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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Offwidths and Extreme Hooping

I was counting down the days until my annual multi-pitch adventure with Dave Zuly in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Although this year we didn't end up with an unplanned bivi on a mountain (read about it here), we most definitely got up to some wild adventures. Dave and I joke that it's a good thing we both have our "better halves" to balance out our extreme personalities in life, but I think it is our similar extreme psyche and love for tradical adventures that fuels a fire when we join together on the rocks. Some of the best climbing days I've had have been with Dave, as we are always guaranteed to get in over our heads, and most of the time we pull it off! Like this time...

Ugh oh, trouble together again.

This year we almost bailed out of our game plan however. Upon first sight of "Ixtlan" I wanted to barf. "Is that an offwidth up there?", I ask Dave after puking in my mouth. We quickly shuffle through the guide and soon realize that this classic 8 pitch 5.11+ that we'd planned to climb featured a SPLITTER 5.10d offwidth on the 3rd pitch. The book describes it as being perfectly smooth with absolutely no face holds. NIGHTMARE! I have no idea how we missed this. So with our tail between our legs, we walked away to do some other classics in Black Velvet Canyon. First we warmed up on a stellar 5.10a 2 pitch and then rapped down to climb "Our Father", an ultra classic 3 pitch 5.10d. With ample daylight, we walked over to get ready for our 'Plan B', the classic "Triassic Sands". To our disappointment, it was taken, as were most other notable routes in the vicinity.
But Ixtlan was wide open...oh joy.

Dave Z gets his first look of Ixtlan

Ixtlan stands proud.

So we sacked up and tied in, but it was not yet decided as to who got to lead the off width pitch. I banged off the first 5.11c pitch, which was gorgeous. Dave's lead was next and a hell of a lead it was, a super spicy 5.10a lightning bolt crack, absolutely stellar. As we stood at the base of the off width I say "Ok, let's rock paper scissors for it." Dave laughs and says "It's your lead buddy". "NO WAY" I yell back. And Dave just smiles and says "I would love to see you go for this, Les". I don't know if he worked some black magic mind control but I somehow agreed and immediately started up the pitch. Up until this day I had only climbed three off widths in my life: one I fell on and aided, the other was a V0 boulder problem that took me 30 minutes and the other one I laid back and death crimped face holds. But after injuring my finger early in the trip, you could say that I was ready to unleash the fury... and that I did.

The 5.10a pitch follows the flake to lightning bolt feature and the 5.10d off width pitch follows the wide crack right out the roof.
I am pretty sure that every climber in the Black Velvet Canyon heard my roars, screams and whimpers on my 40 minute on sight of the Ixtlan off width. Dave said he could hear my heart beating from the belay!! And despite how excruciating  and horrific this battle of whits was, I might just say that it was the hardest onsight of my climbing career and definitely the most memorable!!! We cruised the rest of the route, and made it out with ample daylight. Good frickin' times that I felt all over my body for a week!

So. Incredibly. Stoked.

Onsighting the classic 5.10d corner pitch on Our Father, despite my shoe being untied and nearly falling off.

Another view of Ixtlan, 5.11+

 After this wild adventure, Dave and Erin flew back to the great white north and we ventured back to Joshua Tree. I am getting some work done on my cedar tattoo that I am super stoked about!!

Circus tricks in JTree with Simi Shannon from BC

"Silky Simi", a fellow Canadian, puts on an aerial silk show at her campsite in Hidden Valley. Check out her performance in our awesome video "Extreme Hooping in Joshua Tree".

While we are kicking around Hidden Valley for one last time, I had a vision for a hula hoop circuit that I thought would be hilariously awesome. And thus, "Extreme Hooping in Joshua Tree" was born.

This is some of the most fun I've ever had in my life.
Check it out and share it if you like it!

After my tattoo heals, we head on to a couple new adventures as we slowly make our way home to Ontario for spring. 

Peace and Lovin' out to all :) 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Joshua Tree Lemonade

When life threw me lemons, I made an unforgettable lemonade.

Though lemons may taste sour at first, if you get past their bitter skin and sour fruit, lemons are cleansing and refreshing. Then mix in a little sugar, love, maybe even some spice, and you'll have yourself a drink that transports you to warm sunny days.

Rewind back to December... not so sunny but I was motivated to train indoors and for the first time in 8 years I started to train specifically for climbing. I guess I had finally come to the realization that this is what I needed to do to take it to the next level. You could say that a light bulb went off in my head and I was really excited to incorporate this training regime into my long term climbing plan. The Pump House and the new Climbers Corner in Collingwood proved to be perfect training tools.

We hit the road after Christmas, as we always do for the winter months, migrating southwest in search of sun and rocks. This time of year is so exciting for us both, it is like a new beginning, a new but ever continuing chapter. Never will I get sick of the great open road, that feeling of freedom.

First stop on our winter migration tour was one of my favourite spots, Mesquite Nevada. Despite not climbing on real rock in months, I felt strong right out of the car, flashing 12+ and soon linking 5.13 in a day. Training actually works!!! With my final course/exam of the MPG PCGI certification level approaching, I climbed my face off for 2 weeks as I knew I would be climbing ropes more than rocks for the upcoming month in Joshua Tree. Near the end of our Nevada stint, I had one of those magical climbing days that I dream about all year: a beautiful cliff to ourselves, amazing new routes and perfect weather. I was so grateful for this perfect day. 

And then I blew out the A1 pulley in my index finger.

I couldn't believe that this was happening again, another injury, another setback.
With my tail between my legs and tears in my eyes, I put up the white flag. I was done with hard climbing, I was done with being injured, and it just seemed to no longer be worth the pain and suffering. This feeling left me incredibly empty, lost, sad. 

What do I do now? Find a new hobby? New career?  
What am I without climbing?

We then fled to our home away from home in Joshua Tree, California. There is something incredibly healing about that desert, those skies, trees and granite.

Obviously I didn't quit climbing, but I truly lost and found myself in Joshua Tree National Park.

Those sour lemons got mashed up with incredible friendships, unforgettably thrilling adventures, perfect weather, and a climbing paradise that has taught me more than anywhere else I have climbed.

This past month in Joshua Tree I have lived more "in the now" than I ever have in my life and it is a feeling that I never want to let go of. This mentality led to the most spontaneous adventures and seizing every moment as though it was our last day on earth.

These were and are 'the good old days'.

Summit views atop of Jaws, a classic 5.6R chimney route at the Hall of Horrors.
We've officially mastered camping!!! Kitted out the Trillium with a solar panel this year and it runs the fridge and lights. SICK

Lounging on the sundeck with Said Parirokh, Ian Achey, Lisa Aquino and Kyle Thomas. A crew of amazing new friends that I never would of met had I not got injured.
Kyle Thomas in "Beer Pose"on the Aguille de Joshua Tree
Multi-pitch adventures with On the Rocks guide Mark Toma on the classic 3 pitch Right On "5.5"

Finding my zen

Ryan and Sadie Brown head to the top of a beautiful boulder in the Ryan Campground circuit

As my wounds healed, I started to push myself on things that I have always avoided: slabs, chimneys, offwidth, scary mantle top outs, circus tricks, sandbags... the usual Joshua Tree flavors. I found joy in new movement and immense satisfaction from learning to push myself in new ways. It was easy to find inspiration with such a great crew of friends that were not only motivated, but incredibly encouraging and positive. I have been so blind sided by grades for years that I'd lost touch with my roots...adventures, adrenaline, learning, good energy and inspiration from nature and friends. There's always so much more to learn and Joshua Tree holds the key to the true essence of rock climbing, it is the training ground to becoming a real rock warrior.

"Joshua Tree rock climbing demands more than strong fingers, it requires a strong spirit"- Guidebook

It is good to have a goals, but I think it is more important to be present and take challenges as they come. Life is happening while you're busy planning it. I've had to let go of a lot of things here in Jtree, especially grades and my own ego. I pretty much climb a full number grade lower in Josh, but I am learning to find satisfaction with pushing myself to learn the art of this tricky granite, and control my mind in dangerous situations. I have climbed some of the most memorable routes/boulders of my life this trip and most have been moderate but incredibly thrilling.

This is the new updated version: Leslie Timms 2.0.

 Life is far too short. Try the things you've always wanted to try, make an effort to meet new people, do that thing that scares the shit out of you, see the places you've always wanted to see. Time has flown by faster than it ever has in my life and it is because I am truly living in the moment. This past month or two? has been the most fun I have ever had in my life! I am learning to hula hoop (always wanted to), I've reached new levels in my personal yoga practice (poses that I never thought I would be able to do!!) and I have finally learned to love that unforgivably subtle style of Joshua Tree rock climbing.

Hobbit Hole Offwidth truly dances on the line between torturous pain and hilarious fun. At this point of the climb I was undoubtedly regretting the previous nights dinner... "meat fest".
Kyle Thomas makes quick work of Secret Samurai

Making my come back on the perfect arete of Iconoclast 5.13.
There is always another level up to everything in JTree... here I am sending the "reverse traverse" of the Gun Smoke Traverse, a problem I'd done a dozen times. Rumor has it that John Bachar went back and forth on this classic traverse so many times that he stopped when he got bored. 

Space pod views from our campsite.
It was fate that our paths aligned with such amazing people.
OTR Guides Mark and Pam came out for an On the Rocks "business trip" to Jtree :)

Campsite yoga was part of the daily routine.

Warming up in the Ryan Mountain circuit, one of the many awesome bouldering circuits in the park.
Note the Muira Velcro's, quite possibly the best climbing shoe in the world.
Hidden Valley Hoops, jah

Standing atop the Aguille de Joshua Tree 5.6 R

Beer hooping skillz

House cleaning

Kyle eats Copper Penny V3R for breakfast...and then spit it out and went back to camp to drink coffee.

One sip of that delicious lemonade and I chugged the entire glass.
I've been drunk on life ever since.
And life tastes damn good when your truly living it.
I am growing more as a climber and person now than I ever have in my life, facing what I've somehow avoided for years... myself.

Lisa goes for the glorious jug of Yabba Dabba Don't

Another day in paradise

Nacho nacho night!!! Prepping dinner with a huge crew of incredible folks like Mike and Steve :)

Ryan scopes the top out and Lisa blows off the crux on the famous Slashface V3R.

Another day for the record books! The largest Slashface send train ever?? Not only did I flash Slashface, but each one of my buddies climbed it that day too. Here Ian Achey stands on top screaming out a loud seal noise which somehow became our team sending call.

Ryan Brown riding the Slashface train

Kyle Thomas follows suit. It has been amazing to see Kyle climb so well here in JTree, he is absolutely crushing and in some of the best shape of his life!
Said gets the jug for the win

<Insert seal call and strange clapping gestures>

Satellite Left V3.... scary

Trailer top sunset with two beautiful women, Colette and Lisa

Thanks to all of my amazing friends for the laughs, inspiration and perspective.

Thanks to Joshua Tree for keeping me humble and teaching me the true ways of a rock warrior.

Thanks to Kyle for convincing me to not quit rock climbing.

Life is like a tide...the waves are always moving in and out, just be sure to catch the surf when it rolls in and ride the freakin' shit out of it!!!!

When it feels like life gets turned upside down, embrace the new perspective!!