Monday, December 22, 2008

cold and snowy

I have been back in North Vancouver for about three weeks now. Lately, the snow has been coming down in heavy dumps and I have been relegated to number 1 driveway shoveler. I'll be leaving for Patagonia in a month. Until then, I'll be training hard in the climbing gym, trying hard to improve my pure power and finger strength.

I can handle the city at Christmas time- it's a great time to reconnect with friends and do some work. Some people can get way immersed in city culture. They get excited about shows, restaurants, and shopping malls. I always feel a little out of place here. I'll always remember a short sequence of photos Sonnie Trotter showed at a slide show years ago. The first shot was of a gridlocked interstate at rush hour in Toronto with city lights glimmering in the distance. The second was of an open highway in Texas at sunset. He said, "which one would you choose?" I would always choose the open road.

I just read a really cool interview with Dan Malloy on He talks about traveling, and the importance of time at home to resupply motivation. Reading it, I felt he articulated something I always knew but never admitted to myself.

Here's a quote ripped from the site: "What I have learned is that being on the road feels so damn good because all of the important, difficult, and meaningful things in your life are really far away. So you go to this beautiful little town in Spain or Java or wherever and you are up on the hillside watching the sunset just looking at this little town feeling so free."

I love that feeling of being adrift, living out of a backpack or suitcase. I like feeling 'totally off the grid', wandering streets in a strange city. But as Dan says, "it can become an addiction like anything else that will leave you ungrounded if you don’t watch out."

Time at home is important. In the city I get my best, most inspired ideas. It's sometimes hard to stay motivated in the climbing gym, surrounded by plastic holds and artificial walls. But I stay afloat buoyed on my own imagination, always dreaming of the open road.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yosemite beat down

Jason Kruk and I made an attempt to free a route on the right side of El Cap. Many days of preparation were followed by a serious wall attempt which included some hauling and 5.10+ X sketchiness. At our highpoint, I found myself staring into a sea of death blocks (or perhaps safe blocks...) pasted in a roof. I just couldn't muster the courage to send, despite the fact that I badly wanted to free that route. On tough scary routes, success hangs in precarious balance. Once that balance was tipped, and the decision to bail was made, we rapped with the bitch haul bags. I was pissed at myself. Basically I knew those blocks were going to make us or break us. I just thought I had the cajones to bust through. But I didn't. And we rapped.

After calling the route off, my motivation has hit rock bottom. It takes alot of psyche to crank up for a route like that. And when it all comes apart, I find myself back at square one, looking for new inspiration.

It's easy to get wrapped up in these climbing projects. It is good to take a step back and realize that Yosemite in the fall is truly beautiful. The leaves are all falling off the trees and in the evenings the walls are ablaze with orange glow. Yesterday I found myself walking around pissed off, head down and brooding. I had to remind myself to lighten up and take climbing for what it is: a chance to do wild things in wild places.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

El CAP-i-tan

Nico Favresse, Belgian bad-ass, has freed a new route on El Cap somewhere in the vicinity of 'Bad to the Bone' and 'Eagles Way.' His partner Sean Villaneauva accompanied him on the adventure and freed alot of it as well.

Nico just related to me how touch and go the climbing was. Apparently, he had no idea if the route would go free as he slowly inched his way up the wall. The guys took enormous whippers along the way, and pulled off big blocks.

Mentally, Nico is one of the toughest climbers out there. Anybody who can free dicey 5.13 on knifeblades gets my full respect. Nico did that day after day without knowing whether his efforts would even amount to a free route. He just tried really hard and hoped for the best. For some reason, I think that luck favors those who push the absolute hardest.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Empty cans of King Cobra, enormous squirrels, enormous tourists, a dozen languages spoken underneath Midnight Lightning, pots clanging at 5AM in Camp 4, battered haulbags, bears, bitter coffee in the cafeteria.... Big walls, very big walls.

No place quite like Yosemite....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Throw Down

About 10 days ago I hiked up to the Cobra crack with my good buddy Matt Segal. It was his last day in Squamish before an epic drive back to Boulder Colorado. I had done the hike innumerable times this summer- lots for Magical Dog, and lots to try the Cobra. Every bend and rock in the trail is familiar to me. Matt needed a belayer and I was more than willing to skip out on day of manual labour to help out a friend. After all, it was his last day of a 1.5 month trip. After a Jamaica-like August, things were cooling down and conditions were pretty much perfect.

Simply put, the Cobra is the most badass line in Squamish. Nothing else comes close. It is a laser-cut finger splitter out a whale-belly of impeccable granite. The rock is mint- but the crystals are finger shredding. It has a long and storied history. Peter Croft and Tami Knight first aided the pitch in 1981. Andrew Boyd spent a while working it, as did Jordan Wright, Jim Sandford and Didier Berthod. Finally, after years of effort, Canadian golden boy Sonnie Trotter fired the thing in the summer of 2006, ending the saga of freeing the Cobra. When I took my first trad course, Graeme Taylor mentioned an impossible crack hidden somewhere on the backside of the Chief. To me, the line represents the ultimate in single pitch climbing.

Despite the hour long approach, people often make the trek up to the Cobra to watch the action. Squamish isn't the backwater training ground it once was. Tourists, who have never even tied into a rope, ask, "is this the cobra crack?" In the age of YouTube and Google, thousands have seen the Patagonia video of Sonnie climbing the first ascent. It's all sorta weird.

On this day, there wasn't anyone up there save me and Segal. I would have expected Segal to appear nervous but he was ice-cool and calm. He dropped a toprope on it and warmed up a bit. I tried it a bit and marveled at how a summer's dabbling on the line had made it feel way more doable. I could finally do three quarters of the mono move... and was ecstatic.

Segal tied in and moved aggressively through the first section. He rested for a while before the crux, steeling himself to give everything he had. Then, he simply fired it, charging like a steam train through the sequences and grunted out the crux. I was in awe. Despite the pressure, he sent it.

At the top, Matt hollered, "Truck! Coors! Bitches!" which had been this summer's slogan of choice. My fingers were tingling and I was having minor arm reflex spasms just watching. Crazy how the body works...

Kudos, Matt. I am glad you waited out the storms and didn't lose hope. Totally an inspiration, bud. You have inspired me to train like a demon and one day free the Cobra as well.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Over and done with

A couple days ago I freed the Cannabis Wall with Jason Kruk following behind me.

When I was younger I used to get very excited after sending a hard project and be on cloud nine for days. Nowadays, I am on cloud nine for a few hours and I immediately start thinking about the next route and the next challenge. Right now, I feel more ravenous to climb that I have in a long time. I can't help but feel the Cannabis is just a stepping stone for cooler and bigger things. Like maybe freeing Breakfast Run on top of Cannabis?

At the moment, I feel directionless and unhinged. These little routes are like time capsules, and so very all-consuming. There is nothing I like better than climbing into new terrain, totally open to the puzzle and the possibilities. Those late summer days on Cannabis, scrubbing and snooping around for holds, are what I really love. Now it's over and I feel a little empty.

Thanks alot to Jason in particular for sticking to the project and also Mike Styles and Ethan Pringle who came up there with me with an open mind.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shoveling rocks

I have spent some time lately trying to free the Cannabis Wall and shoveling rocks to make a bit of money. Shoveling rocks in this weather is truly heartbreaking, because the weather is so stellar. I should be shoveling in a torrential downpour, but instead I shovel in perfect temps: 18 degrees, clear, and sunny. Rugged.

Today Jason and I are heading up to try Cannabis, again. My shoulders are sore from manual labour, but I am stoked. Shoveling, I feel like a fish out of water. I have little in common with construction workers talking about new saws or torque on f-150s. But on Cannabis, trying really hard, I feel like I'm doing what I should be doing. Even though it's uncomfortable and spooky on Cannabis, I feel at home up there.

Time to pour another cup of coffee and rack the RPs and TCUs.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Grand Wall Speed Record

Climbing is pretty pointless. Is there a reason to race up the Grand Wall as fast as possible with a dangerously small rack? No, not really. But if you're going to play a stupid game you might as well have stupid amounts of fun doing it.

Kruk and I got stoked on the idea of beating Sig and Guy's 1:44 record, set twelve years ago. Over a couple Pilsners one night, we trimmed down the rack and postulated on our systems. 30 metre rope, one Yates ROCKER and a selection of Metolius TCUs and draws.

We had one dry run where we got caught behind some Euros with a dozens of ropes on the Pillar.... Rough. Try two started at 7:30pm after a half day of guiding. Krukker and I cracked a couple enormous energy drinks and dashed to the base. 1 hour 13 minutes later we were at the top of the Roman Chimneys, chests heaving and borderline spitting blood... I was blown away at how fast Kruk led the Roman Chimneys. The guy is an animal.

We had a couple Pilsners stashed in Jason's car and guzzled them with the beats of Tupac blasting on my little "sound system".

For me, the highlight was leading the Sword in the dying evening light, shirtless and at top speed. Pretty much as good as it gets.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cannabis Wall and other things

It's about 7pm on a friday night in North Vancouver. The clouds have finally split and it's feeling rather autumn-like this evening- cool and dry and without the heavy muggy feeling of summer.
Lately, it has been hammering rain in Squamish. I have been in Site 52 in the campground for the most part, working some and climbing less.

I have been working on Cobra Crack with Matt Segal a bit. That route is, without a doubt, the finest single pitch I have ever laid eyes on. It is damn hard, but not impossible. This winter I am going to work on my one-finger mono strength and core tension so I can do the crux. Mostly though, I have been having a riot hanging with Matt. Matt is a couple years older than me but we share a similar outlook on life. Basically, we both have trouble taking anything seriously and find ourselves laughing hysterically even when the Cobra is soaked and we should be brooding.

Also, I have been fooling around on the Cannabis wall, trying to find a way too free the thing. It will be stout, no doubt. But I've got high hopes and am banking on a perfect three week stretch of bluebird weather this September. Wouldn't that be sweet?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back Home

I just returned from OR in SLC. I am really, really glad to be on the coast. It has been a whirlwind summer for me and I haven't been in one place more longer than two weeks for more than three months. Now, it looks like I'll have some time to hang in Squamish and do some climbing with my good friend Matt Segal.

The OR show is a three day schmooze fest of head-nodding and hand shaking. So many friends, so many coffees and so many beers... Now I am sorting through an enormous mound of climbing gear, magazines and clothes at my parents house in North Van, wondering 'what the hell just happened?'

Before OR I spent some time in the bugaboos with Chris Brazeau. The bugs are a group of granite fingers south of Golden BC- an area I heard about for years but never visited. Chris and Jon Walsh had most of the gear stashed up there, so I rolled up there with a backpack full of beer, and not much else.

Brazeau is perhaps the most solid partner I have ever tied it with. He is eternally positive, eternally motivated and perpetually smiling. Though the weather was patchy, we managed to get out a few times and played around on the east face of Snowpatch. To be climbing 5.12 splitters above a glacier, with a great friend, is about as good as it gets.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Michael Reardon

Just got back from Patagonia a week ago and leaving for Utah in a week... wow. Lots of travelling these days. I'm feeling a little blue after watching some Michael Reardon footage online of him soloing in the Needles of Southern California. Spine-tingly watching that guy solo, talk about soloing and knowing how alive he was a short time ago.

It's dangerous out there. Be careful.