Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Moro Rock - Modern Guilt (FFA IV 5.12)*****

When Brian invited my friend Alaina and I to work on free-climbing Modern Guilt in the end of the winter of 2015, I was blown away by the difficulties. Unable to free ANY of the pitches leading up to the Spice Ledge, my mood was as ominous as the sky. The necessary break on a lofty ledge was interrupted by a few drops of rain, which forced Brian to take off for an attempt at the pitch above. I knew nothing about this pitch, aside from "it is really cool, also kind of hard and exciting," which was all that Brian had to say before launching up. A year later, I came back to rope solo the route in order to work on the pitches and understood what he meant by that statement. Honestly speaking, I was blown away Brian attempted the pitch in the rain! About half way up, we had trouble communicating, as the wind made things tricky. Than all of a sudden I heard clearly "Taaake in slaaack! I am about to whip!!!" I had time to take in a portion of the building slack and lift my eyes to see a body airborne for over thirty feet. It violently slammed into the vertical wall below quicker than I let out an F bomb. Wide-eyed and taken aback I lowered Brian to the safety of the ledge and mumbled, "that was quite a ride...now, how do we get out from here?" Good news was that there is a 5.9 crack option for bailing. Bad news was that by the time we pulled the rope and organized the belay, the rain transformed into a downpour, while I was the one volunteering to lead it. Felt obligated, as to that point, my contributions to the ascent were limited to hangdogging and whining about the holds of all the wrong sizes. Never experienced rock climbing through a waterfall, but it turned out frightening, as expected.  We were able to bail, make it over the summit and even found a business card from a guy who knocked off a giant rock that nearly killed us. My favorite thing about that day was being able to show up to work on Monday. 
Vitaliy on Modern Guilt, Day 1.
Me figuring out an alternative traverse to the 5.12 slab
WOOT! Photo of Brian by Brian. How did he do that? Not sure, but he takes cool photos all the time!
Brian pulling down on sweet crimps

Happy Brian after sending the gnar. Castle Rocks behind him with the Angels Wings etc in the clouds.
Looking down at the 1st pitch
2nd pitch
Brian in a cool dihedral
Needless to say, I had no desire to climb on Moro Rock for a while. Till Daniel, Alaina and I attempted a new route on Panther peak in the Fall of 2015. I predicted the route to be awesome and told Alaina it will likely be a cool FA to be a part of. While jamming in an overhanging fist crack on the 2nd pitch, a foothold broke off, sending me on a ride. Ended up ripping off a chunk of skin and not breaking bones by a miracle. It was a second unexpected fall for me on that pitch alone. I French-freed my way up the last several feet to a ledge and discovered a featureless wall above. Bailed. Same day, we went on to establish a few more new pitches with Daniel and Alaina on the sharp end. The following day, I wasn't up for much adventure climbing. Since Moro rock has a tiny approach, Alaina and I settled for Levity's End (IV 5.10 R) and the South Face (IV 5.8). Both of them were enjoyable and I thought it would be foolish to ignore the short approach. I decided to use the next partner-less weekend to drop the ropes over Modern Guilt. 

The climb itself has an interesting history. Unlike majority of the routes on Moro Rock it was put up on rapell, with intentions to become a difficult free climb. Before completing to bolt the route and free climbing the whole thing, the first ascentionist moved away, leaving it as an open project. Brian put in a bunch of time and work into trying to free the line. When I hung my ropes and sampled the climbing on a warm, sunny day, I realized why it has been a fun project for those guys. The climbing was fantastic! Sustained, fun, acrobatic and for me, NAILS HARD. Hanging a lot on most of the pitches, I still had a good time. Rock climbing on cruiser terrain is fun, but for me there is more satisfaction in figuring out how to perform individual moves and working on linking complicated pump-inducing sequences. Some may brush off top rope bouldering as 'lacking adventure' and everyone can have their opinion, but I found this process to be highly rewarding. Unable to see how the hell would the route go free for someone with my skills, I went to rest with intentions to do it again on the following day. Knowing the route a bit helped. But I continued to get owned, which I didn't mind - working on difficult face climbing was the whole point of the outing. The quality of climbing delivered hours of fun and I noticed much improvement. Following the weekend I got in touch with Brian about working on finishing the route. He was happy to have ANY help, as it isn't easy to find partners for working on long difficult climbs. On the next trip we worked on pitches once again, while adding bolts so that the route would be appropriate for climbers trying to onsight - not only for those fortunate enough to top rope the route into submission - making fun of myself here. :) ...In my honest opinion, top roping the route into submission is still damn fun, if one feels like working on hard quality pitches, with a short approach and easy access, this route is a good choice. 
Brian's tagline can give you an idea of steepness on the crux pitch
Another cool 11- pitch up high.
Brian climbing the first pitch (5.11+). Really cool pitch IMO!
Redpoint of the slab crux!
Perfect granite! Yes! WOOT!
Last two pitches are a cruise with views of Fresno..I mean no views. Fresno is covered in a cloud of smog.
You can downgrade the route all you want! My hopes people will actually have a good time on it! :)
Before climbing the route ground up and free, to my luck I was able to find a variation around one of the cruxes. The variation went for me at 5.10+, while Brian sent the original 5.12- slab variation, which was very impressive to watch! To my biggest surprise, I was able to follow the first crux 5.12 clean. Till that day I was only able to free the individual moves, without linking the mega sustained section of the pitch into one. Brian's beta was very helpful and my power endurance definitely improved. Maybe in the future, when I become a better rock climber, I will get back on the route to try leading that pitch myself, but for now I'd like to encourage better climbers to get on it ASAP! The perfect granite, sweet crimps, knobs and chickenhead-covered headwalls are waiting! Eight pitches check in at 5.11+, hard 5.11, 5.10, 5.12, 5.12- or 10+, 5.11-, 5.10+, 5.11-, 5.9 and 5.8, with the route taking an impressive and completely independent line up the West Face of Moro Rock. Even though I have not done the First Ascent and my role on the FFA was minor, I am still very excited to have contributed some! 

For those interested in doing the climb: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/modern-guilt/111750252

Monday, April 11, 2016

Unemployment Line - Another must-do Yosemite gem!

A few weeks ago I connected with Shaun Reed, a fellow climber from Colorado who seems as passionate about climbing as anyone I have...not met yet. While spraying about everything that I have ever climbed, I realized the Unemployment Line on Mt. Broderick was one of the lines he and Scott Nelson did the First Free Ascents of. They trained their asses off and were documented for a fairly cool North Face video. In any case, I was telling Shaun how much Cristiano and I enjoyed the climbing on their new route, how the best hold on the 11c traverse got ripped off, how cool the summit of Mt. Broderick is and how photogenic the route was...I was sure Sean didn't know it already. When I was about to send him my trip report with all the photos of the route, I realized one was never produced. OOPS. Maybe because I didn't have time, forgot, I don't know what, but it was not because I wanted to keep the experience to myself. Since I'd like to recommend the route to all those looking for a cool, difficult (for an average weekend warrior like me) climb to add to the Spring tick list!

My first attempt at climbing the Unemployment Line, ended up at the Cookie Cliff, as I created a giant clusterfk and wasted a ton of time by starting up a different route to the right of the UL. A month or a few seasons later I returned with Cristiano so that we could actually find the damn thing. To my surprise, we did. All we had to do was to face the difficulties and to climb it, which was much better than hiking down and driving to the Cookie Cliff. The quality of pitches was like stacking some of the cookie cliff gems on top of each other. Kind of like lapping Catchy Corner with a lot more variability, much better views, no fixed rope in your face and no one to wait for. Bring small offsets for the first pitch, extras in fingers to #1 camalot and get on this thing, as it WILL have lines in the future.

Only Cristiano can smile in that undercling :)
On the approach, you will see a waterfall. If you pass two....no comment.
I saw the route, got nervous and this is what I do when I get nervous....and fuck no it is not an energy bar
Cristiano on pitch 1. Bring small gear and offsets to be less scared. Don't bring them to be more scared. 5.10
Why are there so many planes above the Yosemite NP all the time?
Aim for that flake, which is the gnar gnar
The granite is so so, the views are okkkaaayy 
Me about to get into fun under-clinging with cool footwork. The psyche is high!

Cris during the underclingathon
PPPSSSAAAAATTTT MOFFFUKKKAAAA
The following pitch is good and tough!
Me somewhere up there with good granite and a stance appropriate for a photo stop. Not many of those around.
Cris about to crank to the belay
Is there ever too much of this view?!

There is a nice view of Half Dome from the summit, but in the ideal world you know who will bring his power drill and make the line rapellable with a 70M rope from the top of pitch 6. WOOOT!
PASSSSSAAAAATTTTT

GO GET IT! Spring and Autumn is the best time to do this route as the cliff is south facing and warm!

Beta! https://www.mountainproject.com/v/unemployment-line/109152364

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Day in Heaven: IAD Winter Ascent of Mt. Watkins (South Face V 5.10 C3)

The last few months have been eventful, to say the least. A lot of hours spent at work, a lot of hours training for far too many objectives, a commitment to a bit of weight loss before the alpine rock climbing season and emotional stress after losing a friend. It would take forever to elaborate on every topic in detail, especially the premature departure of a friend. Aside from that, all the 'problems' are first world problems - the good kind! I am not complaining about being able to earn a bit of extra cash. Nor am I trying to whine about climbing, which for me is an exercise for coping with different kinds of stress; mental and physical. When an individual, in this case myself, has too many objectives on his mind, the riddle of prep is a good one to have. Being indifferent, not having the purpose or being held back by declining health would be a different story...

No matter if one is religious, following a cult or doesn't care at all, it is difficult to see a young, athletic and kind friend suddenly fall to an illness and perish. During the first hospital visit, the recovery seemed like a matter of time. A few days later, I got an email saying Edward will be taken off the life support and the best time to say good-bye is now. Shocking. The following day I was lucky to see him alive for the last time. We talked about the good times, with hopes that although in an induced coma, he will listen. As we discussed the days we shared hanging off different cliffs around the US, his oxygen saturation went up. Was it a coincidence or did he enjoy the conversation?

Although, I don't follow organized religion, I feel like there is much more to the words GOD, HELL, SOUL and HEAVEN. More than the common dictionary definition suggests. In my opinion, there is much more to the words MIND and CONSCIOUSNESS as well. I hope there is. A way to find some meaning in something sad, maybe? Self-deception? Possibly. I never believed that people die and their souls go to a perfect world where we mingle with the other dead relatives in perfect harmony. Of course only if the individual went to a man-made mass place of worship frequently, donated cash and asked another human, supposedly wiser and closer to the all-seeing being we call god, to pray for our forgiveness. I can't prove this is not the way things work, but yet to find a preacher of ANY religion with physical evidence to prove their fable has some merit. If the all seeing being is supposedly so kind, he wouldn't want the non-believers to burn in eternal hell, why would the god be so cruel? With an estimate of about 4300 religions worldwide, how can one be sure they are following the true path to heaven? Not sure if my way is any better, but to me the ability to have another day on earth is heaven, while wasting the limited time is as good as hell - meaning-less misery.

On the South Face of Watkins, Chris taking us into the evening
Half Dome from South Face of Watkins...is earth as nice as heaven? At times it is.
Approaching..
Yup, it is a BIG wall

Chris above Sheraton Watkins
Cloud's Rest and some crazy clouds
Spot Chris!
Me ascending in a heavenly place (Photo by Brian Prince)

When people like Edward touch lives with their positive spirit, they leave their mark, making the world a better place. Staying with us for eternity. They influence us to spread the positive message, by word or by action, they influence us to be a better person. It is unfortunate he has not had a chance to touch more lives, but concentrating on the negative does not do the world favors. Life won't always be perfect. Unexpected and undesired things will happen to the best of us, so will the things we can't fully understand. It is important to remember the number of days we and our family members have left here on earth are limited, therefore they are precious. Well known characters like Jesus Christ and MuḼammad are likely worshiped in the modern times because of the positive message they carried during the limited time they had on earth. I did not live back than, so can't confirm how positive their message really was, but if the point of religion is to guide humans to be kind and forgiving, I am all for it. Unfortunately humans are humans and over the years used religion as an excuse to gain power, possessions, go to war and yada yada. Nothing is perfect and neither am I. Over the years I have said and done stuff I wouldn't want to admit to a good friend. I hurt those around me and myself with my actions and with my words. Controlling own fears and aggression is a good start, and maybe this is why climbing and the work I do in a daycare center for seniors is important for me after all? Maybe this is why I try to surround myself with people who bring out the best in me, which is also the reason why losing them is so harsh? As usual, more questions than answers and that much more reason to value each day, as there is no guarantee there will be another.

I, Eddy and Adam in Indian Creek
Ed sending the gnar in Yosemite
Climb on Eddy!
Asuka and Ed adding another country to their giant tick list


During the winter I did my best to rest from climbing rock and focused on ice, training at the gym and skiing, the alternatives I actually find super fun. When Brian proposed to do the South Face of Watkins in mid March, at first I got excited but than realized it will involve a lot more work than cragging at the Cookie Cliff, which was something I would be more psyched on at the moment. Climbing in good company is worth something and the season of climbing long routes is near, so I decided to suck it up and join the party. It was a great way to prepare for a trip to the Arrigetch, which Brian and I are planning for August. Turned out it was even more like the Arrigetch than we would want it to be. Majority of the cracks were running with water and we were shut down on the hope to free climb the majority of the route. For what it is worth, it was still great, with incredible views of Half Dome to the west and Cloud's Rest to the Southeast. Along with being an impressive rock face, Mt. Watkins has some of the best views out of all the walls in Yosemite that I have climbed. Majority of the day was fun thanks to the awesome company and I was happy that my lead block was the first. In the end of the day, with the upper cracks resembling a waterfall, Brian had hell of a time overcoming the challenges. As Brian approached the last overhang, Chris and I slowed our breath and hoped it is possible to do the last section of the wall while it is running with water, bailing from here would blow. Brian made it possible and we were excited to join him on top. The moon was bright, illuminating the outline of Half Dome and the surrounding hills, which was a wonderful treat in the end of the long day. But our day was not over, we still had A LONG WAYS back to the car. Seven miles could have been no big deal under different circumstances, but hiking through the snow made things complicated. Although most of the snow was frozen firm and Chris found a snowshoe track to follow, punching through was common and so was slipping on our ass at times. Restricting calories for a few weeks prior to this climb was catching up and half way down I wished for a magic carpet, or at least a warm bed. 23 hours after leaving the car, we stumbled back to the trailhead. The descent took seven hours! Lack of a campsite forced us to drive out of the park and by 5 AM I finally had the pleasure to crash out in the back of my car.

The morning was rough. Less than five hours of sleep apparently was not enough rest and my body felt sore from the effort. It brought a sadistic smile to my face - 'another day well lived.' Time spent pushing and exploring is what I consider living, in heaven. On such days it is not uncommon for me to call out to the higher power. For wisdom, strength, luck, protection or in attempt to free my mind of anxiety, to escape from distractions, so I could focus. Is god a higher power, or a metaphor for something within every living being, maybe a part of our conscience? Whatever it is, I consider this power a force which unifies humans. The true higher power does not divide us based on the label or the symbol of their religion. It allows us extra strength to deal with daily stress, preventing us from unleashing our negative emotions onto those near by. It is something that should remind us to treat our family with respect now, rather than wait till you the fabled heaven to do so. I hope it is something that will allow me enough self control to create, rather than destroy, to be an honest person, make more friends than enemies and ideally add kindness to the lives of others, as Ed did to mine.


Brian, Cloud's Rest and Quarter Dome

Moonrise over Cloud's Rest
Chris posing
Tip of Half Dome during the magic hour :)
Brian does what he does best...sendin the gnar through a waterfall
Things stopped being fun
The summit magic (Photo by a camera set up by Brian Prince) :)


Way back from Yosemite had flowers all over the place. Couldn't resist stopping.