Wednesday, January 11


Quite the fast-foward here I know. Sometimes that's the way life is though. I left a summer living in Estes Park and drove straight to Southern Idaho. Long, cold nights. Beautiful stars. Tear inducing sunsets and many mornings with tea, alone. Good friends were also there, long sessions trying an incredible roof boulder called 'WarPath' but the stars never aligned for me on this one. Something that would unfortunately become a bit of a closing theme for 2016.

I escaped back to Colorado and began a rigorous training program. Putting all of my energy forward for an upcoming trip to Spain. A few little objectives mixed in there, some fruitful, others not. I built confidence in my training and tried to look ahead.

Well here I am, nestled into this stone-built restaurant just after 10 am. Indoors, but still I'm wearing a puffy. Two sixty-something men across from me share laughs and a glass of red wine. The bar is full of long haired story tellers, with smiles and a posture that hints to some gnarly adventure that they've enjoyed. This place that I have come to call home, Organya, is mostly known for its incredible Paragliding. Furthermore we have come to know it as the place that's always sunny. An inversion and a formidable creeping fog engulfs much of central Catalunya during the winter. It's hell. Alas, a little ways into the Pyrenees or near the sweet Mediterranean and you'll find reprieve.

I've been here for over five weeks. Friends coming and going, meeting strangers that become close in an instant. We've all made memories together exploring. Meet the vibrant, after midnight streets of Madrid or the beer bars of Barcelona. We've watched Spanish TV, unwillingly been towed to France, Partied, ate well, collectively turned a corner and said 'Wooooowwww!' too many times to count. I've made a sea of memories in the last 5+ weeks that I'll keep and cherish.

The climbing. I've never tried a route so much before in my life. When I first arrived I felt like the thought of a send was nothing more than a joke. I drew inspiration from my friends that have punished themselves on a route seemingly above their level. For months, years even - eventually meeting victory. Slowly I made progress, most days I would make the smallest, albeit tangible, progress. Just enough to keep me going. Suddenly I broke through. The links became longer and longer, I started to have confidence that I could at least get close. And last week was truly the turning point. I climbed twice to within one or two holds of the final rest - making it to this rest is a very likely send for me. Then on the next try I went from very low on the route, all the way through the finish to the anchor. For the first moment I felt confident I would send. Looking down I noticed blood on my hands. My skin had torn open in the sub zero conditions. A severe set back, I took nearly a week off - escaped to Madrid to forget about climbing and see something new.

Now I'm back. My ticket is extended, my skin is healed, but it seems my progress could be lost.

It's hard to really communicate here, but this is so much more than a route to me. For years my strength has been patience. My strength has been in the act of hanging on. Not as in hanging on to the wall but hanging on to the process. Like a raging, spinning bull there are so many moments when your body and mind tell you to let go - to end the doubt, the suffering, the ride. I'm hanging on like hell but damn it is taking everything I have. My experience on this route has been deeply emotional like nothing I've ever quite experienced. It has been months and months since I had a win. Perhaps it's because I am truly reaching my limit, if not physically, mentally. No tricks or short cuts or easy outs here... I know that if I want to send this thing I have to walk up the hill and try to the death every day. Anything more than that is unfortunately out of my control.

I really want the lesson to be that I held on through so much doubt and sacrifice to finally, finally meet success in the sweetest, most relieving way, most heart opening way. But I also know that it's just as likely that the lesson could be; sometimes you give every fucking ounce you have and it's still not enough.

Two weeks left here, I accept whatever the outcome is. Venga vichos.

Thursday, September 22

Farewell Chaos

I closed out my Chaos bouldering season this past Monday with a win on one of my favorite boulders ever, 'The Shining' V13. Monday was really my last opportunity to climb the boulder because of an ultra busy week ahead. It seems that no matter what the project, what its implications, how hard or how amazing... each time I find myself tying in or chalking up, the project looming above me is the very most important thing in the world. It's captivating, it's everything. At times I'm sure that the stress is a detriment to performance and certainly looking back it always seems far less important than it was in the moment. But this kind of involvement is what I thrive on. And this feeling is driven to new heights when I feel the pressure of a closing weather window, or the end of a trip, or failing skin. I love it.

I finished The Shining in a few tries on Monday so I was left with some time to play. Nate Drolet and I wandered down to Upper for 'Eternia' V11 - an amazing, long roof problem that he was really stoked on and I had been hearing about for years. Underclings forever on this thuggy boulder, with a wild feet-first ending. Truly a memorable climb. We both sent and we took our pads down to a trailside turd of sorts, but the movement was great! 'McFly' V10 to finish the day.

On Tuesday I had an afternoon flight to visit family in Wisconsin so I had to get out early if I wanted a quick bouldering session. Erin Ayla meet me in Moraine Park and gave me a quick tour of some of the many boulders she and he boyfriend Ian Cotter-Brown have been developing over the spring and summer. There are a grip of new ones out there, and still many more to be done. 'The Last Crusade' V11 is a stunner curving rail that ends with a compression feature. An outstanding problem. Next I did 'Tainted Tick Marks' V10 or the Flood Money Direct. It doesn't look like much but it has some really cool movement and packs a punch for a relatively shorter problem. I cruised back to the car by around 10:30, packed up my life from Estes Park and took off for DIA.

So very stoked and ready for the Idaho Mountain Festival this weekend and life on the road after that!

A few goodies to keep you stoked moving through the end of the week...

I did a second interview with Neely Quinn and the Training Beta Podcast that she just released - I always love linking up with these guys and I think we covered some interesting new terrain in this conversation. Have a quick listen!

And here's a raw cut from back in Squamish of my ascent on Tom Wright's incredible 'Spirit of the West'. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 17

Begging for Power

100% bouldering since I last wrote. I can't remember the last time I put on a harness but I bet it has been nearly a month at this point. The initial week after my mission on the Diamond I was nothing short of destroyed. I tried on several occasions to get out, or even to climb a little bit in the gym - and it was pathetic. I knew that I would have some work to do in order to get back into snappy, powerful, bouldering shape - but honestly even two weeks into bouldering mode I was quite frustrated to see relatively no progress.

I hiked out from Chaos many evenings with my tail between my legs, but the sun setting on the Keyboards of the Winds was always enough to cheer me up. I kept banging my head and hands against the wall and finally I broke through. 'Flood Money Sit' V10 was my re-entry to bouldering double digits - something I had not done since March (aside from cruxes on routes I suppose). 'Golden Rays of Flows' too me back into the V11 realm, and after several more days of efforts and a short round of finger training I climbed 'Irreversible' V13 - this was the first time I had climbed the grade since last summer.

'Comb my Hair like God' V11/12 was next up, but not before an agonizing session sorting out awful beta on my own and subsequently failing on the final move. My main goal for this bouldering stint, and one of my main goals for the year for that matter, was to climb 'Wheel of Chaos' V14. A brilliant roof problem way up in the top of the Canyon. I absolutely love this problem. It's 25 moves long and combines a short section of pure muscle-roof, a resistant and reachy steep crimp zone, and a technical and footwork intensive finish. The rumor is that Jimmy Webb fell on the very last move for the FA. Despite me myself feeling super solid on the finish (my kind of climbing) I took the plunge with my hand wrapped around the summit, move 25, the bitter end. Thankfully I had enough in me to try again, and finish the problem. One of my all time favorites.

The next day I climbed in Upper and cleaned up some classics. 'Skipper Left' V11 and a scary flash on 'Baby Otech' V10. The real win though, however, was back in Lower this past Wednesday. I had tried 'Gobot' maybe 3 years back for a short time. Decided I was too scared and weak, and moved on. Last year I tried Gobot briefly as well. No dice. This year I wanted it pretty badly. It's a brilliant problem, and sometimes the ones that have eluded you for some reason or another hold a special kind of allure. Shortly after my mission on the Diamond I hiked up to try Gobot three separate days. Falling on the last move, I almost became certain that this now would go on my 'never' list. I even had apprehensions about trying it this last week - despite knowing that I had improved so much since August. There's a move at the very end out left to a strange pinch that is just outside of my reach. I tried all the methods to get this hold but it was clearly not in the cards for me - 2 or 3 inches too far. Instead I was grabbing a pretty serious right hand crimp and a horrible left hand spike and making an all out pounce to the finish. I tried the finishing move on Wednesday and immediately felt like the right hand edge had doubled in size - an incredible feeling. My hand strength was back! I did the problem first try from the start. It was extremely rewarding. On paper (V11) this is nothing noteworthy but it's actually the longest I have ever worked on a boulder problem so for me it felt special.

Feeling the strength and snap come back is super motivating, and although I planned to transition back into routes right about now, I am going to ride this high for (what I hope) will be a couple more nice sends before I pick up the harness again.