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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The CIA, Affirmative Action, and a #&@% Video Shop

By | Adventure, Film, Musings | No Comments

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a video shop in Isla Vista, CA that catered to the students at UC Santa Barbara. It was called @*&# Video Shop and Climbing Boutique, was owned and managed by Steve Edwards, and served as the de facto epicenter of a nascent Santa Barbara climbing community. It was a time before the ubiquity of cameras, which presents a challenge: Steve’s video shop is a central element in the story, but we have almost no footage or photos from the interior. It will be difficult, even with several people’s descriptions, to get the special quirkiness of the place across. In our interviews, several people have mentioned the ads that Steve put in the Daily Nexus, UCSB’s student newspaper. I popped over to the Nexus archives yesterday to look for these ads, of which I found a couple, and I had a somewhat mind-bending experience, leafing through yellowed, ancient copies of a paper that I used to read daily. I found that, in some ways, nothing’s changed. In some ways, the world is a very different place. Mostly, I found that flipping through 8 months of newspaper headlines in 2 hours is a very disorienting experience. This was all before the internet delivered everything. It’s pretty wild to think about the ways in which the classic video shops of the 80s and 90s are obsolete. VHS tapes, the “adult” section behind the curtains, underemployed young people discussing cinema. Instead, we now have streaming…

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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…

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I Don’t Write Enough for Myself And I Bet You Don’t Either

By | Adventure, Film, Musings, Trip Journal | No Comments

One of the RV Project’s favorite people, Flannery Shay-Nemirow, had a blog called Recounted Experience, and she used the following quote from Jean-Paul Sartre as a tagline: “For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.” I liked that quote, although I didn’t think about it much. It just sounded good. The quote reminds me of the famous declaration, attributed to Socrates, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This is another series of words that sounds like a truism, though, again, I don’t think I ever knew exactly why it struck a chord. The following quote from an article in The New Philosopher addresses the extreme position Socrates is taking: In a world of abiding uncertainty and complexity one can recognize a certain attraction in not examining too much, for too long in life. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. And it is for this reason that I think Socrates makes his claim so uncompromising. Flannery doesn’t update her blog anymore, sadly, but the aforementioned quote often pops into my mind when I feel the need to process some happenings, and recount them properly. Recounting 4 years ago, I put painful abrasions in my armpits by…

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Just an Update, Really

By | Film, Musings | No Comments

Does anyone else have trouble deciding how to spend the minutes in an hour, the hours in a day, the days in a life? Yeah, I know the topic of privilege is a hot one these days, and I know that we are privileged to be able to say that there’s too much to do in too little time (I’m guessing you’re like us, dear reader). In short, I’m complaining about something that shouldn’t be a complaint, although it has been quite difficult to make the choice to sit down and write something. We’ve been in Salt Lake City for over a month now, undertaking the biggest project in RVProj history. We’re here to start the “Steve Edwards Project,” a documentary about the man’s remarkable life as told through interviews with friends and family, photos, various outdated video formats (I’d never even seen an 8mm reel before), and the prolific writings and videos from the Dude himself.  Also, that’s a working title, and will certainly change. Suggestions are welcome. Much has been written by and about Steve before and after his untimely passing, and I suggest reading the following articles that I’ve linked Steve-style, that is, with a block of hyperlinked text: The day I heard the news of Steve Edwards’s passing I thought about having a couple of martinis and a full size bag of pork rinds, or running twenty miles, or climbing 20 routes in honor of his memory. But then I realized Steve would probably do all of these things…

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Ethan Pringle and La Reina Mora – The Full Story

By | Bolt Clipping, Film, Trip Journal | 3 Comments

“I’m so over it.” I told James Lucas at our small dinning room table in our dimly lit communal area on the night before my last day in Cataluña.  “Like, no part of me wants to go try it. I just want to go climbing and have fun tomorrow for a change.” I could feel my pulse in my hands, almost imperceptibly. My fingers throbbed with blood trying to repair the tissue around the gobies I’d repeatedly torn open in the pockets at the red-point crux of my project. The blood circulated harder still from the inflammatory Spanish foods I’d consumed that day (the peppered sausage, the salty bocadillo) and from the inflammatory thoughts and emotions that had plagued my being. I was midway through the nightly process of applying Neosporin and Band-Aids to the wounds. Wax paper scraps from the bandages, and an assortment of other random items lay scattered across the table. For the last month I’d been doing battle with La Reina Mora (meaning “The Moor Queen”), a stunning 40-meter long 5.14+ test-piece in the famous El Pati sector of the Spanish mega-crag Siurana. It had become glaringly obvious to me and everyone watching that what was holding me back was no sort of physical limitation – it was in my head. Ten days earlier I had a breakthrough attempt on which I stuck the red-point crux from the ground, but pumped off above the last bolt of the route, one moderately difficult move away from success. My…

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Spenser’s First Ascent in Bishop: Behind the Name “I Don’t Know Jack”

By | Bouldering, Film | 2 Comments

Just over 2 years ago, I broke my heel by falling off of a tall boulder problem in Bishop, CA. Several weeks later, ambulatory but avoiding bouldering, I wandered up the hill from the Fly Boy boulder and toward the small dome that overlooks the rest of the main Buttermilks area. The guidebook indicates that there isn’t any climbing in the talus, which is why I’d never gone the additional 100 yards or so to the little peak. After a really neat arcing flake, I scrambled to the base of the dome proper, enticed by what appeared to be an easy solo-able route to the top. Upon closer inspection, the rock appeared somewhat suspect and the climbing insecure, so I traversed counter-clockwise toward the Peabody boulders until I had to squeeze through a little gap formed by some boulders. I emerged on a little patio formed by a flat granite platform encased on one side by a flat wall, and overhung by a sweeping 60 degree incline, blank but for one feature: a long seam running from the bottom to the lip of the overhang, with big holds on each end of it and a blank section in the middle. The top, visible from an adjacent block, appeared to have some holds too. The rock also appeared a bit suspect, which is, I thought at the time, why I’d never heard mention of this line, and why it appeared unclimbed. I mean, seriously. Bishop is synonymous with bold highballs. How could this pure, singular line,…

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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….

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Filming with FIXE Hardware

By | Climbing, Film, Trip Journal | No Comments

I kinda look like I know what I’m doing, right?! Leading the second pitch of Exasperator was the culmination to my ‘summer of yes’ (saying yes to opportunities that presented themselves). Trust me, though, I felt far from comfortable up there. We met at camp early one morning and walked to the base of the Chief. Standing underneath the Exasperator crack was awe-inspiring. It’s a beautiful, perfect splitter. It’s a crack that even people who don’t enjoy climbing cracks, or who do not climb at all, can appreciate. James Lucas climbed up ahead to put up a fixed rope for Spenser to film on. Kevin Daniels, the owner of FIXE Hardware, Spenser, and I began to make a plan. Kevin turned to me, You know, that second pitch is made for little fingers… My heart jumped into my throat – I thought I would be filming today, not climbing. My ‘summer of yes’ had taken me far out of my comfort zone. I had topped out the Chief twice and gone on adventures that I never thought would be part of my reality. It had been an incredibly fulfilling summer, and I couldn’t back down now. “Yea, I would be willing to give it a go. Why not.” Oh geez, what have I gotten myself into. Up to that point, I had done a few long routes following my friends up the classics such as Skywalker, Diedre and Angel’s Crest. About a week beforehand I had split leads on a Skywalker and Diedre, but I had never…

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Latest Video: Kelowna Boulderfields

By | Bouldering, Climbing, Exclude From Site, Film | No Comments

At the end of June this year, we decided to travel to Kelowna, British Columbia to attend the Rock the Blocs Boulderfest. Outdoor bouldering comps are a guaranteed good time. This one did not disappoint and we decided to shoot a few boulder problems the day after the competition. Kelowna Boulderfields: Ripe for the Picking from The RV Project on Vimeo. I’m especially excited/anxious to release this video- it’s the first edit in a long time that I’ve done the majority of on my own, making it an incredibly personal project. After the initial frustration and exasperation ebbed, I remembered how much I truly enjoy the editing process. It became my “I’m back in the editing game” piece. Although it took an inexcusably long time to complete, I am happy with the finished product. I even got to beef up my After Effects chops and create a map graphic (a full day of work for 9 seconds of video… somehow totally worth it in the end). Next up for me is finishing up a film about Spenser’s first ascent in Bishop, CA this past April. With rain in the forecast after this weekend, we’ll hopefully be getting a lot of editing done in the next week. Quite the line…here’s a screenshot.

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