Monday, June 5, 2017

Winter Turns Into Spring

Fall turns into winter which turns into spring, and now soon to be summer. Just like that, this past winter is long behind us and I find myself back at home and preparing for the upcoming fall again. This winter was the first one in which I felt like I actually lived in the southwest, rather than moving freely around it as a vagabond in a van. The ever familiar roadways and climbing areas feel like a second home to me now and with friends and family scattered throughout, it was easy to settle in like we never left.  This was also the first year in which climbing wasn't the only focus of our trip. We were just simply living somewhere warmer, and sunnier than our homeland. And of course we would choose to live close to rocks. But I chose to not focus in too hard on climbing after the health scare I had the year prior. Instead, I wanted to focus on finding balance, and family/friends.

Desert vistas

Zuly and Fordizzle fondling the 'Atman' 5.10

Red Rock radiance
What I neglected to write in my previous post, in hopes that it was going to heal soon and be forgotten, was that Kyle had torn his bicep tendon in Joshua Tree. Right before I sent The Acid Crack actually. After I squeaked in that send, I refrained from letting Kyle belay me for the rest of the trip as it only seemed to irritate his arm more. He was completely out of commission from everything. Bummer. This of course changed trip goals, the path, and pace of my climbing. But I took it as a sign from the universe to slow down.

The one you just gotta go do, 'Yin and Yang' 5.10d Arc'teryx

Moon glow while approaching 'The Challenger' 5.10d PG13

Sunrise approaches
But it's all good. We were both in good spirits as it also timed in with when a whole bunch of our friends from the Collingwood area arrived out west. We took over a block at the Red Rock Canyon Campground and I linked up with whoever I could to get out climbing. This resulted in a few awesome multi-pitch days, and lots of moderate trad mileage.

Rocks ROCKs rocKs

Coolest approach slab ever. Solid 4.13a. Fun times with Chris Pegelo

Blissful smiles on 'The Challenger' 5.10d, a truly stellar trad multi-pitch
La Sportiva
Our stay in the Red Rocks also aligned with the Red Rock Rendezvous. Arc'teryx invited me to come out and teach some clinics for it, it was also the perfect chance to get to know the Arc' crew who were of course awesome!

'Fall Safe Clinic' at Red Rock Rendezvous with Arc'teryx

Taking Dan Sivret on his first multi-pitches, we crushed some super rad trad

'Saddle Up' 5.9 into 'Armatron' 5.9, a classic ride
When our 2 week limit in the campground was up, our good friends Dave and Erin arrived in Vegas, family in tow, and they invited us to live with them in a sweet house they rented. More good times followed while linking up with these awesome peeps.

Summit Lovin' Sunski
Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
High class living with the Zuly's in Vegas
We then had a little over a week to kill before we had to make the trek north to Whistler, BC. I really wanted to go back to Zion National Park after such a teaser stop over in the fall. This magestic place calls to me. Kyle at this point had had a lot of rest and physio on his bicep and I pretty much begged him to belay me a few days. I promised I wouldn't fall, as it was less wear on him. So we did a couple day trips up to Zion, it was glorious. I had never really had this kind of exposure to such splitter cracks and the learning curve was so inspiring and motivating.

Finding flow in desert splitters, Zion National Park

I found some incredible flow on a variety of single pitch cracks, consistently on sighting 5.11+ to 5.12-. I haven't been this inspired in years! We are already planning our fall return to this sandstone paradise.

Dreamy battle for the onsight of 'Reggaetone' 5.12 to finish the trip Sterling Rope
And then began the northward migration, en route to Squamish, BC. I was invited to speak at Multiplicity, an event put on by Mountain Life Magazine. The format for the event was 8 guest speakers, each have 9 minutes to talk about whatever they want, in front of over 1200 people! I had never done anything like this before, I was incredibly nervous but incredibly excited and up for the challenge. It was such an amazing night. 

BC vibes Arc'teryx

Left speechless from these speeches. So cool to be a part of Multiplicity by Mountain Life
Then we had a few days to kill out there, which were unfortunately dampened by crap weather. But we did get a couple sunny afternoons to explore the area. Our good buddy Trevor Macdonald and Arc'teryx athlete manager Justin Sweeny, showed us an awesome time out there.

SUP tour of Squamish, BC
Rained our entire stay but at least got in this half day
First time on top of The Chief! Though it was dark and rainy, T-Mac made our short visit stellar xo
And then before I knew it, I was home and back into the full swing of things with On the Rocks! This year is extra exciting as I have decided to expand my business to the Milton region and I've also hired  two new awesome guides to help run the show! I was quite nervous about this endeavour as I had to drop thousands of dollars into gear/advertising, but it is proving to be worth it! My good friend Steve Andrew is running the show in Milton, and he is trying to turn his dream of becoming a full time climbing guide into a reality, and I am super stoked to help him achieve it because he totally rocks.

Back On the Rocks at Metcalfe Rock :D
Every summer I try so hard to juggle climbing on the escarpment for fun, with guiding on the escarpment. It never really works out that well for me as I inevitably get burnt out and frustrated, or injured. Too much cliff time! So this year things are changing. I have dreams, big dreams, and I have decided to train my ass off for them. So begins my training cycle in preparation for 2 peaks... 1-Squamish July 19-Aug 9th for the Arc'teryx Climbing Academy and 2- Zion, this fall. In preparation for my crack goals, we have started to build a crack training facility in The Pump House, appropriately deemed 'The Crack House'.

Hard to put the rack down

Building "The Crack House"

Cracks on the brain, time to train
Training at the local gym, Old Baldy Petzl 
This decision to train all summer rather than climb for fun, was a good one. I can tell already. It's got me so charged up, so motivated, so focused. Life list lines are going down!!! I am at that point in my climbing where I feel like my technique and bag of tricks is pretty solid, I just need to get stronger. And that takes me to now, sitting here in Thornbury, Ontario. I just finished 4 weeks of strength training and now on to power. I am already seeing gains, slowly and painfully. It is hard, I feel tired all the time, but the other day I got out to the cliff and absolutely hiked the heady 'Elixir' 5.12b on my first go, and followed with an immediate run up 'Labor Pains' 5.12b. YES. Motivation to continue forward with this.

Just want to say a big giant massive huge thank you to all of my sponsors for hanging in with me through it all. Your belief in me and continued support inspire me to continue to follow my dreams. I wouldn't be where I am today without you all. Arc'teryx, Sterling Rope, La Sportiva, Flashed, Sun Ski, Sanuk, The Yoak

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

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 :)