Friday, December 16, 2011

New Website/ Blog...

Hi everybody,

I know its been a bit of a push since I wrote anything.  After the Prophet mission it was straight to China with Matt Segal, John Dickey and Lauren Callaway.  And, since I've been home, I've been tinkering away on a new website:    Thanks a tonne to Gary Foster for helping me with this.  Its not quite done, but on the way there... Just about all of my old blog posts are on the new site.  So if you could update your links that would be much appreciated.

Happy holidays from rainy North Vancouver!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Superhero Sonnie

Superhero Sonnie enjoying a gentleman's smoke on a ledge. As Mike Pennings once said, "You can't put a price on morale." If having a smoke is good for morale, then its a good idea. ;)

Sonnie and I are still fooling around on the Prophet. Trotter is leading the charge. I think it’s really interesting to look at how the very best trad climbers operate on the sharp end. I would put Sonnie in a really small group of people I’ve climbed with that are truly built for hard, scary rock climbing. Skill plays a huge part. Strength plays a huge part. But an innate positivity is the biggest factor, I think. When the house of cards begins to collapse for me, I start losing the optimistic edge, and everything seems to spiral towards negativity. If one foothold breaks, I start thinking all the footholds are going to break. It might stem from the accident this spring, feeling a little more rattled than usual. But it could also be that this route is just damn-hard and scary, standard setting in boldness. Sonnie maintains a consistent ‘Sunny-side-up’ disposition. He might back down for a day or a week, but he never gives up.

I’ve learned alot from watching him. I’d also put Alex Honnold in that small club of guys that I’m not stressed out belaying on 5.13R. I am attentive, but not worried for them. I guess it comes down to total faith that they’ll make good decisions.

Giving up is like a warm blanket. So tempting to give in, call it a day, admit defeat. Put it off for another day, another trip... Far more difficult to step into the fray again, to push a little farther. So, tomorrow I think we’ll try again from the ground. Then take a day off and try the route in a two day push. I absolutely have to fly out on Nov 17. I’ve already pushed back a trip to China by ten days.

Even if this line doesn’t go down this trip, I will certainly be back.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


This spring, my good friend Jesse Huey introduced me to the 'Heisman.' The Heisman Trophy is an American College Football award for the most valuable player. The trophy has a player with an arm outstretched, basically saying, "Step back!" Jesse explained to me and my friend Charlie that lots of things in life can 'Heisman' you. Girls can Heisman you. A truck with engine trouble can Heisman you on your drive to work. A Yosemite Ranger can Heisman you for trying to smuggle a beer into the Cafeteria (that Heismanning can often come with a good-natured Tasering...) Yesterday Sonnie and I were Heismanned on pitch 5 of the Prophet, known as the Screamer Pitch.

By this point we have been in California for about a month. We've spent many days rapping into the top of the Prophet trying the A1 beauty and Devils Dyno Pitches. We've also done a few ground up pushes attempting the lower pitches. Sonnie and I had briefly considered rappelling in to attempt the Screamer Pitch on toprope. Leo makes the pitch out to be terrifying in the article he wrote about the route. But in the end we decided to give it a go from the ground, like the Brits had done in 2001. With a solid three day weather window, we packed up, and began our fourth ground up effort on the Prophet.

Sonnie polished off pitch 4, entitled 'Not Gay', easily. I nervously racked up for the Screamer, which follows a grotty corner, then hops over an arete into no-mans land. This part of El Cap is extremely loose and crumbly: its sorta like the rock is alive, with stacked blocks and sharp edges everywhere. Everything about the position is whacky, and everything was telling me that this was a sketchy place to go rock climbing.

I crept up the corner, putting in small cams, gingerly weighting the friable feet. I didn't want to weight any of the gear, even though it was probably adequate. I just didn't know- the back of the back of the crack was spitting sand and everything was creaking a bit. I eventually made it to one of Leo's old DMM nuts shoved sideways in some sandy alcove, and spied up the crux sequence. By this point my nerves were shot, and I lowered off to let Sonnie try. He backed up the wobbly nut and shoved in a few more pieces of pro. Then he crept out towards the arete, popping off three footholds in the process. He eventually clipped another one of Leo's old nuts- this time a 00 micro. He eventually lowered off. I tried again. Both of us were too wigged out to commit to the blind sequence around the arete.

In the end, we are happy we went from the ground and attempted those lower pitches in the style of the first ascentionists. But in the end, we fell short of Leo's boldness. Which is okay, I guess. A special extra-something was required- maybe a bit of calculated craziness- but we didn't have it yesterday, and I'm not sure I'll ever have it. What I do think is that those original ground up efforts in 2001 were the high-water mark of bold climbing on El Cap. I have never come across a pitch so unnerving. I think the next time we try it we will come in top down. But time has a way of pacifying nerves, and I'll have to mull it over with Mr. Trotter with some fine scotch. ;)

But for now, another storm is coming in, and it might be game over for the season. Time will tell.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Moments of Uncertainty

Sonnie, Paul and I just spent 4 days on top of the Prophet tooling around on the upper pitches. Every once in a while I have little moments of "wow, this is awesome!"- climbing the A1 beauty in the dying light, with the whole wall ignited orange, was one of those moments. Sonnie managed to toprope it clean, and I came really close. Then we spent some time throwing ourselves at the 'Devils Dyno', a gigantic 7.5 foot sideways leap to a sidepull flake. After many, many tries I stuck the move. I was ecstatic. Leo is an exceptional dynamic climber (his nickname is Springer). Sonnie figured out a ballistic V10 crimping variation instead.

I like this photo because it captures that moment of uncertainty with big wall freeclimbing. Mulling over sequences, tinkering away, all in the coolest place imaginable.

Check out to see more amazing images from one handsome Italian man. ;)

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Sonnie and I have been in Yosemite for a few days now. We've been fooling around on the top of El Cap, rapping in and inspecting the upper A1 beauty pitch of the Prophet. Leo Houlding and Jason Pickles established the route last year, ending a 9 year quest. First of all, I'd like to say that this pitch is truly hard and insecure. Sending this one is going to be real tough. It's easily the most powerful low-angle pitch I've ever attempted. Extremely fingery, balancy and painful. But aside from the struggles associated with it, the A1 beauty is a real joy to climb on: a curvy, laser cut splitter a stone's throw from the top of the Captain.

I came pretty close to freeing the Arch project in Squamish in early September, but in the end fell short. But I feel like I've got my fighting spirit back, after months of rehab and fear of falling. A big thanks to Sonnie and Scott Milton for trudging back there day after day to belay and film the struggle. Its so critical to have good friends' support when you're trying a pitch at your limit with a potentially hazardous fall.

The temperatures are perfect in Yosemite right now. And we will head back up tomorrow, to resume working the pitch. One of the coolest things about climbing is that we get to try these routes in the most jaw-dropping positions. Way better than playing badminton on an identical court, time after time. WAY better. ;)

Hope everybody's have a great fall.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September Heat Wave

Its September 12th and it feels like mid-August here in Squamish. I've been guiding lots in the hot sun. The Arch project is on hold for now- and though I'd love to finish it up, it may have to wait for next spring. I'm very excited for an upcoming Yosemite Valley trip with Sonnie Trotter in October.

In other news, check out the new issue of Explore Magazine if you'd like to read a profile about me. JB MacKinnon wrote the piece. JB is an exceptional writer. He wrote a piece about the Grand Wall for Explore years ago that Jason Kruk and I absolutely loved. I feel like I learned something about myself from reading this profile. It focuses on climbing, risk and the fine line between boldness and recklessness. I think that, on the whole, the media glamorizes risk-taking too much, and fails to paint the complete picture of it all. I like JB's piece because it shows the flip side of the coin, along with some sharp third-person perspective on the game I play.

I feel like companies need to be very careful about how they portray risky climbing in advertisements. Seeing a full-page ad of someone soloing, with no caveat or background, is a bit irresponsible. Kids, just getting into climbing, don't see the calculated boldness behind these feats; they only see the RAD factor. Yes, its up to everyone to make their own decisions. But I feel like we could do a bit better in helping younger people see what goes into those bold climbs. Maybe I'm just feeling a bit more responsibility as I get older.

Explore Magazine has named me Canada's 'Top Outdoor Athlete' under 30, which is really flattering. Thanks guys- I really appreciate it. I don't quite know if I deserve that tag, but I am grateful nonetheless.

Below is a few snaps from the summer.

Wobbly pop on the top of the Chief at Sonnie's stag party. Congrats my friend on tying the knot with Lydia! Very happy for you. Neel Parikh photo.

After climbing the Squamish Buttress with my Dad for his Fathers Day present. Rob hadn't climbed in a long time, but luckily possesses boatloads of "old-man strength."

Getting baked by the sun while repeating an obscure Guy Edwards' 12a at Skaha during the Skaha Climbers Festival. Rest in peace, Guy.

Adrian None photo.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Wet Summer

Its been a long wet spring and the summer really hasn't kicked off yet. My friends Matt Segal and John Dickey have made the trek up north and its been great chilling with those boys. Matt and I have done many mission, put back more than a few wobbly pops, and climbed loads of pitches together. The last time he was up here we were hanging the late Micah Dash, and Matt climbed the Cobra Crack. I belayed him, then we drank a bottle of Kokanee outside the Liquor Store with Hazel Findlay. When I look back at that picture it seems like decades ago. So much has changed.

Matt is a constant source of energy... almost feverish maniacal energy... But it stokes me up. He's a real bud, the type that Skypes you from Nepal when you can't walk and are in a dark hole.

I got a chance to show my Arch Project to Matt. I first tried this line in 2008 after I got a tip from Zack Smith that it was doable. There was one move that I couldn't do back then, then I revisited it last year and did all the moves. The key to the puzzle was unlocked. On my best bid I one-falled it on lead. I sorta felt that it was on the ropes for a send this spring... then I broke bones in the UK, and just walking around the block with Elsa the dog was a major accomplishment. Setbacks. But that's all part of the game. Its not a question of whether or not you'll get injured. It happens. Its a question of how you deal with it. You gotta move on and bounce back.

Pops after the Cobra.

Contemporary shot of Segal. John Dickey photo.

One day this war is going to be over.... Ryan Olson Photo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back at it

Paul Bride shot: don't steal.

I have been on a roof crack kick as of late. Here's a shot of me scrambling the Whistler 500, north of Chek. This 12b was established in 1987 by either Keith Reid or Hamish Fraser, two old-school crushers. Keith is the President of the ACMG, which lends significant 'cool factor' to the organization. Keith, celebrated ski ballerina, is responsible for loads of testpieces in the Sea to Sky Corridor, and mostly goes by the moniker KFR. Hamish went ground-up where no others had gone before, and came away with a ticklist of some seriously fearsome routes.

Kercous, famous dog of Squamish, recently turned 14, which is very old for a golden retriever. Above is a shot of the golden prince and I enjoying a gentleman's measure of Famous Grouse in celebration of the big milestone.

I was down in Yosemite for a while, hanging out, trying to relearn how to walk and climb again. It was a cool trip. Charlie Long and I rattled down there in his Mazda B2200, which has no suspension and goes approximately 90 KM per hour, max. It took a while. But it was well worth it to see the old El Capitan again. Just being down there, even if I'm not in top form, really fires me up. Call me cosmic and strange- I don't care- but that place has a special energy.

Some inspiring things as of late: Hayden "Cougar Bait" Kennedy and Jason "Spirit Bear" Kruk put in a real impressive bid on the North Twin in the Canadian Rockies. The North Twin is no joke- absolutely gigantic and loose- and the boys came close to sending. Just saddling up to that objective is nothing to scoff at. Its the sort of face that nightmares are made of. Also, Alex Honnold soloed the Phoenix, which is ballistic. Kudos, my friends.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ripping the Parthian Flake

Moments before impact. Simon Wilson photo- don't steal.
Si's website:

Two months ago I ripped off the flake on Parthian Shot, at Burbage South in the Peak District. Tim Emmett, trusted friend and well-known British climber, belayed me, and eventually piggy-backed me down the trail. Thanks to everyone who lent a hand that evening- I really do appreciate it. I haven't put anything on the blog about it until for a couple reasons. Basically, other things in life derailed me for a bit, and I didn't want to revisit the experience.

But, here's the rundown for all those interested.

I had spent a few days on the gritstone previously and was eager to try a real 'hard grit' line. And Parthian didn't dissapoint. Incredible movement on a wild prow, very physical and delicate at the same time. As many of you know, the main gear is a string of wires and one small cam in the flake, which is at a little over half height.

Tim and I fooled around on the line all afternoon, dialing in the nuances and getting a feel for it. I one falled it on toprope. At that point I decided I would try to lead it. My friends Alex Honnold, Matt Segal and Kevin Jorgenson all took multiple wingers onto the flake. While I knew it wasn't 100 percent bomber, I thought it was more or less okay. There's always the unknown factor with headpointing. The element that makes is so exciting and dangerous at the same time.

I waited until sunset, tied in, climbed to the flake and wasted tonnes of energy getting the gear just right. Perhaps it wasn't 'just right'. I don't know. I hung on the gear, wondering what to do. It was getting dark. Finally, I decided to just punch it to the top. If I was ever going to have a hope in hell of successfully leading the pitch, I needed to know what it felt like to go for it above the flake.

As I climbed higher I got a deep pit-in-my-stomach feel that something wasn't right. The superstitious feeling came too late, though- I was way above the flake without a hope of downclimbing. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, spitting blood, struggling to breathe. I tried to weight my left foot, but I immediately knew it was broken. It felt like the bones were swimming. I suspect I fell somewhere between 35- 40 feet.

After Tim gave me a jarring piggy-back to the gravel trail (I had cracked a vertebrae, but thought it was just whiplash). Then the Mountain Rescue people came and took me to the ambulance. Again, thanks so much to everyone for the help.

I've spent the last couple months trying to comes to terms with the accident. Many hours behind the wheel, driving, trying to come up with a bumper-sticker slogan to slap onto the whole miserable affair. But I have nothing. No 'take home lesson', no moral. There's a thousand little decisions that lead up to any accident, and I wish I could pinpoint where it all went wrong. If anything, I've concluded that my headspace wasn't up to snuff for hard grit climbing that day. I wish I could have recognized that, and taken a step back. All I know is that was a monstrous digger, and I got really, really lucky.

Here's a quote that I like by Steve House. He's talking about the North Twin in the Canadian Rockies, but I can relate. I love Steve's writing so much.

"Learn something from our climb if you will, but you might be better off without the knowledge. I'm not advocating that you ignore the lessons of the past, but neither can you allow yourself to be chained by the weight of what happened before you. Don't limit yourself by mythologizing the past...

Today might be your day. Go."

I don't know why I like that quote so much. It reminds me of being a teenager, and trying hard, legendary routes in Squamish that had big reputations. Maybe because it encapsulates the randomness of it all- that 'you never know until you try' adage. Therein lies the moral, perhaps: what I learned in the UK can't be gleaned from an article, or a blog post. It only comes from experience, the harshest teacher of all.

I'm rambling... time to go ride the stationary bike and do my foot exercises.... :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A drive-about

Beer pong natural Alex Honnold gets involved with the locals, Columbus Ohio. If Alex loses, he has to drink that entire blue cup of Ginger Ale.

I just got back from a trip to Colorado to visit some friends. From there, I flew to Ohio to do a slideshow for the Ohio State Mountaineers. Thanks to Natalie, Jared and Sara for putting that together. I had never been to the midwest before. Everybody seemed really stoked to get out and go climbing. Good to see the midwest enthusiasm.

Jared and I after breakfast the morning after the beer pong tournament. A little hungover.

Crutching onstage to give the slideshow.

Sobering thoughts outside of Laramie, Wyoming :)


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whatever Happened

Well, the Strokes have released their fourth album. I'm happy about that.
Like Julian said, "Its more important what you do than when you do it."

In other news, I've broken my talus bone and cracked a vertebrae in my neck. Like Julian, I'm more concerned about healing quality than healing time. If everything goes well I'll be taking it easy this summer, then perhaps turning up the volume in the autumn.

I will go into details later about the accident. All I will say now is that it involved England, the Sheffield Hospital, and a rugged flight home with a bottle of Laphroiag single malt scotch and lots of painkillers. My buddy Leo, who broke his talus bone on Cerro Torre, said this was also a common injury for Spitfire pilots in World War II.

I drove down to Smith Rock a couple days ago to hobble around the cliffs, try to clear my head. The crutch down to the dihedrals took a good half hour. On the long trudge out, some kid tailed me for a while, peppering me with questions about how I broke myself. Please leave me alone, I thought. Then, after about 5 minutes, he said, "It looks like you need to find Jesus." It made me smile.

Its good to smell the Juniper again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grit trip

In a few days I'll be off on another trip, this time to the the gritstone edges of England. I am very excited about this one. My friend Jeremy Blumel will accompany me for most of it. I've climbed with Jeremy a lot, and he and I share a similar infatuation with movement on rock. A real climber's climber, with ballerina footwork and vice-strong fingers. Hopefully I'll be able to pry Hazel away from her studies to come join us too.

Josh Wharton, Whit Magro and Nate Opp just sent huge in Patagonia, completing a much sought-after free link up: Desmochada, to the La Silla, to Fitzroy. This was a pipe dream of loads of climbers (myself included). I can't see the prize going to a more deserving team.

Jason Kruk and I climbed Desmochada back in 2008. The razor-sharp granite was punishing on that peak, but it still stands as one of the best adventures I've experience. Onsighting steep rock, on such a wild peak, provided a strong cocktail of adrenaline. At the top, in a burgeoning storm, I felt my first tinges of frantic summit fever, while wedged in an icy chimney. Jason said, "Calm the fuck down!" and I slowed a bit, taking extra care. We topped out just as white clouds engulfed the Torre valley, rapped all night, got ropes stuck, and staggered back to camp completely worked. That was a mission I'll never forget.

I've taken a couple years off from Patagonia recently. The peaks down there still call to me, but I needed a break. To climb well in down there you must be psyched to the hilt, and I just haven't felt that requisite headspace lately. In Patagonia, you get told when to climb by the weather. And when its game on, you better be ready to play.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Just a quick note to say congrats to my friends Jason Kruk and Chris Geisler for a really impressive bid on the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in Patagonia.

Jason's got a great write-up on his blog:

Basically, those guys pushed real hard and came a stone's throw from the top after some all-night aid jiggery pokery. Despite not succeeding, they pointed the way forward. To me, the Southeast Ridge of Cerro Torre is one of the most elegant lines I've ever laid eyes on. To climb that feature without Maestri's bolts is way cool.

Here's a couple snaps of the boys themselves.

Geisler eyeing up some burgers on top of the Split Pillar:

Kruk eyeing up some cocktails at a party last year:

Jason, with a penchant for fine denim and ear-splitting dance music, is one of my favourite partners in crime. While Chris is back in Vancouver, Jason is still down there, aiming for another try. Suerte, amigo!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

VIMFF 2011

I'm back in North Vancouver for a couple weeks here. Its pissing rain right now- classic winter west coast. Since being home I've been augered into writing mode, which is lots fun, and just starting to put something together for the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival which runs from Feb 11-19. If you find yourself in this neck of the woods this time of year, I highly recommend you make it to one of the nights. Alan Formanek never ceases to put on an awesome event. Jasmin Caton, Sean McColl and I will be presenting on the finale night: saturday Feb 19. Its been fun leafing through the slides of the past year, trying to come up with a coherent theme to present. This past year has been a blast- and doing this slideshow is forcing me to reflect on lessons learned, and plans for the year ahead. I like how putting together slideshows do that.

I hope everyone's doing great and enjoying their winter.

Hope to see you on Feb 19. Heckle, drink some beer and get stoked on the absurd activity of climbing rocks.

Here's a few snaps from my trip overseas.

Alex and Stacey hit the slopes... in Turkey.

Peak district sunset.

Bullet-hard limestone. Antalya Turkey.

An Efes Pilsen between chairlift rides never hurt anyone.... I hope.

Hazel bringing in 2011 with our Turkish friend. I have never seen anyone this hammered yet still standing. Despite his inebriation, he still had better rhythm than me.