Monday, June 27, 2011

First Return Clients

A week ago, I had the privilege of guiding a couple, Trudy and Ralph, at Chimney Rock Park.  They had booked a half day of top-roping.  I took then to an area called Wildcat Buttress.  There are some great crack climbs there.  The couple had been climbing before so I figured that they would be able to handle the routes I was going to put them on.  They did well.  The routes were just at their limit but they were able to make it up them.  The biggest problem of going to Wildcat was that the trail there is very bad.  There is a lot of loose rock, many obstacles, and it can be a little steep in some places.  That was one of the biggest challenges that we faced that day.  As we were talking through the day, I began to tell them about Looking Glass.  They were interested in possibly doing another half day.  I tried to sell them on coming over to Looking Glass and checking it out.  We parted ways and then I began to wait to see if they would book for later in the week. 
Fast forward to Thursday. The booking that I had for that day got rained out.  Trudy had not booked again so I had figured that they were not going to want to do another day.  That night, I received an email from Trudy.  We then got things set to go hit up Looking Glass on Friday.  I was stoked.  My first return clients.

Trudy and Ralph at the top of the first pitch of the Nose
Friday morning arrives.  They show up a little early and we head up to the Nose area.  Once there we climbed The Nose.  They really enjoyed it.  Oh, it was also a beautiful day.  There was a steady (should read strong) breeze and the temperature and humidity were lower than normal.  After doing the first pitch of the Nose we moved over to do a variation of the first pitch of Sundial Crack.  It was a bit trickier but they both enjoyed it.  Finally, I swapped ropes with another of our guides here at Fox, Tracy.  She had a rope set up going through a small roof about 60 feet up the wall.  Trudy and Ralph both gave valiant attempts but failed to pull through the roof.  
After we did that we were done for the day.  I had a great time getting to work with them.  I also managed to get some decent photos at Looking Glass.  Here are a few of them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Need of Your Help

I have been writing on this blog for a few years now.  I haven't been the most consistent in writing posts over that time.  Lately, it has gotten better.  Since moving to North Carolina, I have been able to have more adventures, meet cool people, go to amazing places, and I also have days where I can sit, relax, and just write. With the added number of posts recently, I noticed that I am nearing a blogging milestone.  My last post was number 45 and this one will be 46.  Number 50 will probably come very quickly at this pace.

I was wanting to do something awesome for it.  I don't want it to some normal run of the mill posting.  I have thought about doing another picture blog but much larger than the one I did a bit over a year ago.  I need some suggestions.  So I am asking you, my readers, what you want to see on here.  Leave a comment with your thoughts.  Also, if you have been following me for a while, what was your favorite post so far?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Youth Group Mystery Trip

It has been a while since I was last in a youth group.  I remember it being a lot of fun, a place to go for encouragement, more drama than there needed to be, and we would go on fun trips.  This past week, Tracy and I had the privilege to guide a youth group from Florida.  

This youth group goes on a mystery trip every year.  Only the leaders know what is planned for the days of the trip.  The youth don’t find out the day’s activities until they arrive at whatever destination is scheduled.  This year they added rock climbing to the mystery trip.  Some of the kids had been climbing, mostly inside, before.  

Throughout the day, we had teen agers laying siege to The Nose on Looking Glass.  It was great to see them encourage each other and help one another out when one would get stuck on a move.  The one thing that I remember most about this group is that there were a few kids that loved to just hang out on the ledges.  One girl was always racing up a route with her camera in tow so that she could get some good shots.  Normally she would end up on a ledge and after 10 minutes, she would finally come down.  I actually got a picture of three of the students just chilling on a ledge enjoying the view and the great weather we had.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

So Much Climbing and Not Enough Skin

This past week has been void of epic days of climbing.  I haven’t done 1000’s of feet of climbing on any day this week.  Instead I was able to just go cragging a few of the days.  The three days that I have been outside this week, I able to climb with our senior guide here at Fox, Ron Funderburke.  The one thing that I have learned about Ron since I started here is that he will force you to be challenged physically and mentally when climbing.  This week, Ron is the main cause of the loss of skin on my fingertips, that and my not yet attained climbing skills.

On Monday, we went out to Cedar Rock.  Cedar Rock has multiple walls in which to climb but there is only one listed in the guide book and only one that will have routes that would challenge Ron and I.  That wall is known as the public wall.  If you were to look in the guidebook at the climbs your first thought might be that this place has a lot of harder stuff.  Because of this, not many people climb there.  I had guided there once before on routes that are not in the guidebook and were much easier.  Anyways, Ron and I hike up there and decide to hop on a 5.12c called Pawing the Void.  The one thing about this route that is a bit different is that it is bolted.  I decided to give it an onsight attempt on lead.  Needless to say, I didn’t get too far.  I managed to get to the third bolt before I fell.  I worked my way up to the fourth bolt but was unable to figure out the moves to make it to the fifth.  Ron lowered me and then he made his way up.  After figuring out the moves he was able to make his way to the top to set up a top rope. 

I got on it once more to work the moves out all the way to the top.  Once there I moved the rope over to the climb to the right, Surfin’ with Aliens (5.12a R).  Both of the climbs there offer very  technical climbing with limited holds.  On Pawing, you are pulling on small holds but only to create tension to keep your feet on the less than ideal footholds.  On Surfin’, you actually get a jug and have to pull on this small, sharp edges to get through the crux.  Both routes are well worth the work.  After that we were done for the day.  

On Tuesday morning, Ron contacted me to go climbing again.  Once again we went to Cedar.  This time Ian joined us.  We started off this day with Surfin’.  We then top roped Pawing.  About this time Tracy and Eric showed up to take a run on Surfin’.  After that we did a few easier routes.  I led a 5.10 that has some fun moves on it.  About that time we decided to pack it in and head home.

The next day, Shannon and I had planned on climbing at Looking Glass.  Ron decided to join us.  Since we had a late start, we decided to go to the north side.  There we got on the first two pitches of The Womb.  The whole route is 5.11a but the first two pitches only come in at a modest 5.9.  I will say that the second pitch can feel more like a 5.10 in spots.  I didn’t mind.  It was fun, a little unnerving in sections, and stellar climbing.  Also, I got to practice some multipitch skills.  After that route, Ron took off.  Shannon and I were going to jump on a 5.8 pitch but the rain came in.  We headed out a little while later.  After those three days of climbing, my finger tips were fairly raw.  Luckily, I was not climbing on Thursday.

Thursday morning I was sitting in the office and we get a phone call for someone wanting to book a lesson for that day.  I offered to do it and then headed out to get ready.  It was a great group of people.  I got to climb some more but didn’t lose any skin.  That night though, a few of the guides, the interns, and I headed to the gym in Asheville, Climb Max.  There we did some bouldering and I lost even more skin.  After the session at the gym I was glad that on Friday I didn’t have to climb.  Instead I was given the privilege of starting the inventory for Fox Mountain Guides.  Hopefully, I can grow some more skin in time for the upcoming week of climbing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sport Climbing in North Carolina

As I stated in my last few posts, I am now living in North Carolina.  The climbing here is fantastic.  The climbing here also known for its traditional ethic and lack of bolts on climbs.  Supposedly at Stone Mountain, the bolts are 30 feet apart on some routes. Well, today I went to a place that is unique in this state.  I went sport climbing

Today I got to hang out with two fellow guides, Karsten and Linsay.  They also had a friend of theirs, Sarah, join us.  The four of us set out to this newer crag to get on some steeper bolted routes.  Now around here steep is kind of a relative term.  You see, a lot of the climbing that we have been doing lately has been on the slabs of Looking Glass.  After driving for 1.5 hours, we parked the car and set off down the trail.  From the looks of the trail this place hasn't seen a ton of traffic yet.  Then when we got to the rock, it short.  The routes there were 40-60 feet tall on a metamorphosed sandstone or a quartzite type of rock.  There are good solid edges.  The only thing is lacks is friction.  The routes here were steeper than anything else I had seen in the state so far but that isn't saying much.  There were a few roofs and some climbs overhung a few feet for the entire route.  Basically, it isn't the Red River Gorge in terms of steepness.

After deciding which routes to start on, I went up a route to set up a fixed line so that Karsten could get some photos of us climbing on the route.  I didn't onsight the route but came back later to put it down.  It climbs up small edges with occasional big holds and longer moves.  It was fun.  the other route we got on was a tips crack that you face climbed around.  It wasn't too hard and since you didn't use the crack that much it seemed to lose its appeal. After those two routes we hung out at the first climb getting photos and having a few laughs.

After that I eyed a fist crack around the corner I wanted to try.  I grabbed some gear and went up it.  Unfortunately I didn't have any gear big enough to fit the crack.  Luckily, there was a small crack to the left that took small marginal gear.  As I started up the crack I realized one thing, the inside of this crack is as smooth as a countertop.  I am not joking.  This crack lacked any friction.  Also a few inches into the crack and you were getting into some wet stuff.  Despite these set backs, I managed to find a technique for jamming the crack with my elbow and groveled my way to the top.  It wasn't a bad climb but needs to get climbed more because at the moment it is super dirty.

I then moved over to a sport route that looked like it was an easy 5.11 from the ground.  I started up the route and the moves were comfortable until the third bolt.  Right after clipping it I realized all of a sudden that I was getting into the hard stuff.  After a few attempts, I managed to pull the first hard move, clip the next bolt and scope out the last few moves.  The most powerful move is right after the third bold but after the fourth bolt, you have a dynamic move then there are no more foot holds.  Typically I would start to smear, a move where you paste your foot on the wall and use friction to stand up.  On this rock you can't do that.  There is no friction.  So the last few moves were just attempting to smear and move up to the next good hold.  Finally, I made it to the top and came down to rest for another go.  The second attempt wasn't much better but I made it up it with less falls.

It was nice to check out another crag.  I managed to get some pictures and Karsten seemed to have gotten some good ones.  We had a great time giving our arms a work out instead of our calves.  For those of you interested, you should check out some of Karsten's photography.  He is a very skilled photographer and guide.  He as managed to blend those two passions well.  His site is  Here are some of the shots that I got. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another Multi-pitch Day

As you all have read, Karsten and I went to Linville this past Tuesday to get a ton of routes in.  In total we climbed 7 routes, 27 pitches, and 2200 feet all in seven hours.  This was a big boost to my climbing resume and a great day of training.  Well did something similar but on a much small scale.  Yesterday, we went to the Nose area of Looking Glass and did three routes pretty quickly.

We met at the Fox Mountain Guides office and then headed up the hill.  We knew that there would be other groups out there that were working with our guides so we busted up the trail.  After a few minutes we were at the base of the Nose (5.8).  Though it is one of the more popular climbs at Looking Glass, I had not yet done its upper pitches.  That is where we started.  Karsten linked the first two pitches and then brought me up.  I then led up to the “Parking Lot” ledge.  Then we fired to the top.  Once up top we scrambled back down to the ledge via a different route, did a few rappels, and we were back on the ground it what seemed like no time at all.  

After this we moved over to Sundial Crack (5.8).  This is another popular route that I had not done the upper pitches on.  Karsten again linked the first two pitches.  Then I led up from there.  On the third pitch there is the name sake crack.  It only goes for about 25 feet at which point you start climbing on eye brows again.  For a person who likes crack climbing, the crack is just a big tease.  A few minutes later we were back on the ground.  From there we hiked over to Dum Dee Dum Dum.

Dum Dee Dum Dum is a superb 5.10a or 5.10c climb.  The first pitch goes up a low angle crack, hits a bolt, and from there you have two choices.  You can go straight up using the shallow flaring crack (5.10c) or go out to your right, go up a side pull, then go back left into the crack.  From there you have a hand crack that goes to the first pitches anchors.  The second pitch continues up the crack.  The only thing is that it is wide from the start.  Luckily, it takes good gear.  The crack luckily thins out but just a little too quickly.  It quickly fades out and once again you climbing on friction with limited gear.  For a 5.8 pitch it is full on.  Once you are getting tired of being on this slab you get to the anchors.  From there you do a single double roped rappel.

We had to end our day here.  Rain was on its way.  We headed back to the car.  Once back at the office the rain let loose along with massive amounts of hail.  This led to some fun time spent in the office amazed at the amounts of rain and hail that were being unleashed.  Finally, the threat of doomful weather resided and we made our way up to Asheville to get some more training in.  One would think that after the large amounts of climbing that we had already done this week that we wouldn’t need to do any more.  Well, we decided we needed to abuse our bodies more.  So we went to the climbing gym to boulder for a few hours. 

All of this activity has left me tired and desiring a solid sabbath.  Luckily, I don’t have any bookings this weekend allowing me some time to chill, maybe get some climbing in, and maybe even organize my life a bit more.  Either way, I plan on giving my body a bit of a break.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Covering Ground at Linville Gorge

Since moving to North Carolina at the end of April, I have been wanting to spend a day doing nothing but moderate multipitch routes.  As a guide wanting to continue to advance in my certifications, I need to climb more multipitch routes for my resume.  Also, I need to learn to move fast in more committing but easier terrain.  This past Tuesday would be the day to do this.  I managed to find a partner.  Kartsen, one of the other guides at Fox Mountain Guides, decided to join me and came up with a plan for the day.  Our plan was to cover as much ground as fast as we could in the Linville Gorge.

A  Panorama from the hike to the Amphitheater

Linville Gorge sits northeast of Asheville.  It is a 14 mile canyon cut by the Linville River.  Normally, it stays cooler there than at Looking Glass since it sit in what is considered the "high country."  Unlike the routes at Looking Glass, the routes at Linville are steeper and have good positive holds.  Climbing in Linville is also much more adventurous. 

Normally, with a plan to cover a lot of ground, groups would start really early in the day or have what is called an alpine start.  We didn't do that.  I met up with Karsten at his house at 7 in the morning.  From there we drove the two plus hours up to Linville.  The road leading up to the parking lot at Table Rock is not fun.  It is a winding gravel road that is full of washouts at nearly every corner.  I guess that is nature's way of keeping you at a reasonable speed.  Once we arrived at the parking lot we noticed one thing, it was already getting hot. Despite the heat, we set off for the Amphitheater area.

Once we arrived at the top of the Amphitheater I had a chance to view some of the climbs we were about to do.  Also, I had the chance to take in the beauty of the area.  Then the realization hit when Karsten told me that we had to get down this gully to get to our climbs.  Gullies are never a fun experience.  Then normally involve steep and loose terrain.  On the way down, I managed to slip a few times and at one point Karsten stepped on a loose rock and it rolled on to his leg almost injuring his ankle and knee.  Thankfully it did nothing more than give us a quick scare.  After about 15 minutes of fighting gravity down the gully we made it to the base of The Daddy.

The Daddy (5.6) is a good route with some amazing pitches in it.  The only bad thing is that the good pitches are short.  This would be a phenominal route if it were more sustained and not so broken up with pitches of just walking up the rock.  To move faster on this route we linked pitches and did fast transitions at belays.  After 470 feet of climbing we were at the top.  One route down.  We quickly checked in with The Spot device so that friends could track our progress.  Then we headed down another gully to the base of The Mummy.

The Mummy (5.5) is an amazing route.  It offers great climbing on every pitch.  Even though it is easier than The Daddy, it was enjoyable to climb 5.5 all the way to the top.  On this climb we did a bit of simul-climbing to move faster.  That is where both the leader and follower are climbing at the same time.  This is only advisable on easier terrain for the experienced climber.  After 380 feet we were back at the top checking in a second time.  We then went down the same descent route as the Daddy then crossed the initial gully to head over to The Prow.

The Mummy (left) and The Daddy (right)

The Prow (5.4) is the preferred way to get out of the Amphitheater.  It is a very easy climb that ascends the buttress across from The Mummy buttress.  Once again we simul-climbed the beginning pitches.  Then Karsten had me lead the last bit.  Even thought it is only 5.4 there is some great exposure on what is normally the 3rd pitch.  Then once you come to a ledge you encounter some obscure moves to reach the final dihedral.  It was a great route and much better than hiking back up that hideous gully.  After that 360 feet we were finished climbing in the Amphitheater.  Our plan now was to head back to the car, refuel, get some more water then head to Table Rock.  At this point we had already climbed 1210 feet according to the guidebook.

The Prow viewed from The Daddy

On the way back to the car I began to realize that I was getting tired.  Not only did we just climb a lot but it was hot.  We had been in the shade most of the morning and I was still drenched with sweat.  Now we were hiking along the ridge line which was not shaded.  After spending a few minutes resting at the car and resupplying we headed up to Table Rock.  Luckily it was a shorter hike. If it had been a longer hike there was a chance that I would have set a rebellion in motion to stop the madness which Karsten had devised.  But that didn't happen and we did some more climbing.

Karsten hiking on our way back to the parking lot

Our first route was Jim Dandy (5.5).  I led the first pitch then we simul-climbed to the top of the climb.  The crazy thing is that it ended on a ledge half way up the wall.  There was another 295 feet.  We then descended down a gully and prepared to head up The Cave Route (5.5).  We simil-climbed the entire route.  Half way up the route I began to realized that my legs were not happy with me.  Since this was all easier terrain, it was lower angle.  This meant that I was using my legs a lot.  At this point they were starting to not function at their normal levels.  I managed to make my way to the same ledge that Jim Dandy ends on.  180 more feet down.  From here we only had two more routes to do.  Luckily, we were already at the base of one of them.

Karsten leading the second pitch of Jim Dandy with his trusty Deuter pack

The ledge where Jim Dandy and The Cave Route end is also the beginning of My Route (5.6).  We headed off to the summit of Table Rock via My Route.  We did it in two pitches.  When I reached the belay, I was so tired that I just plopped down on the ledge and didn't move.  Karsten then started up the next pitch.  While sitting there on the ledge I began noticing that not only was my body not functioning normally but my mind had started to function sub par.  Some how during this state of delirium I regained enough energy to climb the next pitch.  Once on belay, I began climbing as if I wasn't tired at all.  I was really happy to have a few moves that were slightly overhanging.  This allowed me to put more weight on my arms and use poor technique to get through the moves.  Once at the top we put all our gear in our packs then hiked down to the base of our final route, The North Ridge.

Karsten heading up our final climb of the day, The North Ridge

At The North Ridge (5.5), we encountered another group above us.  We had only seen three other people all day.  The three people we saw weren't even climbers.  We met them in the parking lot between crags.  They appeared to have been hiking and as we passed the asked Karsten to take a picture of them with their camera.  I had to laugh that when Karsten was given the camera he started to adjust the settings on the camera.  This amazed the three.  They had someone who knew what to do with a camera taking their picture.  As proof of this you should check out some of Karsten's work  Anyways, before I digress any further, this other group was about to finish the last pitch as we geared up at the base.  Once ready, Karsten took off up the first pitch.  He brought me up, raced up the last pitch, then brought me up as well.  When I reached the summit the other group was just beginning of coil their rope.  Finally, we were done climbing for the day.  We had just finished climbing 2200 feet of vertical rock.  We packed everything up and practically ran back to the car.  We made it back to the car at 4:30.  Only 7 hours after we initially set off for the Amphitheater.

Karsten checking in with the Spot device.

 After reflecting on it, we had a great day of climbing.  Today I have decided to recover from it though.  It was a blast seeing how fast we were able to move.  I have never been pushed so hard on easier terrain like that in my life.  I am currently starting to make a plan to have a similar day up at Looking Glass.  The one difference will be that we do routes that are a bit harder.