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Climbing

35th Birthday- Marking a Challenging Year

By ClimbingNo Comments

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 ClimbingNo Comments

…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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The No More Excuses Birthday Challenge

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched OnNo 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 OnNo 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 OnNo 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, ClimbingNo 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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