Sunday, March 2, 2014


Being a wrestler, I got used to big crowds, being under a lot of pressure to perform well, and being by myself, in my own head, figuring things out on the mat. It was awesome! My teammates couldn't score 
points for me; my coaches couldn't pin my opponent; my parents couldn't win my match. It was all up to me and the work I had done prior to the match. 

The same thing applies to climbing. Except, rather than an opponent, I get to wrestle an arbitrary set of objects placed in a vertical space. And, yet, the two sports almost perfectly mimic each other, especially when it comes to mental preparation, body awareness, muscle memory, and psych level. All sports, for that matter, have similar qualities in that regard, but there is something different about being a lone athlete, relying on ones own mental and physical abilities to reach goals, rather than also relying on a teammate(s) to get the job done.

I had the chance to revisit that "lone athlete" feeling at the ABS 15 National Championships in Colorado Springs last weekend. It was an enjoyable and familiar feeling, reminding me why I have spent the better part of my life training and competing in various sports. Not only was in enjoyable, but it also kicked my ass!

My preparation didn't consist of much physical training. I did one workout -  
did some pull-ups, push-ups... you know, some "training."

I did, however, spend a lot of time visualizing, remembering moments where I had performed well in competitions, making a game plan for competition 
day, and trying to give myself the most control and competence while outthere for my first on-sight comp ever!

"Climbers, you may begin climbing now!" As soon as I heard those words, all my preparation and planning vanished; it all went out the window! All the patience and control I thought I would have out there dissolved into a puddle of panic and what felt like some relatively aimless attempts at some really hard boulder problems - some of which I'm sure I could do now. I had little control over my conscience, like I thought I would. Four minutes is not a lot of time to climb a boulder problem. It feels like even less time with the added pressure to climb well. 

Despite my struggles to actually place well, I think I definitely met my goals of having fun and learning some things! I wanted to experience what the kids from the climbing team I coach (the Bend Endurance Academy) go through at every on-sight comp they climb in. I also wanted feel, first hand, what a national level on-sight boulder problem felt like. And finally, I wanted to watch the best climbers in the nation compete on some of coolest boulder problems I have ever seen!

Climbing these problems gave me a whole new appreciation for power-endurance! Obviously, having the strength to pull on the hard moves is important, however, I think that having the endurance to continue pulling on more moderate moves is more important. More points are to be had by doing several more moves throughout a comp than doing one or two really hard moves. Take that with a grain of salt, obviously. There are benefits to both. 

From my experience, I also learned how important doing on-sight practice is. Climbing under the USAC format of four minutes on - four minutes off is completely different than projecting a hard problem at the gym. There is very little time to think. I spent most of my four minutes brushing holds, sequencing, and then telling myself, "alright, time to go for it and trust my instincts!" And that's what I did. I just started climbing and I trusted the work I have put into my climbing over the years. Furthermore, not only will on-sight practice help me perform better in competitions, but I think it is absolutely vital for improving and becoming a more intuitive climber in general. Any chance I get to on-sight something, I will give it my all and try to learn as much as I can from it!  

From a routesetting perspective, the trip to Colorado Springs was really informative. Climbing these problems gave me a better idea of how hard to make on-sight problems/routes and what types of moves and sequences can be used. Honestly, I don't believe the problems were extremely difficult. Several of them were definitely in my range, especially if I had more time to work on them. However, the format of the competition is partially what makes these problems hard to do. The other part of what made this competition tough was that the problems were really difficult! Problem #3 was balls hard and #4 was up there as well. So, going back to what to work on for competitions, I guess I need to increase my strength as well as my power endurance!

One of the most exciting things about this trip, besides competing, was being able to watch the finals live! Being a part of the crowd, cheering on my favorite climbers, and watching the action, first hand, was very memorable and fun. I'm not going to say I was anti-cheering for anybody in particular, but I definitely wanted to see a new national champion on both the men's and women's sides. Although there wasn't a new national champion (again!) Wurm sure put on a great show and proved that Puccio can be beat! Also, watching the younger climbers give the veteran climbers a run for their money was very inspiring.  It kind of makes me feel fairly hopeless for myself, as far as doing well on the national level goes. Then again, there are guys like Vasya, who is 30 years old, that are giving Daniel a run for his money. It's anyones' game... so they say.

(Matty Hong and Megan Mascarenas gettin' it done in the Semis!)

(D. Woods, Traversi, Wurm, and Mascarenes. Ducks in a row! and the back of Puccio's head...)

As for right now, I have less than a year until I head to Madison, Wisconsin for the ABS 16 National Championships! Who wants to do some training!?

See ya'll out there...

Friday, February 14, 2014

What's Bailin' You Out?

I'm not here to condemn anyone or point fingers. However, I do want to bring to light something that I have observed in the climbing community, as well as in the general public.


I want discuss why I think it happens, offer some encouraging thoughts on the matter, and give some insight toward how bailing and your comfort zone are connected. I would also love to hear your thoughts and feedback about the subject.

I have noticed two different types of bailing. Obviously, there is the classic type of bailing: making plans with someone and then unmaking them right before the planned plan. The other type of bailing is what I would call bailing on yourself, on your own commitments and goals.

First of all, I think telling someone "no" is hard to do. So we say yes. And then we (Fill in the blank) so we won't have to anymore. Also, we are a society that is overrun with distractions, drugs, peer-pressure, infectious behavior, and plenty of "easy streets" to walk down. And I love it all! Ask my old wrestling partners; I'm the king of taking the easy street. I would joke around and slack off at practice. I'm not perfect and I certainly don't avoid some of lifes' guilty pleasures. However, I also won't deny that all of those distractions make it easier and more appealing to bail on people.  

Over the years, I have slowly lost hope in a large majority of people to actually commit to what they say they will do. I think it's because people like the "idea" of doing things but not actually putting forth the effort to do them. We talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. Our fears and uncertainties have a lot to do with it. But how do we change that?

Now that I'm a crusty old sage, and I've turned youthful mistakes into boat loads of wisdom, I have a challenge for you: When you make a plan with someone and the time comes to carry out that plan and you don't feel like doing it anymore, I challenge you to do it anyway! Do something uncomfortable. Hang out with a new person/climbing partner. Wake up earlier than you want. It's snowing? Get your puffy and hand warmers! Whatever your plan is, commit to it!

But don't just do it for their sake. Do it for yourself!

I think it's important because it promotes growth, it expands your comfort zone, and it builds character. I can't tell you how many times I have followed through with a plan that I wasn't entirely stoked on and ended up really appreciating the experience in the end. And I'm sure my climbing partner did too. Can you think of a similar moment? Maybe you hesitantly started up a "scary" route - one that you didn't really feel comfortable doing - but you did it anyway? Were you happy you did it?

Obviously, there are good reasons to bail and I believe it is important to check the risk vs. reward factors. How sick is too sick? How cold is too cold? What is a reasonable hour to wake up? Too much drinking the night before? Was it worth it? Does it align with your goals/values? How scary is too scary? Why do we decide to do one thing over another? My question is: can we be honest with each other as well as ourselves about our commitment level? And can we follow through and not bail on ourselves?

Paradoxically, telling someone "yes" when you really want to say "no," is bailing. It's bailing on yourself.

Everyone has their own comfort zones. There is no pressure or shame from me (and hopefully no one else) if something makes you more uncomfortable than someone else. I get it. Some people would rather not lead climb. Some people only want to clip bolts. Some people will jump out of an airplane, but they would never ride a horse. Wherever your comfort level lies, figure out where that is so you can start growing.

Essentially, this is how we've learned to do everything in life. Walking, learning what foods we like, making friends, and even learning how to ride a bike; all of these we had to learn. At some point in our lives, these things were challenging, unfamiliar, and out of our comfort zones (some of these might still be!). We have progressed through life by taking chances, making mistakes, and getting dirty - why stop now?

So, next time you feel like bailing, take a second, re-think your entire life, meditate on it, align your chakra, visualize all the wonderful experiences and lessons and character building you could be missing out on, and decide if you really think it's worth ruining someone else's day just because you didn't "feel like it" anymore...

But seriously, who wants to go bouldering this weekend? Supposed to be really bad weather, below freezing. No bailers please. You're either in or your out. :)

See y'all on the rocks!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back in Bend!

Well that was a crazy adventure: 1000 miles of the pacific crest trail, an attempt at El Cap, a few music festivals, weddings, several more backpacking trips, alpine bouldering trips, and a move to Bend; I'd say this summer was a success! Any time I sleep under the stars more than in my own bed, throughout a summer, I think it is definitely time well spent. And for sure, I did not take nearly enough showers -  30-40 since April?

(Here is a little glimpse of our PCT hike)

After all that, here I am sitting in our little, basement bedroom, fresh off another back packing trip, writing about my summer fun and dreaming about the fall temps with my palms sweaty, ready to do some climbing! I have already scoped out a lot of the bouldering in Bend and made a few trips to Smith (getting my ass handed to me!!). I am ready to climb hard, work my weaknesses, and expand my climbing world. I have several projects to work on, the Portland Boulder Rally, several comps to set for, and another trip to Bishop on the horizon. Things are looking good and I'm glad to be back!

Getting back into it has been a little rough. I went on our annual/semi-annual Canyon Creek trip to do some bouldering - Also got my ass handed to me. I guess 4 months of walking doesn't prepare a person for powerful bouldering very well... Here is a video Jesse made of our most recent trip:

If this doesn't get you psyched, I don't know what will!?

As I said before, I'm looking forward to tearing it up this fall/winter! I hope I get to do a little of that with you guys this season. And remember, if you're trying to stay warm and cozy inside, you're missing all the good temps outside!! 

A few tips for winter climbing:
Hand warmers in the chalk bag
Thermos w/ soup or something warm
Down jacket

See you all out there! More to come on the happenings in Bend!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The White

This isn't going to be another post about Mill Creek, how awesome it is, how good all the new problems are, or how it's filled with dozens of unclimbed problems waiting to be cleaned. (The torch is passing on to whomever has the desire to keep that place clean!) This is about a journey I've been on for the past few years and the changes I've gone through to find the best climbing in Southern Oregon. It's also about the end of an era and a leap into the next. After this weekend I don't know if I will go out to Mill Creek again for a very long time. I probably won't finish my project at Rattlesnake, climb the arch at Pluto Caves, or finish my routes at the Illinois River. But that's okay. I have unfinished business all over the place: Bishop, New Zealand, Smith, Thailand, Australia, Utah, Wyoming. I'm strung out everywhere! But that's kinda the point; climbing is never finished. There is always something new or something harder.

(Unfinished - Cosmic Game Project, Pluto Caves California.... I just need a little more courage... this thing is TALL!)
(Unfinished - Finders Fee, Bishop California. Didn't try hard enough.)
(Unfinished - Sunset Arete, Flock Hill, New Zealand. Tactics... horrible tactics.)
(Unfinished - Latest Rage, Smith Rocks, Oregon. Maybe I should sport climb more..)
(Bird of Prey Arete, Trinity Alps, California. This entire place is unfinished!)
I've spent the better part of my adult climbing life searching Southern Oregon for boulders, crags, and every climbable, non-chossy or poison oak covered surface out there. I've been searching for something new and better. Always new and always better. Something big enough to put Southern Oregon on the map.

About a month ago I climbed my hardest problem to date: The White (V12).

(FINISHED! The White, Prospect, Oregon. Just after crux #1)
The White was bitter-sweet. I spent two years cleaning and developing Mill Creek, staring at this project, wondering if it would ever be climbed, if it was possible, and who would do it. Thanks to a lot of help and support from my girlfriend, who came to cheer me on countless times and put up with me being gone for days at a time to go sit under a rock and basically fall and swear and fall and swear over and over again. Also, to my good friend and climbing partner, Jesse Firestone, for helping me work out the beta and always keeping me motivated and psyched: Thanks!

Throughout the dozens of sessions on The White I found myself daydreaming about the moment I would reach the top. The White represented more than just a boulder problem to me. It was the grand finally, a final chapter of my efforts at Mill Creek. It was the culmination of everything I had put into that place. It had to be done. Period. 

Over the last few years I've tried to focus my attention on my climbing process: how I think, my body positions, my psych level, fear, what I learned, and what to improve on. If I climb a route and I don't improve in some way or another then I usually don't feel very satisfied with my efforts. I hate a win without effort and I hate tying even more! I would much rather lose knowing I gave an all out effort, everything I had, leaving it all out on the rocks (at least that's what I try to tell myself).

Something different happened on The White. During the process I would imagine myself at the top, in a state of enlightenment, a sort of grand realization about climbing or life or something like that. When I focus my time and energy into something so intently and obsessively, I expect something in return. I just don't always know what that something will be. Against my usual methods for approaching a climb, while working The White, I put a whole lot of effort and thought into the end result and very little into the process. I didn't consider the value of my learning process. It was a mistake that I make when I feel pressured, and one I don't make often. The pressure came from my own desire to reach the top before my time ran out. Literally, I had two months to complete a multi-year project.

In a sense I feel like I sold out to climb The White. I sacrificed a lot to make it happen. Nights with friends, hours working, money, my climbing integrity, and even my health. Some of those things I am very used to giving up and letting go of, and I think they are completely reasonable. Sometimes doing things I love requires sacrificing other things... most athletes will tell you the same thing, and it often turns out to be a paradox. Obviously, getting to the top is the "goal" but when getting to the top becomes my main focus, I end up sacrificing a part of what makes climbing so special to me: the process. But more than that, on The White, I struggled with injury.

I am writing this a little over a month after my ascent of The White with a very badly torn hamstring. Without health insurance I am a little unsure of its severity; however, there is definitely a portion of my hamstring missing; it feels straight up gone. Based on what I feel and after talking with some medically savvy people, I have come to conclusion that I have a partial avulsion tear - basically one of my three hamstring tendons has torn partially or completely from my pelvic bone at the insertion point. This type of injury usually requires surgery and a six month rehab period... but that's only for people who have health insurance and aren't about to hike 2650 miles in the next 5 months! The show must go on!

Being injured isn't new to me. I've torn muscles and tendons, broken bones, had surgery, and gone to rehab. But being injured isn't the hard part. I can handle the pain. The hard part is taking steps backward and putting a pause on my progress. Lucky for me, I am taking an extended break from climbing to do a little walking (which will probably be really good for my arms).

Although The White took it's toll on me I feel very fortunate and blessed to have climbed on such an extraordinary piece of rock. I may have forgotten to enjoy the small things, but there is no way in hell that I am about to forget how magical that problem has been for me. It will go down as one of my most memorable sends - just in time too!

Now, I have a new goal. I will find new routes, new problems, and plenty of challenges along the way. Only, this time, I will try to notice the small things and appreciate the process. After all, I do have 5 whole months to "make mistakes" and learn.

(Enjoy the process!)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Route Setting for Dummies: A Desired Climbed Outcome

It's surprising to me that for as much as I enjoy setting routes at the gym, I haven't really talked about it much on S.O. Climbing. 

Believe it or not, I enjoy route setting just as much as I enjoy rock climbing. Easy routes, hard routes, scrubbing moss outside, and putting in bolts; I love it all! In fact, I might go so far as to say that I think route setting is more rewarding, more artistic, and equally as challenging as climbing itself. Not only does setting require a high amount of motivation and psych, but it undoubtedly needs a certain understanding of "climbing physics" to set a great route, and that doesn't come easy. Sure, sometimes people can get "lucky" and set a good route on "accident;" however, a great route usually requires a high level of body awareness, visualization, a ton of muscle memory, and lots of climbing experience. In other words, it takes time, patience, practice, and available space to put all of that to work (i.e. a climbing gym). Luckily I have had the opportunity to spend some time at the Rogue Rock Gym, where I've been able to express my route setting creativity quite liberally, every week, for over 6 years.

In the process of all of these route setting sessions, climbers will often ask me how I go about putting up a route, and I usually give them a fairly short answer that doesn't really give much insight toward what is actually going on in my head. I'm not a savant. I don't have calculus equations flowing across my vision and geometric patterns taking over my thoughts. I just do what I know and set routes for others to enjoy. For a long time route setting seemed fairly natural to me. For years, I had typically done it without really giving much thought to the process. Although, after some careful thought and observation, I have broken it down into somewhat of a formula, and I want to explain a little about how I come up with my routes. I put a lot of effort into my routes and I'd like to share some of that with you all.

There are literally hundreds of "methods" for setting a route, but within those methods there are several very important guidelines to follow. First, before I touch a hold or wrench, I consider what I call my "Desired Climbed Outcome" or DCO. In other words: Who will be climbing it? What do I want them to get out of it? What is my desired outcome? These questions are often answered before I consciously ask them. But they still need to be answered! That is very important. If there is no conscious thought about these things, you will end up with a route that will make short people mad, tall people scrunch, kids cry, and tendons tear. Either way, most of the routes I set are not specifically "for me." They are for the members, team kids, birthday parties, competitions, and/or anyone else you can think of. Although I do enjoy throwing up a route for myself every once in a while, that's not my main objective.

So, for the sake of science! (or whatever....) we are going to set a route right here, right now. We are going to talk about it and dissect it. And it will be available for everyone to climb on the back of the boulder after today. "Route-setting" will be in orange writing:

Welcome to the Virtual-Cyber-Gym! (AKA the VCG) Our very first digitally boulder problem we will all set together is going to be a moderate route (V1ish) on the back side of the top out boulder, just through the arch on the arete to the right. Our DCO is for any member (short or tall) and will mainly focus on finger friendly, bigger, power moves. It will be for kids and adults, and will be designed to improve dynamic/powerful moves.

    (Boom! Our terrain)

Now, after considering who the route is for and what kind of outcome I want, I generally consider the style of route I want. I've already decided I want to make a powerful route - bigger moves requiring some dynamic movement. I need to know what style and what terrain I'm setting on to pick out what type of holds to use. This is probably the most important part of setting a route! If the wrong holds are chosen it can make a route WAY harder than intended (or easier), more tweaky, and less consistent. Along with style I also consider the aesthetics of the route. They way the holds look together, with the other holds on the wall, with the space available for the route, and with the tape color I choose is all a part of the aesthetics. I not only like my routes to climb well, I like them to look good! In addition, while considering what holds to use, I always choose holds that are "comfortable." Although, comfortable is relative, we can at least try to choose holds that won't wreck someones finger.

So, here were are, back to our route. Is it possible to set a V1 on this type of terrain? Well yeah! What type of holds do we need? Probably fairly positive holds that are easy to swing around on and fairly comfortable to catch while moving dynamically. What color looks good and will stand out and look good? Let's use red (it's bright colored) with grey (neutral colored). I use a neutral color (black, white, or grey) when combining colors because they "match" any color... because they aren't actually colors, only shades. In this case I will bring out 3 good jugs, 5-6 positive pinches, a range of 5-10 types of slopers, and a handful of feet. You guys think red tape looks good with red holds? Cool, me too! Are the holds all ergonomically friendly for the fingers? Yup, none of the holds are too "sharp" and they are all very rounded and comfortable. Awesome!

    (And here you have it folks!)

After I have decided on the DCO, hold type, color, safety, and aesthetics of the route, I finally begin putting the holds on the wall. This is where all the fun begins! This is also where the setting method varies widely from person to person. Generally people begin from the bottom and work their way up. However, I often will start in the middle and work my way down and then finish the top later. Sometimes I have a specific move in mind and put that up first. Sometimes I put the biggest hold on first and work around that. It doesn't really matter as long as the route remains relatively consistent and/or within the chosen DCO. That means, to give a few examples, that the route must either 1) Stay the same difficulty, 2) Have several cruxes that are relatively equal in difficulty but spaced apart by "easier" moves, 3) Increase in difficulty at a constant rate, or 4) Ignore the previous 3 rules and put up whatever you want! (not recommended for beginning route setters). Remember, no one likes a V1 that has one V4 move and then goes back to a V1. It's too boring for most V4 climbers and impossible for a V1 climber!

In general there are four variables that make up a route: Steepness of terrain, hold type, hold angle, and distance between holds. We've already decided on the climbing terrain and hold type. Our job is to put the holds on at a consistent angle and a consistent distance apart. That doesn't mean ALL the holds need to face straight up and be exactly 1.34 feet apart from each other. It means, we need to make sure that harder moves between holds aren't any harder than any given hold or specific isolated body position. In other words, a big move between to really good holds should be about the same difficulty as hanging (statically) from the worst hold on the route. Shall we set our route?

Let's begin with our two start holds: Big pinches, far apart, with good feet. Our first move will be a relatively large right handed move to one of our three jugs. The climber will then make a large move to the left where they will have a choice between two identical holds placed right next to each other, at the same angle:

(Ignore the blue holds (Thanks James!!) and the highest black hold)

Because we are moving onto some more vertical terrain, I will begin to use worse holds to keep the consistency. Following the "power theme" of the route, the next move will be slightly larger and will involve somewhat of a "throw" move (depending on who you are).

(As you can see, the holds are worse and at a more difficult angle, but on easier terrain) 
Finally, we will add our last few holds. The next hold following the side-pull jug is a grey slopey hold for the left hand (remember the holds need to get worse as the terrain get's better if we want to keep the V1 consistency). The climber will then bump their left hand up again to another slopey hold over the top. After moving the feet higher, the climber can finally reach the last good red hold to use for the top-out.

(Final red hold is not shown here... oopsies!)

Now let's watch our first climber:

There we go! Our first cyber route at the VCG! But wait... there's one more thing to do before we're complete: rating and tweaking! Because we're all such amazing route setters, I think we hit the nail on the head our first go! So no tweaking (I secretly did all that work while you weren't looking)! As far as rating, well.... That's a subject that is very, umm... talked about. When it comes to my routes in the gym, I have boiled it down to this: Whatever number we put on a route, someone will think it's too hard and someone will think it's too easy. We are never right. We do our best, have a few people try the route, put a number on it, and watch people suffer the consequences as their egos praise or punish them for their efforts based on what number is scribbled onto a piece of duct tape stuck to an artificial climbing wall.

The success or failure of a route should be judged by the safety (hold type and placement), enjoyment and creativity of the moves, consistency, and the aesthetics. Last on the list should be what it is graded or even if it is graded accurately. Although it is nice to have an accurate estimate of what the difficulty of a route will be before it is climbed. However, if the route was fun and it gave you with a sense of accomplishment, challenged you in some way, or provided a new skill that you hadn't tried before, then  does the rating really matter? Who does it matter for?

I'm not gonna lie; it's nice to know what I'm climbing and to be able to compare myself to my previous self or to other people, or one climbing area to another. It's a good reminder to check on your improvement and enjoy the "success" of your first V- whatever. But, I also think it is really important to remind yourself often of why you climb, what makes you the happiest, and if chasing numbers is really a sustainable endeavor in this sport. You can chase 'em, but at some point in your life you will have climbed the hardest you will ever climb. From there.... it's just for fun.

I hope you all enjoy the 13 new boulder problems this week! Don't forget to enjoy the process. See you all out there somewhere.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

PCT Preparation

Climbing: It comes and goes in spells of motivation, consuming all of my time and thoughts, then drifting away with the rain, my busy schedule, injuries, and lately, my priority to hike the PCT. Then it comes back with a fury! I will often go through a month of training, on my own, three to five days a week, climbing outside, getting psyched, eating protein, stop drinking beer, eat healthier, and sleeping 8+ hours a night. And if I'm not climbing, then I watch people climb - aside from actual climbing, I don't know of a better way to get good at climbing than to watch people climb.

However, of late, my mind has been consumed by one giant task: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

(Kinda looks like a climbing topo, huh?)
April, 2013, Jen and I will soon be far away, on top of a mountain, crossing some creek, or tramping through some forest, slowly making our way from Mexico to Canada. On the PCT, Jen and I will be trudging through snow, poison oak, heat, mosquitoes, rain, freezing cold temperatures, and the highest altitudes in the continental 48. We are embarking on one of the toughest and most enduring challenges either of us have ever faced. And I've never been more excited!

This will truly be a climb of a lifetime! And I call it a climb because that's what it is. (Actually, it will be thousands of climbs, summits, and descents, all within one giant climb northward) And, although the PCT does not require climbing shoes, chalk, or a rope, it will require everything else I've got in my bag O' tricks.

A really tough boulder problem requires a high amount of strength, power, and skill, but only lasts a minute, if that. Climbing El Cap required weeks of planning, technical abilities, and a confident head, but flew by in just a few days. Driving to Alaska, Jen was spontaneous, adventurous, and stepped a little out of her comfort zone. The PCT, however, is an entirely different animal; the focus and energy required to tame it is nearly overwhelming. Luckily, Jen and I have wrestled our fair share of animals!

I believe that how you do something is how you do everything. I know that we will complete the PCT, because we have what it takes and we've already been through the same sort of things: College wrestling, years of backpacking, driving to Alaska, a lifetime of climbing, finishing college, moving to new cities, traveling to the South Pacific, and everything else we have ever done in our lives has led us to this trip. How we have completed all of these things in our lives is how we will complete the PCT; it's the way we live and the habits we've developed over the years. Aside from death by bear, hypothermia, drowning, or falling off a mountain, the only things that might hold us back are injury or lack of money. Because those are the two most common reasons for quitting the PCT, I am doing two things right now: beginning some physical therapy for my legs and trying to do some fund raising.

The task of getting everything in order seems kind of astronomical at the moment. Aside from raising money and staying healthy, we have to get the right shoes, figure out where we will resupply, buy a tent, maps, new clothes for all different seasons and conditions, get permits, put things in storage, buy plane tickets, find the right backpack, know the water conditions for the So. Cal section, know the snow level and water flow for the Sierras, move out of our houses and put everything in storage, pre-pack most of our food, and a bunch of stuff I can't even think of right now... And we haven't even started hiking yet!

In other words, we have so much to do between now and April 25th, and we need your help! If you or someone you know has the ability and desire to help us on our journey we would be forever grateful, and are always in the business of paying it forward! Below you will find a link to make a monetary donation, or, if you wish, we would love to hear about recent adventures you've been on, any helpful advice from other thru-hikers, or just words of encouragement. In addition, make sure to leave your address if you decide to donate - we like to send things to people! Anything you can give would be much appreciated! (We'll try our best to finish)   

What is the PCT all about?
(Well, it will basically look like this - minus the car.... and the picnic table... and the fire pit)

The PCT ascends California, Oregon, and Washington along the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges, spanning roughly 2650 miles over the course of five months. Our hike will begin near the end of April and - cross our fingers - end before October 1st. In order to complete the trail we will need to hike about 21+ miles/day on average, and take no more than 30 "zero" days if we are to beat the snow in Northern Washington. (A zero day is a day where we make no northern progress - 0 miles. AKA burgers, beer, laundry, more food, and shower days!)

During the hike we are planning on taking a quick stop at the top of the highest mountain in the lower 48 (Mt. Whitney), dropping into Yosemite Valley to check out El Cap and Half Dome, take a quick and much much much anticipated detour to see Phish play at the Gorge Amphitheater, attend a wedding, and see our friends and family all along the way! We will see bears, cross rivers, sleep under the stars, get bitten by lots of nasty things, hitch-hike, eat a lot of food (6000 calories a day), hike in some of the most stunning places in the world, and meet some of the most amazing people along the way. But, we aren't just doing this because we like to be outside, climbing stuff.

This endeavor is more than just a trail. It marks one of the toughest transitions I will make in my life. Jen and I will be moving to Bend immediately following the hike, leaving our jobs, friends and family, and a much loved community of climbers and coffee makers. Although, the move is a very tough decision for us, we believe it is the right step for us to take.

My goal, following the hike, is to work within the climbing community in Bend, either guiding, setting routes, coaching, working for Metolius, or starting my own thing; it is yet to be determined! What is determined is my motivation to get outside on some dirty welded tuft! I want to take my climbing to another level and I'm running out of dry, unclimbed rock down here. Jen plans to find a fun place to work and eventually begin going to school. (I think she could find some work being a photographer! Maybe modeling??) Either way, we are looking to have some fun, meet new people, climb a lot, get outside, and change our lives a bit. And it all begins with the PCT!

If you would like to follow along on our adventure, we will be sending journal entries through the world wide web either on this blog or something similar (we have not decided yet). Also, Jen and I, both, really appreciate all of your support! And thank you, so much, if you choose to donate to help us out or lend us a hand in some other way. Thank you if you end up giving us a lift, mailing us a package, feeding us, or just giving us some words of encouragement! We really appreciate every little bit. The trail is a big task, and we can't do it alone.

They say on the PCT that "the trail provides." There are trail angels and something called "trail magic". There is an unseen power working its magic on the trail, providing food when least expected or a ride just before dark or a nice warm bed to sleep in when it's been pouring rain for days - I call it generosity or "paying if forward". Whatever it's called, I think it happens on and off the trail, all the time. You don't have to be a thru-hiker to make trail magic. You just have to make magic. whenever you want.

And I truly think that no matter what happens, everything will be okay. We won't starve, drown, get adult-napped, or mauled by a bear. Even if that did happen, things would be alright for someone, somewhere, on their own trail. Whether we make it or not, someone is making it. And it's all because of other people. Without others, there wouldn't even be a trail to walk.

So thanks again for all the magic out there, people!

Keep on climbing! (or hiking)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Journey


Woah! What is that? Is that a treasure map?!

Yes, my friends. Yes it is! And there is plenty of treasure to go around. Dirty, mossy, hidden, put-in-a-lot-of-hard-work treasure! It's all there, all the time, rain or shine. It's not all gone and it's not too late; you just have to find it.

What you see above is an overview map of Mill Creek Falls. It is completely confusing, unfinished, and hardly helpful! Soon, however, it will be a fully operational, little bouldering guide.

(Low-Low (V8), the very obvious, no moss, classic)

After nearly two years of developing Mill Creek there are still classic problems being discovered. My last trip out there I unveiled a monstrously rad looking feature that rises 18 feet off the deck, and has since become what I consider to be the best V2 at Mill Creek. This problem (which I call Sandstorm) was hidden under a thick sheet of moss on a sheer vertical section of a boulder that I had previously considered unclimbable and not worth the effort to clean. During the cleaning process, as I slowly labored away at the moss and began to uncover what would become one of my favorite problems at the Mill, I had a humbling and exciting realization: "How many more could there be like this? There are too many..." 

Too many?


I am excited about the potential of Mill Creek, yet there is more than I can handle alone. As far as I know, nobody else has climbed there since my last trip. I have no photos. I have no videos. No one knows where Sandstorm is, and, although it has been discovered and climbed, it remains a hidden treasure to most.

Climbing, for me, has always been a treasure hunt. The hunt began when I was young but had nothing to do with rock climbing. The "climbing trips" I went on with my dad were more like animal hunts. I spent more time searching for lizards and snakes and frogs than I did on the rock. My true passion was with the animals.

However, as I got older my attention slowly turned toward getting to the top. It didn't matter if I hung on the rope, swung 15 feet sideways, grabbed tree branches, or turned into Indiana Jones while I rested, I just wanted to make it to the top. And I have to say, I did a pretty good job for a kid wearing street shoes and a home-made webbing harness!

Then came the ethics. I blame Masters of Stone III and Climbing magazine for ruining my climbing innocence. Suddenly I had to climb the routes clean! I used chalk and got my first pair of climbing shoes. I did pull ups and built my own climbing wall. I got a crash pad and I tried really hard. I climbed my first V4 when I was 16 (a John Gill problem at the Jenny Lake Boulders in the Grand Tetons). And I was weird - I still am, but back then nobody could relate. I could do thirty pull ups but I didn't have a girlfriend!

After a brief absence from climbing I became reunited in New Zealand, where I joined a small 15'x15' climbing.... space. It was more like a closet, but it was full of lasting memories and unforgettable lessons about climbing. I learned to do pull ups with my knees at 90 degrees, how to heal a flapper, how to project a route, how to try hard. I organized trips to Castle Hill and hitch hiked to the best climbing on the Southern Island. I fell in love with the process.

Since New Zealand I have worked at the Rogue Rock Gym: setting routes, coaching the climbing team, teaching classes, and everything in between. It's been amazing. I've met a lot of people that I really respect and look up to, and I have learned a LOT from those people and from my experiences. I learned how to lead climb, trad climb, aid climb, clean and bolt routes, guide, build anchors, and my favorite: teach people about climbing movement. I could go on for hours about the way a body can move on rock (in fact... maybe I will). Climbing up a route just seems like one of the most pure and natural things we can do. Especially when we climbing at our limit, in the moment, totally in focus.

However, even more pure than climbing a route: climbing a route that no one else has climbed before... ever.

Last month Jesse Firestone and I spent some time at Mill Creek with one thing in mind: Find, clean, and climb Southern Oregon's hardest boulder problems. Although, as far as I know, Mill Creek already holds S.O.'s hardest problems, we are still on the prowl for harder, scarier, prouder, and more outrageous lines. I am searching for THE king line; the treasure; the grand daddy of them all. And I think it is out there somewhere, hidden beneath the moss.

Over the years my climbing has progressed from scrambling around and catching animals to scrambling around and finding first ascents. It's rewarding, challenging, something I will continue to do for the rest of my life. I don't think developing is for everyone; however, I do hope that everyone has the chance to experience something like it in their climbing career.

Thanks to my wonderful girlfriend, Jennifer, who let me borrow her computer time and again, I was able to put together this little video of a handful of problems we have put up at Mill Creek over the last year. I hope you enjoy!

Stay tuned for a little glimpse of Trinity Alps Bouldering... coming up next!