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 | One Comment

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 sewn 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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Oh, the Fun You’ll Have

By | Adventure, Birthday Challenges, Climbing | No Comments

My favorite book is, unquestionably, The Phantom Tollbooth. In it, the Whether Man wisely suggests that Milo “hope for the best, expect the worst, and be unsurprised by anything in between,” or something to that effect. This year, my Birthday Challenge was an absolutely perfect illustration of this. Actually, it wasn’t a proper challenge, just a Birthday Pretty Hard. Life’s been busy and unpredictable enough that I didn’t have the time or inclination to concoct a massive challenge, but I knew I wanted to do something memorable. Since we’re living in Yosemite, doing the Tenaya-Matthes-Cathedral linkup seemed perfect. The day before my birthday, I drove up to check the snow on Tenaya. It looked like the route was still climbable despite two patches sitting on the buttress, but I wasn’t sure, which made me suddenly very anxious. On top of that, I didn’t know who would be joining me for the day, I hadn’t been training much, I hadn’t been living at altitude, and I planned to do the whole day in my approach shoes, and without a rope. A few friends were driving up from the Bay Area, but would be moving more slowly because they weren’t soloing, and it seemed I might be doing most of day by myself. That would’ve been fine, basically a scaled-down version of my challenge last year, the WURL, however I was hoping to be able to share the stoke (and the route-finding) with someone. I’d attempted the linkup 7 years ago or so,…

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A Jumbo Passion Project

By | Bolt Clipping, Climbing, Film, Food for thought | 3 Comments

The climber, facing away from the wall, gingerly peers over his toes to watch his sky-blue T-shirt flutter to the ground. He takes a deep breath, then turns in place on the 4-inch ledge on which he’s been standing. Now facing the wall, he unclips from the anchor and begins a precarious rightward traverse. 15 delicate feet later, he clips the rope into a quickdraw more in line with the rest of the bolts. He draws another deep breath, and pulls into the start of a 110-foot long roof. So begins my absolute favorite segment of climbing footage. It doesn’t evoke the adrenalized, finger-tingling, animalistic urge to grab something overhead and freakin’ pull down like most videos of hard climbers climbing hard. It’s more like a good surf film, in which a fragile human is calm and poised amidst the violence and chaos of forces we can’t comprehend. It’s simultaneously serene and exciting, and I can’t look away. He’s nearly horizontal, but his face is completely relaxed. He doesn’t seem to be climbing so much as gliding between ripples in gravity’s field, now relaxing and taking a breath as the next hold makes its way to his hand. He is a virtuoso and the rock is his sheet music. We don’t listen to the notes, we feel the movement swell. The camera follows the climber, uninterrupted, for about 30 minutes. I’ve watched it countless times, and on every occasion I feel transported by the rapture of a perfected performance. It features a…

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