Monday, March 12, 2012

New blog address!

With our big trip coming up, Jess and I have combined out blogs.  Follow along on our grand journey at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fun Weekend!

Well, this extremely mild winter we're having definately continues to deliver in terms of bouldering weather.  This weekend was action packed and I have to admit I'm feeling pretty sore this morning.

On Saturday, Erik, Jess and I headed out to Whiskey for a full day of bouldering.  After a warmup at the Wave boulder, we headed over to the Fagatron area.  I hadn't been over there since I was in high school and I'm not sure I ever even tried the problems.  Both Erik and I were able to throw down on The Fagatron (V5) and the thing to the right, which is think goes around V4.  After that, we walked down the gully and Jess was able to dispatch Chastity Belt in a few tries.  This is given V5 in the book, but Jess and Erik agreed that it's probably more like V3.

Then it was off to Southern Comfort, the boulders found to the south including the Green Monster, the Optimist, etc.  We all got shut down on the V5/6 shortie on the left side of the big slab on the Optimist boulder and I was able to squeek out a repeat ascent of Willing and Able (V8?).  We then headed down and showed Erik Redneck Yacht Club.  He sent it pretty quickly and agreed that it was in the V4/5 range.  I was also able to polish off the project to the left, calling it Ruckus on the Levee (V6/7).  Time will tell what the grade ends up being on this one as some of the holds are like potato chips and snap easily.  Think light!  We rounded up our tour of the area with ascents of Black Eye (V4), which has a really cool hueco feature on it.

We then headed over to the Tuna Juice boulder so I could give my mega project, Tuna Tartar a few tries.  Luckily, I had figured out beter beta the weekend before (only after taking a header into the boulder behind), and it went down fairly quickly this time around.  So psyched to finally pull it off!  We finished up our day trying Pete's Traverse (V6).  None us us had any luck, but it's a cool one to go back to!

On Sunday, Jess and Erik headed back to Whiskey and I climbed in the Prince and Princess of Plastic Bouldering competition at MSU.  I'd never been to the MSU climbing wall and honestly from what I'd heard, I had low expectations.  When I showed up however, I was pleasantly surprised.  It's certainly no Spire Climbing Center, but it's not too bad.  Kevin Volkening, Jon Scott, Erik Christensen, Lauren Rausch, Kevin Macartney, Alex Herbert and others had set about 70 problems for the comp, and they were all really fun.  Luckily for me, Charlie from Billings and Dominic from Helena had come down for the morning heat, climbed all the problems and then went home, so they weren't in finals.  As expected, Jeff Ho climbed all of the hardest problems with relative ease.  I was able to do all but the hardest problem, but had to put a lot of work into a few of them.

I did manage to make it into finals in second place.  The first problem shut everyone down.  I tried a weird sequence to try and skip two horizontal moves and instead just gunned for the finishing hold, but missed.  On the second problem, I did pretty well, but couldn't use the volumes high on the problem to make any progress.  Jeff headed out, cruised through the bottom of the problem, jumped for the volume and caught it.  His feet cut and his body swung sideways to a totally horizontal position.  Surely there was no way he could hang on.  Wrong!  In the most impressive feat of climbing I've ever seen, he pulled it in and topped out the problem for a flash.  Wow!  A video of this craziness can be seen here.

Obviously, Jeff was crowned the Prince of Plastic, and his wife Sarah won the women's division.  Nice work team Ho!  Overall, it was a great weekend of climbing and my fingers are hurting just typing this.  The forecast looks like more warm weather this week, so more outdoor climbing is likely in store for this weekend.  Hopefully my skin will heal by then!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Muerte You Wanker!

After watching the trailer for this British bouldering video, it has become very clear to me that as Americans, our desire to mimic the climbing vernacular of other countries is misdirected.  I’ll be the first to admit that we Yankees say really lame things when we’re out at the crag.  When your buddy is giving it his all on a sketchy topout, surely there is something more inspiring to say than “c’mon dude!” or “press it out bro!” 

That’s where stealing words of encouragement from other countries comes in.  Instead of cheering someone on in plain English, what could make you sound like more of a well-travelled climbing badass than shouting the Spanish “venga” over and over?  Or why not go Frenchy style and use the always popular “all­é.”  Maybe you can fool people into thinking you’re just taking a short break from living in the enchanted forest of Fontainebleau to visit whatever crusty U.S. bouldering area you’re currently in.  Well, this is where my opinion differs from much of the climbing community. 

In my opinion, we ought to be stealing phrases from the British.  Hell, at least you can understand what they’re saying.  Well, sort of.  In a serious climbing situation, where success or failure is on the line, why do climbers feel obligated to yell harsh foreign words repeatedly?  Wouldn’t it be better to calmly urge your partner up the wall with a friendly “go on mate!”

What about when the situation gets really dicey?  I mean when you are really buggered.  We’ve all been there.  You’re run out above some dodgy gear, get spooked and start thowing a wobbly, which makes the situation even worse.  Rather than getting your knickers in a twist and yelling something unsavory like "oh, shit," what if you just muttered a nice “bloody hell.”  It gets the point across that things aren’t going perfectly, but you’re going to try and keep it together.  If things really escalate and danger is imminent, I think “bollocks” does nicely.

These wonderfully quaint expressions can be used in non-climbing situations as well.  Like when your partner pulls a couple of Olympia tallboys out of his rucksack rather than a few pints of Newcastle Brown.  In that instance, instead of calling your dimwit friend something hurtful like a “tool,” or an “asshole,” you can easily convey your disgust nicely by referring to him as a “sodding wanker.”  You two blokes will have a nice laugh while you attempt to choke down that overly sweet Oly out of its chic orange can.  If your pal doesn’t take it so nicely and becomes enraged, tell him to “come off it” or “piss off.”

I hope this gives you a good start towards broadening your vocabulary in climbing and non-climbing situations. I think many of these sayings are spot on and I hope you will too.

Until next time, cheerio!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Windy Weekend in Cody, WY

Ryan Niehus and I headed down to Cody, WY to do some bouldering over the long Veteran's Day weekend.  We hit the road early on Friday and made it down to the Sphinx Boulders by about 11:00.  After a few warm-ups on the Toadstool Boulder, we set our sites on Mini Cave Center (V6).  For a problem that is only about 10 feet tall, this thing packs a punch.  Several really slopy, slick holds lead to a deadpoint to a good hold.  I was able to put it together after a little while, but the slick sloper move was giving Ryan some trouble.  He decided to take a break from it and went down to try a problem I had my eyes on called One Inch Punch (V8).

Ryan on Mini Cave Center

One Inch Punch is a tall prow with a somewhat funky landing in a rocky gully.  Starting on the arete, you throw up right to a jug pocket and then pull up and commit to the arete.  The first move gave me more trouble than it should have and it took me a while to figure out the thin upper moves on the arete, but soon enough I figured everything out and got the send.  It's a really cool problem, but I would suggest at least three pads and a good spotter.

Next, Ryan gave a few more tries on Mini Cave Center and then we headed over to the Plague Boulder.  I tried The Plague (V10) and Ryan tried Hooked on Bubonics (V8) for a little while, but I cut a hole in my finger on one of the razor sharp holds, so had to give up on that one.  Darkness set in and we headed up Cedar Mountain to camp.

The tape holding my cut finger together, stuck in one of the
last holds on The Plague

We woke up on Saturday morning to cold, windy conditions.  After a cold breakfast, we headed back to the Sphinx Boulders where we found calmer conditions.  We warmed up on the Sphinxter Boulder, which has some fun, juggy problems out a steep roof to somewhat commiting, sandy top-outs.  After that, we headed back to the Toadstool and Ryan was able to get the send on Mini Cave Center.

Topping out on The Sphinxter (V0)


Ryan on Mini Cave Center

Next up was a problem called Park County Sushi (V7/8).  Two moderate moves to the lip lead to a slopey top-out.  I was able to figure out a tall person sequence for the top and was able to send it fairly quickly.  After wandering around for a while, we came across a cool, blank boulder with two finger pockets drilled all the way up it.  This is somewhat common at the Sphinx Boulders and I usually don't try these problems, but this one looked pretty fun, so we gave it a try.  After a few tries, I made it to the lip and while struggling on the slopey top-out realized the route's creator even drilled a pocket in the top of the flat boulder.  Really?  Whatever.

After a spree of V0 tennis shoe ascents, we heaed over to the I.P.S. Boulder.  Both Ryan and I were able to do Four Inches (V4), a fun campus problem off slopers and then we started trying the sit down start, Six Inches (V6).  After many tries of thinking it was impossible, I finally figured out a heel-toe sequence and was able to send shortly after. Ryan donated some blood to this problem and finally had to throw in the towel due to pain.  After a few easier problems, we returned to the car, which amazingly hadn't blown away yet. 

Campusing on 4 Inches

Ryan on 6 Inches

After a check of Sunday's weather (looking grim) and the prospect of another cold, windy night around the camp fire, we decided to bail back to Bozeman.  It was a fun trip and I wish we could have had another day of climbing, but the wind was really taking it out of us and it looked like it might snow the next day anyway.  I look forward to getting back down there and checking out some different areas, hopefully in calmer conditions!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Smith Rock

Well, as usual, I’ll begin my blog post by apologizing for not updating it in a month.  I guess I only think of writing a new post when something cool happens.  Nobody wants to read about my boring day to day life.  This time, the catalyst for writing is to report on our trip to Smith Rock, Oregon last week.  This has become a yearly ritual for Jess and me.  It seems that aside from the masses from Portland and Seattle, Smith is a largely forgotten destination.  Kids these days prefer to test their mettle at more powerful areas like Rifle, Maple and those places with a bunch of little practice rocks and scattered about.  Just as well, there isn’t one spare parking spot at Smith on the weekends anyway.

Beautiful Smith Rock State Park

So, Jess and I headed out after work two Friday’s ago in our newly purchased (and massive by the way) cargo van and drove west.  After a night spent at a Washington rest stop, we arrived at Smith on Saturday afternoon ready to climb.  After succeeding on a handful of 14s at Tensleep this summer, my goal for the week was to put some work into a Smith 5.14 to see how it compared.  It seems like every 5.14 I’ve done has some speculation around it as to whether it’s soft or not.  What better place than Smith to try and do one that has none of that controversy?  I realized this could end in defeat as last year I tried hard on the route White Wedding (13d) and could just never put it together.  I decided to try the route Badman (14a) in the Aggro Gully.  The route was put up by J.B. Tribout in 1991 and has held its grade ever since.  Jess had a couple of 12s she wanted to try, especially Latest Rage (12b), which she’d tried last year, but never got.  The Rage is a beautiful arête featuring a 20-30 foot runout from the last bolt to the chains.  The last hard move comes with your feet well above and right of the last bolt.  Excitement!

The spacious new van!  Still a bunch
of work to do inside, but it's great for now.

After warming up on a few Morning Glory Wall classics, we headed into the Aggro Gully for me to give a first go on Badman.  I always find it interesting to see what comments people put down on routes they enter into 8a, so I of course had looked at Badman before we left Bozeman.  With comments from the likes of Mike Doyle and Alex Honnold alluding to the route’s difficulty, I must admit I was intimidated and hoped I wasn’t getting in over my head. The route is made up of three hard cruxes stacked on top of each other with no rest.  You then get to a full, no-hands kneebar rest (yes I brought a kneepad to Smith, are you surprised?) and then finish on a hard 12c headwall with two moves that would prove to repeatedly spit me off even after hanging.  After two goes on this thing, I was worked.

The next day, I headed back to the route and gave it two more tries.  It shut me down big time.  I could only do about two moves at a time before fully pumping out and things were looking dire.  I told Jess the route was too hard for me and that I should look for something else to work on.  This revelation was frustrating, but not completely surprising to me.  Jess convinced me to give it a couple more tries the next day, just to make sure I thought it was too hard.  So, with low expectations, we returned to the Aggro Gully a little earlier the next day for my beat down session.  To my total surprise, I climbed to the first crux, fell off, messed around a little at that move, and then climbed to the chains.  No idea where this came from.  My next go, I got the true one hang.  Totally mystifying.  With newfound, albeit confused, confidence, I went into our rest day knowing that I would keep working on this route.

In the meantime, Jess put a quick 2nd go smackdown on a slick, stemmy, smeary route called Panic Attack (12a) on our second day and then moved on to start working Latest Rage.  The moves on Latest Rage were definitely coming together on toprope, but the idea of leading the route with its runout to the anchor was really getting to her.  I kept convincing her she knew those moves and likely wouldn’t fall, but that didn’t help much.  It was time for a rest day, both physically and mentally.

We spent the day in Bend and took a sweet tour of the Deschutes Brewery.  For anyone looking for something to do in Bend, this was a really cool tour and included four free beer samples, all for free!  After that we walked around town, took a little hike and had dinner with local honemasters (sorry, newfound love of this word) Ryan Palo and Tara Reynvaan.  By the way, Ryan just did a hard first ascent in the Aggro Gully called Sure Shot and did the third ascent of the Jerry Moffat route Jam Master J.  What a badass!

Back at the crags the next day, we headed up to the gully to see if my previous progress on Badman was just a fluke.  I gave it several good tries, but wasn’t getting through the first crux.  Oh well, still plenty of time to get it done.  We moved over to Latest Rage and Jess put it down first go of the day!  This is totally Jess’ style. She’ll worry about something being too hard for her, and then she’ll do it effortlessly, resting in the places she thought were hard previously.  Jealous.  She moved the rope over to Watts Tots (12b) and gave it a couple toprope tries.

On Thursday, we warmed up on the Morning Glory wall and I was not feeling great.  I just felt stiff.  I’ve come to realize that this is not necessarily a bad thing though.  I’ve done some hard routes on days when the warm up felt horrible and in fact, when I did F’d in the A, I felt like I should be taking on the first three or four bolts!  We headed up to the gully and I got on the route.  I made it through the first and second cruxes and then made a stupid mistake and fell of right before the third.  It was really frustrating.  I rested for a while and belayed a guy named Kyle who was trying the route.  After that, I stepped on the route and sent!  There were a couple desperate moves, but it all came together.  I couldn’t believe it.  Definitely more proud of doing this route than any other route I’ve ever done.

We then headed to the Dihedrals and Jess put in some work on Watts Tots.  This was one of the first sport routes in the US, but remarkably, it isn’t too runout.  In between her tries, I tried Chain Reaction (12c), the iconic arête climb.  I’ve been attempting this thing on and off every time we come to Smith and I’ve never been able to get it.  I spent one try figuring out the moves, fell once at the top on my next go and then sent.  Almost felt more satisfying than Badman……almost.

The next day, I decided to see if I could do Aggro Monkey (13b).  We had decided we wanted to spend our last climbing day doing some cracks in the Lower Gorge, so this would be our last day climbing in the main part of the park.  The pressure was on if I wanted to do this thing.  I figured out the moves on my first try, fell off one of the long moves on my second, botched the crux on my third and then finally sent.  This thing is really good and highly recommended!

Crankin' it on Aggro Monkey.

With the sun still beating on the front side, we walked over to the Phoenix Buttress to try a 12a called Lama Sutra.  I was able to do the route second go and then Jess was ready to get on Watts. We headed over to the route and Jess wasn’t feeling very confident.  She had one hung the route on toprope, but she had never reached the crux feeling very strong.  She stepped on for her first attempt on lead and guess what, she sent!  It was cruiser!  Three 12s in a week!

Latest Rage is the arete on the right and
Watts Tots climbs the slab on the left.

We spent our last day in the Lower Gorge climbing the amazing basalt cracks.  All the routes we did were great, but the one that stuck out was Morning Star (10c).  If I ever get to do a “best 5.10 ever” article, this will be the featured route.  We drove partway home that night and finished the drive on Sunday.  This was one of our best trips yet.  We were both successful, we had perfect weather, we met some great people and most importantly, we had a ton of fun!  Now we’re back in rainy, soon snowy Bozeman.  We hope to get outside some more, but I fear it may be time to restart the gym memberships.  Get out and climb while you can!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

An update - finally!

Well, as you could probably tell, I seem to be a pahetic blogger.  I guess I've been climbing too much.  Rather than writing about everything that's happened since my last post, I thought I'd give an update on our last trip to Tensleep.

Jess and I headed down to Tensleep last Thursday night.  On Friday morning we headed up to the Supererratic.  After a warmup on Big Yellow Butterfly, we tested our slab skills on Black Slabbath (12b/c).  Turns out it wasn't as bad as it looked!  I was able to onsight it and Jess put it down on her second go.  Jess' goal for the weekend was to try and send Neutral Spirit (13a).  I put draws up on it, remembering how heinous the mono move is.  Definately shut me down. 

Then it was on to my objective for the weekend, He Biggum (13d).  Even knowing the route is partially manufactured, it is hard not to want to climb this thing.  It is a streak of beautiful, smooth orange stone.  My first go went pretty well.  The route features long pulls between good pockets with bad feet.  Then at about 3/4 height, there is a hard deadpoint move.  By my 4th go of the day, I was able to get the route down to one hang.

Jess tried Neutral Spirit several times, but had a hard time with the mono move.  She left draws up on it, but wasn't sure it would be doable for the weekend.

On Saturday, we headed back up to the Supererratic.  My first go on He Biggum, I got to my highpoint from Friday and fell at the deadpoint move.  I got the move worked out and amazingly was able to send the route my second go of the day.  Despite it's chipped nature, this is a really cool route and I am psyched to have done it.  Jess decided to throw in the towel on her project and focus on something else.  I put draws up on Walk the Dawg (12c).  Jess did pretty well on it her first try, one hung it her second go and then sent!  It's a really techy, slabby, thin route and this is turning out to be Jess' forte.

Kevin Macartney was down in Tensleep for the weekend and was trying The Increadible Horsecock.  He made some great progresss on it and ended up sending on Sunday.  Nice work Kevin!  Kevin had tried Tatonka (13a) earlier in the day and gave me the beta he'd figured out.  I gave it a flash go and was able to make it through.  It's been a long time since I've flashed or onsighted anything hard, so I was really happy with it.

On Sunday, we checked out a new area, Downtown and the Cigar.  This is a sweet option for the morning because the climbs are on the shady side of a freestanding pillar and climbs well in the morning.  We started on the slab behind the pillar which probably goes at 5.10.  I then got on Floyd Direct (12a).  I pulled through the tough two finger move at the bottom and got to the top.  I sprayed Jess down with the beta and she flashed it, her first 12a flash!  I then set my sights on The Gravy Train (12b).  This thing felt so hard!  There are some really long moves at the top!  I still squeaked out the onsight, but barely.  Jess gave it a go on TR.  Next was an onsight attempt on The Name of the Game (13a).  Another guy climbing at the wall had the draws up on it, so I figured, why not?  Amazingly, I made it through for an onsight.  I was really psyched.  I've only onsighted a few routes at this grade.  I finished the day off by flashing Have a Sneegar (12c) to finish off the formation.  Good day! 

In other news, I had to work some overtime a couple weeks ago and used the money to order a drill!  It's a 36v Bosch compact and it comes on Tuesday. I can't wait!  I was also able to get out and try a route I bolted about a month ago and I think it's going to be pretty hard.  We'll see when I get back out there

Product Details

Fall weather is here, so get out and crush some rock!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Another amazing weekend of climbing!

For the first time ever, Jess and I passed up on the opportunity to spend a three day weekend in Tensleep, instead deciding to stick around and focus on some local projects.  At the Cube, Jess has been working on Strawman (13a) and I've been getting bouted trying to climb Occam's Razor (13d).  On Thursday after work, we headed up to the Cube to continue our attempts.  Jess was able to get a one-hang and amazingly things started to come together for me and I was able to get Occam's Razor down to two hangs!  On both routes, progress comes slowly so any improvement is welcome.

Friday, we packed up and headed over to Natural Bridge to spend a couple days on some projects.  I had tried Isla de los Locos (13d) last weekend and was really impressed.  This route is as good as anything out there, so I was really psyched to get back on it.  Jess had a couple of easier 12s she wanted to get done and also wanted to work on Pageant of the Transmundane (12c). We warmed up and I hung draws on Donkey Kong (12a).  Jess had been on it the weekend before and was able to send it first go of the day!  It was a battle and was probably the most inspirational bit of climbing I've seen in a long time!  After that, it was time to get on the Locos.  When I tried it last week, I figured out most of the moves, but there was a section in the middle that I could not figure out.  On my second go of the day, my knee randomly slotted into a kneebar and the move became clear to me.  At this point I figured I could put this route together, however it started raining and I decided to wait until the next day.  Jess was able to get all the moves figured out on Lion's Den (12a) and then we called it a day.

We woke up on Saturday to blue skies and we were psyched.  We warmed up and then Jess sent Lion's Den first go of the day.  I got on the Locos and made it part way through the crux only to flame out.  My second go was a little rushed and didn't go well.  After Jess did a little more climbing, I got back on and fired it off!  This is such a beautiful route and is definately the best thing I've done in Montana.  Nice work Kyle!  There are a couple of other bolted lines to the left that look really good and a couple of other potential lines that need to get bolted.

Isla de los Locos (13d)
Jess gave some good tries on Pageant in the afternoon and I took it easy and climbed a couple of easy slabs.

On Sunday, apparently we hadn't had enough, so we headed back up to the Cube.  I think we were both feeling pretty worked being 4th day on, but what the hell.  We warmed up on Uber Ass and then I got on Occam's Razor.  Amazingly, I didn't feel too bad and two hung it.  On my second go, I fell off midway through the crux and then got back on and finished the route for my first one hang.  My third try was as close as you can get to sending.  I made it to the last clip, which I think is the hardest single move on the route, and just didn't have it in me, so I grabbed the draw.  I've got the top pretty dialed, so it wasn't too bad to get another one hang.  I did try it one more time, but it was pretty worthless.  Jess also had a great day and one-hung Strawman a couple of times.  She's really close and I think she's going to get it very soon.

Today is a rest day as we're both feeling pretty worked.  We leave on Saturday morning for a week of hanging out on the beach in Michigan, so we're both hoping to put these projects to rest before we leave!