Friday, April 29, 2011


As some of you may already know, I have moved to North Carolina.  It has been a long couple of weeks for me.  They have been great.  As you read about in my last post, I had a chance to climbing at a great destination (The Red) and with great people (Nate, Sarah, Calvin, and others.)  Once I got back from the red I was at home for less than 24 hours before moving out.  I then headed to Springfield, MO to relax, catch up on some writing, and hang out with some great friends.  Speaking of friends, I have to give a shout out to one of my best friends, David Olson.  This guy has been super generous to me over the years.  He even let me live with him before he got married.  It has seemed like his house in Springfield has been my second home over the past year.  Thanks for all you have done for me Dave.  Then last Friday I left Springfield, after some car problems, to go down to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas.  It is an amazing climbing destination.  I went down there to teach a trad climbing course with Jon Richards of Vertical Voyages.

Once I arrived at the Ranch I searched for Jon.  After a little while I was able to locate  him and we proceeded to do some scouting for our course.  I got the chance to climb a route I have never done before and to lead an existing sport route on gear.  That later route was Green Goblin (5.8).  I have led that route many times using the bolts as protection but leading it on gear adds another element to make it an even better climb.  That night it started to rain.  We knew that the forecast was bleak for the weekend but we remained hopeful.  That next morning we awoke to cloudy skies.  We went down to meet the participants in the course.  They all had rented a cabin.  This proved very beneficial because after about 30 minutes of sitting on the front porch getting to know each other and figure out what everyone wanted to get out of the course it started to rain.  We then moved the course inside the cabin.  Some how we were able to cover quite a bit in the cabin.  Then a little while after lunch the rain stopped just long enough for us to move outside and teach the placement of gear on real rock.  They got to practice placing gear and building anchors.  That night we all hung out in the cabin.

That night it stormed.  I also tried to start my Yukon.  It wouldn't start.  It was doing the same thing it did back in Springfield.  The next morning I woke up got ready then tried to start my car again.  No luck.  After going to the cabin to discuss what was going to happen with the participants, I went back up to the campground to work on my car.  I needed it to work so I would be able to get to North Carolina by Monday evening for a meeting.  I took some parts off and checked them out and everything seemed alright.  Then by some miracle, it started.  Now, I did send out some texts to a few friends to pray for me and my car.  Now if it was their prayers that helped my car start; I'm not sure.  But I do know that I have no clue as to how anything I did got it running again.  Once it was running, I met back up with the group in the barn.  We had decided that we would do some very basic self-rescue stuff so that they could learn something with the crappy weather.  I surprised myself and Jon as to how well I was able to teach some of this stuff.

The course was a great time.  Once the course had ended Jon, Gina, and I went to the Ozark Cafe to grab some dinner before I left.  If you ever go to HCR hit up the Ozark Cafe.  It has great food for a reasonable price and the people there are great.  After that I left and headed south to I-40.  Along the way I was able to get a few great pictures of a valley with some rain clouds in them.  Eventually I made it to I-40 and then turned left (east).  I managed to make it past Memphis before pulling off into a truck stop to sleep. Then the next day I drove across Tennessee and managed to make it to The Fox Mountain Guides office early.  Finally I was able to sit, relax, and kind of get my head around what all was about to happen in my life.  Then we had a meeting for all of the guides.  It was great to get to meet them all and figure out some of the different roles that everyone plays in the company.  After the meeting Adam showed me where I would be living.  Soon after moving a few things in I crashed.  I knew I would have a busy day the next day.

On Tuesday I woke up early and got ready to do the second day of The Rock Warrior's Way Clinic with Arno Ilgner that all of the other guides were taking.  One of the participants from the first day was unable to make it, so I was able to take his spot.  My first climb was the beginning of an aid route that goes at 5.8 called Remember Appomattox.  Next I was put on a 5.10c called Invisible Airwaves.  I managed to onsight that route.  Making it my hardest trad onsight yet.  Then I top roped a technical 5.12c called Waste Not Want Not.  It has some pumpy

A little while later I was told to try this 5.11c which takes the start of one route (Waverly Wasters) and then traverses into the finish of another (Creatures of Waste).  The beginning is easier climbing on less than vertical edges.  You then stand up on a ledge.  On the ledge you get some good gear in a crack.  You then traverse out right below the first bolt on Waverly Wasters.  Before you can clip the bolt you must make a committing move to a small edge directly below it.  Even before I probed into the move, I knew I wasn't going to like it.  If i would fall, I would swing or pendulum back to the left and may hit a ledge along the way.  After probing the move a few times and feeling very insecure I decided to take a few practice falls to get used to the pendulum motion.  The first three were shorter ones.  Then on the fourth, I took a practice fall from about where I would be if I were pulling the move.  I exhaled, let go, and started my downward ride.  On the way back left, my right foot scraped against the wall.  As it was doing so, my right heel impacted a hold on the wall.  At the time I didn't think much of it.  But after a few days I realized that I bruised my heel and also sprained a tendon.  Luckily this hasn't kept me from climbing.  After that fall I took another practice fall and then bailed on the route.  I just couldn't make that move comfortably.  After bailing I took a top rope run on the route and really enjoyed it.  We then discussed as a group things we had learned from the clinic.

The next day was my orientation.  It wasn't anything too exciting.  We just went over paperwork, bit of the manual, and how to enter things into the computer.  After that was the first time I was able to relax since I left Springfield.  Unfortunately, it only lasted a few hours.  One of my roommates, Michael, came home and asked if I wanted to go climbing.  Of course I couldn't resist.  At about 430 we finally left and headed back to the North Side at Looking Glass.  There we did a few routes.  I just followed all of them.  While he was on the last pitch, it started to pour.  I knew I wouldn't be able to run back to the car with my heel so I was preparing to just get wet even though I had a rain jacket.  Luckily Michael lent me his trekking poles.  They actually helped with my heel and I made good time back to the truck.

On Thursday, Adam Beck, one of the other guides who lives in Tennessee; Ron; and I went to the Nose area on Looking Glass to do some multipitch.  This was my first experience on the eyebrows of Looking Glass. We started on a 5.9+ route called Sensemilia Sunset.  It was tough.  It took almost the entire route to get used to the slab climbing and using the eyebrows.  We made it to the top, ate a bit of food, then we scrambled down to the anchors on Peregrine (5.9).  The anchor we were at was about 300 feet off the deck.  There Ron suggested that we top rope the route.  For those that don't know much about climbing, the longest common rope used in climbing is 70 meters or 230 feet.  Well this gave Ron a chance to show us how to pass a knot while lowering someone and how to belay past a knot since we tied two ropes together.  It was fun to continually climb on this terrain for that long.  After that, we rappelled back to the ground and did a variation to the Nose that hits a roof with a tricky move on it.  I was privileged to lead this pitch and boy was it fun.  We went up another pitch then called it a day.  We didn't do as much as we were hoping mostly because the routes challenged us more than expected.  We had a good time anyways.

Those were the past couple of days in my life.  They were very hectic but super fun.  There are some more stories that happened today which I will write about at a later time.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to go with the stories.  Hopefully soon I will be able to get some pics up of the area so that you can see how marvelous this area is.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Solid Rock Climbers for Christ National Conference at The Red River Gorge

This past week I had the privilege of taking a trip with a good friend.  If you have known me for long, you know that I do some work with a group called Solid Rock Climbers for Christ (SRCFC).  I have spent time living with the director, Calvin, while working at the national office for SRCFC.  On Tuesday, Calvin flew into St. Louis where I picked him up and we promptly headed eastward towards the Red River Gorge.  The reason for the trip was that this year SRCFC was having their Eastern National Conference at the Red.  I was super excited to go this year.  Not only would I get a chance to climb with Calvin but my good friend Nate, his wife Sarah, along with many other members of Solid Rock would be there.  It was going to be a good week.

Calvin and I arrived in the Red around 8:30 that night after driving for about 7 hours.  Some people that Calvin knew from Oregon hooked us up with a cabin that they had been using.  I was glad because now I wouldn’t have to set up a tent in the dark.  The next morning we got ready and headed south to a crag that is known as the Motherload.  The Load as it is sometimes called is known for its hard, steep, and sustained routes.  The easiest route there is a 5.11a.  Besides is there is only a handful of routes less than 5.12.  This is the place to go if you want to get worked as a climber.  After warming up on an 11a and an 11c, both onsight, we headed to the Undertow was at the Motherload to start climbing hard.  I picked a route called Kick Me In the Jimmy (5.12a).  It climbs positive holds up and slightly left for 60ft.  It is fairly sustained with a few defining crux moves.  After falling on the first crux I decided to work it a bit, rest, then give it a redpoint attempt.  On the redpoint attempt I managed to botch the move again.  I didn’t try the redpoint again that day.  After that I didn’t climb much.  I did manage to get myself part way up a 5.12c called Resurrection but didn’t have the juice to get to the chains.  Nate on the other hand seemed to never run out of energy and managed to make his way up multiple 5.12’s that day with some being redpoints.  
 The Madness Cave at the Motherload

The next day we headed off to the Long Wall to do some trad climbing and work some other muscles.  I also had my eye on an 11b crack called B3 or Beene Brothers Best.  After warming up on Autumn (5.9) and Rock Wars (5.10a) we headed down the cliff to the base of B3.  The first thing I noticed was that getting to the base of the climb is not easy.  The climb actually started 15 feet up on a detached block.  After bouldering up on top, we hauled the needed gear up.  Nate was wanting to get pictures of me on B3 so he led Perforator (5.10a) which shares the same start.  He actually got scared on it because the upper dihedral was very wet.  After making it to the top he traversed over to the anchors on B3 and set up a fixed line in which he could hang and take some good pictures.  Nate then waited for me to start my way up this beautiful line.
Nate getting a self portrait with me on B3 in the background

The beginning is a wide dihedral that is shared with Perforator.  It tightens in the back so that you are able to get some good hand jams in the back of it.  After about 25-30 feet of climbing in the dihedral you traverse left on a horizontal, place a piece of gear and head straight up this hand/finger crack.  The first section of this crack is varied.  You get some face holds to use and the crack can be used to lie back on.  Then after pulling through some strenuous moves you get to the hand crack.  I placed a bomber #1 Camalot at the beginning and took off up the hand crack.  At the first good hand jam my body and mind finally relaxed.  Near the top of the hand crack, after running it out just a bit I placed a #2 Camalot and entered into what would be a few tricky moves before an ok rest.  I managed to get a few moves into it, place a piece and then I seemed to run out of gas.  Once I rested on the piece I noticed that one of the cam lobes was not contracted at all which is not good.  After resting for a short period of time I placed a better piece and made the moves to the rest in a horizontal.  There I placed another great #2 Camalot, shook out and entered the boulder problem protecting the “Thank God Ledge” on the climb.  The first time I entered that section, I checked it out then down climbed back to the #2 and rested on the rope again.  The second time I started going up and my foot slipped causing me to take a nice little fall on the cam.  It was good.  I hadn’t taken a fall like that on gear for quite a while and it took some of the nervousness away.  
The boulder problem before the huge ledge

After resting for a little while I headed into the boulder problem a third time.  This time I stuck the moves and grabbed the ledge.  That wasn’t the end of it though.  I had to traverse to my left to get a good #3 camalot placement then to take advantage of the rest you actually lay down on this ledge which is more of a larger horizontal shelf that is just big enough to lie in.  Once I got the cam in, I went to clip in the rope and almost fell.  Luckily the second attempt proved successful and I relaxed then crawled into the “coffin rest.”  There I was able to chill, have a conversation with Nate who was still hanging from the rope taking pictures, and get a really good rest. 
The "Coffin Rest" on B3

Once well rested, moved into what would be for me the trickiest part of the climb, the upper dihedral that the guide book calls dicey.  Luckily Nate had spotted some good gear placements for me so I wasn’t too worried.  Once I was out of the coffin I pulled up to a good horizontal on the right side of the dihedral.  There I was able to place a #2 C3 cam (it’s kind of small) and began to work my feet out from under the overhang.  I ended up taking a small fall there.  I managed to find a foot that I had missed then pulled up into the dihedral the next try.  Once in the dihedral I was able to get all of my weight over my feet by stemming and looked for some gear.  I managed to get a .75 Camalot and a stopper in before embarking on the challenging last moved.  Right near the top there is a small hand crack that will allow for one more piece to protect the last move or two to the anchors.  I placed a green Metolious cam and when I went to clip the rope in noticed that the carabiner on the cam was upside down not allowing me to clip the rope in.  I then dropped the rope and started getting a little nervous.  Luckily, Nate was right there telling me, “keep calm, relax.  You got this man.”  I then flipped the carabiner, clipped in the rope and made the final moves to the anchors.  I was super happy to have gotten that far on this challenging route.  After doing that climb I would have been fine with heading back to St. Louis but there would be more climbing.
The upper dihedral of B3

That same day Nate led a 5.12a called the gift.  It starts with tricky slab climbing then goes to overhanging with a crux reach to a crimp from a mono-undercling.  I was a bit too short to do the move on top rope but Nate pulled it off perfectly.  We then got a cool down lap on Autumn.  Then greatest thing was that right before we headed down the trail towards the cars, we called Miguel’s and ordered a pizza so that it would be ready for us upon arrival.  Then back at camp we met up with Jed, Alex, and Jake.  I was also able to take a much appreciated shower.  Then we crashed in preparation for the next day of climbing.

The next day, Friday, we headed to the Gallery in the Pendergrass Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP).   The PMRP is an area of the Red that was purchased by the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition.  It is the single largest direct land acquisition ever made by climbers.  This allows climbers to enjoy their sport here as long as climbing continues.  There are many different crags or areas in the PMRP.  This day, we decided to check out The Gallery.  There is a good selection of routes there.  Supposedly one of the best 5.8’s in the Red is there.  We started out climbing on the far left side of the crag on some 5.10’s.  Then I ended up getting on a route called Different Stokes (5.11c).  I managed to flash[1] this route.  
Calvin leading Different Strokes 5.11c

 Next up Nate led a 5.12c crack called All That Glitters.  It is a beautiful shallow dihedral/lie back finger crack.  It has a short boulder problem that is protected by a single bolt then it hits the crack.  From there you get a few good hand jams, plug gear and enter into the first crux.  You basically have to lock-off on a hand jam or lieback and reach way up to a thin finger lock with your left hand.  Then you reach right to small crimp formed by the seam.   This whole time your right foot is on crappy smears to the right of the crack and your left is somewhere in the crack.  From here you reach up to a jug.  The jug would be really pleasing but you still don’t have very good feet.  Nate placed a piece of gear here then made a few difficult moves in the crack so that he could stand on the jug.  This is the first chance at a good breather on the route.  As you continue up there is a small arête that forms another shallow dihedral to the right of the first.  You make a committing move around this arête; plug a few very small pieces of gear in the seam, high step your left foot and reach up to the locker finger crack.  Once you get here, the route eases to about moderate 5.10 crack.  From there you take the crack to the roof, get another piece of gear in and do a balancy traverse to the anchors.  I had the privilege of following this route on top rope.  The low crux shut me down.  I was either too short, too weak, or a combination of the two to get my left hand into the finger lock.  I then aided to the jug and continued the climb from there.  
Nate entering the crux on All That Glitters 5.12c

After climbing that pitch, I had to give Nate some mad props.  Also, Nate had fallen a few times while working the beginning on his initial attempt.  So I managed to motivate him to go for the redpoint.  He hoped back on it and cruised the route in style.  It was definitely one of the more impressive sends of the trip.  After following that route I was basically done for the day.  My muscles were wasted from three days of hard climbing.  I just enjoyed the rest of the day watching everyone else climb.  After Nate did All That Glitters; Calvin, Nate, Tim, and Sarah all got on Break the Scene (5.12a).  Nate cruised it.  Calvin, Tim, and Sarah all gave it all they had but were unable to get the redpoint.  While they were on this climb, it had started to rain.  Luckily this route, and some others, are overhung enough to stay dry in the rain.  To end the day, many of the people in our group gave Gold Rush (5.11d) a go.  It is a long, pumpy face with a crux boulder problem right before the anchors.  I didn’t get on it because I was still tired from following the 12c a few hours earlier.   We then all hiked out and had an adventurous drive back out of the PMRP.  The road is a gravel/mud road that goes up and down hills.  Luckily everyone made it out without getting stuck.  That night we hung out in the café at the campground then crawled into our tents.  During the night some storms passed through making a lot of racket and dumping a lot of rain.  When it woke me up, I was so tired that I just put ear plugs in and went back to sleep.
Nate nearing the top on Break the Scene 5.12a

The next day, Saturday, we awoke to more rain.  This was going to be a rest day for me as well as for Nate, Sarah, and Calvin.  The group had decided to go to Muir Valley and try to find some dry routes there.  Muir Valley is a privately owned area with multiple crags.  It is owned and maintained by Rick and Liz Weber.  They are some of the nicest people I have ever met.  So if you are ever climb there, be sure to respect the Webers and their beautiful piece of property.

At Muir Valley we met up with two members of Solid Rock, Brad and Ashley. They had come up from Alabama a few days earlier but had stayed elsewhere so this was the first we saw of them.  The night before, Calvin received a text message from Brad stating that they had lost their car key at one of the crags in the valley.  Since it was a rest day for me, I decided to go look for the key. After meeting Brad and Ashley, I asked them where they had climbed then took off into the valley.  Since I was going to be hiking around, Calvin took my car into town to run some errands.   As soon as I started to hike in, it started to rain.  Luckily I had my soft shell jacket on to keep me mostly dry.  The first place that I was going to look was the Practice wall.  After I got all the way down into the valley, the first thing I noticed was that I would have to cross a creek to get to the practice wall.  This normally isn’t too big of a deal for me since I had crossed many creeks this past spring and had developed my skills of rock hopping across watery obstacles.  That would not be happening with this creek.  There was too much water flowing to just hop across.  I would have to wade through the torrent of freshly fallen water to get to the crag.  After looking at it for a few minutes I decided to try the other crag that they had visited, the Great wall.  I started to hike the emergency road that follows the valley floor for the entire length of the area.  I then hiked up the hill to the Great Wall.  Once I got there I slowly searched every bit of the crag only to come up with nothing.  I now had a decision to make.  Do I want to cross that creek to go to the Practice Wall to look for the key?  If I would find the key it would save Brad from a lot of trouble.  So I decided that I would tolerate a creek crossing to hopefully help Brad out. 

Once again, I hike the emergency road back to the creek.  There I take my shoes and socks off, roll up my pants and plunge into the cold, flowing water.  After I crossed the creek, I decided to remain bare footed in an effort to move faster and to keep my socks and shoes dry.  I received many weird looks from the groups I passed on the way up to the crag.  Once I got to the crag I searched it and also let the other climbers there know about the issue with the key.  Once again though, I came up empty handed.  After admitting defeat I headed back down the hill to cross that creek again.  Luckily the trail from the practice wall is not very rocky.  It was mostly mud, some grass, and another smaller creek.  I was glad that I kept my shoes off because if I hadn’t, they would have been soaked.  After crossing the large creek the second time I sat down, cleaned my feet off, put on my shoes and socks, and went off to find the group that was climbing at the Boneyard crag. 

At the Boneyard I found them climbing.  I found a dry spot and made a sandwich.  When I was nearing the end of my sandwich a random climber walked by and asked, “Are you Travis with Solid Rock?”  Surprised by this I acknowledge that he had found the guy he was looking for.  He then said that my truck had broken down and that Calvin was looking for me in the valley.  Immediately my mind starts blazing with thoughts of how to get back home and wondering how I am going to afford a new vehicle. I finish my sandwich and set off to locate Calvin.  Luckily with minimal effort I locate him and we walk out of the valley.  Tim had given me his car key so we took his car to retrieve mine.  Luckily, the problem with my car was a simple problem that occurs sporadically.  I quickly fix it and head back to the parking lot to wait for Tim since Calvin took his car to run his errands.  While waiting in the parking lot.  Brad had a new key made. I wrote the beginning of this post and I uploaded some photos from my camera.  Tim and the group arrived a few hours later and we headed off to Miguel’s to get some pizza.  Then that night we did a small outreach at the campground.  Calvin did a presentation of climbing in Mexico and Hugh Loeffler, a local climber, gave a presentation on the history of the Red with a focus on stewardship of the climbing resources.  It was a good turn out with about 30-40 people showing up.

The final day in the Red was Sunday and it was time to give it our all.  We headed to the Roadside Crag since it would have climbs for everyone in the group.  I warmed up on You Can Tune A Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish (5.10b).  I ended up falling off of this route trying to down climb a move I had made.  I got lowered, untied, and tried it again successfully this time.  Then I headed over to the 5.10 wall at Roadside to give a 5.11a crack a try called Synchronicity.  I had top roped this climb a few years ago when Nate and I visited the Red on our way up to the Adirondacks.  As I began the lead, I realized something; this climb gets mean from the start.  Normally on a trad route I try to not place a piece right off the ground but on this I wanted a piece after just a few moves.  After a while, I began to get pumped and decided to just work the moves and the gear out and go for the redpoint the next go.  So I made my way to the top.  Caleb then followed it cleaning the gear.  After resting I gave it another go.  This time I cruised it.  I quickly got all the gear in and executed the moves in good style.  I was proud of the accent.  
Me leading Synchronicity 5.11a (photo by Caleb Edmonds)

 I then rested and decided to give Ro Shampo a try.  It is a 5.12a that is steep and has mostly jugs.  I ended up falling at the crux my first attempt.  I then worked the moves to the top.  The next attempt I almost fell at the crux but caught myself and then pulled through it.  Unfortunately, I fell about 12 feet higher on the route when I just pumped out.  My time at the Red was done.  I hung out for a bit then at about 4 o’clock Calvin and I headed out.  We had decided to drive to Jackson Falls in Southern IL that night and get a half of a day climbing at my home crag before Calvin had to catch a flight home.
Calvin on Ro Shampo 5.12a

While on the road to Jackson, only a few hours into the drive, Nate calls me needing a phone number from Calvin and also asks for directions to Jackson Falls.  It turns out that Sarah and him decided to start heading west and decided to join us.  I was stoked.  We arrived at Jackson late that night.  The next morning we got an early start.  By 9 we had already gotten a few climbs in at the Gallery wall and headed to the Mr. Jimmy formation so that they could sample some technical slab routes.  I hopped on Stinger Direct (5.11d) since I had never been on it before and with good reason as I soon found out.  The Last moves on the route are the crux.  You basically have to lock off on a good hold with your right hand, smear your feet on crappy holds and pinch a little pebble with your left.  I think the required move is to get your right foot where your right hand is.  Normally this isn’t a problem if the left hand hold is good.  Here the hold is just good enough to pull downward on to a certain point.  After that gravity takes its toll and I went flying back towards the ground to be caught by the rope.  I took this fall a few times before I would let Calvin try it.  He was unable to make the move as well.  He then aided through the move so that we could clean the anchors and move on to the Beaver wall.   
Calvin at the crux on Stinger Direct 5.11d

There I gave Who Need Friends (5.12a) a try.  For the first time I made it past the second bolt to the rest.  This was a new high point.  I then continued up on the pumpy crack system.  I climbed it well making it all the way to the anchor chains with only one problem.  I was so pumped that I was unable to let go with either hand to clip the anchors missing the redpoint of the route by a mere clipping of the rope.  I guess I will have to give it another go whenever I am back in IL.  We then headed to Lovely Tower to give Hidden Treasure a go.  After that we busted out of there so that Calvin could get on his flight back to Oregon.
Nate flashing Who Needs Friends 5.12a at Jackson Falls.

The trip was a great one filled with a lot of hard climbing.  I think that I only did one route the entire week that was easier than 5.10.  So after a week of hard climbing and nonstop action, I am finally able to rest and recover so that I can prepare for what lies ahead in life.  Yesterday I basically moved out of my parent’s house.  I will be heading to Arkansas this weekend to help teach a trad climbing course at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.  Then after that, I head to North Carolina to begin working with Fox Mountain Guides for the season.  It is an exciting time and one that scares the living crap out of me.  So look forward to more blog posts about guiding, traveling, and experiencing new places.

[1] A flash is like on onsight but you have seen someone climb it or have gathered information on the climb that adds to what is available in the guidebook. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moral Dilemma

Today a friend of mine shared an article with me from Relevant Magazine.  For those who have never heard of Relevant before, it is a Christian magazine aimed at the younger generations and tries to be culturally relevant.  I haven't read many articles that are published by them but this one was actually a bit thought provoking and dealt with a topic that I feel deeply about.  So much so that I have written on this topic previous.  This topic would be what we will call war. (See posts from September 2010 to find out what I said in that post.)

For those of you who have talked to me about anything faith related in the past few years, you probably have listened to me give my views of war, violence, and anything related.  You would have also found out that I am opposed to these.  I base that mostly on teachings that Jesus lays down particularly in the sermon on the mount found in the Gospel of Matthew.  I have been fairly stern on my views and feel that it might be time to reexamine them in light of this article that I read today.

A few weeks ago while driving to southern IL to go climbing for the weekend with my friend Travis Crane, the topic of war and politics came up.  I explained my view, he explained his, we both realized why the other thought that way, and then we continued on with our drive.  Today he sent me a link to the article that I have been referring to.  Here it is.  Relevant Magazine .  This article is basically a guys discussion on whether or not the U.S. should be involved in the conflict happening in Libya.

Early on in the article he brings up a point that I feel that I have somewhat dismissed and haven't dealt with in forming my theology/ethics on this subject.  That point he makes is that as people of God we are called to protect and help the disenfranchised, the down trodden, and the marginalized of the world.  One example of this in scripture comes from Isaiah 1:17.  There it says, "Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."  You could probably read just about any of the prophets and find at least one verse from each that says something similar.  There are others stated in the article.  Also you could look at the life of Jesus.  Even if He never said anything about taking care of orphans, the outcasts, the widows; His actions towards those would show that God cares about them.  Many of the people he healed would have been outcasts.  If they had any kind of deformity, especially leprosy, they would not have been allowed in the temple.  He also shared a table with tax-collectors, prostitutes, and the like.  So if you haven't gotten the point by reading the Old Testament, the man Jesus, who most Christians would claim to be the fullest revelation of God that we have had, spent time caring for the marginalized. To sum up this whole entire paragraph, God is all about social justice (did i really just say that?) and we are called, as Christians, to join Him in it.

This is where things normally get hairy for me.  I totally agree that we should be involved in social justice.  I also would say that we should not act violently towards anyone.  Jesus did tell us to love our enemies.  In history there have been times in which dictators, people groups, and religious zealots have done unspeakable things to other groups of people that they hate.  There was Hitler who killed Jews.  You have Western Europeans who enslaved Africans.  And you also have Christians killing anyone who doesn't claim to be a Christian.  Now as a Christ follower I am called to help these people who are being attacked but how am I supposed to do this?  Should I grab my gun and start cutting down everyone who kills, harms, steals, rapes, or enslaves people?  What then is separating me from those people that I am now killing, harming, stealing, raping and enslaving?  Should I just sit back and allow my fellow country men to do the same thing? 

These are the things that make situations like what is happening in Libya such a problem for me.  The author of the article mentioned above states that at the writing of that article he is supportive of the actions taken against Moammar Gadhafi, but might later change his stance.  I must say that I am glad that he isn't putting this subject to rest.  It is something that I feel must be wrestled with.  When thinking of other Christians who have struggled with this my thoughts go directly to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  If you have never heard of this man, you need to look him up, read his books, and read books about him.  This was a man of God who had to struggle with the Nazi regime in the 1940's.  He ended up deciding to help with the resistance is said to have aided in an assassination attempt on Hitler.  This eventually cost him his life.  He is a martyr because he stood up for the persecuted Confessing Church in Germany.  Would I agree with his actions and make them a set way to deal with these injustices in the world?  Not at all.  But it is interesting to see that I am not the only one to struggle with such difficult situations in life.

After wrestling with this topic a bit more, I have not changed how I feel about war.  I also don't feel that we can sit back and watch it happen.  I do believe that the God I serve is big enough and powerful enough to effect change in the world to rescue the captives, end tyranny, and help the poor in ways that would not go against His own desire to love our enemies.  I don't know how exactly that is played out and it might be different with every single situation in the world.  It might be that we should go into a war torn country and help those who are afflicted escape.  It might be us going to these leaders and giving them the gospel even if it costs us our lives. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject and maybe creative ways in which as Christian we can bring peace to this world through means that do not involve the killing or harming of others.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


This past weekend I had a chance to go to Jackson Falls for what may just be my last trip down there before I leave the Midwest.  I was blessed to be able to share it with Travis, Chelsea, Ted, and Chris.  This trip started out a bit abnormal for me.  First off, we were not leaving my house until a bit after 9.  I would have preferred to leave at 5 but one of the others had work so we had to accommodate. Once we arrived at Jackson, we found a great camp site, set up tents and got ready to sleep.  I slept in my hammock since I let Chelsea have my tent. I also, trying to be a gentleman, let her use my zero degree sleeping back and the better of the two sleeping pads.  Now I had never slept in my hammock before.  I had tried to last fall but it was so noisy at the camp ground I crawled into my car and slept there.  As I soon found out, your backside get cold quickly while trying to sleep in a hammock.  At 230 in the morning, only an hour after getting into the hammock I decided something needed to change.  I could just sleep under it on the ground.  I could crawl into the 6 person tent that only had three people in it.  Or I could try to insulate myself better.  I then grabbed my other sleeping pad threw it in the hammock and them proceeded to try to sleep again.  It worked well.  My backside was no longer cold.  The only problem is that after a while my whole body was cold.  This led to a night of crappy sleep.  I was excited when I began to see sunlight in the morning sky.  That meant I could get up and start warming up.

After eating and breaking camp we headed down into the canyon to get our climb on.  We started off easy doing a 5.8 and a 5.9.  I started to instruct Chelsea on how to lead a sport route.  I wanted to teach her how to trad climb but she was having none of that...yet.  We then moved to some other easier climbs.  After leading a 5.8, I top belayed Chelsea up and taught her how to rappel.  Then it was her chance to lead.  We went around the corner where she did her first lead on a 5.6 called Big Wall Greg's Chicken Shack.  She experienced the normal frightening feelings that you get on your first lead and had to rest a few times on the rope.  But after evaluating the situation, she continued on and got all the way to the top.  She and I then went to go try a 5.8 for her to lead called the Dagger.  She did great on it.  She had no problems, stayed calm, and onsighted it.  Later that day she would lead another 5.8 that is trickier.  She did well even after getting freaked out at the crux.  I then told her the story of my first day leading where I led a 5.7.  Then after that 5.7 I went to try a 5.8.  On that 5.8 I freaked out at the second bolt and from there down climbing the route.  It was awesome seeing her do so well on her first leads.
Chelsea on her first lead Big Wall Greg's Chicken Shack 5.6

Chelsea nearing the first bolt of many that she will clip.

Before we went to the last 5.8 I managed to get on a 5.11b offwidth.  I had been looking at doing this climb since late this past fall but was unsure of the protection and my ability on offwidth cracks.  For those of you who don't know what an offwidth is, it is a crack that is bigger than a fist crack but smaller than a chimney.  A Chimney is something that you can get your entire body into.  They are sometime referred to as awfulwidths due to the nature in which you have to climb these cracks.  They normally require specialized techniques, creativeness, and a lot of struggling your way up them. Recently I purchased a number 5 Black Diamond Camalot.  It is a large piece of climbing protection.  With this new piece of gear, I had the confidence in being able to climb the route.  So we walked to the crack set the rope in front of it then began to prepare.

Once racking up, tying in, and getting the shoes on I set out up the crack.  It starts of with a very thin vertical crack that doesn't offer any protection for about 13 feet.  The beginning is all face climbing on pockets, dishes, and the few holds that the crack offers.  You then get to place a hand sized piece and begin to move up a slightly flaring hand crack.  After negotiating a slight bulge you get a good stance to view what the guide book calls a "solution offwidth."  All I know is that it looks nasty but will take smaller gear in the back of the crack in these little pods.  This thing looks nasty.  It flares enough that you are unable to hand stack.  It is wide enough that you also cannot get a knee jam in there to rest on.  There are a few face holds, but they make the easier ground.  This is where the fighting comes into play.  You basically have to squeeze as much of your body in the crack, put your feet on something, and then fight your way up making sure to squeeze back into the crack when not moving up so that you do not move down.  This is much more tiresome that it sounds.  The whole time I was doing this, the crack was trying to spit me out into the openness of the air which would result in a fall.  Never before had I experience a crack like this.  Luckily, I was able to find good rests throughout the climb.  Without them I probably would have made it to the top, thrown up, then passed out on top forcing my climbing partners to hike all the way to the top and rescue me.

Me struggling up AppleJack Crack 5.11b

A full view of Apple Jack Crack

When you do a climb like this, you are constantly wondering how sane you are to be torturing yourself on a thing like that.  Even afterwards you wonder why you just put yourself through such a miserable experience.  But after about five minutes of chilling at the top of the pitch you realize that what you just did was so amazing that you want to do it again.  At least that is how I felt.  I am actually hoping to go back this weekend and redpoint the route.

Doing this climb and thinking about it makes me want to compare it to different struggles in life.  You know that you have to go through them.  They are never fun while in the middle of them or even right after, but if given time to recover you begin to appreciate the struggle and how you have grown from it.  I suggest you all learn to appreciate offwidths in your own lives and grown through the experience they bring.