Monday, July 2, 2012

Glacier Gorge and the CO

It would be poetic if the water flowed down from Glacier Gorge to form the headwaters of the Colorado River.  Unfortunately, I think the Continental Divide is actually a few ridgelines west.   What the hell.  We'll pretend.  That serene scene would form(s) the dueling backdrops of two very fun days I've enjoyed recently.  I spent long hours under amazing skies, little to do but Pay Fucking Attention.

Glacier Gorge is the canyon behind Long's "Keyhole" up in Rocky Mountain National park, while Pumphouse is a canyon carved by the Colorado River in its hurry to feed hungry trout.  These are paradise locations for climbing and fishing, and with great friends along, I can't think of a better way to live my life.  I'm so lucky to get to head out into places like this:

Dave and I are headed up to Fremont Canyon to celebrate our 4th of Hades.  Hopefully down near the water, the world will feel more temperate.  We'll get in some trad climbing and fishing, and hopefully I'll bring back some photos.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Colorado Carp Habit and its export to the Farm

I feel a little naughty every time I do it.  Lately, I’ve been throwing flies for carp.  Big fuckers.  The kind of fish that you see swimming around and wonder if it’s gonna jump out of the lake and bite you.  One rammed into my foot after I spooked it, and I yelped like a little girl.  When you hook into one, the reel screams like a hummingbird.

Like all good fish stories, there’s a part I’ve left out.  You’ve got to get past the fact that you’re likely in some urban lake with litter scattered along the shore.   And you’ve got to disregard the bottom-feeding yuck-factor of a carp.  When that fly rod doubles over, though, you’ll go back to the fun. 

Hooking into one

When my grandfather got remarried a few weeks ago, he gave me an excuse to try to import that Colorado carp habit to the pond in Missouri.       

Colorado Carp Habit
At 79, my grandfather just got hitched for the second time.  He’d been a widower since last summer.  My grandmother passed away, and instead of cashing in his chips and quickly following suit, Grandpa figured on getting a woman back into the picture. It had worked for him as a 20 year old.  It should certainly do so again sixty years later. 

We were all thrilled that he remained active and vital after her death.  He took a road trip out to long-forgotten Air Force bases peppering the West., stopping to see family along the way.  Then he headed back to Kansas City.  He had a girlfriend waiting. 

He was reengaged something like 6 months after her death.  What can I say?  That guy likes being married.  Fortunately for me, he also likes the farm. 
The Farm
My mom suggested that we include a stop there after the wedding.  After the marriage ceremony, we eased the rented Kia off of County Road N and into the driveway.

I’m glad my grandpa has tried so hard to make it a place where we all feel at home.  Those ponds and fields have been the backdrop to so many of my favorite family memories.  I love it there.   I also like that he’s got three grass carp in the pond.  My goal on this last trip was to try to combine the beauty of the Farm with the fun of catching a BIG fish.  Unfortunately, I came up empty at the lake while I was out there.   Fortunately, we had bacon and Scrabble.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try again this summer. 

The springtime trophy for the biggest fish (beautiful environs or otherwise) easily goes to Dave.  He just landed a 40-plus pound carp here on the Front Range.    


Abaluba in your back yard.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

For the Birds

These eagles just keep popping up.  It feels like each day that I've been out climbing or fishing, I've seen them flying.  There was the Bald that was cruising up the Frying Pan.  I saw him while I was knocking the ice from my guides in early February.  Then there was the double day that Josh and I had in Eldo on January 2.  On a New Year's Gentleman's lap up The Naked Edge, he and I saw a Golden and a Bald in the canyon.  I'm the luckiest bastard in the world.  I keep getting to hang out where I can reasonably expect to see these iconic birds gliding around on the thermals.  I'm grateful.

There's the case of this one particular Golden Eagle family that's got me most interested.  Out on the west slope, they live in what I can best describe as a log cabin for birds.  This massive arrangement of sticks, about the size of a golf cart, is perched inside of a cave.  The cave is about 100 feet above the mouth of a limestone canyon.  Better still, the nest is at the head of a buffet line.  The cliffs and associated eagles look down to a Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife fish hatchery.  I doubt the cliffs care, but the birds surely salivate at the hundreds of thousands of TV dinners just waiting to be plucked.   For years, I drove right past this nest on my way to the climbing routes up canyon without even noticing it's presence.  Now, I stop and watch, hoping to see one coming home from the grocery store.

Just last week I was out there, though February certainly isn't prime time.  At 7,000 feet, it's much more of a summer destination.  These days, there is a fair bit of ice seeping from the walls.  I went out to give a tour to RD Pascoe, the Policy Director at The Access Fund.  With his help, several other Rifle climbers and myself have been trying to convince the Parks and Wildlife Commission to open their portion of the lower canyon to our climbing.  It's long been closed, and we're hoping we can change some minds.

One of the hurdles raised in opposition to our rule change has been the fact that this prime eagle habitat could be disrupted by people like me climbing a route in the vicinity.  I'll even admit that, yes, there's a risk.  I'm a rock climber.  A small bit of risk normally doesn't dissuade me.  And that's how I feel about the birds.  With their relative castle and a never ending feed bag just a quick dive-bomb away, there's little chance they'd leave.  Especially if we're not storming their walls before the chicks have fledged.  That's why we are more than willing to accept a seasonal ban on climbing and route development in exchange for a chance to climb there during the summer and fall.   We'll see how it goes.

The fun thing about the Wildlife Commission action is that it moves at the speed of my job.  Which is to say that it moves at the speed of government.  Which is to say it hardly moves.  Until our next meeting on March 8, I am trying to get out and enjoy the coming Spring.  Hopefully I'll have some good photos for you then.  Here are a couple from recent outings:

Climbers (Maybe on The Bulge?)


Josh chasing the warm sunlight headed to The Edge

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Like I do, I was fooling around on Mountain Project.  I spend an awful amount of time on that website, pouring over routes I'd like to do, checking in on gossip, and daydreaming about climbing.  I hate it and, simultaneously, I love it.  I hate it because I'm daydreaming about something abstract and external, and I end up wasting time where I could be more productive with the rest of my life.  But, I admit, that then I love it because I have a genuine connection with positive, proud memories in my brain that are inexorably linked to that one particular activity, climbing.  

And then I came across this story:

Basically, Alpinist screwed up their cover printing and, in explaining their embarrassment, offered the blemish covers for sale.  It piqued my interest because, frankly, I appreciate good writing, and certainly good writing about climbing.  As I get older, I'd like to be more supportive of things I really care about, and thought I should get them some money to further that cause of good prose with a mountain backdrop.  That's my ultimate goal for this site, instead of the daily correspondence that it typically becomes.  I was interested in the idea of buying one of the covers for my barren walls in my bedroom.  Walls that really need some adult ornamentation.  

The idea came to me that perhaps I'd frame an Alpinist cover and hang it.  Then, my mind wandered to the most recent issue of Rock and Ice that is on my table.  I figured I might put that one up, too, and have a little theme for my would-be art exhibition.  I opened the pages and, as any magazine does, a postcard begging for my subscription fell into my hand.  "It's a Big Deal!" the sales pitch read.  But my mind mistook the message, reading it for irony.  Andrew Bisharat was telling me it was ok to accept the fact that I was looking at that cover, thinking of framing it on my wall, and It's a Big Deal.  I published my first article.  

A write up of Pervertical Sanctuary isn't the most inspiring piece of climbing lore you'll ever read.  It's a short write up about a non-cutting edge adventure up a modern day moderate.  But to me, it's a story that connects my dad with climbing, and hopefully hints at my relationship to both he and the hills.  

I kind of like being proud of those achievements, and hanging them on the wall.  They'll look great next to my error-Alpinist, No 36.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Familiar Faces

I'm not going to sugar coat it for all the people who were still in Boulder these last few days.  Rifle was perfect yesterday.  The breeze blew most of the remaining leaves from skeletal trees, drying fingers and cooling holds to a perfect crisp.  Sun was abundant, leaving the air warm enough to keep climbers in the shade, albeit in a puffy coat.  All of the hot, muggy days of summer lead up to the best time of the year, and we're enjoying its fleeting presence.  Pretty soon, the canyon will be cocooned in snow, this season finished.  That urgency, along with the sense that I'm just starting to return to the rhythmic groove of consistently climbing in one location, has me hoping to return for at least a few more days.

Dan belays (properly out of the road) at the Project Wall
I haven't been in the canyon this summer with the same consistency of the past.  Maybe I was more focused on other big road trips, but over these past few days, I could feel my disconnect with Rifle manifest in discomfort.  Instead of feeling totally locked in, even on the warm-ups that I've done hundreds of times, I was shaky and unsure of exactly where to go.  It wasn't a pleasant feeling.  With my hands and feet slightly out of sequence and on the wrong holds, my mind tended to wander to the absurd.  "Perhaps," I thought, "I've forgotten how to climb.  Maybe turning 30 means I've lost the required strength to climb hard routes here.  It's over."

Instead of the melodramatic delusions centered on my own demise, I have to remember that Rifle is just that way.  The cryptic beta required for upward progress is especially pronounced out there.  You've got to build a steady relationship with the stone.  All areas are like that.  The more time you climb at any one place, the better it feels.  While I was inefficiently quaking my way towards the anchors of each Rifle climb, I forgot that key lesson.  Even though I have been climbing consistently, I wasn't repeating my days at one specific location.

Projecting, the type of climbing best suited to Rifle, is, at least for me, the transformation of a route from impossible to effortless.  I miss that feeling of flowing through moves that were once terribly uncomfortable and difficult.  I love to climb with precise efficiency on a route that is just at the edge of possible.  Walking that fine line where a break in concentration means hanging from the rope requires so much time spent in methodical, dedicated practice.  I'm hoping that these past few days in Rifle will come together to allow me to find that flowstate on one more project before the season ends.    

Of course, the snow has to hold off, and I have to get back in order to test the theory.  If I can't return to Rifle, I'll hopefully take that same ritual to Zion before Thanksgiving.  Maybe I'll just have to content myself by commuting with Wally between other destinations in the American West.  If that's the case, I won't have immense repetition to fall back on, and will instead just have to rely on experience and balance as I battle the self doubt that will inevitably creep in.  No matter the situation, climbing is always a challenge.  That's why it's so incredibly rewarding.    

Team PatagoNeon

Monday, October 10, 2011

Valley Pics

I'd like to post a few good pictures from the last week or so.

Basically, we had a bit of a storm blow through Yosemite last week and shut things down for a while.  In the interim, the crew, now swollen to include the Brothers Kauffman, drove down to Bishop in search of sun and boulders.  We found some of the former, and lots of the latter.

After Tioga reopened, we headed back towards Yosemite and have been here for the past few days.  Things are looking a little rainy once again, so Josh and I are going to have to see what makes the most sense for the last bit of the trip.

And now, more pics (most by Neil Kauffman of Planet Kauffman...

Josh IS Ironman

Josh at Tioga

Waiting out snow in between tries

Sunset at The Happy Boulders

The striking Tioga Cliff

Snowy Sierra above the Buttermilks
Bishop after the snow

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A very fine start

You know how I can tell I'm in California?  My back is killing me.  The final day in the car apparently didn't sit too well, and I've been stretching and doing yoga like a madman to try to remedy this annoyance. It hasn't kept me from climbing and hiking around, but I'm beginning to take all that "30 and over the hill" talk as the truth.  Damn it.

As for the start of this little road trip, Josh and I got things going in Rifle.  I was happy to have the chance to get back into the canyon and send one final project before it gets too cold, and also for the opportunity to hang with friends before a few weeks away.  The weather in Rifle was perfect, and I was sad to say goodbye.  Fortunately for me, my buddy Jesse was out for the weekend and was able to resupply me after a very poor packing job.  I'd been so distracted by the demands of getting everything squared away before I left that I opened my bag and saw only two pairs of pants for a three week trip.  Jesse swung by my place and grabbed a few more items, and I'm hugely grateful.
Sunset and Van

Chilling under the Hulk
After that hiccup, Josh and I got the drive underway in earnest and have since arrived in California.  We promptly met up with our friends, brothers Joel and Neil Kauffman.  These crushers first entered my radar this spring while I spent some time in Indian Creek, and I am happy to be in their presence again.  Especially since our first climbing mission out here has been treating the Incredible Hulk like our backyard crag.  This alpine beauty is a stunning granite spire in the Eastern Sierra.  I can tell you that Positive Vibrations lives up to the hype, and that going ground up on The Venturi Effect is a tall order.  Too tall for me, in fact.

The Hulk
Otherwise, Josh and I survived getting pulled over in Ely, Nevada, a pretty massive detour out of town (too flustered by our police encounter, we took 50 instead of 6, and drove a few miles out of the way), and the most insane sunset of my life.  I hope these pics suffice.

Josh eyes the raps

Our bivy cave
The weather is looking a little hot in The Valley, so I just came down into town on a work/life/resupply mission before heading back to The Hulk tomorrow for another few days.  More to follow when we get back out.    

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back to the Ditch

Here we go.  Josh and I are setting out sights westward once again.  Our goals are similar to the last time he and I drove into Yosemite.  We would love to get back up and climb on El Cap, the greatest stone other than that of Movement Climbing and Fitness.  Also, there are several long free routes scattered on other formations that we've got our eyes on.  I'm hoping to meet up with Nuno-Miguel, my longtime buddy who's now in the Bay Area, for some bouldering, too.  He's not the only friend who is slated to be out there, as multiple other people I've talked to have plans for a Valley autumn, as well.

The Diamond
Work projects have me running a little ragged lately, and I'm excited for some downtime.  I'm sure I'll still have the Blackberry in view more than I want, and check emails with nervous glances, but I'm laying some chips on the idea that once I break free from Denver/Boulder's gravity, I'll be able to melt into the road trip rhythm.  There is something so special about the chance to conjure up big goals, and take the time required to accomplish them.  I'm quite excited. 

That said, I've been battling a bit of my own expectations for this trip.  With the success we had on The Salathe Wall last year, I'm trying to remain focused on this year's challenges, and allow that it's still going to be intimidating to be back up on such huge walls.  It's fun to watch my brain swing from fear to fanatical excitement when I think about the climbing in what's unquestionably Mecca for rock climbers.  Above all, I'm really excited to have the support of my girlfriend while I'm away.  Beyond that, knowing that Josh and I make a great team is inspiring confidence in me.

He and I were just up on The Diamond for a big, car-to-car push up the Yellow Wall.  It was my second trip up to that iconic face of Long's Peak, after last year's voyage up Pervertical Sanctuary with Alex Macpherson.  Josh and I added some difficulties by avoiding the bivy at the base, and taking only one rope onto the face, thereby committing ourselves to a summit push in lieu of any optional rappels back down the face.  The added comfort of being somewhere familiar limited the intimidation a bit.  I'm hoping that this second trip to Yosemite is similar in that regard.  It's still going to blow my mind, without a doubt.  I'm hoping, however, that I can enjoy the experience with a little less anxiety than I felt the first time I dropped into "the ditch."

Josh nearing the finish to the North Chimney

I'm going to try to keep the blog updated while I'm out in California.  Please stay tuned.  I'm very excited for my new camera, and the chance to post some better pictures for your viewing pleasure.  One of the nice things about going out to Yosemite is that this national park's management plan is catered to comfort.  There are plenty of places to catch a wireless signal, plug in the old computer, and spray endlessly to the folks back home.  I don't want to paint a totally plush picture...there are still bears roaming the valley, and there aren't escalators to the top of any rocks (yet).  Adventure hasn't been completely eliminated, thankfully.

So Wally is packed up, my work is as done as it can be for the moment, and we're setting sail.  Wish us luck!