Tuesday, November 24


Catalunya. I'm back. 
Feels a little more like home this time around. I know where the highways go, I know when the stores are open, I know a few more words than before. I really love this place. As I planned, and as I usually try to do, I hit the ground running here. After over 5 weeks of training and preparing I was ready to try hard. 

Unfortunately the weather was less than desirable. When we first arrived the temperatures were still soaring into the mid 20's (C) and for a south facing cliff like Oliana, this is... no bueno. Sam Elias and I were too stoked though. Climbing in the sun, climbing with a headlamp, trying to make it work. 

Sharma on another project... Joe Mama... 

Sam was equally motivated and despite the heat we started making a little progress. Some nights it was still too hot even hours after the sun left the wall. Our skin got thrashed. We worked up a nice little November tan. 

Our friends from Catalunya convinced us that this was 'the week before winter' essentially there is a week in mid November that is always oddly warm before the real winter sets in. We had a tough time believing after experiencing how laughably inaccurate the weather forecasting was here, but we hoped that it could be the truth. 

It was true. Like magic, over the course of a few days winter literally settled in. Frost in the morning. The breeze turned cold and strong. Straight from too hot after dark to climbing with pants and shirts in the sun. Now our progress was rapid. I was trying 'Papichulo' 15a and Sam was trying the notoriously hard 'Joe Blau' 14c. We both one-hung our routes. I sent. Sam sent the next day. It was awesome. 

At this point we were only 11 days or so into our multi-month trips. Both so satisfied that the training paid off and grateful for the opportunity ahead. That feeling of an 'open book' after you complete your goal and suddenly you can see and imagine the other lines on the wall. Walking up to the crag and wondering... 'What will I try today??' It's a very nice feeling. Naturally it was not long until we went full force into the next route. 

Up until this point I had only climbed on Papichulo and the 5.12 warm ups. I was eager to start a new hard project, but also maybe it would be cool to mix things up a little? I onsighted an amazing crag classic with 'Marroncita' 13d, and then decided I was ready to invest myself again. Short break from repeat failure but that's why I came here! 

Next I needed to say goodbye to Oliana and Catalunya for several days. I wandered over to visit an old friend of mine; the Verdon. This place is truly something magic. It's powerful, dramatic, intimidating and strikingly beautiful. Being here I feel a lot of things - inspired, afraid, humble. It was a long few days working on a video project (details to follow next year!) but it was worth it. 

Back in Oliana I felt a little derailed from my main objective after 5 days of 'rest' and several of them uncomfortable and downright bone chilling. After the seven hour drive I met Sam who generously drove down to help me get a few pitches in and I flashed 'Los Humildes pa Casa' 14a, a lifelist route, a total surprise, and a memorable level of pump. I was... wow... pumped. And now after another day on my new objective I am feeling a little more grounded back in my mission here and stoked for the next month. Just the simple climbing life and trying hard until Christmas. I love it.... !!!

Tuesday, October 20

un poco bouldering

Just two more weeks to prepare. Also two more weeks to enjoy the US, see friends, family. Two weeks to wander the isles at Whole Foods and 'sample' bulk items. Two weeks to stick to the program and stay motivated to improve. Two weeks until I fly to Catalunya for 3 months.

Most of my time has been indoors, which usually in mid October would be driving me mad, but the cooler temperatures have just recently started to emerge. Thankfully I did take advantage, at least a little. I am so grateful for my experiences bouldering earlier this year - not only did it help me improve as a climber but my motivation for bouldering has opened a whole new world of areas and challenges. There is a lot of good bouldering out there!

'The Heist' V12 is a brilliant line found by Andy Mann and opened by Kevin Jorgeson way back in 09. More like a route, the thing is nearly 25 continuous moves with building difficulty near the finish. I can't believe how relatively unknown this awesome boulder is. On my first try from the start I chickened out over the abyss - it's actually quite scary! Here is some less than perfect Go-Pro footy of the problem.

Later that day I did a cool crimper test-piece on the Gill Boulder called '606' V10. It was a little warm for this sharp boulder but I was so stoked to be outside for one of the first times in a month that I didnt much care. 

A few days back I got another day out. With a great crew we checked out Guanella Pass for the first time. Temps were nearly perfect, overcast, breezy... fall weather. It was super motivating. I climbed 'Mind Matters' V11/12,  'Crimping Matters' V9/10,  'Earth Matters' V10, 'Love Mattress' V12,  'Dark Horse' V10 and 'High Horse Sit' V9. Everything was worth while but for me, Love Mattress was the coolest, most involved problem that I saw on our tour -- nice work Will! One of the best things about this area in my mind is the range of bouldering grades and accessibility for V1 to V12 climbers. There is a rad problem at almost every grade, in a small area. I met many motivated and super cool climbers out there as well. 

Aspen Arete V3

Mind Matters,  Ari Prat Barnadas photo

Love Mattress,  Ari Prat Barnadas photo

Love Mattress,  Ari Prat Barnadas photo

Friday, October 9

ROCK Project

Last weekend I had the pleasure of checking out my first Access Fund ROCK Project event. The aim of this event is a little different that the average climbing festival. The hope is to help educate the community about stewardship and sustainable practices at the crag, all interwoven into skills clinics and of course, beer drinking.

Travis Herbert is the man. Access Fund Education Director. Michael Allen Photo

Much like the topic would suggest, this was a much more demanding event - for all parties involved - than most. But I feel the results were worth it. Personally I took quite a bit away from the event - perhaps too much to write here, or more accurately too boring to write here. What I feel was most important though is this: 

The conversation about where climbing is going, how we are impacting our public places, and what we can do to make a positive change ... this conversation is happening. Not in someone's basement after several beers too many, waxing nostalgic and making slurred proclamations... it's happening between powerful companies, strong non profits and influencers. This is a meaningful conversation and course of action and I think people should know, so that they can join in. The reality is that climbing is changing, the landscape in which we climb is changing, and we need to change with it. 

Graffiti removal at Morrison Boulders with a huge group of people who care. Michael Allen Photo

The second 'most important' lesson for me from the weekend was in regards to mentorship - or perhaps the modern lack thereof. This type of relationship shaped my understanding of how to interact with wilderness and how to conduct yourself in the 'wild'. We have all made mistakes, no doubt, and hopefully learned from them. The benefit of having respectful mentorship is that those role models can help us learn from their mistakes. I've had - and still have - many mentors. Perhaps I'm impressionable but I really value this kind of relationship. My hope is that I can make a positive impression on a few people along the road - and when I make mistakes I can feel brave enough to share them.

Tommy sneaks in a hug with bro Dan Mirsky . Michael Allen Photo

Speaking of inspirational people... I did an interview with Fort Collins local Ben Scott that I just published on my Five Questions page. This is one of my favorite interviews I've done - perhaps because it hits on many of the points I have made above but also because Ben is a powerhouse first ascentionist with a fiery passion - nothing is more motivating than that. Have a read.