Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Rewind to a little over one year ago.....

It's October and we are on our way to the famous Indian Creek in Utah, for our first time ever. We borrowed 2 extra trad racks from friends, packed our entire life into our trailer and truck, rented out our place and hit the road. About two hours into the drive we realized that we couldn't enter the US for three more weeks or we would exceed Canadian time restrictions, FUCK. We then re-routed the entire trip plan as we didn't have a home to go back to, and decided to drive across the country to visit my brother in Calgary. We were about 2 hrs outside of Thunder bay (middle of nowhere) and our trailer ("Trilly") nearly died, the trailer bed actually split in half and was fishtailing down the highway. Another long delay but thankfully Trilly survived. Visiting my bro and his lovely family made the disappointment of a slightly botched trip easier to swallow. After a good visit we then drove south to Oregon's Trout Creek and Smith Rock, two places we always wanted to see. And despite feeling haggard from a hard season of guiding and running On the Rocks Climbing Guides, I was so in love with Oregon's mountainous setting and unique rock features to notice. We climbed for a couple weeks and loved camping by the river at Trout Creek. Trilly the trailer loved it so much that she decided to break her door off so that we would be "stranded" in Trout Creek for another week and a half while waiting for trailer parts to arrive. Weather sucked but we got to visit super nice friends in Bend that showed us around this really cool city. Two thumbs up to Oregon, good vibes and beautiful scenery! All of these delays meant that the Creek season was fast coming to a close and alas another year goes by in which trip plans to the Creek get mysteriously botched. I don't believe I will ever go there.

Broken Trilly

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Views from the hike up to Trout Creek, Oregon.

Crazy crack columns at Trout Creek!

Trilly got sick of the weather in Oregon too, fixed herself up, and we hauled ass south to sun. I had a rather out of character lack of motivation to climb and all the signs were pointing to taking some time off... something I never do. So we drove to Joshua Tree, my happy place, to hang with friends and family while basking in the magical energy of Joshua Tree National Park. Climbing motivation eventually returned after a few weeks and I set sights on a "mini-project" before we headed home; Equinox 5.12+ was my project of choice. I'd tried this famous finger crack once many years ago and got my ass handed to me on it (I knew nothing about crack climbing at the time). I was confident to return with new tricks up my sleeve and after cruising the classic finger crack Vector 5.11c as a warm up, I knew I was ready. Equinox... still nails hard, but it felt like I understood the language now and had a good chance of putting it together quickly. While rehearsing the upper half of the climb repeatedly, I mildly strained something in my calf. Not too concerned, we shifted gears to take a break from slabs and went to Bishop, California for a week. I pushed through the pain like an idiot, blinded by the need to send. I came unbelievably close to doing it on my first day back, but got over-excited and blew it. I was disappointed but happy as I still had a few days left before we headed home. 

The striking finger crack that is Vector 5.11c in JTNP

Fun with favourite friends in LA

California sunsets

Rehearsing the Equinox 5.12+, a dreamy JTree test piece.

Kyle screws on his Trad head
An unforgettable moment with my spirit guide, a young Desert Fox

Next day my calf was sore and I stupidly (in hindsight) still went climbing. Like a perfect storm, I slipped while down-climbing a rock formation and tore the crap out of my calf muscle. What I didn't know then, as I screamed in pain each time I had to weight my foot while down-climbing 20 feet of chimney in 40km/h winds, is that my life would never be the same again.

I sat with my foot up for 7 weeks at home, as per doctors orders and on my first day back on the rocks (in Bishop, California) I re-tweaked it worse than before. I was officially out for the duration of my climbing season. I consulted a really nice doctor in Bishop that offered some great rehab advice (Mike Gable of Eastern Sierra PT ) and we drove to Nevada and rented an apartment in Mesquite. We couldn't go home as our house was rented out, so this was an affordable option with good weather, friends and steep low-ball bouldering with short flat approaches (Moes Valley was the only hope I had to climb at some point). There was the added bonus of living close to the Eureka Casino (walking distance from our apartment) so Kyle can use his poker skillz. Honestly I couldn't be upset about this unforeseen winter of resting; the year prior I was bed ridden in pain for months with a chronic illness I have called 'Interstitial Cystitis'. It came out of remission with a vengeance and I honestly thought the life as I knew it was over, no more climbing/guiding. That life changing experience put all things into perspective for me. This injury was a small road block in the grand scheme of things, I was just so happy to not be suffering any more and still able to work. I have food, a home, a loving family and I am hopeful that my illness is going back into remission due to life changes I've made and stuck to.

And I did get to climb near the end of our stay in Mesquite, after 8 weeks of rest. I could push it on steep stuff where I could avoid weighting my left foot. Moe's Valley is a beautiful little spot just outside of St George, Utah, and great place to escape Canadian winter. We really enjoyed our time there.

Kyle and I did a lot of hanging out in Moe's Valley, Utah

Rocking the right legged boulder circuit at Moe's Valley

Ian Achey flew a plane in to visit us and climb, no big deal.

We also enjoyed a few days in Bishop California at the end of our trip, on our way home. I was feeling almost like I could trust my left foot again and got hooked on this problem (pictured above) during our few days there, but didn't have the time or weather (86'F) to put it together. I was SO painfully close and that was the exact motivation recharge I needed.

Water Hazard V10

Hot spring mountain magic. One of the most pure and untainted places still left.

I did a lot of campus training this winter
Lovers in the best jacket ever - Arc'teryx Proton LT

About a week into my 8 weeks of sitting with my foot up and doing re-hab exercises in Mesquite, Nevada, I got an email from a guy named Khrisna Nacua. He was expressing concern about current issues at the crags in Canada and looking for ideas on how we could improve climbing education about etiquette, dangers, environmental impact, access, etc. I've had several folks express these concerns to me in the past, and this email in particular had interesting timing... here I was sitting with my foot up, bored, not using any of the skills I've acquired as a climbing guide, route developer, climber, writer, athlete, speaker. I see these concerning issues first hand when I'm guiding or climbing rocks and it's getting worse as the sport becomes more and more popular. People are transitioning to outdoor climbing without proper training and without education about outdoor etiquette and climbing access. We have to educate about sustainable recreation so we can protect and preserve the places we love to climb at. Believe it or not, I was once that young naïve climber too and I learned a lot about etiquette and safety "the hard way" before learning the right way. With more and more climbers transitioning outside these days, I fear the ramifications of hundreds of climbers that are "learning the hard way"at the crag. I needed to take the skills I've learned over many years of guiding and climbing all over the world, to help the climbing community and environment.

One of many current crag issues... TP, garbage, people taking dumps on the trails....

Then, like a lady possessed it came to me...

"Climbers Code of Respect"
Respect the Environment
Respect the Dangers
Respect Others
Respect Access

*Create a "Climbers Code of Respect" with access groups across Canada, bring everyone together to narrow down pertinent information and share with climbing gyms, guiding companies, crag kiosks, etc to get this out there to people. This was the biggest difference I could think of making with the resources, partnerships and skills I had.

Since that conversation, Khrisna and I launched a national Gym to Rock initiative called Rock Respect and now have support from industry leaders like Arc'teryx, La Sportiva, Sterling Rope, MEC, ACC, Gripped Magazine and access groups like Ontario Access Coalition, FQME, Climb Nova Scotia, Climbers Access Society of BC, etc. Read more about it at

Canadian access groups united with us to create a national "Climbers' Code of Respect" and this Climbers Code is now in poster form in over 90% of the climbing gyms in Canada, plus some outdoor retailers and soon MEC locations. It is also being used by top Canadian guiding companies like Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. I will continue to provide information for transitioning climbers and updating the website/FB/IG with new content and running slideshows at participating gyms in the spring and summer. We have and will continue to travel to festivals and events to spread the Rock Respect word. It has been great to see the climbing community come together for the greater good and to educate climbers about these important issues. 

Holding our final version of the Climbers' Code of Respect
Trail regeneration signs and porto-potty went in to Metcalfe Rock in hopes to make another small difference and lessen environmental impact.
One of the successful 'Gym to Rock Respect' presentations I ran at Rock Oasis.

Thankfully my calf healed just in time for guiding season. I had another great season, taught a fun variety of courses and rewarding guiding gigs that ranged from PCGI certification courses to youth team climbing adventures, and getting to work for the Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society (we donated a free guiding day to this great organization that provides outdoor adventure opportunities to people with a variety of barriers). My guides all did such an amazing job running courses and climbing experiences at Rattlesnake and Metcalfe Rock this summer, I am so proud of them and grateful for such a solid team of guides! Always grateful for the people, organizations and businesses that are so incredibly supportive of On the Rocks Climbing Guides. THANK YOU!

Climbing with the Boulderz Youth Team

Climbing with incredibly inspiring people - Canadian Adaptive Climbing 

Tearing my calf muscle this year and not being able to walk caused a complete shift in my climbing gaze. I've had a lot of time over the last couple years to really think about why the heck I am still trying to push my limits on the rocks, despite getting older, injured, and sick. As much as I've wanted to quit climbing after this frustrating 2 years of injuries and battles with a chronic illness, I have accepted that I need to give this 100% effort and "fail"... rather than not try at all.
The only real failure is not trying.
So what is the goal?
For once, crystal clear.
I want to match personal bests on the rocks and prove to myself that I still have it in me. I'm not obsessed with exact number specifics as grades are so incredibly subjective, but more an approximate "try hard level" in sport, trad and bouldering. I've always strove to be well rounded at all styles of climbing and I want to reach my top levels again. I also want to experience the art of "projecting" for once in my life. I have never dedicated more than 12 or so tries to a climb. Time to hunker down on a meaningful climb that suits my strengths and see what the heck I am still capable of.

Life is a balancing act. 

Also thanks to this injury, I discovered Pilates/private movement coaching. It not only helped me heal faster and prevent injury, it's also teaching me how to move properly, preventing repeat injuries and improving my climbing dramatically. Listening to the advice of a gifted Pilates coach- Donna Furnaval (owner of Therapeutic Pilates), I took a step back from climbing hard and training to re-program my movement patterns.  

After a few months of private coaching with two incredibly talented instructors (Donna of Therapeutic Pilates and Lisa Rennie of Active Life Conditioning), I curiously returned to local climbs I've struggled with in some way (reachy/hard/tweaky) because I wanted to see if I didn't like them because I wasn't engaging the proper muscles to hold body positions. I climbed all of these routes without much effort this year, many of them first try. Gopher Has Cratered 5.12b at Metcalfe was one that I've struggled with for years and it went down easily, followed with a first try repeat send of Vox Angelica 5.12c. I feel like a completely different climber in the way I move. This is the most positive transformation of my climbing career.

Zone of Extreme Beauty 5.12c, my return to slab after a long battle with a calf injury.

Exciting times ahead. 
Guiding season has come to an end after another perfect summer in southern Ontario. Made many great memories with friends and the usual shenanigans of climbing, sailing, SUP'ing, new routing.

Friends :)

THIS CAVE at the base of Lions Head IS SICK. 
SUP Bouldering at its finest.

New vertical addition to the home wall

Dave Zuly climbs one of our new routes 'Georgian Drive' a 5.11 sport route at a super top secret location on the escarpment. Just left of it is a super fun 5.12 I put up called 'Shark Week'. 
Naomi climbs You've Been Hibbed 5.11+ at Lions Head, while T-Mac belays.

First stop of our winter trip- Devils Lake Wisconsin for the Craggin' Classic. I taught a Womens' Trad Clinic for Arc'teryx, supported with La Sportiva swag. We then headed to the Red River Gorge, back to where my love for sport climbing began. Steep beautiful jugs, friendly sport climbing and a perfect place to get fitness back in preparation trip for........
European sport climbing vacation 2019!!!
Dreamy daayzzz ahead. 

If you somehow made it this far in my blog post, I hope it inspires you to chase your dreams and to not let life get you down. Keep perspective as to how good you really got it compared to many.

Share your gifts with the world
Do what you love
Love what you do
Spread love

Happy, healthy and running again yeeeooo!!!

Much love,

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