Sunday, March 4, 2018

Holy Snot, it's been a while - what happened?

Okay, so yeah, it's been a few years. What happened?

 Well probably the easiest way to say it is that I was fired from my job. It was a really good job and I made pretty decent money and allowed me to travel to climb give me plenty of free time and of course that's what led me here to create this blog in the first place as an extension of my Seven Summits Quest.

That firing led to a Mad Dash scramble to replace my income. First of all I tried to make money from my books, but I didn't have any of them ghost-written by that one super-successful ghost-writer dude, so that was a dead-end. I made arrangements with several international guide services, unfortunately about the same time Facebook went on a rampage and deleted all the fake followers they'd sold me and hid my posts from my own groups. I spent three years writing a 300 page hiking and mountaineering fitness training manual and released it at the same time as a celebrity author's training guide.

From one of my Ebay Sales

Pity party for me, hey?

So it was back to the 9-5 if I could find a job that would pay enough to make all of my bill payments go all smooth and happy. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way and I ended up having to move to Utah along the Wasatch Front where they were plentiful jobs in their new tech boom. And of course working 8 hour days and commuting for over 2 hours a day and having to deal with all of the miscellaneous family commitments and other major issues (like keeping cars running and moving everything out of storage and back into our house we were trying to sell) robbed me of all of my free time.

It was about this time that my oldest son decided to go ahead and switch from road bike racing to mountain bike racing and one way we could alleviate some of his fees was for me to become a volunteer assistant coach. I never been on a mountain bike before to be honest with you so I had to spend a few hours here in their learning how to ride a mountain bike because it's much more technical.

Mountain biking in backcountry Moab with my son

Anyway enough about that. Let's get back to climbing. 

I've been a bicycle commuter for several years off and on including 3 years round the year in Salt Lake City. you would think that there would be some carryover and of course there was riding on the relatively flat firm roads. I was quite a bit faster than most of the jr. team members that I was coaching. Over time I progressed to become a NICA certified level 3 mountain bike coach.

I managed to steal enough time from life and work and commitments to My son and good friend Todd to Ouray to spend a few days of the most intense ice climbing I could possibly squeeze out. we had a blast tons of fun did way more than I done on a single trip to Ouray ever before. I even experimented with doing a 2 rope 2 team member simul-climb as I belayed from the top. That was pretty good too.

Ice Climbing with Todd Gilles and my son

But no solo. 

I was trying to figure out a way to get in more climbing and thought I had it figured out. Unfortunately that's when I had my accident. I crashed a bike at 22 miles an hour. Ironically it was a commuter bike on a commuter Rec path on my way to the train station in the morning in the dark. I hit a pothole that was quite deep and large - about the size of an inverted bosu ball if that gives you an idea. I hit hard and tore up my whole right side - knee elbow shoulder hip - lost a lot of skin. I was able to get to work and back that day but over the course of the day I discovered that I wasn't able to raise my right arm.

At that point in time it looked like it would take about a year or so to get my arm back in shape, if ever. Unfortunately it was possible that it was permanent which kind of freaked me out. I was able to hold my arm out at a low angle enough that I could continue to ride the summer for my coaching obligations and began therapy on my own and with the help of a massage therapist.

Then came a financial crisis caused by the loss of our property in Colorado which was sold at such a ridiculously inverted deal that it would seriously take us 5 years to recover from it. Unfortunately the first year was really horrible to endure which forced me to have to sell almost every single last bit of my climbing stuff.

Someone got a heck of a deal on Ebay for these babies.

All of my gear closet gone. 

All except for a couple of choice pieces that I totally loved including my rope solo gear. I thought that I would be ready to do some ice climbing the 2017-2018 winter but I was wrong.

I've just started doing weights again for my upper body and stretching really hard to extend my range of motion and strength. Right now I can swing a tool to about neck level with my right arm which if I really really had to I could make work.

In the meantime I am going to just post a few stories here and there and maybe a few bits and pieces of things I have heard other people talk about on my various expeditions including guides and other expert climbers. Sorry for the long delay in all of this and I should have said something sooner but it was too close to home and I wasn't ready.

Weight training selfie with my left hand.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Doing a lap in the Schoolroom at Ouray

Went to the Ouray Ice Park on the way through between CO and UT (work - ARGH!) and had a few hours to kill, so I scoped out the conditions (poor spring conditions, snowing, Red Pass closed). I was thinking of doing a few laps in the Gullies (my favorite) but it was really falling apart. With a belayer it would be fine, sure, but when you're solo it's better safe than sorry so I looked up the second bridge into the Schoolroom. There was no one down in the Gullies/Fingers area, but a few were in the Lead and Schoolroom area, and some obviously had gone up to the South Park area.

Oh, there were only a few cars in the lots. I mean few like 4. That empty.

So I changed into my climbing clothing for the warm and drizzly conditions. I was nervous about the road conditions, so I wanted to only go for an hour, tops. I headed up to the schoolroom and wandered around a bit at the top. There was one other team down there, on the North end so I went to the South end and set up a toprope, much like the Petzl specs called for.

I added in a third point with a Screamer, maybe overkill? But better safe and all that. I set up my rappel device and tied the ends of the rope to the rear loop on my harness. I wasn't sure if the rope was long enough (70M with about 5M cut off in an "accident" with a newbie) and I couldn't see over the edge as to what was under me.

I rapped down, over some exposed rocks and stair-stepped WI3-4 with some candlesticking. Sure enough I came to the end of the rope about 5M off the deck, and hanging over the river I stuck a few points, set up my MiniTraxion and Shunt backup, Ascended enough to take weight off my Reverso and unclipped it, then untied from the end of the rope. I knotted the two strands together and dropped them, hoping the weight of the knot would be enough to feed the rope as I climbed.

Oh, and this was all on vertical ice.

I climbed then, trying hard to avoid some of the exposed rock. I'm not up for solo on mixed climbing yet. Sure enough, it wouldn't feed, so about every 5' or so I had to crank up some rope through both the MiniTraxion and the Shunt. Oh, well. Good practice. I had some fun spicy moments mantling over some slightly overhanging sections with tricky feet, but overall a great time.

It started raining as I topped out, so it was time to get moving. I broke down everything and packed up. I was going to stop for a late lunch, but the road was icing up and I needed to get out of town. I couldn't afford to risk missing an appointment for business. About halfway between Ridgeway and Montrose the roads improved greatly.

I had to lay everything out to dry that night.

It was a ton of fun and I wished I could spend more time on it this season. I might be able to get something in on Lincoln while it's still in, but Summit County has been in the 40's for a week now, and Keystone Lake has closed for the season. The resorts can't be far behind. We'll see...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slabby WI2 at Lincoln Falls CO

I went up to Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge, CO just to see if there was any ice at all. From the roads in Summit County it appeared for all the world like there was nothing below about 12,000'. Surprisingly though the Lincoln Falls climbing area looked to be in great shape.

I went up the road to the water inlet to the Montgomery Reservoir and up the approach boulder field. There was powder snow over a thin sheen of ice which made footing treacherous. Coming back down would be like walking down a water slide.

At the ice I scoped out a few possibilities, but because I hadn't expected there to be anything really worth climbing I had only brought minimal gear. I decided a slabby WI2 would be okay, so I got my limited amount of gear out.

  • 2 stubbies (short screws)
  • 2 normal screws
  • 4 wiregate draws
  • 30 meters of 9.8 mm rope

I figured I could lead solo that. It's been a long time since I did a lead solo and I didn't want to spook myself too badly. I didn't think I'd fall off a WI2. At the bottom of the slab though was a great steep boulder field to fall into and break bones and stuff.

I had to snag a locker from my rapping rig on my harness to set up the bottom anchor. I messed around with tying into the rope, which caused a tough tangle that forced me to untie about 20' above my last piece to get it sorted out.

heading to a tree for a rap down, but not enough rope or gear
The ice up higher was too thin for anything but stubbies so I ran out pretty quickly. I headed to a tree for a rap down, but I didn't have any slings and the rope wasn't going to be long enough so I went back to the ice sheet. Then I had to downclimb from about 30' above the last piece without pro. That was a ton of fun on my first ice climb of the 2014-2015 season.

Anyway, I have to take more stubbies next time. And slings. And lockers. There will be a next time. Soon.

I posted a longer article with more pics HERE if you're interested.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Superstar Preteen Climber Dies - Gear Failure

Tito Traversa, an Italian climber who just turned 12 years old and climbed 5.14, died in a tragic accident when a climbing partner assembled quickdraws incorrectly, leading to a groundfall after 8 quickdraws failed. This is horrendous [STORY HERE]

But it's also a warning to us to inspect, reinspect, test, and overprotect all of our gear and protection and anchors. The first picture is a toprope anchor on bolts and hangers at a crag in Colorado. Note that I extended the  lockers over the edge so that the rope wouldn't be dragged over any sharp rock while belaying up and down. I also added in a tri-cam and sling as a backup in case of failure. The tri-cam is wedged into an hourglass section of crack and took a bit of care in extracting. I knew it wouldn't fail.

This second photo is of a toprope solo setup on bolts and hangers done as per the instructions at Petzl's website.Note two knots in the middle of the rope with a short tail between them, each bolted to a hanger. I should pad the edge over the rock, or add a plastic tube over the rope. I could also extend the loop out to another anchor somewhere close without extension as a backup. This short cliff was essentially a highball boulder problem on the very low end of the V scale though. But if it were taller and more difficult I would totally consider more backup in this system.

The bottom line in all this is of course, to BE SAFE! Who would ever imagine 8 quickdraws in a row failing?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Old Lead Rope Solo

A few years ago a friend and I took the boys out to Rock Canyon. I ended up having to lead solo to set the toprope. Was digging in old pics and found this gem.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Butterfly Knots on Backup Rope

This is totally old-school, but you can use butterfly knots set about 5-10' apart on a rope as either your backup or even as your primary protection for toprope solo. Just put a bunch of them along the rope you'll be using, make sure they're tied well, and off you go. You clip them just as you would clip a bolt as you ascend. It will make sense if you give it a shot.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lead Rope Solo on a Mammut BRD

Just don't do it. I took the kids out to a local crag for some fun toproping and was lazy so didn't feel like the hike to set up on the little 5.6. The 5.7 next to it is easier to get to from the top of the crag on a little hike, but the 5.6 is  bit harder to get to, with either a really nasty hike around the cliff or a little traversing unprotected. I decided to lead up the 6, and discovered I'd forgotten my GriGri in my ice climbing bag. So I hooked up this Mammut BRD as in belaying a second. It worked okay for "falling" but climbing was a real drag, requiring two hands to pull rope through. Just don't do it.