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 :)

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