Tuesday, November 25

Chatt Town

Weather and climate is one of the most powerful forces on Earth, without a doubt. We can prepare ourselves but inevitably there is no changing the temperature, the humidity, the winds, the rain. It is sincerely humbling, and also so very influential - especially for us climbers - or anyone whose life or pursuits are primarily outside. Aside from the pure excitement of travel, the volatility of weather is a huge deciding factor that drew me into a nomadic life.

When I'm on the road climbing I exercise this power frequently. Sometimes my plans change in an instant. I love this freedom. To some extent I think this freedom is necessary for continued motivation. I've mentioned this in the past many times, but it's difficult for me to imagine climbing in just one place, or just one state.. or just one country for that matter. On the move... just the way I like it. 

I only ended up climbing in West Virginia for one day. The forecast looked quite grim and instead of waiting around (like I had done for the previous month or so up North) I decided to cut loose and head South to Tennessee. Chattanooga is something of the last line for the eastern climbing scene. If all else fails, Chatt town will likely still be good. And this was very much true of last week. 

I had never climbed in Tennessee, and so much like the rest of my trip, it was so exciting to see new crags and get an outstanding tour of this Eastern climbing mecca. My homeboy Blake Cash hooked up an inspired jaunt through some of the better zones in the area. And despite some subfreezing temps (literally, temperatures below 32 on most days) we made it happen and I even did some sending. Chatt climbing is characterized in large part by mini crags, exhibiting a dozen or 2 dozen routes on mostly exceptional sandstone. Maybe not quite the quality of rock in the New River Gorge but much harder than the hollers of Kentucky. Generally the cliffs are near vertical with imposing roofs. The rock is very featured, which in part accounts for the relatively low density of hard climbing, but also creates some memorable jug hauls and a plethora of pitches in the 5.12 and easy 5.13 range. It seems like a winter dream land for the 12+/13- climber.

Little River Canyon and the Concave is an impressive area. Super super steep climbing on sculpted beautiful sandstone. Many pumpy bastards on this wall. A great little crag.... 

It was primarily a volume visit for me, and a chance to test the Tennessee waters - looking ahead to a potential longer return. I had a great time. I got a nice little taste of everything. From some awesome traditional gems at T-Wall to some burly roof sport cragging down at Little River Canyon. Because of some sensitive land and access issues I will have to keep some of my sending a secret, but in short I got away with a couple 5.14s and a good handful of 5.13 flashes and redpoints. It was a great way to end a long road trip. Some of my favorites were Psycho Path 13b, Chaca Chaca 5.13, The Way 5.13, Showboaters 5.13 and Southern Comfort 14a.

Now I've completed the journey, making the full circle, arriving back in Colorado for a week with family and friends. I'll be giving my mind and body a short break from the climbing life next week before I dive into a long winter of training. I'm looking forward to the next adventure... 

Tuesday, November 11

Western Mass

After several radical weeks exploring the area for my first time, I reluctantly said goodbye to New England this past Sunday. I spent last week primarily hanging around Boston with new friends and waiting out some snow and rain. Fortunately I was blessed with two more climbable days, and absolutely beautiful days at that. One thing about all the crappy weather is that when the skies open up and the sun beams down it's truly like something of a dream. Your mood is lifted, your psych is suddenly enormous, and almost like flicking a switch my appreciation for the area surges.

A beautiful fall day in Cambridge. Hard to beat. 
I spent my last 2 days at Rumney climbing on some classics that I didn't feel comfortable leaving without sending. 'China Beach' 14b was, after all, in large part the route that drove me to come all the way out East, and I would kick myself all year if I left that thing undone. Truly an international quality route, it gradually gets harder with each bolt. For the first half the route is muscly and taxing, leading to a style change with some long moves between edges for the lengthy finishing boulder problem. It's every ounce as good as they say. I finished the day with 'Maui Wowi' a stiff 13- at Waimea. The next day I linked up with good buddy Keith Hengen and he gave me the bouldery 8b tour. I did 'Feeding Frenzy' 13d, 'Riviera' 13d and also the original method on 'Dr No' 13d/14a. It felt like a bouldering session - even more so than a usual Rumney day. I said goodbye to this awesome area as the sun set over the opposing ridge, wind towers spinning against a clear night sky. 

I made the drive south to Fall River, Mass that night. I've been proudly climbing with Maxim Ropes for 4 years and they invited me to check out the warehouse where all the magic happens. It was an awesome tour, and to my surprise way more interesting and eye opening than I imagined rope production would be. Thanks for the awesome morning guys!

One last night out in what has become one of my favorite cities - Boston - and I was off to Western Mass and Hampshire College. I was invited to speak at Hampshire a few weeks back. Hampshire is a rad, and unique school, nestled in one of the most prestigious academic areas of the country - with Amherst, U-Mass and Holyoke just up the road. The school promotes a very non conventional approach to education and supports a wide array of learning tools and styles. The community here was very welcoming to me, and with a weekend of splitter weather ahead I couldn't resist checking out some of the area crags. Farley is well known for it's tall, bullet boulders but the route climbing, albeit limited, is also pretty rad. 'Bandwagon' 12a, 'Blood Meridian' 13b, 'Diatribe' 13c and 'All Your Base' 13c were all very worthy. The next day we journeyed to Mormon Hollow, a very small, little known spot nearby with a handful of killer routes. 'Priaprism' is without a doubt the best 12a I did in New England. The real prize though was leading 'Dark Star' 5.13 R. The route had been pink pointed before but I was keen on a true lead. Really like a very tall boulder problem, it packs a punch in only 30 feet. I rehearsed the route once on top rope but I'll admit that leading it was considerably harder. The gear is good, the climbing not so bad, but the placement positions are quite strenuous. I finished the day on the surprisingly fun cave link up, 'Excessive Tunnel Power' 13c. If you're in the area you should take a day and see these crags.

The Hampshire crew showed me such a great time, it was a very memorable weekend.... many thanks to the crew! 

Sunday night I reluctantly took off from New England towards the next stop... West Virginia. It was finally time to move on, and despite a not so awesome looking forecast down here I was strongly reminded of why I came here today during a half day session. This place is the shit. The New is very very good. Rock quality, volume of routes, climbing style... it's exceptional on all accounts. I pulled off a no falls day today which I assume will be my last, ever. This is an unforgiving crag. 'White Lightning' 13b, 'Thunderstruck' 12b, 'Slash and Burn' 12d and 'Fuel Injector' 13b is some of the list from today. All 5 stars. All worth driving across the country for.
Riley Ames Photo.
Lastly, I want to write a few words about a good friend that the climbing community lost recently. Dave Pegg was an exceptional climber, route developer, author and a stand out person. Loosing him was, and is, very saddening to me. We were not extremely close but we had shared many climbing days and beers and meals together. He was a very prominent member of the tribe, traveling across the US, publishing guidebooks through his company, Wolverine Publishing, on many of the country's best zones. Among other things, we shared a passion for climbing, for dogs, for trance music and canned fish. He always struck me as joyous, excited, and happy. He made the best of every damn effort he put in on the rock. Everyday I feel grateful for my life, this opportunity, for my friends and for this Earth. In remembering Dave, naturally I was reminded of how fragile life is, but also I was reminded of how important it is to live gratefully. We are only here for a short time. Cheers to you Dave.

Wednesday, October 29

rain and other things

It usually takes about 10 months for me to forget about how wet it is out East, and of course let my stoke build enough to make a trip out here. The climbing is really outstanding, but the last few weeks have been a pretty sound reminder of why I mostly hover around the West. More rainy days than not, it's been a bit of a struggle out here in New England. But damn, it certainly does make you appreciate the crisp moments...

Since I last wrote, I had primarily aimed my stoke towards trying 'Jaws II', a short and aggressive route on the left side of Waimea Wall. It's by all means my anti-style. Powerful and very short, it's difficulty is distilled into two brief boulder problems. The first one being extremely shoulder intensive, and essentially revolving around a foot move for me. Some 12+/13- climbing leads to a not super awesome rest and the upper boulder is my real nemesis - an enormous lurpy dynamic move between two decent holds, but subtlety and accuracy is very important here. I played with this move dozens and dozens of times. Finding little improvements slowly, but with my reach (and strength) this move is right on the verge of feeling possible. My best streak was doing the move 5 of 7 times from the hang.. which to me just means that I would need to dependably get to the move over and over until it could happen.

I was able to climb through the bottom boulder problem and up to the lurp move twice, in-between days of rain - the route has been wet now for 10 days. I got 4 days in working on Jaws but I think my campaign for this season is coming to a close. It seems like the dry days required for seepage to stop are increasing more and more, and I've just about exhausted the climbable, non seeping routes otherwise - which has been awesome. I love the climbing here, and I suppose moving on will just leave a thing or two for me to come back for.

Thankfully Boston is nearby, and has offered a welcome respite from the bad weather. Good eating, great gyms and a rad city to explore. Really I feel like I've been wandering Boston in the rain, and commuting to and from Brooklyn Boulders Sumerville more than I have been climbing at Rumney. I assume I'll be doing more of that, as it's predicted to snow up here this weekend.

When possible I climbed around on dry rock. Did routes like the awesome 'Barracuda' 13d, 'Dodge the Lemons' 13+ was a change of pace from brutal crimping, 'Muscle Beach' 13a/b and 'Shame on a Chippa' 13+ were two of my favorites from last week. After a very wet last week I came out for the weekend and just climbed straight through 4 days on - I'm reminded that out here you just climb when you can and you don't really ever try to 'plan' your days. I climbed some great routes.

This last Saturday was a beautiful day. Many things were wet from the rain but I made my way through a couple wet grips to do 'Steady Slobbin' 14b, the uber classic 'Predator' 13b and 'Tin Man' 13a. Sunday it was raining again but Main Cliff stayed dry so I went up and did the reachy and hard 'Thin Man' 13b and 'Rocket Man' 13d. Monday was again beautiful and we sessioned on the short and stout 'Super Nova' 14b which I happily took down. Yesterday my options were running thin but I did do the savage little 'Cyberblock' 13d.

many hours spent watching the rain and festering in the truck

Not sure what's next for me exactly. I'll be doing a presentation at Hampshire College out in Western Mass next Friday, the 7th. Until then, maybe I'll check out the Gunks? Maybe it will miraculously clear up? Or maybe I'll just eat well and climb plastic in Boston...