Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving In Joe's Valley

Last Sunday, I took off in the later morning for a Thanksgiving trip to Joe's Valley. I was traveling with my girlfriend Alex and my good friend Connor Griffith. Joe's Valley ranks as one of my favorite places to climb that I've been to so far. Needless to say, I was psyched to return again to polish off some old projects and hop on some new lines. My goal for the trip was make progress on Black Lung V13 and to climb the amazing Wind Below V8 which I checked out on a previous trip. Here is a rundown of the trip and some videos of a couple sends:

Sunday Night:

We arrived just after sundown to our camping area in the Right Fork. We met up with friends Andre Di Felice, Cameron Maier, Dallas, and their friends Mark, and Beau, whom I hadn't met before. The Fort Collins crew is extremely fun to climb and hang with. Their particularly advanced form of humor is not to be missed and it certainly added to my overall enjoyment of the trip. We hung around the campfire talking for awhile until our psych got the best of us and we found ourselves chalking up at the Man Size Area in the middle of the night. I repeated Fingerhut V10 once and decided to call it a night to save my skin for the following day. Alex got close, but after watching Andre epic through an inebriated ascent, she decided to wait for the daylight hours.

Day 1 - Monday:

We headed up Right Fork after a quick breakfast of eggs and bread (Yeah! Breakfast Of Champions.) We stopped at Maxipad for a quick repeat for me, and a new send for Connor.

video

After some warming up we walked across the street to the No Substance Area. I threw myself at No Additives V11 for awhile before I deemed it impossible. No, not really. I got close to the move, and it will probably be possible for me in the near future, but it is definitely one of the hardest V11's I've ever tried. Joe's Valley V12? After flailing for what seemed like forever, we decided to head to New Joe's for some Area 51 action. I continued with my daylong warm-up by repeating Big Boy v7, Two- Finger Variation V9, Freak V10, and Stand Up V8. Not that they were really warm-ups, more like it was cold and I was bored. I tried Black Lung V13 twice, but it felt like shit and I gave up real fast. Alex finished off Resident Evil V10 in quick fashion and Connor ripped his fingers apart on it in one of the most impressive displays of determination I've seen in awhile. It was nice to return to the beautiful sandstone of the high Utah desert and I was psyched for what the rest of the week held in store.

Day 2 - Tuesday:

Alex, Andre, and pretty much everyone else convinced me that a rest day was in order. I agreed for a bit, then realized my stupidity and found myself shortly after at the base of Prince Of Thieves V12(?) with Connor and a few pads. At about 20 feet tall, with a 30 foot top out slab, the line was impressive to say the least. On about the second burn I found myself attempting to pull the lip onto the slab, but the problem wasn't about to go that easy. I dropped off and proceeded to do the same for three or four goes. Unfortunately, I had to rappel in to the lip to figure out the moves. It went down smoothly on the next go from the ground. I encourage everybody to try this boulder problem as it is one of the best in Joe's Valley. However, it certainly isn't V12 (as earlier proposed) in difficulty in my opinion and it is definitely on the soft end of V11. It surprises me that with the caliber of climbers that have topped out this boulder, the grade would be confirmed at v12.

Here's a quick video of the send:

video


Later on that day, I managed to gather the whole crew together for a session on the Wind Below V8. When we got to the boulder with all four of my pads it became apparent that I was to be the only one climbing on it. For anyone who hasn't seen the problem, it's about 25 feet of gently overhung perfection. And for anyone strong enough to climb it, it's a must do boulder problem in the United States if not the World. I polished it off in around 3 goes, after deciphering the slightly odd stab to a pinch at the top. It now sits in my top 5 best boulder problems I have ever climbed.

I climbed it a second time for the camera:

video

Day 3 - Wednesday:

We woke up semi early at around 10 a.m. We headed immediately to Area 51 so Alex could finish up Freak V10. I was also psyched to give a last ditch effort on Black Lung V13. It was a very cold day which was great for friction, but we were all pretty tired after dealing with an intense snow/dust storm in the middle of the night. Alex fussed around on Freak for awhile dealing with some slickness of feet issues, then turned on the power for an impressive send burn. I walked around the boulder to Black Lung, not knowing what to expect. Despite flailing miserably on this boulder for the last couple of trips, as I pulled into the start holds today, something felt different. I snagged the first hold unexpectedly and quickly realized that I had no idea what to do. I backstepped my right foot below my left and easily fell into the pinch. Then, I campused my feet up and jumped for the last hold. I snagged it and then quickly ripped out of it as my greasy fingers couldn't take any more. Shit! I fell off the last move from the ground about 5 or 6 times over the course of the afternoon and finally called it a day. I had other problems to try and Black Lung would have to wait for another trip. Andre also got super close to finishing the boulder, but succumbed to the warm afternoon temps as well. Andre and I had both expressed interest in attempting Gentleman Jack and Blackout in the Left Fork. Some folks had said the Left Fork was extremely cold and probably in the teens, so we decided to leave Area 51 and head there. Andre and I gave Blackout a few goes, until we both deemed it the hardest v12 ever. Props to P-Rob for the FA on that beast. How could Blackout and Prince Of Thieves both receive the same grade? Grades amaze me sometimes. Gentleman Jack fell in a few goes after I figured out how to properly torque on my heel. Andre got extremely close. His best go was a fall after the crux. I'm sure he'll finish it up in due time.

Day 4 - Turkeyday:

Alex finished off Fingerhut V10 on her first try in the morning. An impressive effort considering the Screaming Barfees that ensued at the top of the boulder. Good thing there was no barfing though, only crying. I ended up flashing Kinda Brawny V8 and an unknown V9 to the right of it in my tennis shoes. We then headed to left fork where I grabbed another V9 flash with an ascent of the high quality Worst-Case Scenario. That was pretty much it for my day. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at a BJ's in Price and called it a night after a particularly heated game of Hearts.

Day 5 - Friday (the drive home):

Don't ever get pulled over in a state that you don't live in. I learned this the hard way by getting a speeding ticket almost 2 hours from Joe's Valley and at the request of the cop having to drive all the way back to Orangeville (the town right outside Joe's) to pay the fine. Other than that the trip went great and I look forward to returning at some point in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Finally...

Finally...the long awaited send of Jim Holloway's problem Trice on Flagstaff is complete. However, I will still be spending some time up there throughout the winter testing my core strength on the move that still hasn't been repeated in the way Holloway did it. I gave it the grade of V12. On the send go, it felt in the v10 range. This of course was following 7 days of work and familiarization with the problem.

In regards to the starting holds. Here's my take: (1) The different holds that can be used for the start do not add or subtract difficulty from the problem in any way. (2) Sure, due to the contrivance of Trice, the goal was to climb it in a historically accurate manner. However, the use of the high left foot already seems to take away from the purity of that goal. (3) I've seen many start holds of classic problems change over the years due to the fact that the differences between the starts don't affect or detract from the difficulty and nature of the problem. (4) Whether my ascent of Trice was a 2nd Ascent, a First Ascent, or not an ascent at all, I achieved my goal of climbing that buldge from the ground up using the holds that Holloway used.


video

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back In Boulder

I arrived in Boulder a couple of days ago after my trip to the Northeast. The finals of the Mammut/EMS Bouldering Championships was very exciting. The problems were extremely well set and the competition ran very smoothly. Congratulations to Alex Puccio and Paul Robinson for finishing at the top of their fields once again. Despite my flailing in the qualifiers, I stepped it up a bit in finals to finish in 4th Place. Suprising since I still feel like my abilities on plastic are lacking. I look forward to competing in this series if it returns again next year. Speaking of competitions, I learned a few days ago that a bouldering World Cup will be held on US soil in 2008 at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, CO. I was very psyched to hear this news and I am definitely interested in possibly competing. Maybe it's time to start training for ABS Nationals?

This Saturday I leave for a quick trip to Joe's Valley. I have a lot of problems that I'm interested in working on: Black Lung, Mask Of God, The Wind Below, Gentleman Jack, and possibly A Wrinkle In Time if I can find a wet suit.

There's also a project to the left of Wrinkle that peaks my interest. It culminates with a massive dyno to a sloping rail just below the lip of the boulder over at least ten feet of water.

Check it (Photos Courtesy of Greg Mionske):


I'm also excited to introduce Alex to a new area as she has never been to Joe's Valley before. Maybe we'll get to see some new female firsts.

In the meantime, I'll either be working, chillin', climbing on Trice, or training in the gym. Peace!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bouldering Championships - Qualifiers

Just finished off the first day of competition for the Mammut/EMS Bouldering Championships. Paul Robinson and Alex Puccio are both in the lead after qualifiers. I climbed fairly well. I'm currently sitting in a three-way tie for seventh. The top ten in the men's category are suprisingly close. Lack of difficulty in the problems? Who Knows.

Here are some photos from the day courtesy of Tim Kemple(?):

Alex on Qualifier #3

Me sucking it up on Qualifier #5


Psyched To Compete

Not sure how things are going to play out, but tonight is the qualifiers of the Mammut/EMS Bouldering Championships. Hopefully I'll make it to finals since I flew all the way to Boston for this. Updates to come.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Texas And The South

Last Tuesday my girlfriend Alex and I headed down to Texas to visit her family. We left Boulder after I got off of work at 3 p.m. and arrived in McKinney, Texas just before the sun rose on Wednesday. The drive was chill except for our accidental detour into Oklahoma.

We stayed in Texas for a few days and climbed at Alex's home climbing gym of Exposure. I always find it interesting to experience new gyms around the country. They each have their own style of routes and each possess different qualities that make them special. This gym was no different.

After a few days of plastic I started itching for some real rock again. All in good timing, we were set to leave for Horse Pens 40 early on Friday morning for the second leg of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. I was psyched for the drive, because we would be crossing into three states I had never experienced before. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The latter of which was to be our destination. The crew leaving Texas comprised of Alex, her sister Casey, Dave Flores, and me. I was ready for some famous southern sandstone.

After a 12-hour drive, we arrived at Horse Pens 40 just before the sun set. It was a bit warm out for my tastes and I was definitely worried about the conditions for the comp. Nonetheless, I was just psyched to climb on some amazing problems. Alex and I took a walk around the boulder field to scope out the problems for a while, and watched some people night sessioning. We couldn't contain ourselves and had to join in on at least one problem before checking in for the night.

Alex enjoying Hammerhead in Uggs at night.

We awoke at 7 a.m. to crisp conditions and the rustling of people outside our tent. We grabbed some breakfast burritos at the food cart on our way to the pavilion and gathered our things for an exciting day of bouldering. They let us loose into the boulders at 9 a.m. and I quickly found myself at the bottom of the wall hosting some famous climbs such a Ghetto Superstar V9 and The Thief V7/8. Alex and I quickly flashed The Thief and set our sights on Ghetto. I was an idiot and fell on the last move of my flash attempt, but quickly settled the score on my second burn. Alex fessed for a while, but soon found her way to the top. It was a great start to the day. I quickly flashed two excellent climbs to the left of Ghetto and made my way over to God Module V11 at the other end of the field of boulders. The day was warming up fast and I was hoping that I would get a proper flash attempt. I put my shoes on, chalked up, and nestled my fingers into the odd rounded crimpers that comprise the start hold. I was told that if you could stick the start move properly, you were over half way towards a successful burn. I pulled on and stuck the first move nearly static. I pasted my right foot in the crack and gunned for the gaston. I stuck it as my feet cut from the wall. I whipped them back in and prepared myself for the next move. I reached for the crimp/pinch and just as I stuck it my hands blasted off the wall and I landed in an angry heap on the ground. Bummer. Soo Close! I came within a move of finishing the problem on almost every go for about 10 tries, but the rising temps were making my fingertips very greasy and I came to the realization that it just wasn't in the cards for me that day. I walked around the corner and flashed Slider v9 and did the left exit Beta Boy also first try. My day culminated with a fairly good list of two V9's, a bunch of V8's, and a couple V7's to round out the ten problems needed to fill my scorecard. I climbed most of the day with Ryan Sewell who proved to be a strong and motivating climber partner. I definitely look forward to climbing with him more in the future. Alex also finished out the day strong with a V9, three V8's, and numerous V6's. She took home a second place finish, while I disappointingly didn't end up in the top five after getting owned by some locals.
Overall, the day was amazing. I climbed lots of quality rock with lots of amazing people. The problems were fun, and the competition was very well run.
So here's my review of Horse Pens 40:
Pros:
-Best rock I have ever climbed on.
-Best problems I have ever climbed on.
-Best setting for a climbing area (in the trees at the top of a hill).
-Nice people/locals.
-Extremely concentrated.
Cons:
-Lacking in variety and number of double-digit boulder problems.
-Grades are soft in my opinion (could be a pro or con depending on who you ask).
-Probably enough problems to keep me busy for only a couple of weeks.
I look forward to heading back next year to settle my score with God Module and climb some more amazing southern sandstone. This weekend Alex and I head to Boston for the final leg of the Mammut/EMS Bouldering Championships. Psyched!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trice...

So, I started a climbing blog. Not to start controversies. Not to talk shit. I started a blog so that I could share pictures, videos, or ideas with anyone that is interested. I'm not really sure how these things work or whether anybody will read my shit, but whatever. Why not, right?

I recently procured a bussing job at an Italian restaurant in Boulder. This hasn't allowed me much time to get out on real rock. Tired of the gym, I've spent quite a bit of time up at Flagstaff. Why not get in touch with the old school? Lately I've been working on this problem called Trice. It is also known as Another Holloway Route. Named after it's first ascentionist Jim Holloway. It is currently unrepeated in the manner that Holloway supposedly repeated it. I say this because many people doubt that he actually completed the line. After spending at least six days on the problem, I've decided that it is definitely very possible that he climbed the exact line of Trice. I have almost completed the crux second move static, unfortunately it seems that my core strength is definitely lacking. And I don't have the height to allow myself any leeway as my body sags out from the wall when I attempt the move. From what I've heard, Holloway is fairly tall and had exceptionally strong core muscles. This move fit him perfectly.


To be completely honest, it is my intention to not only complete the line of Trice, but to complete it in the exact manner that I believe Holloway did it. No trick toe hooks. No swing. Jim was on a different level in climbing than most people during his generation and ours. He might not have completed the difficulty of problems that people are accomplishing today, but some of his specialized strengths are very rare in today's climbing world.

Here are some pics of my last session on Trice (courtesy of Nick Weinstock):







The temps have been a bit hot lately for proper attempts on Trice. I'll Be in HP40 this weekend for the Triple Crown, hopefully the temps will be better when I get back. In the meantime, I'm psyched for some of the southern sandstone that I've heard so much about. It should be a good time.