Sunday, December 08, 2013

On the Road and Back ... Thanksgiving in Bishop and three days in Flagstaff.

As I have done many years in the past, I spent this Thanksgiving up in Bishop, climbing on boulders and camping with some of my favorite people.
Alexandra, Kristiana, Culin, and I left LA on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and unfortunately got in so late that we had hardly an hour to climb before darkness.

Thanksgiving Day saw us running around The Buttermilks at full speed. After a quick warmup around the Birthday Boulders, we headed over to the Cave Boulder for Alexandra and Culin to try the "Cave Problem" (v6).

Alexandra working the "Cave Problem" (v6)
Next we zipped over to the Drifter Boulder, for Culin to try "High Plains Drifter," a classic V7 that he nearly sent last December. After a few attempts, Culin was grabbing the topout jugs and running up the glory slab.

Culin topping out after his send of "High Plains Drifter" (v7),

 Anthony and I tried "Plain High Drifter" a few times, and we both came agonizingly close to sticking the crux move, a lurpy deadpoint from a left hand micro-crimp to a bad right hand crimp

Anthony Tarascio attempting "Plain High Drifter" (v12). That left hand crimp is horrendous.
Lastly, I started a tradition of attempting "Center Direct" in the afternoon/evening of every day. I punted off the last move of this one several times last year, so I had hoped to send it quickly this trip. Unfortunately, the crux undercling deadpoint to the slopey crimp proved just as difficult as last season. I did finally stick it from the ground on Saturday, but slipped out of the finishing jug and fell. Talk about punting!

Devlin Gandy attempting to repeat "Center Direct."
 Friday was somewhat more of the same. We cruised around The Buttermilks and finished the day at the Grandma Peabody, after a few very close attempts on "Plain High" by Anthony and me.

 At the end of the day, having rallied a sea of foam, the young Mirko Caballero pulled off an incredible ascent of "Evilution Direct," one of the most inspiring sends I've witnessed in a while! Thankfully, Mirko just cruised through the headwall and walked the upper slab with ease.

Mirko Caballero sending "Evilution Direct" (v11) on Friday.

Mirko Caballero topping out "Evilution Direct."

 Satuday was so eventful that I didn't end up taking a single picture. Joking aside, after Culin tried "Soul Slinger" for a bit and a quick session on "Plain High," our crew went behind the Drifter to try the problems on the Lower Smoking Boulder. I didn't score any flashes, but sent the "Croft Problem" (v8) and the unnamed, though unique and cool v7, both second try. Of course, punting off of "Center Direct" at the end of the day was in obligatory, as described above.

Sunday was a short one, and not too eventful. Culin came very close to "Soul Slinger" and I somehow flashed "One Mule Wonder" (v10/9?) in my approach shoes. Not that that was a good omen of things to come. I failed to stick the deadpoint on "Center Direct" even once, and we packed the car up early and hit the road for LA.

Culin Li working "Soul Slinger" (v9).
Culin coming oh so close on "Soul Slinger" (v9).
Morgan Roth waves from atop the Green Wall Boulder
Alexandra and I weren't back in LA for very long before before we headed to Flagstaff this past Wednesday to set for Beta Bouldering gym's "Swole Bowl" competition.
Luckily, some friends who live in Flag took us out to an incredible area with limitless potential. Maybe one day we'll be able to give more explicit directions, because there is a lifetime of perfect rock there.

Thomas demonstrates that there are FAs for days.
Matt climbing on the Debt Ceiling.
Friday was a routesetting day of epic proportions. With every wall in Beta Bouldering stripped, we went to town and set 60 boulder problems between the redpoint round and the finals.
I was really psyched on the angles, hold selection, and volume placement, and set five of what I would say are some of the coolest problems I've ever set.

Setting madness in preparation for the "Swole Bowl."
Climb-It tufas inspired a very cool V8/9 that incorporated two knee-bars.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stick around to watch the competition on Saturday, because I had to be in San Diego to coach at ABS Youth Regional Championships. We left Flagstaff late and drove 8 hours through the night and stayed with a friend not far from the gym in SD.
As expected, Regionals was a great event! The setting seemed well spread, and the problems looked both challenging and fun. Team Anonymous represented with Culin taking 3rd place in Male A and Natalie taking 2nd in Female A, after a super-final with Sara Pearce.

Now that we're back in LA, it's back to the routesetting grind until a New Year's trip to Las Vegas and Red Rocks. Stay tuned ...  and climb safe!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things I Like: Evolv Bolts and Cruzers

If you're reading this blog, you can probably see the Evolv logo on the right side of the page. It's not a secret that I'm an Evolv National Team athlete, and have been since 2003. Since Evolv have been awesome enough to provide me with the best climbing and approach shoes for ten years now, I decided to finally get around to reviewing two of my personal favorites, the best approach/route setting shoes on the market, the Evolv Bolts and Cruzers.

The Evolv Bolts in orange.
The Bolt is Evolv's classic approach shoe/boot, reminiscent of the first Mountain Masters, but slightly more stlyized and with a better toebox. The nubuck leather uppers are impressively resilient, holding up to many rough granite scramble/chimney squeeze approaches at a remote area we've been developing this year at Black Mountain. They're also an awesome shoe for route setting. The rubber toe rand and leather upper are both holding up to hours upon hours of jumar abuse, something I was very happy about after blowing through my first generation Cruzers were my aid ladder rubs. (An issue that has been addressed and I'll mention again in a moment.)
I also love the stiffness of the toebox for edging, and the large surface-area toe platform for smearing. The Bolt is built on a trail running shoe last, so it's my choice for long days, serious hikes, or burly scrambling.

Hard to believe these have seen several months of hard use.

New Evolv Cruzers are more durable than ever.
The Cruzer is Evolv's minimally styled casual shoe. They're not really approach shoes, but they are comfortable to wear all day, or all night, and they climb like a dream. They're actually the perfect stealth boulder or buildering problem assassins, disguised as a casual street shoe, or "ninja slippers," as I've taken to calling them.

Cruzers that have been used to set routes almost daily for two months, still looking fresh.

I mentioned when talking about the Bolts that I was happy to find a more durable shoe because I had blown out my old Cruzers. This is true, and it's a known problem the shoe had, blowing out prematurely at the side stitch joining the two pieces of canvas. As a professional route setter, I jumar a lot, and the aid ladder would rub on that stitch and blow the shoes out in a few weeks.  Evolv seems to have made a great shoe even better with the new one-piece Cruzers they sent me at the end of September, because these things still look brand new. I also love wearing these guys for route setting because they're perfect for testing moves in without having to change shoes entirely.

My new and improved Cruzers are still looking brand new after a couple of months of daily routesetting, coaching, and general wear.
Basically, if you're looking for a new pair of sticky rubber kicks, you really ought to try one of these awesome styles of Evolvs. If you need an approach shoe that can go from the mountains to the streets, I highly recommend the Bolts, but if you don't need that heavy hiking shoe and beefy arch/ankle support, the Cruzer is where it's at!

Thanks again to Evolv for hooking me up with the best gear for what I love to do!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Birthday Challenge 2013

Well, another year has passed, and with my birthday landing on November 10th, it was time for my second annual Birthday Challenge. Last year, I climbed 27 problems in Joshua Tree that I had never climbed before, so naturally I had to continue that tradition this year. I decided a while back that I wanted to go to The Underground, a remote sector atop Queen Mountain, a far hike over rugged terrain, but rumored to have the best rock in Joshua Tree. I had never been to The Underground, so it seemed like a perfect area to attempt to send 28 new problems.
After over an hour, we reached the top of Queen Mt. and climbed a few problems on The Watchtower boulder, officially beginning the challenge.

#1, "Left VNothing" (V0)
#2, "All Along the Watchtower" (V2)

From there we hiked a further 30 to 40 minutes and made it to The Underground proper, where I really set to work. (All photos, Alexandra Fox)

#3, "Kranium R" (V3)
#4, "Kranium L" (V3)

#5, "Misfire" (v6)
#6, "Intruder" (V5)

#7, "V1 Center" (V1)

Putting on the shoes in front of the exit of "The Heart."

#8, "The Heart" (V4?)
Looking up through the hueco on "The Heart."
#9, "4:20 at The Underground" (V4)

#10, "Body and Soul" (V5)

Tell me this rock doesn't look just like Hueco.
For my eleventh problem, after a decent warm up, I decided to try "Dark Matter" (v9), one of the few 5-star boulders in Miramontes' guide. I got lucky with a third-try send, managing somehow not to punt off of the topout.

#11, "Dark Matter" (V9)
Sticking the crux with the SDK and sending by the skin of my teeth on the third go. Kevin with the spot.

We didn't get many pictures after that, but here is the rest of the list:

#12. "Sketch" (V4)
#13. "When Pigs Fly" (V0)
#14. "Fight Club" (V5)
#15. "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (V3)
#16. "Nicole Face" (V4)
#17. ""Saucer Full of Secrets" (V1)
#18. "Warm Up Problem" (V2)
#19. "Feature Problem" (V3)

Epic View

#20. "V1 Left" (V1)
#21. "V1 Reverse" (V1)
#22. "V1 Traverse" (V2)
#23. "Kranium C" (V3)
#24. "Unnamed V0" (V0)
#25. "Another Stupid Traverse" (V1)
#26. "Brain Teaser" (V0)
#27. "Breezy" (5.7)
#28. "The Swallows Tail" (V0)
I finished the challenge with"The Swallows Tail" for number 28, a V0 jug traverse on the same arch feature as "The Heart," It made for a beautiful view as the sun dipped on the horizon, but we still had close to a two-hour hike out to make in the dark.

Finishing the challenge on top of "The Swallows Tail" (V0).
Needless to say, the hike out was a challenge! Searching for kairns by headlamp, moving slowly from one rock-pile to the next, was definitely type-2 fun, but it made for a truly full-value day.

Of course I owe a huge thanks to everyone who came out and supported. That hike/scramble approach is no cake walk, and I really appreciate your support, pads, and spots. Big thanks to Kevin, who helped us get to The Underground in the first place, as well as for providing beta and psych on "Dark Matter!" Props on your send of it too! Huge thank you as well to Jeremy Meza, who helped us get out of there in the darkness! I also particularly owe a huge thank you to Alexandra, who acted as official record keeper and made sure I finished all 28 problems before the sun went down.

We have lots of day trips and longer trips to Bishop and Red Rocks planned for the coming months, so hopefully I'll be able to share more soon.

Cheers, and climb safe!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Quick Trip to Colorado, a day in Red Rocks, and a day at Black Mt.

Allen Peters on "Bambi," at Matthews Winter Park.
Hiking into Mt. Evans.
Working "Mind Matters," Guanella Pass. Alexandra Fox photo.
Paul Robinson making progress on the "Ice Knife" sit start project, Guanella Pass.
Alex Kahn sending "Rainbow in the Dark," in Guanella Pass, for its second female ascent.
Guanella Pass gneiss.
Leaving Colorado
Max Moore working "Abaddon," Black Velvet Canyon, Red Rocks.

The Black Velvet Wall, Red Rocks, NV.
The Trailside Boulder, at Black Mountain.
Working out funky foot-lead beta on "Shoot the Moon," at the Trailside Boulder, Black Mt, CA. Alexandra Fox photo
"Shoot the Moon" foot-lead beta. I didn't send, but I've done the moves and they actually feel better this way. Alexandra Fox photo
Hiking out from the Tailside boulder, Black Mt.
Just an average sunset at Black.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Still Alive!

Howdy folks! Yes, I am alive. I'm even still climbing, route setting, and coaching as much as ever. It's been a busy summer, so I apologize for not keeping this thing up to date, but here is a quick catch-up post with lots of photos.

For starters, the Black Mt. Road opened in early May, ushering in yet another Black Mountain season. It's been a high-anxiety season up there this year, with several large wildfires threatening Black Mountain, the Tramway, Tahquitz, Suicide Rock, not to mention the communities of Idyllwild and the other small mountain towns. Before the blazes and in between, we snuck in some sending, cleaning, and developing of new world-class lines.

After a few days of effort over this season and last, I was fortunate enough to snag an ascent of Where the Wild Things Are sit start. My friend Jenifer happened to bust out her iphone to snag this chalk-bag-dabbing uncut footage. Enjoy.

Around the same time and shortly after, a few of us started running around a granite-strewn hillside at Black Mt. and enjoying many top-notch First (known) Ascents. One such ascent was a very nice V3/4 (depending on who you ask) crimp ladder that I grabbed the FKA of and dubbed Updog due to Anthony's little dog Stanley peering down at me from atop the boulder. 

Devlin Gandy jumping on the send train on "Updog" at Black Mt.
Boulder-strewn dome.
Another thing we found, Anthony, Alexandra, and I dubbed Howl's Moving Castle, I think before we had even climbed on it. Proving to be very difficult, we invited Paul Robinson to try it while he was in town for a few days in June, and he snagged the FA of what I believe to be one of the best boulder problems at Black Mountain, SoCal, or really just anywhere. Checking in at V12, the burly roof to tall headwall is a full-value boulder problem and should be on the list for any capable boulderer. I know I'm psyched to continue to project it now that the temps are getting a little more under control!

Rommel, chilling under "Howl's Moving Castle."
A slightly wider view of "Howl's Moving Castle." Here, Anthony Tarascio works the topout on a gri-gri. To give some perspective, the big jug plate at the lip of the overhang in the above and below photos can be seen catching sunglight at the bottom of this frame, next to the rop
Paul Robinson grabbing the First Ascent of "Howl's Moving Castle." photo Alexandra Fox
On the same day, I took Paul to one of my projects that I'd been working for a few seasons, which we'd been calling the Gloworm arete (yes, after the candy.) Although it took him some serious effort, he snagged the FA of the Gloworm, also calling it V12. 

Nearby Howl's... and Updog, I was also able to put up a fairly difficult little boulder that I named The Fellowship of the Traveling Pads sometime in June. It's probably in the V8-9 range, and I encourage people to come repeat it and tell me what they think. The sharp, powerful little overhang leads to a commiting press-out mantle on slopers, but I am sure better temps would make it feel more secure.

"The Fellowship of the Traveling Pads"
 Also in June, I made a very brief trip to Utah to coach at USA Climbing Divisionals. Our team did well and afterward I traveled with a handful of talented young climbers to Maple Canyon for two days.

Max Matles working "Sprout" in Maple Canyon's Pipe Dream Cave

This is just a typical Black Mountain sunset.
 Over the July 4th weekend, USA Climbing sport climbing Nationals was held at Stone Summit in Atlanta (again), and I traveled there with Natalie Josefsberg and her family. Nat climbed really well, taking 12th overall in the Female A category.
I stuck around for two additional days for the annual Coaching Symposium hosted by the USA Climbing Coaches Committee. With a nice round-table kind of format and presentations by the likes of Chris Wall and Obe Carrion, I was glad I stuck around for the symposium.

Natalie Josefsberg in semi-finals at SCS Nationals
 Lately, in spite of the heat, we have been trying to sport climb (or climb long boulders with a rope) at Boney Bluff more as well. We've discovered that even if it's 90 degrees in the sun on the hike in, the climbing is bearable because the wall is in the shade all day from noon on. With stacks of short power routes in the 5.12 and 5.13 ranges, it's a power crag like nothing else around these parts. Hopefully I can start sending some stuff there soon!

I'm still one-hanging "Sureshot," a very hard (v8) Louie Anderson "5.13a" and the first line bolted at the cliff in the mid-90's

We've also done a little bit of exploring lately, looking for new hard lines in the Santa Monica Mountains. Guess what, they exist.

There's gold in them thar hills.
So I'll probably be changing the format of this blog and my website in the very near future, but stay tuned, because I'll be trying to keep it updated a little more frequently now that I've got working internet in the new apartment.

Climb safe, and see you out at the crags.