Thursday, September 13, 2012

What’s in a Name: Would a New River Route by Any Other Name Sound as Sweet?

(Note: I wrote this last year sometime and just found it while scrolling through some old files. Thought some New River climbers might like it.)

When the last bolt is drilled and the moves finally linked, first ascentionists are faced with one final finishing touch for their new route.  “What should they name it?”  There’s a lot of pressure to come up with a good one.  For the rest of eternity, their chosen path up the rock before them will be known as what they decide.  The name reflects not only on the quality of that path but also on the character of the namers!  How to decide…?

Some, especially those that have put up hundreds of new routes, might cop out and pick a favorite song or album like Brian McCray’s Ride the Lightning, Dan Osman’s Through the Never, Eric Horst’s Diamond Life and I Advance Masked, Porter Jarrard’s Freaky Stylee and Nazz, Nazz, Eddie Begoon’s Rock Lobster, or Kenny Parker’s Hot Tuna.  Others look to the rock, asking the route to name itself.  Toxic Hueco at the Meadow River is a good example with its pronounced hueco dripping with green slime near the first bolt.  A few feet to the right is White Trash, linking a path of sloping pockets up a shimmering white face clean enough to eat off.  Further examples are The Scoop at Fern Buttress, The Growing Hole at Endless, and the fruit-colored Mango Tango at the Meadow.
Occasionally a play on words is introduced like Euro-nation, Meaty-urologist (a reference to the equippers occupation), De-funked, or Meadowbolic.  It could just as easily be a play on the equippers name or a tribute to a friend like Tim Fissure (Tim Fisher), Kirkules (Kirk Bjorling), Geneius (Gene Kistler), I’ll Be-Gooned (Eddie Begoon), Artz vs. Parker (Mike and Kenny), Munson Burner (Lee Munson), Kline the Billy Goat (Kris Kline) Komatose (Koma Shuichi) or the most well-known of all, Apollo Reed (Porter’s tribute to Doug).  It’s also common to poke a little fun at a more famous climb like the routes, To Bubba or Not to Be, (a play on America’s first 5.14 To Bolt or Not to Be at Smith Rock, Oregon), Likmé (a play on Eldorado Canyon’s Lakmé), Just Send It and Just Forget It (a play on another Smith Rock test-piece, Just Do It), Dreams of White Hörsts (a reference to the British sea cliff climb Dreams of White Horses), Gram Delusion (Sugarloaf, California’s Grand Illusion), Bullet the New Sky (Penitente Canyon’s Bullet the Blue Sky), Churning in the Butter (Smith Rock’s Churning in the Wake) or Cliff notes of Hate (a miniature version of Yosemite’s Book of Hate).      
One of the finest aretes in the country is Penitente Canyon Colorado's Bullet the Blue Sky established by Bob D'Antonio. Bob also had a hand in putting up another brilliant arete just 2000 miles to the east. Karissa Dunbar on Bullet the New Sky.

Sometimes a theme reveals itself like the Tigger theme at the Meadow River’s Other Place, the Cotton theme at Cotton Top, or the literary references to the book “Little Black Sambo” at the crag formerly known as Sambo (now Carnifex Ferry).  Perhaps no other area in the country has embraced a theme as much as Bubba City with its 44 Bubba-themed names such as Bubbacide, Bubba does Debbie, Bubba Bath, Axis Bold as Bubba, White Bubbas on Dope, Bubba Black Sheep, Bubba Shitty, and of course 37 more. 
I’ve heard that back in the boom days of first ascents at the New that some route developers had little books of potential route names.  After they established a route they would look through the jotted down ideas and appoint one to the route.  Others would wait until the ascent was completed and name it something that reflected on the day, who was there, and what happened.  Doug Reed, in particular, placed a great amount of worth in a route’s name.  His good friend and partner in route development, Porter Jarrard, said about Doug:
Perhaps most frustrating to visiting climbers and guidebook authors was his penchant for not naming routes, or delaying their naming for years or for eternity.  To Doug, the line of the route was foremost, not the name.  Absence of a name did not mean a route was inferior.  The line had to somehow suggest a name, a turn of phrase, some concatenation of vowels, a syllabic flourish, something beautiful, but rarely anything with a literary meaning or which somehow told a story of the climb.  This would be crass and vulgar and extemporary.  He had no pre-fab list of trite names to pick from.  Climbs were usually named like works of art: Titan’s Dice, Harbinger Scarab, Rebel Spade, Loud Noise, Dissonance, and The Racist.  His names could be somewhat nonsensical and/or ambiguous, kind of like Stipes’ lyrics in early REM songs, allowing each climber the opportunity to create their own mythology for the route.”
A mental conflict, the properties of a chord, or just a beautiful word? Pat Goodman on Doug Reed's Dissonance.

Regardless of Doug’s intent, a route’s mythology does reside in its name.  Doug’s act of intentionally naming routes based on a random “concatenation of vowels” still gives the thoughtful climber insight into his character.  There are feelings associated with given routes, especially at the New, that offer hints at who the first ascentionist was and analyzing the name can offer clues.
Throughout the process of compiling the New River Gorge guidebook I invested a good deal of energy into cracking the code behind individual route names.  Some will remain mysteries forever.  The meaning behind the name will go to the grave with the first ascentionist.  Others are obvious, like Toxic Hueco for example.  The one’s that really interest me though are the ones that tell a story.  The names that somehow reflect on the time period, the day, the people, the route, the moves, the view, and somehow…in two simple words… sum it all up.
Originally called Black Rider by Doug Reed, the notorious two-finger pocket crux characterizes this route in the minds of climbers. These days, everyone just calls it the Pocket Route. Climber: Jessa Goebel.
Proper Soul:  In 1995, Steve Cater released his first edition guidebook.  It included the prophetic quote, “There is no doubt that a line will go at 5.14, it is just a matter of the proper soul finding the proper line.”  In 1997, Brian McCray redpointed his project in the Cirque to establish the New’s first 5.14 rock climb. 
The Travisty:  An out-of-towner visited the New and bolted this very difficult climb at Beauty Mountain.  He also drilled a couple of holds in the rock to make it easier.  After his departure, the holds were filled in with epoxy and when Harrison Dekker completed the climb in its natural state, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to exploit the unfortunately-named equipper.  The intentionally misspelled Travisty offers adequate hints to the name of the driller.  Years later, an inferior, traditionally protected variation to the route was done and dubbed the Tradjedy.  Sometimes naming routes is just too easy.
Chunky Monkey:  Harrison Dekker’s favorite ice cream.
Magnatude:  I’ve heard a few times that there is a typo in the guidebook.  “The proper spelling is Magnitude,” they say.  But the name comes from an old ad campaign for Magna cigarettes.  If you smoked Magna cigarettes you had Magna-tude, a certain bad-ass attitude associated with the brand.  In the early 90’s, 5’3”, 5.13+ climber Bobbi Bensman visited the New and got completely shut down on the reachy move of this 5.11.  She declared the New a road cut, left, and never returned…as the story goes.  The incident was at least partial impetus for the name of a route a few feet to the left called The Tantrum. 
Mega Magic:  In the late 80’s, La Sportiva released a cutting-edge climbing shoe called the Mega.  The board lasted shoe allowed climbers to stand on smaller edges than ever before and opened up a new world of possibilities for difficult face climbing.  At the time, it was said that some of Smith Rock’s hardest routes were impossible without La Sportivas.  In 1988, Eric Hörst tapped into the potential of his new kicks to establish Mega Magic at the Bridge Buttress. 
Caption:  Doug Reed equipped the very difficult and tricky face climb that would become Caption.  While working for the redpoint he allowed Porter Jarrard to take a turn up it thinking that there was no way Porter would flash the route and claim the first ascent.  Remarkably, Porter flashed the route and lowered to the ground to find a visibly peeved Reed standing there speechless.  The tension was palpable as Doug stood there, jaw slightly open, unable to utter a single word.  Porter pictured a caption bubble above his head filled with expletives and the route name presented itself.
  It's a little known fact that Porter Jarrard actually ran for public office in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Though he didn't clinch a win, his efforts will forever be remembered in Long Point's amazing blunt arete, Porter for Recorder.
Butcher Man:  This short arête at the far end of Butcher’s Branch could have been named solely based on the crag at which it was located or it could have been named for the butchering of a large tree that used to reside at the base.  When Gus Glitch finished the route he sat down on the ground, reached for his pack of cigarettes, and took a Copperhead snake bite right to the hand.  His other hand wrapped around a machete and butchered the snake right there.  Butcher man is a properly named route.   
The Weight:  Kenny Parker started this route but before finishing it circumstances in his personal life prevented him from returning.  “It ended up taking forever,” he remarked.  Somehow, over time, the name of the route evolved from The Wait to The Weight. 
Leave it to Jesus:  Cal Swoager was one of the strongest and most daring climbers of the very early years of New River route development.  He was known for his reckless hard-partying lifestyle as well as his ability on the rock.  Cal’s last first ascent, of the New’s finest crack climb, marked his transformation from rock-star lifestyle to born-again Christian.
By the Way, I Did Your Mom:  Stop by Waterstone Outdoors and ask Kenny Parker! 
Nude Brute:  Shortly before the establishment of this route, an article was published in a climbing magazine written by two very well-known climbers documenting one of their first ascents.  Reportedly, the article had a very pompous tone.  Reed and Jarrard painstakingly rewrote the entire article, replacing individual words with similar sounding diatribes to paint the protagonists as homosexuals that were interested in “Nude Brutes” rather than “New Routes.”  Although the intent was to send the article to the climbing magazine, this brilliant piece of literature was cast aside and forever lost. 
Picket Fence:  My proudest contribution to the already amazing selection of NRG rock climbs took me more than 150 days of effort over a four year period to complete.  When I started working on it, I was a single chap with a full head of hair living in a van and traveling the country six months of the year.  I had to move to the New and drastically limit my travel time to complete it.  When I finally clipped the chains this past fall I was married to my beautiful wife, lived in a house, had a dog, a lawnmower, and a few less hairs.  Nothing says domestication like the Picket Fence!   
First Strike:  In 1983 there were very few routes at the New and even fewer climbers.  Pittsburgh climbers Cal Swoager and Phil Wilt drove right over the New River Gorge Bridge on their way to the far inferior crag of Crowder’s Mountain, North Carolina.  On the way back they stopped to investigate some rumors they had heard of climbable rock in the gorge.  The aptly named First Strike was the first of many they would establish at the New.      
Pudd’s Pretty Dress:  In the early days, climbers camped out under the bridge in the parking lot for Bridge Buttress.  They weren’t the only low-life’s there though.  Like the modern day highway rest area, it was a popular meeting place for degenerates to hook up and engage in drug use and explicit sex acts.  Pudd was the nickname of a cross-dresser that used to frequent the area.  It can be assumed that his dress was quite pretty. 
Jason Marshall enveloped in the floral patterns of Pudd's Pretty Dress.
Another time, Gus Glitch was camped down there and happened to run into a Japanese climber that he had met out west named Koma Shuichi.  The meeting sparked a long-term partnership that began the next day when they established Chance Meeting at Beauty Mountain.  Gus had long dread-locked hair at the time and he tells a tale of another time that he was camped out in this zone.  A bunch of local boys drove by and tried to start a fight with him because of his hippie appearance.  They eventually drove off, only to drop flaming Molotov cocktails on him from the overlook above.  He claims that the fire damaged his car and shortly after, he established a sport route at Ambassador Buttress named Fear of Dreads.    
When the weather turned for the worse, the rain would force climbers to camp under the trash compactor roof near Underfling and Chockstone at Bridge Buttress.  On one of these occasions, rats raided the climber’s camp in the night and stole someone’s eye glasses.  It was Mike Artz (or maybe Eddie Begoon) that uttered the phrase, “Them rats are slicker than olives.”  The route Slick Olives is a slippery R-rated journey at Fern Point.    
There are 2500 routes in the New River region.  Each one has a name that somehow, in its own way, paints a picture of a time before the route was a route.  While that crack or blank-looking face was always there, it wasn’t until it was touched by the hand of man that it acquired character.  Next time you step up to a climb at the New, take a moment to reflect on the pioneers that crafted the path before you.  Imagine bushwhacking in, selecting an objective, and carefully creating a route that will be enjoyed by future generations.  The personification of these little chunks of stone offers us the opportunity to view the New River climbing area as not just a cliff, but instead a collection of bygone adventures had by the first party and subsequently, every other party that has ventured upward.  It’s a privilege to be able to follow in the footsteps of those that came before us, the ones that gave it a name. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Derek Zoolander/Chris Sharma Interview

Up until recently, Derek Zoolander had reigned supreme as America's number one male model. But there's a new "Rock Star" in town that's threatening Derek's throne. I sat down with two of the best looking people in the world to find out just who is really better looking.

Me: All right guys. Let's see some signature looks.

Me: Wow, that was hot. You guys gave me a semi. Let's talk skin care. Chris, what do you prefer?  

Chris: "Daila bought me a L’Oréal anti-aging cream that was really nice,’’ he says. (RevitaLift Triple Power Deep-Acting Moisturizer; $25 at drugstores.) ‘‘I’m not picky, though. When it ran out, I just started using her cream,’’ (Nivea Q10 Plus Anti-Wrinkle Cream; $18.70 at

Me: Sounds nice. Derek?

Derek: "I prefer an unleaded gasoline. Usually a regular 87 Octane, but before a big shoot, I might use premium or even diesel."

Me: Werd Derek. Now Chris...I understand you do a lot of deep water soloing which is a very pure form of ropeless ascent over the ocean. Any problems with getting too tanned and beautiful when you're swimming around that Mallorcan coastline?

Chris: Yes, sometimes getting too tanned has been a problem for me. That's why I use Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineralblock face stick ($9.99 at

Me: Nice. Derek, how about you?

Derek: I recently did a commercial for Aveda in which I starred as a merman. Our motto is: Moisture is the essence of wetness and wetness is the essence of beauty.

Me: What! Sick work Derek. Chris, what do you do to unwind after a long photo shoot?

‘‘It’s important not to get too caught up in the rat race. When I climb, I fully disconnect from all the stresses of everyday life and am completely in the present.”

Me: Unwinding must be the key to great skin. Look at that back! Not one spot of bacne on that brisket. Derek, how do you unwind?

Derek: I like to get an orange mocha frappachino and drive around with friends. Sometimes I talk on my tiny cell phone.

Me: This rivalry between you is very recent. Chris just popped onto the modeling scene this morning and already he's turning heads around the world. Who was your last arch nemesis in the modeling world Derek?

Me: And you Chris?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Twister Vid

A ragtag trio of thrill seekers heads into the backcountry of Wyoming in search of the ultimate ride. But are they prepared for what they might find? Starring Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, and Milky Williams; this non-stop, action packed thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat and gasping for breath. Click the image for video. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

C'mon Sun!

The other day, someone left a comment on one of my blog posts that was kind of aggro. I figured it was one of my friends messing with me so of course I responded in my usual style with something like, "lick my nuts." Something like that. Then I was curious as to who it was, so I went snooping around inside the dark underbelly of and found this tab called 'stats' that shows how many page views I get and where they're from, etc. Dude, I'm big time for sure. Climbingnarc posted a link to my last post today and I got like 700 hits or something ridiculous.
What really fascinated me though was the map of the earth that shows where people viewed this blog from. Dude, 25 Germans checked it out. I'm sure one of them was Kenny Barker but the other 24...Maybe it was just Kenny checking 25 times. I don't know how it works. Two Spaniards checked in. I assume it was Dani Andrada and Ramon Julian just scoping my guns. Nine Australians, twelve Brits and 67 Canadians? Not bad eh?

Come on Africa? Can I get a little Brazil? Get your head out of that sweat shop China!
200 million people in India lost power recently. They have an excuse. But honestly, I'm surprised that 200 million people in India had electricity to start with.

The point is, I had to delete my ball-licking comment cause I figured it might really be a real person, not just one of my friends. I also saw that I still get a bunch of traffic from the Sprinter forum site. There are a lot of folks that are interested in Max the rig cause they want a sweet rig too and they want to know how to do it. Since my beta is ironclad in all respects, and those van nerds don't give a crap about rock climbing, I figured I'd throw up some photos of Max's newest accoutrement.

C'mon Sun!

I've had Max for about 2.5 years now and he's still killing it out on the highway. He stumbled a bit on this trip and busted up his harmonic balancer which set us back 500 bucks but other than that...oh and we had to replace the front rotors but that's just standard maintenence. But let's talk ironcladbeta.

When I first got Max, I had no fridge and just one 55ah battery. The next year I installed the electric fridge and needed to up the battery bank so I got two more 100ah batteries for a grand total of 255ah of bank. I thought that would be plenty. For the most part it is. As long as I drove him a bit each day, the batteries would stay topped off. At least in the 12 volt range. Thinking back though, even last summer, we'd have to pay for hookups every now and then and really charge them overnight from shore power. This summer, we struggled a bit and really had to watch the charge. When we were up at Crazy Woman for weeks at a time, just driving to town every other day, we even crept into the 11.8 volt zone which is borderline bad for the bank. Drain them too far and they'll never hold the same charge again. Sadly, I think Max's batteries just aren't what they once were. I feel ya Max.

With the prospect of having to replace the whole bank in the next year or two, a cost of about 700 dollars, it looked financially more appealing to bite the bullet and hook up solar to keep them healthy. Thanks to the Chinese, who've also brought down the price of flat-screen TV's, Ipods, and everything else, (which is probably why they don't have time to EVER check my blog), solar panels are cheaper than ever. This panel I ordered from Home Depot for 200 bucks and the shipping was free. It's a 100 watt panel which just a few years ago would have been double the price. I also ordered a cheapo charge controller at the recommendation of 'customers who bought this also bought this.' The whole package was 240 bucks, but then I spent another 80 on wire and mounting hardware. Still a hell of a lot cheaper than damaging those precious battery cells and having to replace all the batteries.

If anyone can figure out what's going on here, you're a better man than me. I say 'man' cause there's no way a woman could figure this out. (Ladies, I'm joking. No one can figure this out. Not even Sarah Palin and she's wicked smart)

You'd have to be a total idiot to mess up the wiring on this thing though. Red wire from the panel goes to red wire on the charge controller which goes to the red post on the battery. Black to black to black. Done. The only freestyling I had to do was to put the ground wire to the ground post of the monitor instead of the battery. The monitor wasn't reading the charge flow but I knew it was working cause it was reading an increase in voltage. A call to dad and some brainstorming cleared that up.

End result. An immediate increase from 12.6 volts to 13.2. Despite a few clouds I was getting 1.9 amps and when it was full sun I was getting about 5. At one point, the fridge was running and I was charging my phone on the inverter and I still had a 1.7 amp charge from the panel.

Why would this interest you? Well, if I knew then what I know now... I may have invested too much money into the battery bank when I could have originally put that into the solar panel. For my use, in a small camper, I think a 200ah bank with a 100 watt panel would be sufficient. I was worried too that 100 watts wouldn't be enough. I'll comment fully on that later I reckon. I'm also keeping in mind that a 1-year old solar panel puts out about 80% of what it does out of the box. It gets weaker over time, kind of like the batteries and my muscles. 

Moral of the story is that I'm really excited to have this panel on the rig and I highly recommend incorporating it if you're in the conversion phase. It's totally worth the relatively minimal cost and I foresee this saving me lots of worrying and being more carefree with charging the laptop, leaving the fan on, etc.

Lastly, a note about mounting it. I fully freestyled this, so take it with a grain of salt. I just bought some aluminum angle and created a little framework that barely overhangs the edge of the van. I bolted the angle to the panel and then bolted the framework to the rain gutters. I just drilled right through them and siliconed the crap out of the holes. If they start to rust'll just go with the theme of the rest of the van. I drilled a hole through the plastic brake light cover and ran the wires through that. Siliconed the crap out of that hole too.

We'll see what happens from here and I'll make some comments a few months/years down the road. Hopefully it will be tales of never worrying about power needs and a constant 13 volts. More likely it will be that I didn't realize that the hot wire was running over my hack saw that I store in the battery compartment and driving down a washboard road finally shaved through the insulation causing it to ground and spark right next to the propane hose that's in the same compartment and Max and Milky went down in a blaze of glory. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fanning a Twister

One of the warmest summers on record had us fleeing from the usually cool climate of Ten Sleep. With the completion of the last route I bolted, a crimpy little gold wall called Milky's Ultimate Steeze (13a), we'd finished up the new routes at Crazy Woman and thought we'd get a bit of climbing in back at the canyon. But even the breeze didn't help much and mostly felt like blowing a hair dryer on your face.

At the same time, Elissa applied for an actuary job in Chattanooga. With the looming hope/fear that she might have to fly out early for an interview we decided to split. As we know, Elissa is the kindest, most selfless/easily manipulated partner one could wish for. Knowing that the project I bolted north of Sheridan at Steamboat Point was the best of the bunch, and the most important to me, we headed back to actually climb on it.

This route is the proudest line I've bolted, and one of the best routes in the country. It is still absolutely unbelievable to me that routes like this still exist in plain view of a major road.

Steamboat Point

Flashback to when we first came up here about two weeks ago. I'd looked through the tiny guidebook "Rock climbs of the Eastern Bighorns" and seen a picture of Steamboat Point. Massive 200' walls of steep, always-climbable Bighorn Dolomite loom over highway 14 that passes through the northern part of the Bighorn Range.

We drove up on a whim to check it out and arrived at the cliff around 5:00. The cliff was blazing in sun but we tromped up the hill to check it out that evening. Walking along the base from right to left started out relatively uninspiring. There are a handful of established routes that generally stick to the tall gray slabs.

The tornado-shaped pillar. For scale, the first small roof on the pillar is at 150 feet.

About mid-way along the cliff is a huge semi-detached pillar of stone that looks like a giant tornado. The current hardest rig at the cliff climbs the left side of the pillar up the face. Todd Skinner bolted the 140-foot pitch in 1991 and cleverly named it Stub Farlow (5.12d). Stub Farlow is a famous cowboy from Todd's hometown of Lander. As legend has it, at some point between 1901 and 1914, Stub rode one of the most famous horses in bucking bronco lore; Steamboat. Steamboat was named for his high-pitched snort that sounded more like a steamboat than a rodeo horse. Inducted into the pro-rodeo hall of fame in 1979, Steamboat will forever be remembered as one of the wildest rides in the rodeo business.

But nothing thrust Steamboat into the limelight more than the silhouetted image shown on the state's license plate. Though there is some dispute over which horse and rider are depicted in the image, it's commonly believed to be Stub and Steamboat.

Stub Farlow, Steamboat the bucking horse, and Devil's Tower; summing up Wyoming on the license plate.

Route name etymology, first ascentionists, and the history of routes fascinate me. I imagined Todd Skinner stomping up to this massive pillar in 1991 and sinking 140 feet of bolts up the blank looking face. I imagined him quickly climbing the route, with it's rad Euro 'rose move' crux, smiling and knowing that Wyoming was the future of American sport climbing. I pictured him standing there at the base and looking out toward's Elephant's Foot, a huge 200-foot tall and 1/2 mile wide wall that looks like a bone white version of Ceuse's Biographie sector. (Sidenote: 2wd roads only get within four miles of the wall  located at the northern tip of Walker Prairie, the highest elevation plain in the Bighorns. From Elephant's Foot, heading south there are 4 more giant reefs of dolomite.)

Todd Skinner and his friends of the time period, were really the first to see the true potential of Wyoming sport climbing. As the story goes, Todd's sister was living up in Wyoming as a rancher. She'd been to the south of France and knew what to look for in climbable rock. One day she rode on horseback along the cliffs of Wild Iris and called Todd to let him know what she'd found. This story is told from memory, which is how legends form, but as I recall he told his wife he was driving up for a day to check it out. She didn't hear from him for a week.

Wyoming legend Todd Skinner at Baldwin Creek near Lander.

It wasn't long after that that bolts were being fired into the short cliffs of Wild Iris. But it was only the beginning and the crags around Lander are the tip of the iceberg. Rumor has it that Todd flew in a plane over the Bighorns and proclaimed that there was more climbable rock here than anywhere else in America.

I think multiple things led to the overall stall of development in Wyoming sport climbing. Firstly, the nature of the climbing plays a role. Climbing on Bighorn Dolomite is my favorite style of climbing but that opinion is not shared by everyone. It's gently overhanging on small tweaky pockets and edges. The climbing is technical, thought-provoking and pumpy.

In the early game of sport climbing, throughout the late 80's and 90's, techy faces were king. Smith Rock, the New River Gorge, Penitente Canyon, and Shelf Road were some of the first in America to see bolts and all define that early style. By the late 90's and early 2000's, steep climbing was in vogue and developers sought out the steepest overhangs and caves like the Red River Gorge's Madness Cave, which saw it's first routes in 1995. Over the past 17 years, I'd say that steep rock has been the focus. In vogue areas include Maple Canyon, Rifle, the steep deep south, and of course, the ever popular Red River Gorge.

Of course, Todd's untimely death in 2006 probably played a large role in halting development as well. In addition, Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation, far from any population center. Regardless of the reasons, development in Wyoming has chugged along at a relatively slow pace. Much of the past decade was focused on Ten Sleep which is only now being recognized as a true destination area.

Screen grab, hiking up to the pillar. The steep arete above Elissa's head is the rig. 

I stood there at the bottom of that route at Steamboat and saw what Todd saw in 1991; enormous potential. So much that one person can't ever scratch the surface. It was immediately apparent to me that Todd had put up this route with the intention of coming back. There is no way he could have looked at this wall and not been drawn to the arete.

About 25 feet right of Stub Farlow the wall makes a drastic 90-degree bend forming a perfect overhanging arete. My first impression was that it was completely blank. I stared at it, heart-racing, and just could not believe my eyes. "The perfect line, the perfect route," kept repeating in my mind, sometimes followed by an exclamation point but just as often followed by a question mark. I could see, about 40 feet up, a big pocket right on the corner. It was the only hold I could see from the ground. Knowing that Todd had rappelled over it coming down from Stub, I honestly thought it probably didn't go. He would have bolted it otherwise.

Left hand in the pocket, the only visible hold from the ground.

The next morning, we got a rope up to the anchor of Stub and I fixed it and rapped down over the arete. It went for sure but it wouldn't be easy. By lunchtime, I was geared up and tacking over from the Stub anchor. I sunk my own cold shuts at exactly 34.5 meters so you can get down with a standard 69-meter rope. I cooked like a lobster in direct sun all day but 8 hours later, at sunset, I was brushing the last of the holds and cleaning my gear.

The next day we jetted back to Crazy Woman. Steamboat goes into direct sun at 11:30 and becomes unclimbable so the project was left for cooler temps. But with the prospect of Elissa having to leave, it made sense to come back up here and take care of business. For now, It's 6:00 am wakeups and three burns before the sun hits. I got 'er down to two hangs yesterday and came very close to a one hang.

It's about V7 to get to the second bolt, like Babyface V7 not Tommy's Arete V7.

The question mark has been erased from the "perfect line" that repeats in my head when I'm climbing it. It's perfect...almost. The rock is a little crumbly still, I imagine just like it was at Smith Rock the first time a route went up. But it's already cleaning up really nice and everything else about it is absolutely perfect.

Pinching the arete at the first redpoint crux.

The first 55 feet are the crux. It's super continuous up the steepest part of the route. The arete overhangs about 30 degrees on the left side and about 20 on the right. The climbing stays right on it the whole time; right hand on the right side, left hand on the left side. Slapping, balance, high-stepping, precision...the whole works. It's amazing. At 55 feet is the first real break at a good hold that can be matched. The top kicks back to barely overhanging but has some really big holds. It's still 5.12a or so but if you know what you're doing, it's chill with plenty of rests.

Dynoing for the break. After the sustained opening section of 5 bolts there is a marginal shake. Getting through the next 3 bolt section is the 2nd redpoint crux.

I just have this suspicion that Mr. Skinner intended to come back for this route and never got around to it before his death. With so many projects on his plate, it would have been easy to forget about. But I also have this feeling that he had a name for it. The other iconic symbol of Wyoming is the University of Wyoming's distinctive logo. Similar to the one on the license plate, the symbol depicts a rider on a bucking bronco. In the early 1920's the University obtained a photo of famous cowboy Guy Holt riding a bucking horse. It became the inspiration for the logo. Of course, that horse was none other than Steamboat, bucking and snorting his characteristic whistle while refusing to be tamed during his 12-year reign as king of the rodeo ring.

Miles of cliff stretch away in every direction. You should hike out there and check them out. 

I added this picture because at the very right edge of the photo, as far back as you can see, is Elephant's Foot. I was eyeballing that thing through binoculars and it might be the real deal. Like Biographie good. But I'm just saying that to get you to hike out there and find out. It's 4 miles from Steamboat and the shortest way might be right across that open meadow.

For a century, Steamboat the bucking horse has symbolized the spirit of the state. Wild and still untamed, it's possible to step off of any road in Wyoming and find yourself in immediate wilderness. The countryside in the Bighorns will never be reigned in. They're too big, too wild, and hold too many secrets.

The spirit and iconography of Steamboat, ridden by Guy Holt, was cast in bronze in 1991 and erected outside of the University of Wyoming stadium. It was that same year that Todd stomped up the hill to Steamboat Point and sunk the bolts on Stub Farlow. I wonder if he looked at that arete, twisting and turning it's way up the outrageous 200-foot tornado tower and thought of Steamboat and the statue that'd just been erected: Fanning a Twister.

The statue named "Fanning a Twister" depicts Guy Holt on Steamboat the bucking horse.

 Yup, that's a moose. I also saw an ermine yesterday which was a first. Never had seen one before. Ermines are also known as 'Stoats.' Stoat was a nickname for bold New River climbing pioneer, Andrew Barry. There is a route at South Nuttall called Stoats aren't Dangerous. With this knowledge on hand, I was unafraid of the 4-pound rodent shaped like a dachsund.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Murder Dog's death toll rose to two marmots yesterday. We did not let her chase this majestic specimen.

Aspen. I love the way it quakes.

Billy and Elissa.

Outside the library (AKA: DPM's temporary branch office)

Chillin' before the business on Aunt Flo (5.13+). New rig I got done this morning. This was the last of the rigs I bolted here originally...but i bolted another one yesterday so I'm not quite done.

Business time on Aunt Flo.

I bolted a bunch of stuff on this trip. Some of it is really, really good. I've spent a great deal of time making outrageous claims like, "that's the best pitch in the state." I think I've said that more than once. It's a bad habit of mine. I think over the past few years I've said, "That's the best 12c I've ever done," probably in excess of 30 times. OK, I'm starting to realize that sometimes I just really like rock climbing and my emotions get the best of me.
But seriously, this one here... I will never, ever, in my life find a line this incredible again. I pulled a 12 hour bolting shift in direct sun to get this thing in. It's far too hot to climb on it yet but's amazing. I put the anchor right at 35 meters. The climbing above eases off anyway. It's a 35 meter arete that starts steep at the bottom. Like 35 degrees overhanging. It snakes up to vertical after about 60 feet. Likely in the 14a range.
Called "Fanning the Twister"  

Monday, July 2, 2012

No time for titles

It's been my motto lately and the mantra I've been living by: There's no time! I've never felt this busy in my life. I know a lot of people think I'm on vacation but when this is all over I think I'm gonna crash hard. I'm working hard to stay online when I need to be, climbing like crazy, bolting in the evenings, taking care of Max and his annoying quirks. I've been living the beaver life for a while now and love it. Here's some photos:

It's a deer.

Sunset over the Bighorns. This is from where we camp. Not too bad. The Wyoming sky is usually bright and crisp. These hazy sunsets are from all the smoke in the air. The whole west is burning down.

The biggest bull I'd ever seen. This Jabba the Hut looking monster is guarding that sicky crag up there. If I had time, I'd photoshop in Princess Leia leashed up in front of him wearing some scandalous clothing.

Screen image. I've got some video of Elissa working this incredible 13b called TWC. She also got some uncut send footage of my new rig Mixed Message, a little 13 dogface I rapbolted the crap out of. That monster is 16 bolts! The first ten protect toe-cramping 11c face. Then it gets raw dog.

Here's that screen image of Mixed Message I was talking about. This is at bolt 15. It's a big face. Max is officially pissed and refusing to let us climb tomorrow. I am extremely dissatisfied. Looks like we might be paying 1000's of dollars to sit around in town for a few days. I am really rethinking the Sprinter van decision. I love this rig but have yet to get through a trip without a serious thousands of dollars let down. This time it's something about a harmonic balancer. The forums call it a 'common problem' just like the last 3 'common problems' we had. Not psyched.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Before Elissa showed up here in Ten Sleep, I spent about a week just hiking in search of new rigs. I saw a ton of rock and found some sweet rigs that needed to be manhandled into submission.

Tyler Endicott: "That's Milky. They call him the Milkisattva. He's a modern savage. He's a real searcher."
Johnny Utah: "What's he searching for?"
Tyler Endicott: The ride! The ultimate ride. The guy's even crazier than you, Johnny."

Say hello to my little friend! Tony Montana (12c) climbs up past the tree at the left edge of the face. A full 35 meters up the Wall of Awesome. I went crazy trying to bang off this big flake about halfway up. It succumbed to Billy's 'Southern Steez' rockbar.  

I bolted this not-quite-ultimate ride for E-train. It's really good but is well-bolted and does not require that you pay the ultimate price to experience it. This little rigatoni is up at the Tupac Memorial Buttress. Here she is on the first ascent of "Not too Hood." (11d)

"What does 'Not too Hood' mean to me? I don't know, it's like my hood is the place where I climb and stuff and this is my hood right here. But it's not too hood, you know what I mean? I mean Ten Sleep is hood but there aren't as many Co-ops, yoga studios, and climbing gyms for white people as my real hood which is Boulder, Colorado. That place is straight HOOD!"  

This is looking straight down the "Ghostface Killa" project.

 "Ayo this snow nigga is 14a son! F'real! It gets points for stayin true to its own crackerjack self n shit. But its still a marshmallow ass muthafucka. Ayo its like this nigga made out of baby powder namsayin. This nigga is human baby powder in the flesh son. If you aint under the age of 22 n dont have no vagina you basically aint got no excuses to be climbin' on this soft ass rig."

For those unfamiliar with the wordsmith that partially crafted such legendary quotes as the one above...Ghostface Killah is a member of the Wu Tang Clan and is credited on Wikipedia as being, "critically acclaimed[4][5] for his loud, fast-paced flow,[3] and his emotional stream-of-consciousness narratives containing cryptic slang and non-sequiturs.

Read more of Ghostface's loud, fast-paced flow and emotional narratives, non-sequiturs, etc, at his excellent blog The Big Ghost Chronicles.

This is me gettin' straight nasty on the "Ghostface" project.

A videogaming boy, seemingly doomed to stay at his trailer park hom all his life, finds himself recruited as a gunner for an alien defense force. That young man is known as Billy 'Southern Steeze' Brown...AKA: The Last Starfighter (5.12a/b)

Lilah was there to greet Elissa when she got off the plane.

Equipping the Gold Digger project at Crazy Woman.

Crazy Woman.