Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kitchen Bouldering

When I first moved into my apartment I had a stress fracture and was really out of shape. It was winter and I was basically stuck inside most of the day. I was thinking a lot about climbing and wanted to do what I could while my fracture healed in a walking boot.

It started with finger tip pullups on the door jambs and evolved from there. I now have a route that starts at the fridge and traverses down the hallway to the bathroom. I climb laps on this whenever I can't make it to the gym or Smith or some other climbing area. Its been especially helpful with the cold weather and snow for keeping my forearms in shape.

I created this video to showcase how awesome this route is and how seriously I take training... which as you might guess is super-super-duper, hardcore, all-out serious! Enjoy and Happy Holidays...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fake it 'til you make it!

In March I rock climbed outdoors for the first time since I was very young. I may have exaggerated my experience to my partner, and that day I did my first multi-pitch route and lead climbed for the first time. It was a good experience and I enjoyed myself a lot. Eventually I even over-came (some of) my inner cheapness and forked out the cash for the basic gear involved. I was on my way to becoming a "real" climber.
Smith Rock, my home crag.
Fast-forward to August. My partner, Ian, from that first day at Smith Rock in March called me up. He was trying to plan a trip to the Tetons to climb the Direct Exum route on the Grand Teton. I had never lead a trad route (although I had followed several) and he was suggesting we swing leads. I had basically never rock climbed outside of Smith either and this was very different rock at 13,000 ft elevation. I had also never climbed a route longer than three pitches and this one was 18 pitches. Was I interested? Absolutely. I was stoked!
The Grand Teton from the East.
On September 7th I picked up Ian at 4am and we drove 14 hours straight to Jackson, Wyoming. We stayed in a campground just outside Grand Teton National Park, cooked a light dinner and went to sleep for a few hours. We woke up at 2am and drove to the Lupine Meadows trailhead. We were walking by 3:15am.
hiking in (photo by Ian Garner)
Ian had been concerned about the minimal gear loops on my light-weight alpine harness and at his insistence I had taken his old harness instead. After some scrambling from the lower saddle we reached the bottom of the technical route. We broke out the gear and started preparing to climb when Ian realized he left his new harness in the car. We discussed options. I was against hiking out and trying again tomorrow so I gave Ian his old harness and made myself a makeshift harness with slings and a locking biner. So much for extra gear loops.
comfortable harness and used women's puffy... you don't need fancy gear to climb a mountain (photo by Ian Garner)
Traffic jams and route-finding difficulty ensued on the Lower Exum. Ian had some bowel issues (don't trust Nutella). I took most of the leads and we ended up half-way up the route by mid-afternoon. The Upper Exum is easier than the Lower so we stowed the rope, put on approach shoes and started racing upwards. We got off route a bit but made it to the summit fairly quickly. A few quick photos and two rappels put us in the upper saddle. We scrambled down to the lower saddle just as the sun set.
belaying P2 (photo Ian Garner)
Middle Teton from Exum Ridge
On the summit (photo by Ian Garner)
We had walked in in the dark and we would walk out in the dark, but with no moon this time. I wished that I could have seen Garnet Canyon in daylight--the shadowy bulk of rock faces suggested a spectacular location. Ian developed bad blisters. We slowly plodded back to the car, arriving at 12:30am, over 21 hours after we had left. We had been in constant motion almost the entire time, stopping only for a few minutes at a time to eat or drink.
Lower saddle at sunset
The next day we slept in and ate a huge breakfast in Jackson. Then we drove into Yellowstone to act like goofy tourists with the rest of the crowds. Monday morning we drove 14 hours back to Bend. I said I was going to take two weeks off, but 4 days later I was back at Smith climbing and more motivated than ever to do more long alpine routes. 
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo! This is a gramatically correct sentence.
Absurd crowds waiting for Old Faithful
Old Faithful erupts
Despite everything I still felt like the Grand Teton had not pushed me to my limit. I wanted, want, very badly to have shit hit the fan. I want to be completely crushed by a mountain, to really get taken to my limit. Some people think I'm crazy, but to me I'm an athlete first and testing myself is why I'm here.
The Grand from the NE

Friday, November 30, 2012

Shasta Overdue

Mt. Shasta in Northern California has been on my todo list since middle school. My dad and I tried to plan a trip several times. Either I was freaked out about missing more than one day of training for cross-country season or my mom was freaked out because of the "crevasses" that were going to kill me.
Shasta from the North
At 14,179 ft Shasta is the 5th highest mountain in California, the second highest in the Cascade Range and the only significantly glaciated peak in California. It was the first objective on my todo list. It was on my todo list before the todo list even existed. It was almost inexcusable that I had not climbed it yet. 
Hotlum-Wintun Ridge
So after bagging Matterhorn Peak in the High Sierra, and spending Fourth of July at Lake Tahoe drinking beer and eating lots of food, I drove north to meet my buddy Mike at the base of this long awaited mountain. We had decided to climb the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge, an easy route on the remote east side of the peak to avoid the crowds of the south side. We were supposed to meet at the trail head parking lot and it ended up being a long drive in on dirt roads. We took two days and climbed at a pretty relaxed pace. It was fairly simple and I ended up picking a particularly steep line up the final headwall... just to try out this whole front-pointing, ice-axe swinging thing.
Sunrise on Hot-tun Ridge
Heading up to the summit
Back at the car we had some Ichthyosaur Pale Ale and then drove back home to Bend for burgers and more beer. Shasta was conquered, my only regret was that I hadn't skied down it, yet.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The First Chapter/A New Chapter

This is the first year that I have focused on mountaineering and its various children of related activities. I ran for 10 years at a some-what competitive level and, although I still run and race, I am really moving on to a new chapter. This chapter has to do with spending time in the mountains and generally making myself look really good when no one is around to see me (yes, that was a joke).
I'm bib 185 in this race. Photo by Keith Lemay.
As a kid I spent lots of time outside. As young as two I was going for hikes in the English country-side with my Dad. At the age of six I moved to Reno, Nevada at the base of the Sierras. By the time I was eight I was doing 10 mile hikes in summer and skiing in winter. At the age of 10 I climbed my first 13,000 ft peak and was comfortable on black diamond ski runs. In high school I got sucked into distance running. I got comfortable covering long distances quickly and being by myself in the hills. I managed to get out to the mountains a few times. A backcountry ski descent of Mt. Lassen in Northern California, hiking up California's Mt. Whitney, and backpacking in Nevada's Ruby Mountains all kept me interested in alpine sports. Ultimately running won out and these activities got put on hold.
In the Brooks Range, AK
It wasn't until after graduating from Western Washington University that I realized I wanted to spend more time in the mountains again. A summer in Alaska blew my mind open and made me realize what I was missing. An attempt on Mt. Baker with the outdoor program made me interested in climbing ice clad mountains. Right after graduating I went to Patagonia for 3 months. My intention was to skip North America's winter and run in the summer weather. I just ended up hiking and scrambling a lot in some of the most beautiful and iconic parts of Argentina and Chile. After a couple years living back in Reno I moved to Bend, Oregon with my girlfriend and decided to mountaineer and ski tour regularly.

Cerro Fitz Roy during my travels in Patagonia.
Goals started off fairly modestly... I wanted to climb every summit over 10,000 feet in the Cascades. I wasn't concerned with the route. I just wanted to spend time in the alpine, get comfortable on snow and glaciers, and enjoy a good view. Well, maybe I wanted to see how my running fitness translated to climbing and let out some competitive energy too. Ultimately I thought it would be fun to climb Mt. Sanford and Mt. Blackburn in the Wrangells of Alaska.
Sawtooth Ridge, Sierra Nevada, my favorite part of the range.
As I started doing more, and looking for people to go with, I got drawn into rock climbing. I started looking at more interesting technical routes on the mountains I wanted to climb. Now my peak bagging and hiking todo list has sections for technical rock and ice climbs. The mountains I am considering are much harder and the routes longer. It's going to be an exciting chapter regardless of what happens. I just know I want to go for it and see what happens. In the words of famous climber Alex Lowe, "the best climber in the world is the one that has the most fun." I want to be the best that I can be.
Leading Sky Ridge at Smith Rock, some random guy from Seattle snapped this and emailed it to Ian.