Sunday, October 25, 2009


DISCLAIMER: If you are only interested in my climbing exploits, read no further.

Tonight I had a celebration dinner for my ascent of Cheating Reality. I'm mainly writing this post to give props to my super good friend Noah because he hooked me up with an amazing bottle of wine as a celebration gift. This bottle, Caymus 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, is currently one of his favorites... and now is one of mine. Thanks Noah.

Noah Kaufman

Inspired by this good wine, I wanted to cook a meal that was worthy to be shared with the wine. If you don't know already, cooking is one of my hobbies. I decided to do Filet Mignon stuffed with a wild mushroom pate drizzled with a red wine reduction. I served brocollini on the side to give a freshness to balance the meal. All told it came out great. The wine was phenomenal --- extremely chewy with strong berry tastes mixed with mocha at the front, powerful tangy tannins in the middle and a smooth long lasting finish. Really enjoyable! The meat was local Colorado beef and was amazing. My best bit came late in the dish when I was hit with the acidity of the reduction quickly followed by the rich creamyness of the pate and then the full flavor and texture of the beef. A great meal to celebrate a great climb. Below are two photos of the meal.

Hope you don't mind the non-climbing / personal post.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cheating Reality

Yesterday I completed a project that I'd been working on all fall. This is the one I mentioned in the previous post.

This line is amazing! I'm so psyched to have completed the first ascent.

The route climbs the North Face of the Devil's Thumb in the Boulder Flatirons. For those of you familiar with the Flatirons, this is the incredible overhanging face that is visible from most places in town. The Devil's Thumb feature protrudes from the ridge at an angle creating a dramatic big overhanging face on the uphill side. The route had been done partially as an aid route many years ago. There was some fixed gear leading to two old 1/4 inch bolts about 2/3 up the wall. Nothing else on this overhang has even been attempted.

Devil's Thumb
(my route is just around the corner from the left arete)

The route involves face climbing to a obtuse technical corner with a thin seam. This seam ends at the old aid anchor. From here there is a blank bulging wall that leads to a slightly overhanging headwall. The bulge has one crimp that is used to generate an improbable leftward dyno to a sloper at the top of the bulge. Stuck in an iron cross compression between the sloper and the crimp, I have to swing my feet up high and left to hook a jug that allows me to pull my body farther left to grab better holds. There is a decent rest here and then a final powerful and crimpy boulder problem section. In classic form, the route ends with a mantle onto the slab that leads to the summit of the formation.

Though the route had some fixed gear, I decided to lead it completely on natural protection. This made the route a bit scarier, but also more clean. The first section (up to the end of the aid route) requires some 5.12a R (maybe R/X) climbing in the first 40ft. Then the gear gets better. The route's crux move is well protected by two adjacent pieces. After the crux you get some gear before embarking on the headwall but it's a bit marginal. The final headwall crux (which is about V7) is done with your feet about 5ft above the marginal gear which is about 7ft above the good gear --- definitely a bit scary. Because of the inherent danger, I decided to take a headpointing approach to this route. Prior to my ascent I did it twice on TR and did it in overlapping sections other times. I also had one lead attempt where I fell at the crux because a foot hold crumbled a bit.

I decided to call the route "Cheating Reality" for several reasons. First, I knew that any play on "Devil's Thumb" would inevitably be cheesy. Second, the crux dyno move seems impossible at first and when you finally stick it for the first time, you feel like you've cheated reality. Third, the gear was a bit scary and by not falling on the route, you are cheating reality. And finally because I feel like I have cheated reality by getting to do the first ascent of this amazing feature right outside of Boulder, the climbing capital of the US.

As for the grade, I'm suggesting 5.14a R. It's difficult to rate a route like this because it's bouldery and heady, so it'll be nice to get other opinions down the line. The climbing stacks up like this. 5.12a R climbing to a good jug rest. Then a 10ft. technical 12b/c section leads to good jugs but bad feet. This position is good enough to stop for a while to place gear and compose yourself, but is taxing enough that you can't treat it as the kind of rest you camp out at (at least I can't with my endurance). Then you launch into the crux which is really a five move sequence. As a boulder problem this feels like V10. After the crux you get a decent rest where you can relax a bit and prepare for the end section, though again, you can't stay there for ever. The final moves take you to a big undercling and then a small right hand crimp. From this crimp you have to dyno left to the slopey arete/lip of the wall. You climb up a few moves and then mantle over. This final headwall is probably about V7 (maybe V8) with most of the difficulty focussed on the move to the lip.

The rock quality on this route is for the most part really good and the climbing is varied (intricate, technical corner moves mixed with thuggy dynos on crimps and slopers). The location of the Thumb is extraordinary and the bottom of the route has a perfect flat rock to chill at. All in all this is a world class route. The bouldery nature of the climb appeals to me though others who prefer more consistent routes will probably find it a fault. I think it will be a Front Range classic for sure and I'm hoping that others will go out and try it. Don't let the 1h 15min hike deter you --- it is totally worth it.

For this ascent I had a webbing anchor hanging from gear at the top of the route. I'm planning to put in an application to replace the existing anchor (including moving it to the top of the route). I'm also planning to remove the fixed gear on the route which I feel is unecessary including: 1 head, one knifeblade, two old 1/4 inch bolts, and one 1/4 bolt without a hanger. If anyone knows who put this gear in and how to get in touch with them, I'd like that info. It would be nice to get his/her opinion before changing the route. Though removing this gear will make the route more dangerous, it will also make it more pure. The route can be done without any fixed gear so it seems to me that it should always be done that way. Ultimately, the real difficulty in the route comes above the old aid anchors where the only choice was natural gear (given the current Flatirons bolting restrictions). Since that is the style up there, I think it should also be the style down below. Finally, it's my impression that the former aid route has had very little attention over the years and so very few people will be affected by the change. In fact, it will still be aidable though perhaps a bit more spicy.

Here are some photos that Andy Mann shot of me on the route. These are outtakes. Hopefully you'll see some of the best images in print somewhere. I'm also hoping to capture some video of the route soon. I think video will truly do the line and the feature justice.

Working the crux on TR
(this view doesn't show the angle of the wall well)

The rest just after the crux

Climbing the seam in the corner

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Short Trip

Hello everyone in internetlandia. I've been consumed with school work since my trip to Canada and haven't had many interesting things happening on the climbing front. That said, I'm hoping that things will start picking up even though October is going to be a busy month for me.

Most of the climbing I've been doing is on a trad project around Boulder. I'm really psyched on the route and hopefully it will go down soon. I've done it on TR twice and have come close to a redpoint. The lead is a bit heady so I've only had one go on it. Right now the weather is terrible in Boulder so it doesn't look like I'll be able to get back on it soon. Hopefully things will clear up next week and I'll get out there and fire it. I'll definitely post more info when I do it. In the mean time, I've been just climbing a bit indoors and around to stay in shape.

Last weekend I took a trip to Moab, UT and had a great time. It was really nice to be in the desert and the weather was perfect for climbing. I went out there with my girlfriend Sandy and met up with some other friends there. On Saturday we climbed in Indian Creek at the Reservoir wall. This was my first time to this cool crag. The highlight of the day for me was climbing Less Than Zero 13-. Often I get a bit bored with the monotony of Indian Creek splitters, but this climb was super varied. Most of the the hard parts involved off balance liebacking on changing corners. I hung my way up the route on my first go, worked some sections on TR on my second go and led it clean on my third go. At the end of the day I did the classic Slot Machine 11+ which is tight hands and hands in a acute corner forever. The line is super aesthetic, but definitely on the repetitive side.

After a day in Indian Creek, Sandy and I took off to Mill Creek for a change of scenery. I'd never climbed there and so was super excited. The routes are on the short side and tend to be bouldery. It was pretty cold when we started the day but then conditions became perfect. I climbed Sinister 12c as a final warmup and then tried The Bleeding 14a. This climb was really cool and I did all the moves except a hand switch and a foot movement. It felt like it could go with some more effort, but not in the one day I had. At the end of the day I tried Tiki Man 13c and surprised myself doing it second try. That climb is really fun and I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in Mill Creek.

Unfortunately I don't have any climbing photos or video but here are a few photos from the trip.

Weather coming into Indian Creek on the day we left.

Sandy fixing some breakfast before leaving for Mill Creek.

Beautiful camp site near Mill Creek

The aspens were beautiful at 8000ft. this time of year.

Definitely a pretty area.