Emergency Bouldering

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The line to get into Hueco Tanks’ self-guided area was a long one today. Actually, it still is. As I write these words into a notebook (for later transcription), the afternoon drags on, and despite the 35 mph wind gusts, not many folk seem to be leaving the park. So here we sit, myself and 5 other cars. Vikki is in Arizona, shooting a cycling race as a hired gun. So, somewhat absurdly, I sit alone in the cab of a big red truck, hoping to get a few climbs in before the gate closes at 6pm. I was hoping the wait wouldn’t be too bad today. The Rock Rodeo is tomorrow, and I’m not expecting to climb because I’m a volunteer photographer. The idea was that folks would be resting today for the competition tomorrow. I guess lots of other people had that idea. To make things extra absurd, the President is trying to tell me there’s a national emergency here in Borderland. Having been in and around El Paso since early December, I can report having had friendly conversations with locals at grocery stores, auto care centers, and the YMCA. As far as I can tell, I’ve had no contact with any invaders, drugs, caravans, or sneaky middle eastern terrorists. Politicians, generically speaking, are lambasted for changing a position. John Kerry flip flopped, and it cost him a very important election. We ought to be unsurprised, then, that a far-from-trivial number of Americans are proud that this President…

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My Friends Were Violently Assaulted by Illegal Drugs and All I Got Was Free Entry Into a National Park

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…which helps zero, because A) we already have an annual pass, and B) Hueco Tanks is a Texas State Park. So here we are, just closing out our first full month here at the border crisis Hueco Tanks. Equally famous for bouldering (the art of movement, the “poetry of mountaineering”) and pictographs (the art of the ancient and less-ancient cultures that passed through this place), Hueco Tanks State Historic Park packs a lifetime’s worth of both into a wee little postage stamp section of map roughly a square mile in size. The climbing is unforgiving. If the hold isn’t sharp, it’s slick. If you have glaring holes in your climbing, the boulder problems in Hueco Tanks will expose them. I fucking love this place. More than 6 years have elapsed since our only previous trip here, which was also the very first stop on The RV Project’s Magical Mystery Tour. Virtually everything interesting that’s happened to us since then has stemmed in some way from those three weeks back in Spring 2012. We can trace a lot of our close climbing connections to people we met at the Rock Ranch and in the park. And just like last time, Dan Kovner came for a visit and climbed some famous things with big numbers, only this time the numbers got bigger. Beyond fond memories, our first time in Hueco gave us a few little jumpstarts. We met, for example, a crew of Colorado crack climbing enthusiasts, made a video with them,…

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The Past, Present, and Future of Joe’s Valley and its Bouldering Festival: From the Mouth of Steven Jeffery

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On, Trip Journal | 2 Comments

Politics. It’s just a word, but these days it’s not a word that is positively associated. Politics have never been pretty, but the 2016 campaign season felt especially traumatic for our country, and no matter how you feel about the outcomes, I think it’s fair to say that the ends (putting a candidate in an office, also known as winning) did not justify the means (amplifying divisions). The seeds of polarization were sown a long, long time ago, but 2016 was when a storm of perverted incentives caused our divisions to shoot skyward and blot out the light. So we reaped.  America the Colosseum, Blue Donkeys vs. Red Elephants, winner take all. No Purple Allowed. One could imagine congressional leaders announcing that “It has become necessary to destroy the US in order to save it.” Polite disagreement and nuanced reasoning were unfashionable. Like stepping into a very loud tavern, my friends and I agreed that sobriety was of no use. If we were going to keep our heads, when all about us were losing theirs, we would need strong drink. A lot of it. A bender, if you will. I do loudly and un-proudly declare that, like many in my cohort, the daily outrages produced and perpetuated by pundits and president alike provided easy excuses for apoplectic paralysis. Hence the aforementioned bender (which, I should mention, is more hyperbolic than alcoholic…don’t try to make me go to rehab. No, no, no!). What to do, then? I’m still drinking (for health…

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The No More Excuses Birthday Challenge

By | Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On | No Comments

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth. I live an exceptional life. Every day is different from the previous and the next. I choose to live in a trailer so that I have the option to get outside daily – instead of a walk-in closet or a daily shower. I have done most anything I can think of to avoid being bogged down by the aspects of life that hold you down. Those that, effectively, make you forget that you are alive. I also choose to live in society. I choose to have a smart phone and health insurance. I pay my taxes and take Little Dude to get his rabies vaccination. And, often, all of those have-to-dos pile up, and I can’t avoid feeling weighed down. With freelance work, it’s all up to you – without a syllabus, your success is completely dependent on how much effort you put in. Balance is difficult to achieve, and I always feel behind. There’s the feature-length documentary we’re editing, oh and that non-profit festival that’s a few weeks away. Don’t forget the family and friends that you want to keep…

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4th Annual Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival This Weekend

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On | No Comments

Last time we checked in with our heroes, they were living in Wild Iris and reminiscing about the time Spenser gained +10 Wisdom Points from a sage, dapper restroom attendant. If you missed it, the lesson was that It Pays To Pay Attention. He also managed to flop his way up a new boulder problem that he called The Dawghouse. Here is a video: Nowadays our heroes (that’s us) are located at Joe’s Valley. It’s early in the season and things are generally pretty quiet, though we are not the only climbers around, not by a long shot. But we’re not just here to chuck laps on sick moderates. We are here to get everything ready for: This year’s kind of a big year, because it will be featured in the next Reel Rock Film Tour. More on that below. Right now we’re putting the finishing touches on the premiere bouldering festival in the western US. Now, on one hand, it should be easy. This is Adriana, Amanda, and Vikki’s 4th go-round with putting on this Fest. We have 3 successful years under our belts, with the JVBF doubling in ticket sales each year. We now have 501(c)3 status. We have sponsors that have been with us since the beginning (Organic and Momentum deserve a special mention here, along with the Emery County Travel Bureau, Emery Telcom, and Rhino Mine). And most importantly, we have the advocacy of Castle Dale’s civic leadership, especially that of mayor Danny Van Wagoner. On the…

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A New Joe’s Valley: Updates in Emery County, Utah

By | Climbing, Local Beta, Stuff We're Psyched On | No Comments

As we began planning for the 4th Annual Joe’s Valley Fest, my first email was to Josh Helke, founder of Organic Climbing. Organic has been the Headline Sponsor the past 2 years, and we were hoping they were game for another round! “COUNT US IN! We love this event and have made so many local friends in the community outside of climbing through it!” HAPPY DANCE!!! Because, back in 2015 when a few of us got together to start the festival, that’s exactly what we were hoping would happen.                 This got me to thinking about all the other awesome changes that have happened around Emery County since the Fest started. Of course, me and the rest of the Joe’s Valley Fest team know it’s not all because of us, we just love being a part of it all. ⇒ Cup of Joe’s. Why yes, there is now a coffee shop in Orangeville! This cozy new addition has become the defacto headquarters of the Fest, because climbers just might love coffee more than they love climbing. Since the welcoming owners, Doug and Camie, were trained a Public Coffeehouse in SLC – the coffee is good, REALLY good (+ they offer lots of non-caffeinated options too!). It’s also a great place to go for climbing needs – they have a copy of the old guidebook you can take photos of, plus they’re the only place in the area you can rent Organic Climbing crash…

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The 8B Challenge Report

By | Birthday Challenges, Climbing | No Comments

This was originally published on June 15, 2018 on the Touchstone Climbing blog. Original post can be found here. People often associate me with Birthday Challenges, which is understandable because I’ve made them a pretty big part of my life. There is endless philosophical musing to be done regarding the process of dreaming up sufferfests to mark the years of one’s life, but really, they’re just fun. They usually take the form of a day (or days) packed with fun activities with friends in beautiful places, and who doesn’t like that? Well, it ain’t my birthday for a little while, but we wanted to celebrate our new home office on wheels by spending a day with good friends enjoying one of the coolest things about Berkeley, which is the surprising amount of climbing one can do in her hills. We hatched a plan, and I called one of my longest climbing buddies, Ryan Moon, to suggest the 8B Challenge. I could tell straightaway that he thought it was a brilliant idea, because he said “that’s brilliant!” The 8B Challenge was less severe than some of the epics of Birthday Challenge lore, but it wasn’t a total gimme either. As detailed on our blog, the 8B part has nothing to do with the French translation of V13. Instead, it stands for Bros and Babes Biking with Beers, Bowties, and Burritos to Boulders in Berkeley. The goal was the following: To climb at least one boulder problem at each of eight Berkeley bouldering…

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This Sunday! The 8B Challenge…

By | Birthday Challenges, Bouldering, Climbing | 2 Comments

Bros (and Babes!) Biking with Beers, Bowties, and Burritos to Boulders in Berkeley That’s 8 B’s. Count ’em. The electricity and plumbing are done. All that remains with the trailer rebuild are some finishing touches and a mini-art project making use of our scrap wood. Barring unforeseen sandbaggery, we should be rolling out of the Bay Area just ahead of the hordes of Memorial Day travelers, albeit far behind our original (and secondary) plans for March (and April) departures. It’s taken all we have to keep chipping away at the trailer project, and training/biking/climbing/running/mobility have all gone out the window. Five years ago this post might’ve been about routes and boulder problems I want to do this summer–and I can think of a few–but we’ve somehow allowed complexity to sneak back into our lives, and we’re still adjusting. Hell, we ain’t hardly seen hide or hair of our homies here. Basically, what I’m getting at is, we love our Bay Area climbing family. We also love my biological family, and the Berkeley boulders that magically dot the hillside. And, eager though we are to get back to RV Projecting, we’re gonna miss ’em. So I came up with a challenge to celebrate. You should come! It’s not gonna be too hard. More of a “Pretty Hard” than a challenge, really. Behold: Berkeley Bouldering (and Buildering!) on Bikes, with Burritos, Beer, and Fritters The Challenge: Begin at Kingpin Donuts with a cinnamon crumb donut (~16oz of heart-racing, innard-lubing goodness). Bicycle to each…

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The 3rd Annual JVBF, and Why We Are Really Proud Of It

By | Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched On, Trip Journal | One Comment

I’ll always remember our first trip to Joe’s Valley. We were young, fit, and couldn’t wait to get our hands on that dyno-happy, skin-friendly, streaked, pocketed sandstone. It was even better than we anticipated. We climbed and camped and ate giant steaks and drank palatable whiskey and burned firewood. We stayed for a month, loved every minute, and were back the next spring. It was a mostly-off-grid existence punctuated by trips into town for fuel and sundries. Now, in a big city like San Francisco, even the loudest personalities can disappear into anonymity, but when the town doesn’t even list its population on the “Welcome” sign, new faces are hard to ignore. We were anxious about how the locals might react to our puffy-coated presences. We needn’t have been. Our California license plates drew comments, yes, but only about how clean their coal-burning power plant is, and that, without it, we’d be left praying for wind and sun 24 hours a day. We had no particular reply, and some subsequent not-quite-light reading was enough to tell us the picture is more complicated than any one person or interest group is willing to admit. In any case, it was very difficult to imagine something positive resulting from making our objections to carbon dioxide emissions an issue. One fateful rest day, after seeing a sign on a bulletin board at the Food Ranch, Vikki and I and two other couples volunteered for a town clean-up in Orangeville. All 6 of us had…

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El Cap is Big and Cars Suck

By | Climbing, Food for thought, Musings | No Comments

El Capitan is big. I am qualified to say this, as I’ve spent countless hours standing about a half-mile from the base of this greater-than-half-mile tall sheet of granite. To look up and see the top, you must look past 45° above the horizontal. It feels unnecessarily big, almost rudely big. It’s like a shark, or love, or a drug trip: all the documentaries, books, and TED talks in the world will leave you no better prepared to experience it firsthand. A part of you is upset because no one told you it’d be this big. El Capitan is so big that our problems become equally small; they nearly disappear. It’s as though we’re all unified by the challenge of understanding the absurdly big thing in front of us. Tourists will approach and ask one or two of the “standard questions*,” and more often than not we will wind up standing next to each other in silence. Had the inventors of our language, the Shakespeares and the Websters and the like, visited Yosemite Valley, we might have the lexicon to discuss it properly. Or not…its bigness may have overwhelmed our wordsmiths as well. I don’t, however, hold the English language responsible for our inability to come to grips with El Capitan’s size. The fault lies with our culture, and its mandate to categorize and value anything that can be named. El Capitan has no value and defies categorization. It is art, it is love, it is the solar eclipse, it…

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