Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Spring Indian Creek Action

This past weekend was another journey out to Indian Creek. It was much cooler than the previous weekend, and almost ideal temperatures for climbing. It was a bit windy and dusty, though. Anyways here's some shots, mostly scenic, but a few action shots.

The Freedom Mobile with the Disappointment Cliffs in the background.

A horse and a pony grazing out in the Broken Tooth area.

The Reservoir Wall (left) and the Paragon Prow (right).

The Bridger Jack Mesa at sunset.

Alex on Trip to the Vet, Cat Wall.

Climber on the classic Rock Lobster, Broken Tooth Wall.

Lou on the off-width climb, Incisor, Broken Tooth Wall.

Clouds looming over the Fin Wall.

Freedom in front, Broken Tooth Wall in the background.

Below is a link to the Indian Creek guidebook. I'm hooked up through Amazon, so if you buy it from them I get hooked up! word.

Indian Creek: A Climbing Guide

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"It's Gettin' Hot in Here" Spring Indian Creek Photo Essay

After many days spent climbing and camping at Indian Creek this winter, the spring has finally arrived. I was there this past weekend with my friends Seth and Adam, and was shocked by the heat. It was almost too hot to climb in the sun at certain times of the day. So spring fever is upon us, here's the best photos I took over the weekend, which included a first free ascent of a new line on the Broken Tooth Wall.

Seth Calkins getting ready for an Unnamed pitch at the Optimator wall. Wish I had a closer up picture of Seth, because he had a sweet "chops" mustache going on.

Calkins on Anunnaki, at the Optimator Wall. This is one of the most aesthetic pitches at The Creek, and supposedly stays dry during a rainstorm, according to the guidebook.

Adam Ferro onsighting Double Bock, at the Optimator Wall.

The message board near the Bridger Jack Campground. Even if you're not waiting for a note, this message board often has entertaining messages like this one. Since there's no cell service at The Creek this board serves as the communication center.

The North Six Shooter, seen from the Creek Pastures campground.

Charlie taking a nap at the Second Meat Wall. The Six Shooters are in the background.

Adam Ferro on the first free ascent of Snaggle Tooth, a route on the far right side of the Broken Tooth Wall. Two Tent Timmy and I put this route up over the winter, and I was psyched to see Adam get the first free lead.

The sunset while driving back after my time in The Creek. Photo taken just outside of Dolores, Colorado. Every time I leave Colorado, no matter how short, I'm always psyched to see the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" sign, and I immediately feel at home.

Cheers to you and yours getting out there this spring!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gimps On Ice Photos

This last weekend I was at the "Gimps On Ice" festival down in Ouray, Colorado, which was organized by Paradox Sports. I was covering the event for the Durango Telegraph, and my story will appear in the paper on March 17th. I also plan on writing an additional blog piece, and I'm currently going through pages and pages of notes from various interviews.

The event was the most inspiring thing that I have ever been a part of, and I've had a buzz all day as I reflect on everything.

The words will come, in the meantime here are some photos that I took.

Chad Jukes and his girlfriend Gina Kitchen. Chad is an Iraq war vet and a below the knee amputee. He's also a great guy, and quite the trumpet player. He's the person that introduced me to the Paradox Sports community.

Sydney Tall climbing ice at South Park. Sydney is an above the knee amputee, and wise beyond her 20 years. I randomly met Sydney on a train to Salt Lake City three years ago when I noticed that she was traveling with climbing gear.

Pete Davis tying in. I've known about Pete for over a decade, but this was the first time I've met him. He is currently an ice farmer at the Ouray Ice Park, and lives in Ridgway. Hope to rock climb with this guy some day, as he has an evident pure passion for climbing.

Director of Operations of Paradox Sports, Chad Butrick showing his ever present "psyche". Chad gave a presentation last year at "24 Hours of Gunnison Glory" and is a very likeable energetic guy. Chad even carried some of the participants in on his back during the approach to the climbing area.

Pete Davis climbing some ice!

Stacy Bare is so burly that it takes three men to belay him. Bare is a veteran who is the executive director of Veterans Expeditions, an organization that is part of the American Alpine Club. He told me that climbing saved his life after returning from Iraq and suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Chris Folsom and Frank from Ridgway, never did get his last name. They were rigging a pulley system to haul-up a climber who could not hike out of the canyon. Chris is an ice climber who lives in Ouray, and a dedicated volunteer at "Gimps on Ice". He also has his own program called Amped Outdoors, that he runs with his wife Deb. I am grateful to the Folsom's because they let me crash out at their house last weekend.

Chad and friend rocking out at the Ourayle House Brewery, the smallest brewery in Colorado, a one man show. I can't remember the name of the guitar player, but he was a super cool guy.

Timmy O'Neill rocking out the drums. Timmy is the co-founder of Paradox Sports, and a really talented climber and musician. He seems to have boundless energy!

The crew, obviously looking at another photographer, but I showed up just at this moment and decided to take a photo anyways.

Heidi Duce (left) and Sydney Tall. Heidi is also 20 years old, and grew up in Ouray. She currently attends Mesa State College in Grand Junction, and hopes to work in the field of recreational therapy. Her passion for climbing and helping others in the outdoors was very evident.

Austin Bushnell (left) and his buddy Tom Moody. Austin was the rock star of the event, who won everyone's hearts over with his personality and enthusiasm. Tom is a family friend of the Bushnell's.

Austin climbing with the help of Chris Folsom. Folsom helped Austin with every inch, with love and creativity.

Paradox Sports web site:

Amped Outdoors web site:

Ouray Ice Park web site: http://ourayicepark.com/

Friday, March 4, 2011

Excerpt from "Go West Young Man, In the Freedom Mobile"

Below is an excerpt, with a few photos, from the feature for the upcoming, Climbing Zine Volume 3. The story involves myself and my friend Gene travelling out west to Red Rocks, J-Tree and Yosemite, in my beat up old 1988 Mazda, aka The Freedom Mobile.

The Climbing Zine Volume 3 is set for release sometime this spring. There will be at least one zine release party aka "zine thing" at the Firebrand delicatessen in Gunnison.

Here's the excerpt from some of our experiences in Yosemite:

The alarm went off and I felt tired. Like a true fiend I headed straight inside to get coffee going. The coffee ignited the fire of my determination to finally climb El Capitan, and I felt motivated. Gene made up some grub, and we packed the two large haul bags into the Freedom Mobile.

It was still dark as we drove from Foresta into the Valley. We parked the Freedom Mobile by the El Cap meadow, and made the short approach to the wall. After the coffee wore off I felt tired, and the task of humping our gear to El Cap, while short, was draining. I looked at Gene and he was sweating heavily. Scott, on the other hand, more of a big wall Yosemite veteran, seemed to be in his element, accepting all of these struggles as part of the game.

Since Scott was the aid climbing expert it was agreed he would lead the first block of pitches. He started up, moving quickly, and then commenced to start the hauling of the pigs (the haul bags). They didn’t budge on the slab and Gene had to push them up to get started. At that moment Gene and I knew we were in for some serious suffering and hard work, and we looked at each other. I said, “You know we probably should have done a practice aid wall before jumping on El Cap.” He looked back and agreed, with the ocean of over 3,000 plus feet of towering golden granite above us.

Finally Gene had to jumar up, to assist Scott with the hauling, as they both grunted and struggle to move the haul bags inches. I jumared up as well, and thought about the time that had passed since we’d started the pitch. When we reached the second pitch, well over two hours had passed, and I thought of how daring, expert, big wall Yosemite climbers had speed climbed the entire 3,300 foot route in the time it took us to get up the first 200 feet.

The suffering and turmoil got worse as the morning progressed and turned into the afternoon. There were traversing pitches, where I had to lower out the two haul bags so that Scott and Gene could haul. I’d never done this, and the weight of the bags pulled on me and the anchor, which made me terrified. I was to the point of cursing and complaining already. But, a party was behind us, and a woman was leading up behind me, and there was no way I was about to have a meltdown front of another climber, a female one at that, just a few pitches up on the El Cap.

The woman arrived at my belay as I struggled with the haul bags, clipping into the same bolted anchor I was using. She and her partner were only doing the initial pitches of the climb, and so were equipped with a light free climbing rack, and nothing else; the same style that the speed climbing aces use to run up the wall in a few hours. They looked so free and happy. I was having problems un-weighting the haul bag from the anchor, and the woman helped me get the weight of the bags off the anchor by pushing up on them, so they could be lowered out with the remaining rope. “How far are you all going today?” she asked.

“Uh, I think we need to go back to the drawing board, maybe go do a shorter aid route,” I replied. I was already coming to the realization that Gene and I had a lot to learn about big wall aid climbing before trying to climb El Cap.

At this ledge I thought about style, and hated that we had so much weight and it was such a task to haul all the supplies up. I thought about how we had come all the way out to Yosemite just to suffer like this, because after all even if we did not realize it at the time, we were doing exactly what we’d came to do. To learn to big wall aid climb is to suffer, and then after that suffering the knowledge is attained and the rewards are found.

Finally, Scott and Gene had begun the hauling I started up the pitch. There was a traversing section where I had to lower myself out with the extra rope that was dangling off my harness. I’d never done this before and was terrified. Scott, just forty feet above, was close enough that he could offer a tutorial of how it was done. I finally lowered myself out, and like many climbing procedures, it was not as scary as the initial perception in my head. We were lucky to have Scott on board, and if Mark were there he could have provided beneficial lessons as well. Gene and I had a lot to learn, and luckily we had Scott there to teach.

When I arrived at the belay with Scott and Gene we had an enormous eruption of laughter at our struggle. I couldn’t recall the last time I laughed that hard, and felt a weight off my shoulder as I laughed to the point of tears.

We were at a spot where we could rappel down directly in a short amount of time, so we debated what we were going to do. Scott was game to continue, and I think Gene could have gone either way. I’d made my mind up at the last belay that I wanted to hone my skills some more before climbing The Captain. I expressed this to my friends, and they obliged to retreat. Sometimes admitting failure can be a blow to a climber’s ego, but at that point, I had no ego to be had, I imagined I was the worst aid climber in Yosemite, and didn’t give a damn, which in itself was a relief and a revelation. Freedom is just another word for nuthin’ to lose right?

Retreat was not as easy as we imagined. At that point there were now five of us climbers at the belay ledge, us and the other party. There wasn’t any tension though, as can happen at a crowded belay ledge, especially with failure in the air. We were sitting there trying to figure out how to rappel off with the mighty haul bags the weight of a man. The woman’s partner, a big wall veteran himself originally from Alabama, who’d already been up El Capitan, and all the other walls in Yosemite, advised us to simply lower the bags off as one of us rappelled down and clipped the bag into the next anchor. He was right, it was the most efficient way to do it, rather than having one of us rappel with the bags attached to us, and fumble down the wall. He was hilarious too, as we messed with the bags. At one point Scott had the bags in between his legs, and he joked, “I bet you always wanted to ride a fat chick huh?” in a way that only a Southerner could say. We talked to him more as Scott rappelled down, “Oh man you guys are trying El Cap for your first big wall in Yosemite? That’s ambitious. I did five or six practice walls before getting on this thing. Almost died once of heatstroke on the Leaning Tower, trying to climb it in the summer, we were so stupid…” he went on with his stories. Big wall climbers all have these stories, and more proof in my mind that every big wall climber suffers for every bit of glory attained.

I was feeling glorious and relieved when we finally touched back on the ground. It wasn’t the goal, the goal was to top out on El Cap, three or so days later, but I’d learned some valuable lessons. Gene and I talked it over, and we would take a rest day, repack and then attempt a shorter big wall route.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Next Climbing Zine, Two Tent Timmy, Snaggle Tooth and Castleton

Looking at the calendar and realizing I haven’t posted in a while, I figured in true blogging form I’d post something random. The fact that I haven’t posted in three weeks isn’t because I’m not writing, quite the opposite I’ve been working hard on the “The Climbing Zine, Volume 3”.

I’ll start there. “The Climbing Zine Volume 3” will be quite different than the previous editions. It will be at least twice as long. The writing is exclusively from yours truly, and we’re producing two different versions: a printed version with a color cover and a free online version accompanied by many photographs. I’m collaborating with fellow climber Mallory Logan, and she is doing all the graphic design work for the zine. She also had the idea to include some more photography from another climber, Zane Groves, so we’ll feature a bunch of his photos in the online version.

Fans of the Climbing Zine who enjoy other authors that contribute to the zine need not worry; “The Climbing Zine Volume 4” will be another collaborative effort. Be sure to contact me if you are interested in contributing stories or photos (or art).

I’ve just been producing so much writing lately that I decided to go ahead and write the thing myself. Look for another blog post in the near future with an excerpt from the feature piece of the zine called, “Go West Young Man, In the Freedom Mobile.”

Another piece will be about my best friend, Two Tent Timmy. Tim and I spent some time climbing together this winter, and it was reunion of sorts. Tim has been out of the climbing game for a while and returned with a vengeance after a four year hiatus.

We got to climb several days in the Durango area, and also made it out to Indian Creek for a bunch of winter climbing and camping. One of our most memorable climbs was a first ascent on the Broken Tooth wall.

I’d eyed the line on a previous trip, and took several photographs from afar to see if the route had any signs of anchors and previous travel. Back at home I zoomed in on the photos and sure enough there was no evidence of anchors.

Establishing the route went relatively well. I took a conservative approach for the beginning of the climb, hanging on pieces when necessary, and cleaning up loose holds. After a funky .75 (Camalot) section I reached a chimney off-width section that I couldn’t simply hangdog. I found it very difficult and loose and that part took everything I had in me (including placing all the off-width gear we had with us). Finally reaching the top after nearly two hour lead I felt exhausted and dreading the fact that I had to hand drill anchors in the route. It wasn’t the classic that I hoped it would be, but it was still fun.

I’d originally intended to name the route Gold Tooth Timmy, in honor of Tim (he has a gold tooth), but it was just too chossy. After a night of joking what we should call it, we eventually came up with Snaggle Tooth, and I think that’s appropriate. The route is on the far right side of the Broken Tooth buttress. At camp, over the days that followed we made a plaque that I plan to place at the base of the route. (That may have been the most enjoyable part of the new route experience.)

That desert trip ended with a lap up Castleton tower, in the Castle Valley. Tim and I had done the Kor-Ingalls route together ten years ago, and it was fun to revisit old memories. I remember being scared out of my mind on the tower previously, and it was interesting to compare how I feel about climbing now, compared to then.

I couldn’t help but think of these lines from the Pink Floyd song Dark Side of the Moon, “You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find. Ten years have got behind you.” The way time passes is incredible, but up on that tower and chillin’ with Tim in camp I feel I’m spending my life exactly how I want to.

Hope ya’ll enjoy these photos with the piece, and stay tuned as “The Climbing Zine Volume 3” comes together. I’m more excited about this project than anything I’ve ever done.



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