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Spenser

The Souls Linger at Soul Slinger

By Bouldering, Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

It’s the year 2020, and I still can’t do Soulslinger. I’ve waged war on that thing, with fresh skin and good conditions, many more times than I can count. I’ve heard it called “soft” or “easy” 3 times for every time someone said they found it hard. It was my buddy Dan Kovner’s first V9, and he said he did it in 4 tries. I just learned it was Ethan Pringle’s first V9, and he only needed 2 attempts. I am certain that there is no climb V9 or below that I’ve tried as many times as Soulslinger without success. I won’t complain, because we’ve been resting our heads at an off-grid cabin near Mono Lake. The place belongs to a photographer friend who works almost exclusively from a small airplane, making beautiful and thought-provoking images of the American southwest. His name is Mike Light, and I owe him thanks for much more than a stay at the cabin. During a previous visit to the cabin, I grabbed one of the photography books off the shelf. It happened to be called Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes by Trevor Paglen, and its pages depicted that which we–civilians–are not supposed to see: “black sites” in the desert, spy satellites in the night sky, and documents pertaining to CIA shell corporations. Mike told me that Trevor had used this very cabin to take images of the night sky for the book. It’s the year 2020, and it’s an election year. It’s the…

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As Years Go, 2019 Was a Bit Shite

By Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

As most of you know, I love doing lots of stuff and then collapsing in an exhausted heap. Right now I feel like collapsing in an exhausted heap, but I don’t feel as though I did anything. It’s like the difference between swimming and treading water…2019 felt like a year of trying not to drown. OK, maybe not the whole year. 2019 began well enough. The trailer was parked near Hueco Tanks, plugged in to the grid at Gleatherland. We climbed a few things, made new friends, solidified old friendships, survived an Emergency at the Border, and we even got to take my parents out to White Sands in New Mexico. As spring began, we hitched up and moved back to Castle Dale, UT, so that we might do some climbing in Joe’s Valley. Mayor Danny invited us to park the trailer on his land, and the next few weeks passed in a blur of hiking, climbing, and planning the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival for fall. Tumors and Tendinosis Then my dad got cancer, specifically Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma (AITL). The disease first manifested in late March as severe back pain and night sweats, which were unexplained by any imaging or blood tests. After a month or so of worsening nerve pain and a loss of 30 pounds, they finally biopsied a lymph node, found the AITL, and began chemotherapy. On the day of his first round of chemo, my dad was barely able to stand without assistance. Already struggling with…

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John Sherman. Midnight Lightning. And me.

Hello Again

By Climbing, Trip JournalNo Comments

I don’t really know what to say here these days. It’s been so long since we regularly updated, and it seems like so much has been happening that even the thought of sitting down to write about it feels like a distraction. I’ve also fallen out of practice when it comes to writing, which makes this here blog editor a downright daunting place. So I’m writing this post for the sake of writing a post, and I don’t really know where I’m headed. When I feel like I’m done writing, I’ll throw a few pictures in or something. Let’s see, I’m back to climbing again. The elbow is still quite limiting, and I have finally made an appointment to have it looked at with imaging and all. While I can climb most things that I could a year ago without really noticing any pain, certain pinches and narrow compression moves can really piss it off. While I’m happy to be climbing again, it’s been a long time since I could train power at 100%, and I’m not really enjoying the long plateau. That said, since we’ve been in the Bay Area for a while now, we have sort of embraced the weekend warrior culture and gone on little weekend jaunts to Yosemite and Kings Canyon. Some cool climbing-related things: Verm was back in the Valley trying Midnight Lightning again, this time coming back from a torn Achilles. It’s impossible to overstate what a dream it is to be invited to…

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35th Birthday- Marking a Challenging Year

By ClimbingOne Comment

I’m at the age where it’s weird to talk about birthdays. When I’d say “I’m going to turn 35 soon,” people would get caught between saying something congratulatory and something lamenting, usually opting for the non-committal “that’s, um, a big one…” It’s the age when our friends are having kids, our parents are having health problems, and we’ve hopefully figured out what matters to us. Back at the start of April, my dad, who is a 72-year-old Masters swimmer and avid hiker, suddenly started suffering from debilitating back pain. X-rays and MRIs were negative, and drugs provided no relief. After several weeks and multiple hospital stays, there were no answers, and my dad was virtually bed-ridden. In the meantime I was in Joe’s Valley, growing concerned with the reports from home. I was also obsessed with climbing an arete on a small piece of sandstone, which revolves around a deep lockoff using a wide right-hand pinch. My elbow, suffice it to say, did not appreciate how the move made it feel, but I tried real hard and did the second ascent of Blue Collar Criminal (V8). A few days later, on April 29th, I flew to Oakland to help my parents. I arrived in the Bay Area and promptly spent the next 24 hours in the ER. It would be another week before he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. At this point, he was barely walking, as the neuropathy had spread to his feet and left leg. It would be…

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Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work they go...

Sloughing the Slumber

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Trip JournalNo Comments

It’s July. It was April when we last checked in. How’s it going?  Today is Decaf: Day 2 (or rather, it was when this was originally written), because my birthday challenge this year includes a “dry July” and no caffeine, so I’m a little out of it. Mostly I’m wondering what the hell it is that people do when they get out of bed in the morning, if coffee isn’t part of that routine.  Life took one of those turns for us, and we now are settled in the Bay Area for the rest of the summer. I may get into that story, but it’s a long one, and doesn’t yet have a conclusion. At least things are stable for now, and we’re slowly but surely getting back into the groove. We left Utah at the start of May. A week later, Vikki was flying to South Korea to film for Arc’teryx (film should be complete in the next few weeks, stay tuned folks). At the end of May, I flew to SLC to read a teleprompter for UTopia, and then drove the truck from Castle Dale back to California. The purpose of the trip was to retrieve our hard drives, clothes, climbing gear, and computer. I ended up driving 950+ miles in a 14-hour push, making a slight detour near Ely to check out Lamoille Canyon. The Summer Outlook The first thing you should know is that my elbow is a bit of a mess. I knew that the…

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In, and On, UTopia

By ClimbingOne Comment

I’m On TV, And It Isn’t The Local News! In case you don’t follow us on Instagram, we are no longer in Texas. We hoisted sail in early March and left Gleatherland’s safe harbor in our wake. Despite headwinds, doldrums, and a few groundings, we made it to the California territory in time to enjoy a sample of the soggy spring they had. I raced in a race in Santa Barbara, then Vikki and I parted ways as she drove to Los Angeles and then Bishop (Women’s Climbing Festival) for work.  I drove the truck and the dog back to Utah, because I had to host a TV show. That feels weird to say. Let me try to explain. It ain’t a secret that we are fond of Joe’s Valley. Through the years of coordinating the Festival here, we’ve had the benefit of getting to know a lot of the locals. One of those locals is the mayor of Castle Dale, Danny Van Waggoner.  One night in December I get a text message from Danny, who says he’s sitting with Erik, the producer of UTopia TV. He says Erik’s looking to replace broadcasting legend Jim Kelly with a team of younger co-hosts. Danny says I’d be perfect, and I should give Erik a call. So I do. UTopia- Inspiring Conservation Through Recreation UTopia is a 1/2-hour, weekly program that highlights Utah’s incredible outdoor recreation options, while informing viewers about conservation-related projects and politics. They’ve made episodes about climbing in Big…

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Emergency Bouldering

By ClimbingNo Comments

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

By ClimbingOne Comment

…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 Journal2 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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Vote, And I’ll Give You Boulders

By Ethics, Food for thought, MusingsNo Comments

We voted, y’all. If you send me proof that you’ve voted, I will tell you where these boulders are. Seriously. Hit us up @thervproject. November 6th. Extra boulders for you if you can drag a millennial to the polls with you. I spent 90 minutes with my 6 different ballots, reading Balletopedia and Bay Area newspaper op-eds to try to figure out if Yes or No or she or he will improve life for the majority of people I care about. There were some tricky choices. Candidates with similar positions, bills with names that sound like things I like but with provisions that I don’t like, that kind of thing. All in all, though, it was pretty damn painless. I voted in California. I’m a bit jealous of people who have an opportunity to cast a vote against, say, Ted Cruz, or Ron De Santis, or extremely-thinly-veiled-white-nationalist Steve King, or another one of these pathetic, ugly-souled power-suckers with the moral compass of a rabid possum. My most satisfying vote had to do with getting rid of the twice-yearly time shift known as Daylight Savings. It’s not that I want the Democrats to win. I do, but only incidentally. What I’m really hoping for, what we should all hope for, is a strong statement by the American People that we reject the shittiness of the past 2 years. That we stand by the free press, by the minority groups, by the victims of domestic terror. That we give a shit about…

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