Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Crazy Weekend

This weekend started out as most weekends do in central Oregon. I woke up, ate breakfast, then headed out to Smith Rock to get some climbing in. It was all fairly normal. We went to the backside of Smith to climb on the Mesa Verde wall. There, I got on a classic dihedral called Trezlar. The first pitch is kind of crummy so we did a 5.10a sport route called Cosmos to gain the second pitch's fantastic corner. My feet were so tired after this pitch. It is nothing but overhanging stemming with jams. If anyone ever goes to Smith Rock, I recommend this route.
Trezlar is the green line and Cosmos is the red.

After climbing that, we headed over to Monkey Face. Calvin has a project that he wanted to get on called The West Face Crack 5.12a. This has to be one of the finest finger cracks that I have ever had the pleasure to see in person. It goes up for close 30 meters then ends with a few face moves. To start the route you aid up a bolt ladder then gain the crack. It stays in your face for nearly the entire route. I had the chance to top rope this route and wish I had the skills to lead it. So beautiful.
The West Face Crack. It ends where the white rock starts.

While we were climbing on the Monkey we could hear a crowd on the other side of it. For those who don't know, the Monkey Face is a free standing pillar/spire/tower that is semi-detached from the bluff line. It is called monkey face because if viewed from the south it looks just like a monkey face.

As I was saying, there was a crowd gathered across from the "mouth cave" on what we called the diving board. They had set up a swing, with ropes, and were jumping off and flying through the air. It was quite the site. From the west side we were hear screams then see a person flying off to the north, only to stop and start flying back to the south. Because this may be hard to imagine, I drew a diagram.
The green line represents the two ropes in which you swing on. When you are tied in and waiting to swing, the ropes look a lot like the yellow line. Once you gather enough courage, you jump off the diving board. The red line then depicts the swing you will take. Once you settle the swinging, you transfer over to the blue line and rappel down to the ground where they pull up the two swing ropes and the process is repeated by the next person. At the lowest part of the swing, you are probably 130 feet off of the ground. At the fullest extension, you are possibly more than 200 feet up. I was too much of a coward to do this, but my friend Adam took the ride. I was able to get pictures from the diving board of him doing this.Adam is at the end of the swing in the center of the picture

After this, we went and got two more climbs in before we called it a day. Adam then invites me to spend the night at his house and hang out with him and his wife. After arriving at their house, we, Adam and I, were informed that there would be girls from the youth group coming over to play Settlers of Catan. Those of you have not played that game, go buy it and play. You won't regret doing so. I was sucked in to playing. Normally I love this game, but that night it was a little different. I found out that these girls, plus Diane, had no focus that night. It became normal to not know who's turn it was. Eventually, the game ended. It was a few hours later. At this point it was past my normal bed time (11). After the game the girls started talking in the living room. That wouldn't have been a problem, but the place I had planned on bivying that night was a couch in the living room. This posed some problems. First off, I have a very hard time sleeping while wearing much clothing. I don't sleep naked, but I get too hot wearing just shorts. Also, I only had pants with me, and I was not going to wear pants in a 20 degree sleeping bag inside a house. So I wasn't going to strip down to my underwear with a bunch of high school girls in the same room. Secondly, they were so loud. Finally, Adam asked if i wanted to use the bed room their boys normally sleep in. I took up that offer and headed to bed at 2A.M.

After a restless night sleeping, I woke up at 7. The one time I want to sleep in, I am unable to. Once Adam got up, he made breakfast. It was a great breakfast of potatoes, eggs, sausage, cheese, and then I started drinking mate. After chillin at his house for a while, we headed back out to Smith for another day on the rocks. We got some fun climbs in, then I headed back to Calvin's. I was so tired, that I had trouble staying up until 9.

Then today, after going to church, I headed out to Smith to meet up with Calvin. He climbed with the guy who owns the climbing gym in Bend, Larry. I went out, not really wanting to do much climbing, but decided to take pictures. The second route they got on was a project of Calvin's called Bolt from the Blue 5.12a. Larry took the first burn on it and did well. Then Calvin went for the redpoint. He got it! Not once did he look like he was going to fall. I took pictures of both of them climbing the route. I ended up taking 85 pictures in only a few hours of climbing. Never before have I taken so many.

I also took some close ups of the rock so that you could see it. As I said before it is welded tuff. Welded tuff is a volcanic rock that is basically only solidified volcanic ash. Because is it stuff that blew out of a volcano, there are many knobs. Some are small some are larger. These knobs, along with pockets and edges are what you use for holds. On the harder routes, the knobs become key footholds. This makes routes very technical. Here is a close up of the rock.
Notice the knobs and little bits of rock in the rock.

That has been my weekend. It was great. Now I have to go through pictures and edit them from today. Tomorrow I am supposed to go climbing with Adam again. Maybe I will send something hard and surprise myself. I'll be sure to post some pictures of Calvin's accent and if anything exciting happens tomorrow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Solid Rock Website

Today I wanted to post a bit about what I am actually doing in Oregon. I am currently working as a volunteer missionary for the Solid Rock Climbers for Christ ministry. As an organization, we try to "encourage, equip, and empower climbers through personal witness and outreach." I took that from the brochure. What that looks like is, we try to bring Christian climbers together so that they will in turn be motivated to minister to the climbing community.

My goal for my work here is to get the new Solid Rock website finished so that we can get it running. I have been here over a week and a half now and the site is getting very close to being done. With only a few more tweaks and some testing to do it will be finished. This is a big deal because the website is the main way climbers get information about our organization. We also do many outreaches on our website. The biggest being our gear give away. We are currently on our 16th gear give away and it ends in June. The gear give aways are a way in which we are able to get people to our site so that they may possibly hear (read) the gospel.

The National Office for Solid Rock Climbers for Christ. (Is that the new website on my computer screen?)

For those of you who haven't known me that long, I came out here two years ago to do an internship in this very office. That was an exciting two and a half months. During that time, I was able to see how the ministry was ran and what kind of things it did for the climbing community. I was lucky enough to be involved in some great outreach events. At one of the events, the Red Rock Rendezvous, a young lady accepted Christ.

With the new site, we are hoping to allow better communication to the members of Solid Rock with the hopes that they will be encouraged to do more in their climbing community. I cannot wait to see how this impacts the climbing community and builds the kingdom of God. I will leave you with a picture, a screenshot of the new site. I hope you all will visit it once it is up and running. If you want to see how much of an improvement this site is, visit You can also try and find more information about Solid Rock. I said try because it is not an easy thing to do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

First weekend climbing at Smith Rock

This past weekend, I was able to to return to Smith Rock State Park to climb. Two years ago, I would spend every weekend here climbing and meeting all kinds of new people. I loved it. Lets just say to start off, that after three days of doing what I would consider hard climbing, I am tired. Smith Rock is a beautiful place. It has tall walls of welded tuff (a type of rock which i will explain in a minute), the Crooked River running around it, and plenty of climbers. Here are some pictures of Smith Rock that I have taken in my visits.

The Morning Glory Wall, The gullies, and the Crooked River

A view of the "backside" of Smith. Monkey face is seen just left of center with the Smith Rock Group front and center.

A view of the Picnic Lunch wall, Red Wall, and Misery Ridge trail from Staender Ridge.

Brogan Spire and the Marsupials from the parking lot.

The Picnic Lunch wall and Red Wall from a state parks office.

Staender Ridge and the Marsupials viewed from the Red Wall. That is Adam and his dog on the right.

Friday was the first day we went out. Calvin, Ryan, and I headed up to Shipwreck Gullie. There we got on Fish and Chips (5.10a). I had forgotten how technical the welded tuff can be. I was soon to hate it even more. Next Ryan and I hopped on a 5.11b. I took the first lead on it.

Here is Adam clipping the fourth bolt. After this you traverse right. As I was beginning to move up after the traverse a foothold blew out, or came off the wall causing me to fall. Since I was traversing and to the right of the last piece of protection (the bolt) I swung back to the left out of control. On the swing back to the right, I stuck a sharp protrusion of the rock with my right forearm. It caused a small cut and my arm to be sore the rest of the day and parts of the next day.

After that I did a few more climbs, one of them being Da Kine Corner 5.12b/c. Its a very difficult route. Luckily I was able to grab a toprope from Ryan and Adam. I did most of the moves, but didn't have the endurance to connect them. From the day I had some great pictures. Here was my favorite of Calvin throwing for a jug at the top of the route I fell off of.

The next day, I went out to Smith with no partners. This can be difficult because not everyone is welcome to someone wanting to climb with them. Luckily, I ran across these three people climbing and I had climbed with one of them my last trip out here. They let me climb with them for the day. During the day, some conversations came up that caused me to realize why I was even out here at all. These climbers were not Christians, in fact, they were not open to standardized religion. That is why I am out here, to spread the gospel to climbers like them. I am working on the Solid Rock website, and climbing when able to, so that others may come to know the loving grace that God offers all people.

Then today, Sunday, I went to church with Calvin and his wife Jan. It was nice to be able to go and worship while I am out here. After church though, Calvin and I headed out to Smith to get a final round in for the weekend. While hiking in, we ran across Adam and his wife. They had just gotten there since they also had gone to church. We did some fun climbs up on the Red wall. I was able to lead a fun finger/thin-hands crack call Chouinard Crack 5.9. It was a beautiful splitter that unfortunately didn't go higher. After that, Calvin and I went back to Shipwreck Gullie to work a 5.12a called Bolted From Blue. It is a long, long climb with a high crux. This has been Calvin's project. He went up and ended up coming off right after the crux from one of his hands slipping. I then decided to give it a try. I was able to make it just below the crux before I fell. Then I worked the crux moves and was surprised that I was able to do. Looks like I may have found a project as well.

It was getting late by this time so we left the park. Hopefully, Calvin and I will be able to get back on the route next weekend. Calvin is so close to getting it clean. I really want to take pictures of him on the route. Next weekend, expect more pictures and stories from climbing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


For some time now, I have been wanting to post some of my favorite photos that I have taken over the past couple of years. It was hard choosing which ones to post just because of the sheer number of them. But here are a few that are my favorites. Let me know what you think of them.

A picture of a dog wood tree on the McKendree University Campus.

The fountain at McKendree University

A creek in Gatlinburg, TN

The Garden of the Gods; Colorado Springs, CO

The Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park, OR

Joshua Tree Blossom; Red Rock Canyon, NV. This is probably one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken.

Eric climbing a sport route at Red Rock, NV

Joe bouldering at Elephant Rocks State Park, MO

Jay bouldering nead Lake Placid, NY

Caleb bouldering at Poke-o-Moonshine, Adirondacks, NY

Nate climbing at Spider Webs Crag, Adirondacks, NY

Nate on Venus Butterfly, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, AR

Nate bouldering at Haw Creek, AR. My favorite climbing photo.

Carissa and Emily after a day climbing at Haw Creek

Sasha relaxing in the barn at New Hope Wilderness Camp.

Fireworks put on by the Lebanon, IL Fire Department, Summer 08

Leaves in the lake at Horner Park, Lebanon, IL

Calvin finishing the crux on Big Hand at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, AR

This was just a sampling of the places and people that have been a part of my life over the past few years. Hopefully soon, I will get some pictures of Bend, OR up on here and give an update on how things are going while I work for Solid Rock Climbers for Christ.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Red Rocks Trip

It had been two years since I had last been in the desert. Over this past winter I began to want to go back. Also, I wanted to go to Red Rocks, which is right outside of Las Vegas, after reading an article in Alpinist. For those who have not been there, Red Rocks is a conservation area. It is here, a few minutes outside of Las Vegas, that you can find sandstone walls towering to over 2000 feet with white, red, pink, and black colors adorning those walls.A view of Mt. Wilson (left) and Mt. Rainbow (right) from the Oak Creek Canyon Trailhead

The trip to Las Vegas started with a rainy drive from St. Louis to Springfield, MO which Joe and I got through without a hitch. It was there that we would hook up with Joe's friends from Arkansas, Mark and Eric. Monday afternoon we departed Springfield's airport for Las Vegas. After arriving there, we had to wait for Nick who was flying in from St. Louis. After waiting a few torturous hours in the baggage claim, made torturous by the looped track of "Poker Face" and "The Phantom of the Opera," Nick arrived and we set out to find ourselves some wheels to use for the week. After paying for the vehicle, we walk out thinking that with the upgrade to an SUV we would be getting something large enough for all our gear and all five of us to fit. They take us to a Jeep wrangler sport, one of the Jeeps with 4 doors. We sit there and wonder if all of our luggage will even fit in the back. We proceeded to throw, push, shove, and jam our bags into the back, probably much to the amusement of the girl who took us to the car.

After getting everything in the car we head to the campground to find a site and set up our tents before we head back into town to gather supplies. This turned out to be harder than it sounds. The previous few days had been the Red Rock Rendezvous, a very large climbing event. With that, many people were still around and staying at the only campground in the area. We were lucky to come across a walk-in site that a group had left just an hour or so before we arrived. After setting up, we went into town to get a guide book and to go to a little get together that my friend Michelle was hosting.
The Red Rocks BLM campground

The next day, I got the chance to climb with a good friend, Calvin the director of Solid Rock Climbers for Christ. The six of us headed to the first pullout on the loop road and hit up a sport climbing crag there. We had a great time getting used to the sandstone out there.
Eric climbing a 5.10b

The next day was gonna be the first day we did some mulitpitch climbing. We decided to head to the Solar Slab area in Oak Creek Canyon. There we would be able to get 1800 feet of climbing in if we so desired. Joe and I decided that we would climb Johnny Vegas, a beautiful 5.7 that in four pitches gains 480 feet. It then shares a ledge with other climbs. From that ledge you can access the upper solar slab which has 1500 feet of 5.5 climbing. Well, the other three guys ended up getting stuck behind a party of two guys on a 5.3 gully. It took them longer to get up that gully, so we decided that we would just call it a day and have a relaxed descent and hike back to the car.

The next day we decided to try another area with some slightly more challenging routes that were all four pitches in length. The area was called the Lotta' Balls wall. It is called that because there are all these little balls of iron deposits that stick out from the wall that you use as holds. I climbed a 5.9+ called Bruja's Brew which goes up 490 feet. I teamed up with a neighbor at the campground named Eddie. I led the first crux pitch. It was probably one of the scariest pitches I had climbed to date. It was very technical with small and slightly run out protection. Plus there was a nasty cold wind coming through the canyon. A few times it nearly blew me off. Eventually I reached the first belay with very tired feet. After that, it was two pitches of 5.6 and a 5.4 pitch to the top.Belaying Eddie up to the top of the first pitch of Bruja's Brew. I was freezing at this point.

Eric and Joe did a route to our left called Lotta' Balls (5.8). Then Nick and Mark went off to climb at a wall that was in the sun. This turned out to cause some problems later on. After Eddie and I got down off the climb, I walked over to the wall where Mark and Nick were climbing. They had decided to do a three pitch 5.6. When I walked over to the base of their route, they were nearing the top, so i figured they would be down in an hour or less. At that moment, it was around 2 in the afternoon. At 4 Joe, Eric, Eddie and I decide to head over to the wall where they were supposed to come down and see if we could find them. We had no signs that they were on their way down. I then look in Nick's pack at his guide book to see if it had a different decent and it did. It told them to scramble along the top to the west and take the same decent that we used. At this point, we decided to take their gear to the bottom of the valley were the trail leads out. From there we could see both decents and easily head back to the car. At 5 we started to get very worried. We haven't had any contact with them since I saw them near the top of their route. Joe decides he is going to walk up the canyon to see if they went to a different decent. Eddie and I then began to rack up gear, a rope, and a few other items. We were going to climb the decent route, being that it might be the fastest way to the top. We thought that Nick and Mark may have gotten their ropes stuck or something worse.

As Eddie and I are nearing the point in which we will have to start climbing we see Eric, who we left at the boulder with the pack to act as a communicator, starting to act like he see the other guys. In time he tells us that they are over at the decent they needed to be at. This was a huge relief. I had started to mentally prepare for a possible rescue of friends. When they got down it was a huge relief. Then we got to hear their story. They had started off scrambling to the west toward were their guide book told them to go. They then came across a rappel station which they rappelled from. The only problem was that this didn't lead to the ground. They had to climb back up to the top after rappelling down. They then turned around back to their route in hopes of rappelling it. It was then that they found the decent they needed to use. Luckily, nothing bad happened and we got back to the car before dark.

Then the next day, Friday, we decided to have a rest day. We still climbed. We got on a beautiful two pitch route called Physical Graffiti 5.6 in the Calico Basin. This area has some beautiful rock. It is soft red sandstone. Nick and Eric take off first to do the route. After they get up, Joe, Mark and I start up. Joe leads the first pitch, then I follow with Mark bringing up the rear. Mark following up the first pitch of Physical Graffiti.
Then I lead up the second pitch with both ropes tied to me. We did this to speed things up. I was going to belay Joe and Mark up the second pitch at the same time. The second pitch was a great jam crack for 180 feet. Near the top, the two ropes started to weight me down. They made the 5.6 moves feel like 5.9 with all the drag and weight. But I made it up and then brought up Joe and Mark.
Joe and Mark on top of Physical Graffiti.

That night, the other four guys went in to the strip. I stayed at camp in hopes of meeting up with my good friend Carissa who had come up from Phoenix. She showed up at the camp late afternoon and we hung out in town that night. Then the next day, I had the pleasure of climbing with her, her fiance Carl, and Sam (a young lad from springfield, mo). We did the Great Red Book at the second pullout. It is a great two pitch 5.8 that goes up a huge dihedral. I got the lead both pitches since Sam doesn't lead on natural gear...yet. When I had topped out and was preparing to belay Sam up, I found out that he has started climbing before I told him to. So I quickly threw him on a hip belay once I made sure I was secured. Other than that, the route went well. After that we went to the Sweet Pain wall which was just down the hill to do some sport climbing. I ended up being the first to lead a 5.10a. While climbing above the first bolt, I neglected to take the easy path that went right and came back left. Instead i was going to go straight up. After reaching for a hold that did not exist, I fell. After Sam had locked off the belay device I stopped just in time to keep from hitting the starting ledge hard. I do remember my feet touching it softly from rope stretch on the fall. I then proceeded to redpoint the route. Next Carissa went. I clipped the second bolt for her so that she would not risk hitting the deck like I had. I was able to get some good pictures of her on this route.
Carissa on the 5.10a Pain in the Neck

The last day of climbing, we broke camp in the morning so that we could go into town and chill before sleeping in the airport (we had a 6 am flight). We went to a place called the Black Corridor. It is lined with sport routes that are a lot of fun. One of the best, and the one that I took pictures of was Need to Rest 5.10b/c. It had some long powerful moves that make it so much fun.
Mark on Need to Rest

That night, we wasted time in town until about 10 o'clock when we decided to go and try to sleep at the airport. Surprisingly, I slept great on the floor there. Then at 4 A.M. we woke up to check in for our flight. Out trip was nearing its end. I couldn't wait to get back to Springfield, where I had close friends to tell my stories to. Then at 530 we boarded our flight and said goodbye to the desert, for now.