Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Good Old Days

Another summer in Ontario coming to an end, and another unforgettable one at that.

It has been an incredibly long time since I've posted on here. In fact so long that you may of wondered if I'd quit blogging. Nope. I am still here, its just that the glorious life exploring stone got put on hold for a little bit. Rewind back to the winter... I wont get into details but I was very sick for months and it has taken me a long time to get back to even thinking about training/climbing hard. I was born with a chronic illness that came out of remission in February and life got put on hold. As much of a bummer as this all was, I am happy it happened as I am now blessed with a totally refreshed outlook on life and appreciation for just being alive.

Life Exploring Stone may of been on pause, but we still enjoyed plenty of nice sunny days this winter in the desert with Trilly (our trailer).

But enough about that. Luckily my health improved just in time for this outstanding summer season. Weather has been so hot everyday, it never rains and the rocks are dryer than I have ever seen. I actually kinda felt like I got an entire summer of climbing and guiding in by the time July started! Like two summers in one! This summer was no different than any other, a constant juggling act between my obssession with scaling rock faces and a full time job guiding and running On the Rocks. Rest days are few and far between, hence why I now finally have time to sit down and write during this far overdue rest period from rock climbing. I'm just limping along right now, nearing the final stretch of my guiding season here in the Beaver Valley. Phew! Love my job so much, and so appreciative of all of the amazing folks I get to work with and that support OTR.

Thornbury sunsets. There's no place like home.
Just another day at "work" teaching Dian Xiang and Egor Larinov how to trad climb
Team Boulderz, always a blast working with this amazing youth team :)

Had a stellar time running some clinics and putting on a slideshow at ARC in Sudbury. What an awesome gym and climbing community :)

Summer kicked off with a bang. Within being home for just a couple weeks I already snagged a first ascent off of Dave Zuly, so what more can you ask for ;) Jokes aside, it was a perfect day out at Metcalfe Rock.... I was guiding the awesome True North Climbing Youth Team all day, while Dave and Kyle Thomas were busy bolting a line that we had all talked about for a while. As they battled it out for the first ascent, I watched and haggled about how they should continue to chalk it up and suss the beta for my FA flash after work. Just as I hiked the kids out from the cliff, Chris Pegelo (another local who had eyed up this route) sprinted in after catching wind that they were bolting the line. As his warm up, Chris came incredible close to flashing it but gassed out. My time had come, and despite their best efforts to pull me off the rock, I flashed "Showered With Gifts" 5.11+ for the FA. What a perfect day with buddies.

Chris Pegelo goes for the FA of 'Showered With Gifts' at Metcalfe Rock
Dave Zieleniewski on an FA attempt of Showered With Gifts 5.11d. Dave and Kyle Thomas equipped the line and put in the real hard work.
Typical gallivanting around town. When Ryan Brown's in town there will surely be an adventure.

A couple weeks later Kyle and I went back up to Lions Head to finish bolting a route we had started the year prior. With access issues being a constant battle at the cliff, we stopped bolting for the time being and had to leave the route unfinished. This year we went back with new eyes and re-routed the climb entirely, turning it into a classic rather than a piece of crap 5.10 with a V11 stopper crux. After days of cleaning, beta sussing and bolting, I sent this beauty of a line end of June, and called it "Arrested Development" 5.13a. Very unique movement for the area, and definitely worth checking out.

Kyle Thomas moving the bolts on Arrested Development

That look you get when you just sent your project :)

Focus for the final moves on the first ascent of 'Arrested Development' 5.13

Strongman Colin Lipowitz leads out 'Lord of the Flies' 5.11c with a loaded pack. Siiick.

Gotta love the epic adventure to be had at Lion's Head. Just trying to keep up with Colin!

There's so much more than just rock climbing at Lion's Head. Epic photographer Colin Field shot some amazing stuff this day.
Paul Ko stretches between perfect pockets on Dandilion Wine 5.11c
Lion's Head Salute.
Once July hit, I found myself in the weeds with work. So stoked with all of the courses I have gotten to teach this summer. Lots of sport courses, multi-pitch, trad and youth team coaching. It's been a blast. I took it down a notch with climbing as I have started to feel pretty beat down but still had some super memorable days out on the rocks. More recently we've been on the "Rejuvenation Tour",  retro bolting old lines and fixing up a few that need repairs too. The sport route to the right of "Homecoming" 5.10d at Devils Glen got a face lift and climbs beautifully. It is given 5.12c in the guidebook, but was very contrived and run out. We added a couple bolts, replaced a bolt, and now it is a fantastic 5.11, worth checking out. We've been calling it "Facial Rejuvenation" 5.11. I also fixed the bolt on Harry's Climb 5.12a at Metcalfe Rock, and Kyle retro bolted "Bob and Brians Bogus Adventure" and "The Gopher has Cratered" at Metcalfe too. While we had the drill out there, we bolted a line I have looked at before that is just left of Harry's Climb. It turned out to be a pretty fun little route and also happens to be the first route that Kyle and I have both bolted and FA'd together. Awww. We named it "Decade" in tribute to our 10 year anniversary this summer and after the Neil Young album. It weighs in around 5.10d/5.11a (if you're short). Fun stuff.

Running a lap on Kyle and I's new route at Metcalfe Rock, 'Decade' 5.10d
Continuing with the 'Rejuvenation Tour', I cleaned up this forgotten trad route 'Zuit Soot' 5.11 and it turned out to be pretty classy.
Zuit Soot 5.11 trad, a Dave Smart classic.

Another fun Dave Smart route I cleaned up on the 'Rejuvenation Tour': 'How Elevators Changed Paris' 5.11 is a historical and incredibly sandbagged 5.11a mixed route at DG. SO classic.

Send of the summer was definitely hearing that Jonathan Shen made the second ascent and first male ascent (FMA) of Above the Clouds, a dauntingly steep 40m 5.13b trad/mixed line at Lions Head. Huge congrats to Jon for inspiring men everywhere that they too can climb as hard as women ;)

Me standing beneath 'Above the Clouds' 5.13, after getting the first ascent back in September 2013. It has taken 3 years for it to finally see a second ascent.

These truly are the days I tell ya. Life is good. And though summer isn't quite over yet, I feel the change of seasons on the horizon and my feet are starting to itch for the road. We just bought a new truck with 4 wheel drive!! YAYAYA. We named it "Gandalf the Grey", it is obviously grey and wizard like.

I hope everyone else is getting after those sweet summer days too!

Dan Sivret onsights another 5.11 at The Swamp

Dan Sivret sends his first 5.12b 'Pump and Dump' at The Swamp

Joe Skopec attempting the heinous looking "Waterfall Project'
5.14 something

Jany Mitges stares down the crux deadpoint on 'Jet' 5.12+ at Devils Glen

At 50 years old, Jany Mitges is such an inspiration, crushing 5.12's and projecting 5.13's at DG.
Matt McCormick casually onsights Bio Terror 5.11d at the Al Qaeda Wall.

Huge thanks to my two newest sponsors, Arc'teryx and The Yoak. I still can't believe that  Arc'teryx asked me to be on their team, I'm in shock and it is truly an honour to work with them. Also really excited about my partnership with The Yoak too. This incredibly versatile training tool has kept me so psyched as I can do a climbing specific after work training session that is easy on the fingers. It has also helped me get closer to my goals of holding a front lever and doing a one arm pull up. The improvements in my lock off strength are huge!

Arc'teryx lovin', feeling pretty fly in the new gear I tell ya

Yoak ladders, my fav :)
 I hope that the next time I post will be a farewell to Ontario as we hit the road for the winter season to climb our faces off in the warm desert sun. Now get out there and seize the last days of summer before they are gone!

SUP'n on Georgian Bay
xo Les

Thursday, December 3, 2015

November to Remember

I guess I can say that I guided right to the very end of the season this year!

 I love my job On the Rocks, though I equally love the pure freedom of my off-season from guiding full time. The freedom of the open road, freedom to roam and explore, freedom to eat, sleep, climb, repeat. 

Work hard, play hard.

By October, I was feeling totally beat down from a long guiding season here in Ontario. After having a strict work agenda from May-Oct, all I really wanted for the month of November was to have no agenda, no goals, no plan, no stress. So we did what we do, we packed up the truck and trailer and hit the open road... First stop: New River Gorge,West Virginia.

Back in Wet Virginia, still soaked, I mean stoked, well ya soaked too.

Fall colours, New River Gorge, WV... worth the detour
Our trip to the New was quick, the usually gloomy forecast scared us away pretty quick this year and we drove due west in search of sun and rock. I researched sport climbing spots on Mountain Project while Kyle crushed the drive and we literally just drove to the closest place with a sunny forecast and new rocks to climb....which ended up being Last Chance Canyon, New Mexico.

Steep thrills in the Solstice Cave, Last Chance Canyon, NM.
We didn't really have any expectations going there, so when we arrived to sun and free private camping in the desert, we were already stoked. The climbing was decent, short but good quality limestone, a good grade selection and absolutely no crowds. What the rock lacked in height it made up for with steepness in a lot of the Canyon, which was a nice change from the vertical Niagara Escarpment stone. Shade and sun were abundant and the routes were relatively concentrated with an easy approach The Solstice cave offered both shade and sun and crazy steep routes while the Mad Cow Wall offered more technical lines and all day shade. Check it out on Mountain Proj here:

Kyle Thomas jug hauling on Solstice 5.12+

Approach into Last Chance Canyon
Fav part of the trip was being able to push my onsight climbing again. It has been years since I have been able to with finger injury hesitations and having the freedom to give 100% on the rock again was the most incredible feeling. I was right back to taking down 5.12+ on my first try and technically 5.13 too, though I didn't feel that the route was that hard. The camping was peaceful, in a beautiful meadow of dry desert grasses where wild horses and coyotes regularly roam. Kyle was back in action, climbing 5.12 again after being on the bench for years. We were both so blissfully happy to be climbing freely again without hesitations. 

Onsighting Eternal Sunshine 5.12
Sun, wind
Maury casually takes down another 5.12 on the Mad Cow Wall at LCC
First view of Sitting Bull Falls, NM...yum
Sitting Bull Falls was another nice cliff close to LCC. Great spot with a small wall of fun 5.10-5.11 beside a wall of steep gymnastic 5.12-5.13. Not a ton of stuff but great stone and movement, a pretty location and totally worthwhile stop!

Milking the double knee bar no-hands on Broken Arrow 5.12d
We finished our stay in New Mex on a perfect note. Kyle had his first multiple 5.12 day in years and I made super quick work of a steep dynamic jug haul called Canadian Beef 5.13a, put up by Canadian beef cake Kevin Wilkinson who developed a lot of the steepness in LCC. Our friends Maury and Carrie had some great sends too and we all celebrated this perfect day on the rocks back at camp. Next morning we split LCC with no plan at all and ended up heading straight for Joshua Tree, California for our last couple days of climbing before we flew home.

Joshua Tree vistas, chocolate for my soul <3

A family climbs the famous Headstone
 It feels like time stands still in JTree and life was just as it was when we left, same vibe, same energy. We were welcomed into the park with perfect weather and a couple of amazing last climbing days of bouldering and sport climbing. I was feeling weightless on the rock and in tune with my self and the stone. I guess putting in 2 months straight last winter + countless previous trips has paid off, and the style is starting to come a little more easily each trip. That and I have absolutely no expectations there any more, grades are meaningless and inspiration is my guide. Its about the climb, and the challenge that motivates you. This frees the mind to relax and be present in the moment and during these last two days I felt more free and in tune than I have in years. I was on a tear over the two days and most memorable was stomping a stellar 5.12d called Prime Real Estate on my second try, it was a rather out of body experience!

Sunset glow gun show

Crow Pose

Alligator skin granite on the Illicit Sweetie boulder
The rest of November was more of a blurr! In a whirlwind 3 days of travelling from J-Tree to Palm Springs to Toronto to Thornbury and back to Toronto, we eventually ended up in Costa Rica. We spent a crazy 9 days in Puerto Viejo and did nothing but relax, drink, eat, explore and chill on a beach. Every day was like ground hog day, living the true Pura Vida, with some of my most amazing friends. The culture was incredibly refreshing, so happy and relaxed and I doubt that'll be our last time and our last happy hour in Puerto Viejo.

Jungle escape
Pelicans fish at sunset
La Playa Negra - The Black Beach


happy hour yeeoo

Cool bird we stared at for a while


Seconds after I snap this shot, the dude on the tall unicycle nails a car and flies off the thing into a restaurant.
Post-happy hour pose

The flight home was rather terrifying, but we made it back to the ground and to Thornbury safe and sound. Now I've got a little over a month to train up for round 2 and winter goals. Really excited to work with the Power Climbing Company and the training program they custom designed for me. We fly back to Cali on Jan 4, and start our winter road trip Jan 15 after some family visiting. Can't wait to be back on the road...and the rocks :)