Tuesday, February 14, 2017

High on Acid

Yup I am lost in Joshua Tree, again. On a spiritual journey of self discovery and worship on the granite sculptures that scatter across a landscape of sand and Joshua Tree's (no, I'm not on LSD).

My happy place.

 We had just finished the first month of our winter trip sport climbing in Colorado and I wanted to get adjusted to the perplexing style in Joshua Tree before my PCGI Multi-Pitch Guide Course in January. I was also keen to check out some life list lines in the park. Weather put a damper on plans, or at least slowed them down quite a bit. California officially came out of the drought this winter! The desert saw so much rain that waterfalls and rivers erupted across the landscape. Though not so great for climbing, it was a spectacular sight to see.

Lots of rain but now you can swim in Joshua Tree! ;)

Waterfalls in Rattlesnake Canyon, JTNP

 Early in the trip I set a TR on the famous Asteroid Crack, 5.13a. I immediately took a liking to the route and went to work. I have very little experience on hard finger cracks and was excited to learn some new tricks. I had an incredible day on it, linking it in one hang on lead, but the next day my one finger was pissed. Not sure if it was a nerve I hurt but it isn't shocking when you look at what you have to grab. Regardless, the pain didn't go away. I had to walk away from the route for a bit and though I was bummed, I was happy to take away some new tricks for the tool box. A friend convinced me to try The Acid Crack 5.12d, rumored to be better but hella sandbagged. I couldn't believe that this gem existed in the park and that I'd never tried it until now because it was sandbagged. How lame is that? We base so much of our progression in this sport on such subjective grades. True progression is working your weaknesses, stepping out of your comfort zone, learning new things. I am done with chasing numbers, I am chasing "Life- List" climbs.

The Acid Crack is exactly what I usually fall madly in love with.... a perfect combination of crack climbing moves and steep sport climbing moves, balls out above tiny gear. I couldn't walk away, I was in love, though I would be lying if I said the grade didn't piss me off during the process. But this climb represented far more than a grade. The Acid Crack is a historical line put up by John Bachar, a legendary stonemaster and iconic figure to Joshua Tree's history. The Acid Crack is considered to be THE Bachar testpiece of the park, and it is rumored to of been discovered by climbers that were tripping balls on LSD while wandering through the desert. It was put up in a time when they didn't throw grades around lightly, and this original grading system still exists in the park to this day. Despite inflated grades becoming the norm at most new school sport destinations, Joshua Tree remains frozen in time.

Nearly lost my pinky on a boulder problem!

This route is how I picture hell ;-P

Hudson Mayhew crushes yet another JTree classic.
This time it's The Chube V2

Gun show on top of Asteroid Crack 5.13a

Ian Achey flared nostrils for the win, on The Nostril V4
Hudson going big on another JTree sandbag
The Acid Crack

I had to take a little over a week off The Acid Crack to take a custom PCGI Multi Pitch Guide Course, which was an incredible learning experience. I learned so much from Mentor extraordinaire, Seth Zaharias and the super rad guy I took the course with, Will "Buckshot" Buckman, a guide on Devil's Tower. Joshua Tree terrain may seem odd for a Multi Pitch Guide Course but it actually proved to be one of the best places to learn and practice. Lots of ridge traverses and technical descents for short pitch and short rope practice and plenty of weird wandering traverse routes to practice complicated multi-pitch scenarios. I  finished the course especially stoked to bring my new skills to On the Rocks this summer, and feeling 100x more confident as a guide.

Seth Zaharias of Cliffhanger Guides

Multi-pitching in the PCGI Multi-Pitch Guide Course

Rope testing for Sterling Ropes.... dream job #3

Real life guiding scenario's with my friends Lauren and James from Ontario.

James Hunter cruises the finish of Season Opener 5.8

So for the past few weeks I have been in an interesting cycle of climbing tons of 5.2-5.10a multi-pitches combined with weird short roping descents and trying to climb a brutally hard 40ft thin crack that bakes in the sun all day. It has been a juggling act of two of my favourite passions: guiding and hard single pitch trad, in one of my favourite places on earth. Both processes have been rewarding, though quite emotional. I lost a lot of my confidence this past year after getting really sick, so I've been dealing with a lot of fears, doubt, frustration. I have to rest a lot more than I used to. I've had to learn to embrace the process again. I've had to step out of my comfort zone. Though there is nothing else I would rather be doing. I am exactly where I want to be.

Thanks to Arc'teryx for keeping me warm during this crazy winter in Cali :)

Working on my tan lines

Inspiring and wise words from www.flashedclimbing.com

Home :)

The Acid Crack is one of the hardest traditional climbs I have ever projected. Not grade wise, but mentally, physically. My crux is a height dependent move right in the bottom 5 feet. It's an 'insignificant if you can reach it' kinda move, but if you can't reach the good lock from the foot ledge, it was heinous. I worked this move for days and it felt so incredibly low percentage. It got to the point where I was linking the entire rest of the route, but not from the bottom 12ft. And the rest of the route is the crux. The whole climb is one giant 40ft crux! I started to get super discouraged and frustrated and right when I was about to question if I should try it anymore, I unlocked a new sequence. It was still hard but way higher percentage. Next day I one hung it on lead! I was pumped! I took a good rest and went back confident and ready to send. But as per usual, it was 1000 degrees up there and I burned alive, and finally accepted that I have to get up early for one try before the sun hits it. We set the alarm for 5:30am, I was warming up on Coarse and Buggy 5.11a by 7:00am, and topping out the 5.12b to the right by 8:30am. We ran up to Acid Crack and it was the type of day and conditions I dreamed of:  cloudy, windy and cool. I tied in and went for it, falling on the lower move again. But it didn't bother me. I rested a few minutes and stuck the lower crux moves. I ran through the next steep section to the flake where I proceeded to Z clip the nut and cam I stack together. But it didn't bother me much either, I fixed it. I then powered through the crux gastons and screamed through the power layback, to fall into a solid knee bar where I could breath for a second. I couldn't believe I was here, farther than ever before, immediately all of those anxious feelings came rushing in: "You could do this! No you can't you're so pumped! Don't blow it! I'm so tired! I've got no chance, my core is wasted, my leg is pumping out!" but I through them all aside and just tried my hardest. Because after all, that is all you can do. Progressively I got less and less pumped and confidently cruised through the finish. The battle had been won.

I stood on top of The Acid Crack, taking in the final moment I would have with this perfect climb. It felt like a door had been opened for me in Joshua Tree, and another one had closed. I was blissfully happy but sad at the same time. As I down climbed off the back, I was confused by the big poof of smoke/cloud/fog or something spirit-like that floated by me and slowly vanished into thin air. I got the chills. I checked my chalk bag to see if it was open but it was sealed shut, I checked to see if my sunglasses were dirty/foggy and they weren't, there were no low lying clouds, no people around smoking, what the heck? I was confused, but interestingly the first thing I thought was: "Was that John Bachar? Was he watching my send?". I smiled and thought about what a perfect place it would be for him to rest. I  continued down to the base of the climb, so incredibly thankful to share that experience with one of my hero's, thankful to be in this moment, thankful to be alive.

John Bachar #actionbachar going for the 'Trilly Traverse' V9


High on crack, ACID CRACK!!!

The Acid Rack
Celebratory fires with favourite friends, Sunny and Mike
#actionbachar and I share another moment

Hopefully I will get the chance to scratch one more route off the life list before we head home. Stay tuned for more adventures :) 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Sample Tour

Road trip!

Kyle and I are on the road for the winter and back to living in our 13ft fiberglass Trillium trailer, "Trilly", who is hauled by our trusty truck "Gandalf". Life is perfect and for the first time in years, both Kyle and I are injury free (as one can be) at the same time!! Yip yeeoooo! But as I've been overcoming some major health issues this year, our motto has been "slow and steady" with strong focus on patience as we have all the time in the world, and to ensure I don't have a repeat on last year. Staying positive and slowly finding my flow again though! And for the first time ever, we are on the road all winter long... we have officially achieved the endless summer goal :)

We departed early November and our first stop was Boulder, Colorado....

New routes! New routes! Both Kyle and I had actually never climbed in Colorado before, so we were so stoked for new climbs/rock/places. We set up camp at the Boulder Adventure Lodge and sampled several of the varying rock types/styles and areas that surround Boulder. Colorado was having an incredibly warm November so we learned very quickly that Eldorado Canyon is too hot for such temps unfortunately, so we climbed shady stuff at other areas or sunny spots at higher elevation. We checked out a ton of the different area's in Boulder Canyon and loved the granite sport climbing there, especially the Animal World and Upper Dream Canyon. We also checked out the Flatirons, did some bouldering at Horsetooth Reservoir and sport climbing at Clear Creek Canyon also. It was so great to have a couple weeks of fitness building after a long rest from climbing. We kept an "in a day" rule for our stay in Boulder, no projects, so I was stoked to put down a ton of routes up to 5.12d with my favourite route of our stay being Hands of Destiny, a 5.12d at Boulder Canyon.

Stretching out my legs in Eldorado Canyon, after the 24hr drive to Boulder, Colorado

Classic granite sport climbing at Animal World in Boulder Canyon

Kyle Thomas samples the Horsetooth Reservior bouldering circuit

Hudson Mayhew high off the deck at Horsetooth Reservoir

The Flatirons, Colorado
Kyle soloing the classic 5.0 on the Flatirons.

Perfect hands on this 5.10 trad classic in Eldorado Canyon.

When the temps cooled down we thought it was finally Eldo time but unfortunately camping then got really cold and damp. These two wussy Canadian's can't handle that winter camping shit! So we fled to where locals said it is always warmer/dry in Colorado... Shelf Road. Shelf was a great little spot. Nice BLM camping and a well maintained recreation area with abundant pocketed limestone sport climbing. We stayed here for a few days and enjoyed a nice sampling.

Kush camping at Shelf Road, CO

It wasn't shocking that our next move was the Mojave desert. We made a very quick stop in Zion National Park in Utah; the weather window was too tempting to pass up. Neither Kyle or I had ever climbed here before suprisingly. It was an absolutely perfect day... we rolled in around noon, scooped up one of the last campsites and ran off to do an incredible splitter we found on mountain project called "Smashmouth" 5.11. It is a 4 pitch crack that starts as tight hands and slowly turns to fingers until the crack dies out. I felt rather 'off the couch' on this style so I was stoked to onsight it too. Good start to the trad trip!!

Kyle follows Smashmouth 5.11 in Zion National Park, UT

Smashmouth 5.11

Leading the second pitch of Smashmouth 5.11

Zion vibes :)

Next stop was Red Rocks. I had always wanted to check out the route 'Desert Gold' and wow what a dream line. As much as I wanted to be back on the 'Great Red Roof' after coming very close to sending last year, my wrist was telling me otherwise (undercling crux). Desert Gold was a perfect distraction. I have a huge disadvantage in that roof portion (Desert Reality 5.11d) as it is mostly cupping or tight awkward fists, upside down...absolutely heinous. Though I did every move somehow. I loved the "Desert Crack" portion, which is the first half of the route and goes at 5.12+. To comprehend the entire package was a little overwhelming with the roof being so difficult, but dreamy nonetheless. But as cool as this thing is, Joshua Tree had been whispering in my ear since we hit the road and before we knew it, we were driving through the Mojave en route to my home away from home, JTREEeee

Desert Gold 5.13

Most supportive hubby ever :)

Leading the choss but fun first pitch of Desert Gold 5.13

First time up Desert Gold 5.13.

Red Rocks, Nevada

Time to get schooled in JTREE!!!