A New Video! Norman’s 13

By Adventure, Climbing, Stuff We're Psyched OnNo Comments

It’s been about 4 months since we last updated the blog. The pandemic was in its infancy, and Bishop was starting to get unpleasantly warm. Now it’s August, in this foul year of our Lord 2020, and trying to summarize the past quarter feels like a hopeless task. It’s also hard to concentrate on much of anything right now, thanks to the unbreathable atmosphere hanging over California. Times like these make you grateful for your friends, and at this moment in particular, I’m thankful my buddy Ryan Tetz for an excuse to update this space with some words and images that have nothing to do whatsoever with Covid19, the election, mass protests, or any of the other crap I’ve been dwelling on lately. Y’all might remember me talking about Ryan Tetz in the past. He’s an ER nurse, and was working at the ER in Bishop when I went in for a broken foot way back in ’12. We’ve been friends ever since. The last time I wrote about him here, he’d just pioneered a bike route across California (it took him about 27 1/2 hours to go from the ocean to Nevada). Since then, he’s bettered his record on the human-powered Badwater to Whitney (13 hours 16 minutes), done the first known triple-Sierra-crossing on a bike, set the record for all California 14ers human-powered, and a host of other very absurd challenges. Go check out his blog, where he introduces himself thusly: When I was 9 years old we…

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What I Love About COVID-19

By Climbing2 Comments

Kinda nothing, but at least I appreciate the novelty of this whole lockdown thing. We are the caged birds, finding our singing voices. We are training as if it’s only a matter of time before we’re either back on the rocks, or dead from Coronavirus, and we are going to be either fit as fuck, or dead but beautiful. Fifty (50) 3/8” bolts should arrive today, and the sun’s out. Escapism: it’s never been more important. This morning’s toilet reading included a few articles from the National Review, because I wished to know what the poly-syllabic conservative punditry thought about things. In an all-too-familiar manner, the Andrew McCarthy’s of the world are lashing out at the prognosticators. The push right now is to discredit (and direct vitriol toward) the IHME, because they had the temerity to attempt to model the outcomes of this pandemic, and because they have now twice revised the model’s results to predict fewer American deaths. Back in my science days, the battle between those attempting to sound the alarm over climate change and those attempting to discredit the entire concept of science was at its ugliest. There were hacked emails and snowballs in Congress, and all the while we kept destroying coral reefs and driving to work. If we just grow the economy, the Right said, then technology that we haven’t even dreamed of will rescue us…besides, they said, clutching their pearls on behalf of the poor, it would be unfair and even racist to try…

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How About a Climbing Update?

By Climbing, MusingsNo Comments

Ain’t no climbing! F’reals. The gyms are closed, Owens River Gorge is closed, the Happies and Sads are closed, and the Buttermilks are about to be. As I’ve said before, I’m on Team It-Don’t-Matter, since I’m also still on Team Rehab. I would never wish for good people to be prevented from climbing, but I am definitely benefiting from the absence of envy. I may not be doing Soulslinger this season, but neither will anyone else, haha! Talking to my parents, who are in quarantine in the Bay Area, it sounds like the public there is quite panicked, and very wary of each other. My mom tells me that people aren’t smiling at each other in the grocery store anymore; her observation is that those who choose to appear friendly these days are almost exclusively ethnic minorities. I can’t really comment on that aspect; around Bishop, people seem to be pretty friendly while keeping their distance. In the first 2 weeks of March, barely anything had changed at all in terms of folks’ behavior. The last 2 weeks we saw checkout queues with zones taped on the floor 6’ from one another, and Main Street has hardly any pedestrians at all. So, here in RV Project world, we are climbing on the trailer-woodie waaay more often than we ever thought we would. The weather this week is warm and sunny, and when there’s no wind, we can lower the wall without losing all of our important documents. In fact, when…

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Contrast

By Climbing, Food for thoughtNo Comments

The first time I picked up a camera, it wasn’t called a “phone.” It had weird numbers all over it, and when you got near the end of a roll of film, you were never sure if you’d get a free extra shot or two before having to rewind the roll and get it developed. Now we’ve all got cameras in our pockets, and software on those cameras for image editing. Photographs can be awesomely powerful. Indeed, they can change history. The Vietnam War is, to me, an incredible example of how a few images can tell a deeper, more visceral story than the finest wordsmiths. There are plenty of other examples throughout history. Another that leaps to mind is the work of Dorothea Lange in Manzanar. What are the first sliders you tweak when editing an image? We all have our own workflows, but it’s likely that “Contrast” comes to mind. What a concept, eh? The farther apart we pull the luminance values of highlights and shadows, the more distinction we get between objects in an image. Conversely, an image with very high contrast (how about that photo of Tommy jugging on El Cap during golden hour, while Kevin sits on the portaledge scrolling Pornhub Instagram?) grabs the attention a certain way, and only after some time spent with the image can the viewer begin to integrate the light and dark portions into an interconnected scene. There has been much contrast in the world lately. Contrast is good, because…

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Thoughts from Lockdown

By ClimbingNo Comments

Not a whole lotta climbing going on. Not a whole lotta taking pics or making movies. A lotta reading the news. A lotta home improvement projects. A lotta getting better acquainted with our bikes. We’ve almost finished watching the Ken Burns docuseries The Roosevelts on PBS. We highly recommend it. Now, I know it sounds kinda boring…lots of photos and old-timey voices reading old-timey letters…but what we were not prepared for was the shock of seeing what strong leadership in times of crisis can do. FDR took office when 100,000 people were losing their jobs every single day. He was in office during Pearl Harbor. In neither case did he A) minimize the problem, or the challenges ahead, B) Speak to Americans like we’re idiots, or C) Ignore expert consensus. He was able to rally the nation by listening to people (he and Eleanor famously toured the country, seemingly non-stop, to try and understand the daily lives of Americans), identifying that which we do have to fear (you know, fear itself), and setting solid and appropriate expectations about the path ahead. What kills me about this moment in time is that apparently more than 50% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis, and saying that it’s the fault of partiers in Florida, or beach goers, or whatever. How are we supposed to take self-quarantine seriously when our elected officials can’t (and continue to sicken each other)? Or how about when Trump gets in front of the microphones to…

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Love and Laughter in the Time of Corona

By Ethics, Food for thought, Trip JournalNo Comments

So, I woke up the other morning, had some coffee, sauteed some kale and garlic and eggs, and watched the president address the nation. Could someone please help me figure out why the news media, in this critical time, actually directs questions to Trump? How much time have we wasted digesting his bullshit, filtering the garbage to arrive at the inevitable conclusion, time and again, that he says only what will might improve his standing as compared with 5 seconds ago? The wife just helpfully said that it may help to think of Trump as a jester. He’s a rodeo clown, with full make-up, doing a TeleTubbies’ interpretive dance of what a toddler in a Serious Adult suit might behave like (in another blow to the economy, Trump obviates the existence of satire; many hilarious people are suddenly destitute, trading cheap jokes for smack in back alleys). Nobody knows anything in this crazy, crazy world, but I tell ya what, I know a perfect slab of rock when I see one. All photos were taken before the Inyo County Sherriff put the ol’ kibbosh on the klettergartens. To sum up the day, I finished breakfast and Trump finished talking. The stock market started to glissade again, and had to self-arrest. Then Trump was asked if he thought that we’d be seeing the effects of Covid for 12-18 months, like all of the world’s experts have been suggesting, and he flatly denied that it was possible. He was asked about his…

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The Invisible War

By Food for thought, Staying HealthyNo Comments

Yesterday, the Imperial College released its report on COVID-19. The report reveals massive, frightening predictions – underscoring the importance of the actions we are taking to prevent the anticpiated spread of this new virus. I’ve been spending the last few days going back to my public health roots and digging deep into the novel coronavirus. And I felt compelled to share the points I found salient from the above mentioned report and otherwise. Compelled enough to write my first blog post in…years? Anyway… COVID-19 is not the flu. It is most closely related to SARS. The mortality rate is lower than SARS but it spreads significantly faster. This is why there is such a strong worry that the public will not take it seriously enough. Other names for COVID-19 that you might see: novel coronavirus, coronavirus 2, SARS-CoV-2, HCoV-19. If we treat it like the flu, or go about business as usual: 80% of Americans would get the disease and an estimated 4 million will die. In a span of 3 months. We [the world] have failed at containment so we have two options: mitigation and suppression. Mitigation = isolating all symptomatic cases in the US, quarantining families of those cases, and social distancing for those over 70. Suppression = isolating symptomatic cases and quarantining their family members, social distancing for the whole population plus preventing all public gatherings which includes shutting down the majority of workplaces, bars and dine-in restaurants, closing schools and universities. Mitigation is not enough. We…

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In the Time of Corona

By ClimbingOne Comment

Not sure what to say to mark this occasion, but it felt important to mark it somehow. It’s Monday, March 16, 2020, and I think it’s fairly obvious by now that this Corona virus thing is going to be wildly transformative. It’s also terrifying for obvious reasons. Being in Bishop is a tremendous blessing, as most of our daily activities here fall squarely within the recommended social isolation parameters, and as of this typing the county of Inyo has yet to see a confirmed case. If there’s a downside to being out here, it’s the anxiety from not being around to help the old folks in the Bay Area and San Diego. At least it’s not too long a drive. I was a 17 year old high school senior on 9/11/01. I remember the panoply of chaotic emotions the country collectively went through, and I recall feeling distinctly that the world would never be the same. Between the Patriot Act and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (the former on pretenses of such obvious and flimsy bullshit that the mere fact we managed to hold our noses and swallow it was a grave indication of the lessons unlearned from our numerous tragic attempts at imperialism), it was pretty clear that the changes the world was going through were not, on balance, in favor of freedom and equality and transparency of government. It’s obviously way way way too early to know anything about how this whole pandemic thing will progress, much…

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Rebuilding in Bishop

By Climbing, Trip JournalNo Comments

Hey before I get into the update, I want to mention that Vikki put a whole bunch of her pictures from her years as the Head Photog at the Women’s Climbing Festival up at Berkeley Ironworks, the day before leaving for the east side. They look RAD. If you’re in the Bay, give ’em a look-see before they come down at the end of March. Greetings from our little garden on Grove Street! We’ve placed the trailer in a friend’s backyard in Bishop, CA. If we seem elated, it’s because we are. Bishop has long been a favorite climbing destination for us. I’ve probably spent close to two years here in aggregate. It’s within a half-day’s drive from the Bay and LA, has most of the big-town stores and amenities, and is within striking distance of just about anything you can imagine when it comes to outdoor recreation. A full price ticket at the movie theater is $8, and there’s rarely a line at the DMV. Granted, there are unsavory corners and incidents unbecoming of an idyllic mountain retreat (I just heard about this one from a few weeks ago…), but one needn’t get involved in any of that if one chooses not to. We made it here on Tuesday afternoon, and spent the first few days in town taking care of life logistics. I bought a bike at the Gear Exchange, an XL Stumpjumper 29er hardtail for $350. It needs a little TLC, and I want to add a…

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Rehab Time

By ClimbingNo Comments

It seems like a lot has changed in the realm of rehab since I last got serious about the topic, which would’ve been around winter/spring 2013. Say goodbye, they say, to lotsa lightweight reverse wrist curls, and toss that twisty rubber bar thing aside. Graston? Gone. When you absolutely need to safely stimulate and strengthen your connective stuff, it’s time for some isometrics. Isometrics: The art of trying really hard and not moving. You could think of a yoga pose as a full-body isometric, but in my case the target is the elbow that recently got jabbed with a needle. Isometrics are the best way to rebuild the connective tissue around my medial epicondyle, according to Dr. Tyler Nelson, my trusted physical therapy doc in Salt Lake City (we do our sessions remotely). I won’t recap the science here, as I suggest taking a look at the Camp 4 Human Performance blog if this stuff is relevant for you. I also received valuable input and support from two other awesome climber/PTs, Drs Natasha Barnes and Carrie Cooper. Anyway, it’s a little more than 5 weeks post-op, and I have 3+ weeks of isometric pullups under my belt. At first, holding a 2-arm lockoff on a pullup bar with elbow at 140° for 30 seconds was excruciatingly hard, but it quickly felt easier and after 2 weeks I was adding 30-50 pounds. The elbow feels pretty good overall, but it sometimes will ache and feel stiff. I’m pretty sure that’s mostly…

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As the sun sets on the volcanic tablelands, the sun shall also set on an inherently unjust system of economics

Massage Guns and End-Stage Capitalism

By ClimbingNo Comments

I am somewhat happy because I’ve started rehabbing the elbow. Now it feels like I’m Doing Something, instead of actively trying not to while watching my arms wither away like the delicate flower petals they are…Like I said, I’ll have a more detailed post about the rehab soon, but right now I want to indulge in a little bit of ranting. First: How do you feel about Bernie Sanders? (What about #berniesenders?) Does the word “socialist” scare you? Remember that the news you read probably comes to you via social media, and is published by one of a handful of Very Big Corporations which, thanks to Citizens United, get unlimited say in our political machinations, and thanks to Corporate Personhood, get access to an unnecessarily robust set of protections. None of those big corporations are going to “want” to spread the good word about wealth redistribution. It’s much easier and more beneficial to allow the intellectually vacuous voices of the punditry to make unchallenged false equivalencies (looking at you, David Brooks). “Socialism and Stalin are synonymous,” they disingenuously say. I don’t know if there is a difference between “democratic socialism” and well-regulated capitalism with a strong safety net. I do know that whatever world Amazon seems to be ushering in is utterly terrible…The warehouse jobs would make Upton Sinclair despair, and the fact that it’s painfully difficult to know who you’re actually buying something from robs everyone of the human connection that used to be an inherent part of exchange….

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I Got An Elbow Tenotomy

By Climbing, Staying Healthy, The Interior, Trip JournalNo Comments

This won’t be a very involved or long post, because typing is really awkward. I just got out of my very minor elbow surgery, and I’m not supposed to really do anything for the next week or so with my right hand. It was performed by Dr. Chad Roghair with Cal Sports Sports and Orthopaedic Institute. Both my mom and brother have had their shoulders put back together at their office, so they come with plenty of trustworthy testimonials. The procedure went as well as can be, and in a week I can start what will hopefully be a pretty quick and aggressive rehab. Right now, it’s a little achey and sore, and I’ve got a sling to remind me not to do anything with it. Not doing anything totally sucks, but it’s quite precisely what the doctor ordered… I hadn’t really thought about the implications of a bum arm. I’ve broken my right hand a few times, so I’m pretty accustomed to brushing my teeth and wiping my butt with ol’ Lefty, but I didn’t really think about the fact that I can’t really wash dishes, or drive a stickshift. I guess I’ll be doing a lot of abs. As I heal from the surgery, I’ll start gathering some of the resources I’ve been looking at to gain a better understanding of the latest in tendon repair. Dr. Natasha Barnes, Dr. Carrie Cooper, and Dr. Emily Noe have all sent me stuff to look at, but it’s a lot…

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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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