Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Arete Images

Here are some video stills of me on the arete I just did. Scott Neel shot these to use in the upcoming film "Rocky Mountain Highball." I think it is going to be premiering at the Boulder Theater some time in March.

Top names in the running so far are: "Firstborn" and "The Oldest Child". Vote on which you prefer in the gadget to the right - or suggest another name in this post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snowy in Boulder

This photo was taken this morning - looks like outdoor climbing will be out for at least a few days. Fortunately I sent my arete project in the Flatirons yesterday (see photo on previous post). The crux move, and only move I hadn't previously done, gave me some serious hardships at first. I just couldn't get my body into a position that would allow me to move slowly enough to the next hold. I was a bit worried that it wasn't going to go down. I switched into a slightly tighter pair of shoes to dig into the small edge a bit more and tried the move a few more times. I finally stuck it when I tried to squeeze really hard. I also leaned my body out to get a slightly better look at the hold just before going - is it possible that this subtly different body position made all the difference? Psyched that I had a chance at doing the problem, I took my shoes off and rested to de-numb my feet and rest my skin. I sent the whole problem next go, though not without difficulty. I didn't really get any of the upper holds perfectly, but persisted. At the end there is a big dynamic to the lip which is quite scary because of the height and landing. When I got there I questioned trying the move for a sec because things weren't feeling perfect. Then I decided I had a good chance and realized that I didn't want to have to link through the crux again. I overshot the lip but then came down on it and stuck it. The mantle was casual and a new classic flatirons problem was born.

I'm thinking about calling it "The Oldest Child" but not fully decided yet - I'm open to suggestions. It lies just below a big climbing feature called the Matron and seems to be the biggest in the set of boulders, like the oldest sibling of the matron. I'm thinking that it's probably V11 though it could be V12 - other people will have to try it and give their opinion (would definitely be V12 in hot weather). I think the problem is 3 stars (perhaps 3-). It's a beautiful feature in a beautiful setting with cool moves. The main detractions are a rocky landing (though no dab potential) and sharp holds. I'm lucky that I did it yesterday because the gully in which it resides will be closed from Feb 1 to sometime in July or August.

We got the send on video too and it should be part of the movie coming out soon, "Rocky Mountain Highball." Hopefully I'll have some video stills to post here soon.

Psyched on a cool FA!!! Perhaps my first good bouldering FA in Boulder.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Featureless arete climbing

Aretes have always been one of my favorite features to climb on - bouldering or roped. They come in all shapes and can require very different styles of climbing. Plus they almost always have a distinct aesthetic line. One interesting arete type is the slightly overhanging blunt prow. Partage in Font is a great example of this. These problems always require subtle body movements, strong footwork, and poor handholds. It is really amazing the what can be a hold on an arete, like a little dish that wouldn't be a good foot hold on a face of the same angle. What makes these holds useable is the fact that you can contort your body to the other side of the arete and reach around the arete to grab the hold. In doing this, you essentially change the angle of the hold by the angle of the arete. This is often the trick to climbing hard aretes. Another aspect of this type of arete climbing is the tension you keep between one hand and the opposite foot. It's a really cool feeling to be clamping the arete between a right hand sloper and a left toe smear or heel hook.

What brought up this topic, you ask? Well, yesterday I tried this project that Andy Mann showed me that pretty much fits this bill. At first we were convinced that it wouldn't go because there weren't enough holds. Then I started trying the moves and surprised myself by what was holdable. I ended up figuring out beta for all the moves and successfully did all but one. It turned out to be really cool in the subtlties of holds and body positions. It's a bit sharp and crimpy which makes it slightly less pleasant than something like the near-5 star Partage. Still I'm pretty psyched. I'll have to go back soon and try to send the whole thing. It will definitely be intersting as the top is about 15ft above the talus and the last move is a dynamic move for the lip off of a small crimp that could easily pop. I did the move on TR a few times because we only had two pads. Hopefully the weather holds around Boulder long enough for me to give another go on this.

Here's a picture of me trying this project taken by Andy Mann. Below are two photos of me climbing Partage during my trip to France last March. The conditions were perfect that day and I eeked out a flash of this amazing problem (perhaps the first flash). Needless to say, this was one of my greatest climbing achievements and was a truly special experience.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stronger fingers, more endurance, less body weight

I watched this movie, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster," yesterday and it got me thinking about the use of performance enhancing drugs in climbing. Fortunately to my knowledge, very few people in our sport engage is this sort of stuff. There are probably several main reasons. 1) there is not much money to be made in this sport, 2) the sport is less competitive than other sports, 3) climbers don't generally have lots of money to spend on this sort of thing, and 4) most climbers think pot is all the performance enhancement needed.

This movie focuses on the use of anabolic steroids in sports including weight lifting, baseball, and running. The movie tries to make a comment on American society in general, but I think it falls short in this aim. Instead it is just an interesting review of the pros and cons of steroid use. One interesting point is that there is very little medical evidence showing that steroid use is any more dangerous for a person than many over-the-counter drugs. It is 142 on the list of most common drugs related to ER visits - not very high (lower than asprin and multi-vitamins). Additionaly, there are few studies that link it to long term illness. It seems that the main reason the use of anabolic steroids is illegal is that use of them by prominent athletes sets a bad example for children.

Surprisingly, I came away from the movie thinking that steroids are really not that bad. I don't think I would ever use them because I don't like foreign substances in my body and I'm not too fond of needles. I'm glad that they are not really used in climbing because if they were, I think I would be more tempted to use them also. Even though climbing is a personal pursuit, most people end up measuring their accomplishments with respect to others. A big question is would steroids even help in a sport like climbing where strength to weight ratio is critical? I'm not sure they would be good for route climbing, but perhaps they could be beneficial for bouldering.

An even more controversial issue that will face sports in the near future is genetic modification. In the movie they show a cow that produces twice as much muscle as a normal cow because of a genetic modification. This cow is ridiculously ripped and takes no steroids or anything else. As genetic enhancements become prevalant - if they are legally allowed - it will be very hard to compare the athletic accomplishments of two individuals. Certainly harder things will be accomplished, but can you attribute the athlete or the geneticist? Of course genetics already play huge role in a sport like climbing - there are certain people who have the perfect body for climbing. This is the luck of the draw though and there are many examples of people with non-perfect genetics still excelling. But when bodies are crafted exactly for the sport, things may be different.

Climbing is lucky that it can be a strongly personal pursuit so people will always be able to try to improve upon their personal bests. Also one doesn't need to be pushing the limit to fully enjoy the sport. So the value of climbing will never be taken away. Still things could change. In some ways, this debate is similar to the debates around the use of chalk, sticky rubber shoes, cams, bolts, hangdogging, knee bar pads, etc. It seems to be of a different nature though. Any thoughts?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Project Hunting

I'd really like to find a cool trad project somewhere around Boulder. It's not so easy just finding the perfect line though - I guess the bar would just be raised if there were so many good lines. Anyway, I went on a trek in Eldo today to check out some of the higher walls on the south side of the canyon. Unfortunately I had no luck. It is really hard to tell the scale of things in Eldo - I've often seen a face that looks good from afar only to find that it's really short. The angles of the walls are also hard to determine from far away. I plan to just keep searching and hopefully I'll come across something cool and worthy. Hopefully I'll get out bouldering this weekend too.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back in Boulder

After a marathon drive (20 hours driving in 24 hours) I just made it back to Boulder in time for a meeting I needed to attend. The Bishop trip was amazing! I got to climb so many of the problems I was psyched on. Of course I left a few behind for next trip - especially the project I cleaned which is in the picture above. The picture doesn't really do it justice though - it is taller than it looks.

I climbed on Monday before leaving but didn't try the project. Early in the morning, I went back up to the Ninth, a problem I established in 2005, to film it with Brett Lowell and Cooper Roberts. They are filming for the new movie "Progression" which is supposed to come out this coming fall. They are doing a section on Bishop with Kevin doing some of the big lines including his new one. They may use the footage of the Ninth to help set the scene. After climbing up there, I went to the main area and gave some burns on the Buttermilker. My first go was really good but I didn't quite hold the swing when I took my toe hook out. The next few goes were worse. Then I tried some different beta and found a way to kneebar the last move. This allowed me to use an easier sequence for removing the toe hook. I gave it a few more tries and then just barely managed to send it. It was pretty cool to do it and I had to try hard because things weren't perfect. I only didn the problem from the underclings which goes at V12 - I'll perhaps have to try the V13 sit start next time even though it doesn't really add any hard or interesting moves. Below is a photo of my brother trying the Buttermilker earlier in the trip. To end the day, I tried Thunderbird V11 and did it on my second try. I had tried it in the past but usually only half-heartedly because I was scared of splitting a tip. This time, I used no tape and really dug into the crimp. I had to pull hard but it all worked out. The low start to this one, Direction, will also have to wait for the next trip.

My drive back was interesting - especially the section between Tonapah and Ely. I thought I had plenty of gas, but was on empty when I saw the sign that read "51 miles to Ely". I just managed to make it to Ely and literally rolled into the gas station after the car died. Lucky!!! The rest of the drive was long and uneventful. Listening to "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens helped pass the time a bit.

Now I'm in Boulder trying to get back into the groove of school. The weather is looking good though for the next few days so I'm hoping to get outside to climb. I'm psyched to try Suspension of Disbelief in Eldo. I also want to start roaming around scouting potential trad projects.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No project luck for me

Tomorrow I have to leave Bishop. I'll climb in the morning and then take off for a marathon drive back to Colorado - hopefully arriving before 3pm on Tuesday. I'm resting today in hopes that I feel reasonably fresh for my final day. Yesterday I felt pretty stiff. I checked out the project and tried the moves. It all seems to go, but there is a stopper move in the middle that is really hard. I maybe figured out some beta but didn't do the move. I'll probably give it another go tomorrow though I'm not optimistic about sending. Hopefully I'll get some photos of it that I can post here.

Yesterday we had a cool night session at the cave boulder. I tried the Buttermilker a few times but didn't feel too snappy. I'll give that a go tomorrow as well - I think I should be able to pull it off from the underclings. Dave Nunley brought out his generator and two flood lights and we had the whole cave lit up. Pretty cool. Below are some photos of the cave at night. The full moon was pretty rad too.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New project scrubbed and ready to try

After watching Kevin do his new line, I got the FA bug in me. Though my trip is coming to end, I was hoping to find something new to do. I had a couple ideas of things that I had looked at in the past. There are plenty of mediocre new problems to be done around the Buttermilks, but I wanted to do something really cool. My first objective was to check out the south east face of the Drifter boulder. I had looked at this wall in the past and deemed it not worthy. I knew however that our perceptions change over time and I was hoping to see something I didn't see before. I set a rope on the top of the boulder and rapped down the face. I first rapped the center of the wall which is quite tall. The previous day I had seen some holds that could constitute a line. Upon closer inspection, I realized that many of the holds were not solid. There could be something there, but I wasn't psyched on the quality of the rock - especially because it's high off the deck. Next I moved to the right a little and looked at another set of holds. Here the holds were slightly better and it looked like something was feasible. The crux would be very high though and would involve a long cross though off of a tiny crimp. I was getting a bit psyched on this line, but also a little concerned that it might take more than the time I have left to get solid enough on the move to try it without a rope. Finally I moved my rope to the right side of the wall. The start of al of the problems would likely have to be here because the lower part of the wall is pretty blank to the left. I saw an obvious decent crimp about 6 ft below the lip and wondered if there would be a way to get to the lip from this hold. At first I didn't find any holds and then I saw an obvious flake that looked solid. The move would be big to get to it, but it looked like the kind of hold you could stick after doing a big move. I also noticed that the topout looked a little worse in this section though there still seemed to be enough holds to keep it from being completely desperate. After cleaning the line more, I found a few more small holds that could help and came up with a feasible sequence. All in all, it's a really cool line - pretty much straight up, decent holds, interesting looking moves, and all on a tall cool looking face. The only downside is that the rock isn't the perfect bishop patina. Still the rock quality is pretty good. I'm really psyched to try it tomorrow. Probably will work the end moves on a rope to come up with to good sequence and then go for it from the ground. Hopefully I'll have pictures of the send up tomorrow.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another Day in Bishop

I was hoping to continue on the send train today but no luck. There were some other good sends in the Buttermilks today though. The coolest is Kevin Jorgenson's FA of a tall line on the east face of the Grandpa Boulder. Probably about V11/12 to a 5.12d solo. Looks rad. I'll have to try it sometime. Josh Lowell filmed it so it should be in his next film.

I tried Mystery, Direction and Buttermilker today - the main things I want to try to do today. None went that well though I came somewhat close to doing the Buttermilker from the the underclings (V12 version). Mystery still felt hard and Direction felt sharp. I'll rest tomorrow and then have another go on these the day after. Buttermilker is at the top of the list. I think I should be able to do it at least from the underclings. I have a pretty good sequence figured out now. It's hard though - lots of tension and slippery slopers - not my forte.

Here are a few photos from the past days that I like. The first two are of the sunrise two days ago. Then a photo of my two dogs the same morning. The final photo is of me just before the lip on Evilution left.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bishop Update

I've been in Bishop for a but more than two weeks now. When I arrived, the weather was pretty bad - cold and snowy. Still manages to climb the first week but it was a struggle to stay warm and loose. I was also getting over a sickness at the beginning of the trip. My main goal for the trip was to do the Mandala sit start. I had tried this a year and a half ago and came very close (fell twice on the Mandala's first move). Other problems I was thinking about are Spectre, Swarm, Direction and Evilution.

Recently the weather has been good and things have really been falling into place. this past weekend, I climbed with my girlfriend, Sandy, my brother, Andrew, and good friends Noah and Siemay. There was a lot of stoke. On Friday I climbed Evilution Direct - one of the best problems in the world. My brother had been super psyched on the route and had worked out the beta for the finish which had changed because of a broken hold. A couple days earlier, I tried the lip moves on a rope and figured out a sequence that felt solid for me. On Friday, I tried the moves once more on a rope and then sent first try from the ground. It was scary, but I felt in control. I got a bit excited at the end quickly manteled a slopey hold to get into the low angle scoop. This was not the plannes sequence, but fortunately worked. Andrew is also super close to doing the line. He took a few big falls from the lip. Below is one photo I took of him at the last hard moves. Will's Young shot some cool photos of me doing Evilution and posted them on the Bishop Bouldering blog.

On Saturday, I went up to the Swarm V14 and tried some of the moves. I had tried the first moves many years ago when it was still a project and was excited to see how they felt now. I quickly did the first move and was close to sticking the second move - a jump to a small edge with a good incut in the back. I stalled on the hold a couple of times, but didn't quite stick it. I also worked out the end sequence twice. My psyche for the line was definitely increased by watching Tim Clifford climb it a few days earlier. I also found his beta very useful. I think we used the exact same beta for the whole climb. Sandy took a few cool shots of me working the problem just before dusk.

I rested Sunday and went back to the Swarm on Monday afternoon. After three close attempts from the start, falling at the second move, I decided to take a short rest to let my skin get a bit harder. Then I went back and did it on my next go. The ascent went pretty smoothly, but I definitely had to hang on hard to not fall after the crux. I was really psyched to stick the moves and it was such a god feeling to swing out on the crimps and then swing back in without falling. I felt that this problem really suited my style - crimpy and slightly overhanging.

Yesterday I went for a hike with my dogs in the morning. I was hoping to stumble across a rad new problem somewhere above the Buttermilks, but luck wasn't with me. I rested during the middle of the day with hopes of climbing in the last hour before it got dark when the sun is no longer hitting the boulders. I warmed up some and then headed to the Mandala. There was a good posse trying it and I started getting psyched to give the sit a good go. I had worked out the moves on previous days and had also repeated the stand start on Friday after doing Evilution Direct. I fondled the key left hand crimp and was pretty optimistic about how it felt. This hold makes or breaks the lower moves because all the hard moves of the sit start involve this hold. It is a small rounded spike that you can just barely wedge two and a half fingers into. I chilled a bit longer and then sat down at the base and started. The intro moves went well and I got my fingers into the key crimp well. I held the swing and jumped to the starting hold of the Mandala stand. I just barely latched it and was uncertain if I would continue holding it. Instinctively I wrapped it int a crimp and it felt much better. I then set myself up for the long first move of the Mandala and grabbed the small hold with just three fingers. I didn't have time to get my pinky on so I just crimped as hard as physically possible and pulled up to the next hold. I didn't get this one perfect either but was still on. I launched for the next edge which I knew was a lot better and stuck it. From here I was solid on the finish, though a bit nervous because I could no longer feel my fingers and the holds are pretty solid. I pulled around and mantled the lip super psyched. It felt great to succeed on the primary goal of the trip. When I came down, my fingers we in sharp pain because I hadn't warmed them up enough for that much hard crimping. I also had small cuts on every tip that looked bad at the time but turned out to be mostly superficial. The sit start supposedly goes at V14. For me, it is probably the hardest problem I've ever done. It felt harder than Swarm. None of the moves were as hard as the Quintessential moves for me, but the link was more involved (Quintessential is a problem I did the second ascent of in South Africa and I considered it the hardest problem I've done prior to doing the Mandala sds).

After sanding my tips and resting a bit, I headed down to Evilution to watch the action there. Some people were trying both exits to the problem. Several days back I had tried the lip moves of the original Evilution line once. I knew I could do the crux move up there and was thinking that maybe I should try to climb it while things were still fresh in my mind. On the other hand, I was thinking that one Evilution ascent would be plenty good. Anyway, after watching a few people try the left exit, I got psyched to try it. I decided to give it one really good go. I figured I could do it if I tried my hardest. I velcroed up and then gave it a go. The bottom went smoothly and I felt strong on the crimps through the lip moves. The last few moves after the crux were a bit dicey because I was high and had never tried the moves before. All went well though and I found myself climbing the upper slab above Evilution for a second time this trip. They say the left version is V12 and the right version is V11. I buy this but really they feel pretty comparable. One is physically harder and one is mentally harder.

I'm really psyched with these recent ascents. The past two days are probably my best days of climbing ever. I feel really strong now and hope to carry this psyche and confidence through another couple of sends. On the top of the list are The Buttermilker, Direction, and Mystery. I'm also interested in trying the opening sequence on a new highball that Kevin Jorgenson may try to send tomorrow. I watched him do it on TR and he looks super solid. Maybe if I figure out the opening moves, I'll try the upper part. More than likely, I'll have to wait for another trip.

Blog creation

Hi there.
I set up this blog today as a place for me to post news about the things I've been doing. I'll also use if for waxing philosophical on general topics of interest. Hopefully I'll be able to post lots of pics from various trips and keep it up to date on content. My guess is that my posts will be less frequent when I'm wrapped up in my PhD work and more frequent when I'm off on an climbing trip. I hope you find this interesting and entertaining - I know at least my parents will.