Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Abbreviated Stay In Ten Sleep

As mentioned previously, back in 2009, Kevin "Rafscallion" Rafferty and I ventured off on a road trip that ended in Basin, WY with the vehicular harvesting of a mule deer.  On the road trip we had the bright idea of going to visit Yellowstone on the way out to British Columbia.  When driving through Ten Sleep, we were in awe of the amount of rock we could see on both side of the canyon, but didn't have a guide or any information on the climbing, so we decided to keep driving, but I think we both knew we would be back some day.

Seeing as we were basically recreating the first leg of our prior road trip, we decided to make a quick stop to sample the limestone that has been becoming more and more popular lately.  Here are a few things I noticed after our admittedly quite brief stint there:

  1. After climbing in the needles, the bolts are comically close together
  2. The best routes we did were all 5.12 or higher
  3. It is very high up, and the weather was awesome for climbing, even in the middle of August
  4. All of the cracks and ledges are full of bat shit
Ultimately, I was a bit disenchanted with the climbing there, especially after how much fun we'd had in the needles the last few days.  The scenery however was quite nice, especially at night.  At night, thousands of bats came down from the cliffs, and every night we thoroughly enjoyed watching them swooping around.  It was also apparently a meteor shower, and we saw a couple of incredible meteors, including one that Kevin saw that allegedly went from canyon rim to canyon rim.  I didn't see that one, but I did see a few others that were by far the biggest meteors I'd ever seen.  Very cool.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bike Week Kings

In addition to the birthday challenge, I also just got back from a great road trip out west to help my good friend Kevin Rafferty drive his new van/house back out to Utah for school.  The trip was loosely based around an ill-fated 2 month trip he and I embarked upon a few years ago.  I think he was 16 and I was 17 at the time, and we made it just past Ten Sleep where we hit a deer and totalled his car.  Still can't believe our parents let us do that...

Back in the day, our first stop was in the Black Hills, where we were definitely in way over our heads.  This time around we were much more prepared, and had a great time climbing the precarious, spindly spires.  Climbing in the Needles is a very similar experience to climbing at the lake, in that I'm constantly in awe of the boldness of the routes, as well as when they were first done. We also got in on the first day of the Sturgis motorcycle rally, so obviously that was awesome.

Hordes of bikers from the top of Bloody Spire

The first day we ventured into the Cathedral Spires, with an eye on climbing West Gruesome, South Tower, and Spire Four.  After spending quite a while trying to find the routes, we finally got to the top of West Gruesome only to experience one of the apparently common afternoon thunderstorms, and forced to retreat.  Luckily it was just a brief shower, and after waiting at the car for 15 minutes or so, we decided to climb Tent Peg in the Ten Pins.  Tent Peg was cool, and offered a great little intro to the Needles with a moderate run out to the top of the spire.  It also was a great experience hanging out on top as hundreds of bikes went by waving and shouting congratulations up at us.  The next couple of days we went and finished up the South Tower, Spire Four, and Spire Two, as well as went to the Needles Eye and did the Gnomon, Bloody Spire, and a "sport" route called Goldline with 4 bolts in about 80 feet.

Awesome view from Spire Two

On our last day, we ran into Mr Mix and his family who were returning from Wild Iris.  Unfortunately we were on our way over to the Ten Pins when we ran into them, and never got a chance to climb with them.  In the Ten Pins though we were excited to test ourselves after getting into the groove of climbing in the Needles the last few days.  We warmed up and simul rapped off of the super cool three pronged summit of Tricouni Nail, and then walked over to the Pete Cleveland scarefest, Hairy Pin.  The story goes that on the FA, Pete's belayer locked him off where the second bolt is, and refused to let out any more slack until he drilled the bolt.  Before I set off, we looked from all over to see if we could find the second bolt, but couldn't.  Luckily we had a topo in the guidebook, and I was pretty sure I knew where the bolt was.  After a couple minutes convincing myself to do it, I set off.  I made it up to the first bolt no problem, and spent a few minutes contemplating the crux moves and was still looking for the second bolt.  I pulled through the crux, and after about 10 or so feet got onto a big, but kind of awkward hold, that I had hoped I would be able to clip the next bolt from once I stood up on it, but it was no where to be seen.  I figured it must just be blending into the rock, and if I went up just a bit further I would see it.  About another 10 feet from there I made it to a bigger, but again rather awkward crystal, and still no bolt.  At this point I was pretty terrified, and called down to Kevin that the bolt wasn't there, and I had no idea where it was, or whether it was even still there (the bolts on Super Pin were recently chopped, and that was definitely in the back of my mind).  Despite my terror, I was somehow able to stay somewhat calm, when I realized I couldn't down climb, and had no choice but to keep going up.  I hung out on that big pebble for a while, eventually slung it rather poorly, and shouted to Kevin over the bikers that I was going up.  A few moves later the bolt finally came into view from its hiding place on top of a bulge, and I very thankfully clipped it.  The final "runout" to the anchors felt about as well bolted as a gym route, and just like that I was on top of probably the most demanding lead of my life.  When Kevin got to the top we exchanged high fives, and enjoyed the bikers for a few minutes before rapping down and heading further west.

On the summit of Hairy Pin

Friday, August 31, 2012

Birthday Challenge

No doubt many of you have heard about my birthday challenge last week, and are wondering how it went.  Well, it was both a great success and a horrible failure, all at the same time.

The challenge was a to do 21 boulder problems, 21 routes, and have 21 drinks, all in one glorious day.  I am happy to say that I accomplished none of these goals.  I started out strong by cracking the first beer around 6:30am, and promptly falling off of the v1 warmup that was to be the first problem of the day.  We moved on to Big Bud, which I finished off in similar second go fashion.  It was also drizzling rain at this point, which was great for the next problem, Show Me The Kind.  Fresh off doing SMTK for the first time a few months ago, I figured I'd at least feel close, and would be extremely satisfied to do it for the challenge.  Unfortunately I wasn't anywhere near sending, and we quickly moved on to the next problem.

A quick stop at the Greatest Bluff to do Gay Gigolo 3rd try, and we were off to Monolith.  I was pleased to do both Slope Of Dadaism and Pillar Of Contemporary Movement, two great and tall problems.  It was also nice to step over someone's big pile of shit literally 10 feet off the trail.  Anyways next up was Venus Rising, which I had sent the same day as SMTK.  I did come close, but I decided to move on before it entirely destroyed my skin.  As a consolation I did repeat Bark Biter for the first time since I did it with Brian, and then it was on to Sex & Chocolate.  I managed to repeat this, but literally held on by two fingertips as I stuck the finish hold and nearly slipped off of it.  Fun Fact: this was the only hard problem I repeated for the challenge, and the only hard problem I have ever repeated at the lake.

This is where the fun really started.  We left a car at the CCC lot in order to minimize driving, and intended to walk from Monolith to Fat Pants and The Flatiron.  Unfortunately we took a wrong turn and just ended up taking a longer route back to the north shore parking lot.  That definitely helped our time.  It was also ironic when we ran into a ranger who was tasked with making the trails and signage less confusing.  It was also fun passing hikers at 8 in the morning with a beer in hand.

Up at the top of the CCC we brought some gear up to stash for later in the day, and I got on Fat Pants which I had managed to do with Kevin the same day I sent SMTK and Venus Rising.  I think the best part about not being able to repeat hard problems is how quickly I can usually do them the first time, and then how amazingly impossible they feel after that.  Fat Pants, Jenga, Anchorpoint, Beautiful Soup; I sure am glad I climbed those when they were V5, because they're really hard now.  After flailing on Fat Pants we walked to the Flatiron, which I haven't been on in years, and I'm not sure why, it really is quite good I can't believe it was first done in the 50's though.

Then we went over to the west bluff to try Beautiful Soup, which I never really thought I'd do, but I can usually at least touch the ledge, so I figured I may as well try it.  Anchorpoint went about how it usually does, with me peeling off the crimps, especially in the summer, but Intercourse Arete is one problem that I have on lock, and is one of my favorites, especially as a warmup.  Pete's Pebble was next and it's pretty cool, but that top out is hard in the sun.  Then we headed back up into the talus for Dumpster Diving, which thankfully didn't feel really hard as it sometimes can for me.  This section of the west bluff is really a pretty good and condensed little area if you know where you're going.  Half Dome, Dumpster, Moj, Jenga, Super Slab, Pete's Pebble, Dog Walk, and a few more decent boulders are relatively close, and it would make a good little circuit area.  Anyway, the rest of the boulders aren't that exciting, I fell off Jenga, did super slab drinking a beer, and was too tired to finish Magnum P.I., at which point I gave up on even trying Tunder Tighs and Smooth Operator.

At this point it was probably 5 o'clock, when I was hoping to be done around noon, so we were obviously making pretty good time.  We headed over to Birthday for the traditional naked lap up Birthday Crack, and then up to the East Rampart to meet the Narc, and to start the routes around 6.  Instead of doing 21 routes, which I would probably still be trying to finish, I opted for 5 laps on Sometimes Direct, and then 15 laps on Birch Tree, and walked down in the dark.

Thankfully Claire and Dr. Bling had stayed down at the South Shore, and had brats and burgers ready down at the beach where we all eagerly chowed down.  At this point I think I had about 14 or so drinks throughout the day, but was so exhausted I only had a couple shots of the moonshine Sarah brought, bringing my total up to 16 for the day.  Despite the many failures and compromises throughout the challenge, it was one of the most fun days I've had out at the lake, and I was sore for at least 3 days afterward.  So thanks to my entire support crew, I really do appreciate you all coming out early to celebrate with me!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Some Touching The Void Shit

It's been a while, but I'm glad to say that I have been keeping busy up at the lake, and more importantly keeping busy on the East.  I had a great day out at Bill's Buttress with Jimbo Slice, where we were able to bang out a bunch of classics, and discover a few gems that I think are often overlooked.  Mr Bunney Meets The Poultry Man is one of those overlooked climbs, and it reminds me of this post by Jamie Emerson regarding his quality rating system for climbs.

"Often people don’t like to hear that their project or proudest send is only one star, but that’s not to say its not worth climbing on one star problems."

This describes Mr Bunney quite well, despite the fact that it's unlikely that anyone has projected it for quite a while.  It isn't a stellar line, and it is a bit of a contrivance, especially on lead when you're placing gear in Coatimundi, but not using any of the holds.  Putting all that aside though, it's still a fun climb, and deserves to be climbed more often, even though in the grand scheme of things it is maybe a 1 star route at best.  

Also at Bill's Buttress we climbed Push-Mi- Pull-Yu, and even though I knew there was a pigeon on the ledge, and I had told myself not to scream literally 5 seconds before it flew out right in my face, I still screamed like a little girl.

About a week after all that, I went out on a friday with a sketchy forecast with Dr. Bling. We had amazing weather, and a great day of climbing on Pedestal with almost no one else up on the East Rampart.  I took the Dr up some of the classics there, including an exceedingly calm and collected lead of Birch Tree.  I also got on The Stretcher for the first time since I was on Adventure Rock's Camp 4 trip many years ago.  Then, we dabbled on some harder stuff like Hourglass, and the direct start to Stretcher, Pete's Lament.  Hourglass is a funny route because it's essentially the same boulder problem twice in a row.  Grab a good hold, grab two bad crimps, grab an even worse crimp, and pop for a good hold.  Rinse and repeat.  Pete's Lament is essentially a boulder problem that I found it to be very technical, with tenuous feet, but it makes a good diversion if you have a rope hanging on Stretcher.

Yesterday I was up there again with Dr. Bling, and also Sean who I climbed with a bit last summer, and has moved back to Milwaukee.  I hadn't been up on the East on a weekend for quite a while, and I really wasn't missing anything.  The crowds were fierce, with ropes hanging on most everything all the way down to Pseudo Hawk's Nest.  We made our way down the Leaning Tower Gully, and decided to walk around a bit, and lead up whatever happened to be open, which I think was probably the best way to go about it on such a busy day.  We started out on False Alarm Jam, which was very good, and where I nearly got a cam stuck on the anchor (more on this later).  Then we moved on to Breakfast of Champions which was awesome, and I agree with Andy Hansen, that if the ledge were gone in the middle, it would be even better.  After that we headed back west to New Light Waves, which is a good route, with a cool slab section, and a fun boulder problem over a small roof.  If only the crux mono finger stack thing weren't so painful.  By this time, it was starting to clear out a bit, so we decided to go up Double Overhang which is an awesome climb, especially for the grade, and especially if it isn't November and raining and you forgot your climbing shoes and your fingers are freezing trying to get a cam out.  Not that I would know about all that.

When we all made it up to the top it was starting to cool off, so I felt like there was a better chance of being able to get my cam out.  Eventually we did, and I now have a beat to hell #3 to match the #4 I bootied off of Darcy's.  Andy, I'll sell it to ya for $25.  After that I noticed a tricam that somebody had dropped into one of the cracks on the top of the tower, so we spent quite a while fishing for it.  With the nut tool clipped to a sling, we were able to solve what at first seemed to be an impossible puzzle, and extract it from its quartzite tomb.  While we were all high fiving each other and congratulating ourselves on a job well done, Sean and I botched a hand off, and dropped a red C3 down a different crack.  Total gear recovery punt.   Luckily we could still see the sling, so we thought no big deal, we've been here before.  Just a few minutes ago in fact.  Anyways, Dr. Bling promptly kicks Sean and I out of the way to show us how much we suck.  I'm not sure if it was on his first try or not, maybe it was his second, but rather quickly he managed to knock it off of it's precarious perch, and even deeper into the bowels of the tower, never to be seen again.

Or so we thought.  Much like Joe Simpson in the crevasse, the answer was right below our feet.  In desperation we climbed down the side of the tower and tried peering into every nook and cranny we could find.  Luckily we were able to find the proper tunnel, and by some stroke of luck I had put my headlamp in my pack.  All the pieces were falling into place, and quick as a cricket, I had the cam in hand and we were back to high fiving.  Some times it's better to be lucky I guess.

Anyways, that's all the climbing news.  In other news, Alex Caffentzis has graciously said that Jim and I can borrow his camera, so look forward to more media on the ol' blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More Bouldering

It's been a while since my last post, and since then I have added a grand total of 4 routes to the East Rampart ticklist.  That's not to say that I haven't been getting out, it just hasn't been to the East.  I've either been out bouldering, guiding, or down in the Red.  Most of it has been relatively uneventful.  In the Red I went down to Emily and Dario's wedding which was beautiful, fell off Snooker a few times to give Sarah some motivation to send it, and worked on Golden Boy a bit.

Up at the lake, Kevin and I have gone out bouldering a few times, and Kevin has done just about everything he's tried.  At the beginning of the month  we went out, and Kevin wanted to do Tunder Tighs, Bulbous, and Fat Pants.  He also had some interest in doing Alpine Club and Beautiful Soup, but they weren't quite as high on his list.  We warmed up at Anchorpoint, and quickly headed over to Tunder Tighs, which he dispatched in short order on his second try.  I meanwhile continued to not be able to repeat hard boulders I've done before.  On the way back to the car we stopped by Alpine and Beautiful Soup.  We dabbled on both, but with no success.  I did get close to sticking the throw again on BS though, so that was encouraging.

Having not been to Bulbous since Brian showed it to me years ago, I assured Kevin that I could FOR SURE get us there, and eventually I did, but it was a much longer walk from the CCC than I remembered.  We toyed around on it for a while but couldn't quite figure it out.  I quickly lost interest, and went to take a look at some of the other bouldering nearby.  I didn't get far before I heard Kevin shout "TONY, TONY I FIGURED IT OUT!" I hurried back and sure enough he'd figured out the tricky foot beta, and fired it next go.  I tried it a few times, then we packed up and headed over to Fat Pants.

Not much to say about Fat Pants besides it is an awesome problem, and I have no idea what you guys who do that weird drop knee thing are thinking.  Also, I did Fat Pants in less tries than Kevin, and that doesn't happen very often.

Today Kevin and I got back out on the boulders, and he again had some goals in mind, namely Sex & Chocolate, Tipping Point, and Venus Rising.  We warmed up at the North Shore, which really is probably the best little warm up circuit at the lake.  Kevin topped off his warm up with a great onsight of Big Bud.  Then we walked up the trail to Monolith and hopped on S&C.  Kevin played around on it for a while, and I was able to repeat a hard problem at the lake for the first time ever.  I stand by my rating of V5 for that one.  Kevin was getting a bit frustrated by S&C so we went down to The Tipping Point.  Kevin figured out some great toehook cross through beta, and sent quickly.  I was having trouble in my shoes, and paid the price by getting a big cut on my shin when I popped off.  I put on Kevin's too big for me shoes though, and was able to do it a few tries later.  We both thought V8 was a bit of a stretch for this one, but regardless, it's a cool feature and a fun problem.

Next up was Venus Rising.  This problem has been the bane of my bouldering existence at the lake.  First showed to me by Brian, and one of the first problems I tried at the lake, I have been falling off of the final throw for years.  Kevin again quickly sent as I was trying it in frustration.  After a while we decided to head back to S&C so Kev could try and finish it up.  Unfortunately he was unable to finish it, but his second effort inspired me to give Venus a second try.  I really didn't expect to do it, and with a couple hikers gawking at me I was making negative progress.  The ever psyched Kevin however insisted I try again, and even went up and brushed the crimp for me.  I decided to try one last time, and out of no where was able to just barely stick the sloper.  Not really sure how, but I'm glad to have finished that one up.

On the way down, we decided it would be a good way to end the day to try Show Me The Kind.  I had basically written the problem off as impossible, and that everyone who claimed to have done it was in on some elaborate joke.  However, Kevin came up big with the right foot beta, and I had a couple of tries where I felt like I might be able to pull off the crimp.  A few negative progress attempts followed by a horrendous dry fire, and I felt like I could do it next go.  In what may have been my lamest moment as a climber apart from hanging the draws on Whiskey on rappel, I had Kevin stand in front of the sloper to shade it from baking in the sun.  I am not proud of this, but I sent next go, so I don't know what to think.  My world is in turmoil, and I'm feeling a lot of complex emotions about my behavior.  Please don't judge me too hard.

On another note, throughout the day Kevin and I kept discussing what would make a good circuit at the lake, similar the "Mark of the Beast" circuit in Hueco, which consists of Alf in a Blender, Uncut Yogi, and That Hi Pro Glow.  We settled on Tunder Tighs, Fat Pants, and Venus Rising, and started calling it the "Slot Machine".  Considering the difficulty and the location of the problems we figured that would make a pretty proud, yet attainable day of climbing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nap Time

Not much to report on the East Rampart, but I did go out on another bouldering trip the other day. It was a glorious sunny day, not too hot, just about as perfect as the weather could get, but nobody wanted to/was able to come out with me, so it was another solo trip. I wanted to check out some of the stuff around the Flatiron/Guillotine. For some reason I have never tried or even really looked at the stuff up there except for the Flatiron.

I warmed up on a cool problem thats listed as a route in Sven's book called Anarchist Crack, but is probably more apropriate as a boulder problem. There's a lot of climbs up by the Guillotine that are listed as routes in the guidebook, but are only like 20 feet tall, and woud make good boulder problems. After climbing a few other easy warm ups, and hiking around the area a bit, I decided to take a look at a couple of old school problems, The Captain's Traverse, Beer Buzz, and Martini Madness. I tried the traverse first, and despite most of the holds being pretty good, it's still pretty fucking hard. I'd like to get some beta on that one, cause I was stumped. After getting shut down on that I looked at Martini Madness and Beer Buzz, but I was rapidly losing psych. Neither of those problems looked like they were going to be very easy, so I instead decided to walk over to the sick looking roof crack Fist Fight.

I found Fist Fight pretty easily, and was really pretty surprised by how close it is to Brinton's. Pretty shocking that nobody knew it was there, but it does inspire you to keep looking around in the hopes that more gems crop up. A couple of half assed tries on Fist Fight later, I decided to walk around the talus a bit more, then come back and try Murder for Midgets. There were really lots of cool boulders, a few caves big enough to climb out of even, if only they had a couple holds on them. By the time I made it back to my pads, my enthusiasm had just about evaporated, so instead I just set my pads up and slept in the sun for an hour(or two). It was great. When I woke up it was around 5, so i packed up and went home. If only the ice cream stand were open. I can't wait for that thing to open.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Well, I haven't been climbing on a rope much at the lake the last week and a half, but I have been up there bouldering a couple times. On Saturday I took a solo trip up there to climb Smooth Operator/Bud White, look at the Smooth Roof/Cheddarmilker Project, and maybe take a look around and see what I could see. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit of a downer, it was supposed to be partly sunny, but that never materialized, and it stayed overcast all day, with a pervading feeling of dampness from rain the day before. Psych wasn't high, but I was still happy to do some bouldering.

I hiked up to Smooth Operator, put my pads down underneath it, and walked over to the roof project, which was much closer than I remembered. I mean it's like right there. I touched the holds a bit, but never tried it, because it's definitely too hard for me right now.
Instead of going back to Smooth Operator, I decided to take a quick walk and look at the rocks around there, and as can happen at the lake a quick hike up the hill turned into a long quest, as every time I was about to go back I'd see another boulder that looked like it had potential. Alas, Devil's Lake is land of the almost good boulder problem. Either there's no holds, it's too short, or the landing is horrendous. I did manage to find a few decent lines, but with no other problems close by, didn't take the time to climb a 1 star V1. Somewhat disappointed, I started walking back to my pads, not expecting to find much else.

Of course it always seems that that's when you stumble upon something cool. Maybe a hundred yards south of Smooth Operator, and just a bit lower is a huge roof, that actually has a few holds on it. It's a combination of sloping ledges and small crimps, with the typical poor feet of the Lake. I put some chalk on the holds, and after trying it a bit yesterday, I can say that I'm not sure if it's possible. I can't quite tell if there's actually enough holds, or if there's just enough holds to fool me into thinking that it's possible. Either way, somebody stronger than me needs to try it, because it's definitely out of my range.

Yesterday I went back out to the lake to do some more bouldering with Zach "Mathe-Matics" Mathe. We warmed up at the North Shore, where I was finally able to sack up and climb Big Bud. Glad to have done that one. Zach did it also, and after a couple more problems we headed back over to Smooth Operator. Unable to get the nerve to topout on Saturday with no spotters, I was hoping to finally top this one out also. One try just to get used to the problem again, and then I with all the grace of a fish riding a bicycle, I was able to roll over onto the top. It's kind of crazy how much of a mental difference having a spotter can make. It's also crazy how much it helps to have done something once, because then I tried the sit start Bud White, and after getting through the crux, was able to pull through and top that one out as well. Zach gave a few more good efforts on SO, falling just short of the sloper for the top out, and I think he'll do that next time he goes out.

The Mathe-Matician's unorthodox method of working a difficult boulder problem.

As mentioned previously, we headed over to the roof I'd found to take a look, and also noticed another boulder just below it. It climbs out an overhanging, somewhat dihedral-like boulder. It has a tough pull for the first move, but then gets easier. Not an ultra classic or anything, but it's fairly steep and powerful with some good moves on good holds.

When we finished that, and even though I think we were both starting to feel a little tired, we decided to hike up to Tunder Tighs. I felt pretty good about finding it, but that was a mistake. I went up the wrong talus field, and of course it took us forever to find the thing. but we did eventually make it, and we puttered around on that for a while. I remember that thing feeling much easier the last time I was on it, but I was able to do all the moves except hold the swing while taking my heel off the start. Getting tired quickly, we headed down to The Hipsters, which is a pretty cool problem. The first move is a bit awkward, but the rest is quite good. I also did the V2 to the right called Fixie, which is a good "in the area" type of problem. Zach gave The Hipsters a couple more goes as our energy was running out, and we called it a day, and made the buggy hike out along the Tumbled Rocks trail. Hiking up the back up the hill at the end of the day made me wonder if it wouldn't be easier to park down by the beach instead, just so that I wouldn't have to walk up that damn hill. I hate hiking, deal with it.