climb.

but yeah, i also saw the strip for the first time. so outrageous. i've been all over to big cities(mostly in europe), and even with all the pomp and circumstance of those places, nothing is like the strip. crazy taxi drivers that can't do math, huge water cannons in front of the belagio, a courtyard inside the venetian that looks like it's outside... so ridiculous. plus i got to see cirque du soleil preform "LOVE" which is all about the beatles. it was pretty rad, but i think if you were to spend that much on beatles' music from itunes you'd get more enjoyment. still though, it was bad ass. tami-loves even beat vegas on the slots at our hotel, 'the orleans'. she totally won two dollars! WOOT!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

some pretty good skiing in the Tetons

We've been getting some pretty good turns in the last few weeks. North facing aspects above 9,000ft offer 40+ inches of snow with a firm base. Yesterday, me and a crew of friends headed to Steve Baugh's Bowl, east of Grand Targhee Ski Resort. We found winter in all of its glory as well as its fierceness with deep snow, blowing wind and negative digit wind chills.
More snow fell in Eastern Idaho today! I hope you guys in the Sun Valley area picked up a bunch as well.
Heather Lords exiting Scotty's Chute on the east side of Fred's Mountain.
- Dean Lords

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Berkeley bouldering

Heres some footage from Indian Rock, a few minutes up the street, its a long traverse with a short 4th class down climb to link the sections. I had to do a statistical analyses for my last math class. My requirements for the project were to measure or observe something(s) at least 30 times. So far I've done this traverse 28 times. I am measuring lap time, number of laps in a session and whether or not I fall, and if I fall, I record the number of falls and where. The hardest single portion of the traverse is v3, right at the end.

Hope you are recovering well, Marc. So I guess we are not climbing this Thanksgiving weekend? Ill carry everything to the crag if it helps.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dissonance to Cadence

“I can believe that I'm a wizard, that I can do everything with my mind, and I'll be strong as all hell... I just need to be confident.” -Dave Graham

At some point things just click. Specific focus isn’t needed; things just happen. Confidence, weakness, focus, whatever, the brain begins to recognize sequences of movement faster and more efficiently, always looking ahead. When to bear down on that razor edge, reel in, and lunge for that next hold. Pace --rhythmic breathing, anticipation-- comes together, speeding up when the moves are difficult, slowing when they let up, always looking ahead. All parts of the body do exactly what they need to be, “PSAAHT!!!” The difficulties are over, the puzzle deciphered. One last move. Then the mind realizes what is going on. Other thoughts begin to drift in, excitement from climbing through this heinous problem, anxiety thinking that this may just be the day that you send, fear from being so high off the ground... all this swirling round and round, killing your focus, disrupting your breathing, and then, a small error leads to a foot popping off, throwing everything out of balance... you try to correct, but a split second later, you crash into the pads, roll down the hill, and lie huddled in the dirt. Defeat.

This failure is all too common in climbing. Falling is part of the process. If you never fall, you aren’t trying hard enough. Like any orchestration, it’s nearly impossible to play the notes right on the first go. The process of projecting a climb, working it over and over to figure it out, can be the most frustrating yet rewarding experience for a climber. You see, when you do figure out the individual pieces, when you figure out the very best way to do something, when you can finally sustain sound focus, strength doesn't seem to matter as much.

The notes are there for all eternity, and the musician has to unlock them perfectly to make music. There is a path in your mind that shows the sequence, the moves, and what to do to adapt to each movement. When things move perfectly in motion there is brilliance to it. Climbing is a strange game of body positions. A game of engrams, of muscle memory. It’s a game of occupying space, keeping everything together, feet, hands, fingers, core, whatever... you need it all together. There is a kind of fluency, and the climbing language develops. With dissonance gone, harmony follows. It takes a strong body to pull the moves, and a stronger mind to ultimately realize success.

The sun falls behind the mountains, the rock cools down, and you’re back, walking the trail you know so very well. That boulder is still there; this time, it’s revenge. The breathing pattern begins, steadying on the inhale, executing on the exhale.You reach for that tiny quartz crystal. Then the physical disappears. You grab the sharp grainy hold, set your feet, move your hips, slap the pinch, bump your hand again, inhale, then “PSAAHT!!! AHHHAAAH!” Keep it together! pull the lip, and bam! you’re sitting on top just as the last light fades and stars appear. The cadence dies down, the number fades. Victory.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wildhorse Basin Headwalls

I've been spending too much time looking at photos, topo maps, and geologic maps of the Pioneer mountains. I put this image together to identify several possible ridge routes up the north faces of Hyndman and Old Hyndman Peaks. I know Dean Lords has spent some time climbing these peaks in winter. I also know the north side of Hyndman peak has been climbed by at least two parties. I am curious if anyone reading this knows more about the climbing history of these peaks and or this basin. You can answer here or contact me off-blog at (

The photo was taken from what I am calling Arrowhead Arete, the west facing 1000' ridge climbing out of Arrowhead Lake. It is a fabulous class 3 to 4 route that we did in a 7 mile loop up Wildhorse Cr., up the Arrowhead arete and down onto "Tilly Lake" and out the Left Fork of Wildhorse Creek.


Friday, November 13, 2009

One Third Less

I had surgery on my knee yesterday, and as it turned out Dr Tony found several tears in my meniscus. Due to the amount of trauma to the meniscus he was unable to repair any of it, and performed a Meniscectomy (removal of the damaged meniscus) instead. Apparently I have one third less meniscus on my right knee now! The problem with meniscectomies is that once the portion of meniscus is removed, it doesn't regenerate and consequently opens the door for arthritis later in life. In my case, I didn't have much choice. Prior to surgery, Dr Tony was uncertain of the extent of damage to the meniscus and thought a repair might have been an option. Once inside the joint it became obvious that removing the damaged tissue was the only thing he could do. If I had chosen not to have the surgery, there most certainly would have been complications and pain associated with the use of that knee.

Today, I lie on the couch, watch Fuel TV, surf the internet and began rehabilitation. I've got a handful of exercises to do and have been keeping that silly mantra "Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body" close at hand! I'm also reading "Endurance", Lansing's epic tale of Ernest Shackelton's survival in the antarctic, which seems fitting.

My phone has been steadily ringing. Thanks to all my friends and family for their overwhelming support! It's a great feeling knowing that people care! Now it's up to you to carry the torch on this blog. Let's hear about your mountain adventures. Otherwise, I will continue to post boring entrees about how I road the bike in rehab or how much bend I got in my knee today! Let's hear it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Highs and Lows

I had a varied and exciting weekend, filled with highs and lows. Things started off Friday evening with the premier of the new TGR flick. We went to the local burger and brew joint, Grumpy's, where we ran into friend Jason Haase and his American Mammal crew (I'm not sure what that's all about). These folks were participating in Edward Schooner Hands, where they had 32 oz schooners taped to each hand and were required to finish them before removing the tape and schooner.

I did not participate in ESH, but felt like I had the following morning! We got up early (barely) and made the trip to Twin Falls (barely) to have the Subaru serviced and do some shopping. We met Ian and Lindsey in Twin and afterwards drove to Murtaugh to check out the crack climbing. I hadn't climbed in Murtaugh before and was keen to check it out. In the last few years the place has been somewhat rediscovered and several new anchors had been added to crack lines in addition to some bolted face routes. We had fun climbing in the afternoon light. The routes are bit short and somewhat broken, but it's the only crack cragging that we have near home. I'd really like to find some columnar basalt thats a little cleaner and taller, more along the lines of Trout Creek in Oregon.

The Dark Corner.

On Sunday I headed down to the Channel with Ian, Joe and Angry. We were surprised to see a number of cars in the parking lot. Turns out there was a good sized group there from Boise and another from Twin Falls. By far the most people I have ever seen at the Channel! Ted Thompson was there and had just injured his ankle before we arrived. He was hobbling around and giving support to his crew. (Get well Ted!) There was lots of talk of injuries, from ankles to wrists to knees. I felt good and fired the "Angry Inch" second try. Next we moved to the North Shore area and began dutifully cleaning the problems that hadn't seen any action this season. I was pretty fired up to get on a problem I'd tried two years ago before breaking my wrist. It has a cool hand foot match in a pocket that requires you to hold it as a mono to make room for your toes. The problem has a pretty bad landing, but we were able to pad it well. After cleaning the top out, I fired the problem third try and called it "5 to 1", as in 5 toes to 1 finger. I did the problem a second time and then we began focussing on the "Dark Corner", a classic steep, hard finger crack. Like "5 to 1", I had worked this problem two years previously and was pretty close before winter came. (For video footage of the "Dark Corner" and the "Angry Inch" watch The Channel Project!) After sorting out the opening moves I was suprized to find myself high up on the problem groping dirty holds and not sure what to do next. As I bailed off, I was concerned about my left fingers, which were buried in the crack. I focused on getting my fingers clear of the crack and not the landing... the ground was further away then I anticipated, and I came down on a straight right leg and hyperextended my knee. I felt a pop... not good.

I spent yesterday at the Dr's office and on the phone with my insurance company. The good news is that nothings broken and my ligaments are intact. The ACL has been slightly stretched, but the Dr is almost certain that wont be a problem. The bad news is that I have a torn Lateral Meniscus. I've decided to have the surgery and get it taken care of now while there's no snow and no guiding. The Dr thinks I should be on skis in about 3 months... It's a bummer, and not exactly what I had in mind on Sunday, but sh*t happens! I just want to get it taken care of and start the recovery process.

I'd like to thank everybody for their condolences and Ian, Joe, Angry and Nat for their help on Sunday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kane Creek Ice

I headed out yesterday with fellow guide, Drew Daly, to climb ice in the Pioneer Mountains. I had been to Kane Lake in the summer and noticed an impressive waterfall above the lake. Our mission was to hike in and climb this water ice, before returning to Ketchum. I was scheduled to work at the YMCA Climbing Wall at 4PM. We left Ketchum at 5AM, left the trailhead just after 6, and arrived at Kane Lake just after 8. The sun rise in the canyon was spectacular and we saw lots of smaller ice flows on the hike in. When we arrived at the lake, there was absolutely no trace of the waterfall we had seen in summer. My hunch is that the waterfall is a result of snow melt on the slabs above and it eventually dries up before the cold temps arrive. We did climb a short ice pitch of probably WI4- ice as a consolation prize, but I think both of us were a bit disappointed. Next we moved down canyon and Drew lead his first ice climb on one of the many lower angle WI3- flows. After which, we packed it up and headed back to Ketchum for me to arrive at the Y at 3:55PM. Perfect timing and a fun day in the alpine!

Kane Lake and the waterfall in summer.

Drew rapping off the first ice flow climbed.

The impressive Devil's Bedstead West. Earlier this year, Erik Leidecker guided the right ridge to the summit.

Drew, racking up for his first ice lead.