A Dispatch From I-15N

By | Adventure, Birthday Challenges, Film, Trip Journal | No Comments

It’s spring, but it feels like summer. I’m in the passenger seat, Vikki’s keeping the white lines on either side of us, Salt Lake City is in the distance and getting closer while Las Vegas recedes in the rearview. I’m thinking about how complex and multifaceted people are, and how simple we are as well. We’re so befuddling that we don’t even really understand ourselves. But on the whole, we are a predictable species with buttons that, when pushed, create pretty standard reactions. When pricked, we bleed. One person who was simply befuddling, was Steve Edwards. The dude’s been on the mind lately. That’s because we’re putting miles on my mom’s Prius, chasing down the last few interviews for the project. At some point, we’re going to have to condense some 40 hours of interviews, plus a mélange of archives and recently produced footage from a couple of Big Days in the Wasatch. When we finish condensing, we should have a portrait of a man who would navigate the line between light and dark like a möbius strip, who traveled through life like it was a bike park. To Steve, pain was something to take pleasure in, failure was to be celebrated, and obstacles like conflict and contradiction were nothing more than enjoyable, technical terrain, more opportunities for fun. Steve simply saw the good in everyone and found enjoyment and humor in any situation. Seems easy, but it ain’t. If it were, we wouldn’t need so many interview subjects. Wicked. And I…

Read More

I Lost 8 Pounds in Two Days While Eating Whatever I Wanted. Ask Me How!

By | Birthday Challenges, Musings | 2 Comments

I stood on top of Devil’s Castle, overlooking the Alta ski resort and what felt like the rest of the world. The moon was full and the sky was clear, so bright that my headlamp stayed in the pack. Two faint campfires burned below. I’d been dreading this. It was past midnight and I was alone, slowly picking my way along the crumbly, rotten limestone ridge that makes up the “horseshoe” at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I was worried about all manner of unknown misery that nightfall would bring. The truth of the matter is that any misery was my own doing. I knew I wanted to do the WURL as my birthday challenge, and had spent much of the summer preparing for the eventual attempt. I had four potential partners, but one by one they dropped out, because they (respectively): thought it was gonna be too hard; thought it was gonna be too dangerous; were tapering for another big run; didn’t have time to adequately train. I’d heard of some other folks giving it a shot over the weekend, but I had grown tired of all this equivocating and impetuously declared (on Tuesday) that I’d give the WURL a go during the full moon (Wednesday). Snacks and a plan were hastily assembled. I didn’t really have enough time to get anxious. The WURL Report- Wednesday Afternoon Vikki dropped me off at the Ferguson Canyon trailhead, and I began hiking at 11:37am. The climb up Ferguson isn’t too…

Read More

Another Birthday, Another Challenge

By | Birthday Challenges, Stuff We're Psyched On, Trip Journal | 7 Comments

On July 15th, the earth will be in roughly the same place with respect to the sun as it was when I was born almost 32 years ago. I’m not sure why it felt necessary to say “I’m turning 32” in such a roundabout fashion. It’s not a good habit; the world is complex enough as it is without obfuscating writing about banal topics. It’s time for another Birthday Challenge. My introductory paragraph shows a glimpse of the inner turmoil of a mind clouded with complex thoughts. This morass of often incompatible ideas is not easy to wade through, and a desire for clarity is why I chose this challenge, and why I chose such a bloody simple one compared to the logistical and exhaustive clusterfuck I undertook when I turned 30. I’m going to attempt the WURL, and I hope to complete it in less than 32 hours. The WURL stands for “Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup,” and in my own words, is a ridiculously cool but very long objective just outside of Salt Lake City, UT. It’s about 36 miles, and more or less follows a ridge all the way around Little Cottonwood Canyon, gaining about 18,000 feet as it passes through a couple of dozen peaks, many of them above 11,000 feet. As far as I can tell, the fastest time is Jared Campbell with an absurdly quick run of 16:44. Our friend Stacey, with partners Matt and Alexis, managed it in 26:25. Stacey, you may recall, kept…

Read More

Why The Fuck?

By | Birthday Challenges | 4 Comments

Ten years and one month ago, I lost a friend. Her name was Kendra Payne, and we met through the adventure program at UCSB. We shared classes, homework, and the occasional excursion to the outdoors…I remember her pulling off a palm-down mantel 60 feet off the deck on her first toprope. She inspired me to commit to a semester abroad in Australia. Two weeks before I was to fly across the Pacific, she was killed in a cycling accident. We had planned to meet for coffee that day, but I never got a phone call from her. Last night I slipped into muscle memory again, and, mind idle, I flipped to Facebook. The first story on my feed informed me that I had just lost another friend. It felt like waking up in the middle of an avalanche. Steve Edwards. Stainless. The strong, silent type. No recounting of his employment, no listing of physical achievements would do any service to his legacy. I suspect he’d hate me for saying something like this, but Steve was more than a friend, he was a life-idol. There aren’t a whole lot of people out there like that, people who inspire you to just be a better human being. And there aren’t a whole lot of people that strong, that kind, that awesome, who can do nothing but be themselves and still make the people around them better. I met Steve way too late. We were getting our first big break, a series with EpicTV about Birthday Challenges….

Read More

Lizzy Asher’s Highball Birthday Challenge

By | Birthday Challenges, Bouldering, Climbing, Guest Post | No Comments

A big thanks to our badass friend Lizzy for crushing this challenge, and then writing this great post about it! Missing out on Squamish this summer didn’t feel quite so bad after getting to relive one of our favorite days. Last summer I decided to do my first climbing birthday challenge at age 28.  The goal: to complete four famous highball boulder problems which I had never before climbed in a single day: Ride the Lightning (V8), Teenage Lobotomy (V7), Funeral Arrangements (V6), and Black Slabbath (V7). As my move to San Francisco and the final “writing stage” of my PhD in climate science and oceanography approached, I sought to prepare for the social and intellectual challenges that I would face with a physical challenge requiring mental fortitude and discipline.  I also wanted to say good-bye to Squamish, with its familiar forest and boulders, where I had logged hundreds of hours becoming acquainted with the subtleties of granite climbing.  Finally, I had spent the previous winter working for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO with little time for anything but work and training with a core group of climbing friends, and I came to I relish my hours at the various Boulder climbing gyms.  When summer arrived, I was eager to see if my gym-wrought fitness gains could help me reach new climbing heights. After some deliberation, I settled on this particular group of boulder problems for their aesthetic climbing movements, my previous yearnings to climb each one…

Read More

Behind the Scenes of Alex Honnold’s Birthday Challenge

By | Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Film | No Comments

Damn y’all, 2014 is wrapping up. I am proud, excited, and honestly a little nervous to share the following video with you: Alex Honnold soloing 290 pitches on his 29th birthday. We shot over 3.5 hours of footage during the approximately 16 hours it took Alex to climb all 290 pitches. Since we can’t include it all, we’ll release a little outtakes reel soon, but I want to reiterate how much fun it was to shoot this day. Unlike a massive link-up or something like that, where the camera people spend all day getting into position for a few minutes of footage, Alex was on the ground almost as much as he was on the rock, bantering and joking and occasionally striking yoga poses halfway up a route. You can read the initial report by clicking here. And here are some more fun tidbits that didn’t make it into the film: The high in Squamish that day was 85°F/30°C, and the recent rains made for high humidity. That is why Alex did not wear a shirt between 5:20AM and 9:20PM, and why he is so sweaty and gross. 290 pitches in 16 hours is a little over 3 minutes per pitch. All day. If the pitches averaged 75 feet, Alex climbed 21,750 feet (over 4 vertical miles). The hardest pitch was #200, Red Nails 5.11c, which he onsighted. Alex consumed approximately 8 oatmeal cookies during the day. He said he drank about 4 gallons of water, but that sounds like a high estimate….

Read More

Fun is Life and Death

By | Birthday Challenges, Musings, The Interior | One Comment

“I am deadly serious about us having fun” – Michael Franti, In The Middle I think one of the secrets to happiness and success is to take the non-serious things in life seriously, and the serious things less so. Or, since we are the ones who decide what is serious and what isn’t, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that one must allocate their gravitas wisely for the sake of happiness, and survival. Proper Seriosity Birthdays generally fall into the non-serious category. How many times have we “celebrated” someone’s unique, fleeting existence on this planet by sitting in a crowded restaurant, lucky to be within earshot of the birthday boy or girl? How many birthdays do we let pass with little more than a few cheap “you’re old now” jokes? Answering for myself: many. As a child, comforted, cared for, and complacent, my birthday was an occasion for gifts. As an adolescent, I craved little except simple, good times. My birthday falls during the summer, and more than anything I remember wanting my birthday to be more like any other summer day than any other summer day, which at the time meant 2 on 2 basketball, deli sandwiches, and MarioKart 64 (or sports on network TV). Birthday Challenges are the opposite. We take a silly day and make it silly hard, and we try like hell to complete some silly goals. We even train for them. Why? Well, that’s a very involved question, but a short answer might be, “to…

Read More

Back to America, Back to Birthday Challenges

By | Birthday Challenges, Trip Journal | 2 Comments

We pulled into our usual campground in Joe’s Valley, Utah in the wee hours on Thursday morning. We ended up staying in Salt Lake City longer than expected to finish some editing, and Katie was sleeping, curled up in the back of her white Scion coupe, when we arrived. “Should we wake her up?” “Absolutely” We knew we couldn’t wait. We ran and pressed our faces against the side window of the small white car. Unable to contain our laughter, we promptly woke Katie up and she squealed with joy as she unlocked her car and jumped out. This reunion was a big moment for all of us. We met Katie and her then-boyfriend, Niko, at the Food Ranch in Joe’s Valley in April of last year. They were in the midst of their year-long road trip and we became fast friends (an understatement, as Katie wrote in her post “suddenly we found ourselves huddled around a fire with strangers who would become family overnight”). They helped us film 5.10 vs. LaSportiva that Spring and we continued to meet up on the road as much as possible for the remainder of their road trip. We desperately wanted them to stay on the road so that we could continue to travel together forever…but, you can’t always get what you want. Katie is now persuing her career in the outdoor industry based in Denver, CO. Niko is managing the local climbing gym in Talahasee, FL. Things change, but our love for these two, together and separate, is…

Read More

Carlo Traversi’s Birthday Challenge- Insane

By | Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Exclude From Site, Film | No Comments

Folks, I’ve done some bouldering, and I’ve pushed my limits. I’ve even done a few harder problems, up to V11. I’ve also done literally hundreds of boulder problems in a day. I’ve been at it long enough to genuinely surprise myself from time to time. What I have no freaking chance of ever doing is doing a fraction of the hard climbing that Carlo Traversi does for his 26th Birthday Challenge. Attempting 26 boulder problems V5 or harder in Colorado meant doing an awful lot of harder climbs, since the bouldering skews in favor of the higher grades there. This is partly why his ticklist (below) is so totally absurd. Plus, I think Carlo just enjoys climbing hard climbs and making it appear effortless. Of course, it’s not all good…anyone who’s bouldered knows how important it is to have skin in order to complete a problem. And guess what happens to your skin after a dozen hard climbs? Will he complete his challenge? Press play to find out… 1. The Kind V5 2. Mr. Wimpy V7 3. The Kind Traverse V11 4. Crack Line V7 5. Whispers Of Wisdom V10 6. Storm Shadow Stand V10 7. Unnamed V6 (Cube Boulder) 8. Unnamed V5 (Cube Boulder) 9. Unnamed V6 (Cube Boulder) 10. Real Large V9 11. Hi Fi V11 12. Arete V8 13. Tommy’s (Other) Arete V8 14. The Donut Thief V9 15. Veritas Assis V11 16. Stripes V8 17. Menwax V7 18. Bulgin’ Out V8 19. Child Of God V10 20. Suzuki Boulder V5…

Read More

30-Day Birthday Challenge Wrap Up

By | Birthday Challenges | 5 Comments

So…done? SO done. How done? So done that I couldn’t muster the energy to write this until, what are we now, damn near two weeks out from my finish date. The last thing I updated anyone about was our trip to Salt Lake City to film and support Steve Edwards’ 54th BDC. He has since begun chemotherapy, and you can follow along on his wild ride by clicking here. So that was Monday, when we got back. Monday night, kinda late, like 1AM. We were tired. Day 24 (Tuesday)- 30 Pitches Led on Gear The next day had rain in the forecast, so we woke up relatively leisurely to head into town and grab sustenance. Consistent showers had our spirits down, but hashbrowns and pancakes brought them back up. While we waited for the world to dry, we planned the rest of the remaining BDC week by reserving a bike for the bike park, arranging to stay with Scot and Michelle at Alta Lake, and staring at the Chief in hopes of divining three easy ways up the face. At around noon, the rain ceased and, though the air remained humid, a decent climbing afternoon began to take shape. Vikki and I drove to the Smoke Bluffs to attempt 30 trad leads, with gear borrowed from the ever-psyched Eric Wolff. Honestly, the day was fairly uneventful. I did 30 different routes, with a Vikki belay for each. I didn’t fall, and managed to plunge pieces into cracks rated as high as 5.10. The…

Read More