How Do You Access Adventure?

By Musings, Trip Journal14 Comments

People often tell us that we are on an adventure. This always gets me scratching my chin. I mean, really, we just climb little rocks. We’re not big-walling, we seldom sleep in a tent. We’re not polar explorers. As far as climbing goes, we’re usually on a well-beaten path. We actually live quite comfortably, and though we are thrifty, we don’t really have financial stress. Yet, it was adventure, in some sense, that we sought when we left the default world nearly two years ago. What does that mean? an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm. Rock climbing certainly conjures up images of adventure. Stallone. K2. Vertical Limit. That Mission Impossible opening scene. The climber archetype, as per pop culture, is fearless to the extreme, well-versed in all kinds of gear, and with the exception of Stallone, highly intelligent. The modern climber is in some ways more heroic than adventurous, rock solid in the face of uncertainty. I’ve been pulling on holds both plastic and geologic for ten years now. Climbing is my comfort zone. Rarely do I feel heroic or adventurous. Being an introvert, social gatherings take much more mental energy for me than a day spent on a personal struggle against a route. I’m much more scared by the thought of going to a crowded bar. Sometimes, stepping into a large group of people is scarier to me than stepping off the ground on a committing highball. Similarly,…

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Go Your Own Way

By Musings, Staying Healthy, The Interior, Trip JournalOne Comment

Do you ever feel as though you’re living someone else’s life? You’re going through the motions, but you’re more “floating” rather than “living.” Until this realization hits you. It always hits hard. Last time this happened to me was when I was decorating a cake at a gluten-free bakery in Oakland. It was supposed to be a temporary job, but now, a year had passed and I was touted as the ‘best person who could write on cakes’ in this bakery…with a Bachelor’s in Public Health. I really enjoyed working at the bakery but this wasn’t my passion. And this definitely wasn’t where I saw myself post-college. I felt like I was living the wrong life. Temporary had become permanent. I was in a rut. I gave my 2 weeks notice that day. I bring this story up because a similar feeling came over me as I drove the truck and trailer by myself up the windy road to Rocktown a few weeks ago. That day, I had hitched up the trailer all by myself. I had manuvered the entire rig down a crowded street in Chattanooga, luckily they have been installing speed humps so it was not that bad. I filled up the gas tank all by myself and then directed myself to Rocktown. After spending about half an hour parking the trailer in the “perfect” spot in the big open camping field, I felt exhilarated. All these tasks may not sound too exciting or difficult, but adrenaline has…

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Sieging the Shield

By BoulderingOne Comment

On Friday, we spent another day at Stone Fort. I’ve been trying The Shield now for quite a while. It’s America’s best boulder problem, according to the old Urban Climber list. It’s certainly one of the prettiest lines out there. And it’s also one of the hardest I’ve ever tried. A long time has passed since I last threw myself at a project for this length of time. It’s invigorating to have something in the back of my mind to obsess over, to go to bed early for, to watch my diet for. And truth be told, it’s also insanely frustrating. Several days and 100+ tries at the crux sequence and I still haven’t stuck the big shoulder move. I feel closer every session but I still feel far from success. I can’t wait to try it again. The Shield was put up by Tony Lamiche in (I think) 2007, and has since been repeated dozens of times. I first tried it with Alex Johnson back in early November, and we both got approximately nowhere. Since then I’ve been back to it probably 7 times or so. In that time, three people have sent the rig in front of me and others have done the crux without sending. Mark Heal did it second go, and this past Friday, Ian Cotter-Brown stitched it up for what I believe is the send of his life! Thankfully, we were on hand to capture it on camera.   Taking a page from Alex’s book,…

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The OR Show- Outdoor Commercialism at its Finest

By Musings, Trip Journal2 Comments

On Friday, Vikki and I spent 8 hours on our feet wandering the Salt Palace, meandering in and out of exhibitions of the latest outdoor fashions and products. It was a wonderland of trendy consumerism with a soundtrack of inflated excitement. For us, it was productive, and we can’t wait to see how our promising leads pan out. At the least, a few video projects are already in the pipeline and a few companies seem excited to give us stuff in exchange for us telling you all that their stuff is good and worth buying. (You’ll have to pardon my sarcasm…there was a lot of over-selling and over-branding going on.) In the meantime, here are some observations I gathered. This being our first OR show (but not my first trade show), I know that some of these items will be banal and some will be interesting. Or some combination thereof. Anyway, here goes. 1. Every Company Makes Innovative Clothing Shoe companies, kayak companies, backpack makers and clothing companies all make innovative technical dri-syn-wick-flow-gortech apparel. Graphic designers must make a killing on all the diagrams that show how heat magically is retained while moisture, stench, and bad juju are allowed to pass through the polyphasic tri-layer material. (Don’t get me wrong, some of this stuff is actually amazing. Just not all of it.) 2. It’s All About Appearance Speedo was there. This was the Winter show. Their setup involved a Jacuzzi with 2 girls in 2-piece suits. Nuff said? 3. Honesty…

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Blowtorches and Boulders Don’t Mix

By Ethics39 Comments

A little while ago there was a bit of controversy about a video featuring Carlo Traversi bouldering in Vastervik, Sweden. In one scene, he uses a blowtorch to dry the rock. Naturally, the message boards lit up with criticism, and, to his credit, Carlo apologized. Blowtorching is thankfully not too common of a practice, but it still happens and needs to stop. With bouldering in particular, there is little barrier to entry for new climbers to start climbing outside. Without mentors or instruction, some people will see boulderfields as an extension of the gym, where landings are flat, music is necessary, spinners can be tightened, and a janitorial service cleans up every night. This isn’t the case, and it’s more important than ever to teach the new wave of climbers outdoor ethics. I made the photo comparison below to show the effects of blowtorching. Deception is an absolute classic. Look at those gorgeous seams, those runnels, how they intersect. It’s just high enough to be spicy, and the movement is awesome. And it used to be really pretty…now it looks like its mascara is running. My guess is that you’re looking at what is essentially charred organic matter. Similar black gunk can be found on Celestial Mechanics, and other climbs at LRC that tend to seep. Please don’t use a blowtorch to dry the rock. It doesn’t matter what kind of rock. Even if it isn’t obvious, the heat will alter the rock. We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought climbing was a totally…

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Greasy Guardian Angels

By ClimbingNo Comments

The holiday season is a time for reflection, and for appreciating the gifts that we have. It was in this spirit that we drove back from a wonderful, warm winter day at Rumbling Bald, to our lovely little 70 ft^2 home parked at the Walmart. Our good friend Will, an Asheville native, had just arrived, and a feeling of generalized happiness and bonhomie was felt by all. In particular, Vikki and I had been thinking back to the beginning of the trip, when a fiasco of strep throat, transmission failure, and weekend business closings left us stranded in a hotel parking lot and made us question the wisdom of leaving the real world in the first place. But the next months – nay, years – proved to us that shit happens, and if you can weather a shitstorm, there’s sunshine and lollipops on the horizon. Indeed, and by way of foreshadowing, we hadn’t had a major issue with Bert since then.

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Local Zones 101: Zahnd

By Bouldering, Local Beta2 Comments

Update 8/25/14: The parking situation has been settled again, this time it’s back to the ol’ parking lot. Thanks SEC for leasing the land! Update 4/10/14: The parking situation has finally been settled and updated. Read the new parking rules for Zahnd. Zahnd is an area that we had heard of in passing. Normally, when one hears of a place with boulders (assuming that person enjoys climbing on them), it causes an immediate increase in blood pressure. However, when Zahnd was first mentioned, it was during our first week in Chattanooga, and we’d already left projects behind in five other nearby zones. Adding to our list of places to check out didn’t seem like a high priority at the time. A few days later, we were taking a rest day at Mean Mug Coffeehouse when I overheard the barista say “Zahnd.” Niko and I immediately went up to the register and got the lowdown from a very psyched Sam. That weekend, Niko and I decided to hike around Zahnd and see what all the fuss was about. I’m glad we did, I’m also glad for taking my best crossbow scope for low light conditions, it was super helpful, thanks to Technomono!

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Sh*t We Can’t Live Without: The Foam Roller

By Staying Healthy, Stuff We're Psyched On, The Exterior14 Comments

I have a love/hate relationship with things (but who doesn’t?!). I gave up the majority of my belongings to move into our 10-foot home. Spenser did too, but let’s be honest- he had way less crap to begin with! Not that it made it made it any easier. Back on topic- Even though we’ve purged most of the extra weight, there are still material objects we can’t live without. They just have to fit in a 10×7 box! THE FOAM ROLLER I hope most of you know what this is. If you don’t, you will likely benefit from making it’s acquaintance. This is my single favorite piece of physical therapy equipment out there. I’ll need it because of what climbing does to my body. That sounded too dramatic. Let’s try again. The foam roller is the best at getting out my post-climbing kinks and tightness. A consistent foam roller and yoga/stretching routine were my main shoulder saviors when getting back into climbing this summer (post finger pulley popping), so I guess I’m in a bind of sorts. If I want to continue to climb (and I do)- I gotta keep it up.

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Local Zones 101: Hospital Boulders

By Climbing, Local Beta4 Comments

Big news! My ass is better, and I can climb again. All it took was a trip to the Hospital…boulders, that is. They’re in northern Alabama, by the town of Gadsden, a short hop down the freeway from HP40. The stone is good, with a handful of very fun problems in every grade and projects galore. The best part is that we own it. Let me explain…

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Thanks

By ClimbingNo Comments

With us nearing 2 years on the road (February 24th, to be exact), we’re incredibly thankful for continuing to be able to live the life that we want to live. To our family and friends who supported us from the beginning…and even now, when a year has turned into indefinitely. To all the new friends we’ve met on the road the past year and 9 months: the kindness we’ve encountered along our exploration continues to surpass what we thought was possible.  To climbing. Oh, climbing. The love of our lives. The Stone Mind puts it perfectly. I guess today’s that day- where saying what you’re thankful for is virtually required. I do hope we all think about what we’re thankful for more than just one day per year. Just a thought… Let’s start with present thanks. Zack Macfarlane is on a flight to Asheville, NC at this very moment. To visit us. That’s something to be thankful for. Also, he changed his ticket last night so that he wouldn’t fly into Charleston, WV since, due to an abrupt downturn in weather conditions, that would involve us driving through a snowstorm (and possibly dying) to pick him up. Super mega thanks to Cody Roney & Greg Ward for housing us this past week and now allowing us to crash your Thanksgiving last minute. Oh and letting ol’ man Zack stay at your place. The trust these climbers have! 😉 To Jessa and Pat, for inviting us to Thanksgiving and then letting us…

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My Ache-y Breaky Ass

By Bouldering, The Exterior, Trip JournalNo Comments

Eleven months and seven days ago I did something unwise that prevented me from doing what I left “default” life to do. Life in a boot meant time for reflection, and it was fairly easy to assess what went wrong on Saigon Direct that put me on crutches for 6 weeks. Yesterday I did something that is preventing me from taking advantage of the best conditions we’ve had since we arrived in the south. In fact, the weather is just getting more and more sendy as the days go by, but I’m worried that I won’t be climbing anything for a while. On Tuesday, Vikki, Niko, Katie, Walker, Hammie, Greg and I all went to the Apartment Boulders so that Niko and I could finish up a cool little compression problem that we’d tried a few days before. Walker was just in town from Sweden, and we hadn’t climbed together in about 6 years. Greg is just another local crusher, the kind you hate because they’re stronger than you and (seemingly) care about half as much. I was psyched. It was cold, the compression thing was going down for sure, and then there was the gorgeous creekside boulder that we were going to finally bring enough pads to try.

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Squamish Wrap-Up and Videos

By Bouldering, Climbing, Film3 Comments

Yes, it’s November, and we’re still talking Squamish. I guess we liked the place. [Click “Read More” and scroll to the videos if you want to skip the ramblin’.] It’s been about six weeks since we uprooted the trailer and left the forest nymphs in our wake, with Bert’s steely grille pointed at the rising sun. A junk-food-fueled drive across three time zones brought us, via the homes of many generous friends, to Boone, NC and now Chattanooga, TN. I’ve got a whole post about the South upcoming, but this is a retrospective.

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Cue, The Final Countdown.

Five Ten Vs La Sportiva: The Battle for Shoepremacy

By Climbing2 Comments

You probably didn’t hear about The Brawl. The media kept it under wraps, and the organizers of the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City performed a behind-the-scenes cover-up the likes of which we haven’t seen since Princess Diana was abducted by those aliens. Nobody is quite sure how it started. Some reports indicate that the Five Ten reps had a slingshot hidden behind their display that was used to launch Arrowheads at the La Sportivans. Another witness alleged that Tommy Caldwell started it when he threatened to start chopping off fingers to “even the playing field.” Thankfully, the altercation was broken up before anyone was injured. The rival companies decided to settle it once and for all, away from the hubbub of the convention center and the public eye. Earlier this spring, Five Ten Athlete Flannery Shay-Nemirow and La Sportiva Athlete Shannon Joslin met on the field of battle. We were there to capture it on camera. The result? A fast-paced, hard-hitting, suspenseful drama of epic proportions. This is a peek behind the scenes of the climbing shoe wars. Are you ready?

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Birthday Blunder

By Birthday Challenges, Climbing, Trip Journal5 Comments

I am finally sitting down to finish digesting my 27th birthday challenge that was over a month ago (ahem, September 13th). What the heck took me so long?! Thinking back, I definitely needed about 2 days to recover post-challenge (mentally & physically). Then, the rain came and we booked it out of Squamish and begin our charge across the US, seeing who and what we could, but mostly just driving. What was the rush? I had a date I couldn’t miss: meeting five of my best college girlfriends in Charleston, SC for a reunion weekend. I’m officially back and settled in Boone, NC, nestled between two tabby cats-who-act-like-dogs (my favorite). After reading the latest The Morning Fresh post today, I realized I was out of excuses so here it goes! The Challenge: 27 kilometer bike ride. 27 (all new) V-points. 27 Polaroids. For this post, I was planning on taking a cue from my dear friend Alana and get straight to the good stuff: Highs, Lows, & Heroes. Bam. Then, as I was re-writing my ticklist into this post, I realized something that I thought was impossible: I only did 26 V-points. I read my notes over and over again and, sure enough, there was 1 point missing… I ran (seriously) out to the trailer and asked Spenser if I was crazy. How could I have F-d up the counting? Even more silly, I clearly remember Sloppy Poppy bringing my V-point count up to 13 (a memorable number). This means I messed up the…

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Wide Boyz II Slender Men- The Cobra Crack

By Film7 Comments

For the second time, The RV Project (in this case just me, Spenser) has gotten the privilege of filming professional climbers alongside professional filmers. Last time was in Vedauwoo with Sender Films, shooting Brad Jackson, Adam Papillion, and Bob Scarpelli climbing offwidths for the Wide Boyz segment of Reel Rock 7. This time: Canada, with Hot Aches. The climb: Cobra Crack, 5.14a. The Cobra Crack will be featured in Wide Boyz 2. It was a lot of fun, and not too different from filming friends at the boulders, except that everything is dialed up a notch: the gear, the need to capture the right moments, and of course the seriousness of the route. What I’ll remember most, though, is watching two consummate professionals do what they do best: bite off more than they can chew, and chew it anyway. (If you haven’t seen First Ascent, you must…if for no other reason than to become familiar with the famous mono-undercling-fingerlock, or the “F-You” move.)

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Getting Thunderballed, and What To Do About It

By Bouldering, ClimbingNo Comments

Bouldering at one’s limit involves suspension of disbelief. At first the holds seem unmanageable, the sequence too cryptic, the moves too big. With enough hubris, confidence, or simple hard work, the climb begins to open up. Suddenly, one has completed a brand new set of moves. One has proven oneself equal to the challenge provided by nature and a first ascentionist. One has earned another tick in the guidebook. Great climbing literature is based on this titanic struggle of human flesh upon unfeeling, unflinching stone. In The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering, Francis Sanzano correctly states that …one can learn all one needs to know about another by watching them boulder. We can discern if they are a fighter, if they make good decisions, if they are good under pressure…as if the skirt of consciousness has been lifted and they remain in the act, struggling like death before us. Boulders are the canvases upon which we may paint moments of greatness. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the opposite. I want to talk about what happens when an easy-looking boulder problem turns you around, yanks your pants down to your knees, and spanks you…or as I like to call it, “getting Thunderballed.”

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The Power of The ‘Book

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

The clouds have parted and a heatwave has now hit Squamish. But, hey, we’ll take that over the rain. We’ve lost a lot of good folks the past week due to the sub-optimal weather conditions and it simply being the “time to go.” There’s a small contingent of us left, but the season for tent villages in the Chief campground is over. I think most of us have stopped checking the weather report- we now understand we are living in a temperate rainforest and the rain gods will do what they please, without warning and for-better-or-worse.

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