Wednesday, October 26

inspired, prepared

Before I take off about what I've been up to down here in lovely rural Kentucky, I'd like to draw attention to the efforts of a number of my friends and fellow athletes. A string of accomplishments over the last few months have been a major source of inspiration for me, and in my opinion, represent something much greater than just a laundry list of names and big numbers. It seems clear to me that through a handful of different powerful athletes there has been a collective breakthrough for American Women in the realm of sport climbing. Standards have been creeping over the past few years, but most recently they have erupted. Jen Vennon's burly ascent of 'Stockboys Revenge' 14b, Paige Claassen finishing off the Monastery with 'Third Millennium' 14a and 'Dreamcatcher' 13d, Emily Harrington doing the super bouldery 'Waka Flocka' 14b, Chelsea Rude climbing her first 14a in just a few attempts, Aly Dorey also doing her first 14a with the '7PM Show' and of course, Sasha Digiulian making history by taking down my route, 'Pure Imagination' 14d. This is an impressive list of accomplishments, period. The fact that all of these ascents happened within the last few months, to me, represents something greater. Five years ago it seemed like one American Women climbing one 5.14 was a big deal. I've just listed 6 off the top of my head (if I missed anyone please inform me). I believe that these women (and many others) are just realizing their potential, and every additional impressive accomplishment is only fueling each other's drive. Psyched for you ladies!

In slightly less inspiring news, the weather has been not super great around here. In a little over 2 weeks I've had 3 nice and cool days.... I decided last week that while the temps remain not ideal I would invest energy into lining up projects for November. I've been splitting my time between the occasional fitness day and long days of cleaning and bolting. Not to mention a couple of enjoyable rest days at Keeneland, checking out the interesting world of horse racing...
I did get a chance to climb at the Midnight Surf for the first time, a big, unique wall in the Muir Valley that was developed just recently in a mega essentially solo effort by Kipp Trummel. Respect. It features big blank sections of stone and small cut roofs out an impressive amphitheater. I really enjoyed the token classic, 'Cell Block 6' 12c and the dynamic 'Tapeworm' 12d along with the pumpy and fun 'Farewell to Arms' 13a.

I've gotten back to the Darkside once as well, in good temps. I was very pleased to make my way through the entire bottom boulder problem on the Vader Project-- a huge breakthrough for me on the route. And I even linked from there to an upper section. I've got one more move to suss out before my redpoint process can begin. This thing is the real deal... bouldery and packed with difficulty. I'm super excited to spend more time on it.
cleaned this HUGE spider off the Vader Project, twice... he came back
Getting out the drill, hauling big packs, brushing, chalking virgin holds and bushwhacking has reminded me of how driven I am by new routes. Over the last week, I've been much more inspired by a long day of bolting than I have by a day of climbing. I've got three beautiful, motivating projects lined up for cool temps, and hopefully I'll get one more in soon. New routes have unquestionably become my driving passion over the last few years, and I'm very happy to make a number of contributions to the Red. Stoked for November.

Wednesday, October 12


After my last couple of days in Rifle canyon I jumped right into another frantic period of transition, packing up my life and taking to the road for what could be close to a year. The season was swiftly changing on the western slope-- leaves rapidly turning gold and daylight shortening. Just days after I left the first snow of the year crushed the canyon and diverted climbing for a bit, as a reminder that fall had actually arrived.
Before I left I managed to get 'Waka Flocka' 14b done, sharing a rope with my friend Emily Harrington as she comes closer and closer to success on this bouldery route. I had climbed 'Waka Flocka Flame' just weeks before, but it was a worthy challenge none-the-less. With a few short days on front range I somehow packed my life into the Toyota, spent a day shooting with photographer Celin Serbo on a photo/video project for Backpacker Magazine, spent time with the Family and even got out for one last long night in the city. Friday I started my annual pilgrimage to America's South-East, home to two of the Nation's greatest sport climbing destinations; The Red River Gorge and The New River Gorge. I'll be residing in this part of the country until conditions force my exit.
Louisville, KY
This is my third year in a row in Kentucky, and it's definitely starting to feel like something of a home away from home. The smells, the landscape and simply the feel of the gorge is extremely reminiscent. I love this place, and I'll be coming here as long as I'm climbing.

I entered this fall with a very clear goal in mind; I want to apply myself and be challenged. I'm ambitious to make the next breakthrough in my climbing and there is certainly no better place or season than here and now. Naturally, I've also accepted that by it's very definition, when we push ourselves success is never guaranteed-- in-fact failure is the only certainty. I could carry on spending my time climbing on routes I'm relatively certain I can/will do - but there is very little opportunity for growth. Bring on the next level!
Dan takes a breather on 'Straight Outta Campton' 5.13a/b
I've had a specific project on my mind since I first tried it last year. A beautiful line that homeboy Brad Weaver bolted a few years back titled, 'The Vader Project'. It takes a stunning blank section of wall to the left of the classic 'Return of Darth Moll' 13b at the Darkside. I was able to stick clip my way up it last year and spotted just enough grips to potentially make a free climb. So far this year I've been able to play around on the route a couple days. I added a bolt and chains, thoroughly cleaned it, and replaced the aging draws. It's beginning to look like a rock climb. That being said, I'm still unsure if it will actually go... I've done all but two moves that will hopefully feel much better in cooler temps (the last few days have been humid and warm). It features a collection of insane boulder problems, two of which are well in the v-double digit range, with the lower boulder problem likely being the hardest I've ever tried on a rope. Resistance climbing lays in between, with a few opportunities for rest that save the route from being potentially impossible. It ends with a wild dyno to slap the very top of the cliff. It's amazing. It's definitely the next level that I'm looking for.... hopefully, it goes... Resting the skin and then I'm back at it tomorrow.

Sunday, October 2


After returning from a nice visit to San Fran, I settled back into training mode for a couple days in Boulder before packing up and busting out west. I clearly set my goals for the next two weeks; to challenge myself, remain fit and stoked above all else, in preparation for my fall visit to the South-East. Last year I learned a valuable lesson in September when I unfortunately entered the fall with a bit of a lull. In early September 2010, I finished my first 9a with Tommy Caldwell's incredible, 'Kryptonite'. Much surprised by the speed of my success, I entered a 3 week period bereft of objectives - killing time before I would leave for the Red. I trained tirelessly and worked to keep my momentum and motivation high, but inevitably I lulled just as I left for Kentucky. It took what seemed like 2 full weeks for me to get back in a proper groove.... After chasing after beautiful climbs, perfect conditions and seeking motivation all year, I've come to realize how precious the fall really is. Not a week to waste, not a day to be bummed-- we may find success anywhere throughout the year, but the autumn is our season!

Emily Harrington crushing

A Tommy Caldwell classic, 'Tomfoolry' 14b+ was at the top of my list. This beautiful climb is well known for it's elusive trickery and difficulty. It's fallen only to a short list of talented climbers and although it's over a decade old, it remains one of the Canyon's test-pieces. I was concerned about a long reach at the top of the route that I'd seen and heard about, but I was stoked when I found a great sequence through the crux bottom section of the route. Unfortunately, my concerns were accurate, and a strenuous move exiting the upper crux was just beyond my reach. Bummed. I tried it again. No go. Crap.

Disheveled, I thought about my other options... while warming up at the project wall I gazed across the canyon at a long standing open project bolted by Nico Favresse and attempted over the years by Tommy, Dave Graham and Andy Raether among others. For the last few weeks I had been checking out this line from time to time, asking around and curious - I was surprised to see draws hanging up this huge route. It turned out that homeboy Sam Elias had stick clipped his way up the route recently, and after a quick conversation with him, I was motivated to give it an effort.

With every attempt on the project, sussing beta, cleaning here and there I became more and more excited about really investing in this forgotten monster. On my third try I'd found a method through the entire route - utilizing a sea of underclings up a stunning 45 meter wall. The difficulty seemed to just stack together - there's very little opportunity to rest, anywhere. An ultra powerful, dull undercling with poor feet characterizes the burly crux of this route - a one handed rest gives you a brief, strenuous pause just before you enter a total style change - the finishing crux on small sloping edges and tiny pockets reminiscent of Ten-Sleep. It's the big boys version of 'Living in Fear' - no knee-pads, no valuable resting and a complete pallet of stylistic challenges. I started calling it the 'Shadowboxing' project.

Thursday I made a breakthrough link, falling before the final boulder - hugely psyched and feeling prepared to start redpoint attempts. Friday I returned, Andy Mann hanging a few feet behind me rolling video, and a crowd of friends cheering me on. I gave it everything I had, resting where I could, climbing efficiently and hustling. After clipping the final bolt I let out a cheer, however reminding myself shortly after that although it was only 8 feet of 5.10 between me and the chains - it was not over. I reached behind me to chalk up and my right hand exploded, ripping a brick of choss from the very summit. Airborne. Obviously, it was not over.
Andy Mann on location

Yesterday, in the fading evening light I tied in for one last attempt before my body would force me to rest. I had fallen from the final boulder just an hour earlier, and I was beginning to feel exhausted from three days of climbing. I had no idea that I'd find such a motivating and difficult project. I planned to stay fit and engaged by climbing this and that - mainly focused on my upcoming trip to the Red and the New. But now... this route had totally captivated me and I knew that while I was capable, I couldn't take anything for granted and I had plans to leave for Kentucky in just a few days. Just a little bit of pressure - it's always seemed to help me and yesterday was no exception. I finished 'Shadowboxing' just in the nick of time. So psyched!
SHADOWBOXING. Andy Mann photo
night sky over rifle 
Shadowboxing is something of an anomaly in Rifle. It's difficult to compare it with more broken up, knee-bar laiden, steep routes like 'The Crew' 14c, 'Bad Girls Club' 14c/d and 'Girl Talk' 14b although I do feel that it is a step up from said climbs. Its closest sibling in my mind is 'Waka Flocka Flame' 14c - which pales in comparison. Originally I thought that it could be an entirely new level for Rifle climbing, but after making such quick progress I've come to think it is more likely just a touch above the standard.

*Today (October 3rd), I revisited Shadowboxing just before I left Rifle. I wanted to finish thoroughly cleaning to route and prepare it for hopefully many ambitious repeats. Climbing on the route fresh and having the opportunity to think over the route's difficulty, in addition to the unfortunate new discovery of a knee bar mid-crux has lead me to believe that 14c is a more accurate suggestion. Colorado, and certainly Rifle, have a reputation for stiff grades that I feel I should uphold. Like I've mentioned previously, I think that the best thing we can do with grades is take them lightly, remain honest and strive to keep consistency within an area. To me, 'Kryptonite' remains the standard for 14d on the Western Slope and as much as I would have liked it to, Shadowboxing can not rival it's difficulty. Even at 14c, the route is still beautiful, burly and waiting for suitors - I'm definitely still psyched, are you?!*

I'm very excited to add a route to such a beloved and classic sport climbing area. Big thanks to Sam Elias, Joey Kinder and Keller Rinaudo for all the motivation and inspiration (and belays). This has been a whirlwind, breakthrough summer for Rifle climbing and I'm very happy to have been a part of it. Two more days in the canyon and then I'm packing for the South-East!