Friday, October 9, 2015

Another Summer on the Escarpment

I look forward to summertime in Ontario all year round... no matter where I am in the world. I can't even try to imagine a better place to enjoy the summer season. Lake Huron, Niagara Escarpment, Thornbury, love it! I can barely contain my excitement each summer. I feel pure happiness every single day, that kind that brings tears to your eyes. Happiness within the beautiful blue streaked limestone, the turquoise freshwater sea and the amazing people and community that I am surrounded by... it's dreamy really.

Smooth sailing, Georgian bay sunset cruise
Kayaking to the cliff with Zuly, sweet summer dayz.

The Monument, one of the most beautiful/imposing/surreal/humbling/inspiring roof cracks I have ever seen/touched.
This summer was no different than any other. The only thing that changes every year seems to be the weather and the climbing conditions. But regardless of either, I am surely seizing the sh$t out of every day until I fall down and need to sleep for like a week straight. It's the ever familiar juggling act of guiding full time, climbing for fun, and planning a climbing festival (Beaver Valley Climbing Festival). And being tired from too much fun is the best "problem" anyone could ask for.

John Michalenko rocks the Gripped strength contest at the On the Rocks booth @ the Beaver Valley Climbing Festival

Psychotech 5.12c, just a little taste of that classic Beaver Valley mixed style.
After another regular guiding day at Metcalfe, I stuck around to teach a few local guides how to bolt. We put up a fun new 5.10a called 'Sleeping Husky' and Matt Simpson nabbed the first first ascent.

Pete Kamitses dances between the streaks of Titan 5.14a, Lion's Head classic
Loving the La Sportiva climbing apparel. The Kalymnos pants are the bomb.

Coming back from a finger injury on tweaky limestone is no easy task, but I found so much inspiration to stick with it from my climbing friends, and from giving Lion's Head tours to all the cool peeps that came to visit from the far away land of America. When I started to be able to pull on pockets again, I stepped it up a bit and made quick work of some routes I hadn't done before in the 12a-13b range. My favourite was undoubtedly "The Mentor" 5.13b, a Lion's Head classic put up by local legend Greg Williamson.

Greg Williamson, local legend, FA's "The Mentor" 5.13b waay back when

Visiting American badass climber Pete Kamitses, experiences that Lion's Head high that leaves a mark on your soul.

Gary Posey and I dance up The Roaming Gypsies 5.10+
Pete Kamitses, super talented climber/all round awesome guy, came up for a visit. He was working on Titan 5.14a, so I got on it with him to see how far off my finger was from 100%. I still had a ways to go but I had never actually tried anything super hard at Lion's Head before (as I guide way too much to climb that hard) and it was really cool to see where I needed to be to climb at that level there.

Pete on Titan
I also got an opportunity to try The Monument 5.12d, a classic horizontal roof crack that I had dreamed of one day trying. It left me quite heartbroken however, as I couldn't stick this one long move in the crux. I only got on it a couple times but it felt like maybe I needed to train one arm lock offs from a finger lock while holding a side lever. Then...MAYBE....I could do it... OR invent some weird short person beta using a knee bar over my head while tick tacking my hands across unfathomable under clings. Also felt bad dragging injured Kyle out to the middle of nowhere to belay me, especially now that I knew it may take me a while to send. Honestly, kinda went into a bit of a depression after that; I had fallen in love with a climb that I may not be able to do. Kinda like falling in love with a happily married person that lives in the middle of nowhere and they constantly tell you that you suck and beat the crap out of you every time you see them; but you love them so much regardless. I love you Monument.

Allistar Johnstone tries to unlock the definitive crux of The Monument 5.12d +++
His right hand is on the hold that I can't stick. Why don't you love me back Monument...WHY??

It was then too late in the season to fall in love with a proj at Lion's Head but I was finally starting to feel like I could try something hard again, so I treated the rest of the season as "training". I found out that Sabrina Chapman had been working on 'Man in Me' 5.13d and was getting close. I had climbed with Sabrina once before and was super inspired. She approaches climbing so much differently than me and really focuses in on sport projecting, while I dapple with a little bit of everything (trad, boulder, sport) and stuff that I can do quickish. I may also have a case of Projectphobia.
Projectphobia:  The fear of committing to a climb that is close to/at your absolute physical and mental limits. Fear of spending multiple weeks, months or years to something that you may not do. This illness is usually coupled with ADD and Injuryphobia (fear of getting injured because you usually do).

I asked Sabrina about the route and was answered with play by play beta and the best sportsmanship anyone could of asked for. We climbed on the route together shortly after and it was cool to watch someone that had the moves so dialed, she made it look like a beautiful dance and got me stoked!!!

Man in Me is a true test piece. If you can send Man in Me, you are a damn good rock climber, FACT. It demands flawless technique and shout out to Sabrina for such an inspiring send :)
Sabrina Chapman takes down her first 5.13d, and a stout one at that, "The Man in Me"

Guiding season is coming to an end and it was another super successful summer with On the Rocks. Super star guide Mark Toma was an absolute blessing! He left his other guiding gig to work  exclusively for me this year and it worked out amazing. I am so thankful for this incredible job and can't thank everyone enough for the support and for choosing to learn with me. Spreading the love/safety/knowledge/passion and you all inspire me in return. Thanks :)

Team Boulderz! Always a blast taking out their youth team
Field courses with MEC Burlington staffers :)

On the Rocks Guide extraordinaire Mark Toma, helps me out with an advanced multi-pitch course for the Alpine Club Toronto Section.
Teaching trad, so so rad.
All smiles everyday at "work" :)

Speaking of support, I am really honored to of been offered a spot on the Flashed Climbing Team. This Canadian company makes the best boulder pads/chalk bags/chalk/brushes out there, you can check them out at

Currently concocting winter plans but talks of New River Gorge for a few weeks, Costa Rica in November and perhaps a little Spain mission in the new year. 100% chance of rock climbing.

Going with the flow, but going balls out when I'm going. Life is good. Much love to all yeeooo

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Magical Mystery Tour

Iconoclast, my first Joshua Tree 5.13.

Time flies way too fast these days, I swear it moves faster and faster every year. It makes me want to seize each day and cherish the moments more often. It is just such a wonderful feeling that I never want to let go of. That must be why it feels like yesterday that I was leaving Thornbury, with the truck and trailer packed to the rim, full of dreams and stoke. Injuries suck, but I always see these weird twists of fate as just a little push to drive down a different road for a while. And this road led to some of the best times of my life, enjoying the lifestyle, learning new ways to move on rock, climbing for just pure fun with amazing people in sacred places. 

I would tweak that A1 Pulley again, if it meant that I would get to repeat the Magical Mystery Tour 2015.

We finished our over-extended stay in Joshua Tree, California with a couple wins. I started to gain some confidence on my finger and managed to come away with my first 5.13 in the park, The Iconoclast. This was a big deal for me as I find J-Tree to be hard as nails!!! I also stumbled across an opportunity to get some tattoo work done when I was a Hidden Valley local. I was connected with an incredible guy, Tobias Crabtree, and I am so thankful for these beautiful pieces of art that he gave me and the time I got to spend with him :)

Tobias Crabtree, amazing guy, tattoo artist, climber, road warrior.

We then packed up the trailer and cut straight through the Mojave desert to hit up a few crags with these cutie patooties....

Me, Kyle, Collette Lalonde and Ryan Brown
Photo credit: Sadie Brown :)
Sadie Brown, quite a character, just like her parents :)

First stop...
KOLOB CANYON in Zion National Park. This spot was so rad!!!
This wall showcased some of the coolest sandstone features that I have climbed on in the US. 

Ryan Brow flashes the ultra-classic "Namaste".

KT feeling the burn
Kolob is deceptively steep, and incredibly tall... 40m pitches bitches.

Kolob at sunset

After a fine day in the Kolob Canyon, we split to Mesquite, Nevada. I really wanted to go back to the Lime Kiln Canyon to sample Jonathan Seigrist's Air France 5.14a. I was curious if my finger was ready to crank like that again. To my surprise, it was, and I was almost one hanging the route after falling on the 2nd last move of the crux on my 3rd go! I was stoked, and pretty certain I could send soon. I then re-hurt my finger on a 5.11 and swore off hard routes for the rest of the trip. This was a hard decision to make but a good one I think. It was the time to just have fun, see some new stuff and focus on my weaknesses while healing my finger.

Kyle Thomas goes for a repeat of one of the many classic 5.12's at Lime Kiln Canyon.

I planted the seed and easily convinced Ryan Brown to partner up with me for the Rainbow Wall-Original Route in Red Rocks. I have dreamed of climbing this 15 pitch 5.12 mixed route for years. Though I may not of been in top form after re-tweaking my finger days prior, we both climbed so well and Ryan Brown managed to walk away with an impressive onsight!! So proud of him and his battle was incredibly inspiring. Yah buddy.

Ryan Brown and myself gear up for an attempt at the famous  
Rainbow Wall- Original Route in Red Rocks, Nevada

Desert tortoise, whuddup!!
15 sustained pitches of mixed sport and trad 5.12a. Rainbow Wall, the tall blank face in the background, was all it was cracked up to be.

The LaBruns flew back home to the homeland and Kyle and I were left with an open road to choose from. Do we go to Bishop and meet up with friends? Or explore new spots in Utah? Trilly and Kyle were pushing for Moab and I had always wanted to climb a desert tower. So we spent a few beautiful days climbing amongst the sandstone towers and boulders surrounding Moab, a tourist town sandwiched between two national parks. Despite being busy, the rock was incredibly inspiring and I hope to return one day with healthy fingers and a desert rack!

Trilly enjoys the new views
The famous Casleton Tower on the right, and The Preist and The Nuns on the left.

KT putting down some classy Big Bend boulders

Kyle Thomas and Fox Thomas nail the First Fox Ascent of Jah Man, a classic 4 pitch tower in Moab.

Campsite hoop session by the river

This pit stop was inevitable. Bouldering was a perfect no-commitment style for healing and gaining confidence in my finger again. That and both Kyle and I have dreamed of climbing at this world class bouldering destination for years. It lived up to all the hype and we had such a good time! We had a great crew to climb with and we found some nice flow in our climbing while sampling and sending many of the classics in the V3-V8 range. I forgot how fun bouldering is; I truly love the simplicity, the energy and the try-hard!

What a gem of a spot!!!!
We love Joe's! We love Joe's!

One of those boulder problems you could do over and over again. The Angler V2 is not to be missed on a visit to Joe's Valley.

Steve Andrew reels in The Angler

Speaking of classics... doesn't get much better than Wills of Fire V6. WOW

Kyle Thomas locked in on Wills of Fire

Dick in a Box V0, obviously classic.

Spencer McCroskey takes off on Pocket Rocket V6

Heeling hard for the send of a team favourite: Kill By Numbers V5

Home for a couple weeks, the right fork in Joes Valley, Utah.
Gill Dagg unlocking Tweaker V2
Steve Andrew makes Chips V7 look tasty

Steve and myself indulge in a perfect highball crack finale to a great last day in Joe's

Here is a short video I made from a really fun day that we had up at Dairy Canyon. Managed to tick off two V7's and two V8's in a day! A great finish to a great trip. And then followed by a perfect last day of checking out New Joe's area, where I managed to come away with a fast send of the classic V7 Planet of the Apes. We love Joe's! We love Joe's!!

This quick stop was a trip highlight for sure. It was my first experience on climbing cobble stone and what a blast!! This place was so fun, we spent 3 days of climbing in a row, sampling a whole bunch of classic 5.10-5.12's. I MUST go back here!!!!!!

And though it was sad to leave this lovely lifestyle of eat, sleep, climb.... it is refreshing to be home again. Despite a rough year of injuries, I am still so fortunate to be able to live this lifestyle. Blessed.

rock art @ joe's valley

I am ridiculously excited for another guiding season On the Rocks and hopefully a splitter climbing season on the Bruce Peninsula! I will find my stride again this summer and ride the shit out of that wave when it rolls in :)

Peace and lovin', Les