Trailrunning with Beth

 Last week I met Beth Kolakowski in the Mount Sanitas parking area before dawn, and she took me to her favorite trailrunning spot, on a hill that overlooks north Boulder. It was the perfect spot to shoot some running in beautiful morning light. 

This buck was really intent on watching Beth run. “What is she running from?”

Beth, so excited to be running!

Chrissi Kuehn in Laos

I hope everyone had a great New Years! I’ve been enjoying being back from Asia and skiing Colorado’s great snow and ice climbing. Such a contrast to endless sweating in SE Asia!

I’ll get around to editing all of my photos from Asia, but right now I’m piecing together through some different shoots I did while there. I don’t shoot with a lot of fashion models, and when I do they’re usually running or doing something active. But when I met Chrissi I knew I had to shoot with her in a little bit more traditional style. Although Chrissi says she’s never modeled, I have a hard time believing her since she was super easy to work with.

I met Chrissi while she was working at the Green Climbers’ Home in Thakhek, Laos (a fantastic climbing area that everyone should make an effort to visit. I’ll have more on GCH later). Originally from Germany, she’s been living and working in SE Asia for a while, working at the resort and getting strong climbing most days in the crazy overhanging limestone cliffs.

The river runs through this cave which provides the climbers with a much needed method of cooling off after getting ridiculously hot climbing in the humid climate. And it sits only about 100 meters from my tent! I shot in this cave the most out of anywhere in Laos.

Chrissi agreed to sit in the cold water and model for me only a few hours before her and I both left GCH. I headed to Cambodia and Chrissi left for Thailand. Enjoy the photos of Chrissi and let me know what you think!

I’m looking forward to this new year; I can’t wait for what new adventures are to come! Hope you’re guys are psyched for 2016 too. Glad I get to share all of this with you!

November Photo Walk

One of the things I like to do with my students is take them on a photowalk to help them to see how things they pass everyday can become art. It’s an exercise in how to see the world differently; art is all around us.

I did this with my current Accelerant at Madelife , Bryn. I love her excitement for photography and her desire to learn.

Escalante Canyon, Colorado’s Indian Creek

I originally heard of Escalante Canyon when I traveled to Ouray for the first time, three weeks after I moved to Colorado, to go to the Ice Festival. I had never been crack climbing in the desert, but it sounded awesome, so I put it on a mental checklist. l’d been meaning to get to this area that’s only about an hour from Grand Junction for three and a half years.

Alex Vidal and I finally made a trip out there a few weeks ago. It was great! Perfect weather, great climbs with awesome people.

We pulled into the campsite just before midnight. I slept on a picnic table covered by a small roof, and in the morning I saw a GMC pickup pull up and suspiciously look around. Neil Longfellow found us. He’s been living in his truck wandering around the desert for a few months.

The climbing is similar to, but shorter than, Indian Creek. After spending quite a bit of time struggling up incredibly stout and powerful climbs in Vedauwoo this summer, the desert hand crack style felt so “easy” and precise (for the most part). After a short, but fun warm up we jumped on an offwidth 5.9 called Junk Corner (given one and half stars, but I had so much fun I climbed it twice). I did junk up the skin on my left elbow pretty good.

Alex squeezes up the chimney on Junk Corner, 5.9

Alex prepares to climb TH Crack (5.8) at the Cabin Area

There’s a lot of vandalism on these walls. People who can’t hit broadside of a barn have to use cliffs as target practice, putting scattered pockets in puzzling locations up the walls. Below TH Crack someone carved a huge “TH”, hence the name. The climb is another awesome warm up.

It was getting hot so we took a break, went back to camp and jumped into the creek. Well, Alex and Neil did. I hate submersing myself in cold water – it was surprisingly cold.

The evening light from the Interiors area overlooking our camp and a bunch of climbing not listed on Mountain Project. 

Alex losing his soul. 

One of the best parts of camping in the desert is the incredible star-lit nights. I finally got some photos of the milky way I’m proud of.

Neil’s homemade rooftop tent silhouetted against the skyline

We climbed the second day at the Interiors Area again. We warmed up on Unknown I (5.9) which starts out as an overhang roof that you have to pull with offwidth moves, once on top of the roof it goes to extra wide #6 slab crack. Right where it gets desperate you’re able to grab the start of the 5.10+ crack and jump up to a small platform to the bolts.

Neil Longfellow got this shot of me testing my flexibility. I need to do more yoga. He just missed the really amazingly awkward shot of my head being stuck below the roof. 

From our campsite we were eyeing the Keyhole route, a 5.10a splitter small hands .75 splitter with “keyhole” pods. The movement through the pods is really awesome, and it was really the first indian creek style crack – uses mostly one size cam the majority of the way up – climb I’ve led. Especially in the size that wasn’t just perfect hands the whole way up. Super-tight hands and fingers is all technique, and if you don’t have the technique it’s next to impossible. If you do it can be like climbing a ladder. Dealing with feet on these kinds of routes is probably hardest part. In the crux of this route I was able to lieback through the thinnest section and paste my feet on the slightly uneven crack.

Alex climbs the brilliant Keyhole route (5.10a) at the Interiors Area

The top of the route opens up to perfect hands.

Neil Longfellow snapped this photo of me climbing Key Hole. 

The Interiors area is called that because of two routes that are in a cave created by a detached pillar. To get to the routes you pass through Pinball Chimney 5.9+++R. It only has one confirmed send, but didn’t stop Alex from playing around on it.

The two routes on the interior are amazingly fun and protected from the heat of the day. The namesake route is a 5.9- called Interiors. It starts up this 5.Fun (5.7?) crack ramp, where it seems like most people on mountain project stop and traverse out to a set of anchors for The Shaft, but the meat up the route starts there, and it’s very fun 5.9 climbing up a dihedral for another 25-30 feet. The anchors are on a detached block behind you that you have to chimney up to, one of the most unique anchor clipping motions I’ve done. 
The other route in the cave is The Shaft 5.10a, a dirty but fun climbing up a dihedral with a couple different cracks. There’s a suspect internal flake that I wouldn’t place gear behind. Definitely a route worth climbing, slightly easier than Key Hole. 
Neil Longfellow took this great shot of me on The Shaft
The light later in the day in the cave is so incredible, but we had to take off back to Boulder before I got any photos of climbers on these routes. Looking back that was a mistake. 
I felt far more comfortable and strong over trad gear in Escalante Canyon than I have since I broke my back over 2.5 years ago. I blame the struggle fest that is Vedauwoo improving my technique so much. At the end of the second I was so psyched and energized by these climbs I wanted to do 10 more, but Alex and Neil were wiped. I found one last climb that I knew would wipe me out, a super wide offwidth on the outside of the cave called Fondon’t (5.9++)
“Well, that might hold a wet cat”…tipped out with mud on one side. – Alex Vidal. Photo by Neil Longfellow

I had definitely never led anything like this. I had to fight my way up 20 feet before I could place my first piece, a tipped out #6, the widest cam. I had to worm up, finding body positions that pinned just the right part of a knee or elbow or head or shoulder to keep me from sliding out and landing on the rocks below. The positions where it’s possible to move upward are the positions where it’s possible to fall out. The body positions where you’re locked in to the point of relaxing and taking a breath, I found it all but impossible to move from. Getting in and out of those two main positions I found to be the crux of the route. It’s a full body battle agains the rock to move and keep you in it at the same time. I bumped the #6 higher in the crack till it was finally good enough that it might have held me if I statically took on it, and pulled myself out of the offwidth crack onto a small ledge before the rest of the climb up 5.8 crack and slab. I huge sigh of relief and a proper mount of exhaustion. Now. Now I was ready to go home. 

Drytooling Halloween in Vail

On Halloween this year I was invited to go climb some mixed and drytooling routes in Vail. But I had to wear a costume.

Dave Roetzel warms up

Katie Bono fly’s out the roof in a cookie monster costume.

Waldo was found climbing The Lighning. Chris Snobeck

Fist Bump!

Katie took one of the biggest whippers I’ve seen. Huge swing, but she was pscyhed to have come off the wall with both of her tools. 

It was a super fun day and the first annual Vail Veiled. Can’t wait till next year!

Check out more of the photos on Facebook

I’m Obsessed with a Tree

I’m obsessed with a tree. I’ve lived in Boulder for almost 4 years now, and I drive past this tree multiple times a week and I stare at it every time. I’ve only stopped to take photos of it a couple times, but I have a desire to shoot it every time the background is interesting.

I first shot it last November after a light snow.

In the last year I’ve seen it just begging to have a photo taken of it, but I’m usually in a hurry when I’m going to or from Golden on CO 93.

I finally stopped again on Saturday.

I will continue to stop and take photos of this tree for a very long time, I think. 

First Snow of the Season

After months of waiting for a fresh coating of the white, powdery cocaine, snow is finally filling the mountains of Colorado. Like addicts falling off the wagon, Eric Poore and I met before dawn to get our fix. We headed to St Mary’s Glacier, where we were guaranteed at least some rock free skiing with a layer of fresh on top.

We were the only car in the parking lot. I was giddy taking my first gliding steps uphill, the nylon skins gripping the heavy, wet snow. God, I’ve missed this!

Navigating through the rocky trail we made it to the lake to find a beautiful winter wonderland. Needless to say, I’m excited for more of this.

Eric has had his right hand in a cast all summer with a broken wrist. He’s psyched for the freedom of the brace, but can’t wait till he can fully use his hand again.

Eric flips his binding’s risers as we get onto the glacier.

It was white out conditions when we got to the top of the glacier.

Halfway down our first run Eric swaps out his Dynafit skis for a pair of snow blades.

Eric scopes out the slope skier’s right of the glacier.

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Eric really wanted to ski the couloir we skied back in early August. He had broken his skins earlier and was having to boot-pack, so he decided to boot-pack the couloir to see what the conditions were like. I skinned around to the top and waited for him. I loved this tree weighted by the burden of the fresh snow.
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Maple Canyon, Utah

I drove out to Outdoor Retailer this year with fellow photographer, John Lloyd. After the show we drove down to Maple Canyon to pull on the weird conglomerate rock structures there. John convinced me to go for a hike to catch the sunset above the canyon. I think we saw a part of the canyon that most climbers never see. We just missed the sun setting over the pass, but it was still incredibly beautiful.

The hike out was one of the more unpleasant parts of the trip. We somehow missed the trail and ended up hiking miles around on a 4×4 trail, tripping over loose baby-head sized rocks. We were psyched to get back to the car. I definitely want to get back to Maple to climb more and maybe actually see the sunset hitting the canyon. 

Fall Colors Photo Excursion

My roommate, Sam, yells through the door, “Scott, a buddy of mine and I are going to try to find a ghost town. Do you want to go?” Eh, why not.

We drove around the mountains of the front range, not really finding a ghost town, then we decided to just drive to the 4th of July Trailhead. The fall colors are going off right now. We didn’t actually make it to the trailhead, so we just stopped and decided to explore the woods.

I had my Sony A6000 with the 18-105 F/4 with Optical Steady Shot (Image Stabilization) and I just hand held these shots at 1/15th to get the blurred water shots. IS is pretty amazing. I had my tripod in the car, but that was soo far away.

Happy Fall everyone!

Climbing and Night Photography in Vedauwoo

I’ve been in Vedauwoo more this year than any other climbing area besides Eldo. It’s been fun getting a lot better at trad climbing (Though, I went sport climbing this weekend and last weekend, and it’s been a refreshing change). Alex Vidal and I went over Labor Day weekend and got on some great climbs.

Alex taking in the sunset at the incredible rock garden on top of Edward’s Crack at Walt’s Wall (Main Area)

I struggled up Currey’s Diagonal (5.10b+++) as it is an off-angle crimp rail with smeared feet and micro-cam protection  instead of the bomber hand jams you’re expecting. Then Alex and I climbed Edward’s Crack up to Hassler’s Hatbox, definitely one of my favorite climbs I’ve done. HH gets only one star and 5.6 in the book, but deserves 4 stars and 5.7+ (Vedauwoo rating, 5.8+ elsewhere). I then gave a strong go at Best of the Blues (5.10b), the first pitch of Lucille’s. Absolutely worth getting on. Fun climbing to a powerful roof bulge move. It protects very well. Then you can stare longingly at Lucille’s.

We checked out Reynold’s Hill the second day. It has a really nice approach, and it’s removed from the noise of the highway quite a bit. We climbed past a dead bird and through the bushes to a very stout but fun route, Cosmic Debris (5.8+++). Needs to get more traffic to clean it up a bit. We then climbed Pooh Corner a few times. Alex cruised this flaring hand crack, but it was a battle for me. I like variation as I’m still not 100% with pure hand jams. The Maiden  is a fantastically fun route that would be an ultraclassic if it were 60 feet longer.  It’s called 5.6 but would easily be 5.8 anywhere else. Then Alex fought his way up the Matron, a 5.8 squeeze chimney.

I found it a lot easier to face the other way, but then again I was on top rope. 
Unknown girl climbing Pooh Corner at ssunset 
View of Reynold’s Hill from the approach
The bridge

Every time I’ve gone to the Voo it has thunderstormed all around me, but it’s never rained or thunderstormed on me.  That night the milkyway was out in force and the lightning storm was creating quite the light show. I’m still working on really capturing the milky way well. I also forgot my tripod, so I was balancing my camera on rocks.

Sony A6000, Lightroom, and a few Photos

A few weekends ago I went on a mini-sufferfest up West Magnolia to Rollinsville Pass with Alex Vidal on my new mountain bike. Long story short, it was not my favorite ride. But I took a few shots of Alex blasting down a trail filled with loose rocks, one that happened to destroy his disc brake rotor. Good times.
Shot with the Canon 55-220 FD at 55mm, the only focal length that wasn’t absurdly blurry

Shot with Canon 50mm 1.8 FD at f/1.8 – for some reason the only aperture I could get to work despite the manual aperture ring. 

The damaged goods
A couple mildly related notes:
I didn’t have my Sony A6000 for 4 months because Sony outsources their repairs to a terrible company called Precision Camera. Absolutely the worst. But I’m psyched to have my camera back, and I’ve been using it way more than my Canon’s. I’ve struggled to find good lenses for this camera though. The kit 16-50 is unreliable and lacks sharpness at anything below f/8. I tried the 16mm f/2.8 and it was not any better. I bought the Rokinon 12mm f/2 E-Mount and absolutely love it. It’s been my only usable lens since January.
Since I’ve gotten my camera back I ordered an adapter for my old Canon AE-1 film camera’s FD lenses. I found out that those lenses are in terrible shape. I can barely get a sharp image out of any of the three. The 50mm f/1.8 won’t change apertures (out of 1.8) despite having a manual ring. The zoom lenses are progressively worse. I finally caved and bought the Sony 18-105 F/4 but have yet to put it through its paces. Despite all of this lens hunting, I’ve been shooting with the A6000 a ton over the last several weeks and editing I’ve been blown away by the quality of this tiny APS-C camera. Most of the adventure shots as of late that I have posted are from this camera. I highly recommend it (just don’t get it serviced by Precision Camera).
But seriously, the body only is only $450 right now. It’s an incredible camera for that price. Right now I can’t think of a better camera for adventures. 
Second unrelated point: 
I’ve been a user of Photoshop for 10 years and half heartedly jumped on the Lightroom‬ bandwagon when it came out. I saw that it had its uses, but generally stuck with Bridge and Photoshop for most of my editing. I recognized that for really large jobs Lightroom was much better for managing the project, but I preferred my own organization structure. I generally felt that Lightroom could get most photos close to where I liked them but just couldn’t finish the job and I would move them into Photoshop. I’ve recently discovered some free plug-ins that really boosted my Lightroom editing game and I’m exploring using it more as my primary editor. I’m sure Katrin Bell and Luis Carducci will find that entertaining as I insisted that all editing should be done in Photoshop when they were my interns.

Skiing the Last Weekend of August

I missed skiing in July, otherwise I would have skied every month this year. I have a friend that has skied 24 straight months, very impressive. But in the depths of summer you really have to earn your turns.

I love that Eric is always trying to get me out, but when Eric hit me up to hike to Isabelle Glacier in the Indian Peaks I tried to find something else to do. A full day of hiking with my skis on my back is not my favorite activity. But when I didn’t have anything else to do I said what the hell.

Eric Poore and his roommate Steve picked me up at 6am to head to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, and by the time we get to the trailhead the parking lot is overflowing. We finally find a spot an additional mile away from the trailhead and start booting it past Lost Lake and towards the Isabelle Glacier.

Steve and Eric greet the sun with skis. Note Eric’s broken wrist. 

Lake Isabelle looking pretty low

Steve and I took the riverbed instead of the meandering trail. I have a condition where I hate meandering trails and try to go in the straightest line possible. 

Eric and Steve try to decide what they want to ski and how many times. We ended up skiing the small ribbon between the two glaciers.

A small alpine lake, Eric debated “pond skimming” it.

Higher alpine pond. If it were a few feet fuller I think it would be a pretty incredible infinite pond.

Shoshoni Peak’s South Buttress over Isabelle Glacier. There are several 5.10 trad routes up there that would be cool to do 

 It was a long 4.5 mile hike in. There’s a lot of almost flat walking interrupted by steep shelves that gain you elevation. Once we reached the boulder field it was scrambling over surprisingly loose boulders that kept attempting to dump you into dark pits and crush you.

Eric and Steve pull out glacier crampons from their packs…I didn’t even consider that as an option. So instead of try to toe point in my ski boots, I elected to keep my approach shoes on and climb the granite slab to the top of the couloir.

Eric climbing with only one functioning hand.

The couloir kept going up and to the right pretty far beyond what I could see from here. 

After shooting Eric from a perch where I thought would be a great vantage to see them skiing down, Eric informed me that there was a lot more couloir and I should get higher. I climbed further up the slab until it cliffed out. I had a few different options for how to climb the cliff, but only one looked doable with skis on my back. The rock on the slab had been bomber granite, but the cliff disintegrated into a band of molting rock. Every move I did I pulled off several loose rocks before committing to it. I climbed up the constriction a couple different ways and kept down climbing because I didn’t feel good about the moves and the prospect of falling. Finally, after again trying to downclimb another way I figured out a stemming move that allowed my skis to fit under the roof and put me in a good position to pull up a flake to top out. At the time this crux felt like alpine 5.7/5.8 to me, but it was probably enhanced by the fact that I couldn’t do a lot of movement with the skis on my back. I was psyched to be out of that constriction and to the top of the couloir where I could see Steve and Eric getting ready to ski.

Steve skiing in style

Eric running it out with Lake Isabelle in the background. The mountains were incredibly hazy, filled with smoke from all of the wildfires around the west that week. 

 I downclimbed a loose band of the cliff to get down to the snow, put my boots and skis on, made several glorious turns in the sun softened snow which might have taken me 60 seconds to descend, pulled up next to Eric and Steve to celebrate the awesomeness we just partook, and quickly took my boots off. I think I might have been in my ski boots for a total of 120 seconds, probably my quickest record yet! We then ‘skied’ down the scree field in our approach shoes and made the 4.5 mile hike out, our A-Frame skies hitting the back of our calves the entire way out (seriously, there’s got to be a better way!).

Eric descends through a field of alpine tundra flora

As always with these kinds of trips, mostly type 2 fun, we were psyched to get back to the car. But also, as always, we can’t wait until our next adventure. It will probably be to ski the glacier behind Eric in the above photo. 

Skiing in August

I woke up too early to meet up with Eric Poore and Ian Bolliger Sunday morning. We were determined to do some ski turns in August, so we drove up to St. Mary’s Glacier. Positioned on the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks, the glacier has a snowpack year round.

With only a 3/4 mile approach, whether or not there was actually snow to ski, it was little effort to get to the base.

Ian and Eric bootpack to the top of the glacier (to something like 11,200ft) 

Ian watches Eric make some epic turns on the top of the glacier

Even with a broken wrist, Eric was super excited to be back on skis! 

He couldn’t contain himself.

Eric makes a slash above St Mary’s Lake
There was a steep couloir to the south of the main glacier that still had snowback, so we decided to ski it as well. 

Eric bootpacks the slope for a second run

Eric had to get 3rd run in…good laps for August

Ian modeling his Prana shorts

Wild Flowers! 

It was great to be back on skis and to get out again with Eric. Can’t wait for more adventures this fall!