Monday, August 29, 2011


I was over at Alli and Kevin’s last night watching Ulitmate Fighting Champion.  Last night’s match was between the undefeated champion Anderson Silva and some Asian dude named Yushin Okami that looked like J McNasty.  Silva is widely regarded as possibly the greatest fighter of all time, though I’d never heard of him.  The fight starts and Silva starts doing a little dance.  He bobs and weaves.  He throws mock jabs and kicks, then he throws a little hip thrust.  It is obvious that he is studying the reactions of his opponent and the information is being compiled in his computer-like brain-piece.  A brain-piece that is faster than an I-7 processor.  By the end of the first round, Silva has barely received a blow.  He is at 100% capacity while his opponent hovers around 80%.  With all of his information compiled, Silva is ready to destroy Okami. 

Silva.  Jedi Master 

Having already decided that the other guy stands no chance, Silva puts on a show.  He drops his arms to his sides.  His opponent throws lightning quick jabs at his head and Silva dodges every one.  His neck moves with the quickness of a cobra strike, almost imperceptible to the human eye.  When the time is right, Silva strikes.  A single jab to the face that seems to come from nowhere drops his opponent to the mat.  Instead of pouncing and finishing him off, Silva stands there mockingly.  Okami gets up, obviously shaken, and it is apparent in his face that he is afraid.  After years of training and becoming one of the best cage fighters in the world, he now understands that he is the mouse and Silva is the cat.  The fight is simply unfair.  Silva’s arms are at his side.   His opponent tries futilely to land a punch, anywhere, anything, but Silva’s reflexes are unmatched.   When Silva decides the time is right, he finishes the fight and stands victorious at nearly 100% capacity.  He is barely winded after a title bout with one of the best fighters in the world. 
Oh, I'm sorry, were you trying to punch me?

It was possibly the greatest feat of athleticism I have ever seen.  Silva defines domination in the ring.  Alli was saying that the UFC cannot find anyone in the world that stands a chance against him, not even a remote chance.  And they need someone to beat him because his fights are almost boring and come with a guaranteed outcome.  Probably not good for pay-per-view sales. 
Highlight reel.  I'm not even really a fan of fighting.  It's the absolute mastery of his game that impresses me.   

I left their house in the dark, pumped with adrenaline, and headed back up into the canyon.  I was absolutely impressed having seen a true Jedi-master at work.  I actively thought about Silva’s training.  A trainer throws a small rubber ball at his face for hours and his duty is to dodge it, which he does.  My mind drifted until something caught my eye.  A raccoon darted into the road.  I engaged my lightning reflexes and dodged to the right, narrowly avoiding the coon.  My heart raced as I corrected to avoid a fishtail.  Still trying to keep Max from flipping on his side, a skunk raced out to test me.  I flicked to the left into the other lane with the quickness of a cobra.  Then I immediately hit a frog.  Splat!  Seriously, come on nature, cut me some slack.

What it spoke to me is that we climbers can barely call ourselves athletes compared to the athletic prowess and intense training methods found in some other sports.  Some of the best outdoor climbers in the world spend their days sleeping till noon, smoking pot, and then casually trying hard for a few intense moments when it ‘feels right.’  This is nothing compared to the intensity of a scheduled title bout in front of tens of thousands of people. 

I slept until 10:45 today, something I haven’t done since high school, over half my life ago.   I say this because I find it ridiculous that I feel compelled to write about a miniscule achievement in my personal life that does not even compare to something actually noteworthy like dominating an opponent in the Octagon.  But climbing is my passion and represents something that I’m absolutely addicted to and love.  It means something to me and when I accomplish a personal goal I like to share those experiences with my family and friends.  In the grand scheme of life, it means nothing.  But to me it means a little something and so I will share my experiences and thoughts on the route Astroglide.
Elissa on the classic route Sprout in the Pipedream cave, Maple Canyon, Utah. 
I spent nearly the entire summer climbing here at Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming.  Elissa and I left to attend the tradeshow at the beginning of August and dabbled at Maple Canyon and Logan Canyon.  She flew out of Salt Lake, leaving Lilah and myself alone on the road.  We visited Nick Duttle in Colorado briefly but Ten Sleep was calling me back.  There was one project that I hadn’t tried that nagged in my mind.  Astroglide was listed as 5.14+ in the back of the book, a claim as the hardest route in Ten Sleep and still an unsent project.  I knew I had to go back and try it just to make sure it was impossible for me.

 Upon returning, I went straight to it and surprised myself by doing all the moves on the first day.  I was incredibly excited as I immediately knew I could do it with some work.  My second day on the route I went for a link and promptly split a tip.  Blood oozed out from a tiny gash about 1/8th of an inch from the tip.  The holds were small and the split was telling me that this was going to be skin intensive, requiring a lot of time and rest.  Routes that eat skin are the worst.  Constantly monitoring skin growth is like watching paint dry, sometimes requiring days of rest between serious attempts.  Boring, just like this blog post so I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I eventually sent it after about two weeks of effort.  
 The holds on Astroglide are small and wreaked havoc on my skin.

I am very happy to have been able to send this project.   It is a beautiful piece of rock though I must say it isn't quite a five star route.  The crux section starts immediately off the ground and stays sustained for about 35 feet.  After that is finishes up a 5.12c slab to the top of the cliff.  It’s barely overhanging on very small holds and very technical.  I have to note a few things about how I climbed it. 
Kevin Wilkinson bolted Astroglide a few years ago.  He tried it and said, “It didn’t go well.”  The only other person to try it was James Litz when he came through last summer and easily dispatched everything including Ten Sleep’s actual two hardest routes, General Litzenheimer (5.14c) and Porcelein (5.14b).  At the fourth bolt, James worked the intended sequence straight up to the fifth bolt, avoiding a good edge out left.  After the crux section the rock slabs out a bit and a full recovery is possible.  James climbed straight above the fifth adding another ridiculously hard section before the relatively easy finishing slab.  He estimated that the route, in this fashion was potentially 5.14c.  Though obviously capable, James didn’t return to send the route. 
Astroglide, a slippery little dude. 

When a much weaker climber such as myself came to try the route, I knew right away that staying within the confines of the gold streak was not only ridiculously hard, but also contrived.   Though it would have been a harder and cooler way to do it straight up I knew it would be silly to invest time in something I couldn’t do and furthermore, something that someone else would eventually find a better sequence for and downgrade radically.  So I strayed slightly left at the fourth and far left at the fifth, clipping all the bolts on the route.  This is the easiest sequence and though not as straight and narrow as the intended sequence, it makes the most sense. 

It’s still pretty hard though.  A breakdown of the crux would be: 15 feet of V8 ending at the clipping hold of the third bolt, straight into a 4 move V9/10, to a very poor shake on the aforementioned ‘good edge’ just above the fourth bolt, then a final V7 before the 5.12c finishing slab. 

I’m calling this 5.14a but again have to clarify on what that means.  You’ll note that in the video I call this 5.14a/b.  I hate slash grades more than anyone but can’t think of an easier way out for this route.  Based on all of my previous life experiences climbing at many different crags I think that 5.14a is appropriate but based solely on my experiences here at Ten Sleep it would be 5.14b.  It is definitely a big step up from the other four 5.14a’s here but not as hard as Litz’s Porcelein (5.14b).  Based solely on Ten Sleep grades  I would think 5.14b but I refuse to believe I climb that grade, especially in as little as two weeks. 

Right after I did Astroglide I also sent He Biggum which is just to the right and shares the same first move.  I must say that calling Astroglide 5.14a when He Biggum is 5.13d is ridiculous.  Astroglide is worlds harder.  After long talks with Kevin, Alli and J Mcnasty, the general consensus is that, “Grades are fucked.”  They are and always will be.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Just know that Astroglide is harder than the 5.14a’s and easier than Litz’s two routes at French Cattle Ranch.       

The other thing to take into account is the morphological aspect of difficulty on vertical terrain.  The crux move is a very difficult stab to a 2 finger crimp sidepull pocket thing out left.  I can barely keep my right foot on a tiny knob that allows me to push to the hold.  If you can’t reach the hold from the foot knob, that move will be exponentially harder.  If you have fat fingers, this route will be exponentially harder.  Basically, if you are not shaped to my exact specifications (5’10”, plus 1 ape index, 124 pounds), this route will probably be harder than 5.14a.  So the slash grade also indicates: 5.14a for me, 5.14b for you.  Ha!!  Pretty funny.

If you’re still reading, I feel very sorry for you.  My rants are pathetic.  But before you watch the video I have to note one final thing.  This video is entirely sarcastic.  I’ve quickly learned by posting shenanigans on DPM that many people don’t understand sarcasm and I come off as an arrogant toolshed.  People that can’t appreciate sarcastic humor are the worst of the worst in my opinion and should be lined up and shot to rid the world of the waste of space that they are.  I’m kidding!  That’s sarcasm.  It turns out that there are many people that don’t get it: Autistic, learning disabled, and under the age of four to name a few.  If you fit this profile, you won’t get it so don’t watch.  If you just want to see the climbing footage and don’t want to watch all the shenanigans, skip to minute 7:00.  I also have to note that the climbing footage was all shot from the ground, mostly by tripod, so it’s not the best.          
        Click the Crushmore Crew for video.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Lilah enjoying some quality time with her favorite people just before we left Wyoming.

Traveling cuts into my free time left for posting photos and I've been traveling a lot.  After Kirk and Crystal showed up at Ten Sleep, we climbed a few more days and then had to split.  We caravaned through Yellowstone and I took a bunch of photos of one of the most amazing places on the planet.  As American's it's easy to forget how amazing our own country is.  We get stuck envisioning far-off lands in the Himalayas or Australia and maybe overlook the fact that one of the world's most unique and beautiful places is so close to home. 

The Western Tanager is a pretty little dude.  This species was first identified by Lewis and Clark.  They used to be a big deal.  Maybe you've heard of them?

Nevermore!  The Raven is an ugly, nasty, creature.  Edgar Allen Poe used to carry one on his shoulder to pick up girls.  When it died he stuffed it and put it in my Uncle Bob's restaurant...I think that's how the story goes?

This what I'm talking about.  Yellowstone is the only place in the world where you can see a bison herd in a sauna. 

  This is what those duders look like up close.  Seems like evolution would have made them more aerodynamic?

This is the river those Lewis and Clark A-holes were following on their birdwatching hike.

Another stupid waterfall.  For perspective, look for the 40 or so people standing just right of where the water pours over.  I wanted one of them to jump so bad!

Hot water comes out of the ground here, just like my faucet.  This is supposed to impress me how?

 More hot things.

OK, I get it!  Hot stuff comes out of the ground!  Dammit, give it a rest man.  

  Top secret free camping spot.  Guaranteed to wake up to the perfect view. 

I love the Tetons.  No other mountain range juts up from the plains with such visual force.  It's like Gandalf himself, rose his staff and created an impenetrable wall of stone and ice to stop an invading army.  Gandalf or Moses, or someone...  Nearly a decade ago I spent a few months living in Dubois which is just over Togwotee pass.  I didn't get much time off from work then but every two weeks I'd get two days.  During the summer months, I'd use one of those days to go climb a Teton.  I ended up doing four of the five.  I didn't do the lower (the one on the left) but I soloed the other four.  I was probably 23 and looking back, I was probably as cardiovascularly fit as I ever will be.  The middle Teton is a hike, Teewinot is a scramble, The Grand has one 5.5 move and some scrambling but Owen was a particular challenge. 

If you look at the photo, the rightmost peak is Teewinot and the one just left of it is Owen.  It's hard to tell from the 2-dimensional view but Owen sits 'behind' the other peaks.  The approach is much more difficult and the climbing is too.  The challenge of Owen for me was that you have to climb a long couloir of snow and ice.  The degree of slope is probably only 30 degrees but the thing is about 400 feet high.  For someone with crampons and axes this would be very mild.  I didn't have any ice gear at all so I was climbing the rock on the right side of the gully which ended up pushing near 5.8.  Near the top I realized I had to cross the couloir.  I was wearing shorts and some five ten guide tennies with slick rubber soles that are great on rock but disaster on ice.  I looked across to the other rock wall.  It was only 12 feet away.  Between me and the security of the other rock wall was just 12 feet of hardened snow.  I had one hand on the rock and I was desperately trying to kick steps in to the snow.  I'd get just a dimple in and try to weight it and my foot would slip. 

I couldn't believe it.  I was so close to the top and this 12 foot span of snow was going to stop me short.  I knew that once I let go of the rock and started to traverse left, one slip would be a 400 foot slip and slide to the bottom.  So many things go through your head right then.  All the pressure of knowing this is your only chance.  I knew I had to do the climb but then you think about how bad it would suck to fall...and your brain just goes back and forth.  I am not ordinarily a soloist and I don't do stupid things.  I wasn't going across unless I was solid and I wasn't.  But right as I was about to bail I reached out and found 'holds'.  The ice climbers that had come days before me had left little holes in the ice with their axes.  And they were deep.  I stuck my middle finger in the hole, kicked a half-assed step and ventured out.  No problem!!! 

It was crazy.  Every time I needed one, I found another hole for my finger.  I freaking mono'ed across that thing!  Hahaha!  What a trip.  I found myself on the other side, scrambling solid rock forever.  The final stretch toward the summit is a knifeblade of perfect granite.  The top is a jug rail that stretches for 200 feet and I was smearing my five-tennies and surfing up Owen with Idaho about 2000 feet below my soles.  I have never felt so invincible in my entire life.  And that day I was.
On the summit, by myself, I slowed down and thought about reversing the couloir traverse.  Not psyched!  Unbelievably, I actually found a rope.  How does that stuff happen?  I was able to sling a block and tension across.  No big deal.  It's cool to look back and remember experiences like that.  I was a different person then, but I did that!  It was me, and I was the only one there.  Up there in those Tetons having my own personal adventures with no one else around.  Crazy to think about.

So back to the present.  We left the Tetons and headed down to Maple Canyon, Utah.  It was the worst climbing experience of my life.  I can't believe that place is as popular as it is but if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all.  So I will stop there, having already broken the rule.  We left and went up to Logan Canyon, Utah.  The climbing there was much better and there was no one there.  All the people were at Maple.  What???  We stayed a week, I climbed on the famous upper portion of Super Tweak to check it out, did a few other routes, didn't take a single picture, and then headed to the outdoor retailer tradeshow. 
It was crazy, just like everyone says.  I can't believe how big this industry is.  I saw a bunch of good people, made some great connections, had some productive DPM meetings, and then drove to Rifle.  I climbed one day.  I have trouble getting really excited for something at Rifle.  Perhaps it's because it's very difficult climbing?  I don't know, but the cool temps of the front range were calling so I blasted out and arrived in Estes Park this morning to stay with my friends Nick and Katherine.  They have a sick set-up here.  Five minutes from Estes, which is the hub for high alpine climbing conditions. 

We climbed today at the Wizard's Gate and I'm very excited to go back and finish off some classico Jstar rigs.  The aptly named 'Cloak and Dagger' climbs a technical, blank-looking, shield of stone to a good rest then ventures out an intimidating and severely overhanging arete.  It is a great climb and we all joked Tommy Caldwell for not seeing that route before Jonathan bolted it!  It is classic!
The tentative plan is to stay here for a week then head back to Ten Sleep to meet up with Devlin, Anna, and Chanti.  I can't get enough of that place.  After that I'd like to come back here and climb with Nick.  He is a great partner that was kind enough to hike up to the Wizard's Gate with me on his rest day.  I will tell you the hike is no rest.  I was astounded to find out that the GPS said it's only one mile but with 1000 feet of gain.  It felt much further.  The crag is at 10,000 feet so breathing on route is difficult.  We'll see what happens.