Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Fall

This fall I have not done much writing. I apologize to the five of you who might look forward to reading my random writings. Lately my life has involved work, climbing, and much down time which has not been used productively. Since you probably don’t want to hear about what I do at work (if you do, I can start putting up posts of the jobs we do) I will write about other happenings, mostly climbing.
Since the weather has started to finally cool down, I have spending my weekends climbing. Over the past month or so I have had the opportunity to meet many climbers. One of my first weekends down at Jackson Falls, I ran into a group of climbers from SIUE. They are a great group of people. I have enjoyed all the time I have spent with them. They seem to enjoy me as well since they have continued to let me climb with them. I have been setting up traditional climbs for them since no one in their group leads trad, yet. I have been trying to get a few of them hooked on it. This has allowed me to practice many of the techniques that I learned when I took the AMGA’s single pitch instructor course. Oh yeah, I took that course, so I am now a certified guide. Now I just have to find a guiding job somewhere. Sorry, I had to chase that rabbit. It has been good to climb with a group of people who are psyched to be outside and challenging themselves on the rock. Because of them, I have actually had some of my hardest redpoints ever.
First, I finally redpointed Hidden Treasure (5.12a). It is a classic at the falls. It starts with long moves between huecos (5.10). Then you get to a point where you traverse to the right on a small mono and a crimp. After the traverse, the crux hits you with a huck move off of small crimps to a decent edge. After that it is just good crimps to the top. I kept falling going for the edge, but finally stuck it. After the redpoint I went and got on The Bolted One (5.11d). The bolted one is a dihedral crack that is overhung. It has a single bolt on it protecting the crux do to the crack nearly disappearing during that section. It then turn a corner and you are on a wide slab crack that wants to spit you off the entire time. I ended up getting confused at the crux on this go so I was going to rest on a piece of gear that I blindly placed above the bolt. When I weighted it, it blew and scared the crap out of my belayer. Once that happened I realized I had to just make some moves above the bolt. I ended up working out the moves and let the other guys play on the route.
The next week, I went down and got the redpoint on The Bolted One, making it my hardest trad lead to date. Being psyched from that I went to try No Dogs Allowed (5.12b) on lead. I floated past the hard moves back left only to fall three times reaching through the roof. So the next weekend, I got on it and it felt super easy. It is only a short section of hard climbing. It is more like a bouldering problem with a juggy top section.
This has all been great, but I also messed up my left ring finger a bit with all this climbing. Only this past weekend did I take a break and let it heal up. I realized how bad it was when I was down at the Red River Gorge climbing for five straight days that I needed to rest it. Oh yeah, the red. I went down there for the Rocktoberfest. It was a great time. I manned the Solid Rock Climbers for Christ booth, climbed, fed hungry climbers pancakes, and talked to a ton of people. It was also great because I was able to climb with a long lost friend, Kristin. I met her a few years ago when I was interning with Solid Rock. She was serving as an On the Road Missionary with Solid Rock at the time and we ended up doing a lot of work together. It was great catching up with her over the few days down there. That was a very encouraging time to hear the things that God is doing through her. It was also at the Red that I started taking photos again. Since my trip in July, I hadn’t taken any pictures and it was fun to finally get the camera out while climbing/ goofing around and take a few. Here are some of the pics from the Red and my trip to Jackson Falls last weekend.
Climbers waiting for their breakfast.

Kristin doing her thing, whatever that thing may be.

Jed on Rock Wars (5.10a) One of my favorite trad routes I did at the Red

Leaves turning colors at the top of Roadside Attraction 5.7

Andromeda Strain (5.9) The best 5.9 I have done in a long time.

Megan on Lovely Arete (5.11a) and Kevin? on Hidden Treasure (5.12a)

Rebecca on Lovely Arete.

Travis topping out Juicy Fruit (V2)

Kyle on Juicy Fruit

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Some Thoughts

This past July, I took a trip up to Wyoming to do some climbing. It was great. I had a lot of time to reflect on life, God, and all kinds of other things. Our last stop was Devil’s Tower. After two days of climbing there I headed south to the Denver area. On the drive from Devil’s Tower to Denver, I came across a site that caused me to start thinking. I was driving south on I-25 on the north side of Cheyenne. For those who are not familiar with that area, there is an Air Force base there. It is Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. It is home to the 90th Missile Wing. As you pass it on the interstate, there are three ballistic missiles on display for all those who pass by.

Ballistic missiles were developed to deliver a warhead to a specific target. During the Cold War, ICBM’s or Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles were developed to carry a nuclear warhead to another country to cause total devastation. The 90th Missile Wing is in charge of launching the United States ICBM’s that we currently have. It is also home to a museum about these same missiles. That is why along the interstate there are three missiles on display.

To most Americans this site would not cause them to ponder things as I did that day. Most would probably be in awe of such powerful and cool looking weapons. Some might start feeling proud to be American or glad that this country has such weapons in case some tries to do something to us. My thoughts were quite different. I was saddened. For you to understand why I was saddened, we will have to look back at how things in my life became shaken up.

Some of you may have heard a bit about this story, but since I felt it is essential to explaining my thoughts that day I am going to tell it. My junior year of college, I had decided that I was going to go into the military as a chaplain. After researching it some, it would have been a great career choice for me. If I were accepted into the Chaplain Candidate Program Officers, I would be commissioned as a second lieutenant upon completing my under-grad studies. I would then go on to seminary. During breaks from seminary I would be required to attend Chaplain school. Once I completed my masters degree, I would be promoted to 1st Lieutenant and then enter into full time military service. Then I would begin to minister to the troops of this country. At the time, this seemed like it would be a great career move. Then I started to look at things in the Bible. I also took a class that messed me up beyond what I could comprehend at the time.

In college, I was blessed to have a great New Testament professor who was willing to teach us things about the Bible that were normally left out of the traditional Southern Baptist teachings. The summer between my junior and senior year in college I decided to take an upper level Bible class on the Revelation of John. Normally a class like that will mess with people’s minds anyway, but it really messed me up. First off, we looked at it from a more historical interpretation which didn’t fit at all with what I had ever been taught about the eschaton and how it will play out. One thing that stood out to me more than anything else was that throughout the book, there is a theme of pledging allegiance to God and Jesus Christ, not the Roman Caesars. This then got be thinking about how I can pledge allegiance to a country, the flag of that country, or the leader of that country and still call myself a follower of Jesus. One thing that became a problem is that as a member of the military, I would have to answer to the President of the United States. How can I serve two masters? Will I not love one and hate the other? All of these things began running through my head. By the end of the summer, I felt that I could no longer go into the military, even as a chaplain.

Because of this line of thought, my political views started to form. Previous to this I really didn’t have any. My political views didn’t seem to line up with normal American views. Even before I had any real political views, I didn’t align myself with Democrat or Republican. At one point in college, I claimed to be an anarchist. That was the same day as the 2004 Presidential election. Then in high school, I was once scolded in class for not picking a normal candidate in a mock election in class. I picked some guy who was standing in front of a corn field for the picture he used. So apparently, my vote didn’t count. Even back in high school, before I was allowed to vote, I realized that our system of a democratic republic doesn’t really work. This caused me to become apathetic towards anything dealing with politics, until I learned just how political the message of Jesus actually was.

One thing that was always either overlooked or spiritualized was any talk of the Kingdom of God. Jesus claimed to be bringing this Kingdom to earth. Why did I never hear any preacher, pastor, or Sunday school teacher speak about a literal kingdom on earth? According to most people that spoke behind a pulpit, America was the country that God has blessed and will continue to do so as long as we continue to be a Christian nation. There are many things in that statement which could probably be contested, but I will refrain from doing so out of fear of getting more off track than I might be already. I believe, that as Christians, who are born again, we are born again with new citizenship to this kingdom of God. This kingdom is a literal kingdom as well. It is not some metaphorical kingdom which is superseded on this earth by worldly powers and governments. It is a kingdom that knows no borders and is subverting the powers through such things as submission, peace, justice, grace, forgiveness, and most of all love. One day, this kingdom will come in its fullness and then at that point the world will see just how real it was, it is, and will be.

As you can see, my political views would possibly interfere with military service. One other thing that would get in the way would be the teachings of Jesus. I continually questioned how I could serve in the military, even as a chaplain, without getting in trouble for teaching the things that Jesus taught. Did he not say that we should love our enemies, forgive those that do wrong to us, and to turn the other cheek? The ways of the world, which would include the United States military would say that these things would never work. It actually would go against what the military trains its people to do.

As Christians, I say that instead of doing warfare like the rest of the world; with guns, missiles, bombs, or anything that is designed to kill people more efficiently, we should do warfare with love, forgiveness, and worship. This then brings me back to where we started, with why the ballistic missiles saddened me. For many Christians, it would seem that they are very supportive of the military and what it does. Now, don’t get me wrong, the military does some amazing things, at times. They do help out with humanitarian efforts which I see as a great thing. But the main purpose of the military is not to help out with things like that, unfortunately. That is part of what makes me so sad. The Church would at times, rather retaliate against any form of attack than forgive and act out in love. Also, not many Christians would stand up against the choice of the government to use its powers to take the lives of other humans. Before I begin to get preachy, I would like to bring this post to an end. I am not sure if I had a clear purpose when I began writing, and if I did it has faded as more words were written. Maybe this was written just for me, to put my thoughts out there. Or it may have been done to get you, the reader, to make changes in your way of thinking and in your lives. I don’t know. All I know is that I desire to make a difference in this world and do it through love and forgiveness rather than force and maliciousness.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ten Sleep and Devil's Tower

In my last post, I shared what happened in Lander. That was only a part of what happened in Wyoming. After we left Lander on Monday, July 12th, we headed northeast to an area called Ten Sleep. Before this trip, I had never heard of this place. So when Calvin suggested that we go there I had to look in to it more. I read that it had 200 foot Dolomite walls lining this canyon and filled with sport climbs. My first thought was, "great, more sport climbing." Its not that I don't like sport climbing, but would prefer to sink my hands and fingers into cracks and place gear on lead. All of the climbing that we did in Lander was sport climbing on similar rock. I was kind of in need of something different. But I decided to endure this hardship and go there and try to enjoy myself.
Ten Sleep

The drive to Ten Sleep was filled with boredom, laughter, and a lot of sweating. You see, my A/C decided it didn't want to work as well as it should. Therefore, we had to drive there with the windows down. That was a bit unpleasant, but we made it to Ten Sleep without too much trouble. As we began to drive into the canyon, Calvin, who was driving ahead of me, pulls over. I pull besides him and find out whats up. Him and Brad can't decide where to climb. We then keep going down the road. This happens at least five more times before we decide to go get a campsite before climbing. We set up close to some friends we had met in Lander, Jaques (aka Jack) and Kuva. (I think that is how their names are spelled.) Jaques is from Quebec and Kuva is from Australia. After securing a spot we headed out to the Mondo area. There we hiked up the the Valhalla wall and looked around. The first route we did was a 10c with an 11c extension. I was the first to go. I didn't know if i would do the 11c part when i left the ground, but when i got to the first set of chains I decided to continue up. It got hard very fast. I had to sit and look and the holds while resting on the rope. After a few tries, I made it to the chains. After Calvin and Brad went up I decided to give it another go. I managed to redpoint it.

After that, Calvin wanted to do a route called Cocaine Rodeo just down the bluff line a little ways. So we headed over to is. It is a 12a, 100 foot route. Calvin went first. He worked out some of the moves and made it to the top. Then it was my turn. The route didn't look too hard, but I knew I would have to give it my all and climb well to get the onsight. I started climbing. I easily made it through to the first rest. Then I climbed a crux section to another rest. I began thinking that I might be able to onsight this thing. I pull through a small roof section and on to the thin vertical section. I make it to the last bolt and I am starting to get pumped. I pull up rope to clip and I feel like I am about to fall so I drop the rope and regain my composure. This is gonna be a hard clip. I once again pull rope up to clip and as the rope nears the carabiner's gate, I fall. I felt like I was never going to stop. When I finally stopped, I had managed to take about a 30 foot fall. It was totally clean, but was probably the longest fall I have taken to date. Once I realized I was alright, I began yelling with excitement. That was the best I have ever climbed. Even with the fall, I was super stoked at my efforts. If I wasn't so tired, I would have tried the route a second time to try for the redpoint, but I was finished for the day. Or so I had thought. Torrie managed to get me to try the 11c to the left. I was worn out enough that I didn't get that route clean.

That night, we hung out at camp. Kuva came over and began talking with us. Her and Calvin then began discussing religion. It was a good talk, but not much really came of it, or at least not that we know of. The next morning, Brad and I headed into town to grab some breakfast. We ate at the Crazy Woman Cafe. The breakfast was great, but a little on the heavy side. Now I was lacking motivation to climb. Still, Brad, Torrie and I went to the Circus Wall and met up with Kuva and Jaques. We sat around looking at a 5.9 that they had put draws on. Finally I decide to climb it. It was a stellar route, but I was tired. After that we sat around some more. After about an hour or so, I gave a 10b to the right a try. It was really good. We lacked motivation that day. After those two pitches we decided to head to the car and get ready to leave for Devil's Tower. Finally, I will be able to place some trad gear. After packing everything up, we headed off to the tower.
Johnny waiting to leave Ten Sleep
Johnny happy to see Devil's Tower

We arrived at the tower in the evening. It was too late to climb anything so we walked around the tower and then went to camp. We met up with a former on the road missionary named will who works as a climbing ranger there. That night, we got to hang out with him, another climbing ranger, a guide there, and a young lady that works at the Devil's Tower Lodge. We were camping at the Lodge. The next day, Calvin, Will, and Torrie were going to climb El Matador and another route. This left Brad and I to find something to climb. We settled on climbing New Wave 5.10a into Assembly Line 5.9. New Wave goes up two pitches then Assembly Line starts just to the left of where New Wave finishes. This is a popular way to summit the Tower. The first pitch of New wave is at its hardest 5.7. Its a rather simple pitch. The second pitch, is where the business is. It continues up the same dihedral using hand jams, finger locks, and some face moves. Then you come to an area where the crack disappears. Here you have a very balancy move protected by a bolt. This is the crux. My first try at it wound up with me climbing back to a stance before fully committing to the move. I did it without any problems, but it is a bit unnerving. After that move, it stays a bit harder in some thin hand jams and finger locks. Then you come to the last 20 feet which is just a beautiful and simple hand crack leading to the Teacher's Lounge ledge. As I was bringing Brad up on this pitch, I hear something fall off of my harness and begin to fall down the wall. At first I didn't know what it was, but when I saw the green cord trailing the object I knew what it was; it was Johnny Bravo.
Brad nearing the top of New Wave. Johnny fell to a ledge to the left of Brad in this picture.

If you remember from a few posts back, Johnny accompanied me on this trip. He has proven to be good entertainment while driving. Because of his loyalty, I decided to take him up Devil's Tower. At the base I had tied him to my harness with the cord. While belaying Brad, I guess Johnny thought he had had enough climbing for the day and wanted to try base jumping. He only forgot to pack a chute. He ended up taking a 200 foot fall before stopping on a ledge 25 feet from the ground. This made me sad. I was all psyched on getting a summit picture with him. A party below us ended up rescuing him from the ledge and taking him to the Kiosk in the parking lot.

After sitting on the ledge for at least 30 minutes chillin out in the sun, we decided to continue up the route. Now we were about to start the first pitch of Assembly Line. It is a 130-150 foot pitch. It starts off with a technical finger crack then turning into a thin hands/ hand crack. Normally 5.9 crack isn't much of a problem for me, but when it is 110 feet of the same thing, my feet and legs get very tired. I had never had to jam my feet this much on a climb. I ended having to rest on a few pieces of gear before getting into the offwidth section near the top, which had many rests and was much easier. After what felt like a long time, I made it to the anchors. Then I started to bring Brad up. He ended up getting pumped and tired quickly so he started French Freeing most of the route. To those who don't know what French Freeing is, it is when you just pull on the gear to ascent, much like aid climbing, but without the aiders. After a long time he made it to the anchors. We now only had one more pitch until the top. I took off up the pitch. I ended up running a lot of it out since it was easier and I would be making this a very long pitch. I get near the top and set and anchor. I then yell down to Brad that I am off belay. After telling him that he is on belay and that he can climb, I never hear a response. After about 1o minutes I finally feel him starting to climb. It turns out that he couldn't hear me. Finally, we made it to the top. I ended up calling my mom from the top. It was fun. We managed to find our way back to the ground safely. Then we met back up with Calvin and Torrie so that we could go get some burgers. They were just what we needed.
On the top of Devil's Tower.

The next day, Torrie and Brad opted out of climbing due to being worn out. So Calvin and I played on a route called Mr. Clean. This was an even better line than what we had done the day before. We only did the first pitch which goes at 11a. For a full 200 feet you go up a finger/ thin hand crack. Calvin was going to try it on lead, but after taking a few falls at the crux, he went piece by piece up the route so we could set up a top rope on it. I almost got the route clean on TR, but near the top, my calves started to give out and I had to have Calvin take on me. Once I had done it, he went up in on TR. That was all the climbing we did that day, at least on the tower. We went back to camp, cleaned up, and got ready to give a talk to a group of boys that Calvin was asked to speak to. We gave a demonstration on climbing and Calvin talked about serving God.

Johnny Bravo trying fire spinning after his failed attempt at BASE jumping.

Right after that, we hiked up the hill to make a spoof bouldering video. Torrie and Brad had found some crappy rock earlier in the day and wanted to make a video where holds were exploding left and right. Well they got their wish. We probably broke about 50 or more holds in a matter of two hours. It was quite a bit of fun. That night, we ended up slightly going crazy at the camp ground. We also managed to come back to find a bull was roaming though the yard. At one point when I was walking out of the bathroom, the bull got to within a few feet of me. I must admit that he scared me, a lot.
The Lodge's camping area complete with a great view and a bull?

That was our last night together. In the morning I headed back to the Denver area and they made their way back to Oregon. It was quite the trip. I enjoyed all of it. I can't wait to go back to Wyoming and sample some more of its climbing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The International Climber's Festival

The second leg of my trip involved going to the International Climber's Festival in Lander, WY. The main reason for me going there was that the Solid Rock Climbers for Christ National Conference was being held at the same time and place. We did this on purpose so that we could have a presence there and do an outreach for the event. We were going to do this by feeding the climbers burritos.

I arrived in Lander on Wednesday afternoon. After registering for the festival, I made my way to the park to hopefully meet up with Calvin and his crew. They were no where to be found. So I set up my tent next to what I hoped was theirs and proceeded to be bored for a few hours. The coolest part about Lander was that you can camp in the city park for free for up to three days. Where else in the US can you do that? After a while, it was time to go to the first event of the festival, a talk by Arno Ilgner. Those who have never heard of him, he wrote a book called the "Rock Warrior's Way." It deals with the mental aspect of climbing. He then gave a presentation on applying those principles to climbing. After an hour, the presentation ended and I found Calvin at the presentation. We then went to grab some food and begin preparing for the week.
Lander City Park

The first day, our crew went to Wild Iris to climb. It is at a higher elevation than Lander so it was cooler up there. After climbing a few warm ups, Calvin and I met up with Paige and Jonathan who were climbing a route named, Hot Tamale Baby 11d. I took a go at it, but was stumped by the reachy crux on pockets. Calvin then gave it a go. After a few falls, he made it up to the top. I then got on to figure out the moves. It was hard. After that, I went over to a 10a sport route that Brad and Torrie had left draws on. I was planning on getting them back. I start climbing. The beginning is a bolted crack. I get about 10 feet up, and while trying to get in position to clip the bolt, I slip out of the crack and hit the ground. Luckily I felt my hand slipping so I was prepared to hit the ground. After the fall, the people next to us though I had taken a harder fall than I had taken and expected me to be hurt. I was not hurt at all. My ankle felt a little tender, but was fine. I then got back on the climb and managed to make it to the crux. There I had trouble reading the route and had to rest on the rope. I managed to get through the crux and make it to the top. After that, I figured I was done for the day. But Chris, Torrie, and Brad managed to get me to climb another 5.9. Then the other Brad came with Heather and they were planning on getting on a 12b called Rising From the Plains. I then gave that route a go on top rope. It starts off with a very thin and technical slab. It then goes into a roof with larger holds. I made it all the way through the slab before coming off. Then when I got to the roof I had some troubles with the reaches. As I neared the top, my finger, which I had injured this past spring at Smith Rock, started to bother me. Therefore, I decided to stop climbing and end the day.
Heather on Rising from the Plains

The next day, Torrie and I went back to Wild Iris to film and photograph Paige and Jonathan. I was basically sent along to help set up the fixed line for Torrie to hang on. After meeting up with them, Torrie and I headed to the top of the bluff and began to set up our line. It was quite a challenged getting up there. We had to do some easy 5th class climbing and finding cracks to build and anchor proved difficult. After finally building the anchor we rapped down and Torrie began to get his camera gear ready to shoot. He ended up hanging on that rope for a few hours while Paige and Jonathan climbed multiple routes in the area. After he was done shooting, I jugged up the rope and took down the anchor. Then I had to climb back down the way we went up. It was much scarier going down. I was waiting for a hold to break. If that would have happened, I would have had a nasty fall. Luckily, that didn't happen. After that, we got one more climb in and then headed back to town for the evening.

On Saturday, we showered then got to hear from Steve Hughes (one of the board members and an expert on evangelism in today's society). After that, we began to prepare for the burrito feed. We had to chop veggies and get the beans ready. After one cut finger and a massive blister, the preparation was done. We then headed to the park to get ready to serve the people. The feed went well. Many hungry climbers showed up and enjoyed the massive burritos. After the burrito feed, Torrie and I headed to the showing of films from the Telluride film festival. The films were very good. Even the one on trout fishing in Kamchaka. My favorite was on Alex Honnold free-soloing Moonlight Buttress and The Regular Northwest Face on Half Dome.

Sunday we were blessed to hear from Paige Claassen speak about her life as a climber and Christian. After that we headed up to Sinks Canyon for one more day of climbing in the Lander area. I was not very motivated to climb, so only got in a few pitches. Then we went to a former climber and member of Solid Rock's house to shower. It was nice getting to get cleaned up and to get to know someone. That was our last day in Lander. The next morning we would get some work done on the internet and then head to Ten Sleep.

I will soon have a post up about Ten Sleep and Devil's Tower. In that post you will hear about whippers, Australians, Johnny Bravo, and a bull.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beginning of the Road Trip

This past weekend, I began my month long road trip. My first destination was Springfield, MO. I can never get enough of that place. After a quick three and a half hours, I arrived. I met up with my friend Dave and we headed to Chick-Fil-A for supper. After that, Dave and I stopped by Nate's to see what he was up to. When we arrived, Nate and his wife Sarah were preparing to go to a party with some other climbers. We were invited. At this party, Dave and I had our second supper, California Rolls. After eating too much and laughing just the right amount, we headed back to Dave's to sleep off all the food we had just eaten.

The next morning, Nate and I got up early to head to Arkansas to climb. We decided to do a route called Darkness at Noon (10b). It is a super fun route that starts in the back of a cave. Neither of us had done it before and we figured it would be dry. I got to lead the first pitch. Yes, this is a multi-pitch route. Unfortunately, it is only a multi-pitch out of a need to reduce rope drag. The first pitch is 35 feet of over hanging hand crack in a dihedral. It is pretty stout. It took me 5 minutes just to figure out how to get on the stinking thing. But once I figured out how to start the route, the rest came fairly easily. I then reached the anchors and brought Nate up. Nate then led the second pitch. It traverses along the roof of the cave. Luckily there is a small foot rail to use the entire length of the pitch. The crux of this pitch is squeezing down and through a narrow opening. It isn't that hard, but is just very awkward. The third pitch is a typical Arkansas roof route. Easy jug climbing to a roof, awkward move pulling the roof, then jugs to the top. I wish I would have remembered my camera. This climb would have made for some fun pictures. After that we did a few more climbs then headed back to Springfield. The rest of the weekend wasn't as exciting. I got to hang out with Dave and Kayla. I also was able to go to Center City Church (formerly Nu Brew). Overall, a great weekend.
Johnny Bravo showing me which way to go

Then Monday came. This was the day that I was not looking forward to. I had a 770 mile trek across the plains to make. If you have never driven across Kansas or any other plains state, do it. Then never do it again. I managed to stay awake and busy by singing for most of the drive. I think thats why my throat is a little sore today.
Johnny excited to be entering Colorado. He doesn't know that the mountains are still a few hours away.

After 11-12 hours of drive time, I arrived in Lakewood and hung out with my friends Jarrod and Renee. When I arrived, they said that we were going to go to a free concert at Red Rocks amphitheater. But, we would have to walk so we could avoid paying for parking. After a nice hike, we arrived. The place was packed and the Denver Symphony was finishing up the first half of the concert. We marched our way to the top of the place to watch the second half. It was a great show. I tried to get some good pictures, but the light was fading too quickly and I couldn't hold the camera still enough to get any good pics, but here are a few that turned out.

Red Rocks Amphitheater with the Denver Symphony playing.

Today, I am relaxing, planning, and getting ready for the craziness to begin tomorrow. For tomorrow, I drive to Lander to attend the SRCFC National Conference and the International Climbers Festival simultaneously. After that, a short trip up to Devil's Tower. There is a lot of climbing planned over the next two weeks. I cannot wait. After that, I am coming back to the Front Range to hook up with friends, climb, and just have fun.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trip to Estes Park

Last week, I took a trip to Estes Park, Colorado with my friend Mandy and her family. This whole adventure started a few months ago when Mandy found out about going out there for a vacation. She had been wanting to go climbing and figured it would be a good place to climb so she invited me. When she asked me I was very quick to say yes. With a large amount of great climbing in the Estes area, how could I resist? The planning then began.

Finally the day arrived to leave.
We left her parents house then headed west on I-70. Then we headed north to Nebraska? What? There isn’t any climbing in Nebraska. It turns out that her parents are from there, so we went and visited some of her family and stayed the night. I had the chance to stay at her Uncle Greg’s house. I was privileged to stay in the same room as the stuffed bear, mountain lion, and numerous other wild animals. The next morning we set off for the mountains.

The drive went fairly well. The only annoying thing about the drive was the four year old boy sitting in the back seat with me. Mandy’s nephew, Sam, came along on the trip. He was actually pretty good, unless he was tired. Sometimes it seemed like he was always tired though. After about an 8 hour drive we arrived in Estes. Since my last visit there two years ago, I have wanted to get back. I missed the clean crisp air, the beautiful mountains, and the amazing climbing. Finally, I was back and ready to conquer the mountains, but only after some stretching.

The first night was very chill. We stopped in town to get groceries. We then headed to the cabin which was a ¼ mile down the road from the road leading to the Long’s Peak trailhead. After unpacking, we headed in to town to eat supper at Ed’s Cantina to eat some amazing food. We ate with Mandy’s Aunt Joy and Uncle Jeff and their family. It was a blast. Right after eating, Sam and I went outside to spend some energy and there we found the longest night crawler I have ever seen. Later in the evening, Mandy and I started prepping for the next day. We were going climbing. It was going to be Mandy’s first time on real rock, so we were excited.

On Monday morning we ate an amazing breakfast then headed towards Estes to do some climbing. We decided to climb a formation called the Thumb, which sits on Prospect Mountain near Mary’s Lake. It was the perfect place. It had a short hike and easier climbs that summitted the formation. We first climbed a route called Uphill Cracks (5.7) on the west side of the Thumb. It was a great climb with a short crux section near the top. I lead it, and then Mandy followed. She made it up her first climb with no problems. She was ready for the next route. After rappelling back to the ground, we hiked around to the east side and decided on a route called Center Slot (5.8). It was a crack that curves to the left then hits another crack that goes to the top. The beginning was a little over hung, but with good jams and hand holds. After going through the first two cruxes, I began to think that Mandy might have to work for this one. I then hit a ledge, clipped a fixed pin and headed up the final crack. After placing a cam so that I don’t hit the ledge if I fall, I gunned for the top. It was then that I started feeling the rope drag. Also at this point I was about 30 feet or more above my last piece. I just kept climbing. Finally I made it to the belay. Then it was Mandy’s turn to go. Once she started climbing, I realized that I should have broken the climb up into two pitches so that I would be able to watch and guide her through the difficult sections. Every time the rope stopped moving up I began to worry, then I would feel the slack from her climbing up further. She easily made it through all the crux sections then appeared on the finishing slab. She had made it up her second climb. After this, we climbed a short 5.8 on Top Rope then headed down the trail to catch our ride. Our first day was a fun and successful day.

Uphill Cracks

On Top

The top slab on Center Slot

The next day, we went on a hike with her family. We drove into the park and hiked up to Chasm Falls. We hiked up a closed road and then enjoyed the falls, which were roaring. After the hike down, we ate lunch then headed into town to get some things for dinner that night. While sitting in the car, I let Sam play with my camera. Some very funny pictures came out of it. Enjoy the silliness.

The view on the hike




Mandy and Sam

On Wednesday, Mandy and I headed to Lumpy ridge.
When we got to the trailhead, we saw the raptor closings. I became bummed because the climbs I had hoped to do were on formations that were closed because of raptor nesting. I then started looking for a good climb to do. Osiris (5.7) was the first one that seemed doable. Two years ago, I had climbed the first pitch to the right of Osiris (Georges Tree 5.9). The two other guys that were with Nate and me that day climbed Osiris. We all bailed off of our routes that day because of looming storm clouds. So I knew were Osiris was and what it looked like. The first pitch is supposed to be 5.5. That seemed easy enough. We did a 5.8 the other day. A 5.5 should be easy. Boy was I wrong. I started up this crack. It was wide, awkward, and nasty. After 130 feet of groveling, I made it to the belay. Mandy then starts up. She does well until she comes to the first crux of the route. After a few minutes she makes it through that crux. Finally, she gets 35-40 feet from the belay. She is exhausted and has some tough climbing still above her. She had not done very many cracks before and this pitch is nothing but nasty crack climbing. The last bit was very hard for her. She was already wiped out as I mentioned, plus required some technical skills that she hadn’t developed in her one day of climbing. Finally, after some resting, she made it to the belay ledge. When she got there, she had enough energy left to take a few steps and sit down.

Mandy near the top of Osiris

Mandy (exhausted) and Me (ready for more)

Rappelling Down

"The Book"where Osiris is located

When she got there, I then set up a redirected belay so that she could lower me part way down the climb and belay me back up. You see, there were two pieces that had walked or moved while she was climbing and they had become difficult to remove from the crack. I told her to not worry about them and that I would go get them. After a little bit of wiggling and tugging, they came out and I got to climb the last 30 feet of the pitch again. We then prepped to rappel down. After two short rappels, we were back on the ground only to find that chipmunks had gotten into Mandy’s lunch and that I had left mine in the cabin. Needless to say, we were both very hungry. We then headed back down the hill to the parking lot. There, we checked out our battle wounds from the day. Mandy got some pretty nice ones.

Mandy and her wounds

On Thursday, we decided to climb again because the forecast for Friday and Saturday was not looking good. We then headed to Combat Rock. There we did a route called Rambo Santa (5.7). After the first pitch, we continued up a crack system to the top then walked off. It was Mandy’s first multipitch and she loved it. Then we did a short route called Tree Roof (5.8). This route is not worth doing. It has one fun move on it (pulling the roof). The rest of it is slab climbing with crappy gear. Mandy made it all the way to the roof, but was so tired, that she was unable to pull the roof. After that climb, we headed down the hill to climb on a piece of rock closer to the road that had some top rope anchors. After running a lap on that route, Mandy’s parents showed up and we headed back to town. That would be our last day of climbing due to crappy weather on Friday and Saturday. We had a good time on those days as well. We hung out with the family, did some reading, napped and just relaxed.

Rambo Santa is on the left and goes towards the small roof up higher. Tree Roof is lower behind a tree.

There were a few events on the trip that caused me to pause and think some. The first was while driving to Nebraska. It was Saturday evening and we stopped in Blue Springs, MO to go to Mass. Now I used to be Catholic. I grew up Catholic, but after coming into a true relationship with Christ, I began going to a protestant church. Since then, I had not stepped foot in a catholic church or had gone to mass. After almost ten years, it was a very weird experience to attend Mass. This time though, I was seeing it through different eyes. This time, I was able to appreciate much more of the things done as a part of mass. Now, I don’t fully agree with some parts of the Catholic doctrine, but over the past 7 years, have been able to accept more of the things the Catholic Church does. Then again, on the next Saturday, we went to mass in Estes Park. It was a similar experience. Whether or not this crazy protestant will ever go back to being Catholic, I don’t know, but I do know that I was glad to have gone and experienced it again.

The view of the east face of Long's Peak (The Diamond)

A storm we watched in Kansas

Over all, the trip was great. I had the chance to get to know some fun people and also relax in the mountains. Now I just have to suffer through the heat and humidity for a few more weeks, then the road will be beckoning me once again. This time I will be heading to Wyoming and Colorado. I cannot wait.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back story to the Picture

On a beautiful spring day in 2009, I along with three other friends; Nate, Sarah, and Carissa, went climbing in Arkansas. We had decided to head to a place called Haw Creek. Haw Creek is this amazing little crag. It features two different climbing areas there. In between the two areas, there is a waterfall just to the west of one of them, La Playa. At Haw Creek, there is a great mix of sport, trad, and mixed climbing.

I first experienced Haw Creek with my friends Carissa and Emily on President’s day. We did mostly moderate climbs since Emily was new to climbing and I had just injured my finger a few weeks back. It was a great sunny day. Then we checked out Haw Creek, the actual creek, before we left. It is a beautiful little brook in which you can camp right next to. I ended up getting a great picture of the two ladies before we left.

A month or so later, I went back with Nate, Sarah, and Carissa. We started climbing at the Valinor area. After doing a few climbs, we decided to bushwhack along the bluff line to the other area instead of walking back to the road then up to the other wall. This took longer than expected since there was no trail and I kept slipping on leaves. Finally, we saw a glimpse of hope; taller walls, and a waterfall.

When we were approaching the waterfall area, you could see some of the climbs nearby in a cave. This cave formation was very tall. It had been formed from a block dislodging from the bluff line. This block was the size of a two story house. To the left of the massive cave was a boulder near the edge of the pool formed by the waterfall. After sitting there enjoying the surroundings, Nate and I approached the boulder. I told Nate that he should climb the arĂȘte while I shoot pictures. He agreed.

The boulder had a lot of moss growing on it. For all we knew, no one else had ever tried to climb it. I found a way to get on top of the boulder while Nate started to clean holds and find a way to get up it. At first, I started shooting down the arĂȘte. Doing this, I was not able to get the waterfall in the picture and there was too much direct light. I then moved to the side of the boulder. It was here that I managed to take some sweet shots. I could get Nate’s face, arms and sometimes legs in the shot along with the waterfall and pool. To top it off, the lighting with this angle was amazing. As Nate started climbing, I started shooting away. As soon as I took a few of the pictures I knew they had turned out great. Never before had I been so excited to see what they looked like.

After I knew I had gotten some good shots, we headed off to get some more climbing in. The day was pretty much amazing other than the fact that I injured myself twice after we left the waterfall. The first one was just pure stupidity. I was about to belay Carissa on top-rope. I decided that I would get the rope really tight before she started climbing. I then pull in slack, then hop up while pulling in more slack then fall back. But I had forgotten one thing, we are using dynamic ropes and they stretch. With the rope stretch, I landed on a sharp rock that hit my right butt bone. And yes, butt bone is the technical term. The second injury happened while I was climbing. I was top-roping a 5.10 route that had some technical, balance moves in it. On one of the moves, I was starting to do a hand foot match when I slipped. My thumbnail caught the hold my right hand was on and it split. It wasn’t anything major, but pulling part of your fingernail back hurts and it never stops bleeding. Over all the day was great.

When we got back to the apartment that night, I uploaded the pictures and was amazed at what I saw. After doing a little bit of editing, I was happy with what I had. Naturally, I uploaded some of the photos up on Facebook and did nothing more with them.

Fast forward to the beginning of this past April, I am sitting in the Solid Rock Climbers for Christ office after finishing my work for the day and I get this crazy idea to upload one of the photos to Climbing magazines photo gallery on their website. By doing this, I enter a photo of the month contest. I had thought about doing this on multiple occasions since I first loaded the picture to my computer, but never did anything. A week later, I got an email stating that I had won. And that’s where the previous post enters in. Here are some other pictures from that day.