CO Summer to Fall

Since returning from Europe in the beginning of August, I have been in Colorado having enjoyed the Summer that has now turned to Fall with even a little taste of Winter. Early on, I spent a few days hiking my ass up to the Fortress of Solitude to try Flex Luther, but after dealing with wasps (spraying wasp poison into my eye), birds (shit, and being bombarded), and the worst rock (shedding a couple hundred pounds without even trying, nearly killing Emily), I decided 3 things – 1) This was no longer the route that Tommy Caldwell did, and 2) This wasn’t a route worth doing, and 3) I’d rather spend my time and energy elsewhere. So – to Rifle. I promptly began bolting a permit that was approved by the Rifle Climber’s Coalition and the City of Rifle in early June. It is just up canyon of the upper Ice Cave, on a wall that is now called The Enchanted Forest. It could eventually host a few more routes, maybe 5 or 6 or 7 total. This being the first, I went ground-up, and it was unpleasant. In addition, the rock on the first 30 feet it horrible. All-in-all, it proved to be quite the working and learning process, but I eventually succeeded. I sent the route – Magic Owl – on Sept 30th, and it might be 5.14b. While working on this route, I was trying Waka Flocka Flame, as well as an extension to a Smarmicus Maximus in the Arsenal that Dave Pegg bolted, but abandoned. I was fortunate to get the 2nd ascent of Waka Flocka Flame, and the FA of Dave’s route that he dubbed Fool’s Gold after cleaning and moving some bolts. Waka Flocka Flame seems to be 14c, and Fool’s Gold might be 14a. It has been a busy and productive season in the canyon – lots of new routes, lots of sending, lots of motivation, as well as the standard shit – everything that makes Rifle what it is – lovers, haters, new-comers, has-beens, weekend warriors, regulars, pros, semi-pros, gumbies, media peeps, townies, spectators, cowboys, families, dogs, drunks. I hate it and love it all, including myself at times.

Sept 15 – 19, Emily and I went to NYC to see a Matthew Barney exhibition opening, as well as some of my close family. It was all awesome –

NYC – walking around, taking the subway, staying up late
Hanging out with my aunt and 2 cousins
Hanging out with good friend Boone Speed that just happened to be in town
Hanging out with Matthew, dinner at his house, the exhibition opening, and dinner after

All of it … except the part where some fucking crackhead broke into my aunt’s apartment through the window from the fire escape, on Saturday, between noon and 4…(who does that?)…and stole my aunt’s briefcase and Ipod, my mac, Emily’s mac and Ipod Shuffle, and some cords – That was lame. I hope that you got your fix, you fucker, selling our shit for pennies on the dollar. I would have paid you a shitload more, just to have our stuff back…

Anyways, back here on the Western Slope of CO, I got a project and 3 more new route permit applications in the queue. Fall is back in effect for the week, but Winter reared it’s bitch ass last week, and I can tell it’s ready to pounce. Might not get to finish any of ‘em. One way or another though, I’ll be climbing … it just might be time to pull out the ice axes… Here’s some pics. Until next time,

The Fortress of Solitude (Chossitude)

55 manky, dangerous draws removed at the Rifle Clean-Up

'Flower of Life' grappa

On the way to NYC

NYC subway

NYC from Matthew and Bjork's pent house apartment

NYC sidewalk abstract art - Ice cream from McDonald's

Colorado Autumn

Rifle camp ground

Friends - Landon Bassett, Emily Harrington, Jen Vennon, Andrew Bisharat

Friends - Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney

Colette on Fringe Dweller

The bitch is back - La Niña

Splendid 7am Science Experiment

It’s 7 am at home. I’ve been gone a long time. In the last 4 months, I have been here a only a matter of days. Last night I returned from a long trip. I open my bedroom door and see the morning light on the ground. It is bright, fresh light. I feel poorly. I’m drugged from the change in time, from airplane food and air, from foot travel with heavy baggage. I stumble around for some moments. Eyes hurt. Nose is stuffed up. Throat is dry. Muscles, some tight or sore, others twitching. Mind is scattered and groggy. I look around to see some new objects in this familiar place. They are small remnants from the life that my roommate has been living here without me for the past weeks. I try to piece them together in my head to create a vision of what I have been missing. I see my pile of mail. I open the cabinet and rummage for some tea. I find a couple bags that used to contain bread. Now they are brilliant, living sacks of multi colored mold and condensation. It’s like a grocery bag Petri-dish. I won the science fair in 8th grade for an experiment on bread mold. I stare at it for a minute. I wonder how long it took for this spectacular growth to occur. And, I wonder how, in all the weeks that I have been gone, it went unnoticed, but for me to find it on my very first morning home. Regardless, it’s not the first time for something like this. It actually would be odd for me not to find something rotting in the cabinet or fridge after being away for a long stint. I’ve started to consider these sorts of things as homecoming gifts from a friend that is happy to see me again. The molds bags were remarkable. I have never seen anything like it. I grab both of them and head outside. The white morning light is shifting to orange. I open the front door. The cool morning air hits my chest and arms. It surprises me. It’s August after all.  I feel the air in my nostrils and then lungs. I pause for a moment with the light and the air, and uhhhh, the mold. I’m home. I love this place. I am so happy to be here right now. I deposit my roommate’s runaway science experiment in the trashcan. I feel the rocks under my bare feet, and the cool air as it brushes by my shirtless body. Back inside, I start to make tea, and all of the above words fill my head. It’s an illustration of my momentary contentment. So, I write them down to remember and to prolong the feeling.

Rewind

The stream of my life has flowed quickly and through differing terrain in the last few months. Now, I am alone for a time at the outset of a new journey,  reflecting – in the present, but thinking backwards and forwards. Despite beginning this journey not so long ago, the stillness of being alone is already permeating me. I hear my thoughts more, and they slow and become clear. My body has a deeper, and more subtle tactile quality, and I feel my movements more acutely. With each presentation to my senses there is more of a consideration. Forcing time to rewind in my mind, I let it replay.

Oddly, major events begin at a haircut in early March by which I relinquished my long hair, top knot style pony tail, and a connection to the samurai. Next was a quick trip to Russia to compete in an Ice Climbing World Cup, and experience a new country. Then, back home for gym climbing and training to prepare for US Sport Climbing nationals, which would be my first “rock” climbing competition. It is an interesting version of the sport. The day after the competition ended, April 4, I departed to Spain with Emily for 7 weeks. It was a trip characterized in stages, by people and location. Stage 1 – Chris Sharma and Daila Ojeda’s home in St. Llorenc de Montgai with Andrew Bisharat, Jen Vennon, Keith Ladzinski, and Elly Stewart. Stage 2 – Tom Bolger and Lynne Malcolm’s home in Santa Linya with Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney. Stage 3 – Tom Bolger and Lynne Malcolm’s home in Santa Linya with Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney and Beth Rodden. Stage – 4 Tom Bolger and Lynne Malcolm’s home in Santa Linya with Said Belhaj. Stage 5 – Rodellar with Paige Claassen, Neely Quinn, Clay and Rosie Cahoon. Highlights include: — Hanging out, getting to know, and being inspired and impressed by each and every one of the above mentioned individuals, as well as so many other local and traveling climbers. — Climbing at Oliana, Tres Ponts, Santa Linya, Terradets, Margalef, and Rodellar. — Barcelona, the fresh food market and live, late night Flamenco and La Rambla. — up to 8c+ red points and 8a+ on sights. — The rare and special rhythm of life lived for a project. A process that is so profound and meaningful to me, that I suffer without it. — Conversely, days and moments of spontaneity and creativity brought forth by the ‘one chance’ nature of hard on sight climbing. I must have undergone some sort of growth or maturation, because I experienced a strength and confidence that I have not felt before. It rendered me more capable of intuitive movement and decisions, less attached to outcomes…essentially, more free.

Despite this experience being vastly profound in my life, I find myself always returning to a familiar notion. It is one which contrasts climbing to The Grand Scope of Things, it brings context and allows me to retain perspective. In relation to the above mentioned climbing maturation, the contrast comes as a voice in my head, “Who fucking cares that you became a better on sight climber? You’re climbing blather is boring and unimportant. IT DOESN’T MATTER.” All true, it makes me crack a smile. It is an ingrained pattern within my mind, a torturous process by which I justify a frivolous and selfish pursuit by trying to relate it to everything else in the world/universe. So here, I think, is the lesson, presented as question – Can I move through life as I have experienced moving on rock? Feeling balance and harmony and grace? Is it possible to flow intuitively through our interactions and our relationships with each other and with the natural world? – The answer must be ‘Yes.’ Or at least, it must be for me. It is my take, and my lesson to bear and learn.

So. That was Spain in a nutshell. From there to Boulder for 24 hours, which was just enough time to sleep a little bit, unpack, repack, get an oil change for my van, work on the van interior, pack it, and do a photo shoot with Keith and Elly for TNF. Immediately after, Emily and I got in the van and drove 12 hours through the night to Caldwell, ID to see our friend, artist Matthew Barney, and hear him give the commencement speech at my alma mater. After a night of much needed sleep, another 12 hours in the van to San Jose, CA. After another night’s sleep, and 3 more hours of driving, we were in Yosemite for a few days of meetings and climbing. We then went back to San Jose to spend some days Bay Area touring and visiting friends. Then, 9 hours on the road to Salt Lake City for a night, and 2 hours in the morning to Maple Canyon for a couple days. Then, to Vail for the Teva Mountain Games weekend, and finally back to Boulder on June 5. 4 days there, 3 days in Rifle, 4 more days in Boulder, a flight to Salt Lake City and a drive to Maple for 2 days and back, 5 days in SLC for the Black Diamond summer sales meeting, and finally a flight from SLC to Munich, Germany, which is where I sit at this moment, after a day of climbing in the Frankenjura, and in the beginnings of a radical adventure.

Past time/One from Spain

Last I wrote, it was March and I was in Russia. Now it’s May, and I am in Spain. Some things have happened in between. I spent a week up in Montana for some North Face meetings, ice climbing, and winter camping. It was an opportunity to take some of the employees from the offices in San Leandro, CA out into the ice climbing and winter camping environment in Hyalite Canyon. They got to experience the climbing and surroundings while we all conversed about current and future products; ideas, likes, dislikes, modifications, etc. Gatherings such as this are a priority for TNF and occur very regularly. They are special meetings for everyone involved, because they not only directly connect the product managers/designers/developers to the athletes (here was Conrad Anker, Peter Croft, Kris Erickson, and myself), but also to the environments and sports for which they create products. The gathereings are always productive, and everyone generally departs inspired and motivated. This was no exception, and we left each other excited for the next opportunity to meet.

Our homestead in Hyalite Canyon

Window Rock Cabin

Dinner on the open fire. Steak and halibut

My vacation home

The inside of my house

Kris Erickson and I

Peter Croft in the truckbed

Cleopatra’s Needle, WI5+, 100 meters

Cleopatra’s Needle, WI5+, 100 meters

Porch of the cabin

Shortly after was rope climbing nationals at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder, a gym in my current home town that I climb at very often. Since it was so conveniently placed and timed, I decided to participate. It was my first sport/gym climbing comp, a different and fun experience. Then, days later on April 4th, Emily Harrington, Joe Kinder, and Colette McInerney, and I left for Spain to sport climb. Already there were other friends from the US; Andrew Bisharat, Jen Vennon, Keith Ladzinski, and Elly Stewart. They were climbing and hanging out with Chris Sharma and Daila Ojeda, and staying at their home. We stayed there as well until the initial crew departed back home on April 14th. At that point, Emily and I moved in with some friends in the small village of Santa Linya. Lynne and Tom (she’s a Scot, he’s a Brit), live there. They have been living in Spain for a few years teaching English so that they can climb. We have been residing there since. Beth Rodden came and joined us for about 2 weeks, but has since left. We have sampled the climbing at many of the surrounding crags; Oliana, Margalef, Santa Linya, Terradets, Tres Ponts, Tartareu. Limestone in every variety. We are lucky to be here still, and have some days still left.

Joe and Colette boarding

Joe and Colette boarding

Market panorama

Open market in Barcelona

Margalef

Margalef

Sunset drive home

Sunset drive home

The Village of Santa Linya

The Village of Santa Linya


Poppies

Poppies

Barcelona by night

Barcelona by night

Live Flamenco in Barcelona

Live Flamenco in Barcelona

Big beer in Barcelona

Joe and a huge, expensive beer on La Rambla

Late dinner in the big city

Late dinner in the big city

Oliana

Oliana

Oliana, at the crag

Crag view from Oliana

Chris sending 'Fight or Flight', 9b

Chris (Sharma) sending ‘Fight or Flight’, 9b

In Russia

Travelling fosters an introspection through which I see my life with different eyes. It forces me to gain awareness and perspective. I am suddenly without all of the familiar surroundings and people and aspects of my daily, ‘normal’, home life. I think about who I am and what I have. It generally brings me to a deep appreciation for this life. This trip has been as such. Though short in duration, the experience was expansive.

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We left the hostel, and navigated our way to Pavel’s flat. There we met some other climbers/competitors. Some went touring, but we went to a small climbing wall to move around and stretch out a bit. After, we all reconvened and prepared to go to the train station bound for Kirov. It was a hustle that involved a solid walk and a few metro rides. We were in a big crew, and each of us had a lot of gear. We definitely were a scene in the Moscow subway. People were staring us down as if we were an alien species from another planet. We got to the station, met more climbers, and boarded the train. Andres and I made our way to our train room, which is basically the size of a handicapped stall in a public restroom containing 2 bunk beds and a table. Waiting for us there, were who we came to call “Our Ladies” to the rest of the competitors, 2  older Russian women that didn’t understand a word of English…which was actually funny in a way, because Andres and I just openly talked shit the whole time about the situation.

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Pavel’s Flat

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Trans-Siberian Railroad

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Me and “Our Ladies” in our room

A little overwhelmed with the situation, Andres and I made a quick move to the bar car of the train, and the safety of familiar surroundings – climbers and alcohol. After some food and drinks, mingling and meeting all the other athletes on the train, we were ready to go to bed with “Our Ladies”, so we made our way back to our car and compartment. I took the top bunk, and was quickly out of commission. As the train creeps along, it gently sways and rocks. I felt like an infant being coddled to sleep in my mother’s arms. All was peaceful and well, until I awoke to what sounded like a garbage disposal shredding glass and silverware. Both ladies were snoring with unbelievable consistency and volume. The fat one on the top bunk across from me was wailing away with a long, sustained inhale and exhale and a deep, low tone. The skinny older one below was resounding with quicker breathing cycles and a higher pitch. It was a spectacular symphony. I didn’t know snoring like that was possible. Quickly passing from awestruck to annoyed, I put my earplugs in and slipped into silence and sleep again. I awoke next, a few hours later, to a flickering light about the room. I rolled over and looked down and was startled by the older women’s face brightly illuminated in the pitch black. The scary white floating mask in the dark struck me into awareness of the situation. Andres, without any earplugs, had been awake for some hours and had resorted to blasting the women in the face with light from his headlamp. It was an effort to try to get them to move around and stop the orchestra. I pitied him, but it was a funny scene and I was laughing to myself in my bed. The light was so bright and the women looked so stupid just laying there snoring. It wasn’t doing any good at all, either. The next time I awoke, I panicked at the thought of missing the stop for Kirov and riding the Trans-Siberian to just that – Siberia. It wasn’t so, for we were an hour from our destination. Andres hadn’t slept at all, and was pissed, so we talked some more shit while having tea directly across from the women, knee to knee in the small compartment. It was all lighthearted though, for we didn’t have true ill feelings for the women. We accepted it as part of our experience, and laughed about it. They were actually very kind to us the whole trip, helping us with all our bags when we boarded and sharing their breakfast snacks with us in the morning.

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Train bar car for some whiskey

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Our train car

The train stopped at Kirov, “Our Ladies” bid us a genuine farewell, and we promptly exited. We were escorted to a bus, and then driven to the ‘Hotel Sputnik’, our home for the next few days. After unpacking we went and registered, and then walked to check out the climbing wall. We were surprised to find it built on the underside of a Nordic ski jump. The whole structure was impressive. The 3 day competition began the next morning, and we were psyched. It was the final Ice World Cup of the season, and the Ice Speed Climbing World Championships.

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Hotel Sputnik

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Comp credentials

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The climbing structures under a nordic skiing jump

Moscow morning

I woke at around 215 am. At around 730, I stumbled down stairs to the kitchen of the hostel to a scene. There were 4 grown Russian men sitting around a table with a plate piled high with massive, over cooked hot dogs, another plate covered in a heap of some nasty cabbage looking arrangement, and a small can of black olives. It was the worst conceivable breakfast. In my jet lagged stupor, I fumbled through the kitchen around them trying to make coffee. Combining the Nescafe and hot water was easy enough, but since I can’t read Russian and nothing in the whole country is in English, including the subway map and road signs, I put 3 separate whitish substances from the refrigerator into my glass thinking it was creamer. I think that the first was yogurt, I have no idea what the second was, and the third was cream but it tasted really sour. The combo tasted horrible…so I went for the white crystalline material on the counter, thinking ‘sugar’. After I added a little bit, it tasted worse, “Shit, it’s salt,” I thought, so I tasted it straight up off of the spoon… “Nope, it’s sugar,” and I proceeded to add a couple tablespoons to my 6 oz cup until my cocktail was drinkable. After a few sips of the mixture, the caffeine awoke my senses, and I promptly dumped the rest down the sink drain and switched to tea.

Andres and I flew in yesterday. Our plane had to make and unexpected landing at St John’s airport in Newfoundland, Canada because a passenger got ill or something. I was in the midst of a red wine and Ambien induced daze, so I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. We were supposed to fly from Atlanta straight to Moscow, so there was some through confusion on my end. We ultimately arrived at the proper destination, and as well, I sobered up. We gathered bags, and took a train into the city where we were met by a saint and savior, Pavel Dobrinskiy, and he guided us to our hostel. I numberswiki.com

honestly believe, 100%, that we’d still be looking for the place now, 16 hours later, if not for him. Moscow is big and complicated. As I said above, there is no written English, not on the subway or road, and the alphabet is not recognizable. And, people don’t really know English as in other European countries. Pavel (said Pasha) left us at the hostel to settle.

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In flight

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Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet

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Hostel address

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Hostel entrance, low clearance

We were starving, so after chilling for a bit, Andres and I decided to brave the city… This place is cool. It is a little grungy, which give it personality. There is attitude here, and I like it. Not everything is peaches. These people and this place have been through the ringer, and you can feel it. We took the metro (subway) to the famous Red Square. That involved walking back to the station, buying tickets, riding what has to be the longest escalator on the planet down to the depths of the earth under the city, and then navigating this subterranean world of people, passages, and trains. Mostly blind, deaf, and dumb, we were forced to look at the Russian words, both on the map and on the signs, like pictures, and try to match them up, so that we could figure out what stations to go to. We were also forced to remember our path well so that we could backtrack if lost, or just get back at all. It took some time, but was totally awesome.

We saw some cool shit and had dinner around the Red Square zone. Then, we aced the metro and the walk back to the hostel, and promptly went comatose…but only for a few hours.

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The longest escalator ever

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Russian subway

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Red Square

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St. Basil’s Cathedral

To Russia with Love

In the time before a big event there is  a building  up of preparation, energy, anticipation, excitement. The gaps in time between the small events and processes that compose the big event shrink as the date approaches. Tomorrow I depart to Russia, to Moscow for some touring and to Kirov for my first world cup climbing event, an ice WC. This event has been of particular complexity. Comp licensing and application and registration, plane tickets, health insurance, visa application, train tickets, hotel reservations. It has been an extensive build up. But, everything is in it’s place…including my passport… in the mail somewhere at this very moment to be delivered to me before 3:00pm today, just in time. I will be traveling with Andres Marin . His commitment and enthusiasm and motivation about this comp and trip made it an easy decision for me to join along. We fly tomorrow to Atlanta and then to Moscow. We’ll spend 2 days and a night there, and then take the Trans-Siberian railroad overnight approximately 1000 km to Kirov, where the comp is held. The comp is 3 more info

days long; qualifiers, semi-finals, and finals.  It will be a perspective expanding event and trip for me. I am trying to approach with zero expectations, and just hoping to absorb as much as possible. After the comp, we’ll hop back on the railroad to Moscow to spend a final day before departing home to the US. It’s a quick trip…just business. Although, I am really looking forward to having a few days in the Russian capital. It is the largest city in Europe and the 7th largest in the world, and supposedly one of the world’s most beautiful.

Do svidanya,

Do = until, Svidanya = meeting
“until we meet again” or  “goodbye”

 

Visa in passport

Sharpening my tools


Sunset over Vail

 

Fortune