Sunday, December 30, 2012

xtreme climbing 2012

The year two-thousand-twelve was great. I was lucky to have some incredible adventures with various ladies and gentlemen of extraordinary character. I had the opportunity to explore for a month in Venezuela, ski chest-deep snow in Utah, establish new crack climbs in Moab, ride helicopters in Yukon, scramble around Tuolumne and toil on impossible first ascents for over a month, bleed on Vedauwoo offwidths, and ride silly bicycles. What fun!

Huge roof
Screen grab by Kyle Berkompas. Look for this 
in the upcoming Feature from Chuck Fryberger Films
Early attempt on Real Talk. Another Screen Grab from 
Kyle Berkompas/ Chuck Fryberger Films
Finlayson Lake, Yukon
Indy Pass ice cave-Photo: Logan Fessler
Fremont Canyon
Elvis' Hammer
danger bicycle-Photo: Brent Cain


Monday, December 3, 2012

Toiling in the sand

With November already two days interred, I have thrown in the towel on another massively fun season in Moab. As usual, I spent the bulk of my time toiling away on first ascents - one of which (Real Talk) I actually finished up. For those interested, refer to the previous post on this blog for spray on that route. Completing long term projects leaves one with the option of finding a new project. This is a very exciting time for a first ascensionist, and there involves a process similar to a man looking for a mate. In the case of the new project I found, I could very well be getting into a long-term relationship. I've tried the route a few times now, and I'm so hopelessly far away from sending it that I'll reserve further spray for when I can at least 3-hang the beast. With snow beginning to fall on the state of Utah, I am reminded that I should have plenty of time to pull on plastic gym holds this winter and transform myself into an  ATOMIC CRACK CLIMBING ROBOT!

Steep, and Green... Camalots, that is. Photo: Corbin Usinger
Photo: Corbin Usinger
Overhanging sand
Ryan Matson walks a 150' Highline

Friday, November 9, 2012

-and thats some real talk

 For the past year or so I have been spending a bit of time in the vicinity of Mill Creek, in the La Sal mountains above Moab, UT.  One route in particular has kept my attention- a 70' seam on a steep wall of impeccable salmon colored sandstone. Before joining the neighboring corner and easier ground, the crack maintains the width of a 000 C3 to a 0 C3, so basically, it's really really thin. This makes for some wild and technical movement, and difficult gear placing. I gave several lead attempts on the line this past spring, with no success. I think my climbing ability was being sabotaged by my nerves as I attempted the crux above a 000 C3. This fall I was expecting the same mental battle, but I dispatched the rig on my first lead go. I always get a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside me when projects finish up like that. I called it 'Real Talk' with a grade of 5.13+. This pitch was some of the coolest trad climbing I have done; good rock, good gear, and fun movement. The only detractor is that it is in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Real Talk is 2.3 miles down canyon from the Wicked Crag, on the north side (south facing) of the canyon. Here are two photos from Andrew Burr on either end of the send. m  

Photo- Andrew Burr
Photo- Andrew Burr

Thursday, October 25, 2012


When September rolled around this year I found myself aching to do something different. The season was about to start in Yosemite, but I have spent a fair chunk of time there and was not that excited. Instead, I talked my girlfriend into a trip to the smaller, less frequently travelled granite venues of Fremont Canyon, and Vedauwoo. We spent a day in Fremont Canyon so that I could climb Fiddler on the Roof; a classic roof crack from the late eighties that has been on my ticklist since I first saw the clip of Steve Petro sending it on youtube. It met all my expectations, and I nearly flashed it. I swear my fingertips needed only a centimeter more on the jug and it would have been done. Happy with a second-go hike, we packed up for Vedauwoo. Vedauwoo is absolutely sick- It is one of those destinations that is unique in all the world. I would put it alongside Indian Creek, and Yosemite Valley in that regard. the "Voo" has lots of nice crack climbing, and even some face climbing, but what makes it special are the grizzly, flared, and often overhung offwidths. During our week long stay we mostly stuck to the classics.  "Classics" at the Voo include things like V8 squeeze chimneys. I can't wait to return. Here are a few photos from the trip. Enjoy.

Wyomig is a place for men

Photo- Michael Crapo
Photo- Michael Crapo
 Photo- Michael Crapo
Photo- Michael Crapo
Squat. Photo- Michael Crapo
Trip Master Monkey. Photo Michael Crapo
The Warden. Photo- Michael Crapo

Friday, May 11, 2012


 I cringe every time I read a blog post that starts off with “sorry, I know its been a long time since my last post.” It has been a while since I’ve written anything, and I’m not sorry, I’ve been busy.  This spring has been quite turbulent  for me, but I’ll stick to what I’ve been doing on the rock climbing  front.

After gaining back the weight and strength I lost in Venezuela this winter (which took the better part of a month), my good friend Nik Berry talked me into a massive Zion link-up. We climbed Sheer Lunacy, Moonlight Buttress, and Monkey Finger all free with one fall, in about 18 hours.  We we’re both pretty pooped.

Photo: Jeremiah Watt

As it seems to happen every spring, I gravitated back to the Moab area, where there exists a never-ending supply of radical first ascent projects to work on.  I didn’t end up sending any of these radical projects this spring, but I’ll have my work cut out for me this fall. The main route I was working on was a beautiful  micro-splitter, up on South Mesa. This flared, gently overhung crack delivers some of the most difficult and sustained trad climbing I have tried. I’m quite excited to get back up there and put‘r to bed.

Photo: Kyle Berkompas
Onsight, on Fallen Arches. Photo: Ally Coconis

Presently, I’m in an airplane bound for my birth state of Vermont. En-route to a week long expedition to the wild, and remote land of Quebec. Tabernac!

Also, check out a BITCH’N new 2 pitch route that my friend Burt Bronson and I put up this spring.      

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kids With Guns

Venezuela, February 2012

 Amuri Tepui in the moonlight. All photos Copyrighted material- please don't steal

As it is with many expeditions, the most exciting and dangerous moments on this trip had nothing to do with climbing. So it was, late one particular night. Four of us we’re crammed into the back of a Jeep, while our drunken, mad German tour guide was driving the wrong way down the sidewalk of a busy street in Ciudad Bolivar.

“Vee hav to go back to ze licka store!” 

We hastily located our seat belts. We had been at the liquor store only a half an hour ago. Our German tour guide, who I’ll call Hans, had gone into the store and bought 4 beers. By the time he left the store he had already consumed 2 of them. He had cracked his first of the day at around 9am.

 “Ah fack! Now my wife iz calling me. She is angry, I sink. I vill hav to get some viskey. Viskey makes me… aggressive. My wife… she duz not like zis.”

Venezuela seems to be devoid of any driving laws, resulting in absolute mayhem during all hours. The cost of gasoline is about 5 cents a gallon which adds to the havoc. This night was no exception, and the honking of the passing cars sounded like one never-ending horn. In between stops at the liquor store we had gone to the cemetery and waited while Hans stumbled around, drink in hand, looking for his mother-in-law’s late husband’s grave, so that he could change the flowers. All we had wanted was a quick trip to the grocery store. Back in the jeep, we watched in horror as Hans directed the car into oncoming traffic. Suggesting to Hans that we turn around prompted some incoherent response and a wave of the hand. We were committed.

This started as a climbing trip, so rewind about 30 days, and we were loading our gear into a Cessna 207 in the Ciudad Bolivar airport. George Ullrich (UK), Siebe Vanhee (BE), Sam Farnsworth (UK), and I had met up in Caracas on the 25th of January. After escaping the “murder capitol of the world” un-stabbed and un-mugged, we were ready to head deep into the jungle.  Off a tip we got from Jungle bigwall master John Arran, our goal was to check out the insanely steep Amuri Tepui- the main wall of which remained unclimbed.  In our two Cessnas (we had too much gear for one plane) we flew from the chaos of Ciudad Bolivar two hours south to the small, incredibly remote village of Yunek. Populated by 100 or so Pemon indians, this community has gotten accustomed to seeing rock climbers fly in and land on their tiny, grass runway. Upon exiting the plane, we were met by a deep silence not often found in the modern world- just a soft, late afternoon breeze, as rays of sun spilled from behind Acopan Tepui.   

We pictured being greeted by great hulking natives, ready to carry massive loads, while we sauntered across the savannah with comfy daypacks. It turns out that the tallest person in the tribe was no more than 5’ foot 3”. We would be doing some heavy lifting. Within an hour, we had 5 keen porters and a guide set to embark with us on the journey the next morning.

As the crow flies, Amuri Tepui is only 13 miles from Yunek, (according to our Google Earth research) but it would take us the next three full days across wide-open savannah and dark jungle to get to the wall. The porters, with machetes and fishing rods in hand, seemed happy to go on the adventure, and were fishing every night. The machete we brought, half as a joke, turned out to be invaluable for the trip. On the jungle approach, we would hack a notch into a tree every 50 feet or so, so we could find our way back without the guide. When we finally made it to the wall, we had to chop a trail through a dense swath of jungle not yet traveled by man, to reach our desired section of rock. The machete is incredibly effective in jungle travel and makes you feel really cool.

Machete session

 The porters left us with our food, and full arsenal of big wall gear. We had 4 weeks to climb a new route on the wildest piece of rock any of us had ever seen. Standing at the base, looking up and out feels like you are in the trough of a 1600’ breaking wave- moments before being engulfed in its barrel.  The centerpiece, rocketing off the top of the wall, is a waterfall (Salto Tuyuren), which gracefully plummets before crashing into the ground some 300 feet from the base of the wall. 

We chose to attempt a line up the very middle of the wall, taking on the steepest rock, and several massive roofs. We of course, were hoping to free climb everything. The climbing was quite tricky from the start. The first pitch had us using triple ropes, nailing birdbeaks, and stacking knifeblades- it went free at 5.11. Three days of climbing later, we committed to the wall. The level of comfort we experienced while on the cliff made it hard to believe we were on an expedition- The temperature was almost always perfect, and we felt not a drop of rain due to the steepness of the wall. After 5 days on the wall we were about halfway up, having free climbed everything. The hardest pitch being an incredible 5.13a traverse that Siebe redpointed. Most of the climbing was easier than 5.12a, with a few HERO 5.10/5.11 pitches thrown in. EVERY single pitch was overhung. The following 3 days though, we made almost zero progress. The even steeper rock looming overhead, and limited food and water forced us to set aside our free climbing goals, so we could focus all our energy on getting to the top.

Angry birds
Hello friend...

With morale low amongst the team, George pulled through a blank aid lead, with ten hook placements in a row. Our pace sped back up to a mind bending 2- 3 pitches a day, and we were aimed for the summit- every foot of progress bringing us closer to the waterfall.  A few more days of aid climbing whippers, George ripping off the tip of his pinky, and me run-out, screaming like a girl on what was probably 5.10+  had us poised for the cumbre. With our last pack of cookies, and only a few liters of water to our names, we topped out in the dying light of the 18th of February. We didn’t spend too long on the top, because we were being dive-bombed by a pterodactyl (it may have just been a massive bat). The next day we rapped the route, concluding our 12th day on the wall.

Yay I'm so happy
George has resilient fingers 

After a crippling hike back to Yunek, we thought the ordeal was over. But now, back to the jeep and our misadventure with the drunk German, we narrowly made it back to the liquor store. Hans, belligerent as a badger continued rambling.

“I don’t like viskey. Vis this… I am getting too drunk. I like vine. Vis vine I… I am opening a new flower… zis I sink iz much nicer.”

Two hours later, we were still alive and back at the campground. The ordeal was now over.

Kids With Guns- 5.13a, A3, 21 Pitches, took us a total of 15 climbing days to complete. We placed 6 bolts; four were for belays, and two as protection bolts. The route will almost certainly go free. We are not sure of the height of the wall, but it is in the neighborhood of 450m-500m. Our best estimate is that the wall overhangs a little over 300 feet, making our route one of the steepest in the world. I could not have picked three finer gentlemen to share this grand adventure with.

Note- The name we have given our route bears no relevance to us being young, or having big muscles, but rather to a song we had stuck in our heads for the duration of the trip.