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 www.flashedclimbing.com

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 :) 

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