Vedauwoo – My New Weekend Destination

When it’s too hot in Boulder to climb outside, head to Vedauwoo, WY. It’s a little over 2hrs away, and it’s a great escape from the overcrowded crags in the Front Range. And you leave feeling like you’ve accomplished something – or just with sore muscles and tattered clothes.

I went back this weekend with Alex & Vincent. We attacked some great lines on Saturday:
~Middle Parallels Space – a fun 5.9 with a crux down low and a 5.7 chimney with a hand-to-offwidth crack for protection. The anchors are placed in an odd spot on a pillar, thought.
~Friday the 13th – Alex sent this 5.10a (heavily sandbagged) with much more ease than on my first lead. The greasy top of the crack pumps you out. Vincent worked on the second pitch, a short but powerful 5.11a out a roof.
~Hesitation Blues – A pretty stout 1st pitch of 5.11b. The second pitch looks so inviting, but the continued rating of 11b and our current state of being worked caused us to hesitate, then have the blues.
-Mother #1 – According to Alex, “The world’s hardest 5.7”. I would have to agree. An offwidth that is a struggle all of the way up.

Alex figures out the gear on Middle Parallels Space 

Vincent turned my camera on me giving Friday the 13th a send attempt. 

Using my head for balance

Since the weather was calling for a clear night, I decided to not set up my tent and sleep under the stars. I woke up to an amazing show of the milky way, but couldn’t convince myself to get out of bed to get my camera. Again I awoke, just as the sun was starting to come up to something scampering up my chest. With my hands in my sleeping bag I just pounded out on the bag, and looked up to see a chipmunk doing backflips through the air! The visual is still cracking me up.

Someone built this cairn in a cairn near our campsite

 Sunday we decided to try somewhere new. On top of the main area, where there are classics like Edward’s Crack, sits Hassler’s Hatbox with the iconic Lucile 5.12d/13a. We scrambled up the backside of the main area through a maze of fallen boulders – over, under, and squeezed through. Despite being in the baking sun, we found some great moderate and not so moderate lines.

~Cat’s Cradle –  5.8+ A very hard 5.8. The start is a chimney to an offwidth. Traverse a ledge to a very awkward and hard move off a ledge, into a handcrack that varies from perfect hands to off-fists (too big for fists – very hard size for me)
~Hassler’s Hatbox – 5.6/7 A very fun moderate with some kick. I was happy to have a 4 and a 5 camalot for the bottom, but the top section takes finger size gear. Do this route! My personal opinion on the rating, 5.8/8+
~The Best of the Blues – 5.10 that sits below the iconic Lucille (5.12d – which looks heinous). The first slab move is unprotected, but you get into a fun moderate chimney and handcrack up to a roof. The roof goes from cupped hands to off-fists and is very difficult to pull the bulge as a pure crack climb. Get your sport climbing skills on and lie-back and crimp up the bulge, and then sit on the duck.

Alex works his way up the start of Cat’s Cradle

Just after the crux of Cat’s Cradle, Alex looking for gear. The views from Hassler’s Hatbox were incredible! 

Vincent took this photo of me figuring out the crux. I think I tried every combination of orientations before one finally got me off the ledge. 
Vincent finally get’s a piece in on a hard slab move start to Best of the Blues, a bit of a one move wonder 5.10. 

Vincent kisses the duck

Vincent belays Alex up through the crux of Best of the Blues
The view from Hassler’s Hatbox.

As always, the Voo did not disapoint, and we had a great trip. Ripped some clothes. Shed some blood. And left sore in places we did not know could be sore. Till next time.

Rifle Mountain Park with Jon Cardwell and Chelsea Rude

We stop in Rifle Mountain Park for some hard, limestone sport climbing for a couple of days. When I go to Rifle I feel like the weakest climber in the world. Typically I am the weakest climber I meet there. It’s incredibly humbling.

“I’m just working this 5.13c, it should go down pretty easily.”

“I just did all the moves on my first 5.14!”

“Can you get some shots of me on the 5.14 I just got the first ascent of?”

I didn’t climb much. I mostly hung uncomfortably from my harness and snapped photos while I lost all feeling in my legs. I shot Sarah and Chelsea Rude working Apocalypse ’91 (5.13b).



Try Hard Tongue
Chelsea climbing on a 5.14a, Bride of Frankenstein I think? 

Jon Cardwell was working on Planet Garbage, a new link up that Matt Hong had gotten the first ascent of a couple weeks earlier. Jimmy Webb had broken off a huge hold since Hong’s send making the route seem impossible. But Jon tried a huge dyno past the broken hold off of a terrible looking sloper pinch. After a few attempts Jon stuck the move and declared that the route still goes. Jon eventually sent the route a couple weeks later.

Jon Cardwell holding on after a massive dyno on Planet Garbage, 5.14c? 

 I think I have climbed more trees while shooting with Jon and Chelsea than anywhere else. I climbed a skinny, unstable tree to secure a flash near the top. Gorillapods work great for this.

A couple weeks before Jon had gotten the first ascent on Nastalgie (5.14) in the Wasteland, and asked me to get some shots of him on it. 

Jon sticking the crux move of Nastalgie, 5.14

It was a great weekend in Rifle, but after two and half weeks on the road I was ready to return to Boulder. Love having a home I’m excited to return to. 
Quick free solo of the 2nd Flatiron.

Jumping in Twin Falls

After my road trip with Matt, Keith and Dan concluded in Salt Lake City, Utah, I jumped in a messy, “well lived in,” forest green Ford Explorer and headed back to Idaho with BASE Jumper and climber, Sarah Watson.

We spent Sunday recovering from Outdoor Retailer by putting up a waterline at Pillar Falls on the Snake River with Vincent Faires. We hopped on Kathy’s pontoon boat with her parents and she dropped us off at the falls. Her mom was …. precious.  Kathy Peterson is the Angel of Twin Falls, ferrying jumpers from the landing zone to the boat docks, shortening the time between jumps.

Sarah and Vincent work their magic in putting up the slackline on previously established bolts that spanned a pool carved into the rock by the river. The landing in the green water was generally deeper than I cared to touch, but a few larger boulders made sure I paid attention where I entered the water. I am not good at slacklining and taking the first steps onto the line over the rock edges of the pool was pretty unnerving. 

Vincent made the first crossing. 

Sarah losing control

Pillar Falls is beautiful. 

Idaho is incredibly beautiful and undervalued. I had never really thought of Idaho as a destination, but it is completely worth a trip!

BASE Jumping! 
It should be noted that BASE Jumping is very difficult to shoot.  I hadn’t thought about how little time I would actually have to shoot my subject before they were out of frame. It is definitely not like shooting climbing where I have several minutes to compose, light, and capture the perfect image. With BASE, I basically have one shot per jump, even shooting in burst mode.

Also, stepping over the railing of the bridge, almost 500 feet above the water, is terrifying, even knowing that I’m fully attached by webbing that can hold a suspended truck. I don’t have a parachute, like my subjects, if something went wrong.

Sarah and I pull into the Welcome center parking lot around 10 am. Several other jumpers are preparing their packs in the grass next to the Perrine Memorial Bridge. They tend to jump in groups and wait around for each other. There’s definitely something to be said about camaraderie.

Sarah, having recovered from a serious foot injury, hadn’t jumped in 5 months and was a bit nervous. But she had friends and familiar faces around to encourage her. Over the next several days and multiple jumps, she regained her confidence

Sean Morey pulls a triple gainer off the 486ft tall bridge over the Snake River. 

Hayley Ashburn takes the leap off the rail.  

Hayley prepares her chute for her next jump. 

With an unpacked chute Hayley Ashburn walks out onto the bridge, preparing to do a rollover, a front flip over your chute draped below 

Sarah prepares to jump of the Perrine Memorial Bridge. 

The Skittle, as Hayley refers to her chute. 

Sarah carefully packing her chute for her next jump. 

The view from the Landing Zone. 

Sarah taking off

There was a near full moon on an almost perfectly clear night. I talked Sarah and her friend Nick Burden into jumping in the moonlight. I set up a couple flashes on the bridge and hoped I got a good shot in the split second. I only got once chance.

The next morning we woke up early to get a shot at sunrise. We were a little slower than we anticipated. There were a few other jumpers ready to go.

John Dobbins jumps with his pilot shoot ready to throw. 

A jumper who was part of a class prepares to jump. 

Climbing in Idaho’s Lava Tubes
Sarah wanted to do something other than jump and we’d met a couple of young local kids that showed us a climbing area just off the river. They talked about another area 45 minutes away that was steep sport climbing. We couldn’t pass up checking it out.

The Shoshone Lava Tubes are pretty unique. From the road, all you can see for miles around is upheaved volcanic rock tumultuously covering the flat earth. The shadows of mountains loom in the background, more where you would expect to find climbing. The local kid tells us to park about 100 yards off the road, and we walk for another 100 yards south, parallel with the road. You can’t see it till you’re standing above the giant hole. The tubes had collapsed leaving a natural arch with incredibly featured rock.

We did several fun, short, juggy routes, including a 5.12a that I flashed (woo!) before jumping on the grand route, a  powerful 12c that traverses the bottom edge of the arch.

Sarah catching an inverted rest. Heel hooks abound. 

Sarah approaches the anchors. 

Definitely a unique climbing spot with some great climbs. Unless you knew exactly where you were going it would be extremely difficult to find.

The Last Chance
We had one more chance to get a great shot. Shooting had proved harder than I expected, and I was determined to get a shot I was psyched on.  We got to the bridge before sunrise this time, I set up my flashes and knew I had one chance for this shot. I pulled over the railing and got as comfortable as one can get in a minimal climbing harness hanging 500 feet in the air. Sarah asked, “Are you ready? 3. 2. 1. See ya!!!” I pressed the shutter only once.

The sun crested the horizon, my lights flashed, and Sarah disappeared beneath her opened chute. And then silence, except for the wind blowing gently past me and semis driving over the bridge, causing me to bounce in slow reverberations.

I climbed back over the rail and waited for Sarah to make the trek out of the canyon, since Kathy was not out yet.

Sarah wanted to do one more jump before we drove back to Colorado. The morning light was hazy and diffused. Sarah was determined to jump in good style for the photo. “Just repeat to myself, bend my legs, bend my legs, bend my legs!”

John dropping a bit out of position

John Dobbins had never jumped off the rail of the bridge before. He’d always jumped, holding onto the rail behind him. In this position you are already leaning forward which puts you in the right position to jump. From the top of the rail you have to lean forward before jumping to get into the correct position. John jumped, and I started laughing immediately. It looked like he’d done a pencil dive like a 13 yr old girl at a pool party. It looked so incredibly unnatural. But he pulled his chute without a hitch.

CJ Crucial takes her turn. 

Sean Morey lays it out in front of me in a single gainer. He’d been doing tucks every time he jumped and I was surprised to see him looking me in the eye as he dropped in front of me. 

We take off after her second jump and head towards Rifle Mountain Park, outside Rifle, CO.

The trip continues for a few more days! It’s been an awesome trip, but I’m getting antsy to get back to Boulder.

Clear Creek with Matt Lloyd

It’s been a while since I’ve shot some climbing. After two solid months of being too busy to do much else, I was finally able to get away from my desk a couple weekends ago and climb with Matt Lloyd. I worked on Twitch (5.12d), near the New River Wall (which felt incredibly hard) while Matt put a burn on The Prowler, his 14a project. Was good to get out shooting again.

Gear Review: Mad Rock’s New Performance Shoe, the M5

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.
Madrock M5
Madrock M5
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!
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
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. 

Lighting a Cave & Problem Solving

A few weeks ago Jon Cardwell asked me to come out and shoot with him and Chelsea Rude for a project.

Chelsea Rude climbing Rubble (5.13b)
We went back to Sex Cave in Clear Creek Canyon to get some shots of them sport climbing. It was an ideal location because of the easy access from the road and the ability to shoot from the ground. I hadbroken my back a few weeks before and could not hang from a rope. 
With the help of my girlfriend I set up my lights how I wanted them and prepared to shoot, but I realized I was missing something. I had forgotten to pack the connector wires for the radio slaves. My studio strobes could not be fired remotely, well directly from the slaves. So I quickly figured out a solution. 
I would have just used my Canon Flashes, but they are not powerful enough to get the results I wanted. I connected my Pixel King radio slave to my flash and used the built in optical slave on my White-Lightning strobe to fire into an umbrella that broadly lit the underside of the cave. The spill light from the umbrella hit the optical sensor on my Yongnua YN-560 flash, firing it into the back of my other White-Lightning strobe, giving me the rim light I wanted. It was super complicated and tricky to enact, but the diagram below might help you visual types. 
The diagram is, of course, inexact, but it give you the idea. Using optical slaves to pop your lights remotely is a great, fast and easy approach to lighting. A lot of times in my studio I will just use a speedlite set to 1/128th power to pop all the lights in my set up. But in a less controlled environment using wireless slaves gives you much more control. 

Jon Cardwell on Rubble

After the climbing we used the great afternoon light over the Flatirons to shoot a few portraits using just one Speedlite in an umbrella and the sun as rim light. 

I don’t recommend leaving behind pieces of equipment you need. I definitely need to be better at double checking my gear. 
Till next time, 

Published in Origin. Magazine

I just picked up my copy of Origin. Magazine at Whole Foods (the only place it sells) that has photos I took of Jon Cardwell and Chelsea Rude a few weeks ago. 
It has two covers…

Jon Cardwell climbing Rubble in Clear Creek Canyon & portrait in front of the FlatIrons. 

Chelsea Rude climbing Stone Cold Modern in Clear Creek Canyon & portrait in front of the FlatIrons. 


Today’s post is pretty simple; photos of Matt Lloyd climbing on Kloeberdeath/Lipsync  (5.12b) in Eldorado Canyon. The original ascent using knotted webbing as protection is INSANE. I followed the route and it was scary enough (Matt, ever the gentleman, made me clean it). I’m glad there was bolted protection. 
Shooting on a bright sunny day in a roof area can be very difficult. I used a studio strobe light at full power, probably 60 feet from the climber to fill in the dark shadows.