Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gettin' stuff done

I'm not a very productive person overall so gettin' stuff done usually takes me a while.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is our unofficial mayor of Fayetteville, Gene Kistler.  Gene knows how to get stuff done.  Here's a picture of Gene with the new Bubba City signboard that was installed this morning.  This sign was built using NRAC funds and will soon contain info on how to get into Bubba, maps, access issues, etc.  We had a sturdy crew to hoist that thing which probably weighed 700 pounds.  Concrete was poured, shit was talked, then we headed over to the Bridge Buttress to work on the staircase used to access the top. 

The staircase has been on ongoing project that Gene says we've been working on for "twenty years".  Everytime it pours rain a torrent of water rushes down the gully and eventually erodes the slope and the stairs start to shift.  We need bigger rocks!

   Robbie was the hero of the day with his elaborate haul system.  Huge rocks were hoisted into the sky and hauled to the top of the gulley where BJ the mason was ready to shift them into place.

Gene's job was to tie into the haul line and jump off the top of the cliff.  I took this picture fully expecting him to eat it into the ground at top speed but the rocks proved to be heavier than Gene.

It required more hauling.  When Lilah barked the order everyone tugged and the rock shifted up the hill as Gene slowly descended back to earth.  In just a few hours we made good headway on the project and hopefully this task is nearing finality.  We had a great time and at the end of the day we got to reflect on just how much NRAC has done for the climbing community.  Particularly Gene and Maura Kistler and Kenny Parker who've been doing this since the beginning.  Literally over twenty years of making the New a better place to live and climb.

One thing I did manage to get done recently is to bolt two new lines at the Meadow.  This beautiful white wall has somehow managed to remain untouched though I know many have thought about it.  For those that are familiar, the two lines I bolted are just left of Matt Fanning's project Phone Home which is itself a brilliant looking line that still awaits a redpoint.  The two to the left will be equally as classic and I can't wait to chalk the holds this weekend.  The middle line is for Colinator.  Probably in the 12b to 12d range.  The left line looks a bit more difficult and may be in the 13a to c range.  Can't wait!
  Parting shot:  Here is Elissa ending her 8 year reign as a full vegeterian.  For health reasons she decided to start eating meat.  She dabbled with fish a little and succeeded then moved up to a single bite of bacon.
And here she is trying not to throw up.  It didn't take.  Maybe next time Colley!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Wife could Beat up your Honor Student

It's six A.M. and while you lazy maggots are rolling over in bed for a little more shuteye the Colinator is chugging back some coffee. She's just 30 minutes away from doing battle with a bunch of noseyparker middle school kids. She forces math down their unwillingly throats until 3:30 at which point most of us would probably drive home and put a gun to our head or at the very least drown our sorrows in red wine and lavender bubble baths.

Not Elissa, nope she has just begun. She stays at school grading papers until 5:30 then hussles straight over to the gym for Cross-Fit where she pumps iron and shames the men at pull-up contests. She finally comes home around 7:00, pushes me around a bit, cooks up a healthy meal as I beg for pizza, hops in for a quick shower and passes out cold only to wake up 8 hours later to do it all again.

You'd think that she would at least tire out every now and then, and it's true she only goes to Cross-Fit Mon. Tues. Thurs. and Fri. Wednesday she leaves school as early as possible then hussles down to the crag to crush 5.13's in all the weak sauce climbers' faces. Yup, Saturday and Sunday too. Which means...she never rests. Never.

Recently I think Elissa has gotten more psyched for training for climbing than actually climbing. Last Memorial Day Weekend while you were all stuffing hamburgers, hot dogs, and Bud Light down your face holes Elissa was killing it at the Cross-Fit competition down in Charleston, West Virginia. Jumping rope and pumping iron! That's right, while I was out sport climbing with the boys and acting tough she was going head to head with this guy!

She came home complaining about how her back hurt, not only from all the Clean and Jerks, but from dropping a 75 pound barbell into the small of her back. I shrugged it off cause she's usually sore from something until she casually mentioned that it hurt worse than when she shattered her arm in a million places. Not much more than a peep from Elissa though. Nails. Hard as nails.

All these pictures were published in the Charleston Gazette on Monday. Way to kill it Colley! I'm so proud! And hey, a word of advice to all you rednecks out there. Next time you think about smacking your wife around... put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Don't even think about it!
I know what it feels like to live in fear. Did I remember to put the trash out? Oh God, I hope so. I better go check just to make sure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Looking for Trouble

'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' opens with an amazing sequence of events taking place as Pee Wee wakes up and begins his day. A myriad of Rube Goldberg machines work in sync to crack his eggs, make his toast (which is flown in via wooden pterodactyl), and help him brush his teeth, at which point he foams at the mouth and growls "Mad Dog! grrr". I love this sequence. But he's having such a good time just getting up in the morning that he does not heed the advice which is received from his fortune telling machine. It spits out his daily fortune: "Don't leave the house today" and Pee Wee promptly scoffs at the warning and heads out, thus beginning his 'Big Adventure'.

My warning came a little later in the day than Pee Wee's but just like Pee Wee I scoffed and continued toward my 'big adventure'. I've recently gotten pretty psyched on the Orange Wall at the Meadow River which also happens to be the most remote crag in the region despite the fact that if you have a 4wd vehicle the walking approach takes about 5 minutes. If you don't it's a bit more complex and of course I don't. I left the house with two goals in mind. Check out a new crag Dan Brayack has been developing called the "high density feed lot" and make it down to Orange Wall to rap down two bolted projects.

Max had never been out to the Southside of the Meadow before and this was his inaugural mission. He performed flawlessly at the river crossing and soon enough I was bushwhacking in search of the 'high density feed lot'. A handful of routes looked good but as I walked the base of the crag with my eyes upward as usual I almost stepped on this fella right here. He was a grumpy little dude.

I figure, statistically, that the longer you live the greater chance you have of dying unexpectedly. And one of my favorite songs tells me as much with the lyric: "This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time." You can do a lot to prolong life and avoid risk but I think it really comes down to luck sometimes. Imagine that you start each day with a full glass of "luck". You can walk carefully through each day making sure to not spill a single drop of the luck out or you can stumble (as most people do) through life spilling luck from the glass in large torrents or even dropping the glass entirely and watching the last drop of luck sink into the ground.

All I'm getting at here is that when you almost step on a Copperhead you should start treading lightly to ensure you hold on to that last half glass of luck that you started with. Pee Wee and I could both tell you that hindsight is 20/20.

So we left the feedlot and Max charged headlong down the narrow dirt road that leads to the Orange Wall. We both cringed everytime the West Virginia rainforest reached out and clawed at Max's sturdy flanks. Lilah rode shotgun and sniffed vigorously at the outside air. Max made it as far as Hedricks Creek and called it quits. The road is too rough past there. So I jumped on the mountain bike and we hauled ass down the dirt road. Me coasting as fast as possible and Lilah running behind me at 1/2 throttle. We got to the trail head, dropped the bike and headed up hill.

I eyeballed the projects to be rappelled, noted some landmarks to look for, and headed right along the cliff band looking to gain top access. Of course, it was 10 times as far as I though it would be before finding a sketchy top approach. I jumped to a tree limb and hauled my ass over a log then scrambled up pine-needle and rhododendron covered fourth-class to the ridge line above Orange Wall.

I tied off to a sturdy pine, hooked my grigri to the line and eased over the edge of the overhanging 140 foot cliff. As is always the case when things go wrong a string of events usually leads up to the predicament and one of those events happened before I left the house. I was packing my bag and decided quickly to grab the harness I use for guiding instead of my normal climbing harness. I thought it would be more comfortable to hang in and brush holds, etc. Clipped to my harness was the grigri I use for guiding, not the one I use for climbing but I figured that for a rappell mission it would be sufficient.

So I ease over the side of the cliff and my grigri is not locking on the rope. It's sliding down the rope much like an atc would but grigri's are not supposed to do this. I quickly rap my brake strand around my leg and chill for a minute. I start doing some rough calculations: Grigri is 7 years old, I guide (conservative estimate) 50 full days a year, everytime I belay a goober on Easily Flakey two hundred feet passes through it, I do this about 10 times a day, lets see....this grigri has passed about 700,000 feet of rope through it. And that's just guiding. All the time it saw climbing as well...maybe another 300,000 feet?

So if you're wondering when you should retire your grigri, the answer is: well before a million feet of rope passes through it.

But that doesn't help me much right now cause I sure as hell aren't going to go any further down. So I hook my jumar on and start chugging upward. Lilah is wondering what the crap I am doing. She's staring up at me from a hundred or so feet below, still a bit peaved she couldn't summit due to the fourth-class nonsense.

I get back to the top and I'm getting really faint from the heat on the wall. I may not have mentioned that the wall is baking in the sun and it's in the 90's this day. Super heinous. Which makes me not want to hike back down because rappelling straight down will put me at my waterbottle in two shakes of a lamb's tail. I decide to go for a double rope rappell on the atc and pull my rope from the bottom. At the time I didn't realize how tall this cliff was so as I ease over the edge I can see the tail ends of my ropes tickling the tree tops. No bueno. much too short. The hanging belay anchor for Due Date is within reach but as I'm going for it I realize that no one knows where I am, I'm quickly dehydrating and getting dizzy, and my rope is running through a tangled web of sharp boulders up top. If I go to pull my rope and it gets stuck I'm done for, only to be found days later hanging in the middle of a cliff, baked to a crisp, being picked apart by vultures. So back up the line we go, shimmying up a double line with an atc. I resign myself to pulling up the rope and hiking off and it does in fact get stuck in the boulders so I fix one end and rap off, again on the slick ass grigri, unstick it, jug up and flop onto the summit feeling like I just sucked down a nitrous balloon at a Phish concert. I packed up my shit and cut myself to pieces hiking through the greenbrier on the way back down, missed the gully, and had to do a nasty double rope jungle rappell back to planet earth where Lilah was waiting patiently for me to pour her a drink. I have no idea what those projects are like. Lilah was eager to get back to the AC and I was easily talked into it.

Two days after that we went back out again. This time more properly armed. Lilah and I borrowed Gus (Elissa's CRV), remembered to take the good grigri, and our good friends Kirk(the dogfather) Bjorling and John (Gayveritte) Averitte joined us. A party of three is perfect at the Orange Wall. Two people can be crushing rigs while the third is rapping lines and looking for new stuff. Kirk was psyched to be the explorer this day so he started hiking around looking for potential. John and I started climbing and had a great day just climbing for fun. I warmed up on the cleverly named 'Geneius' (named for Gene Kistler's uncanny ability to have his hand in more cookie jars than the world has cookies) and then fired 'Territorial Pissings' which may be the definitive New River route. I'm saying that this is the best 12a in the region and it may just be the best route of any grade in the region. If someone was going to climb just one route at the New and wanted to be awed, I would say: go climb 'Territorial Pissings'.

This route is located on the far left end of the Orange Wall which is considered the Orange Wall proper. 4 routes ascend this section of wall and they are all of the finest quality. They are all mixed face climbs with a smattering of bolts and some interesting steep face climbing on unbelievable pockets, horizontals, and edges. Kirk rapped a potential new line on the route and proclaimed it to not go. He found another one around the corner and started bolting. I did another cool 12a sport route then John and I headed to the right side so I could get on the project. I climbed some choss, eventually pulled through the big roof, and found myself plastered in a holdless stem corner. I bailed and might not get back on this one. We finished with a 100 foot Obedesque adventure up a flawless wall of golden stone called 'Slapping the Curmudgeon'. We drank Dortmunder Gold's as the setting sun and the high alcohol content transformed the wall into a more beautiful creature with each passing minute.

Two days later we returned with the posse:

From left to right:

Eddie (Jumbo Hoss) Avallone

Rachel (Twin Cannons) Melville

Kirk (Static K) Bjorling

Lilah (Beast of Burden) Colley and

Elissa (Colley Lama) Williams
This time we had a party of five and so I began with a failed bushwhack in search of a buttress I saw across the river from the top of the curmudgeon. Then I hiked up to meet the crew. Kirk got on his new project that he bolted and what he thought was 11d is much harder. So far no one has been able to do the move. I'd been eyeballing this completely blank orange sheet of glass between 'tatanka' and 'territiorial pissings' that appeared to have some bullet hole monos in it. Eddie said he'd swung over from another anchor at one point and found a sinker pocket. That was all the motivation I needed to hike up top and rap down it. The upper section all looked good but the lower section looked hideous. Just a couple of shallow monos and slots. But it definitely had potential so after some deliberation we decided where to put the bolts. We only brought 4 with the intent of adding one to the start of 'Rock Jihad' to make that safer and possibly one up high in the retardedly runout section. With Kenny's approval of course.

So we only had two bolts. I fired em in, jugged the line, made sure the top would be safe on gear, and fired it. This route is very, very, cool. There are only a couple lines I've established that I'm truly just blown away by and very proud of. This is definitely one of them.

It starts out with a few techy powerful moves on somewhat suspect edges. The only poor rock on the route. Then goes into some big huecos. At the top of the huecos is the blank section. You reach up high and in the middle is a perfectly round hole that accepts one finger all the way to the hilt. Unbelievable.

One pull off the mono and you gain some small edges then stem left to a sinker three finger and the crux.

From the three finger sinker you reach high to a shallow three finger dish paste your left toe in a shallow mono pod and step up high to a 1/2 pad left hand mono divot. Yard on the divot, hike a high right foot, and huck meat for the ledge. Then it's some adventurous 5.11 with one 12a section over a not perfect TCU. I'm going to go back and add a bolt for the upper crux. It's not fair to the onsight climber. I had the advantage of scouting the holds on rappel. I also finished up and left to the 'tatanka' anchor but a straighter line goes to the top. I'll add an anchor as well. This is truly a world class route on flawless stone. The holds seem to have been drilled but I promise they are entirely natural!
There is nothing more satisfying than showing up at a cliff, spying a blank piece of rock, and then slowly watching a route materialize throughout the day. It's like it creates itself or, more accurately, reveals itself. And the ultimate is being able to watch that entire transformation occur in the span of a few hours. And the best part of this experience was that I didn't go looking for it. I spend so many days hiking around, engaged in epic bushwhacks and rapping potential routes that would go except for one blank section. Most of the time when I go looking for trouble I find it. But this day was different. I headed up with the intent of spending a beautiful day with good friends and was rewarded with a gift: an immaculate four star classic.
It's definitely worth checking out if you're interested. The grade is 5.12+ and it's called 'Rhymes with Orange'. Take a standard rack up to a #3 Camalot. What rhymes with orange? Nothing really. This route stands alone just like every route. A completely singular sequence unlike any I've ever done before. It's what keeps climbing fresh you know? Wouldn't it be boring if they were all the same?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm in. This blog is mine now sucker. What kind of loser sets his password as 'Sharmaisgod'. Nailed it onsight.

First off, what idiot designed this keyboard? Spacebar is freaking killing me. I'd shag a cat for a couple of opposable thumbs about now.

Since I've never been allowed to post before I'll start back as far as my dog brain can go. All the way back to....that's right, when these jokers left me at home for five weeks so they could go traipsing around Europe.

Oh yeah, I knew all about the trip. I saw them planning and packing and the whole time I'm thinking to myself, "This is gonna be bawse!" I was a little worried about the flight so I scored a couple of Qualudes at the club the other night. I'm thinking I pop a few of them mofos and when I wake up "Boom! Where my chiens at!" I was super amped when I heard we were going to France. The crags in France are a dog's dream. Doo doo snacks under every rock! But I let my guard down and those A-holes left me. I was pissed but fortunately my Dogfather Kirk and his main squeeze Krystaaaal came over to party. Kirk took me to work everyday. I was the mascot for New River Mountain guide's kids summer camp. Kickin' it at the crag everyday, ya know what I'm sayin'? Keepin' it real.

I was just settling in to life with my new rents when these two jokers roll back in thinkin' they own the place. I'll hold a grudge man, and I did. Especially cause as soon as they got back, life came to a crashing halt. Days at the crag turned into days on the couch. Super lame. Mama C went pretty much right back to teaching snot nose brats and M-Dub started clacking away at this here keypad. For days. Apparently he started some new job as 'editor-in-chief' at And believe me he will not let me forget it. I think it's gone to his head. Check this out, you're going to love this:

Ok, Ok, so the other day I'm sleeping on the couch as usual right. It's just me and M-Dub in the house. I hear real faint off in the distance "editor in chief....editor in chief....editor in chief" At first I think I'm dreaming but I'm wide awake now and for sure it's M-Dub whispering it or something. So I real stealth like slip off the couch, creep over, and stick my head around the door. Ok, Ok, seriously, the dude is standing in the bathroom with his shirt off. He's staring at himself in the mirror, flexing his muscles, saying "yeah, Editor in Chief" Dude, I am dying inside. I'm doing everything I can to not bust out laughing cause this is too good. Then, seriously, OK, seriously, he drops his arms down in like some girly pose and puts on some seductive secretary voice and he's like "Mr. Editor in Chief, here's those faxes you asked for. Would you like any more coff...." But right then he sees me staring at him and I lose it. I'm laughing so hard I can't even breath and he slams the door and I can hear him in there sobbing like a little girl. Bwaaahhhahaaa! Dude, what a loser! Can you even believe that!

So this goes on for days, the whole typing thing and he's always bitching about being busy when all he really does is update his Facebook status and reread his scorecard for the millionth time. So one day the phone rings, right? I can here it's Dave Pegg from Wolverine Publishing on the line cause my ears be light years ahead of ya'lls. I immediately start listening in cause I know Bel and Dee Dee are over there and I'm wondering if they're going to give me a shout out. I love Dee Dee. I mean we spent time together man. We ran in front of cars at the Project Wall, we dirted up rope bags in the Arsenal, we tried to steal sandwiches at the Wasteland so we could eat em up and then poop em out at the base of the routes. I mean I'm a dog right? So you know, I got ho's in different area codes, you know what I'm sayin'? But Dee Dee is my bottom bitch. Paws down.

Anyway, Pegg gets down to business and he's like " We gotta get this Ipod app thing on the move." I can tell M-Dub is looking a little overwhelmed cause that's gonna seriously cut into his Facebook time but he's in. I'm thinking I'm screwed. Another week in the house right. You could not be further from the truth. Pegg starts talking about getting GPS coordinates for every crag in the gorge. M-Dub is like "Dude, that is a lot of hiking" My ears perk up cause I love hiking. "By the end of the month? I don't know Dave that might be pushing it but I'll try." I glance at the calendar and that's like ten days away. Baller! We gonna be getting our hike on.

So the next day we hit the proverbial dusty trail which in West Virginia is more like soggy moss and mud. Some of the best days of my life. Let me tell you just a few of the adventures I had. First day we hike all of Bubba City from Rubble Rock to Cat Cliff, all of Endless, all of Beauty, half of Fern Butt, and all of Kaymoor. Money. The perfect day. A couple things happened that day. First I stopped to swim in Fern Creek and M-Dub was down in the water too. He's trying to point at something in the water but all I see is my own reflection. Turns out there is a lobster-sized crawdad down there but I can't see it. Apparently M-Dub sees all this go down. I'm in the water up to my chest so I can drink without moving my neck cause that's what I like. I'm standing there minding my own business and this crawdad walks straight over to my leg and tries to take a chunk out of my paw with his claw-piece. Dude, I jumped straight out of the water a mile high and ran to the shore. I was scared to death and shaking worse than the last time I shit peach pits. But such is a dog's life and we headed on down the mossy trail.

We're strolling along now at a steady clip and I come upon a girl squatted down right next to the trail. I point her out and M-Dub looks embarassed cause she's dropping a deuce right there! No big deal for me. I'm thinking snack time!

Right after that I stir up a yellow jackets nest cause that's what I like to do. I get stung a bunch and it's no big deal but M-Dub is a total sissy about bees. He goes tearing through the woods screaming "They're on me, Macauly Culkin, My Girl, Call 911!" Unfortunately, he didn't get stung at all.

It's starting to roll up towards evening time now and as the lights go down my fellow woodland creatures stir to life. Out around Sunset Point we're real quiet like getting a coordinate for Keeney's Buttress and a trio of young Bucks walk into the clearing. All three are just younguns with some fuzzy racks. I crouch down real low cause I know I'm about to get my chase on. Then boom! It's on. I feel the wild beast in me come forth and instinct takes over. Two bucks break one way and I single out the indivdual from the herd and follow him. M-Dub can hear my howls far off into the distance of the West Virginia wilderness. I chased that deer until we were both blue in the face. I wonder what I would do if I ever caught one?

And that was just the first day! Yesterday we hiked a bunch up around the Gauley River and Summersville Lake. We went and checked out Carnifex Ferry and some toothless old timer stopped to tell us about his guard dog. He said if we went near his house when his wife wasn't home we'd be cool but if she was in there it'd bite us. I kept pulling at the leash cause dude was weird. But M-Dub seems to get off on these types of interactions with real-deal hillbillies.

After that epic hike we made our way out to Gauley Crag. In the parking lot were two people. A parapalegic lying down on a chaise lounge and some lady with a note pad giving him some kind of hypno therapy or something. Dude, this place is weird sometimes. It was 90 something degrees that day and it was killing me. My tongue was dragging the ground I was so hot. M-Dub spent the whole day bitching about the heat and I'm like "bro, your tongue is in your mouth. What do you expect."

So later on we hike out to the Lake and I run into one of my boys, Rupert P Dogface. He's a boxer like me so we played a bit and then I headed down to the Circus Wall. The heat had finally taken its toll and I was feeling it. Out there around Circus Wall I found this sweeeeet mud hole that smelled like feces. Mmmmm. Needless to say, I got all up in it. I rolled on my back and made sure that the doo doo mud was all over my belly and back and on my face. I ran over to M-Dub to show him how pretty I was and how good I smelled and he yelled at me as usual. Man, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had it right. Parent just don't understand.

So a bit later M-Dub's like "Hey Lilah, you want to go get a drink?" I'm like "Hell yeah I want a drink. I'm freaking parched as a mofo." So we wander down to the lake and M-Dub is like "Oh wow, this water is so cool and refreshing and he's splashing his hands in it but something aint right. I'm a dog you know and I can sense when something is up. I cock my head and shy back a bit but he grabs me up and throws me as far into the lake as he can. I'm airborne bro and I have time to mutter "What the F...!" before I hit that water like a fat kid off the high dive. Skadoosh! Then he jumps in after me and starts dunking my head like a bully at the park pool. I get to wrastlin back but it's no good man. He won. I ended up cleaner than a frog's armpit. I didn't even smell like doo doo anymore. Man....

Here we are today at the Meadow. We hiked the lower Meadow down to sunkist wall where we found this jumbo hornets nest. Apparently, Parker threw a rock at it the other day and tried to knock it down but they just built it back stronger. Tenacious little devils.

I was totally game for knocking their nest down and eating their babies but again, M-Dub is a total sis. I can tell he's having 'My Girl' flashbacks again so I let it be. We hike down to the river and find a crossing.

You have got to be kidding me? Now I'm the sissy. I'm seeing consequence bro.

But I don't live my life in fear. I ain't skeered. Come on, get psyched and....Gap it!

We're on to the other side and M-Dub starts talking about 'projects' again. I am so tired of 'mega proj' this and 'mega proj' that. I swear if he says it one more time I'll lunge for his juggy and latch on with my canines. This rock all looks the same to me. Just another roof blocking my good sun.

I found this graffitti and started laughing my ass off. M-Dub scolded me like he didn't think it was funny. Lighten up bro. And make sure you wear a 'Trojen' Ha! I swear us dogs are smarter than the rednecks around here.

We hit Hedricks Creek and then blasted back across the river and hiked out. Hey, just for the record I am not afraid of turtles. M-Dub will tell you I'm scared to death and will give a wide berth to avoid them. Whatever man, I just respect them that's all. And they smell weird. And they have sharp beaks. And OK their shells kind of stab into my psyche for some reason but I aint skeered though. No way.

Time to sleep.
Do not disturb...unless you're filling my bowl with some Lamb and Rice. Gotta rest up for tomorrow. I never know what we'll be getting into.

Peace out bitches! And I mean that in the most scientific way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Europe can Liechtenstein my nuts

We're back. What a trip. Visiting Europe was amazing but being home again makes me realize just how good we have it here in beatiful West Virginia. I learned some valuable lessons over there and thought that I should write down a few tips for Euro travel.

Note the picture. Does anyone remember what that thing is? That's right, it's a Betamax recorder. If you were around in the 80's you may have even owned one before you got your VHS player. This one happens to be clad in a substance that I can only assume is iron. Yes, in the future when you see this picture you will know that the blog post you are about to read features: IRONCLAD BETA.

Lets begin with ironclad beta on what to pack for a long Euro camping trip. I realize you are smart people and you know to take things like a good tent, sleeping bags, etc. so I will only suggest two items that you may not have thought of.

Camp stove. Here's the deal. The camp stoves you buy in America run mostly on white gas which is widely unavailable in Europe. Propane stoves bought in America have a fitting that will not accept the propane/butane cartridges sold overseas. One option would be to take a Whisperlite International which will run on unleaded, diesel, or just about anything you put in it. Maybe even Jack Daniels. But you end up with clogged fuel lines, nasty fumes, and they cost a hundo. We opted to just buy a Campingaz campstove like this one when we got there. It was easy to find, fuel was easily obtained and it cost about 40 dollars. You can borrow ours if you're heading over. We also bought cheap plastic plates, bowls, mugs, french press for coffee, etc. That stuff was super cheap and we left it at a campground with a FREE sign on it.

Power: In todays world you'll likely be taking about 10 different appliances that need to be charged up. Laptop, camera, video camera, Ipod, cell phone...and all that stuff has it's own power cord. We ended up with an entire bag devoted to cords. The 'bag of cords' we called it. We took a 12v car inverter that was about the size of a paperback copy of Stephen King's 'The Stand'. Everytime we got in the car we'd charge something up as we drove to our destination. Never did we have to worry about oddly shaped plugs, running 220 into a 110 device, or finding plugs to begin with. This is certainly IRONCLAD BETA. And take a laptop. Most cities have free wireless in their town square.


Camping in Europe is fully busted. How much would you pay to pitch your tent between the dark blue tent and the trashcan? How's 30 dollars a night sound? How 'bout 50? Seriously it is ridiculous. But 'wild' camping, as they call it, is frowned upon and usually well posted with 'no camping' signs. And you can't claim you couldn't understand cause it's a little picture of a tent with an X over it. I say go for it anyway. Hike your stuff up to the crag and camp under the sicky overhang at the base of your gnarly project. What are they gonna do if you get busted? Fine you? Well, since we paid about 500 dollars to camp in Europe for a month I figure we got fined anyway. Renegade camping is the way to go. At Ceuse the camping was much more reasonable but everywhere else not so much. Of course you could always just stay at my friend Fred's house. Fred Nicole, maybe you've heard of him?

Johny Utah: "They're traveling on the money, going where the waves are.

Angelo Papas: "That's right, the Ex-presidents, rip off banks to finance their endless summa'!

If there's one thing I've learned in this life, it's to NEVER doubt the knowledge that can be gleaned by watching the movie Point Break just one more time. And what's that between Reagan and Carter? Looks like an IRONCLAD BETA recorder to me. The ex-presidents have got it together. You go where the waves are. And similarly if you get to your destination and it happens to be the heat wave, snowstorm, or flood of the century don't be afraid to leave. Especially if it's a 50 year storm!

So there you are wondering where to go next. Hmmm. What possible resource could I use to find my next premier destination? Two words:


If forced to choose between actually climbing or never logging into 8a again......Sophies choice man. I don't even like to think about it. is amazing. I recently started using the 'ticklist' search function. Type in the name of the crag you want to visit or the name of the crag you're at and it brings up a google map with nearby crags flagged on it. Drag your cursor over the flag and click it. It brings up the name of the crag, a chart showing which month of the year it receives the most ascents (which gives you a good idea of the prime season) and an ordered list of the most ascended routes. These routes are of all grades so you know immediately which routes are the best. 'Best' meaning: high quality or soft for the grade. So if you're looking to go to Switzerland and you type in Voralpse it will show you all the other nearby crags as well. You can pan out a bit if you're looking to travel a bit further. Pan out more and you've got all of Europe with all the tiny flags of every climbing area. Amazing. Then once you pick an area and you're looking at all the routes that have been 'ticked' at an area it will tell you how many ascents of each route. Click on the name of a route and it brings up everyone that has sent it and the comment they made on it. If the route has only been climbed twice by Dani Andrada and Dave Graham and one of the comments is "Hard! a true fight to the finish" it's probably best to pick another. If 20 people have done it and said "so classic! so soft for 7c!" BOOM onsight effort! This will all be in my tactics book but that is a ways off and this information needs to be shared immediately. Just another way that 8a has shaped my life as well as sculpted my guns.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I don't want a large Farva, I want a liter of beer

We left the B+B at Voralp and headed for Austria. On the way there we passed through the tiny country of Liechtenstein. Click here for some interesting facts including some tips for money laundering. We had no guidebook for Burs but we didn't need one. This crag is totally plush. They have painted name plates with name, grade, and cute picture at the base of the routes as well as a kiosk with a full topo at the crag. Nice. It's also carpeted. Yes, the crag is carpeted. They carried a bunch of quality persian rugs up there and laid em out. Due to the severely overhanging nature of the routes we were able to camp on the rugs and stay out of the rain. A really ideal set up. Oh, we also found out when we got there that this was the same crag that the video of Beat was shot at. Interestingly though, the rock he is climbing in the video is not at all like the conglomerate in the canyon just upstream where we climbed despite the fact that they are a few hundred meters apart.

Here's a picture of Elissa tidying up the house. We climbed two days at Burs and I really liked it. Elissa not so much. She doesn't like the pockets, they hurt her sausage fingers. With only two days to climb we didn't project anything. Just onsighting. I was able to onsight 4 7c's which for me is really exciting. After two days of pocket pulling we were ready for a rest day and a new crag. The sky was blue so we headed back to Switzerland. We ended up in Interlaken which is home to the famous trio of the Monch, Jugfrau, and Eiger.

Interlaken and the surrounding area is a major tourist destination. Tons of people and kind of a headache despite the amazing surroundings. We got a guidebook and decided to camp and then hit up a crag called Lehn the next morning. We went to one campground and they wanted to charge us 46 dollars to camp on the ground. You have to be kidding me? No way. So we went to another one. Same deal. That is just crazy to ask for 50 bucks to camp on the ground for one night, even if it is right at the base of the crag we wanted to climb at. So we hopped back in the car and drove, starving, through a driving rain storm for about 2 hours. We burned about 10 dollars in gas then finally found a campground that was only 30 dollars. We pitched the tent in the rain, scarfed back some dinner, and passed out, unshowered, to the sound of fireworks that were blasting off in celebration of their stupid national holiday. The next day we drove back to Lehn, about 10 dollars in gas, right past the 50 dollar campground to the crag. Elissa fails to see the logic in why this was the right thing to do. Oh, young, naive Elissa. You have much to learn about the ways of the world.

Lehn was a very cool crag. We warmed up on a sweet 7a and then boom! with a single clap of thunder the climbing portion of our trip was over. That's it. Our last climbing day. We got rained out. So we came back to the campground, fired off some internet and a liter of beer and tomorrow we head to Geneva. Done. We fly out early morning the day after tomorrow. Geneva to Amsterdam for a little drug rave then 8 hours of discomfort before we land in the paradise of Detroit, America. Smooth sailing from there. Supposedly we have someone picking us up at the airport in Baltimore but I'm not even sure about that. Aunt Sandy is pretty flighty. You know how those Keene girls are.


G'day mate! Long story short...we got rained on and I'd erd that the rock was always dry in Austria. So we head across the border and I come up on some bloke and I'm like "Oy, mate. Where can I find some dry rock around 'ere." And he gives me this blank look like 'es a frenchman or sumthin'. I start gettin' annoyed and I get in 'is face and I says "OY, are you 'earin me? I'm lookin' fer dry rock...Araps, Gramps, Blueyes.....? Any of this ringin' a bell?" And he pulls out some little Swiss folding knife jobber and threatens me with it and I says to 'im "That's not a knife...this is a knife." as I pull out me bowie.

So the first part is true. When it rains in Switzerland it makes West Virginia look like the Sahara desert. We got a room at the B+B up in these sweet swiss alps overlooking the crag of Voralpse. If you're not familiar with the Stephen King story 'the Shining' then this place comes highly recommended. We were the only guests at the place so it was a little weird but they still had the restaurant open and it was amazing food. German food is upretentious. They take a piece of veal for me, Shnitzel, and bam! throw it in the deep fryer. Delicious. They even offered a vegeterian option for Elissa which is rare in German country.

This is me telling a swiss cow what I ate for dinner last night.

This one is for you Parker...Hilti headquarters.

That same day we had a tentpole stick clip epic getting Elissa's draws off Paradigma. Then we blasted out for Austria. We heard from some locals that this place in Austria called Burs was always dry. Conglomerate rock which made us wonder about the quality but dry is good so we split.
The locals are pretty jacked. Elissa loved Austria for some reason. She kept getting distracted and for some reason she wouldn't pay any attention to me.

No bother though, I found a little love interest of my own. I told you I am an art lover. More on Austria after dinner.....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Beat it

It has been raining like crazy here in Switzerland. Voralpsee has a reputation for being the driest crag in the country and it has huge waterstreaks coming down it as of this morning. Bummer.
But yesterday we got to spend the day at the crag with one of the worlds all-time greatest climbers. Beat Kammerlander. Beat is to face climbing what Gullich is to mono pulling. Getting to talk to him and watching him climb was a real treat. We got to watch him climb on a route he established quite a few years ago: Speed 5.14c. He was climbing with Ivo Ninov who we had run into in Briancon a couple of weeks ago. Ivo told me that about 15 years ago Beat had free soloed Mordillo 5.13c at Voralpsee. At the time it was the hardest free solo in the world and for the style of climbing it still may be. I tried this route and I can assure you....I would much rather solo something with holds. It is completely insecure, powerful, and without a moment to gather your wits. What an awesome opportunity to be able to hang out with one of my heroes, the face climbing guru, at one of the best face climbing arenas in the world.
Check out this video. This guy is the real deal. I especially like the intro. He may actually be a Jedi knight....I'm not sure.
So we're not really sure what to do now. We're holed up in a coffee shop watching it rain with our rope stashed at the cliff. Elissa has a few draws up in the waterstreak. We may have to get a room and just wait. Elissa is still working on Paradigma but has two split tips and they are deep. Beat showed her how to tape them in a really secure way so the tape won't slide. Tomorrow? We'll see what the weather does.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I got a pocket full of Euros and my homeboys do too

We got mad monopoly money up in this piece.

So I finally, by the skin of my teeth, sent Loups Hurlants. I let out a 'Wolf Howl' at the top just to let the Frenchies know I could understand a bit of their garbled nonsense. It was a classic redpoint epic story. I fell 4 times from the final 5.8 move. The pressure was on and my last try of the day I pulled it together and sent. We pulled the rope, hiked out, and drove for Switzerland. We spent the night in Italy and the better part of the next day as well.

This is my queen in her castle.

Culture shock happens fast around here. As soon as you cross the border into Italy the people get different. Very different. It's kind of like living in a TV commercial for Pasta Sauce. We stopped at this pizza place and it was nuts in there. No more snobby and reserved French. These people are LOUD! Man, they bring the whole family. Tables of 10 were common. Kids, parents, granparents....And they are all talking at once. Hey Italy, Howa boutya trya to enda worda withouta vowela? You can't do it can you? And a further challenge...try to do it without moving your arms. Now you're really struggling. The Italians are boisterous and super friendly. The campground we stayed in was just as crazy. The whole country feels like a big family. Lots of talking, all at once. And very fashionable.

Then the next day we crossed into Switzerland. Instant change of pace. Switzerland is beautiful. So very green. It's kind of like Oregon or Maine but with huge mountains, tons of moss, big waterfalls, castles. We are staying at this campground in Werdenburg. "The smallest city in Switzerland" is their claim to fame. This is Werdenburg. We are actually across the lake in Grabs. So the people here are totally different. We pull into the campground and it's silent. Husbands and wives are eating their meals in silence. They sit across from each other and everything is perfect and clean and organized. Like OCD organized. We saw a couple make the bed in their camper van and they were turning down the corners perfectly and eliminating any creases. It's militaristic cleanliness. Very strange. But the people are very friendly. I asked a guy where I could find wireless internet and he just gave me the password for the hotel for free. Just before that I went to buy some earplugs.....OK, here's why. They love clocks apparently. They have this bell tower that chimes loudly every 15 minutes. And on the hour it chimes the number of the hour. Not too bad right? OK, at 9:00 pm it chimes for 5 minutes straight. We timed it. 5 minutes is a long time. Still quite charming right? Well it does it again at 6:00 am. Not very charming. We think this is their way of marking the beginning and end of the day for the farmers in the hills that may not operate on real time. Maybe. Point of the story is, the guy gave me the earplugs for free and said with a smile "welcome to Switzerland."
The reason we came here is to climb at a crag called Voralpsee. I think this picture of Elissa pointing at the crag is funny. We travel half way around the world, then we drive for hours through the mountains passing miles of cliffline. Cliffs are everywhere. Then we hike in to this tiny chunk of rock that is unlike anything else in the known universe. It is a truly unique little rock with amazing routes. about 15 amazing routes. The cows on the hike in are cool. The big ones have cow bells that ring all day. You can hear them from the crag just ringing around eating grass. Happy as a swiss cow. I think chocolate milk actually flows freely from their teets.

Here's two views of the crag. The cliff is 30 meters tall and overhangs about 15 degrees. Very pumpy and very technical. Check out this hold. Does it get more perfect than that? I was able to onsight the classic 7c Paradigma and it really was one of the coolest climbing experiences of my life. I don't want to sound like some hippy stoner freak but it was pretty trancelike. Just floating up this face on tiny edges with no contact with the earth other than the tips of your toes and fingers. And no one else is around, with this crazy green forest and lake behind you. And in the background you can hear the cow bells creating this hypnotic, offbeat techno music. Totally trippy bro. After that I sampled Euphorie 14a and got spooked. It's super runout at the crux and working it made me a headcase. You take repeated 20 footers working the crux if you're brave. I took one and hauled up a log and log-clipped through. It wrecked my head though and so I tried an 8a, then a 8b, and then I had no skin left and could barely move my fingers and now we had to take a rest day instead of climbing two days in a row.

Elissa is faring much better than me. She is working Pardigma and has a 13a on deck as well called Lucy. I don't know what my tactics should be at this point. I could go all in and work the 14a and maybe come up empty or I could be conservative and do a couple 13a's and b's? Climbing.....what a mind meld.