Sunday, September 29, 2013

307 Magazine

My good friend BJ Tilden always used to offer up the quote "there are only two kinds of people who try to predict the weather in Wyoming, fools and newcomers".  The recent shift in the seasons has been felt by more than just the cowboy state and I think it's safe to say that nobody really has any idea what the fall will bring. We took a 12 day trip to Rifle a little over two weeks ago and when we packed the camper, it was tank top and shorts weather.  Upon our return I've legitimately worn my light jacket at least three times.  I guess it's fall now.

Our Rifle trip was both fun and frustrating all in the same breath.  We took the same trip last year one week earlier and the temps were cold and crisp, naturally we thought it would be similar this year.  When we got to our campsite it was just as warm as SLC, thankfully we didn't have internet access in the canyon otherwise I would have ranted and bitched much earlier than now.  We prayed for cooler weather and our prayers were answered, with rain and rocky mountain humidity.  It literally rained every day (and every night) for about 8 days.  We made the best of it by climbing in the steeper caves of the canyon, areas we had previously shied away from.  Despite the the in-climate weather we climbed every day we wanted and were able to actually send a couple of routes.  In true road trip fashion we found plenty of great ways to spend our time in between storms.







Just before Rifle we took at trip to the Fins in Idaho and I can honestly say that the Discovery wall is one of the most impressive walls I've ever seen.  The Fins in general can't really be compared to any other wall I've ever seen.  They're completely unique in all their aspects, needless to say we had an absolute blast.  The temps were perfect, the camping is paradisiacal, and the climbing is nothing short of superb.  We'll definitely go back -



Courtesy of J-☆
Courtesy of J-☆

Courtesy of J-☆
In conjunction with the video (soon to be released) a wonderfully compiled tribute to Todd Skinner and his "project legacy" was featured in the latest edition of 307 Magazine.  Myself, Kris Hampton, Micah Rush, Colby Frontiero, and Steve Bechtel all contributed to this piece.  Not necessarily a standard editorial narrative, this piece is viewed from multiple perspectives which helped make it so much fun to work on.  I'm excited to have played a small part in this and hope you all enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Strawberry Roan

The last two weeks have been a blur to say the least, to quote a dear friend of mine, I'm feeling "a good tired." I left for my old stomping grounds of Lander Wyoming on the 3rd to see old friends, enjoy some cool mountain weather, and attempt to tick off one of the longest standing projects in Wyoming.  Arriving in Lander I immediately met up with my long time friend BJ Tilden and fellow travelers Jonathan Siegrist and Kris "Odub" Hampton.  We took that afternoon and made the trek back to the new mega cliff known as Wolf Point.
Jonathan and BJ on the approach to Wolf Point (the small speck in the middle of the cave is Zach Rudy bolting).
Despite temperatures threatening to spike upwards of 90˚ we braved the 35 minute approach and sampled some of the finest limestone in the Lander region.  The stifling heat made it difficult for anyone to apply themselves fully but we still climbed on a host of routes, all of which were fantastic.  I'll definitely be making more trips here in the future.

The prized goal of the trip however didn't reside at Wolf Point but further up the canyon at an escarpment known simply as The Strawberry Roan.  The "Roan" is a striking arete situated at the top of the Little Popo Agie Canyon high on the western flank of the river.  Visible from Todd Skinners mountain cabin, he bolted the creamy rust colored arete in 1990 in conjunction with a calendar photo shoot taking place in the Lander area.  Photos of Todd on the stunning arete were used for the calendar and after that day it would take another twenty years before anyone else ventured up the steep grassy slope to try their hand at the Strawberry Roan.

My friend Ty Mack was the first to try his luck with the Roan, he arrived at the base to find the quickdraws that Todd had left hanging mostly laying on the ground; two decades of exposure to the elements had either deteriorated the webbing so badly that the carabiners fell off or were so harshly wind blown that the harder steel bolt hangers had actually cut grooves cleanly through the softer aluminum biners.  Ty's attempt was short lived and one day just wasn't enough to get the job done.  Lander locals BJ Tilden and Tom Rangitsch made another attempt a couple of years ago only to meet the same fate and walked away empty handed.  

The Strawberry Roan climbs the prominent reddish arete. 
I contacted Kris Hampton months ago and pitched him the idea of climbing together and capturing some footage for Evolv. We brainstormed on what would make an interesting film piece when he suggested "...why don't we try the Roan?"  Immediately I was intrigued and knew it would be the perfect project for us.  Kris and his girlfriend Annalissa Purdum took on the monumental task of hauling climbing ropes, food, gallons of water, and a weather/rodent secure bin to the base of the Roan buttress, a trip that took three hours to complete.  The stash made subsequent day trips much more manageable, the hike to the Roan is daunting to say the least.  It begins by crossing the "Little Po" river on foot and then slogging uphill through thigh high Mules Ears, fields of cheat grass, and ghostly stands of burnt pines. A solid 45 minutes of arduous hiking lands one at the base and an additional 15 minutes can be expected removing cheat grass seeds from ones shoes and socks.  The canyon is filled with all manor of hazards and on this trip alone there were confirmed sightings of rattlesnakes, moose, grizzly bear, and rednecks.  We soon dubbed our outings "adventure sport climbing."

The route itself is a 100'+ tall arete that overhangs about 25 feet in its length.  Immediately leaving the ground you're assaulted with a burly .12d crux sequence.  I was able to avoid a rowdy pull on a shallow mono pocket but Kris was forced to deal with the threatening hold and our internal engines were often redlining before we even got to the second bolt. The following 50 feet of climbing positions you right on the arete pulling between sinker two finger pockets and comfy finger buckets.  Arriving at the steepest part of the route, a welcomed rest signals the end of the "casual" climbing and the difficulty grows exponentially until you clip the chains.  A huge throw casts you onto the headwall and the following three bolts move you out onto the 90˚ arete via big pulls between edges and two finger pockets. 

At this point you're hugging the arete with both feet and copping a mediocre shake before the final crux sequence.  The wall eases to near vertical here but the holds literally disappear and your right hand doesn't leave the arete until you clip the chains.  Extremely delicate yet powerful climbing takes you through smeary feet, terrible hand holds, heady clips, and "engaging" run-outs. Despite being rather well bolted, the exposure held our fear in our throats and we often found ourselves pushing through sequences only to desperately grab at the quickdraws for something - anything to hang on to.  The final push to the chains would make any Smith Rock climber proud, an engrossing run out through relatively "easy" terrain gains the anchor clip but a fall here would easily deposit you at the break some 30 feet below.
Looking uphill at the Roan, the face to the left contains three open projects.
The Strawberry Roan by Marty Robbins tells the tale of an unbroken horse, lonesome and wild and the cowboy who tries to tame the old bronc.  It couldn't be a more fitting song for the route and even more so for Kris and I's adventure projecting this route.  Upon first inspection we realized the route would go and thought that linking might not be such a project, we soon understood otherwise.  The more days we put in the more apparent it became that this route would challenge us to the bitter end, only becoming harder and harder the higher you climbed, truly gestalt.  Days of work found us slogging to the crag battling heat, driving rain, and that small voice of uncertainty in the back of your head when trying to climb a project under time constraints.  In the song we never find out if the cowboy tames the wild bronc, as the trip drew to a close we felt like despite our efforts, this Roan would also go unridden. 

On our last climbing day we both warmed up and gave a solid effort, each of us falling high on the route.  We both lowered, reticently accepting defeat and we began the mental process that follows such heartbreak.  However; Lindsay was insistent that we both try again so I tied in and set off on what I felt was going to be a wasted journey up the route.  The bottom crux felt desperately hard, my feet cut, and all I could focus on was the fatigue engulfing me.  I groveled upward and realized just how exhausted I felt, with my left arm cramping it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the pump.  

And then I let go.

Not of the rock, but of my fears and doubts, of the pain in my arm, of all the failed attempts, all of it... I just let go and went climbing.  

I worked through the sequences not aiming for the chains but instead simply being in the moment and enjoying the amazing climbing up this brilliant piece of rock.  I wish I could say that I began to feel better and was charged with excitement but that wasn't the case.  I just was.  I reached my high point and just kept climbing, executing each precise movement exactly as I needed to.  The pump was there I think but in truth I can't really remember, maybe it was the screams of encouragement from below, helping to keep me in the moment.  As I clipped the anchors overwhelming elation and disbelief flooded over me, I had succeeded at one of the most meaningful and difficult climbing goals I had ever tried. I immediately thought of Todd and his vision for the route, I felt deeply grateful that I was able to share in a little piece of that dream.

As I lowered down another wave of gratitude washed over me, this however was directed at my partner Kris.  I would never have done the route if it hadn't been for his help.  We approached the project as a team and together we unlocked sequences, encouraged each other when we were gripped, and over the course of the trip, became the best of friends.  I think I'll always remember a little bit of that feeling at the top, but the greatest tick I'm taking away from this experience is the partnership I had with Odub.  I felt very honored to climb on the Roan with him and walking away with the send was both exhilarating and grounding.  Kris' last attempt on the route left him just a few moves shy of sending, a valiant effort on his part from start to finish.  He'll be making a trip back this fall to finish off the Roan and I can't wait to join him and hold the rope as he clips the chains.

When we got back to town that night, all of our friends were gathered at the Lander Bar and a stealthy text message from Odub on the drive down had let them know of the days events.  I was greeted with a standing ovation from the Lander community, cheers and beers all around.  The Strawberry Roan experience came to a head at that moment and I felt very humbled by the support of the community and so proud to have been able to play a small role on a much larger stage.  The Roan challenged me as a climber in every way possible and I can say without a doubt it's the finest route I've ever climbed. I can't close without the most sincerest of thanks to everyone who helped make this send possible.

Kris Hampton, Lindsay Gasch, Annalissa Purdum, Adam Amick, BJ Tilden, Micah Rush, Colby Frontiero, Kyle Elmquist, Jonathan Siegrist, Evolv Climbing, Amy Skinner Underwood, Ty Mack, Tom Rangitsch, and last but not least Todd Skinner.

Keep an eye out for the finished video of Kris and I's adventure and a huge Thank You to Evolv for their support on this trip.

Enjoy the photos, and remember - Stay On Mission

Baby rattler on the way down from Wolf Point

Rainstorm rolling through Red Canyon

Fire fighter Micah Rush on the 4th of July

J-Star, BJ, and Em lit by Lander fireworks

Skinner kids artwork at the mountain house

Adam Amick setting up the interviews at the mountain house

The river crossing with the Roan cliff line in the background

Hiking down in the storm, smiling all the way

Adventure climbing entails getting wet every other day

Brilliant Lander sunset

Micah, BJ, and Tom showing their support for the Lander Bar
Adam filming the headwall crux section




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spain Recap

As many of you know, Lindsay and I travelled to Europe on the 28th of October for three and half weeks with our friends Matt and Katy Garvin.  The trip was as spectacular as anyone would imagine: amazing food, even more amazing rock, funny (& sometimes frustrating) travel issues, a full on "European experience".  This post is overdue as we've had numerous requests for photos and stories, I take full credit for the tardiness in writing this, however settling back into our "real lives" has been a struggle.  True to the stereotypes we hear about, the Spanish live their lives with a sense of ease that we just don't see very often here in the USA.  Everywhere we went we noticed a more relaxed atmosphere and general feeling of calmness.  No one is in a rush, a glass of wine or beer is enjoyed before starting the work day, everybody's always laughing and talking with friends, they take time to enjoy all the aspects of everyday life regardless of the tasks at hand.

We fell into the rhythm of Catalunya very quickly.

When in Rome...

We arrived in Barcelona and headed northeast toward France with our final destination being the small village of Carentino Italy.  Jet lag does funny things to a person and can cause their rationale to stray from true center at times.  I experienced this when we picked up our rental car.  Despite not really speaking much Spanish and having absolutely no clue which way to navigate towards, I took off out of the car park like a bat out of hell - fueled by the excitement of having finally started our European climbing trip.  Twenty minutes later our GPS was squawking at us in Japanese, Lindsay and I were screaming at each other, all while being engaged in what I can only call NASCAR style driving in downtown Barcelona at 100 kph.  Lesson learned; take your time, you have all day.

After what seemed like a week in the car (it was only about nine hours), we found ourselves at the country house of my "aunt" Wanda.  Nestled in the rolling valleys of the Piedmont, her charming farm house could be the setting of any foreign love film or post card- "gorgeous, beautiful, wish you were here..."   We spent the next couple of days eating delicious meals owing their heritage to the fields and farms of the region.  Locally raised beef, locally grown wheat pasta, local wines from local grapes, each meal seeming more rich and flavorful than the last.  We laughed a lot trying to learn Italian from my cousins nine and four year old children, "mandiblo" means Jaws (like the shark) that's about all I retained.  It was a cherished experience to spend time with my family.  Despite the subtle language barrier we relaxed in an atmosphere of welcoming and contentment, our time in Italy was a blessing.

We left Wanda's after a few short days and headed back to Barcelona to pick up Katy and Matt (who flew in three days after us).  After joining forces and drowning some jet lag, we pointed the car towards the Catalunyan interior and the stunning mountain village of Siurana.  I had visited the area in 2004 and it was just as I remembered, endless cliff lines weave in and out of deep ravines and hillsides scattered with rosemary bushes and scrubby pines.  To the east a faint view of the Mediterranean sea, to the west a panorama of the La Morera de Montsant, a cliff line 400 feet tall that stretches beyond your eye's reach.  We had arranged to stay in a bungalow at the climbers campground and we called that little wooden shack with paper walls our lovely little home for the next week.  I have always likened the climbing of Siurana to that of Smith Rock in Oregon.  It's a very old area as sport climbing goes and it's age is reflected in the style typically found on many of the cliffs, slightly off vertical walls comprised of bulletproof, orange and blue streaked limestone.  Boasting over 1400 routes there's never a shortage of projects or lines to throw one's self at.

We sampled climbs at various cliffs during our stay, trying to stay focussed with the plethora of routes to try.  Lindsay and I found ourselves drawn to the Can Piqui Pugui sector, an older area notorious for its stiff grades and small holds.  Matt and Katy sampled more of the valley crags enjoying sunny cliffs like Siuranella Centre, a newer area comprised of beautiful orange limestone. At night we drank Cap de Ruc wine and had slideshow presentations of the photos taken that day.  Rest days included scampering around the seemingly ancient village of Siurana (the last Moorish stronghold that was conquered in 1154) and the quaint little village of Cornudella de Montsant in the valley below our ridge top abode.  After a handful of days shredding our tips and fueling our psych, we decided to move north to an area known to climbers simply as Terradets.

Upon our arrival at the Hotel Terradets we realized very quickly we had made the right decision.  We mentioned that we were climbers and instantly we were treated like VIP guests.  With a discounted rate on our rooms, they included breakfast and a three course meal each night (complete with wine)!  Needless to say our basic travel needs were met, feeling like we had stumbled into the lap of luxury all we had to do now was enjoy the famed tufa climbing Terradets is known for.  The sweeping wall of Bruixes catches many hours of sun and offering routes from 15 meter power problems to 35+ meter enduro-pump-fests, there's something for everyone.  We spent the majority of our time at sector Bruixes but also sampled the rope stretching steeper wall known as sector Regina (named for the towering 600 meter wall across the valley).  Tufas abound on nearly every route in Terradets, from tiny fins that look like ribbons glued to the wall to massive columns and pinches that stick out from the main wall as far as two or three feet.  The style of climbing is unique to anything we have here in the states and required us to adapt quickly or find ourselves hanging on the end of the rope with our throbbing forearms to blame.  Our Maple training from the summer however seemed to pay off and we were both able to send routes like El Latido del Miedo, a brilliant 8a at Bruixes.  The name means - "the heartbeat of fear", they even name their routes better than we do!

The remainder of our trip was spent basing out of the hotel.  We said goodbye to Katy and Matt on the 17th (they headed to France to try their hand at the bouldering in Fontainebleu) but remained in the area to finish off a couple of routes and explore the nearby crags of St. Llorenc de Montgai.   The area around Cellers (the small whistle-stop our hotel was located in) is nothing short of breathtaking; in truth, the same could be said for nearly every basecamp and town we stayed in/passed through.  The old-world town of St. Llorenc is maybe the single most perfect place I could ever imagine living, perhaps that's why climbers like Chris Sharma call this little paradise home.  We had the good fortune to stop in and see our friends Joe and Colette in St. Llorenc, Joe recommended we check out the Disblia caves outside town, an "old school" area that at one time boasted some of the harder routes in Spain but is now just a training crag for the elite climbers living in the area.  It was a joy to experience the routes there and our one day put so much into perspective for us.

Those particular caves are passe and now considered "not worth visiting" by the who's who of climbers in Spain.  If those two caves were in the USA they would be top destination areas despite their relatively small size.  Basically Spain's shitty little crags are just as good if not better than many of our primo areas here at home, perhaps notions like this are what help conjure up thoughts in my head like "I think I was born on the wrong continent..."  Combined with all the other spectacular areas within an hours drive, it's no wonder why the region of Catalunya has become one of the biggest destinations world wide for hard sport climbing.  The region will certainly see us visit again, hopefully sooner than later.

Like all adventures however this one too had to come to an end.  We said our goodbyes to the staff at the hotel Terradets on the 21st of November and headed back to Barcelona to see some city attractions, shop, and enjoy some Mediterranean cuisine before we headed back home.  We spent our last night in Barcelona drinking spanish wine, eating seafood, laughing and regaling one another with our favorite highlights from the past few weeks.  All in all, our trip was nothing short of a smashing success.  We all commented numerous times how good our trip Karma was.  We had perfect weather for nearly a month, and other than a couple of small dings in the rental car traveling was quite easy and drama free.  We met so many great people along the way and I forgot how much I relish the opportunity to converse with people not hailing from the USA.  We ate delicious food and drank more wine than any of us knew we could.  Undoubtedly we'll go back to Spain and Catalunya, we're already hatching plans for an extended trip in a couple of years.  Enjoy the photos, all told we took over 1400 pictures, these are some of my favorites~


Apartment building in Alessandria, Italy

It's artistic and European...

Wanda's farm house in Carentino, Italy

Wanda and Lindsay in downtown Alessandria

A castle viewed from the autoroute in France

We knew we were going to climb hard when we saw that the water in Spain is "fatless"

"...this is so good, just gimme a fist pound for the hell of it!"

Lindsay on Hostia 7b, Siurana

Flashing Hostia, Siurana

Enjoying our first sunset in Spain

The Panta de Siurana seen from Can Melafots

So psyched on being in Spain

The kitchen/living room of our bungalow

Yeah for not sleeping in a tent!

Katy giving us the grand tour

The church in Siurana

Lindsay in Siurana
Columns on the church in Siurana

Rest day fog


On the way to the valley crags

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Matt throwing down an impressive onsight on a 7b in the valley, Siurana

Just another night in the bungalow

Reviewing the days photos

The dining room in the bungalow

Fresh produce in Cornudella de Montsant

Cornudella streets

The church in Cornudella

Not sure what these trees are called but we loved the bark

Cornudella rest day activities

Lindsay

Matt

Katy

Leif

The terribly impressive wall of Can Piqui Pugui

Lindsay standing in front of "the most perfect pitch of 5.13 I've ever been on", Souxie 7c+

♥ Espana

The view of the Pyrenees from the Hotel Terradets

Lindsay on Energia Positiva 7c+, Terradets

Looking down the wall at Bruixes

The breakfast view from our hotel

Hiking back down from Bruixes

The stunning El Latido del Miedo 8a, Terradets

Rest day in Tremp

The fun boulevard in Tremp

Old Spain and New Spain, Tremp

Cafe con leche's all around

Lindsay and Katy, Tremp

Cocktail/Game time at the Hotel Terradets

"dun't suck here 'tall"

Matt crushing a lap on Orient 7c+, Terradets

Matt on Orient 7c+, Terradets

Hero shot of Matt Garvin on Orient 7c+, Terradets

The training facility outside the hotel, right next to the train tracks

Matt working on his knee bar skills 
Lindsay working on her motocross skills



Looking across the Panta de Terradets towards the mountain village of Llimiana

Organic Climbing's Japanese distributor on El Latido del Miedo

Rest day exploring in Llimiana

The church in Llimiana

Built to last, Llimiana

The lovely Matt and Katy Garvin

The group shot

What they all really wanted to do instead of the group shot

Miscellaneous wall on the way to Regina, not a single route exists on this wall

The "big boy britches" sector Regina

Lindsay 



Paret de les Bruixes

The view from Joe & Colettes apartment in St. Llorenc de Montgai
Interview in St. Llorenc


The panoramic view from the Disblia caves, St. Llorenc

Chaxi begging because skinny dogs aren't cool in Spain

Hiking down from the Disblia caves, St. Llorenc

Lindsay at the Parc Guell, Barcelona

Parc Guell, Barcelona

Parc Guell, Barcelona

Parc Guell, Barcelona

This dude didn't move for like 15 minutes, not even an eye blink, kind of creepy

Spanish tag
Our last meal in Barcelona, seafood and Montsant wine

My most favorite person in the whole world, so thankful I got so enjoy this trip with you!


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