Watch out Alex Honnold. The new speed-climbing trad-masters are in town, and your reign on top shall not last long. In a remarkable display of endurance, guts, and athleticism, two relatively unknown climbers managed a feat heretofore unimagined at the Shawangunks. “We used to joke about how someday, Wolfgang Gullich’s grandson would be able to climb ten 5.10 routes in a day at the Trapps,” says guidebook author and Gunks veteran Dick Williams. “What these two did will inspire generations of future climbers.” Okay, so Dick Williams didn’t really say that, or at least not in reference to us. Here’s what really happened in our last few days at the Gunks. Also, mega-congratulations to Alex and Hans, for making the old Nose record look foolish. Vikki picked up a shift on Sunday, June 10, so we spent the day working at Bacchus, a pub with internet and hundreds of beers to choose from. While there, I saw on Facebook that Murph had a list of 3-star 5.10s he wanted to tick, and a few messages later we had a plan: Tackle ten 5.10s in the Trapps (the main cliff of the Gunks) the very next day. In contrast to the rain and humidity we’d been having, Monday turned out to be perfect. Temps were in the 60s, a breeze was blowing, the sun was kept at bay by the stratus layer, and it was dry. We met at the Bistro Mountain Store for coffee at 8:45, had breakfast, and headed…
I tried many clever titles for this post: “Bye-ron,” “Byron Be Balling Back in Bloomington,” “The Glass is 2/3 Full,” and others you probably don’t want to know about. In the end, I chose a simple, easy, and I believe accurate phrase from Winnie the Pooh. I have an announcement to make. As some of you already know, Byron will no longer be a part of the RV Project. I’m not going to give you the boilerplate “pursuing other interests” explanation, as there’s way more to it than that. While our on-the-road phase might be over, our friendship is not, and that is why the “For Now” part of the title is important. Please read on.
Vikki and I have driven a lot of miles lately. From Bloomington, we dropped off the trailer in Edinburgh, IN for repairs and drove all the way to the New River Gorge in the beautiful state of West Virginia. As the primary driver, I have to give Vikki what some refer to as mad props for her navigation skills. She stays awake, she pays attention to the road and can direct me anywhere, and keeps the snacks handy. We only had one day in the New, and let me tell you, it was not enough. Imagine the Red River Gorge, but with a more blocky, bouldery style of climbing on lighter-colored sandstone reminiscent of HP40. We arrived at some ungodly hour, like 3AM, and camped at the free camping below the Summersville Dam. It was our first night without the Pilgrim, and we slept, Bishop-style, on crash pads underneath the stars. We slept in pretty late, and we didn’t get to the crag until the early afternoon. Unfortunately, Vikki’s stomach was on the fritz again, and she was only able to do a few laps on the best 5.7 sport climb of all time, Hippie Dreams on the Orange Oswald wall, before calling it a day. She stayed and belayed, but wasn’t able to try hard. Summersville Lake is amazing. A 15 minute hike leads you to a stream and a waterfall, with a wooden ladder bringing you to the Coliseum, or as I like to call it, the Madness Cave of…
Sunday was awesome. After abnormally minimal debauchery on Saturday night, we all arrived at the Purgatory wall. Matt Morse and a French guy named Thierry had trundled off early to the Motherlode region, while fellow Primo Chalk athlete Neal Sipahimalani and his girlfriend Chelsea Sommer came with us in Bert to Purgatory with the main goal of ticking Lucifer, a heinously thin 5.14c that Neal’s been working on for a long time. After a warm-up, we watched Adam Taylor run a casual lap on Neal’s project. It was badass. Neal was unpsyched due to the heat but I think watching Adam got his heart racing, and he tied his 115-pound frame into the sharp end and climbed easily through the bottom section, falling two hard moves from the good rest in the middle. So close! Byron took off with his parents to spend some time at home in Bloomington, and we had to drop Neal and Chelsea off at the Motherlode parking lot so they could go home with Thierry and Matt. Since it was still early and I still had more juice in my forearms, I dragged Vikki up to the ‘Lode to check out this supposed insanity. I should mention that Vikki is currently in non-climbing mode because of a bruised rib. (I made her take a lead fall to get rid of the heebie-jeebies, and she got injured by irony, and a ledge.)
On Saturday, April 14, we unplugged our trailer, disconnected the water hose, wound up the jacks and hitched the Pilgrim up to Bert. We said our goodbyes to Anthony (who had chosen to take the day off of manual labor), Jeremy (who was dutifully tending the store, as usual), and of course, the ubiquitous Kenny (Kinny). The sun was shining as we slowly pulled out of Horse Pens 40 and eased down the curves of Chandler Mountain. After a quick detour to Mi Casita in the dinky town of Henagar, AL, we drove up to Chester Frost campground just north of Chattanooga, TN. Here were more hookups, which allowed us to get some editing done on the Alban video and relax with always-flowing water. Our neighbors were many and festive, par for the course on a Saturday night in a trailer park in the South. Weary were we, and anxious to check out the fabled Stone Fort AKA Little Rock City, so we headed to bed after the requisite Sopranos mini-marathon. We are addicted to the show and may require an intervention. (“Whatsa matta wi’you?”)
This post is much delayed. I’ve sat down four times now to try and capture in words what our time in Horse Pens was like. So far, my words have failed me. I’m taking a stab at it, and please forgive the length of this post. And please enjoy our newest video! It’s of our last day in Hueco Tanks, where we climbed a bunch for ourselves. I got my hardest send, and Vikki cruised Orifice Affair. Also note the kung-fu yeti firing Smooth Move (V8). Then keep reading. Looking back now, a week since our departure, Horse Pens 40 feels like a pleasant dinner with the Soprano family. Laughter, some great people, and good food, but just under the surface is some dark matter that doesn’t reveal itself until you’re more involved. Like anything in life – climbing, love, Mafia dramas, the Force – there’s a light side and a dark side. You can also seek the help of electrical contractor to get lighting in your premises. The best way to detect both is to let the guards down and let go of our San Francisco sensibilities. After all, we’re guests on this land.
We’re in the city lovingly referred to as Chatty, our final leg of the “True South” bouldering exploration. We had our first day of climbing at Stone Fort yesterday and it, yet again, lived up to all the hype. Met some locals, fell a lot, and even sent a little (highlighted by Byron’s first V6 of the trip, The Wave); we are incredibly psyched to get back on the gritty sandstone tomorrow (as long as the rain subsides). More on Chattanooga soon, but first…Episode 4 is ready for your viewing! Our newest video is based on a conclusion we came to after leaving Hueco Tanks, Texas: every day in Hueco Tanks, someone you’ve never heard of does something impressive. There’s also usually someone hyper famous doing something along the same caliber, but that’s basic Hueco knowledge. This video is about Alban Besnier, mostly because he climbs strong, has a great attitude, and generally impressed us. The first day we climbed with Alban and his travel companion, Caroline, we went on a tour to East Mountain and he sent Liane, Sunshine, and Mojo – all in his signature shorts. He sent almost everything he touched that day, which was awesome to see, but what impacted the three of us the most was his spotting. Even though he climbed more than the rest of the climbers in the tour group combined, he was still an attentive and good spotter to each of us. That commitment blew us away and we each changed our…
Hey ya’ll! That’s right, we’re in the south now. ‘Bama. Steele, Alabama. Got lots to talk about but right now you need to be watching this little piece we put together about a crew of crazy crack climbers from Colorado. Underneath that, there’s a little piece I wrote about the climbing here in Horse Pens. Kinda blows Castle Rock, CA out of the water, but that’s not what this piece is about. It’s about humility. Enjoyment. Triumph and tragedy. And bouldering. Enjoy! I fell into the trap. At Hueco Tanks, the climbing is gymnastic. Straight-forward moves, steep terrain, rubber-smeared flakes and jibs and crimps and damn, if I could just crimp a little harder I would’ve cranked my first V-who-gives-a-shit.
As you have likely already gathered from either our previous blogposts or your own personal experience or research, Hueco Tanks is incredible. We basically had to force ourselves to leave (as many never do), but after almost exactly a month, that day arrived. We were debating about where to go next and and an opportunity that we could not pass by arose – Spenser’s brother, Eliot, would be in New Orleans for the Final Four. After looking at a map, we saw that New Orleans was a great stopping point between Texas and Alabama – it was decided, our next climbing destination was to be Horse Pens 40 and we were incredibly stoked. If you would like to go on a similar journey, here are the Best Class B RVs for Winter Traveling.
Exciting times, as we have just completed Episode 2. This one chronicles our first “chapter” in Hueco: the week after finally arriving, with tons of friends and culminating in the Rock Rodeo. It has much more climbing in it than our first episode. We have tons more Hueco footage to put together, and hopefully we’ll have a couple more doses up soon. So enjoy, and please feel free to leave a comment. We’re going to spend Monday driving to Horse Pens 40, where we’ll stay about a week or so. Psyched! On Tuesday March 27, we loaded up all our bits and pieces in the trailer and hitched up for the first time in a month. The sepia-brown rock of West Mountain and East Spur faded into the distance as Bert lugged the Pilgrim onward, eastward into the hot Texas sun. Bound for Horse Pens 40 by way of New Orleans by way of Austin, we all reflected on our month spent at the Ranch. Encapsulating all the memories in a single article is impossible (and for you, dear reader, probably boring), so here are the highlights, memories, and lessons learned from your friends at the RV Project.