I’m really excited to share this shoot I did back in August with the Japanese running and compression brand, C3Fit, and Boulder advertising firm Mondo Inc. Shiro Hatori was the CD and Emily Choi, the Alpine Stylist, styled the shoot.
We shot around Denver’s Confluence Park and Lodo, then went up into Clear Creek to get some mountain shots. We had a great team, with awesome models and, even though it was a very long day, we had a fantastic time on the shoot.
Springtime is the season for long walks with your skis. The snowpack is generally more stable and you can hit big alpine lines. A couple weeks ago, I went on two long walks with skis.
I first tried to get to Flattop Gully with my old roommate, forgetting how far back Flattop goes. We didn’t quite make it all the way to the gully but skied a fun north slope I’d assume doesn’t get skied very often because of how long the walk is. The exit is one of my least favorite I’ve done, second probably to Silver Couloir on Buffalo Peak.
Bindu Pomeroy, of Vail, and I had been trying to get out since we met at Outdoor Retailer. Three days before the Loveland Pass area received somewhere around 20 inches of new snow, and he thought Citadel Peak would still be good. I haven’t skied too much in that area, so was open to skiing something new.
I left my house at 2:30am to be at the trailhead at 4am. Bindu and his fellow split-boarder, Jon Adgate, show up a few minutes after me. We shuttle a car to the Herman Gulch Trailhead, where we’ll finish, and drive to the gate at Dry Gulch.
The moon, while not full, was bright enough that we didn’t need headlamps for the start of our skin. You follow a low angle road for about a mile before turning uphill, pulling up your heal risers, and walking up the steep creek – hearing the water running under the thin snow cover. We had to traverse under a face that I would not want to be under in unstable snow conditions, then go straight up to the saddle between Hagar and a few false summits from Bethel.
I figured out with my Fritschi Ttecton binding, if I partially took it out of walk-mode the brakes would drop, which allowed me to walk almost straight up the hard-frozen steep face. I also found that this technique stops working when the sun warms up the snow, you just slide back down, the brakes sliding through like butter.
Bindu puts on his crampons for the final push, to the top of the rocky peak behind him
We walk the ridge and skirt to the northwest of the Citadel to find someone had oh-so-kindly already put in a boot pack up the steep snow slog. As we gained the summit ridge, we were finding the snow was softening up very quickly.
Looking to the northeast to Pettingell Peak
By the time we are set to go, a few wet slides and pilling are going off on east facing slopes. Bindu and Jon (carving in the photo above) choose the left route down the couloir (which looks far less steep at super-wide angle in the photo than it is in reality). After both of them are out of slide danger, I pick the shoulder on the right. It took me maybe 10 minutes to finish shooting and get set to ski and in that time the snow had warmed up considerably. I made a couple jump turns and set off a wet slide that pulled the top layer off the rest of couloir. I wait for it to settle before straightlinging out to the major slope. The east facing snow was some of the strangest I’ve ever skied in, both soft and crunchy, grabby and super fast. My skis sunk to ankle deep or so and the snow grabbed my tails, making it almost impossible to turn. I could make large sweeping turns which were not sufficient to control my speed. I’m not sure if I didn’t fully clip into my binding, but about halfway down the slope my right ski took off on its own. It took me too long to retreive it, wallowing in the wet snow in avalanche danger area. Getting my ski back on, I made it over to Bindu’s position, “Damn, it feels like I’ve never skied before!”. I hate that feeling. The snowboarders didn’t seem to have the same problem, claiming the snow was great for carving. I’m going to attribute it to their greater surface area and not sinking into the grabby mess (and not my lack of abilities…).
The ski out is 4 miles of generally downhill but very low angle skiing that goes by pretty quickly, except for the dirt patches you have to gingerly walk across. The last quarter mile or so we had to put the skis on the packs and awkwardly walk with ski boots (I guess the snowboarders less awkwardly walked in their more comfortable boots). High alpine adventures are fun, but I think I’m about ready to hang up my skis for the summer. It’s rock climbing and mountain biking season!
I realized, as I was driving past the exit for Moab, that I had never driven further west on I-70. I’ve taken countless trips to Moab and Indian Creek since moving to Colorado, but I hadn’t explored anything beyond this area of the desert. I was heading to Hanksville, UT to meet up with my friend, CJ, to explore for a few days. First, we went to Capitol Reef National park. This not-so-popular NP has amazing and varied sandstone cliffs and painted desert badlands. You can drive back through some very tight canyons, and if you have a high clearance vehicle you can see many more things. We didn’t have a lot of time so we only drove down Capitol Canyon, and it was pretty close to noon, so the light was not great for photography. We did stop in one tight section of the canyon to play around on some boulders.
The national park was really interesting, but I was blown away by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land outside of the park. There are endless miles of playground and free camping. We stopped to explore an area of what I’m calling painted desert. I drove my Passat wagon down sandy roads (that I hoped I could get out of) that all ended at a river. After searching for a bit at the end of the road for a way to cross, we walked into the tall brush following cattle trails which led us to a fallen tree creating the perfect bridge.
I loved this section of road. It was too good to pass up! I want to make a giant print with this…who wants one for their wall?”
We found a quiet wash just far enough from the highway to make camp. In the morning, we were planning on leaving early, but I wanted to see what was hiding beyond the wash, so we just started hiking up to the top to see what we could see. Really, the BLM land was just as cool as the NP.
CJ had been wanting to check out Goblin Valley State Park for a while, and a friend had told me to do the Chamber of the Basilisk slot canyon. FYI Fees have gone up to $15 entrance and $4 for each person’s permit to do the rappel.
The approach through the valley is quite entertaining, with plenty of mud hoodoo “goblins” to explore (and even a cave!). I read the directions wrong and took us down a different slot canyon which was trying to deliver us back into the valley, so we had to backtrack to find the right chamber where a crowd of people was waiting to do the descent. We had to wait for nearly 2.5 hours for everyone to get down, including a woman lowering her friend and her brat of a son by hand with a very misused Guide ATC instead of having them rappel. #scarythingsyouseepeopledo. Finally, it was our turn. CJ couldn’t resist playing around while lowering.
By the time we were hiking back to the valley, the light was too good to get try and get some shots of the goblins. Such a unique and other-wordly place!
CJ is a BASE jumper and wanted to get a jump in at one of her favorite exits, at Black Dragon Wash. We got to the campsite well after dark, but it was warm and the wind was still. We went to check out the landing in the light of the full moon. The photo came out looking like daylight with stars!
CJ launching of Black Dragon!
We still had a whole day ahead of us to explore, and couldn’t decide what to do. We eventually found a county road that went further into the San Rafael Swell and just drove on four-wheel drive roads (in CJ’s Tacoma) till we found something interesting. We came to this large canyon with nearly 400-foot walls. CJ thought that she could jump one of them, so she grabbed her rig and potentially opened up a new BASE exit!
I had a great time exploring further west in Utah than I’d been (at least since I was a little kid and went to Bryce Canyon). I’d love to have spent more time there, but I had a shoot I had to get back to in Moab. I can’t wait to go back and see more of what else Utah has to offer!
Abby Chan, the talented yogi/dancer/entrepreneur I photographed on the roof of the Hotel Monte Vista, connected me with Alex Pavon. Alex is a professional Enduro mountain biker who lives in Flagstaff and was kind enough to give up her New Years Day to shoot with me. She took me to a beautiful section of trail on Mount Elden overlooking Flagstaff, a trail called Sunset.
We had a couple hours to shoot up high before we drove further from Flagstaff, past Arizona Snowbowl (Flagstaff’s ski area), to some double-track trails in rolling hills with aspen tree groves. Alex switched kits and got out her gravel bike for something different.
I really enjoyed Flagstaff. Everyone I met was awesome, and the city had some pretty great reasons to come back – more climbing and mountain biking!
After seven days in Flagstaff, I headed north, through Monument Valley, Indian Creek, Fruita, and back home to Boulder, rounding out an amazing trip around the South West. I need to take more roadtrips like this!
Lately, I’ve not been taking advantage of the playground in my backyard enough, Rocky Mountain National Park. When Tyler Kempney asked if I wanted to climb Mixed Emotions, M5- WI4 (or Mixed Feelings – the name seems to be a bit interchangeable) I said yes. Although I prefer sticking my tools in ice, I haven’t mixed climb in a while.
After an hour and a half detour (we took the wrong trail), we made it to the Loch Vale cragging area. There was a guided group on Mixed Feelings, so we each got a lap on Crystal Meth, a dirty looking WI4. The guided group didn’t do the mixed line, so the hanging dagger looked untouched.
Tyler led through the dry traverse, climbing on the rock with his gloved hands and placing cams in the horizontal crack. There’s a fixed pin with an old sling right below the curtain that he tried to back up with a marginal #1 cam. The ice didn’t inspire confidence, looking quite dry and in need of refreshing, and Tyler tested a couple of different entry points.
Once established on the ice above the dagger we all relaxed a bit. I was unsure of whether the dagger would hold. I kept telling myself, “If the dagger breaks, keep shooting!”
It’s a fun classic. Great job Alex Lowe!
I need to get out on some more adventures. Hit me up with ideas!
Last month I took a job rigging ropes for a video shoot in Yosemite. I took the job knowing nothing about the details of the shoot, other than I would be rigging for another video guy (unnamed at the time, ending up being Andrew Peterson). The video we were shooting for followed a Danish TV investigative reporter, Morten Spiegelhauer, along a year long journey into rock climbing, seeing how dealing with fear on the rock changed his decision making process in everyday life. Morten had come to Yosemite a year ago to start the journey with Hans Florine, who holds the speed record for climbing the Nose of El Capitan (31 pitches in 2 hours and 23 minutes). Through mental and physical training, Morten culminated the experience by leading several trad pitches on El Capitan. It was awesome seeing his cool headed approach to leading, with only 4 trad leads under his belt previously.
I flew into Salt Lake City at 1am, arriving late because a woman with a carry-on dog refused to make her dog sit under the seat in front of her. After taxiing to the runway, we had to return to the gate so she could be escorted off the plane, screaming profanities, and the other passengers clapped once she was gone.
Andrew met me outside the airport with his Diesel Jeep Liberty, having slept for 3 hours in preparation for our 12 hour all night haul to The Valley. We made it somewhere into Nevada, but even with switching off driving we had to stop and sleep. Google was telling me we’d arrive 3 hours before we had to be there, so I reasoned we could sleep for two hours. We pulled off onto some gravel country road and made a quick bivvy.
After a mandatory In-n-Out stop outside of Sacramento, we started the drive back east towards Yosemite. We knew we were in a hurry (unnecessarily so, we beat the rest of the crew), but we stopped to take photos.
This being both of our first times in Yosemite, driving in was pretty magical. There are 3,000 foot cliffs towering over you with waterfalls dumping huge amounts of water on every side. The sun filters through the thick trees as slowly drive the one way road. Around every corner you catch sight of the sites you’ve heard of before: Horestail Falls, Bridalveil falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.
El Capitan towering over Southside Drive
Yosemite Falls, taken through the sunroof
We met up with Hans Florine and the Danish crew in the meadow below El Capitan, discussing our plans for the shoot. Morten, the subject of the video, wanted a warmup climb to get used to the rock, so Hans took us to climb Pine Line (thin 5.7) and the first pitch of Salathe (5.10c, dual crack fingers!!). We had limited time, so I top roped Salathe, with Hans telling me I only had 8 minutes to climb the 120′ route. It was a fun exercise in speed crack climbing, with Hans yelling, “30 seconds!”, “10, 9, 8…”
We reconvened with the rest of the crew, who were scouting locations and doing timelapses, and jet off to Hans’s Basecamp. We ate well for the week, having grilled steaks and pork pretty much every night (except on the wall).
The last light bouncing off of El Capitan
Dusk scene from Tunnel View
The next morning we do another warmup climb, with the full crew out taking video. I take Andrew up some variation of After Six so he can shoot down on Morten and Hans.
At the top of Manure Pile Buttress, waiting for Morten to finish the climb
Hans Florine in his natural environment
After we got down, Andrew and I went into full tourist mode. We drove around the loop, 1 mile, taking us an hour and half (mostly because of construction). We stopped at Yosemite Falls to get a closer look. There’s really not a great viewpoint of the falls that doesn’t include being sprayed with ice cold water and high winds, so we left the path and found some cool boulders.
These rocks are constantly wet with the spray from Yosemite Falls. It amazes me that it doesn’t look even more rainforesty
This couple has the right idea
We then drive the 45 minutes up to Glacier Point, overlooking Half Dome. It’s pretty incredible. Click on the image to see bigger
Andrew wanted to get a timelapse of the last light on El Capitan and climbers’ headlamps from Tunnel View. I wandered off, following random trails on the side of the mountain over the Tunnel chasing the sun.
I never got to the point where I could see around the other side of the mountain, but looking back, I found these amazing wild flowers with the entire Yosemite Valley behind them. To get this photo, I was precariously perched on loose soil, holding onto a tree above a couple hundred foot cliff. I wished I had had my climbing equipment.
I made my way back to Tunnel View, where Andrew was still working on his timelapses. These guys were too cute not to get a photo of.
Looking up at the El Capitan headwall from pitch 4 anchors
This was my first time in Yosemite. This was my first time on a big wall. The most pitches I’ve done in one push is eleven, I think. I’ve never ascended (climbed a rope fixed to anchors rather than climbing the rock) more than one pitch (100-ish feet) at a time. I typically do not have problems with heights or fear while climbing.
This time I was legitimately terrified, more so than I can remember in recent history. Climbing someone else’s old climbing rope they retired and donated as a fixed rope that has been hanging for an unknown amount of time in unknown weather conditions and is in an unknown state of health, attached to unknown anchors did not inspire confidence in me. I was attached with two Petzl ascenders that lock in one direction, which allows me to move up but will not slide down the rope unless I remove them from the rope. Both ends of the ropes were attached to anchors, but if for some reason the rope above me snapped, my ascenders would fly off the loose end instead of allowing me to stay attached to the anchor below. All of this is pretty irrational fear as these ropes are used quite often by climbers descending from Freeblast or by Jimmy Chin and other filmmakers to get to different vantage points.
Also, adding to my fear was the 50lb haul bag riding below my feet. Every step that I took into my stirrup attached to my ascender pulling on the frayed rope, I was adding 50 more pounds. I think if it had just been my weight, the fear would have been a lot less.
Every time I attached myself to an anchor, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Every time I had pulled out all the stretch in the old dynamic ropes and I had to transfer all of my hopes and dreams onto that rope, I had to overpower my fear…”F*$& F*$& F*$& F*$&”…”Guh, just go, the only way out of this is up!”. Six pitches up, I reach the Heart Ledge, and I finally am able to breathe normal again. There was a fixed line on the 5.10 up to the Mammoth Terraces, which I was happy I wouldn’t have to lead on the one static line we brought up.
Andrew jugging up the fixed line to the Pitch 4 Anchors
Andrew topping out pitch 5
After a final struggle to get my haul bag unstuck in the corner roof of the 5.10 I made it to the Mammoth Terraces and traverse the wide ledge to the anchors above Pitch 10 of Freeblast. Hans, Eric (Han’s employee), and Morten are just starting into pitch 6. I quickly rigged our static line to the anchor so Andrew could rappel down and shoot them on the exposed face before they were hidden by the Ear of Pitch 8 (or Half-Dollar). Andrew rappelled down to pitch 9, to shoot Hans coming over the edge of the “Half Dollar”.
Eric Griffith leading pitch 9, Hans Florine belaying, and Andrew Peterson jugging the static line
While Andrew was shooting them below where I could have a decent shot from the top, I took the opportunity to change. But I couldn’t resist getting naked and taking photos from ~ halfway up El Capitan.
Morten led the final pitch, and I captured video of him topping out. Andrew and I continued shooting video with the little remaining light before setting up our bivvies on the ledges. I took some opportunity to take photos in the fading light.
The weather on the ledges was perfect, good temps and very little wind. The stars came out in full force. I balanced my camera on the ledge to get this long exposure.
My sleeping quarters for the night
While on the ledges, we tried to stay connected to the rope via ferrata setup by Hans from the bolts on Mammoth Terraces. While sleeping, I remained attached to the via ferrata and clipped my sleeping bag to the fixed line to Heart Ledge, since it was conveniently located. I did not consider that someone might be climbing up from Heart Ledge early in the morning. I woke up to my sleeping bag getting tugged towards the ledge and a very sweaty Jimmy Chin, National Geographic photographer and film maker, popped up onto the ledge. “Oh, hey Jimmy,” I said super casually. “Go back to sleep! Go back to sleep,” he said as he stepped over me. It was like a weird Santa Claus moment.
We saw Alex Honnold climbing up pitch 6 on Freeblast (Freerider), and figured Jimmy was filming him on some unknown project. Little did we know that Alex was training for his now famous free solo a week and half later.
On the ground again, looking back up at where we spent the night
The majesty of El Capitan. Alex Honnold and crew are the little specs in the shaded area
Andrew really wanted to get his timelapse from Tunnel view and was electing to stay up all night working on it. I went with him, getting a few shots I really wanted.
El Cap and Half Dome from the other side of the Tunnel
Moving the tripod, happy little accidents
Sunrise over the Dome
Andrew getting one last shot before we left Yosemite
Yosemite was amazing! I definitely want to go back and climb more, though I haven’t made up my mind whether I want to do big walls or not. There is tons of climbing away from the crowds to be done. We had bluebird weather all week, which is amazing for climbing, but not ideal for photography. I wished that we’d had a bit of inclimate weather to give the valley a bit more drama.
After a great week exploring Yosemite, I stopped in Reno for a few days to spend time with my sister. I had been wanting to shoot a new truck in an off-road scenario for a while, and my sister’s friend, Chris, had a 2016 GMC Canyon that was perfect. We went to the Washoe Boulders above Carson City just before sunset and got exactly what I was looking for.
On Sunday, while hanging out the back of my car, I shot Dan Lehman riding his motorcycle up Flagstaff Mountain. With the back hatch open and my feet securely bracing against my bike rack, I was able to get the angles I wanted with Dan following super close. Dan’s friend, Samantha, held onto my Flashpoint Streaklight 360 (my favorite portable strobe!) completely safely held in by a makeshift seatbelt made from Alpine Draws. Had a lot of fun playing around and definitely learned a thing or two about what I’d do different next time.
This was one of those happy accidents. Camera got stuck in a weird mode, dragging the shutter for .3 seconds.
For this last shot, I was stationary and had Dan ride past me a few times. Melissa is hiding on the other side of the curve with the Streaklight.
I love doing personal work like this, playing around to see what works.
Colorado has some incredible and unique landscapes. Many are slammed with tourists, but there are some that are much less known. Escalante Canyon is one of those. Similar rock to the Westgate Sandstone Cracks of Indian Creek, this canyon attracts trad climbers, hikers, and ATV-ers.
I didn’t shoot any climbing because I was too busy climbing! Can’t wait to get back there!
I was supposed to be in Indian Creek, but scheduling got a bit messed up. So I was unexpectedly in Boulder for the weekend. My buddy Eric Poore hit me up and asked if I wanted to ski the East Face of Notch Top in Rocky Mountain National Park. I didn’t really know what that entailed, but I said sure.
The East Face of Notch Top
The trail to the base of Notchtop is relatively flat, but skinning over the iced over bootpacks was less than enjoyable. I decided I didn’t really want to do the traverse back.
Eric gearing up to lead a short rock pitch before gaining the snow climb
Eric races skimo, meaning he skis uphill really fast, skis down really fast, and repeats. He’s fit. He absolutely destroyed me on the bootpack. I asked him to stop so I’d have something to take photos of.
Photo Credit: Eric Poore. Fully loaded, climbing styrafoam ice with non-existent gear. The nut on my left was just good enough to stay in un-weighted.
Eric just below the 3rd pitch of ice. Most of the bottom section disintegrated as I kicked in.
Photo Credit: Eric Poore. Me slogging my way up the last pitch of snow to the ridgeline where we dropped into Notchtop Spire Couloir. The giant cornice over the East Face. We tried to stay out from under it as much as possible. View down Notchtop Spire Couloir and across to Flattop and Flattop Gully, which we climbed to get out of Odessa Gorge The sun had been hitting the east and south faces pretty hard, and the conditions were pretty soft. We elected not to ski the East Face, but down the Spire Couloir, which skied pretty fantastically. Eric looking back at what we just skied Getting out of Odessa Gorge we decided to not climb the easy way out, the slope above us, but the “S” couloir of Flattop Gully. It was a bit longer, definitely steeper, but maybe more entertaining? View from Flattop Gully of Notchtop.
The last climb out spent the last of my energy. The snow wasn’t being cooperative, and I kept sinking back with every step. Within 100 feet of the summit I decided to try mix climbing the rocks instead. I got stumped by a featureless bulge and was about to head back to the snow when I found a small crack seam that took me in the direction I wanted to go. Laying back on the seam, yarding on my ice tools, I got myself probably 30 or 40 feet above my starting point. The crack petered out and I had to do some balancy slab climbing moves, scary in crampons. Getting locked into another crack system I made my way to the summit, glad that scaring myself drytooling didn’t turn out badly. As soon as I reached the summit I found out that I barely had control of my legs on flat ground. They were exhausted. Apparently I need to train for Skimo races with Eric.
The walk across the snowless summit of Flattop took me far too long. We decided to drop into Tyndall Gorge via the Tyndall Headwall, which was incredibly steep. It skied pretty well, but soon all of Tyndall Gorge was in shadow and the sun softened snow hardened immediately.
Without full control of my legs and wretched snow conditions, I felt like I’d never skied before. Thankfully, Eric was waiting patiently for me at Emerald Lake. I’d asked for a big day, and he had delivered. I haven’t been that tired in a while.
Last year I skied Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows for the first time and we blown away. I went back this year and skied Alpine Meadows two days in February. I was there just in time for a Sierra Cement dump that caused a partial shutdown of the resort on a Friday and Saturday.
Driving my sister’s Hyundai with no snow tires, I made it up the slightly inclined road leading to Alpine Meadows, begging the cars in front of me to not slow down too much, or I wouldn’t be able to start going again. I crested a hill and found a line of unmoving traffic. I crept forward as cars bailed from the queue, hearing the snowpatrol blasting for avalanches above us. Finally, the line started moving and I found a parking spot. My early start didn’t pay off, I arrived after opening chair. Walking to the ticket office, I saw the main chair wasn’t spinning yet. I called my friend Kelsey who’s a coach for the free ride comp that supposed to be going on. The ski area hadn’t cleared the lifts yet…so everyone is just chilling in the lodge. I end up sleeping on the lodge floor till the lifts finally start spinning around 1pm. I saw another friend, Riley Bathurst, waiting in line and end up jumping on the lift with him. He invited me to ride with him.
The foot of fresh snow was heavier than anything I’ve ever skied. It’s called Sierra Cement for a reason. But it was a fun couple hours of skiing one lift (the management, KSL, couldn’t get the rest of the mountain open).
I spent the night on Kelsey’s couch and got to Alpine early Saturday. The line of traffic from San Francisco had already started, but was much worse at Squaw. Again, the lifts were not running when I got there. Lifts were supposed to open at 8:30, but this was the Roundhouse Express line around 9:30am…no one moving.
The Hot Wheels lift was spinning, but it only accessed a flat flat green run, so I didn’t give it any thought. Finally, around 9:45 Roundhouse started loading. I was close-ish to the front of the line and immediately made my way to the Scott Chair, which accessed the best terrain that would be open. The line was already HUGE! I made the (wrong) decision to not get in the singles line, and wait amongst the groups. Finally, the Scott Chair started loading. I watched the first few skiers get to enjoy surprisingly light, deep snow. Despite not getting any new snow, the cement must have had frozen over night and gotten lighter. I then spend 45 minutes watching the beautiful face get all-but-completely skied out. It was even more painful because I watched the guy from Chair 2 make 3 laps through the singles line before I made it onto the chair. Painful.
I found an unskied line through some cliff bands and made it back to Scott Chair. Now the singles line started about 100 yards away from the the lane dividers, giving me another 45 minute wait. I skied a few more lines, waiting 45 minutes each time, and decided I’d had enough queuing.
I’m not sure if you know this or not, but resort skiing on a weekend sucks. It was made worse by terrible management not knowing how to deal with actual snowfall. They had advertised like crazy around California for how much snow they were getting, but when everyone came for said snow, they couldn’t open more than 2 lifts? We were told they couldn’t open Summit Express because of wind gusts of….wait for it….35 MPH!!! No resort in Colorado would have any lifts running if they had to shut down because of 35mph winds.
I took one more run down a different side and called it quits. In two days of skiing, I got maybe 5 hours of actual ride time in. I love the terrain at Squaw/Alpine, but they’ve got to figure their operations out if they want people to keep coming back.
Some of that sticky Sierra Cement.
Sorry for the complaining, just needed to get that out.
Boulder just got one of our spring snow storms where it snows a fair amount and it’s completely gone the next day. Melissa had recently bought a pair of Pajar Icepicks and I wanted to shoot them. I didn’t want a static studio shot, so I took her out into Boulder Canyon and Nederland to shoot some product lifestyle. We confirmed that they boots are, in fact, waterproof.
I’m from the Midwest, and I don’t particularly like leaving Colorado to go back, but I regularly have Red River Gorge, KY on mind. My girlfriend can attest that I compare pretty much every climbing experience to ‘the Red.’ Basically, most complaints fall under “it’s not overhung enough.” I was psyched when she said she needed to use 5 vacation days and wanted to see what climbing in Kentucky was all about.
Melissa getting a sit-down rest on EGBG (5.10a) before 60 feet of overhanging jugs at the Chocolate Factory
She loved it! I love it. And I can’t wait to go back.
I got to explore some new areas and go back to some of my favorites. The first day I accidentally took her to Bruise Brothers at Muir Valley (was aiming for Tectonic Wall, but I went on autopilot and walked almost all the way to BB before I realized it). Rat Stew and The Return of Manimal are superfun routes to really get you in the RRG mood. We then explored Bibliothek, an area I’d somehow never gone to before. Incredibly aesthetic, overhanging jug hauls, a less steep Motherlode. I jumped on a Josh Thurston original with a tag at the base that says 5.12a, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I was psyched to get the onsight but felt it was easier than 12a. Turns out most everyone agrees that it’s 5.11c. I then tried The Fury, which is a beautiful arching overhang that you see from across the amphitheater. My leftover pump from Unbearable was too much, and I ended up taking 2 or 3 times.
Day two we drove down to the Motherlode area by PMRP. I’d spent a lot of time at the PMRP but never stopped at the Motherlode. Cars were parked all over the road leading to the big hill down to the parking lot, which I thought was odd. In the past, this was frowned upon. As I make the turn to go down the hill, spray painted signs warn entrants, “4×4 only!!! Do not drive 2WD Down.” Typically the low flats areas are the problem, mud pits that I used to rally my Mazda Protege5 down with mostly no problem. So in my dad’s 2wd Toyota Tacoma I thought it would be fine. The hill was the worst I’ve ever seen it, enough I worried about getting stuck at the Motherlode parking lot.
“We can deal with that later.” I wanted to check out The Chocolate Factory since it had several highly rated moderates. Wonkaholic 5.10a felt quite a bit harder than the previous day’s Rat Stew. We then did EGBG, which is new and not in the book. Fantastic! Way better than Wonk.
Melissa after finishing EGBG
I tried the fun Hip to the Jive (11b), which starts with a superfun handcrack at the bottom and moves into shallow pockets in an overhang. I missed a hold at the top while above a clip and took a 30-some foot whip, sending Melissa far into the air. My thought while falling, “Man, I hope I don’t hit that face to the left!”
We climbed the classic 10’s, just to the left of the incredible looking 5.14c, Pure Imagination. The Glass Elevator, Oompa, and Loompa. All felt hard for their grades but are fun routes.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the best part of going to Red River Gorge the first week of November was being in the magical sub-tropical forest with all the beautiful changing leaves.
We met up with an old friend and her boyfriend, and climbed at the Gallery on day 3. I forgot how awesome this place is. The classic five star warmup, 27 Years of Climbing, had a line, so I put up A Brief History of Climb (5.10b). So so very good, and incredibly beautiful arching overhang. I quickly ran up a second time with my camera so I could shoot Melissa on her Onsight attempt.
Johnny B. Good, Guernica, and Preacher’s Daughter rounded out the climbs in the main area. Preacher’s Daughter is soo soo good! (this is a continuous theme in the Red. Even 2 star routes here would be 4 star classics in most climbing areas)
Another climber on A Brief History of Climb
I tried Gold Rush with our friends, a stellar 5.11d with a stout, overhanging crimpy crux to a dyno finish. It’s exciting! Then after I was pumped out I tried Random Precision and felt rather shut down. I put up the draws again on Johnny B. Good and Melissa one hung her first 5.11a!
Thursday it was supposed to rain, so we went to the area near our cabin, Military Wall. Always a classic with climbs like Fuzzy Undercling and Tissue Tiger, it’s a safe place to climb it does start raining. The start of Fuzzy has been eroded down, and so the climb has been upgraded to 5.11b, purely because of the very powerful, hard boulder problem start, getting to the second bolt. Day four on and my skin was finally tired after pulling on the crimp undercling too many times. once to the second clip you get to enjoy overhung plate goodness to a no-hands knee bar rest and fun jugs to the finish. Our friends put up Tissue Tiger (5.12b), so I gave it a try. I was very surprised how easy the bottom 3/4’s of the climb felt, just good-enough jugs to a couple of rests. But then you hit a series of big moves through powerful crimps and side-pulls. It’s going to take me a few more times of sussing out the crux before I’m able to clip those chains.
My goal for the trip was to send one of my two 5.12a projects, so after 3 climbs on day 4 decided to take it easy, especially after the rain came. Melissa and I went to discover what Natural Bridge State Park had to offer.
Awesome views on a moody late afternoon.
We woke up on Friday surrounded by a deep fog. I wanted to get on my project early so we could get back to Bloomington at a decent hour to see old friends. Driving to The Zoo I couldn’t help but stop and photograph this scene before sunrise.
But even after sunrise I couldn’t help but shoot some more.
Finally, we get to the Zoo and I warm up on my project, Hippocrite (5.12a). I thought I might send, putting up the draws, but messed up what has been my crux, clipping bolt 3. I’ve tried this climb for years, and I was ready to put it to bed.
Melissa wanted to record my attempts, which I’m happy she did. I’ve never had a video of me climbing before.
I love Red River Gorge. No matter where in the world I’m climbing, I don’t think I’ll find a place I love more. I can’t wait to come back!
A couple weekends ago I woke up well before sunrise and drove my friend Vincent into the mountains. We were supposed to meet up with some other friends in Crested Butte, but when we got to Buena Vista, the other side of the mountains looked completely socked in. We checked the weather and CB was supposed to have rain and snow all day. BV had a better outlook so we looked for some mountain bike trails nearby. We found the Monarch Crest Trail was the highest rated ride in the area so we decided to check it out. We met the Valley High Shuttle in Poncha Springs and were delivered to Monarch Pass. The pass was covered in an inch or so of snow, with no breaks in the clouds in sight. We started up the trail, leap frogging with most of the group from the shuttle all the way to Marshall Pass, 8 miles of uphill. Once the downhill starts the group fans out and we’re mostly on our own. The snow definitely added a bit to the riding, making me stay on my disk brakes a little too much.
But, it was beyond beautiful.
Once we dropped into the trees, the snow went away and the leaves littered the trail.
The trail continues for 30 miles, joining the Colorado Trail for portions of it. You climb for close to 2,000 feet for 8 miles from the pass, then get to descend 6,000 feet over the next 22 miles. The trail varies quite a bit, from flowing single track to incredible rock gardens. There are several cut offs if you need to bail, they take you down forest service roads back to the highway. We stuck it out and took the last bit of trail, Rainbow Trail, my favorite part. Most of the people turned off before this section, but it’s not to be missed. After you descend the steep last 1/2 mile down to the road you get to cruise 5 miles down US285, which brings you right back to your car.
Beautiful spot on the Arkansas River next to our campsite north of Buena Vista
I just started mountain biking last summer. It’s been fun learning a new sport, but it also a steep learning curve. The Monarch Crest Trail is definitely my favorite trail that I’ve done. Can’t wait to explore more of the trails around the central Colorado mountains.
I was set on leaving Bend Monday night for Washington, but some friends convinced me to stay and go explore Smith Rock with them Tuesday morning. We hiked to the top and Sylvan and Michelle got to work setting up the slackline on established bolts.
Sylvan set up the line on the far side and trollied back to our side, taping the main line and the backup together every few feet. He then took his first steps out into space.
Slacklining 3 feet off of the ground is hard enough. Throw in the mindf$%k of walking on a one-inch piece of webbing 400 feet above the ground, and inconsistencies like wind causing the line act in unpredictable ways, and I don’t know how they do it. It takes an incredible amount of skill, concentration, and core strength. I’ve had several opportunities to get out on highlines, but I’ve always politely declined the invitations. When Sylvan and Michelle said I couldn’t leave till I got out on the line, I finally gave in. I felt surprisingly comfortable just sitting on the line, but when I got set to stand up, I couldn’t make my body do it. One barrier at a time, I guess.
This was my first time to Smith Rock, and I was leaving disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to climb any routes because of weather and timing. But right as I was about to leave to start my 7 hour drive to Everett, WA, two other highliners top out from climbing the Red Wall and said they’d give me a catch on this fun looking 5.11d on Easy’s Playhouse. I knew it was going to be hard because 40 foot 11d’s are usually harder than a lot of 5.12a’s. I was not wrong; stout but very fun overhanging climbing. I’d love to get back to Smith and get some solid climbing in.