Last spring I shot with Michael O’Rourke at the Cage Free boulder at Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon. He had previously sent the sit start that ends in a dyno to a less than amazing finishing hold. I was shooting with him for Mad Rock.
In the late spring we had a lot of snow and the runoff caused Boulder Creek to run quite high. We had to build a platform of fallen trees to put the crash pads on over the rushing creek.
This week, it looks like I’m heading up into Cody, Wyoming for an ice climbing adventure with a bunch of great guys. After I’m immediately heading to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City for my biannual networking fest. I’m missing some really amazing snow right now, but I’m excited to climb in Wyoming!
Last month I got out with Chris Schulte in Boulder Canyon to take some photos on two scenic problems he wanted to feature. Dream Canyon is a beautiful area that branches off from Boulder Canyon and goes up behind Boulder Falls. The rock is higher quality and the remote atmosphere makes you feel like you’re much further from civilization than you actually are. Lower dream canyon has some great boulder problems that are just off of the creek.
Chris climbed an unnamed arete on the backside of the Freedom Boulder that he’d always loved. It’s a bit of a highball that doesn’t have a great landing, but the problem itself is not too hard.
Chris Schulte climbing an arete on the backside of the Freedom Boulder
We continue up the creek and scramble across wet slab to get to the next boulder, Black Hatchet. The flood waters of the Boulder’s great 100 Year Flood had just started to recede, so the creek was running quite high. Black Hatchet is easier to get to when the creek is frozen, but it’s a beautiful problem with great views up into Upper Dream Canyon.
Chris Schulte swinging on Black Hatchet with the high waters after the Boulder Flood roaring beneath him.
Being a climbing photographer is hard, but it’s even harder when you break your back. In March I received a compression fracture from a climbing fall, and for a month and half I wore a back brace. But I still continued to get out with climbers.
Mad Rock asked me to get out with two of their athletes in, Zach Lerner and Megan Mascarenas, to the Primo Wall in April. To do so I had to cross a tyrolean traverse, a means of getting across the river using ropes attached to both sides. You pull yourself onto the ropes, connect a long quickdraw that connects your harness to the ropes, and pull yourself across the river. Without a broken back it can be tiring.
We start out shooting in Nomad’s Cave. Easy enough. The cave opens up inside allowing me to position a reflector and shoot a flash into the reflector, lighting the scene. Meghan, Tiffany Hensley, and Zach work on the one of the boulder problem that exits the cave.
Then we move over to Shine, a 5.14a sport route that Zach and Meghan work on. Zach puts up a fixed line for me to jug up. Hanging from a rope, even sitting on my bosun’s chair, with my back brace is very difficult. Leaning out to get the shots really engages your core, which causes your back muscles to tighten. Unhappy broken back… A well, to get the shot, right?
But in the end, I survived. Now, well over six months after my fall I am 100%. I’m climbing full strength and rarely feel any impact from my fall, other than an increased attention to detail.
Last week I got out with Mike O’Rourke, a climber with Mad Rock, to Wolvo at Lincoln Lake on Mt Evans. It’s a expansive bouldering field posted around Lincoln lake that is situated below the country’s highest paved road, at over 14,000 feet. To get to the boulders you descend a very steep talus field for a few hundred feet (a blast to walk out of) to find an almost endless supply of granite. Mike quickly sends a Rebellion Sit (V10) that starts in a dark granite cave and exits with an awkward crawl between rocks.
Trying to get to another boulder we find ourselves looking at Star of David (V12), that Mike figures out an impressive one handed dyno move to a tiny sloper crimp (jug? that hurt just pulling on by itself) and quickly makes easy work of it.
Star of David V12
Star of David V12
Mike gets his swing on with Lincoln Lake in the background.
Maneuvering through the boulder field
The rest of the group disappears into the maze of boulders and Mike leads me to Warrior Up, a short but stout V15 with tiny holds. He gives it a few goes, and says he hopes he can finish it before the snows come, probably next week. Anyway, the road to Lincoln Lake will only be open till, at the latest, Oct 6th.
Mike puts some burns on Warrior Up v15
The hike out is a calf burner, short but steep. The sun is going down, the wind is picking, and the temperature dropping as we get up to the road. The end of the season is close.
Colorado has been very wet this late summer, storms coming in most afternoons. It’s been good for the land, but makes climbing difficult.
Rob D asked me last Saturday if I’d like to join him up at Mt Evans for a bouldering session with some of his friends. The hike into into Area A takes about an hour and half from the parking lot at Echo Lake. We got caught in a downpour at the reservoir and sat under some trees and waited. After the rain started to pass we kept going up the path. Bouldering pads bobbed through the trees in front of us; lots of people bailing for fear of more storms. Pity, it was a beautiful day. We got to the Ladder, a V2 with an awkward start, and found Jimmy Webb and Dave Graham doing warm up laps.
The crew headed over to the Dali Boulder where several people try the Dali Sit Start, V9.
Rob D on the Dali SS
Dave, Jimmy and Rob started working on Ode to the Modern Man, a very hard V14 with powerful moves off tiny crimps.
David Graham trying hard on Ode to the Modern Man V14
It’s a big move to a tiny crimper
Rob working on the top of Ode
It was getting late, but instead of going back we head further into the valley toward Area B. Everyone was Psyched to get on Chris Schulte’s problem, 1%ER. The talus field is full of huge boulders you have to scramble over to get to the climbs, and there are some beautiful problems in Area B. Everywhere you look there is potential. 1%ER is further southwest down the valley than I’ve been before, and the boulders just keep going.
Area B’s talus field
Rob D trying 1%ER
1%ER is on a short boulder, maybe 10ft tall, and starts out with a super hard compression move at full wingspan. Your left hand slaps up terrible slopers while you utilize heal and toe hooks. The problem culminates with a dyno to a good-ish jug that sends your feet flying out, making you almost horizontal.
All three try the moves, but Jimmy gets the pieces of the puzzle figured out.
Jimmy Webb practicing the final move on 1%ER
Jimmy Webb sticking the super hard first sequence on 1%ER
Dave Graham giving it a go
Jimmy Webb swings wildly on his send and the 2nd ascent of Chris Schulte’s 1%ER
Just after Jimmy gets the 2nd ascent of the V13 the skies open up and we run for cover in one of the nearby “caves”. We start the hike out when the rain slows, but it’s a long hike out in the rain and in the dark. We are thoroughly soaked and ready for a great burger. Nonetheless, a great day at Mount Evans.
For years I’ve jammed, pushed, squeezed, and strained to get my rock climbing shoes on my feet. I lived by the mantra, “Tighter is better.” But then last year I ripped through the leather on the inside of my Muiras before I wore out the rubber! I was tired of my feet always hurting, so I bought a pair of general use Scarpas that were comfortable enough I could wear them most of the day without my feet rejecting them like a foreign pathogen. For a year I climbed, and climbed well, in them. I thought, maybe, all this hoopla about super tight climbing shoes was bologna. If I can climb 5.12 in comfortable shoes with no real noticeable difference in performance, then why put ourselves through all this suffering?
This summer I’ve been shooting photography with incredibly strong boulderers that make climbing v15 look easier than me climbing v6 (I don’t really enjoy bouldering), so I’d usually throw my climbing shoes in my backpack and put in a few tries on nearby V-easies while the real climbers rested. I found, with increasing certainty, my shoes were holding me back from pushing harder on boulders’ precise and powerful movement. I didn’t want to believe it at first. I just generally threw it under the excuse, “I suck at bouldering,” which isn’t far from the truth.
Like many people, my first pair of climbing shoes were Mad Rocks, and I beat them up in a hurry. I’ve had a few pairs here and there since then, including the Demons, which I loved.
When I first pried the M5 onto my feet they were beyond tight, extremely hard to cram my foot into, but my feet found their customary position with the toes curled against the rand and my heal slid into place. I often joke about “The Shoe Crux”, struggling and putting more effort into getting your shoes on than you actually exert on the climb. The M5 definitely gave me a shoe crux to start, but now, 3 weeks later they slide right on.
Precision. Above all, that is what I think when I’m wearing the M5. My footwork is way more precise. I know I can toe down on the tiniest nub and the Mad Rock rubber is going to stick. I have way more confidence in my feet. After a year of guessing, I feel like I can really work on my feet again. And I can boulder (whether or not I want to is another story).
The fit is not as natural as the Demon’s, but it heal hooks with confidence and your curled toes give you the power to push off of the tiniest chip. Basically, it climbs hard.
Move the Pull-On straps!
I really only have two complaints on the shoe. The pull on straps are awkwardly placed so when you’re pulling hard the shoe flexes and makes it harder to get the shoe the rest of the way on. If the both straps were moved over just a bit it would ease the shoe on so much easier.
Velcro needs a tab
Because the velcro extends beyond the rubber backing it makes it unnecessarily frustrating to undo the velcro straps. If the rubber backing went past the velcro or if the velcro strap were looped and sewn at the end it would solve this problem.
Overall, I really like these shoes and I’m excited they have stretched just enough to make it standable to have them on my feet longer than 2 seconds after my climb.
This weekend I got out Jon Cardwell & Matty Hong for some climbs in Rocky Mountain National Park and Guanella Pass. They both worked Mirror Reality and Paint it Black in RMNP and Ice Knife in Guanella Pass. While they were both working hard on V14’s and 15’s I sent my first V6! I was psyched.
A few months ago I got a call from Tiffany Hensley asking if I wanted to get out and shoot with Swedish climber Matilda Soderlünd. Who am I to say no to an invitation like that. We tried to go to Guanella Pass but we got rained out. On the way home we decided to stop in Clear Creek Canyon to at least get some climbing in.
Matilda is not as much of a boulderer as she is a sport climber, but she definitely can hold her own.
We found this friendly guy blocking our path out, but he allowed us to pass eventually.
I invited Matilda to come back to Clear Creek later and show me her sport climbing skills. And she is impressive.