Back In Action – Summer Simmering


Well, I guess it has been a while since updating the blog at all.    The summer was pretty mellow, with lots of mellow climbing and not pushing things too hard.   Injuries mounting up (separated AC joint, rotator cuff issues, finger pulley issues, high ankle sprains, back issues flaring up, foot funk, etc) in conjunction with it being the “off” season here were mostly to blame.

 

It started out with a fun long weekend in the Mammoth area to celebrate my birthday with a great crew of friends.  Folks came in from all over and in spite of the weather forecast (and actual weather) being pretty bad, everyone stuck it out and had a great time.  The fact that these people hung out in poor weather, tent-bound (thankfully we had several E-Z Ups) for a good bit of the time is a testament to the character of my friends.  I’m lucky to have them.   Here are a few pics from that weekend:

 

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Optimistic skies ahead while driving through the desert

 

Track 1:

 

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A few members of the tribe

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Ten Cuidado! Brewery visit

 

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Good folks

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In between storms

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Travis bouldering on the last day

 

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Ben hurling the discos

 

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Weston hurling the discos

 

 

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A number of strategies were employed.  Travis ready to huck and Shawn looking on

 

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Sam and Weston at Convict Lake

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We went on a fun hike, with a detour to a really cool creek

 

All in all that was a super fun trip with a great crew of close friends.  Definitely was bummed out that a few folks couldn’t make it, but in most cases it was simply “life happens” – hopefully more folks can make it this upcoming year.  All about having a good time!

 

Travis and I went for a wander a few pitches up the Prince of Footpain (Darkness) at Red Rock

 

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Travis on PoD

 

 

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A lovely day in Black  Velvet Canyon

 

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Scrub Oak

 

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Some fun sport climbing after, Weston leading

 

Track 2:

 

The foot funk issue I had been dealing with for most of the spring finally had subsided, so it was time to hop on some longer stuff.  Unfortunately, just as that cleared, I sprained my ankle running at Mt Charleston, but did see some sweet bristlecone pines

 

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Ankle brace

 

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Cool flower, yo

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Trees older than our country

 

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Weston launching into the roof of Grippity Gravity

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Seth following Grippity Gravity. 

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Seth on his first trad lead, Ragged Edges

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Seth leading Bigfoot

 

Travis and I went up to Bishop to climb in Pine Creek Canyon, taking a lap on one of my favorite routes out there.  The 7 pitch 5.10c John Fischer Memorial Route provides an excellent, user-friendly slab experience and goes very quickly.  The route is super civilized, with each rap requiring a 70 meter rope and having mussy hooks.

 

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Travis following a pitch down low

 

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Travis following the crux pitch

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Views from the route didn’t disappoint

 

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More sweet views

 

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Beverages stashed in the creek

 

Last summer, Mike and I attempted “Only The Good Die Young” in Black Velvet Canyon.  While that was certainly pushing the grade for me at the time, I got my ass handed to me on that route.  I wasn’t fast at all leading and we both agreed we got worked over pretty well.  We topped the second pitch around 1pm and the sun was about to hit us plus Mike had to be back in town to spend some time with his lady.  This year, we returned quite a bit better at face climbing and had a blast romping up the route mid-summer.  For a comparison, we started a bit later and were back at the Black Velvet trailhead before we bailed last go-round.  Progression is super rad!

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Mike following P1

 

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Mike following P2

 

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FINALLY got to climb the mega fun third pitch

 

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This pitch has a cool “edge of the universe” feel to it, even though you aren’t far off the deck

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Mike following

 

I didn’t snap any photos on the last two pitches, but a hard traverse leads to easier technical edging and then some interesting easier terrain.  Only The Good Die Young is a super fun climb, and not to be missed.  A fun half day adventure.

Track 3

 

We did this route in early July, and much of my July was spent on the home front after a late June trip to Portland (super fun).  Another Portland trip idea was launched, to meet up with one of my best friends to go climb in the North Cascades.  The weather, however, did not cooperate but we made the best of it.  A big cold front swept through and made the areas we were hoping to climb quite soaked, so instead a late July trip to Smith Rock (!!!!) was in order.  I had never been, and Aaron knew the area, so off we went.

We arrived in the late afternoon our first day there, so went to the Gorge to climb some basalt.

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Aaron on an awesome 5.9 route we did

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Weston on some 5.10a, very fun

After leading those routes, there was a super fun 5.12b arete to the left we threw a toprope on.  One of the best pitches I have done anywhere – I do recall the name of that one, I believe it is Catalyst/Child Abuse.  Amazing route.  Unfortunately I had incurred a should injury while toproping it, so the next day we would have to keep things pretty mellow.  This wound up not being the worst thing ever, and we found a route with a cool name (Aaron is a HUGE Metallica fan) that got a lot of stars and decided to do it.  “Wherever I May Roam”

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Aaron following down low on “Wherever I May Roam”

 

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Weston leading out on some cool moves near the middle of the route

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Weston squinting at a belay in a cool position.   Weird half-sun, half-cloud day.

 

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Aaron and Weston atop “Wherever I May Roam” at Smith Rock

 

“Wherever I May Roam” was super fun and Smith Rock is such a cool zone….Bend was way cool as well.  After a cruise back to Portland, I was on a flight back to baking Las Vegas.  While I had a blast in Portland, after a few days back in Vegas I felt sort of trapped in the urban environment.  The heat was oppressive, escaping it seemed difficult, and I had yet to get my annual Tuolumne Meadows fix.  I got in touch with Jeff and we quickly decided to run up Cathedral and do some other clamberin’ while we were in the Meadows.

 

There is something about driving alone with late summer light across the high desert that just puts me into a happy place.  The ability to reflect in a solitary fashion away from work, away from home, away from everything just really allows me to be at peace.  I suppose the views likely assist in this:

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Come to find out Seth was in Tuolumne as well, so we met up and bouldered a bit the first morning we were there

 

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Weston bouldering in the Meadows

 

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Seth bouldering in the Meadows

Following a short bouldering session with Seth, Jeff and I went up the first three or four pitches of the American Wet Dream route in Tuolumne.  Neither one of us found It particularly fun and decided beers and a bag of chips next to the river sounded like more fun.

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Jeff at the base of P2?

 

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Jeff on route somewhere

 

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Views weren’t half bad

 

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DERP!

 

Down we went….to de RIVA, mon!

 

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Proper finish to the day! Jeff enjoying the end of the day by the river.

 

Jeff had never done Cathedral Peak before, and I love that route (might be my all-time favorite of all-time), so we decided the next day that a Cathedral romp would be in order.  A casual start saw us doing the beautiful hike up to the Cathedral to get some religion:

 

Track 4:

 

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Jeff simuling along

 

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Views that never get old

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High Country Best Country

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Glorious Granite, Jeff following and enjoying near the finish of the route (summit block notwithstanding)

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Jeff Jamming

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Jeff on the Summit

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Weston on the summit

 

We hung out on the summit for a minute, then booked it down to a more sheltered spot to eat lunch.  While eating lunch, we got a bit of a show as some highliners were working a line from Eichorn Pinnacle to the saddle of Cathedral Peak.  Pretty neat to watch

 

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Highliners on Cathedral-Eichorn

 

Once we got done with the route we were down the hill and back in Lee Vining in no time enjoying Mono-Ritos as the Mono Market and having a laugh about the fun times shared in the high country.  I have said it before and will say it again, while the climbing can be world class, the company is even more world class.  Climbing isn’t always about doing rad things in the hills, although that’s a part of it.  Climbing to me, or backcountry skiing or mountain biking or running or any activity outdoors really, is about the moments at the end of the ride, the end of the climb, where high fives are exchanged, you watch a sunset with your closest of friends and maybe enjoy an adult beverage or two, or a meal, and everyone is just elated because what you did was so fun.

The drive home provided me a wonderful opportunity to come down from Cloud 11 and kind of re-focus.  As psyched as I was, it was still 110+ degrees in Las Vegas and rather rugged out.  Sam and I decided that a fun day trip would be to head to Zion and do a fun hike in the Kolob and then one in the main canyon and then go back home.  We did the Middle Fork of Taylor hike to the Double Arches and then the upper Emerald Pools Trail.

 

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Didn’t take too many pics on the Emerald Pools hike, as there were about 9,000,000 tourists.  A sharp contrast from the more pleasant temps and human conditions over in the Kolob.

 

Shortly after getting home, my back started to flare back up and I had climbing plans the next day.  Ratcheting the difficulty down a bit and boosting the “adventure route” status up a bit, Matt and I hopped on Stilgar’s Wild Ride for an afternoon stroll.  The route parallels Tunnel Vision and shares a few short sections with it, including the start.

Track 5:

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Matt coming up to the shared belay point with Tunnel Vision

 

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Matt leading.  The “Tunnel” for Tunnel Vision is to the climber’s left of this shot

 

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Matt following the final pitch

 

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Views on the hike out, past the wall

 

A few days later, Travis and I came to the Angel Food Wall to climb a route that is another purported classic.  This one, Group Therapy, lived up to the billing.  A very fun after work romp!

 

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Weston leading P1

 

 

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Travis following P2 (?)

 

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Travis enjoying the therapeutic nature of the route

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Travis coming up to a belay higher on the route

 

 

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All smiles after Group Therapy for Travis

 

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Sunset and the feeling that Fall is on its way

 

These routes sort of rounded out my summer, with many great experiences had.  It’s incredible how it can feel as though you had done nothing, yet after writing up a summer’s worth of climbing, you realize you actually did do a fair bit of climbing.  I wanted to do some High Sierra routes, which didn’t happen, but that’s okay.  There’s always next summer to rage.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

Spring Spray-A-Thon Part II


Following a fantastic trip to Indian Creek, I was psyched to get to the Valley.  I was fit, I was psyched, I was….dealing with a soft toe corn, damnit!  This was a huge concern heading into the Valley for me.  Without posting pics, it is basically a very painful “toe hole” that forms between your pinky and 4th toe.  This thing was the bane of my existence from the tail end of the April Indian Creek Trip to the beginning of June.  Anyway, back to the main story….the Valley!

Track 1:

The original plan had been for Shane and I to meet up with Ben and Jon to climb in the Valley for a day or two before Shane and I launched up on to our attempt at the Nose.  Shane got seriously injured, the Nose plans tabled, and in his place another psyched, great partner of mine stepped in to join in on the trip – Robert.

Jon caravaned from Vegas with Robert and I heading to the Valley, Tioga Pass was closed, so we got to drive through the lovely Central Valley.  We drove into the Valley with light rain which gradually stopped as we arrived and pulled into Camp 4.  There were spots, a huge relief, so we quickly got our spots for the night and got set up.  Ben joined the trio of us already there.  Robert had never met Ben and Jon before, but all were fast friends after a bullshit session behind the Columbia Boulder.

Following dealing with the usual Camp 4 line shenanigans until around 11, we decided a fun easy route linkup would be in order.  Bonus points for a linkup that we wouldn’t need to hop on a shuttle bus or in our cars for.  We quickly racked up and were hiking over to the Lower Yosemite Falls area to climb Commitment to Salaginela.

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Robert coming up P1 of Commitment

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Ben leading up

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Weston psyched!!!

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Ben breaking out the Euro Chalk Blow

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Jon belaying Ben

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Oh but the views….

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Robert leading on Selaginella

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Ben up on Salaginella (I think)

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More views

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Framed

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Robert coming up on the awesome finishing flake on Selaginella

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Robert done with the flake move, which Jon deemed “DOPE!”

We got done with the routes moving pretty quickly.  My “soft corn” was on my left foot, which coincidentally was the one getting jammed in cracks the most throughout the day.  By now I was in pretty decent pain, but the climbing was over and it was time to hike down.  The climbers trail out intersects with the major Yosemite Falls trail and we quickly asked some tourists how far we were from a cool view of the Falls.  About 2 minutes worth of walking and we were rewarded with awesome views:

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Jon in front of Yosemite Falls

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Highliner visible above the Falls

Track 2:

Robert and I took off on our way down a bit quicker than Jon and Ben…we wound up running it…not sure why, but I think Robert started running and I wasn’t one to be left behind.  “No particular reason, just kept goin” – Gump

The usual raucous campfire ensued, with a couple of the party members staying up a bit late.  I awoke early to realize a certain change in our initial plans – instead of climbing the East Buttress of El Cap, we would opt for something a bit more difficult, but closer to the road.  The Serenity Crack to Sons of Yesterday linkup is one of the best every-man routes in the park, and I had heard tales of how good it was for quite some time.  Robert’s friend Ken provided us with some key beta on how to deal with the incredibly pin scarred start “pinch the pin scars and don’t fall.”  Fortunately this pitch was not mine to lead…it entails a lengthy runout  off the deck with some tricky moves right off the ground followed by very painful foot/toe jamming in pin scars.

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Robert leading Pitch 1

I followed P2 and my “toe hole”/”soft corn” was causing me a great deal of pain.  What are you going to do, though…you’re in Yosemite Valley…you climb and suck it up and deal with the pain.  I had changed my footwear from the previous day’s soft shoes to much more stiff shoes for this route, in hopes it would help.

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Party Wall with friends.  Robert following me on P2 with Ben and Jon below

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Ben leading, Jon belaying

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Ben casually onsighting the crux of Serenity

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More Ben in the crux

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Robert leading a fairly awkward pitch on Sons

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Views….

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Jon awash in a sea of granite

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More Jon following

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You guessed it, more Jon following

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Jon following the penultimate pitch

Robert finding Serenity atop Sons

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Robert and I atop Serenity-Sons.  A party shirt was worn for proper style

Serenity and Sons lived up to the hype and then some.  As a group, we were firmly on Cloud 11 and rapped back to the ground.  The route also lived up to the painful-on-the-feet rep as well…my toe was quite mangled at this point, fortunately the next day was a rest day.

Track 3:

We got up and had a leisurely day of kitty cattin’ around, getting cleaned up, running errands (groceries!), and treating our battered skin.  Around 4:00 I started to get a bit antsy and wanted to go climb…nobody else wanted to, so I took off and scrambled a few pitches and came back much more at peace. The others had been reading, and then took off to watch some events occurring over at the YOSAR site at the back of Camp 4.  When we went into Curry Village earlier in the day to use reliable internet, the weather forecasts had deteriorated significantly.  We were supposed to be in the Valley for 10 days, and it appeared we would only get 5 or risk getting stuck on the West side with the pass closed and no good climbing viable on the West Coast.

Cookie Cliff was up next on the agenda:

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Ben leading P1 of Outer Limits

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Robert leading P1 of Outer Limits

I started up on Hardd and quickly turned over the lead to Robert.  I was not climbing well and was in a good deal of pain.  This lead to quite a bit of disappointment on my end.

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Robert leading Hardd at the Cookie Cliff

After stewing about not climbing well for a bit, I finally got my wits about me and we went to another cliff rather than calling it a day.  We decided to check out Pat and Jack Pinnacle…and I opted for Sherry’s Crack:

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Weston leading Sherry’s Crack

Robert also took a lap leading it, I pulled the gear and rope for him:

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Roberto on Sherry’s

I have no pictures from our final day in the Valley, but we cragged on some quality routes at Pat and Jack, then drove over Tioga pass, ate at the Mono Market and went our separate ways.  For Ben and Jon, that was North to Reno.  For Robert and I, it was back to Las Vegas.  At least I got a few PTO days back after bailing early.  In spite of the pain and early arrival home, the Valley trip was absolutely fantastic.  I was super fortunate to get a fun, strong, supportive partner for the trip on relatively short notice in Robert.

Thank you for reading…I am trying to break up the Spring Spray-A-Thon trilogy so it is easier to read.  Please give me feedback on this method.  Thank you for your time and I hope this got someone, somewhere stoked!

Spring Spray-A-Thon Part I


Well, I’ve been putting off putting stoke-to-internet over the duration of the Spring, and figured that since the calendar now says it is summer time, I might as well begin writing things up.

 

I last left off with Shane’s injury on Iron Messiah.  To say that the loss of my primary big route partner to serious injury wasn’t a huge loss would be a tremendous understatement.  My stoke was in shambles, my training regimen quickly reduced to ‘maintenance’ level and generally was sort of adrift.  The good news was that a few friends were coming in town to climb – Ben and Roger, and they would be staying with me.  Both are two mega stoked climbers (#twostokedbros) and very solid climbers to boot.  Hearing their tales at the end of each day was always amusing and inspiring, and we finally made plans to climb that Friday, along with one of my regular local partners, Jon.

 

The initial plan was for two teams – Jon and I as well as Ben and Roger – to go for a lap on Cloud Tower and maybe play on neighboring Crimson Chrysalis if we had time.  Ben had an elbow issue that was acting up, so he decided to take Jon up another Red Rock classic in Ginger Cracks, while Roger and I climbed Cloud Tower.  #twoteamsoftwostokedbros

 

An early start was in order and delivered us to our desired routes just as those on the Vegas 9-5 grind were just getting their days started.  Roger had been dreaming of doing this route for quite some time and was super psyched, so I lead the first 3 guidebook pitches and let him have the rest.

 

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Roger following the guidebook 3rd pitch, 2nd pitch as we did it.

 

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Roger artfully onsighting the 5.12- crux of Cloud Tower

 

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Roger throwing up the horns before pulling the super fun 5.10 roof

 

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Final mega classic pitch, and if you guessed it…Roger is cruising

 

We finished the route very quickly thanks to Rog cruising away.  Moving fast on ‘big’ routes is super fun and definitely fun with someone who is as perma-stoked as Roger.  Last Fall, climbing that route took my partner and I nearly all day….less than half day affair this go round.   Once we got back to the deck, high fives were exchanged and lunch was quickly consumed.  We hung out at the base of Crimson for a while, letting the conga line dissipate a bit and waiting for our friends.  We thought we saw them pretty high on the route and we were getting a bit antsy to go climb more….so we started to get everything ready to go, when up walks Ben and Jon.  They had a super fun cruise on Ginger Cracks, so the party wall was to commence, up we went!  At least for a few pitches.  I think we did the first 3 or 4 pitches and then rapped…winds were picking up, feet were hurting from being in shoes all day, and folks were beginning to rap the route.  For as many times as I have driven the Red Rock loop and seen headlamps up on Crimson, I’ve always been happy to not be epicing.

 

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Crimson Conga

 

A pleasant hike out rewarded us with ice cold beers at the car and an amazing sunset with great company.  If a fun day of climbing in the mountains and beers with sunset and good friends isn’t enough for you to feel really good about life, I’m really not sure what more you can ask for.

 

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Jon, Roger, and Ben from L to R

 

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Cloud-10 was alright, but I’m damn near at 11

 

That evening we went back to my house, cooked up some dinner, grilled some carne, drank beers and had a fire in the fire pit.  Travis came over and joined in after he got off work….great times.   Ben and Roger left the next morning and I was left to clean up after some teenagers egged a number of houses in my neighborhood.

 

Excitement was starting to build a bit again for a trip to Indian Creek coming the following (long) weekend.  Climbing legend Jim Donini and his friends were kind enough to offer up a few spots in their camp site to let Jon, Travis and myself stay with them, so we took them up on the generous offer.  Donini has always emphasized that at the end of the day, climbing is all about the hang…needless to say, a man who values the hang as much as he does certainly chose a site that gets an A+ for that aspect:

 

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My tent, the Sabbatical Wall in the background (I believe)

 

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Donini Camp

 

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Not a bad place to hang out

Asking Jim for beta was crucial in honing in on the right aspects for the temps…he suggested our first full day that we visit the Optimator Wall and warm up on some 5.10 route called Neat right at the top of the approach.

His beta was spot on, except that I was like a moth to light on some 5.11- route to “warm up” on…not exactly the 5.10 I was hoping for, but a fun route.

 

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Weston making some tenuous moves

 

 

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Cruisin’

 

After a quick lap for all three of us on this route, we were off to the crag classic – Annanuki

 

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Weston starting up Annanuki

 

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More Annanuki

 

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Quite pumped while getting lowered

 

 

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Travis following Annanuki  –  his first 5.12

Once we were done with Annanuki, it was time for Jon or Travis to lead something.  Off we went to Supercrack Buttress where Jon got to hop on 3AM….

 

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3AM Crack

 

 

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Travis and Jon getting ready to get things rollin’

 

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Jon leading 3AM

 

 

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Views

Afternoon thunderstorms curtailed our session and back to camp we went.

 

Our second day in the Creek, Donini suggested the Reservoir Wall.  The Donini Abides, and we abided by his beta….

 

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Travis starting up the 5.10 “Warmup Hand Crack” – quite good!

 

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Beautiful Wingate Sandstone.  And Travis in the shade.

 

 

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Travis leading Warmup 5.10 Hand Crack

After laps for all around and smiles on our faces thanks to this amazing route, we were off to “Middle Crack,” a stout 5.12- fingers to off-fingers crack.  This route starts on one of the cooler perches in the Creek, with fantastic views all around…

 

 

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Mooooo.

 

 

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Reservoir Life

 

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A freedom lovin’ patriot gettin’ ready to unleash some liberty on that tharr crack

 

 

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Beautiful and difficult

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It ain’t a desert  trip ‘til yew got mud on yer helmet, HURR HURR HURR

 

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Powerful finger locks down low lead to steep off-fingers jamming up high (not visible)

 

 

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Crank crank crank

 

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Getting quite hard….taaaaaaaaaake

 

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Jon belaying Travis on TR

 

 

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That view.

 

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Jon’s shoe shot

 

Next on the docket were a few mellow climbs around right of Excuse Station and No Excuse…can’t recall the names, but they were a blast!

 

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Jon leading

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Getting artsy

 

 

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Me getting my lead on during the Golden Hour

 

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More Golden Hour Glory

 

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Not even mad.

 

That night we went back to camp and had a great time.  The next morning we all woke up quite beat up and decided a quick visit to the Incredible Hand Crack would be appropriate, since the Scarface parking lot was completely full – and I was a bit too beat up for the route I wanted to try on that wall.  I guess it’ll have to wait until the Fall!

 

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Weston starting up the boulder start

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IHC

 

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Weston leading Incredible Hand Crack

 

 

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Steep section and above were more like “incredible thin hands crack”

 

 

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Rest.

 

Following this route, everyone had smiles on their faces and were a bit tired and we took our show home.  Shane’s presence was greatly missed on the trip and Donini & Angela’s hospitality legendary.  All in all a good trip, but there definitely was a missing piece to the crew.  Next up…the trip to the Valley in May and my birthday weekend.

 

Thanks for reading!

Wrapping up Q1 of 2015


In the spirit of the business world, I figured a quarterly update might be more appropriate for a post/trip report rather than breaking this out into smaller chunks.

Track 1:

Coming off of a 2015 that kind of ended with more questions than answers, but with much to be excited about, I focused on work, training, and being ready to take advantage of opportunities as they came. Weather conspired against me which lead to much pulling on plastic, but lead to some nice skiing conditions in Utah. More on that later.

Over the last few years, we have made two social climbing trips which have become an annual staple:

1. The December J-Tree Trip

2. The January Bishop Trip.

Many of the same conspirators from the J-Tree trip were involved in the Bishop trip. We wound up having very raucous campfires the first two nights of the get-together and many laughs shared. No pics from the campfires, but I assure you the scene at The Pit was classic.

Some bouldering went down…

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Aaron and Jeff approaching

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Weston on an easy but tall problem. Photo Credit: Aaron

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Jon looking warm. Photo Credit: Aaron

Jon with his “try hard” face on

Some definite kitty cattin’ occurred. Jeff pictured.

Another shot of Weston on that tall, easy problem. So fun I ran laps.

Aaron making moves up high

Jeff waking up from a nap, Weston booting up.

 

Way too early of morning at The Pit after way too late of a night. Definitely got a few more hours of sleep after taking this shot.

 

We also did some sport climbing in the (Owens River) Gorge…saying I did not climb well was an understatement.

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Ben descending into the Gorge. Photo Credit: Aaron

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Weston (left) on a failed attempt at Grindrite, Jon (center) on Machine Gun Jumblies or Dr. Evil, and the other Jon to the right on whichever 10a the middle one isn’t

Jon making it happen above the point I couldn’t move beyond

Ben on Flex Your Head

Ben on Flex Your Head

Track 2:

Those nightly campfires weren’t just the usual BS babble….I was quite excited for the upcoming weekend. I had some huge plans in the works that I had been meticulously plotting and analyzing for a few months and was excitedly chattering away my plans to anyone in our group who would listen.

“Well, next weekend I’m proposing to Sam on our skiing trip to Brian Head.”

It was met with nothing but excitement, as I would expect….given that we had been together for 6 years at that point. LOL.

The whole next week I could do nothing but think about the whole ordeal, and the night before our trip I was bouncing off the walls excited. This was going to be the last trip we could take before Sam started nursing school and it was also her and my 6 year anniversary. I made Sam think we were staying at the Days Inn in Parowan (the town on the way up the hill to Brian Head) – she was just excited not to be camping in cold temps.

Anyway, I asked the woman of my dreams to marry me on top of the ski hill, she said yes…and in typical Weston fashion, I almost accidentally slid down the hill at the most crucial moment.

I wish we had more pics, but:

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Weston and Sam

We took a few more ski runs and then started making all of the important phone calls to tell folks the good news.

After that, we did not retire to the Days Inn – we retired to the Grand Lodge at Brian Head. Super nice spot and a great place to stay the night.

The following Tuesday (I believe it was MLK Day weekend), Sam started nursing school. She has been super busy since…and to answer the obligatory questions…no, we have not set a date. We have a location in mind, but are not 100% yet. Sam is focusing on nursing school and we will likely take on the task of whatever planning we can do during the summer time, when her course load is significantly lower. In the meantime, we are just enjoying being engaged and looking forward to the big day.

On the way home from Brian Head, we decided to check out a place I had in mind to propose at as well…but it was somewhere I had never been before, so didn’t want to have to work those logistics into it: The Kolob Canyon of Zion. One of the most stunning places I have ever been:

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Kolob Canyon, Zion NP

After a quick swing through the Kolob, Sam wanted to be back in Vegas to watch her New England Patriots in a playoff game, so South on I-15 we went…

Back to less interesting things, like rocks…

My partners were tied up or busy with other important things, so the rest of January was either bad weather or bouldering….

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Weston on Poker Chips

After not plugging a cam for over a month, Seth and I went to go check out Rainbow Canyon near Elgin, NV…had heard rumors of splitter cracks and minimal approaches. Both make me happy…they made Seth happy too….

 

Weston leading a 5.9 crack as a warm-up…and about to step over the rope.

Seth taking a lap on the 5.9 crack

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Next up was a 5.10 corner, Findlay Crack. Photo Credit: Seth

#Selfie with Seth up high.

 

Approaches were brutal

Irie vibes with funny trains coming through periodically

The sound of one hand clapping. Seth groping the arête on Sexual Basalt

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Sunset over the Nevadastani desert as we returned to Las Vegas

That trip with Seth got me way psyched to jam crack and plug cams again, so shortly thereafter I took two back-to-back cragging trips to Zion…a few highlights:

The views never get old. The Organ in the foreground, the Great White Throne in the background

Matt following Dire Wolf

Matt leading the FatHedral

Matt bgrought Frank the Monkey along…

Weston leading Scarlet Begonias

T-Pain leading through the roof of the CLASSIC Fails of Power

Irie Vibes at the base of Intruder in Zion

After these trips Jon, Shane and I attempted an early repeat of a new route in the Kolob. We got skeered due to looseness, hollowness, sandiness, and generally us not being up to the task:

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Weston, way too psyched to have that kind of rack for the proposed route the following day

Looking down on the approach pitches. Adventure in Zion is really, really adventurous

Me.

 

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View on the way out

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You can almost taste the freedom from here. The next morning the three of us went to Cracker Barrel in St. George for breakfast.

Track 3:

Winter decided to make its return to Southern Nevada, which presented us with some fantastic views. Sam and I woke up to snow at our house randomly on a Monday morning…so before work I took my camera for a walk…and did the same the following day:

No Camping, Yo!

Yucca

Cholla Cactus

Red Spring or Ze Eiger?

SMRSP

Calico Basin, NV

Old Man Wilson

Red Spring

Don’t Fence Me In

Once the system associated with the snow blew out, it was a long wait until the rock was dry enough to climb. In the interim, we trained in the gym, went for trail runs, mountain bike rides, and other fun activities that our outstanding backyard allows us to partake in.

Next thing we knew Jon, Travis and I would be making the pleasant approach up Juniper Canyon to climb a route that a buddy of mine put it “has the WOW factor to it” – The Nightcrawler

Track 4:

The beautiful Juniper Canyon

Weston leading P2

Travis starting the second pitch

Jon wiggling up the interesting chimney-like feature at the top

Weston leading the third pitch

Weston and Travis at a belay

The movement on this pitch is absolutely phenomenal. Jon following P3.

Jon following the incredible 3rd pitch

W leading 4th pitch

Weston leading the 4th pitch

Travis following P4

Thank God jugs for Travis!

Sweet views across the way from atop the pillar

Jon bringing it home on P4

A sunny place for shady people – Las Vegas, Nevada

Jon beginning his descent.

 

The Nightcrawler was one of the most “WOW” inducing climbs I have done. The route is fantastic and features exceptional movement in a cool position. After skepticism early from Jon and Travis due to the wide nature of the second pitch, I think they almost forgave me for dragging them up that squeeze. Maybe.

Shane came out the following weekend from Orange County and we were going to hop on Inti Watana. We had heard reports of ice in cracks high on Mt Wilson and decided (incorrectly) in advance to rappel the route. While the raps were straightforward, and I heard we didn’t miss out on quality climbing while linking the route to Resolution Arete, if you’re already way the hell up there….may as well finish the job. Also, a strong newer local by the name of Brad passed us free soloing casually while we were rapping. So there’s that too.

Inti Watana climbs very quickly and even moreso if you link pitches. With a 70 meter lead line, we linked 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9-10, 11-12. We linked all rappels with a 65 meter tagline, but the rap to the top of 6 was pretty sketchy with the 65 meter static line.

Approach takes about an hour and a half, hour and 45.

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Vegas Locals, Braj!

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Weston approaching. Mega alpine start, yo!

Shane following the P1-2 linkup

 

Track 5:

Shane following the crux, which comes at you early, on P2 of Inti Watana

Shane efficiently dispatching the P3-4 linkup

Shane leading the S-Crack Pitch

Starting to get up there a bit

Shane following, somewhere on the route…

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“and then after that, you drop in, just ride the barrel, and just get pitted, so pitted!”

(for reference: 

)

Major exposure with Shane following the final pitch. Cool belay perch you can dangle your feet off of.

The Opposite of Low

We rapped the route, rapped a gully on established stations to avoid some entertaining and sketchy downclimbing, and were back to the car in no time. When we got back to the house, Sam had some fantastic healthy crock pot chili that we devoured ravenously. That and fresh cornbread muffins. My fiancé is incredible. The next morning, Shane took off for Orange County after high fives were exchanged…feeling quite good about ourselves after romping up Inti.

Seth and I the following weekend decided to do some sampling in Black Velvet….in the midst of Spring Break. It was, in fact, quite crowded, but we managed to mitigate the crowds and climb some quality pitches, even if our pitch count wasn’t tremendously high.

Seth on P1 of Wholesome Fullback. We went on to do P2 of Amber as well

Seth on P1 of Wholesome Fullback

Desert in bloom, even up on the cliffs.

Burlap Buttress

A party over on Triassic Sands

Seth Rapping

Weston taking off on Raindance

Doing my Raindance. This pitch is totally classic!

Seth taking a lap

The day ended with running into the Uriostes in the parking lot, cool experience! I also misplaced my ipod…in my pocket, which resulted in a thorough search of the area we had been enjoying beverages in near the parking lot. Shortly thereafter we were back home.

Track 6:

This brings me to the part in this trip report where Shane and I take off to Zion to go climb Iron Messiah the following weekend. Many of you reading this have already heard about what happened, but I will go ahead and post the pictures from during the route and then explain what happened.

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Roadside bivy, Washington County, Utah

A crack of 11:30 start leads me to not take quite as many pics as normal…

Me leading just after the crux of the route

Shane following P3

Shane taking off and linking the following two pitches

Weston following the pitches taking you into the chimneys

Weston leading up the chimneys, linking more pitches

Shane looking out….somewhere lower on route

Some rad varnish

Shane following one of the mega-linked pitches on the route

Fantastic Views

Shane taking off on the final pitch of the day…

Iron Messiah was a great route…we were in a great rhythm, climbing efficiently and well, with Shane very high on the final 50m pitch around 5pm, after starting climbing at 11:30.

I was at the belay and felt a pull for slack, which I fed out. Shane had been moving quickly and efficiently prior to this. I paid out the slack and felt the rope go completley limp…I started to pull back slack in case he had just dropped the clip, or clipped something on a sling….and then the slack started piling up on me at the belay. I quickly began yarding in slack the best I could and even had time to ask myself “What the hell is going on up there?”

Next thing I know, I’m getting yanked up at the belay a little bit. I weigh a solid 178 lbs…not easy to do.

He fell about 30’

Me: “Hey Shane, you alright?”

Shane: “NO”

Me: “Are you injured, Shane?”

Shane: “Yes….my ankle”

Me: “How bad?”

Shane: “I twisted it, I think I broke it. Hit a sloping ledge.”

From here Shane quickly asserted he would not be able to continue the pitch, and that he needed down. Quickly. Unfortunately, he was well beyond the halfway mark on our twin ropes. I had him lower down to a stance where he could build a gear anchor, pull his ropes through the piece that caught his fall, and rappel off of the gear anchor, leaving the gear in situ. Shane said he would replace the gear…which he dutifuly did when we were back in Vegas, and it nearly made me sick taking his gear from him.

I gave Shane a fireman’s belay to the anchor while he rappelled, after talking him step-by-step through rigging his rappel, checking systems, triple checking the hell out of everything. When people are injured, under durress, and about 1,000 feet up a wall, sometimes they don’t think clearly. Shane appeared to be thinking clearly, but the last thing I wanted was a bad day to get far worse.

Shane arrives at the belay with his ankle swollen, but nothing terrible. He makes the decision to call SAR. After a short while, and prior to receiving a callback from Zion SAR dispatch, we decide we are okay enough to self-rescue to the base of the route, but not to reverse the 25 minute approach. I plea with Shane that I could carry him down the loose dirt and scree slope. SAR will meet us at the base of the route, we are to call them when we are on top of the first two linked pitches.

We repeat the process of me rapping down first, talking Shane through his rigging of the rappel device obnoxiously, and then giving him a fireman’s while he rappels one-legged down the route seven more times.

Shane is kind of a pretty boy….and from Southern Cal….so it can be easy to discount his toughness. The guy is absolutely nails tough, and proved it beyond the shadow of a doubt in this whole situation. I thought he had just sprained it severely, maybe a hairline fracture…again, I was quite wrong. Other than Shane nearly shocking out a couple of times, I probably made it easier for SAR to find us not by our headlamps, or one of the rangers having done the route before, but by virtue of the string of expletives I was letting out at our incredibly tangled ropes on the second to the last rappel. 3 hours later we arrived at the base of the route.

We received assistance from two Zion rangers at the base of the route. They were very professional and very on top of it. My most sincere of thanks to Zion Rangers Andrew (or Andy? Can’t recall…sorry!) and Darren. You guys made this whole situation significantly more easy for us, still not sure how we would have gotten Shane off the hillside if it weren’t for your outstanding, professional work. They immobilized Shane’s ankle/lower leg, put an aircast on it, and assisted him on his butt-scoot down the hill. 2.5 hours later we would get back to the Rangers cars after reversing an approach that took us 20-25 minutes while healthy that morning.

Shane and I opted to drive back to Las Vegas Saturday night/Sunday morning. I wasn’t feeling tired at all (yet), still hopped up on the adrenaline and the body’s survival drugs from such a situation…and we figured we could probably get better medical care in Las Vegas the following morning. You know, sleep it off, see how the ankle is doing in the morning. We arrive at my house at about 3:45/4am.

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Shane’s ankle, the next morning

My fiance prepped the futon for Shane so he wouldn’t have to hobble upstairs and left him some things to help him get a more comfortable night’s sleep…we awoke in the morning to his ankle quite swollen. I loaded Shane into my car and we booked it to UMC Urgent Care. The docs there X-rayed him and indicated the ankle was broken in two places. Shane’s brother and father drove out from Orange County to pick him up and bring him home. Ryan and Randy, you guys rock…thank you for taking care of him.

In the garage as they were getting ready to leave, Shane was settling the gear score….and I felt terrible about it. Even though the incident wasn’t my fault, I still felt awful having one man give me the gear off of his rack due to an injury. Shorly after this, I posted on just about every spot I could on the internet to try and see if someone could get us our gear back. I received an e-mail from a kind soul that will be returning all but one cam (apparently now fixed) that we left up there. Shane’s fall also resulted in core shots to the twin ropes…

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Core Shot Twin Ropes

Back to the story….

Shane gets back to Orange County and receives top notch medical care in the ER. Apparently he actually has broken his ankle in 6 places, not the 2 UMC suspected. I’d like to reference back to that part about Shane being nails tough….yeah, that….it’s a fact.

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External Fixator on Shane’s Ankle

Shane had his first surgery on the ankle on Monday morning…had another surgery due to the onset of compartment syndrome, and will have a third and final surgery to remove the external fixator in a couple of weeks.

The gang at Joshua Tree in December. From L to R – Travis, Jeff, Weston, Jon, Shane, Aaron

The gang of us from the J-Tree get together felt sick to our stomachs over Shane’s injury. We were all far away from him and had to do something, anything, to try to boost our friend’s spirits. As we were lamenting this, Travis mentions (and sends a link) that we can send balloons to Shane in the hospital. I quickly reached out to Shane’s wife, Allison, and got his room number and confirmed we were looking at the right hospital site….bingo, game time!

We decided on the blue “It’s a boy!” balloons…with baby ducks on them….because why not:

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Shane and his balloons

As some of you may have known, Shane and I were training to climb The Nose of El Capitan together in May. At this point I could give a damn about The Nose and I just want my friend to feel better. Whoever is out there reading this, send some positive vibes, prayers, whatever you got…send ‘em his way. Can’t wait to tie back in with you brother.

“We have the technology, we can rebuild him”

We’ll get you back from this thing, stronger than ever, and we’ll make it happen bud.

To those reading this…enjoy your good health, enjoy every pitch you climb, every step you take…because it can be taken from you in a heartbeat. Climb smart and be safe out there folks.

Best,

Weston

Closing Out 2014 – Joshua Tree, Red Rock, and Zion


When I last left off, I was injured and had been pushing myself pretty hard. I’ve always been a full throttle kind of personality, it’s all or nothing for me…completely blasting or completely stopped. As my strained oblique began to heal, I visited the new climbing gym/fitness center in Vegas (climbrefuge.com) quite a bit, mostly climbing less-than-vert things so I didn’t stress the injury. My laundry list of injuries from the Fall and Summer were beginning to dwindle a bit, and not a moment too soon. I had an agenda and damnit, I needed to do my part to make sure that happened.

Just a few weeks after having to bail from Monkeyfinger due to aggravating my injury as well as the heat, Shane and I loaded his truck up and were northbound on I- 15 yet again to the sandstone paradise of Zion

Track 1:

First visit back to the rocks was a trip out to Zion to hop on Touchstone Wall, purported to be a super classic big wall. We did the first 5 or so pitches, and bailed due to quality. The 5.11 free pitch was fun, as was the 5.10 free….but it got sandy and uninspiring up high. Also add in the fact that we got only a few hours of sleep after a raucous campfire the night before with some friends from Vegas who were up to attempt Tricks of the Trade, and we got the classic/hard pitches in and boogied. One of the few routes I have bailed from that I have no desire to repeat. The position is stunning and the views just the same… Shane with the ERC (Euro Rope Cluster) seen in all its glory Me leading the 5.11 fingers free pich. Fun!

It also didn’t help that there was a cluster of fixed lines and stuck ropes festooning the lower pitches. We freed one nice party’s line which was stuck on P3, and the euro team’s cluster of ropes that were fixed on P1 and 2 (they were supposed to return and climb the route the day we did) were still there when we descended. Interesting. Shane following one of the 5.10 pitches up high

The upper pitches seemed to get progressively more sandy and I began to hear my friends’ commentary regarding the deteriorating quality of the route in the back of my head. Needless to say, they were spot on, but we still enjoyed the position greatly. Other worldy views

My partner for the route, Shane, had mentioned that the smaller walls in the Valley he had done were way more fun than this and we both agreed to go down. The injuries I had suffered in late October kept things pretty mellow, but that always provides the opportunity to share the stoke with friends who are new to climbing. Ty went to high school with Jon and I, and wanted to go climbing, so we took him out to the Civilization Crag at Red Rock to teach him the basics: Ty getting his first taste of that desert varnish

Me leading a REALLY fun 5.10- sport climb, probably the best route at the crag…and it is REALLY good

The next day Stephen and I went out to go for a cruise in the canyons. The route Stephen picked out was Ginger Cracks, one that is supposed to be a neglected classic. It lived up to the hype and was way fun and goes way fast: Stephen following P1 of Ginger Cracks
All smiles on Ginger Cracks for me, super fun cruise Views weren’t half bad Stephen following somewhere higher on the route Stephen leading the one pitch that has a couple of bolts on it up higher.

Ginger Cracks is a great half-day route, which faces North. Use caution on the rappel route via the bowl above Power Failure. Lots of loose rock present there. Also, this was the last route Stephen and I did together before he and his newlywed wife (Congrats Stephen and Jen!) moved to the Bay Area to pursue a job opportunity for Jen. Miss you bud, and am looking forward to some Sierra trips this summer!

TRACK 2:

T-Pain and I went to the monument sometime around Thanksgiving and climbed Handbone and Lizard Locks. Handbone was T-Pain’s first 5.10 lead (5.10b/c) and he crushed: T-Pain starting up his first 5.10 lead, Handbone T-Pain at the anchors of his first 5.10 lead, Handbone

Following this route, stoke was high (and temps were not) to go climb some other routes. We went and took a look at Seduction Line, but the start was kind of sketchy since the belayer was’t protected in the event of the leader falling (small loose ledge at base of route with precipice) and since the route was definitely at the very edge of what I am capable of flailing my way up, we decided that route would wait for another day. Instead we looked for something a touch more mellow (mellow being a relative term in this case) and went and climbed Lizard Locks, a classic 5.11 finger crack. Weston starting up Lizard Locks at The Monument, Red Rock Weston on Lizard Locks

After I lead the route, T-Pain ran a lap and realized his shoe had worn all the way through. It was also very cold and I gave a half-hearted attempt to start the nearby Chinese Handcuffs (5.12-) but with fingers numb and feeling like wood, realized this was a bad idea and down-climbed…we went and had some Roberto’s Taco Shop lunch and started to get psyched for the upcoming Joshua Tree trip.

I sent an e-mail out to the regular cast of characters seeing if folks were interested in going on a few climbing trips this Winter. Winter seems to be the best time of year for group outings and the long nights lend themselves to a raucous campfire scene – with both of these trips being the second annual iterations of their respective trips to Joshua Tree and Bishop.

First up was Joshua Tree… Aaron flew in from Portland on Thursday, I took the day off of work and we decided to get a crack of noon start on a route we had been benighted on our first year of climbing. The route? Solar Slab, a mega classic 5.6….last time we did Solar Slab Gully to approach it, this time we ran up the classic 5.7 Johnny Vegas to maximize the 5.easy fun. Photos courtesy of Aaron’s Instagram

We made it up and down the route in no time and only were coiling ropes in the dark after starting the climb around 11:30 on a short winter day. I also sprained my ankle pretty severely on the approach. My ankle after the climb, it swelled up the size of a softball prior to climbing solar slab

We were off to Joshua Tree with the crew the following day and caught an awesome sunset in the Mojave National Preserve… We were greeted to a dinner that didn’t suck, cooked by Jeff and Shane This trip was definitely more about the ‘hang’ than the climbing, especially with a larger group. After some beverages and dinner, we were off to do some rock climbin’ – Headstone in the dark! Party train ascent…heckling was necessary…. Shane Leading Headstone
Weston leading Headstone – note the ankle brace on L ankle

It was cold out and after a raucous evening by the campfire, those of us remaining squeezed into Shane’s camper to tell lies, half-truths, and slander one another The crew

The following morning it was cold, we were pathetic, and opted to go climb some easy friction climbs. Travis enjoying the morning sun

No pictures but climbed some 5.6 thing called Double Dip and I ran a TR on some “Battle of the bulge” route to the right, quite difficult but very good, and the others ran laps on some 5.10 thing to the right of that. They enjoyed. Following this, we decided that bouldering would be the best way for all of us to get some mileage, so off to Hidden Valley Campground we went to get our pebble wrasslin on… Some of us after deciding bouldering was a better idea that day…
Jon playing in approach shoes on White Rasta Weston playing on White Rasta in approach shoes Jeff…stoked….on something Aaron (R) and I (L) on top of the Pinhead Boulder, home to many fun easy problems Weston pebble wrasslin on the Pinhead

The next day we decided bouldering and scrambling were our best options, so off to some mellow fun stuff in the Real Hidden Valley area… Jon working it Jon airborn, myself and Aaron on the spot… Hero top-out shot of Jon Up close and personal with a Up close and personal with a downed Joshua Tree Aaron stoked on a cruisy top-out Elevated. The Crew Warming Up Obligatory Jon lifestyle shot Some fun scrambling after part of the crew had to bounce Family photo

The Joshua Tree trip was a great success. Maybe not the most climbing I’ve done on a trip, but right up there for most fun. The camaraderie among the great folks we assembled has assured that there will be a Third Annual gathering.

TRACK 3:

Back to Las Vegas, mountain biking conditions were prime… Without a double, top-three day as far as conditions on the bike trails CareFlight Helicopter

Following my ride, I arrived back to the trailhead to a very grim scenario. A motorcyclist had passed away on SR-160 with multiple motorcycles involved in a crash outside of the trailhead. My condolences to the family and friends, be safe out there.

A couple of days later I decided I was going to go rope soloin’ on a classic moderate route, Olive Oil, on the Rose Tower. The climbing went well, even if it was crowded. I kept pace with/was faster than most of the roped parties, which was cool. Had to wait at a few belays but everyone was friendly, if not confused at what I was doing. When I rope solo I lead each pitch, rappel back to my anchor, and re-climb/clean each pitch. The kind of rhythm you establish doing this is trance-like and quite enjoyable. Mid-route selfie

View from somewhere on the route, not a very sunny day. Looking South toward Mt Wilson Ice skating with Sam the night before rope soloing Olive Oil

A few days later, on Christmas Eve Day, Matt and I climbed the awesome adventure route “Fear and Loathing.” It clocks in at a very healthy 5.10+ and offers adventurous climbing, fantastic views, and an approach I felt was more burly than any other I have done at Red Rock. Matt lead the heady but easy first pitch that featured some iffy holds, after that I lead the crux pitch that included an unexpected run of the rope. That look after having to unexpectedly run it out (on terrain that wasn’t so trivial, for me, but I’m a weak ass) Matt following P2 of Fear and Loathing, a rather continuous pitch
Glorious views with flat light The enduro 5.10 third pitch with some of the most beautiful stone I have seen in Red Rock Total butt shot of Matt, but this pitch was so good. Definitely can throw your rack at it…bring lotsa gear! Matt, retrieving the rope I got stuck while coiling it (doh!) #SELFIE #OMG #LOL #LULZ #UHOH Fantastic top-out views

Matt and I were in full blown adventure mode on this route. Of the two possible sub-gullies you can choose to approach (I thought there was only one), we naturally took the one with some exposed scrambling and interesting rock. Thankfully it was well-cairned, but while we were climbing on a short day with a late start, the prospect of epicing in terrain that was unfamiliar to me was unappealing. The thought of getting off the damn thing dominated my thoughts while on the climb, even though the climbing was really good. Fortunately, the walk off wasn’t bad and we quickly got things turned around and Matt found a better descent gully. We still walked out in part by headlamp, but I made it home in time for dinner!  Christmas Eve Day was a success!

A wonderful Christmas Day was had and the following morning, way too early, Travis and I were loading up his truck and bound for Brianhead to go skiing. I hadn’t been lift-served skiing in several years, and hadn’t made any turns yet this season, so my legs got thoroughly fried. Temps were in the low teens at BH and winds were whipping, so no photos of actual skiing were taken, but pow turns were had, smile beneath balaclavas were unmistakable, and quads were burning Skiing lunch of champions at Brianhead Leaving Brianhead, makes me miss Tahoe

Nevadastan sunset on the way home

When I took Jon out for his first crack climb a few years back, he was just a boulderer – a pretty decent one. So by virtue of that, I took him up a classic, humbling crack climb for his first go: The Fox. At the beginning of 2014 Jon made a New Year’s Resolution to lead The Fox by year’s end. He finally agreed to give ‘er a go before the year ended. I agreed to fix a line and shoot him leading the route and the next thing I knew I was hiking to the top of the climb with a rope, a pair of ascenders, and my DSLR. These are a few pictures of what followed…

TRACK 4:

Seeing Jon follow his Resolution through to fruition, and what it signifies as far as his climbing, and being able to see it come full circle on a climb like that was truly special, and I am humbled to have been able to shoot some photos of him on this route accomplishing what he set out to.

The rest of the close of the year resulted in mucho sport climbing and bouldering. I am super fortunate to have such incredible and fun friends as well as access to a selection of active lifestyle choices, and while nothing I did in the final bit of 2014 was too huge, it sets a fantastic stage for what should be a tremendous 2015. Happy New Year and thank you for reading! The Kraft Boulders

Awesome Autumn – Cloud Tower, Donner, More Red Rock & Tickling the Toes of Giants


When Spring of 2014 came to a conclusion, I was pretty disappointed. I had trained hard, put in a lot of work, and never got a chance to go even attempt some of the routes that had fixated my attention. Routes like Cloud Tower and Shune’s Buttress were looming goals that certainly weren’t going anywhere, but I wanted to ride the tide of momentum I had created. Instead of riding the wave of momentum to glory, I got throttled as the lip of the wave crashed down on me. Almost all of my goals for 2014 resided in the desert, and summertime isn’t the time to get things done, it’s the time to travel elsewhere and get solid. A steady diet of 5.10 granite all summer kept my skills sharp enough that when the time came, I could really ratchet things up a notch or three. I left the last blog off following the Memorial Day holiday weekend, taking a trip with some great friends to the Eastern Sierra.

The following weekend was the wedding of one of my closest friends who also happened to be one of my first climbing partners. Aaron and I lived together in the Lemmon House from 2008-2010 and also had lived on the 4th floor of Nye Hall at the University of Nevada our freshman year of college, where we met. Funny how life works out, here I am almost 10 years later a Best Man in his wedding. Even funnier how things work out, my girlfriend is his now-wife’s cousin, and was also a member of the wedding party. Upon Sam and my arrival to the cabin in Donner, Aaron and I quickly depart to get a quick couple of pitches in before dark. Sam helps Ashley put some finishing touches on a variety of things for the wedding while we go climb.

I took Aaron out climbing a few days (weeks?) after my first time climbing and learning the ropes from Ben. We tackled many of the easy classics at the Summit prior to Aaron moving to Oregon for his career and his first time on Jellyroll Arch was a memorable one. A friend of ours who was more experienced than us had suggested that all one needs to lead this route is a set of stoppers. With this beta in hand, Aaron launched off to what had to of been an amusing lead and nailed it pretty early on in climbing. This time around, we were racked with those springy cam things and far better technique…

Awesome early autumn light on Donner Peak and above Snowshed Wall

I take the slabular first pitch, which undoubtedly is one of the best (of many awesome) moderates at Donner.

Aaron thoroughly enjoyed repeating this classic

Me following the second pitch. Aaron lead the 5.9 variation, super fun!

Aaron cruised the 5.9 roof variation which neither of us had done before and we enjoyed the alpenglow turning to twilight of the evening.

Weston and Aaron atop the Grouse Slab formation following a fun cruise of Jellroll Arch

Silhouettes in this neck of the woods are awesome

The next morning everybody was quite busy with a litany of things, myself included, but as soon as I could escape for a quick hour or so, I bolted for School Rock for a few scrambling laps on some routes that were my first shaky trad leads back in ’09. Came across this sweet tree while third classing. The views up here were awesome and the easy movement on great stone put a huge grin on my face:

Awesome windblown tree with stellar views of Donner Lake from Junior High Crack

Back to Donner to get cleaned up at the cabin and then onward to rehearsal dinner, great times were had among friends and family which was definitely a good omen for the following day – Aaron and Ashley getting married!!

I’m not sure what the morning of most grooms looks like, definitely lots of photos, talking to lots of people, and probably some nerves I would imagine. Aaron and I got up stupid early to ensure we would be back in time-ish for all of us to get ready and be out of the wedding party cabin in time so that the girls could get ready. We started the day with a lap on the first pitch of the Donner classic One Hand Clapping

Aaron leading the first pitch of One Hand Clapping on the morning of his wedding with style and grace

Next up, I wanted to lead New Moon next door.

Me approaching the Firecracker Roof after the “crux” below on New Moon

New Moon is a classic I never got around to (read: didn’t climb well enough) when I lived in Reno. Man, that thing is awesome! Also, it finishes on the Firecracker Roof and that thing is always super hard for me…I have big hands (#3 camalot size), a low IQ and poor technique so that certainly could explain it.

Later that day, the wedding went (in my opinion) exceptionally well and was one of the most incredible events I have had the fortune to be present for.

Mr. and Mrs. Sieczkowski!


Samantha and I were both honored to be a part of the wedding party


Aaron and I


At the end of the reception, going clockwise Jeff, myself (barely visible), Travis, and Aaron.

Regretfully we were back to Las Vegas after the wedding and truly special time spent with friends, family, and friends that without a doubt count as family.

The work week sped by, plans for the weekend experienced a plethora of changes, and next thing I knew I was going to be heading up one of my huge goals – Cloud Tower.

Allow me to just preface this by saying if you are considering doing this route, go do it! Without a doubt the best route I have ever climbed.

Matt taking off to lead the third (second as we did it) pitch of Cloud Tower

The first pitch of this route went uneventfully, although quite physical it is easy (5.8) but definitely woke me up and helped me settle my nerves.

The next pitch is an awesome 5.10- thin hands crack. Matt, however, never looked at the topo and stated “this pitch is pretty stiff for 5.8.” I start laughing and remind him that the pitch is 5.10- and it all makes sense to him.

Matt leading the 10- pitch on Cloud Tower

Next up was the crux pitch, a super hard, super beautiful corner…

Me leading the crux pitch of Cloud Tower

This pitch is beautiful, difficult, and protects perfectly. I hung a fair bit on this pitch and definitely want to run a few more laps on this route, get this pitch wired, and hopefully send it clean one day.

Matt cruised following this pitch…

Matt following the crux corner pitch on Cloud Tower


Matt following the crux pitch on Cloud Tower

Matt leading the mega-long, mega-hands, mega-fists pitch


Matt leading the awesome super long 5.10 pitch

I was supposed to lead the final pitch of Cloud Tower, but another partner of mine and I had discussed climbing the route a week or two later, so I let Matt take the lead. Unbeknownst to me, my friend mixed up Cloud Tower and Rainbow Wall…

Matt leading the most beautiful pitch on the route

Me following the final pitch

What an absolutely outstanding route. Seriously, so good. Awesome crack climbing, very physical, incredible position…the whole package in my book.

As mentioned above, a certain buddy of mine mixed up Cloud Tower and Rainbow Wall. With some encouragement from another friend who thought Cloud Tower was harder than anything on Rainbow Wall, I decided to take the momentum I had and ride the wave…and attempt Rainbow Wall. Shane drove out from Orange County and it was game on…

Me approaching the Rainbow Wall. Intimidating.

Shane following the 5.12a/b second pitch of Rainbow Wall


More Shane following the mega classic P2 of Rainbow Wall (5.12a/b)


Shane contemplating more hard moves

Weston shaking out on P4 of Rainbow Wall’s Original Route

Arriving at the Rainbow Wall, that area is by far the most beautiful zone I have seen in Red Rock. Seriously, just go for a hike and enjoy the ampitheater up there. In addition to being stunning, it is also one of the more intimidating climbing venues I have been to outside of Yosemite Valley. The first pitch was an easy 5.6 pitch, the next pitch a 5.12a/b pitch that I one-hung. I am not a 5.12 climber, so this was a huge accomplishment for me – and it gave both of us the confidence that we thought we had the route in the bag if the 5.12 pitch down low went that well. Then reality struck. I got lead the 5.11d pitch as well and lo and behold, got my butt handed to me. Hard. I resorted to aid after not being able to free the moves and wound up taking a 15′ swinging fall into space when a Red C3 blew on me (after being on it for a while, as well). After this pitch I lead the following 5.11- pitch without struggle and we decided that bailing would be a good idea at this point. I was very happy we made the decision we did, as reversing the approach in the dark would be amusing.

A weekend later, Jon, Travis and I were en route to Jon’s family’s cabin near Zion. We crashed there, were up early and went to Zion to climb Shune’s Buttress, another goal of mine.

Jon warming up with fantastic views in the background

The first pitch is one of the cruxes of the route, a 5.11+ corner that goes for 160′ – the lower 100′ has hardly a move below 5.11, and the upper section involves some 5.10d climbing with funky gear. I was thoroughly amused and got it handed to me on this pitch. Some warm-up. Jon and Travis enjoyed following it…

Travis in the midst of his favorite part of Shune’s Buttress – ZE WYDE!!!


Most of this pitch will make you smile, as Travis is here


T-Pain’s reaction upon being asked how he enjoyed the WYDE

Jon following P1 of Shune’s Buttress

At this point we let a party of two who took the 11- start while I received my flogging on the 11+ start pass us.

The next pitch, a 5.10 fingers pitch, will make you smile as Travis is in the above photo.

Jon following P2 of Shune’s Buttress, which puts you in very cool position

We were on the team ahead of us’s heels now so we took a secondary belay station (nice to have two sets of bolts in this case) and hung out for a bit. As the team above climbed through a hanging belay, we waited a bit longer since a hanging belay with 5 people would not be a fun occurrence. At this point, perhaps due to the loose nature of the upper section of the route (not sure about this – never been), a significant amount of human-caused rockfall occurred. We bailed due to this and decided to go cragging instead. Jon and Travis had both climbed with me in the past at Cerberus Gendarme, but neither of them had done the MEGA CLASSIC finger crack “Intruder.”

A few shots Jon got of me leading it…

After everybody got a lap, we caught the shuttle, ate some Mexican food, and went home.

Bailing on those last two routes left a bad taste in my mouth. I had been climbing all of these routes with elbow, knee, rib, and finger injuries and the psyche had taken a huge hit bailing off of Shune’s.

Nothing gets me psyched more than seeing the “lights on” moments where people “get it” with certain aspects of climbing and get hooked. My friend Seth, who I went to undergrad with and recently reconnected with me, wanted to learn to climb cracks. He had never climbed one outside. I figured my favorite single pitch crack would be a great place to learn. We invited a couple of other folks out and my buddy Stephen wanted to shoot me leading it, which forced me away from my usual lazy habit of just putting a toprope on this route.

These photos were taken by Stephen King of me leading The Fox:

Some real nice light in Calico Basin to end the day

Climbing one of my favorite routes for the first time since July with friends who were newer to climbing cracks, and who really enjoyed it, revved the stoke for me to the maximum. The next Saturday I was set to go to Zion with Stephen and we were going to hop on another classic and see how it went. Tuesday night at the climbing gym, however, to add to my host of other injuries…I managed to strain an inner oblique or abdominal muscle. I attempted to push through the injury and it was not an intelligent choice. Oh yeah, this was also Stephen’s first visit to Zion…which meant party shirts were mandatory!

We also forgot the cameras at the car, so our cell phones had to do for this one. We only did the first four pitches of Monkeyfinger after bailing due to the pain in my abdominal/oblique area (severe) and heat once the route went into the sun the pitch after the crux.

Hard to beat the approaches here

Iron Lion Zion


Stephen King leading his first pitch in Zion, the WAY classic Pillar of Faith pitch (5.11-)

    

Me getting stretchy to set up for the crux move of the pitch


Party shirt? Oh yes.


Jammin!


Crankin! SO good!


Me looking down after my battle with the thin, hard Black Corner pitch (5.12)


Stephen pulling over the final moves of the Black Corner and into the fun 5.9 chimney above

After the aforementioned Black Corner Pitch, P3, Stephen launched on to the 5.11b fourth pitch as the route went into the sun. Temps were hot and following the 5.11 pitch I was experiencing significant pain in my abdomen/oblique zone from the injury. That coupled with the instant heat resulted in our decision to call it a day and bail. I was super disappointed, but this was one of those bails where you simply go “what can you do?”

Party shirt, sad man. Me at the one of the rappel anchors pretty bummed to be going down and in pain

Some river hanging out occurred.

I attempted to blend in with the tourists in spite of my pack.

Gear was sorted and 3.2% beer was consumed

In the end, the trip was a success in the sense that we got in four absolutely stellar pitches in. Bonus that they were of appreciable difficulty. Even higher bonus that my partner was awesome, and more bonus that it was his first trip to the area.

As far as the entirety of the Fall, I have seen the realm of possibility in myself and my incredible partners and it inspires me. I want to keep pushing hard but I know I also need to get healthy. Striking the balance between these two is something that I struggle with, as once I become focused on something, the focus becomes laser-sharp. This focus also has to be locked into something proactive…the idea of focusing on “rest” is tough for me to grasp, because I do a very poor job at doing nothing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, hope you enjoyed.

Weston

Summer Sailed In – Red Rock, Tuolumne, Sierra Eastside, and Zion


 

Some more rocks got climbed, not with my usual frequency…sometimes life intervenes and balance is necessary. This summer was kind of tough in Vegas, some of my regular partners have dealt with various injuries, I have had a few minor injuries to deal with, and other regular partners of mine were very busy with seasonal work. My climbing-related goals for the summer were to just plain have fun climbing and to get myself back into respectable climbing shape. I accomplished both, of course with more room to improve in all respects. Personal and work-related goals are always a work in progress, but progress is being made in major ways and that is what matters. Becoming a more balanced, better version of myself is always a huge priority for me.

Enough with the introspective prattle, on to the fun stuff…

Early summer some random cragging went down…

 

Me leading Atman after work one hot summer evening

 

Sweet views into Calico Hills backcountry

 

Bolts were clipped on easy climbs at Charleston, still need to return and find the crag I was ACTUALLY looking for

 

 

Some off the stone activities went down, given that not much climbing went on…

 

Sam and I at my buddy Brandon’s wedding rehearsal dinner

 

Myself, Lee, and Brandon – the groom to be.

 

I got pretty stoked on road biking a bit this summer at Mt. Charleston, thanks to another friend of mine named Travis – this one is one of the co-owners of Desert Rock Sports – support your local climbing shop! Travis showed me part of his burly hill climbing circuit on the mountain and the right time of day and the week to do it. The riding is fantastic, even when compared to some of the rides in the Reno and Tahoe areas I have done, and provide ample challenge. The lowest elevation on the rides that we did after work was 6,400′ with most rides having over 2,200′ of elevation gain in short mileage. To say this ride might have you out of breath, especially the 1,800′ climb up Deer Creek Rd from its junction with Kyle Canyon Road (avg. 6.5+% grade), is an understatement.

Back to climbing, Mike and I decided to have a look at Only The Good Die Young. We only did the first two pitches due to domestic obligations, but this is one I hope to go back very soon to finish.

 

Mike following P1

Mike following P1

 

#Selfie at the belay, lulz

 

Looking at the exposed roof you pull off of the belay. I thought this portion would be the crux, but the blankness above was quite challenging. Some reports on the internet assert this to be the actual crux rather than the fourth pitch. Didn’t do that, so can’t speak to it, and am a bad face climber (which is what the crux is), however, I wouldn’t argue with this being an 11b/c face crux.

 

Mike throwing up the thumbs-up on P2.

 

Mike making moves after the stout crux on P2

Red Rock has so many awesome corners. Here is Mike following P2, an awesome stem-box problem.

Looking up at this pitch and having to go down broke my heart a bit. Beautiful pitch at a moderate (5.10c) grade that I will be back for.

 

Now we were all off to Zion for Aaron’s bachelor party…

 

Aaron had sampled canyoneering after his visit to Vegas last summer to climb Epinephrine with me and was hooked, so we were going to do some canyons and some climbing if time allowed.

 

First up was some cragging at Cerberus Gendarme, one of my personal favorites…

The look on my face about says it all while leading Scarlet Begonias. Scarlet Begonias is a pretty burly testpiece, but totally classic.

 

Up next was Pine Creek Canyon for us, and for all of us except for Aaron, our first canyoneering experience. Here I am “enjoying” my first swim of the canyon.

Jeff rapping between potholes

 

Myself, Jeff, and Aaron in Pine Creek Canyon

Dat glow. Myself, Paul, and Aaron in Pine Creek Canyon

Paul on the final rap of Pine Creek Canyon

Then it was on to Mystery Canyon…

T-Pain in the upper reaches of the canyon

Paul and Aaron at a cool spot where the canyon widened

 

Myself, Travis, Aaron, Paul, and Jeff – thank goodness for auto-timer!

Bachelor party boy getting to take his companion on the penultimate rap into the Narrows

The following day we decided to crag the first pitch of the super-classic route The Headache, one of my personal favorites. I kept babbling on about how good the first pitch was and was met with eye-rolls and “ok, Weston” ‘s – however, once it was sampled…all were stoked.

Hand crack…oh glorious hand crack

Aaron getting his lead on, about to clip the cam he placed.

I think Paul Wall enjoyed the hang and the scenery on this one. Oh, and the climb, too.

That walk back from the car.

After the Zion trip, the climbing stoke was back in full effect, and so too would be the quantity of climbing going on. Climbing 5-star quality routes without the accompanying crowds is always a pleasure, and that was the case for Stephen and I on Triassic Sands:

Stephen leading the stout-for-short-people-like-us 5.10 crux down low

Stephen following the super fun, exposed (technically) third pitch of the route.

Stephen following P3

Me leading the P4 5.10- corner – not to be missed. Tales of the sketchiness of the shark-tooth-shaped rock are greatly exaggerated. Tread carefully, but by no means is it an immediate death wish.

Some Eastside adventures followed…

 

Jeff following P1 of West Face prior to bailing due to weather…that turned out to be a few minutes of sprinkles, threatening clouds, and then this…

Ze Cardinal

The next morning…

Me leading V8 Crack at Cardinal Pinnacle

Me leading P2 of West Face of Cardinal Pinnacle

Jeff about to pull the crux step-over of the West Face of Cardinal Pinnacle

Jeff making moves

 

At this point, light rain had started to move in and we were contemplating bailing. The rain then stopped, sun started to shine over Lake Sabrina, so we made the call to punch it quickly to the top of the Pinnacle.

Me leading the fantastic P3 of West Face

Jeff following P3 of Cardinal Pinnacle’s West Face – it was about at this point we knew we were likely going to get wet, as the clear skies we had made our decisions based upon quickly closed up.

 

This was the last picture I got before the weather went sideways. We got cold, wet, and scared pretty quickly, but fortunately were down and off in no time.

Naturally upon arriving on the ground, we had some victory beverages awaiting…

We keeps it classy, naw’mean?

Views après weren’t too bad…

The next day Jeff had to boogie back to Vegas for work so Shawn and I went slab climbing at PSOM Slab. Kristina came to hang out and the dogs came along as well…

Shawn getting his TR laps in on the first pitch of the JFMR. I love that pitch.

Perritos

 

The following weekend, Shane and I went to Tuolumne. It was Shane’s first visit, and we were in hopes of visiting the mighty OZ first. Unfortunately, I underestimated the cluster of the Tioga entrance station on a Friday afternoon…instead, we stared longingly at the sweet corner and ran a quick lap on Stemulant, an awesome 10a cragging route at Drug Dome.

Me looking up at the crux of Stemulant

Following Stemulant, I gave Shane the obligatory tour of the meadows, cruising to Olmsted Point and back. MoMart dinner was had and all rejoiced. The next morning we would launch off on a fun link-up of Tenaya, Columbia Finger, and Cathedral. We were going to climb Matthes, but looked across from the saddle and determined it was a bit more walking to climbing than we wanted to do.

Shane somewhere on the route. We roped up about ¾ of the way up and simuled the rest. I had third classed this five years ago, a classic scramble!

Coffee!!!!

Shane at the end of the “real” climbing on the route

Shane scrambling up on to the summit

A beautiful cross-country hike brought us to the saddle between Tressider Peak and the Columbia Finger. From here we got our first vista of the Matthes Crest, and out of laziness opted against it. Instead, we decided to third class some low fifth route on Columbia Finger, which provides AWESOME photo opps:

I went up Columbia Finger first…

Then Shane did, too.

 

Tressider, Eichorn, and Cathedral in the background. Columbia Finger visible in the reflection in my glasses.

Classic view of Cathedral and Eichorn from the JMT. We dropped into this basin to approach Cathedral.

Cool light and texture get me pretty stoked on the trees in this neck of the woods.

 

Shane just got switched from simul-mode to follow-mode, as I threw together a belay to pass a 4-party choke at the Chimney on cathedral . The 5.7 knobs out left were WAY more fun, and had nobody on ’em!

 

Shane pulling over nearish to the summit

 

Shane and I mega-stoked on the summit of Cathedral, the best 5.6 in the universe. It never gets old.

More light and texture.

 

 

Back to Vegas and back to reality, worked all week, and after work on Friday got in a fantastic three pitch route with Stephen called “The Walker Spur,” a John Long, Lynn Hill, and Richard Harrison route. Has to be good with that FA team – and it was!

Stephen following P1

More Stephen following P1. Crux was fun 10b/c move off of a ledge with a mank pin protecting it. Definitely a no-fall zone.

Psyched!!!!

Having the canyon to yourself on a summer evening isn’t bad…

Stephen launching off on P2

Stephen making moves higher on P2, totally classic.

 

Which brings me to the most recent trip, Labor Day Weekend…

T-Pain and I met up with Ben in Bishop and Jeff joined us later on in the trip. Our first route was Cardinal Pinnacle’s Crack Kingdom. Holy Classic, Batman!

Me leading the awesome fist crack on P2 of Crack Kingdom

Consumed by the P2 crux flare…thing was difficult!

T-Pain following P2’s upper section, feelin’ the breeze

Ben floating through the roof on the money pitch – P3.

T-Pain and I at the belay

Ben clearly did not pay his gravity bill this month….floating along through the one of the trickier sections of P3

Super cool sun dog visible and glorious granite

Fantastic light on trees that are probably older than our country

Me leading the thin boulder problem crux of the fourth pitch. A few quick pulls and it’s over.

Ben finishing up the route in fantastic evening light

Travis belaying Ben down the exposed down-climb to the first set of rappel anchors

Looking toward Sabrina on the rappels

Glorious sunset from the rappels on Cardinal.

The next day we paid a visit to an area Ben and Zach both have raved to me about, Patricia Bowl. High elevation cragging at nearly 11,000 feet where if you forget your hike was only 30 minutes, you could easily be miles back in the High Sierra Backcountry. The views outstanding and the climbing quality.

Ben leading the fantastically sustained Modern Trad

More Ben on Modern Trad

The views are pretty ridiculous

Me lolligaggin’ and hangin’ around on Freedom Fighter. 5.11 at almost 11k is pretty damn hard.

After climbing, we went up to Mosquito Flat to hang out by the creek and enjoy the cool temps.

 

That evening, Jeff joined us from Reno and the following day we split up. Jeff and Travis dropped Ben and I off at the parking area for the Scheelite Canyon/Pratt’s Gulley, and they went down the road to climb Chips Off The Old Block.

Ben and I hopped on Rites of Spring and only did the first two pitches, which were OK…definitely NOT the classic we expected. In addition to that, there was a lot of noise coming from the Mustache Wall area with a constant stream of vulgarity, grunting, dogs barking, and generally a distracting atmosphere. Couple that with the less-than-classic climbing and we rapped and bailed. I also injured my elbow on the second pitch by hyper-extending it a bit. Ouch.

Just before elbow tweak on P2 of Rites of Spring

We went back down to where Jeff and Travis parked the car, hollered encouragement at them, and then went and climbed in solitude on some fun slab routes until sunset.

Another highlight of the trip was two of my good friends getting their first 5.10 leads in – Jeff and Travis both got theirs on P1 of the JFMR:

Travis making it happen

T-Pain clippin’

Jeff making moves

 

All in all, this summer was productive. Didn’t climb anything terribly difficult or terribly ‘rad’ but it doesn’t always have to be ‘rad.’ Much fun was had with a wide variety of great friends and I am looking forward to doing quite a bit more of that this Fall.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this,

 

Weston