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!