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Birthday Challenges

Behind the Scenes of Alex Honnold’s Birthday Challenge

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, FilmNo 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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Fun is Life and Death

By Birthday Challenges, Musings, The InteriorOne 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…

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Back to America, Back to Birthday Challenges

By Birthday Challenges, Trip Journal2 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…

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Carlo Traversi’s Birthday Challenge- Insane

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Exclude From Site, FilmNo 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…

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30-Day Birthday Challenge Wrap Up

By Birthday Challenges5 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…

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Alex Honnold’s Birthday Challenge: A Year’s Supply of Climbing

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing7 Comments

I can’t contain myself, this is just one of the coolest things ever and I have to get it off my chest. After talking about my 360 boulder problem day, Alex Honnold decided to do a Birthday Challenge. To reword that slightly: one of my biggest inspirations was inspired by me. It’s weird, because he’s also a friend and he treats people like equals (in other words, is a normal human being…normal-ish, anyway). If I complain about people being ahead of me on a route at 8am, he dryly observes that the sun comes up at 5 (fair point). If he makes fun of my challenges for sounding heinous, I have tons of ammo to fire back with. And as I reported the trials and triumphs of my various hard days, he began toying with the idea of doing 290 pitches on his birthday, August 17th. It sounded really hard: 10 hours of climbing means roughly a pitch every 2 minutes. After a little bit of discussion, which included talk of the logistical difficulties (travel between routes, passing other climbers) and what would hurt most (feet and legs, followed by hands), he seemed to dismiss the idea. A few days later, Stacey mentioned that he’d gone through the guidebook and counted pitches on the Apron routes. We knew it was on. He’d been bitten by the challenge bug. Sunday 5AM We meet in the Apron parking lot. The sun is not yet showing itself, but some morning stratus clouds lend a dull blue-grey…

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Day 23 (Still)

By Birthday Challenges, Trip Journal7 Comments

It is with a very strong passion that I hate the TSA. You may not agree with me. Maybe you think that being made to take off your shoes, dump out your water, and stand in a microwave somehow makes us collectively safer. Maybe you think that safety is the most important thing in life. I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion, and mine is that the TSA is only good for making complete idiots feel safer. Moreover, only complete idiots think that safety is more important than things like fun and adventure. Goodness. I haven’t even started and I’ve digressed. I’m typing this from a small chair about 6 miles higher than where you’re reading this from. The chair is hurtling north through the rarified air toward Canada. We’ve just departed from Salt Lake City, where we had flown on Friday to support an original birthday challenger. This guy: Steve Edwards, AKA Manny Varjak, Emmanuel Overdrive, and a load more pseudonyms based on various films.  So, I’m still on Birthday Challenge Day 23 because, well, we changed our plans. You see, we had  to fly out to Salt Lake to support this particular challenge. I should back up just a bit so you know why. Starting when I turned 24, Steve and I have had a bit of a rapport over email regarding birthday challenges and climbing and coffee and other things essential to living a decent life.  He lives in SLC. We went to the winter OR…

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Day 22- Writing on a Rest Day

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Trip Journal14 Comments

Since the last post, I’ve done a few things. Day 14- Win and Lose I fully expected 30 free throws to be the hardest (least likely) element. Not so much when I first thought of it, but upon subsequent thinkings, it only seemed to get harder and harder. Will Wolcott kindly pointed out that, if shooting at an 80% rate, I stand a way-less-than-1% chance of succeeding at 30 consecutive free throws. I countered that each shot was not an independent event, statistically speaking. There is such a thing as being “on fire” and “in a groove” and whatnot. F the haters. I’m gonna make baskets. I spent an hour looking for an indoor basketball hoop in this icy land of hockey, and found one at the Totem Hall, a community center for the First Nation folk of Squamish. I shot free throws in an empty gym for the next 2.5 hours. At first I improved. I went from streaks of 8-10 to streaks of 12-15, hitting 18 in a row a couple of times. Then it all went to shit. My eyes stopped working properly and my focus waned. Best to call it a practice round. Besides, I had another challenge to attempt. So that was the lose part. The win part is way better. When Jeremy and I did our “test” run up the Grand Wall a few weeks back, it took us 5:40 because we were stuck behind slower parties. We figured that if we hustled and…

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BDC Update- The Suffering Begins

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing2 Comments

Seems like I manage an update every 4 days. Sounds fair, I suppose. I mean, 4’s a pretty cool number. 2+2 is 4, 2×2 is 4, 2^2 is 4. It’s a nice neat number. Birthday Challenges have been in the air lately. There was Pat Campbell’s leiderhosen-clad challenge. And then on Saturday July 26th, Lizzy Asher (who was born in a completely different month) celebrated her birthday by going for 28 V-points’ worth of Squamish highballs. They were all climbs she hadn’t done before, and were on her list as climbs to do before leaving Canada for thesis writing in California. On her list were Ride the Lightning (V8), Teenage Lobotomy (V7), Funeral Arrangements (V6) and Black Slabbath (V7). She managed to “bop” her way through each one, though I’ll leave it at that and suggest instead that you wait for the EpicTV episode we’ve got coming. Oh yeah, BTW, we filmed it. We also filmed last year when a few people tried the same lines. Click the link to watch it. But what of the Spenser Challenge? Ah yes, here we go… Day 9- Reeling from 360 V-Points So yeah, I slept in. Got up just in time for Toonie ($2) swim at the rec center. Because it’s summer and it was raining and it costs $2 for a jacuzzi, a diving board, and a shower, lots and lots of climbers filled the pool area, campusing around on the wooden play thingy and sitting on the edge of the jacuzzi. I gingerly soaked my very sore…

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BDC Update: Day…8?

By Birthday Challenges5 Comments

It’s July 23rd and it’s raining. Such is the folly of long-term schedules for weather-dependent outdoor activities in a temperate rainforest. In other words, the schedule that I’d carefully laid out has unraveled (lying on the floor, it’s come undone). Assuming a finite number of clear climbing days, I need to be strategic about them and fit the other elements of my challenge around them. It feels like sitting at basecamp waiting for a storm to clear. That was meant to be a matephor, but I suppose it’s damn near literal in this case. Day 5- I didn’t do shit. It rained. I stared at a screen for most of the day. Vikki volunteered to help trail-build in the North Walls, and that night we saw some films at the Squamish Mountain Festival. Day 6- Juggling Anyway, to pick up from the last post, I haven’t yet done the 3 minute breath hold. I haven’t tried it yet. But on the next morning, Day 5, I got up, walked outside, peed, and grabbed my balls. I tossed my balls in the air and they didn’t hit the ground once in 30 minutes. You see, I managed to juggle for half an hour straight, first try. It was weird…my eyes hurt, as expected, and my sides hurt too because of the micro-adjustments to posture I was making. As my mind might wander, so did the balls, and I was forced to stay focused and present in the moment. If I were a spirit guide, I…

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