Saturday, June 29, 2013

Project Recap and Refresh

At the beginning of the summer I posted about wanting to do 5 specific routes this summer, or at least try. Well now that I am about halfway through the summer I have done three of my five projects (Fakir, Fugitive, and Songline) and picked up and completed two more projects, Straw Man 13a and a V8 up in Hyalite Canyon. Seems like it is a good thing I am spending more time on the rock than keeping this blog up to date!

My most recent tick off of the original list was Songline, a 12b/c mixed line in Gallatin Canyon. When I first looked into Songline it seemed like just another good route that Bill Dockins put up, that unfortunately had two bolts in it but still seemed worth doing. Well after spending two days working this line my only response is WOW! This line is so amazingly beautiful to climb. The bottom 20' work over a bulge of faulted rock that has some tenuously small holds and bad finger jams on really pretty moderate gear. The second piece I put in on this section was a DMM offset brass nut that I threw in sideways and super shallow. It's supposed to hold still right? Well I fell on that piece on my first attempt of the route and it held perfectly well, so now you know, the worst piece of gear on the route still holds a fall. After a few hard moves it eases up into some cruiser slab climbing onto a small ledge and a bomber piece. This is where the fun beings. I made sure to take as much advantage of that rest as possible because really the bottom bulge is just access to the amazing route above, and by amazing I mean sustained and technical. From the rest there is an awesome traverse sequence to get about 6' farther right on the ledge, and then it is one move off of the ledge to clip the first bolt, and enter the crux. A beautiful layback/finger jam sequence into a big move back left makes up what I consider to be the crux of the route. From this big hold you get to at the end of they second crux you can clip the second bolt, and then make a few more hard and technical moves into some easier holds and great gear. One last heart breaker move at the top finishes her off. I have never had more fun projecting a route, Songline is an absolute must do for anybody and really needs bolted anchors so more people are willing to get on it!

After finishing off another hard trad route, this gear guy did something crazy. I went bouldering! Quite a bit actually, and was remarkably successful at it, at least in my opinion. Due to my general lack of outdoor bouldering my hardest and proudest bouldering send outside was a remarkable V4...maybe remarkable wasn't the word. After a short day trip to Pipestone so Evan could get me on all of his newly established problems, a day on the Overhangatang in Hyalite, and the many more days following that I spent on the Overhangatang due to its remarkable convenience I had done easily 20 problem all the way from V0 to V7. I considered the simple fact I was bouldering a successful stretching of my limits, and the fact I was able to get 3 V7s to be truly remarkable. Then there was the one day on the Overhangatang that I noticed a boulder higher up the hill with a super steep slanted crack that seemed to just be calling my name. I went up to check it out and was able to come to the conclusion that it was really hard, but really wasn't any more successful than that. However, it inspired me and if I have learned one thing about climbing, it is do what inspires you. So I grabbed a few pads and spent a day out there working out the beta, but again no send. Finally I invited my roommate Mike to come out and spot me on this thing so I could give it a really good attempt, and it went. This problem was super fun, but figuring out the beta on it was probably the best part. It took me a solid two hours to figure out how to do the top sequence, as a toe cam hook above my head in order to readjust my hands so that i could switch that foot to a heel then do a hand jam heel hook match is not a set of beta I have ever done before. At all. Ever. My beta for this problem was weird enough I may as well have been climbing on mars, but it was super fun and it worked! I found out later this was a V8 boulder problem that doesn't see much traffic, and for those who can pretty easily climb V8 the crazy beta can be skipped. I still think my way is more fun though!
The bottom section of the V8
The other route that sneaked its way onto my to do list was Straw Man 13a. This route, as it was described to me, is the test piece 13a in the region and would be a great first 13 for me because it had a short bouldery crux and really isn't very long at all. A few days before I got on it I went out to Natural Bridge with Evan and got on Pagent of the Transmundane, another 13a. I was able to get Pagent in only three trys, but to be completely honest I thought it was more like 12c, and it turns out that is what most people think it is. Straw Man appealed to me not because I thought it was going to be a great climb, but because I really wanted a legit 13 under my belt! Straw Man is a super fun route that is a hard 5.11 into basically a V6/7 move then a few more 5.11 moves. Of course the 11 sequence wasnt too bad, but I was well an thoroughly shut down on the crux move. Thankfully Jon was up at The Cube also and was able to shout some key beta up to me, and after a few more attempts I was able to send Straw Man my first day on it! Straw Man wasn't the prize for me though, just the opening of a door and a confidence booster. I am hoping to head back up there soon to nail down the sequence to Roller Girls so I can link up the cruxes and do Forbidden Fruit 13b. 

So the new project tick list for the summer is this:
Der Fruh Lowe, 13a Mixed
Annihilator, 12d Trad,
Forbidden Fruit, 13b Sport
The Pro Slacker Tour,  13a/b Sport
Cardiac Arete, 12d Sport
A2 Line, 13a Trad
Weapons of Mass Destruction, 12c Sport
Can-Dunne, 12d Sport
Silver Surfer Suit, 13a Sport

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Long Time No Post

Lets see here, since the last post I have done some awesome 10s in Gallatin, gone to Colorado and been hailed off the fourth pitch of The Naked Edge, done some hard sport up on The Cube, some more easy trad on Gallatin Tower, had a big multipitch day up The Waltz and into Skyline, got some FAs on some sweet overhanging hand cracks, and did some night climbing up in Hyalite. Seems I am doing a poor job of maintaining this blog!

All is well though, because it is not the blog that counts anyways. That being said, I seem to have recently lost track of or at least not recognized what does count in climbing. What counts, in my opinion, is going out and having a great time with awesome people and trying to challenge yourself in the process. Recently i feel like I have been going out climbing because I think I have to or think I am supposed to want to. Frankly, I am getting kinda burnt out as a result.

However, if you look back to the end of that list of things I have done recently there are two exceptions to the burn out; first ascents and night climbing. Part of what draws me to climbing and why I love it so much is the adventure. Getting on a climb that I have no idea what the grade is, never mind if it ill go, or taking a climb I would normally find easy and trying to do it in the dark certainly both create a large sense of adventure. Walking up to the new and cracks I got more excited to climb than I have been in a long time, and whether or not they are actually good climbs, I had more fun on those than i have in a long time.

This is where the climbing talk takes a momentary break and the philosophical rant begins, so feel free to skip this paragraph if you would like. Having just moved into an apartment and for the first time holding an address of my own that is not my parents house I am a little stressed and frankly feel a little in over my head. Add the fact that my long time girlfriend is in Colorado for the summer and I am put in an interesting position in my life. Had i wrote this post a few days ago I would have said that maybe this was a bad position, but now I think maybe not. I am slowly but surely starting to realize that I am in an opportunity to not only have an amazing time, but also help define just exactly who I am and want to be. I got more climbing in during the month of May than any other month in my life with a solid 57 pitches of climbing. I may have started to get a little burnt out but I think my issue is not that I am climbing too much, but rather that I need to focus more on enjoying the climbing that I do. My life and my climbing are all about perspective and making the most of the opportunity I am in.

Back to climbing now, and with everything in that little rant being said, I will be headed out climbing yet again today. I am hoping to head to the cube to try to send Roller Girls and get on Straw Man and Forbidden Fruit. Basically I am going to go enjoy the non-rainy weather (hopefully) and have mother nature give me a nice humbling swift kick in the ass. As much as I like to think that I am capable of climbing in the 5.13 range, that is currently only speculation as I have sent many 13s in the gym, but have only been able to keep racking up the 12s outside. We will see what happens... but either way it is going to be a damn good time!

Look for more info on those new hand cracks being posted up sometime soon, but for now they are on Mountain Project HERE if you want to check them out.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Great Day at Natural Bridge

This last Sunday, the 12th, I went out to natural bridge with a man I have been helping train for his trip to Thailand. The idea was to get him on the sharp end of some harder limestone to get him ready to rope gun on his big trip. It was a great day, perfect weather, and all seemed well for a good day of hard leads for him, while I relaxed on some moderates, having just sent The Fugitive the day before. We warmed up on the 8s and 9s in the foyer and then it was time for his hard lead on Black Parade.

In between his runs on Black Parade I managed to onsight Winds of Deception and Stranger than Fiction. My rest day had become quite a strong day after all, and i was having a lot of fun on the short limestone sport routes Natural Bridge has so much of. Once he got Black parade we moved on to a different part of the canyon, and as I was checking the guide book for what to climb next i realized there were only two other climbs in the foyer I hadn't done that day; Death From Above and the Chocolate Muffin Warm Up. So we made our way back to the foyer after his skin had had enough for the day.

Long story short, I managed to onsight every route in the foyer that day. Even though I was exhausted from The Fugitive, I still managed to cruise these three 12s. All in all not a bad day, and very fun. It seems I may have to put down the rack sometime soon and see what some hard Montana limestone has in store for me!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sent The Fugitive!!

Two days, six attempts, and a few very sore fingers and bones later, The Fugitive can be marked off of the project list. I have nothing but good things to day about this climb, it is an absolute classic!

The first time I got on it I was concerned it was going to take a lot more work than I was capable of putting in to get it to go.This is how I feel about most of my projects, and after almost every project I have sent I lower down and say something along the lines of "that felt really easy." Generally this is because I have worked the sequences so much I could do the climb in my sleep. So when I finally put all of the pieces together, it feels smooth.

On Fugitive I was not quite that lucky enough to have that satisfactory feeling. After I sent the climb today my general thought process was along the lines of  "ouch." About six feet below the chains my feet cut and I was left pulling myself up off of a hand jam that, due to the shape of the crack, put an enormous amount of force on one bone in my hand. By the time I clipped the chains all of my attention was on figuring out if I broke my hand or not. My brain was too busy for me to feel good about myself right away.

Thankfully, my hand is fine. As for The Fugitive, I am beyond happy that I was able to get it so quickly. That being said, it is a pattern with my climbing that climbs that are easy enough to screw up on and keep going, I will screw up on them and keep going. When I am working projects at the peak of my limit I have no room for error, so won't send until I have a near perfect run. A good example of this is a project I was working at Spire that I 1-hung something along the lines of 17 times before I finally sent. It had to be perfect. When I sent Fugitive, it was not perfect. This is made extremely obvious to me by the soreness of the bone on my left hand as I type this. A send is a send however and I am stoked about it. What I am even ore excited for is the fact that since I sent it imperfectly, that tells me it was not the peak of my limit. I can climb harder. Hopefully. I guess we will see how the rest of the summer goes!

A huge thanks to Joe for spending these two days on the climb with me and giving what I am sure were some of the most stressful belays he has ever given.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Fugitive - Round 1

The next route on my list this summer is The Fugitive. Although it is graded easier than Fakir, it may prove to be more of a challenge. Where Fakir was short and stout, Fugitive is long and relentless. This climb is about 60' of inconstant finger jams with small feet and a relatively technical sequence.

I got on The Fugitive for the first time two days ago, and it well and thoroughly shut me down at first. It was a hard lead made harder by the fact my rack is not made up of solely half inch and smaller pieces. I fought may way up it taking a few fun whippers and having a piece blow on me sending me on an especially long journey down, but made it to the top. I had no idea how I was going to do this climb. But the top rope was set and now it was time to work the beta. Joe got on it on TR and was able to figure out the beta for the first crux better than I was, and managed to get to the top with a good number of falls.

The second time I got on the climb I did the bottom section before the first crux terribly, even though I sent that section clean on lead before. Despite that however I climbed through both crux's clean and made it to the top. Joe also did better his second time on, but we were both getting tired.

On my last attempt for the day before having to make a dash to work I one-hung it, falling only because I forgot to match on the top of the second crux. After a day of work I was confident that I knew the sequence pretty well. The climb is do-able. the bottom 30' goes at about 11c and is pretty consistent. Once through the bottom half there are two crux sequences right on top of one another, the bottom one harder than the top. Then it is a final 15' of 11a climbing to the chains.

Another day figuring out the gear and going for the send and I think I will be able to check off another climb on my to-do list. Tomorrow I am headed back out to it with Joe and Kris to go for the send and hopefully take a few sweet pics in the process.

Tom Kingsbury on The Fugitive

Memories of Fakir

When I was working Fakir in February I did not have this blog. A bit of a shame really since Fakir is on my 2013 To-Do list that is posted below. Don't worry though. This is why there is such a thing as a camera and my own memory.

I heard about Fakir from my friend Leigh, who described it as "thuggish." In Colorado I had never heard of a route being described as thuggish, but since she also advised me to bring small gear, at least one draw to clip some old pin, and a crash pad, I knew this climb was not going to be anything close to average. 

As I was hiking up to the climb for the first time I was doubting the need for a crash pad because sure the bottom may be hard, but if I can get just one piece in my belayer should be able to catch me. Should being the key word. We got to the base of the climb and I set up the pad, racked up, and got ready for what looked like a pretty moderate finger crack that was only about 30' tall. 

My first impressions of this climb could not have been more wrong. It took me close to half an hour just to get myself off the ground. The beta was very particular and to be honest, that crack was not exactly moderate. The crash pad did its job as I took fall after fall just trying to get up to what looked like a good section of rock where I could place some gear. I eventually got that piece in and proceeded to fall repetitively on only a #5 nut. My friend Mike had the unfortunate opportunity to belay me for this process, and we had to anchor him about four feet away so I wouldn't keep kicking him when I fell. This climb was successfully whooping my ass, and I was 10 feet off the ground. 

Eventually I made my way to the top, set up a top rope, and lowered down to try to figure out how to climb this 12 that looked like an easy 11 and felt like a 13. Slowly but surely I figured out the beta for the first crux that was right off the ground, and the middle 50% of the climb. By the time I got to the second crux I was tired, hungry, and cold (lets not forget this was in early February). I knew what I thought I would have to do but just wasn't able to do it at the time. We took the rope and anchor down and headed home. Fakir 1, Aaron 0.

A week later Alexis and I went back out to Fakir for round 2. Yet again I didn't think a pad would be necessary, but this time because we had to hike through thigh deep snow to get there. We got to the climb and I got to work refining beta and working the moves I was unable to do the week before. I quickly figured out an even better way to start the climb and get through the first crux, and could cruise the middle section with relative ease. That last crux was absolutely killing me however. I set up the TR and began to work that sequence over and over. Finally I realized there was a slightly hidden hold that was so much better that the rest, but farther away. Que another beta re-work and I had my sequence. I was able to do it two or three times then I retrieved my gear, pulled the rope, and got ready for the send attempts.

Seems like good climbing weather...

My first attempt went really well and I was about to get to the "rest" right below the second crux but then wasted energy forgetting where in the crack my micro nut went, my foot blew, and I fell. I took about half an hour to rest and psych myself up, then got ready to try again. I felt good this time. I knew what to do and how to do it, the sun was warming myself as well as the rock, and I was completely focused on the climb. I got off the ground and pulled the first crux through the flared finger crack perfectly. I got to the middle lay back section and was cruising, but then my left foot popped and I felt myself start to go down. I managed to keep on, reset my foot and keep going. I got the .75 cam in without a problem and kept going. I hit the crimp out right, put in the micro, and still kept going. I struggled to get to the rest below the final crux, but got it eventually and clipped the pin. This was it, two more moves and I had climbed my first 12 on gear. I took a deep breath and climbed right on through that crux like I had done it a hundred times. Clipping those chains was one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever had, and I had Alexis hold me there for a minute so I could take it all in.
Fakir is the thin line going up and right.

Fakir was so important to me because it was my first 12 on gear, and my first time going through the whole process of working the beta and the gear on a route then trying to put it all together. Sending this climb opened the doors for the rest of the hard gear routes in the canyon, and I am more than excited for them!

Summer Goals

This season I am hoping to get better at climbing hard on gear, and hard in general. Getting on the crag and spending a day climbing moderates with friends is always fun, but those moderates don't make very good projects, of for that matter terribly exciting posts. That all being said, here are the routes I want to get this season:

The Fugitive 5.12a - Trad   SENT 5/11/13
Fakir 5.12b - Trad  SENT 2/16/13
Songline 5.12c - Trad  SENT 6/19/13
Der Fruh Lowe 5.13a - Mixed
A2 Line 5.13a/b - Trad

Although I also hope to get on as many new (to me) climbs as I can this year, these five climbs are going to be my main focus. It may very well be that the 13s are a little out of my league right now but I guess we will see!