Friday, May 1, 2015

New Website and Blog

For those of you that follow me on this site, I wanted to let you know that I now have my own website and blog. It has been up for a while and I finally started to write on the blog again. I have two posts up right now with hopefully more coming soon. So go check out the site,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Random Trip to the New River Gorge

Since moving to North Carolina, I have taken very few personal climbing trips. Most of the trips taken have involved work, training, courses or exams. After being fairly busy for the past two weeks, I had a few days off and no one with which to climb in North Carolina. My friend Tracy told me to head up to the New River Gorge and climb with her. So the next morning I wake up early and start my 4.5 hour drive north.

I arrived around noon. It would have been sooner but there were some complications with the drive. I met up with Tracy and Spencer at Whippoorwill.  There we got on a few routes before we headed back to town. One great route we did while there was Wendy's Jugs. It is a beautiful 5.7 that is on an arete. It is a little steep with huge hold and a great position.

Later that afternoon I began to get restless sitting in town while Tracy did some work so I headed to the Junkyard by myself. it had easy top access and some great looking lines. I did a rope solo of a fun 5.7 called New River Gunks. After that, I set up a toprope on Team Jesus 5.10 and New Yosemite 5.9, which I did two laps because it was so good. In just one afternoon, I had done eight pitches.

The next day, Tracy and I headed to the Lower Meadow. There we warmed up on a fun 5.9 with a tricky crux. Then Tracy pointed out this 5.10d called Chimpanzabubbas. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to get on it. It was some fun flake climbing to a ledge. Once on the ledge you clip a bolt as you ponder how to pull the crux which is staring you in the face. After looking at and feeling the holds for what felt like half an hour I reached super high to a good hold that I thought was just out of my reach and powered through the crux. After the crux, you make a few more moved before you get to a steep and juggy headwall. Tracy then followed the route and we made our way to the left checking out different routes.

We settled on a route called Tarbaby, an 11a that was in the shade. I headed up first. About 20 feet up there is a nice ledge before the climbing really starts. Well I made many trips up and down from this ledge. I would climb up, place gear, check out the next section, then climb back to the ledge to rest. Finally, I go to do the crux but I can't figure out how to grab the hold I need to move off of. Finally, I just take on my piece right there. After looking at the crux for a few seconds I fire it without a problem. After the crux, I am well above my last piece when a foothold broke on me. That scared me enough to place a piece before continuing to the anchors. I then cleaned the gear off the route so that Tracy could give it a go. She flashed it like it was nothing. So I then had to go get the redpoint which wasn't too bad. After we did that route, Tracy wanted to climb this thing to the left that wasn't in the guidebook just to see if it would be a good route to guide. It was fun with a tricky 5.8-5.9 crux. Right before we did this, we were joined by Jonny.

After we got back down from this route, I decided to give Toxic Hueco a try. With it being 5.11c I figured I wouldn't have too much trouble with it but onsighting it would prove to be difficult. Well, I made it to the third bolt before I was getting tired. Luckily, Jonny had shown up so that I could top rope the route. The route stays at you with a few distinct cruxes then easier endurance climbing to the top. To finish the day Tracy led By the Way, I did your Mom, a beautiful 5.10b. I followed it to cool down. It was a great day of climbing that showed me that I need to work on my endurance again.

That night I was able to sample some of the pizza at Pies and Pints. It is a sweet joint with great pizza. Check it out.

The next day, I had until about noon to get my pump on, so Tracy and I headed to the Junkyard. There we warmed up on New Yosemite then moved to the Entertainer. The Entertainer is a fun 5.10a with a funky start that leads to fun face climbing.  We then moved over to Stuck in Another Dimension. This 11a looks super burly. It a crack that goes from offwidth to chimney to maybe hands all before you get to the roof where the business supposedly gets real. I wouldn't know. After the butt kicking from the day before I elected to save it for another day when I have more energy. Instead I did the 5.9 to the left, V- Slot. For a 5.9 it has some interesting moves that will keep you thinking the entire way up this awkward climb. We then finished on Four Sheets to the Wind. For anyone that climbs 5.9 comfortably, lead this route. It is a great overhanging corner that will hold your attention the entire way.

Soon after climbing, I started my drive back to NC. I had a great time sampling some of the routes at the New River Gorge. I would suggest that you get up there and have a taste of the great sandstone it has to offer. Also, in May is the 10th New River Rendezvous. I will be there giving clinics and enjoying the festivities. I am sure that it will be a great event.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Engagement

In my last post, I mentioned that in December I asked a lovely young lady named Jill to marry me. Many of you who read this probably already know that I did this. But what most of you don't know is the story of that day. Throughout the day, I thought that I had blown it and that she would never say yes. So here you will find a quick back story to our relationship and that crazy day we became engaged.

Jill and I met at an REI Adventures weekend where I was the guide.  On those weekends, we take the clients climbing and camping in Pisgah National Forest. Jill and her younger sister Kelsey were on one of those trips. My first impression of Jill and Kelsey were that they were late. Jill says they were on time but I clearly remember waiting for them to show up. The weekend went like any other weekend. The guests had fun and on Sunday afternoon we parted ways. Unbeknownst to me, Jill left with a huge crush on me. A few days later, I get a friend request from her on Facebook. I didn't think anything of it. Many times, I try to friend the people I take climbing so that we can stay in contact afterwards. Well as it turns out, she was using Facebook to find out information about me.

After returning home, she figured that I was not single and that I was not a Christian so she tried to write me off as someone that she will not date. She was surprised by what she saw on my page. I was single and I am a Christian. We started corresponding on Facebook soon after. Mid-summer, she was going to be giving some lectures in Greenville, SC which isn't too far away from Brevard and she asked me out to dinner. I was unsure if it was a date or just a friendly meeting. Well it turned out that it was a date. We had a great time and ended up hanging out the next two days as well. Our relationship had started.

Fast forward to December. She was coming to North Carolina for her Christmas break from teaching in Utah and I knew that I wanted to be with this woman. So I got a ring and had started making plans for asking her. I figured that since we met doing an outdoors activity that our engagement should have that element in it. Of course I wanted climbing but was unsure still. I remember having a conversation with my good friend Ron about this. He suggested either a summit or a valley. Both have their perks. With a summit, you have the whole world before you. And with a valley, you are closed into a more intimate setting of closeness.  I chose summit. But which summit?

Through discussion, I found out that she had been to Table Rock before and enjoyed the hike to the top. Who wouldn't, it is a moderate hike that is about a mile from the parking lot. Once at the summit, you are rewarded with great views of Linville Gorge, Hawksbill to the north, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. So instantly, my thoughts zeroed in on making a plan to climb the East Face of Table Rock to the top and there on the top I would ask her to marry me. Jill had some a few multipitch climbs with me before and though she has had some issue with heights, they last for a second then she continues on. The plan was set. Now I just had to keep my cool that day.

That morning, we set out around 7:30 to head to Table Rock. It was a great drive until we got part way up Highway 221. It was there that I remembered that Jill tends to get motion sick on curvy roads. I do my best to take it easy. By the time I hit 181, Jill is starting to get curled up in the passenger seat. Then we finally hit the gravel road that leads to Table Rock. This was not good. Jill is curled up in a ball making noises but not talking for fear of throwing up. Finally, after what seems like forever we arrive at the parking lot. Jill gets out of the car and sits on a parking block near my car. I let her regroup herself. Finally, when she is feeling better we head to the base of the climbs. During the approach, I keep asking if she is excited. I can hardly contain myself but she is not as excited.

We get to the first pitch of the day. We are going to do Jim Dandy up to Lunch Ledge. From there I wanted to do either My Route or the Block Route. The first pitch goes great. I give her a kiss then I head up the second pitch. The second pitch, though easier, is more exposed. She does well until she is within sight of me. There she has a bit of fear creep up on her. She tells me to shut-up as I try to comfort her from 30 feet away. She gets up to the belay and we take a minute to chill out. I ask her if she still loves me. Lucky she responds with a yes. I then head up the third pitch to Lunch Ledge. Once Jill gets up there we take a good long break, eat lunch and discuss what to do next. I figured we would do the Block route instead of My Route because the second pitch of My Route would not be good for her.

Once we are ready, I head up the pitch. It is only 5.5 but has this one section that is tricky and a bit exposed. I then start to bring Jill up. She gets a few moves below "the block" when I start to hear some whimpers. Because of the block I am unable to see her. I try to talk to her but she is not happy with the situation. I am worried. I start thinking, "Have I ruined the day?" "We could descend but that would mean having to hike to the top." "Should I still ask her?"

Finally, I am able to talk to her a bit in her flustered state. I ask her what she wants me to do. Her response is, "I want to get off of this rock. The only way off of this f@%&ing rock is to f!@#ing go up." Now I had never heard her cuss like this before so I knew she was not super happy with the situation. I then ask if she wants me to pull her up through this section. She replied with a very firm yes. I thought, "Sweet! I can do this." I didn't even put on a haul system. I just pulled on her rope and pulled her up with brute force. After a bit more climbing, she was up on the ledge with me where the exposure quickly disappears thanks to trees and bushes. From here, we do a bit of walking and scrambling to the top. I then rig her for short roping to the top since some of the scrambling sections are exposed. She enjoyed this part of the day. Once up top, we walk to the north end of the summit.

On the summit, we take off the gear and get organized. I notice that there is a fuzzy little mouse watching us in the nearby bushes. Jill is sitting on a rock so I sit down next to her after packing up the gear. I once again ask her if she still loves me. And of course she does. I then sneakily find the ring in my pack and pull it out of the case. At this point, I am getting nervous. I know she will say yes but still, I am about to ask a question that will affect the rest of my life. Finally, I get the nerve up to ask. The funny part was that I don't think I every fully asked her. I pull the ring out into view and ask, "will you?" Next thing I know she wraps me up in arms and kisses me. I interpreted this as "Yes! I will gladly marry you." We then spend a few minutes on the summit enjoying the moment, the moment when we decided to spend the rest of our lives together. We also snapped a few pictures on my phone. I also remember telling the fuzzy little mouse that I will be marrying this lady next to me. We then hike down and talk about our upcoming wedding.
Right after I asked Jill to marry me.

Once back at the parking lot, I let Jill drive to help with the motion sickness. Near the end of the paved road leaving the parking lot, we stop and look up at the East Face. I showed Jill where we had climbed. She then remarks that this was the highest that she had ever climbed. I do have to hand it to this woman. She loves me enough to put herself through things that are not as enjoyable for her as they are for me. She is always open to trying out new adventures.

Since that day, we have been planning our wedding day. It has been a bit difficult with Jill living in central Utah but she has been doing a great job of it. I am excited for it. It will present new challenges in life but I am excited about them. I am also excited about not knowing what all the future has for us but that whatever it is we will get to do them together.  Just a few days ago, we past the date the marked six months until our wedding which is on August 17th. I was able to spend it with Jill in Utah. Though I have been able to see Jill once a month since we started this relationship, I am looking forward to not having to travel across the country to see her.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fox Mountain Guides in New Hampshire

It has been quite a while since I last posted something. This winter has been somewhat uneventful. A friend recently asked me why I haven't posted anything since I posted about the Rock Instructor Exam. I then said that nothing has really happened. I was referring to climbing but as I was soon reminded, a major life event happened that I failed to write about; I got engaged. Maybe in the future I will sit down and write about that event but for now we will talk about some more current events.

I just got back from New Hampshire where I once again enjoyed two weeks of great ice climbing with my amazing colleagues from Fox Mountain Guides. Like last year, I was placed in charge of cooking and managing the cabin. Last year, I learned a lot about the job and was psyched to try and take it up a notch. It did prove to be just as difficult if not more difficult than last year. This year, I was focusing on improving my leading ability on ice and filly my ice climbing resume.  Doing my work and trying to get the amount of climbing in was quite the task. Many days this left me rushing from climbing to shopping to cooking.  Either way, I enjoyed being able to cook for everyone. Now, on to the climbing part.

Ron and I arrived midday on the 30th of January. Once we got into town, we met up with the rest of the crew; Karsten, Lindsay, and Cristin. We did a few climbs at Trollville that were super fun. As we were finishing up, it started raining. The forecast had called for rain and warmer temps for the next 24 hours. This could really mess up our plans since rain destroys ice.  That night, I tried lobster for the first time. Much to everyone's dismay, I did not think that lobster was that great. The next day, we were scheduled to have a guides training day. Since the weather did not cooperate, we had a training at the Frontside Grind, a coffee shop in North Conway. The training them moved to the ice which surprisingly was still there. The rain had melted quite a bit of the ice and snow which limited our choices that afternoon but I was able to take Cristin and Karsten up a route at Cathedral Ledge to do some on ice training. Soon after that finished, my duties began. I went to the store with Cristin, got two cart loads of groceries, then headed back to the cabin to get supper started.

The next day, Cristin and I headed out to get some climbing in. I would be leading my first complete multipitch ice route with Cristin following. I chose Standard Route at Frankenstein as our plan. It seemed that nearly everyone else chose that as well.  Either way, we eventually started up the route and made our way to the top. Other than being a bit hollow at the top, the route was superb. We then did one easy single pitch route to finish the day out before heading back.
View of Mt. Washington from the tracks at Frankenstein

On the 2nd, I had the opportunity to do some instructional work. That day, I was able to teach our guest, Mac about placing screws, leading ice, ice anchors and just get more time on the ice. It was a super fun day. We also had some entertainment provided by an extended family with "Uncle Bob" taking everyone ice climbing. Judging from their accents, they were from the Boston area and some of them had not spent much time outdoors. The best thing, which I regret not getting a picture of was of a woman climbing the route they had set up in platform boot which strap-on crampons on, snake print flaring jeans, and cotton gloves. After this, Mac and I headed over to do a fun two pitch climb called the Thresher Slabs.
Karsten got a sweet picture of me leading at Trollville

The next day, Cristin and I headed up to do Hitchcock Gully on Mt. Willard. I had read some stuff on this climb and it sounded amazing. What it failed to mention was the slogging up a rock and ice filled gully when there is not much snow. Other than that, the climb is amazing. The pitches are great WI2/3 climbing with a bit of rock mixed in there for some spice. That evening, the Ice 101 course wrapped up. The 201 would start the next day and Karsten asked if I would help. I quickly jumped on the chance to help.
Cristin on the second pitch of Hitchcock Gully

The first day of the 201 course, we headed to Trollville. There we worked on doing harder climbs and a bit of drytooling. Karsten had me lead three of the main ice routes there with each one coming in around WI4. The first was a thin route in a corner. The next was a corner that had thicker ice with sections that involved a lot of hooking. The last one goes up to a roof, pulls the roof with some amazing hooks then climbs near vertical ice to the top. Later in the day, we worked on some advanced movement on ice and did a little bit of drytooling on an M7. I also joined the 201 course the next day. We headed to Champney Falls. It is a bit of hike back to this little slot canyon but was worth it. On the right side of the canyon, there are many ice climbs from WI3 to WI5/M4. I led a route on the right side while Karsten set up a route on the left called Champin' at the Bit. It is a WI5/M8+ according to the guidebook. It follows thin ice up a steep section on the wall and has some sections of rock that you much navigate.  We had a great day despite it being quite cold there. The next day, I took a rest day.
Stuart climbing some thin ice at Trollville
The 201 crew at Trollville

Garrett practicing his dry tooling

At this point, I have been in New Hampshire a week and have gotten a ton of climbing in and I am super psyched to get at least one more good day in before the AIARE level 1 course starts. Cristin and I head to Frankenstein again to climb Chia, Pegasus, and Dracula if we have time. We arrive to great conditions in the amphitheater. We are out of the wind, the air temps are cold but we are in the sun for the first route, Chia. Chia is a  1 or 2 pitch WI3 that has a ton of fun climbing on it. On the upper section you traverse right following a ramp that take you over this exposed section which is a ton of fun. After that, we headed over to Pegasus which was in the shade. I had figured I would do it in two pitches so that I could bring Cristin up while I eye that last bit which is a bit harder. Well I did it all in one pitch. The funnest part was topping out the pillar at the top. I start to surmount the bulge at the top and find myself staring into a huge hole in the back of the pillar formed from the water running behind it. I managed to step around the hole and finish the route. When Cristin got to the hole she was more surprised than I was and found it very interesting. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to head over to Dracula so we headed out.

The next couple of days involved Ron, Cristin and I taking an AIARE Level 1 course. It was recommend that I take this course so I signed up. It was a great course. In it we spent time in the classroom discussing terrain that is prone to avalanches and how the weather effects the snow pack in a way to make avalanches more or less likely. On the second day, we spent some time doing companion rescues with beacons, probes and shovels. It was a lot of fun but very cold that day. A snow storm had just finished and the winds were howling at the top of Crawford Notch were we were. The next day, we met in Pinkham Notch discussed the avalanche forecast for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines on Mt. Washington. We then hiked the 2.4 miles up to Hermit Lake.  There we met with the avalanche forecasters and watched a demonstration they did with their avalanche dogs. We then hiked up into the Ravine and did some snow work. After all of this we did another companion rescue scenario where after finding the "victim" I got to play the victim and get strapped to a ski sled. This reminded me of my WFR course where I had the same injury, tib/fib fracture, and I got to lay in the snow for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, I didn't ski up the mountain so I also didn't get to ski down. Three of us walked back down the mountain while the rest skied down. We then had a bit more classroom time. It was a great course.
Ron staying warm during companion rescues

Heading up to Tuckerman Ravine

Panoramic view of Tuckerman Ravine

The final day, I didn't ice climb. Ron, wanted to go skiing and since I had never skiied before decided I would join him on the slopes that day. I had never skied before. Back in college, I spent a few days in Whistle snowboarding but I was not prepared for this. I buy my lift ticket and get fitted with gear and head out to the lifts. I had gotten a case of tunnel vision and failed to see the lift for the beginners section. Instead I hopped on the lift to the top and figured that I could do this. Well, after many falls within the first few minutes I had quite a scare. Only 20 minutes into the run, I took a fall that torqued my right knee enough to cause some pain. I got out of my bindings and limped towards the edge to get out of the way of other skiers. After assessing it for a few minutes and realizing it was nothing major, I started to get back into the bindings when Ron showed up. He gave me a few pointers for the rest of the run after stating his surprise to see me at the top of the hill. Eventually, I made it back to the base. There I went inside to chill a bit before hitting the beginners slope to figure things out. I then did multiple laps down the beginners run. Feeling more confident, I headed back to the top. I did two more laps on an easy run all the way down the mountain before retiring for the day.

Once Ron was done, we headed to the cabin to get clean and pack the van, we were staring our 18 hour drive home at 5pm.  After many hours and a bivy in a shopping center parking lot, we made it to back to North Carolina. I was surprised to find that I was excited to be back in my humble apartment. Honestly, I think I was ready for a few days of relaxing and not having to do anything. As I write this, I am preparing to leave after being home for only a few days. I am heading to Utah to visit my fiance, Jill. While I am there, I will hopefully be able to get a few pitches in on some of the frozen stuff. If not that is ok. I will be in a beautiful place with a beautiful woman that I love.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rock Instructor Exam Part 2

The day before the exam started, we had a meeting with the instructors to go over the logistics, risk management, and get to know each other.  We were given our route assignments and our partner for the first two days.  I was paired with Russel.  Our first day would be climbing at Hemingway Buttress with Silas. The next day we were to guide Angela on the Sentinel.  After the meeting, we hung out a bit, discussed our plan for the day then left to go get fueled up for the next day.  That night was the first night of not sleeping in a tent. I appreciated having a shower that night. Then I prepped some more that evening before falling asleep at 8:30.

The next morning I woke up at 5AM when I started to get a bit nervous. Apparently, I had started thinking about the exam while I was sleeping and then I couldn't get back to sleep once I had woken up. My route assignment that day was to lead White Lightning and something else after Russel led his route, Overseer.  We were the first ones to the crag that morning so we hopped right on White Lightning.  It is a 5.8 crack that goes all the way to the top.  About 3/4 of the way up there is a small nook in which you can set a belay if you want to break the route into two pitches.  I did just that and brought Silas and Russel up to me.  From there I did a short pitch to the top.  Getting off of Hemingway can be a bit of a challenge since there are only two rappel stations for the entire wall. Luckily, after topping out, I was close to the central rappel station and we quickly made it back down to the ground. Russel then took over and took us up Overseer.  It is a great route with a crux that will keep you on your toes.  From there we rappelled on the right side of the wall.  It was now my turn again.  I went up this exposed fin covered in patina plates.  The only downside to this route was the lack of adequate gear.  Still, I loved it. Once back on the ground, Russel took us up Feltonian Physics.  Another great route on Hemingway. After that route, we went to a pile of rocks near the base and refined some short roping techniques. That was our first day. By the end of the day, the nerves had finally settled.  Now time to get ready for day two.

On day two, Russel was assigned Fote Hog and I was assigned Western Saga both of which are on the Sentinel in Real Hidden Valley.  Fote Hog is a 5.6 that starts up a ramp, goes on to a face with a thin crack, then moves right to a juggy overhang.  From there it follows cracks and ledges to the top.  My route, Western Saga, is normally done as a single pitch but due to it having a huge ledge half way up the climb, I broke it up.  The first pitch is thin crack and stemming in a corner.  Above the ledge, you get a slightly overhung hand crack going up to a roof. The roof moves follow the crack and are a bit awkward.  After the roof, there is a flaring hand crack to a nice ledge.  After this, Russel chose to take us up Sail Away which is a beautiful 5.8 finger crack.  Over there I ran into some people I had met before from NC.  After Sail Away we went to Intersection Rock to climb Mike's Book. I only was able to do the first pitch due to time constraints.  It is a fun route with an awkward start leading to jugs in a corner.  We then came down and debriefed for the day.
Russel coming down off of Sail Away

Day three was the rescue drill and movement test day.  The rescue drill, is a 45 minutes exercise in which you must show your knowledge and application of certain rescue tools needed by a guide to safely get out of a situation if one were to arise.  It can be quite stressful having an examiner standing a few feet away watching your every move. In my rock instructor course, I had some issues that I needed to work on to get a good time on the drill.  Well I must have practiced enough because I was well within time.  After doing the rescue drill we did the knot pass. It is a 5 minute exercise in which we must lower a client past a knot in the rope. I had slight brain fart during the knot pass which I luckily caught before it hosed me.  This added time to the drill.  I still got through it in time. Next we did our movement test.  The first route was Pope's Crack. It is a 5.9+ thin hands crack that leads to a slightly downward traverse before going back up a fun lieback flake. The next route we did was Touch and Go 5.9.  It starts off in a corner with twin cracks. It them moves to a single dihedral crack with a juggy top out.
Looking up at the guys doing the rescue drill

Rodney and Russel hanging out during the rescue drill

Wes going down to Russel during the drill

Day four was the first day that I was able to do some of the longer routes in Joshua Tree. This day, Russel and I were with Tom Hargis.  The three of us went to Lost Horse Wall to do Dappled Mare and Bird on a Wire. Russel was up first on Dappled Mare. It has an interesting downward traverse which creates a somewhat unique guiding problem.  Russel negotiated it well and we were quickly through that part of the climb. He took us to the top then guided us down the walk off.  Next, I was up on Bird on a Wire.  It is a 5.10a that follows a sweeping crack line to the top. The second pitch is the money pitch.  It has a thin section that is protected by a bolt but you are able to get gear soon afterward in a finger crack.  The crack eventually opens up to a juggy crack that is a lot of fun.  You then cross Dappled Mare and continue on juggy cracks all the way to the top. We then did the descent back to the base.  We wrapped things up for the day.  Back at camp we had a good debrief in which Tom gave some great critiques on our day which helped me understand the use of certain tools better.
Tom on the second pitch of Bird on a Wire

Russel finishing up Bird on a Wire

The fifth and final day of being on the rock, Russel and I were once again with Silas. We were assigned to guide Walk on the Wild Side and Right On on Saddle Rock.  Walk on the Wild Side was the only route in the exam that I did not have to onsight since I had done it before the exam. We went up the three pitches then rappelled back to the base. This was one of the most straight forward assignments I had. We then hiked over to Right On. There was a party that was finishing what they thought was the first pitch.  So we had lunch and chilled.  Eventually, we were able to head up. We were continually having to wait at belays on this route due to the party ahead of us. At one point, we waited 30 minutes before Russel was able to begin leading the last pitch. Eventually, we made it to the top of Saddle Rock.  There we basked in the sun since we had been in the shade most of the day. We then did a double rope rappel to the ground and with a bit of rock hopping. After this day, we all went out for dinner at the Saloon. We were finally able to relax and just enjoy the evening.
Russel after taking us to the top of Right On

View from the top of Saddle Rock

The sixth day, we had our debrief as a group in the morning. Then individual debriefs went until about 2 in the afternoon. We were done. Wes and I just chilled out the rest of the day. He was leaving the next day and I was waiting for Jill to come into town. The next morning before Jill and I head to Utah, we did one last climb in Joshua Tree.  I chose Overhang Bypass since it is only 5.7 and is quickly accessed. I led up the first pitch to a cave like feature on Intersection Rock.  The route then goes to the right on a hand rail. It is quite exposed and then goes to a slabby face. When Jill got to the belay I could tell she was stressed by the exposure. We sat there for a little bit and then decided that we could do this.  Because she was stressed, I belayed her from the bottom of the slab so that she could see me as she did the exposed traverse. We eventually made it to the top.  There we relaxed in a water bowl feature soaking up the view and the sun.  We then rappelled down and started on our way to central Utah.

After a couple of restful days with my girlfriend, I made my way back to North Carolina.  It had been an amazing few weeks.  I had gotten the chance to climb at a new place that has amazing climbs, I learned a ton of stuff on my exam, I completed the exam, and I spent time with a beautiful woman. Now I was ready to get back home and begin working again. A week after getting back home, I received a manilla envelope in the mail. I opened it and found a certificate with my name saying that I am now a Certified Rock Instructor. I was psyched. I cannot take all of the credit though. I have had great mentors here at Fox Mountain Guides particularly from Ron. Also thank to Wes for joining me on this trip. It was nice to see the NC Mafia, a title we were given by another guy in the exam, crush the exam. And thank to Angela Hawse, Tom Hargis, and Silas Rossi for their great instruction and amazing work they do for the AMGA.

If you would like to see a Certified Rock Instructor at work you can find my contact information on my contact page on this blog. You can also find me and other great guides at Fox Mountain Guides.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rock Instructor Exam Part I (Pre-Exam Days)

For anyone who follows what I write on this blog, you will probably know that last fall I took the American Mountain Guides Association's Rock Instructor Course.  By taking this course, I was able to guide in multipitch terrain for work.  It was a great learning experience that opened up some great opportunities for me.  After taking that course the next question was do I move on to the Rock Guide Course or take the Rock Instructor Exam?  I quickly decided to take the exam after some advice from my fellow coworkers.  Originally, I was hoping to take the exam next spring.  That would give me ample time to prepare and save up the money.  Instead, I was persuaded to take the exam this fall in Joshua Tree National Park.

I had never been to Joshua Tree before. Friends have told me that it is a magical place where your inner dirtbag is at peace. Joshua Tree lies about an hour to the east of Palm Springs in southern California. One thing that the park is known for and is its namesake are the multitude of Joshua Trees spread throughout the park.  You get forests of these huge Dr. Seuss looking plants that are not even trees at all.  They are actually a type of yucca plant.  Some of the Joshua Trees are thought to be 500 or more years old. Also dotting the landscape is the reason that I went there.  Throughout the park, there are these mounds of rock that seem to rise out of the ground.  From afar, they have been described as piles of rock droppings.  That is somewhat fitting.  On these piles of rock there are some amazing climbs.  The rock is a granite that has a very coarse crystal structure.  This can be bad for your skin but allows you to stick to just about anything. Most of the routes tend to follow crack systems.  I loved the amount of classic vertical cracks.
Intersection Rock viewed from site 28 in the Hidden Valley Campground.

My intention was to fly out to Palm Springs on the 8th of November, rent a car, drive to Joshua Tree, then climb for about 6 days before the exam.  Well I managed to miss my flight out on the 8th, so instead I flew out on the 9th.  The one good thing about missing my flight was that it gave me one more day to train with Ron and Wes at Looking Glass.  That day I also was able to redpoint the first pitch of Out to Lunch which has a crux that was tricky for me due to my height.
One last day of training at Looking Glass

On the 9th, I arrived in Palm Springs, got a car, purchased supplies, then headed to the park.  Once there I set out to find a campsite and possibly hook up with the other guys taking the exam.  I  was unable to meet up with the two guys that I knew were there already.  Now I had to find a campsite.  This proved to be tough since it was the friday before a holiday weekend.  After searching for a while, I finally snagged a site in the Jumbo Rocks campground.  The downside to camping there is that it is further from all of the good climbing.  So the first couple of days, I would drive 15 minutes just to meet up with everyone.  It was also cold and windy my first couple of days which made life less enjoyable.  Due to the conditions, I tended to crawl into my tent around 7 and fall asleep by 8.  This led to me waking up just before sunrise most mornings. Each morning I would get out of my tent and start breakfast while enjoying the sunrise on the horizon of the desert. Joshua Trees silhouetted against a blue, yellow and red morning sky is quite a beautiful sight.

This first day that I had a chance to climb, I went on a mission to meet up with Russel and Matt.  Both guys had emailed saying that they were in Joshua Tree and told me what sites they were occupying.  I first checked Matt's site.  No luck, they had already left.  I then wandered over to Russel's site where I met a guy that he was sharing the site with.  They guy said that Russel was in town.  While talking to this gentleman, a guy named David drove up also looking for Russel. It turns out that David was a friend of Matt's.  Finally, a lead.  I went with David to meet up with Matt.  After meeting Matt, we all decided to find a climb that would allow us to be out of the wind and in the sun.  We chose two routes on Chimney Rock in the campground.  David and I did a no star 5.7 called Howard's Horror.  Never do this climb. I managed to tear a large portion of skin off of the back of my left hand when one of my hand jams slipped.  After getting off of that route; Russel, Matt, David, Teresa and I headed over to the Echo Tee area to get on some more routes in the sun.  Over there, I onsighted a fun, jug filled crack called Bacon Flake.  We also did a few other routes on that wall, one of which was a bolted face climb that left me thinking a couple of times during the climb.  To finish the day, Russel and I separated from the group and went to Lost Horse wall which was one of the few walls with multipitch routes.  We climbed a route called Roan Way. It starts with the classic Dappled Mare then heads straight up off of the second pitch anchor avoiding a downward traverse.  It was super fun with cracks that had huge holds around it. It was a great first day in Joshua Tree.
Panorama of an early morning at Hidden Valley Campground

 The next day, I hooked up with David later in the morning and we did a few routes on The Old Woman. I led Double Cross, which is an amazing climb.  Once we were off of that, Matt and Teresa met us.  We then went up Dogleg in two separate groups.  Another great climb.  I finally felt as if I was getting the feel of the rock.  The next morning, I was only able to get one route in since I had to go pick up Wes from the airport.  I followed Matt up the Orphan since he was unable to get one of his cams out of it the evening before. After meeting Wes at the airport, we gathered more supplies then went to go find the crew.  They were all in the Echo Tee area chilling at a parking area with one new guy, Jon.  Jon was one of the other guys taking the exam.  Now we knew that every one taking the exam was in the park because Russel and I had run into Rodney on Lost Horse a few days before.  From this meeting, we split up.  Jon, Russel, Wes and I headed to Lost Horse to do some more multipitch routes.  I teamed up with John on the Swift.  It was a bit crowded with the Rock Instructor Course that was going on taking up most of the routes so Wes and Russel came up the Swift right behind us.  After topping out, Jon and Wes went down the standard descent while Russel and I scouted out a possible alternative descent that Adam Fox had hold me about.  It was quite an adventure traversing the top of Lost Horse back towards the parking area.  We eventually found a rappel down into the Rock Garden area.  From there we did a lot of boulder hopping back down to the parking area.
Jon following the second pitch of The Swift

The next day was the day before the exam. We had a meeting with the examiners/instructors at 4PM but wanted to do a bit of climbing and the rescue drill that day as well. Wes and I came across Tom Hargis one of the instructors in the camp ground and he told us of some possible routes that were going to be used for the movement test and where we would be doing the rescue drill.  With that beta in mind, Wes, Jon and I headed to the possible climbs which were on the Thin Wall.  There I led up No Calculators as did Wes and Jon.  We then top roped the 5.9 to the right.  Feeling good about our movement abilities, we headed over to the Peyote Cracks area to practice the drill. There we found Matt working on the rescue drill with Teresa. After figuring out the set up, we went to it.  Everyone did the drill at least once. I managed to have my best time on the drill ever with a time of 27 minutes. After this day, I was excited for the exam.  I finally felt ready.
Practicing the rescue drill.  Jon coming down to save me.

Later that afternoon, we met up with the instructors, Angela Hawse, Tom Hargis, and Silas Rossi.  We went over the schedule, expectations, and our route assignments for the first two days. From the start, the instructors set a great atmosphere for the exam. This had me psyched. I was ready to go out and crush this exam. That night, Wes and I moved into a hotel for the duration of the exam so that we could be well rested and clean for each day of the exam.

 Stay tuned for part 2 (The Exam)

Monday, October 1, 2012


This past week, I went to Utah to visit my girlfriend, Jill.  In August she moved out there to take a teaching position at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah.  It is a great little town.  Mount Pleasant is nestled in the Sanpete Valley between the San Pitch Mountain range and the Wasatch Plateau.  Though it is far from a bustling metropolis with its mere 3,600 people, it has plenty to off this guy who is also from a small town.

The main attraction for me was the outdoor recreational opportunities.  When staring up at the Wasatch Plateau with the aspens turning yellow and just below them the maples turning red, the beauty almost inspired me to go for a hike.  Then I snapped back to reality and realized I don't like hiking.

The maples in the Wasatch Range.

The second best thing about the trip was having the chance to climb in Maple Canyon.  Back in 2008 while traveling through Utah, I had the chance to climb there but had to decline so that I could get to my next destination in a reasonable amount of time.  Since then I have wanted to experience this unique type of rock.  I say it is unique in that it looks as if some kid walked through a river bed, gathered a bunch of pebbles and rocks from the bottom of the stream and then glued them to a wall of varying angles.  This conglomerate rock is very interesting to climb on.  The cobble stones create this interesting puzzle of route finding and figuring out how to use certain holds.  Also, you are always wondering if that cobble stone you are pulling on or standing on it going to come loose to send you and itself falling towards the ground.  

The first thing I noticed when I got to Maple were the maple trees.  Throughout the canyon and up on the surrounding mountains were all of these small maples trees displaying bright red fall colors.  I was lucky enough to visit when then were nearing what seemed to be the peak for the fall colors.  The next thing I noticed was the short approaches.  There were some climbs that you could potentially belay from your vehicle.  I would not recommend that due to the potential for cobble stones coming loose and breaking through your windshield.  The normal approach is 5-10 minutes on easy terrain.  This was quite different than what I had grown used to in North Carolina where you have to hike 15 minutes at the very least. 

Since I mostly climbed with Jill who is still kind of new to climbing, we did a fair amount of moderate climbs.  The first day we went to the Orangutan wall.  There we did a few 5.7's and a 5.8.  Jill cruised the 5.7's but struggled on the 5.8.  The one thing I noticed about the climbing was that these routes were hard to read.  When you have about ten options for every move but only one of them is a good option, it can take a while to find that one hold you are looking for.  Later we did a few climbs at Pipeline with some of Jill's coworkers.  There the climbs are harder and overhung.  These climbs were easier to read but were pumpy.  I ended up attempting to onsight a 5.11c only to mess up the crux move at the last bolt.  I ended up getting back on it a bit later to get it clean.

Britt toproping the 5.11 with Jill belaying

Later in the week we went back after Jill got off of work.  We did more moderates and once we were joined by Russ, we moved to some more difficult routes.  My two favorite routes were these two 5.10's at the bridge area.  They are long and slightly overhung allowing for a nice pump to develop in your forearms.  I onsighted both routes and wanted more but it was getting late.

The final day of climbing was just with Jill.  We ended up climbing at the Road Kill wall.  There we did some fun moderates and a 5.10.  The funnest route was this long 5.8.  It had a boulder problem start leading to fun moderate climbing on this exposed face.  Once above the trees you are rewarded with a great view of sections of the canyon across from you.  It was a great way to end the climbing portion of my trip.

For the rest of the time, I hung out with Jill.  On our final day, we headed up to Salt Lake to just hang out before I caught a midnight flight back to North Carolina.  Salt Lake is a nice town with plenty to offer.  The best part seems to be its quick access to the mountains.  Just to the east, you have these rugged looking mountains that offer climbing, hiking and amazing skiing.  Hopefully, one day I will be able to sample a bit of what it has to offer.

Brit and Russ's dog Eva spectating