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 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
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!

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


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 earth as nice as heaven? At times it is.
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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The First Day on The DIET

Since this blog been a non stop spray about the climbing I been up to, you may think The Diet is a new project of mine. Unfortunately, the life is less glamorous, I don't project and am actually attempting to restrict that in the Spring, I don't have to flail on my friends' warm ups. The plan is to work really really hard, not eat as much and not get really really injured.

If difficult climbing could be simplified to the bare minimum - one uses their fingers to support the weight of their body while using the technique and larger muscles, like those in the legs or the back, to make upwards progress. As the lactic acid builds up in the forearms, the time is running out. The stronger the fingers and the less weight those fingers have to support, the fatigued the forearm muscles will me - the smaller holds they could use and the longer they can hold on.

Low weight + strong fingers + good technique = sending the gnar brah.

Large weight+a rack of hexes+plenty of excuses=posting useless shiet on the internet.

At the moment, I am trying to be somewhere in the middle of this highly intellectual equation...

A few weeks following the return from Ouray, I weighted in at 179 lbs. While great for an athletic male of my height (6 feet 2 inches), it is the most I have been in about a year. I can't say too much of that is fat, but I look more like a pre-steroid era NFL linebacker, than a rock climber. When I saw a 'Diet Challenge' thread on the Supertopo, I decided to allow the peer pressure aid my will power to harden the fuck up and quit pounding the energy bars before sleeping. It will be a hard road out of hell, but with the help of chewing gum, pickles and ZzyQuil, I am planning to drop down to under 165 lbs. I will document my struggles mixed with hypoglycemic rambling. Blogs are not meant to CONSTANTLY be glamorous. Much hard work goes into making gains, so why not include the struggle... BUT...very soon, when I am in shape, it will be back to spraying...especially, when I am sending YOUR proj brah!

A trip report about the FIRST day cutting calories:

First of all, I woke up feeling like shit due to a flu I caught a few days prior. Thought of skipping work, but because staying occupied is essential for not eating, because I was not gonna deal with the patients and because I think I am no longer contagious, I went. Instead of the regular breakfast the night prior, I prepared three servings of salad and three jars of stir-fried veggies, without much oil used for the cooking. The stir fry is for dinner and the salad is something to keep me satisfied through the day, for the next three days. To aid the fullness there is plenty of coffee, tea and Splenda. Yes, when I said things are far from glamorous, I really meant it. There is protein in form of scallops, which are added to the salad and the stir fry, but I am cutting out the protein powder.

The day went better than expected and I walked for 40 minutes during the lunch break. Though the fun begun after. Feeling like a POS due to the said flu, I decided to do what any reasonable person with the goal of losing weight would do - go to the gym and bang out over an hour of low-intensity cardio and 1.5 hours of yoga.

First of all, the stair stepper I was gonna use was getting occupied, so I tried to use a bike, which did not work. I tried to use the treadmill, which was broken as well. Another opened treadmill however, worked fine. Just over ten minutes passed and the person on the stair stepper had enough, so I got on and lost about 700 calories according to the little heart rate sensor. By the end of the session, I felt less and less psyched for yoga. But I already wrote the yoga class on my schedule, so I couldn't say no to something that I already praised myself for. In addition, it was a whole hour and a half of not thinking about how hungry I am.

Much more fun than the cardio. Instead of listening to gangster rap and NuMetal, I had the pleasure to hear the instructor talk nonsense about staying in the moment. The only wise thing that came out of her mouth was when she brought up the Martial Arts. According to her, people that participate, are able to focus on 'the moment.' "Well, no shit, BINGO!" I thought, "the Martial Arts usually involve someone trying to punch you in the nose - much easier to prevent the mind from wandering. When I climb, have sex, ski through the trees and so on, the mind IS in the present. But a vinyasa class, in a PACKED room of people? I WISH, some day in the distant future, I could get better and concentrate for more than thirty seconds, but as is, I can't turn my brain off from thinking about the month of suffering I will have ahead, the level of crankiness close friends will endure, the verbal diarrhea of nonsense a co-worker put me through yesterday and most important of all, the instructor's white, skin-tight pants. Was she not focused on the detail or put on the black thong underneath on purpose? I appreciate the effort, but it makes me uncomfortable to be in the plank position, in front of so many strangers...Did she say downward dog? LOL" Just a few thoughts with only a bit of sarcasm in the mix. Usually I like all the reminders about focusing on personal practice, but last night was "I choose the child's pose, if the option is there" kind of day.

In the next segment...the less talked about benefits of broccoli  :)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ouray: Short, but SWEET!

The trip to Ouray was awesome as a result of different connections I created over the last several years. First of all, I was able to stay at a friend's place, which was much more comfortable than any hotel could be - for free! Connected with several people I have not seen in years, met a few more I have known through the interwebz, met new people and climbed with a few who I am happy to call good friends. So thanks all who made the trip a very social and enjoyable time. Thanks to you, I could not justify taking a rest day, as I wanted to climb with ALL of you, every day. That is my excuse for not sending M12s in drytooling caves! Just kidding, I didn't even try them. Before the trip I never led an M6, so my goals were more moderate than M12. :) Getting comfortable climbing rock in crampons, without pissing people off at a local sport crag was the goal. I believe it was accomplished. 

Special thanks to Jim for inviting me out and letting me stay at his house. Giant thanks to Paige for being an awesome host while Jim is sending the gnar in Chile. Giant thanks to everyone who made awesome company, shared climbs, belays, made food, shared stories and everything else that made this trip enjoyable. Who needs heaven when this sort of life is an option? Hanging out with dead relatives for eternity? Fuck that. Boring. Wish I could continue waking up early, making breakfast, going out to climb and returning to make an amazing group dinner.Well, too much good for a prolonged time and it may seem boring too. Back to work, back to daily grind, back to training...

Days in Ouray - 9
Rest days - 0
Pitches - about 65
Met and climbed with many new people
Led my FIRST M6, M7 AND an M8.
A LOT of learning, a lot of fun, many awesome dinners. 

Awesome routes:
Birdbrain Boulvard (1200 ft M6 Wi5) to the Ribbon (500 ft wi4) Link Up - awesome day.  Route which I heard a lot about did not end up feeling challenging, but pure fun. Felt very easy for the grade.
The Rusty Cage M7 - climb left of the Birdbrain Blvd and the Ribbon. Whatever I did not get on BBB, I got here. Sustained, technical drytooling, stemming, heady and awesome. (although we did not do the last pitch, as my friend had to be at work at Ridgeway by 4:30pm, but that one is the shortest and easiest one as I understand, we got through m4/5R pitch, two M6 and the crux m7 pitch, which had a fairly serious runout to the anchor)
Jesus Built My Fingercrack - cool climb, getting over the overhanging curtain is fun.
Tic Tac - first M6 sent. M7 next to it was good for techy TR laps.
Seamstress - first M8 pinkpointed brah, right of tic tac
Choppo's Chimney, WI4-5
The Local Scoop  M7 - pretty hard for m7!
Killer Pillar, WI5+ M5+ R - top roped in the end of a day after climbing Chopo's. Holy shit, the pillar part was so fragile and sketchy that I felt the whole thing was gonna crush on top of me. Long warm spell likely had something to do with it. Don't think I want to climb pillars in the end of warm days, even on top rope!
Tourist Trap  WI4+ M5 - damn awesome climb.
Ames Ice Hose - striking line and awesome climbing. Very photogenic.
Maid to Order  M7 - desperate on TR, on the 3rd day in a row of hard climbing. I guess it is sequency?
Going Retro  M6 - first m6 onsighted, but not the last. Next day, led it again and onsighted another m5 or 6 left of it after warming up on some m4 and climbed another m7 or 8 right of it. Than lapped the shit out of them to get used to drytooling, than climbed Chopo's twice and Killer Pillar.
Whorehouse Hoses Wi 4-5 (Eureka), than drove back to the park to sent Seamstress, on the last day. haha
Lots of TR laps on harder mixed lines and cruiser ice.

Next time I go to Colorado for ice, it will likely be to Vail, as Octopussy seems like one of the wildest mixed routes I have seen, in a photo. It was a bit far from Ouray and I did not feel ready to attempt a lead of it during this trip, as I didn't really know what to expect from myself on such terrain. Before the trip, I did only four days of ANY sort of mixed climbing, so there is a lot of room for improvement on such terrain. Even now I have no idea if I have the skills to do something so overhanging and wild as the Octopussy. One thing for sure, the Black Diamond Cobras are not the tools I would want to use on it and I would have to add more endurance on overhangs if I want to stand a chance.
Mixed cragging is awesome and all, but at the moment the goal is to get ready to go to Alaska and attempt some unclimbed stuff. Climber's don't perform figure fours and all of the acrobatics when they are climbing new routes on actual mountains. To get into great shape will be more essential than being able to stick a sweet crimp or bat-hang, for now....