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Fear, Loathing, and Escape in Las Vegas and New Mexico

By Bouldering, Climbing, Local Beta10 Comments

I got the fear. And the loathing. Vikki and I were approaching Black Corridor, a popular sport crag in Red Rocks, NV. We were still fifty yards from the entrance to the narrow chasm, and we could plainly hear the cacophony of a popular crag. I flashed back to college parties that I knew would be no fun, but that I wanted to go to because, well, because it seemed like everyone else was there. And therefore so should I. We had been dreading the Las Vegas leg of our trip. This city doesn’t suit us. There is a long list of reasons for this which I need not elaborate upon. Its redeeming feature lies west of that iconic white spear of light the Luxor hotel hurls nightly into space in a pathetic gesture of grandiosity, as if Las Vegas was rejecting the sun’s blistering rays. Red Rocks and the canyons surrounding it are, and there’s no denying it, stunningly beautiful and full of stone. And so we drove to Las Vegas. The routes in the Black Corridor are more or less stacked on top of one another, making it a perfect location for practicing roped climbing. We need this practice, as much of our filming over the next year will require rope work. And so we joined the Saturday crowds. The next day we visited the Kraft boulders, a very easily accessible collection of blocks that would, on a Sunday, be similarly crowded. This translates, inevitably, to polished rock,…

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The Week That Was

By Food, Musings, Trip JournalOne Comment

We’re officially in Las Vegas, Nevada. More importantly, this means we made it one week and 900 miles without succumbing to our food demons! We hit a few bumps in the road en route to the West side, and a week ago we would have relied on food to make us feel better about these mishaps. With our 30-day food challenge, we were forced to take solace in salad. Guess what? We survived. Shocking, right? I often tout that the most important thing that we have learned through our travels over the past 2 years is to be open-minded. I feel a bit silly now as I realize I was never open-minded about food. I believed that I needed starchy carbs like rice, gluten-free bread, or pasta to feel full. Well, here’s another shocker: I was wrong. Except for being extremely gassy, I’m doing fine (Spenser, too). Better than fine- I feel pretty darn great. I know my digestive system is still adjusting to all this fiber I’m ingesting, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the passing gas. ūüėČ Of course, our charge across the country wasn’t all negative happenings… Except for the necessary stops due to the mishaps, we charged across the country only stopping for a few days in New Mexico. We explored the boulders outside of Roy, NM with Eric Bissell and friends last weekend. Eric also showed us around the exquisite granite in La Madera, about an hour north of Santa Fe. Spenser…

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The 30-day Real Food Challenge AKA #RealFood30

By Food, Musings, Staying Healthy, Trip Journal5 Comments

First of all, apologies for not getting this post up sooner. We started our 30-day challenge on March 14, but we’ve been in the no-cell-reception, no-wifi-zone bouldering area outside of Roy, New Mexico (which was AMAZING–more on this sweet spot in a later post). I, of course, should have planned ahead and gotten this post up before we were in the middle-of-nowhere, but…well…still working on that whole planning-ahead thing. Promise. Last week I wrote about why we want to do the challenge, now here are our rules, so y‚Äôall can keep us honest. Visit USAToday to learn more about the most healthiest dietary supplements and other treatments for conditions like ringing in ears for example. The Absolutes: –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† No gluten: no wheat, barley, or rye. –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† No dairy: no cheese, no butter, no whey, no milk chocolate! –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† No bread products, not even GF ones: no chips, no crackers, no tortillas, no baked goods. This is mostly because both Spenser and I love bread products and rely too heavily on them. When I buy a loaf of gluten-free bread, I end up eating it in 1-2 days flat. That’s pretty ridiculous. –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† No soy: which includes soy byproducts such as soy lecithin, which means chocolate is going to be hard to find, but not impossible! Wondering what the heck soy lecithin is? Read more about the emulsifier that is found everywhere nowadays. –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† No energy drinks:¬†no 5-hour energy, no Red Bull, and so on. Yes to coffee & tea. –¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†…

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V-Point Challenge

By Bouldering, ClimbingOne Comment

Projecting one particular line gets tiring, physically and mentally, and one of the hardest parts for me is having to shut out all the other tantalizing pieces of stone nearby. Chalk it up my FOMO, I guess. So I decided to take a day off The Shield and try to climb as many problems as possible in the best way I know how. Why The V-Point Challenge? First of all, everyone should do one. I know that climbing is held by many to be a sort of zen thing, that people often abhor a climbing partner with an agenda. It’s not about climbing hard, it’s about having fun. Don’t get me wrong; there’s no good gonna come from “forcing it,” unless you’re Patxi Usobiaga and self-torture defines your climbing career. And I don’t fault anyone for wanting to go out, climb a few things, have a beer and call it a day. I enjoy those days occasionally as well, but to me, climbing hard¬†is fun. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have goals, even if they aren’t tied to a number. We want to¬†feel stronger, more fluid. We want to suck less at mantels, or crimps, or heel hooks. We want to climb that awesome-looking feature, and it happens to be hard. We want to climb more without getting pumped,¬†because climbing is fun.¬†Sometimes the process sucks, and we adopt an attitude of False Non-Chalance¬†to cover our unwillingness to trim the literal and figurative fat that keeps us from doing…

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Photo credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/shutterstock.com

Inspiration Found

By Climbing, Food, Musings, Staying Healthy, The Interior, Trip Journal3 Comments

After a week of California vacation binge-mode, we are back in Chattanooga and feeling motivated again. ¬†Sometimes a forced break really helps put things into perspective. Spenser talked a bit about our climbing haps in his last post, and this post is going to about another things we can’t live without: food. [No matter how much traction the Breatharian movement gets! Okay, but seriously, I know food can be an addiction, but this as a long-term sustenance plan is nuts.] While in San Diego, we figured we’d take advantage of our locality and head up to Encinitas to visit a company we were first introduced to at the OR show in January, GoodOnYa. Spenser knows that I am always on the lookout for good gluten-free products, and during the OR show, he happened upon the GoodOnYa booth. We were able to snag a box of bars during the show and devoured them over the next week. They were delicious and, for once, we were pleasantly surprised by each and every ingredient. My stomach is incredibly irritable, even beyond my Celiac Disease. I also don’t do well with soy (read: mad indigestion), so it’s an annoyance to find a gluten-free snack bar that fits the bill. Since we loved the bars and, even more importantly, the company ethics, we decided to pay the GoodOnYa office a visit and see if we could figure out a way to we could work together. They have a small office on the 101, and an…

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A Climbing Update

By Bouldering, Climbing6 Comments

That’s right, we still climb! I’m finishing up this post from a caf√© in La Jolla, CA, though the post began in Tennessee. We’re here visiting Vikki’s parents and simultaneously my grandfather, whose ever-fragile health is being gauged in every way possible by the health apparatus known as UCSD. Grandpa Tang is doing well, for now, but navigating the myriad hospital departments requires someone of youthful vigor. An advantage of our nomadic, unfettered life is the ability to help with family logistics at a moment’s notice, and it’s fortunate that we can get in a 2-for-1 visit. Anyway, on to the climbings. We came back from the Outdoor Retailers show¬†with Renewed Vitality (the first in a series of new extrapolations for RV). It’s looking like 2014 is going to be chock-full of chalky videos, and we can’t wait to get started. Until then, we will be crushing our own projects, hopefully. (No promises, but I think we’ve got most of our existential hee-B-G-Bs out of the system.) Vikki’s Progress For Vikki’s part, she got back on her horse with some short-gal teamwork, working many Rocktown and LRC classics with our good friend Rachel. We said tearful goodbyes a week ago, and since then Vikki’s been trying hard with Courtney and Kat. She’s very close to her second ever V7, Jerry’s Kids, and more importantly, is finally healthy in the shoulder and finger zones. Best of all, she just finished up her season-long project,¬†Genghis Khan (V5) in fine style. It’s a…

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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 since we learned how to profit from trade fx in the UK. 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…

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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‚Äôt wait to see how our promising leads pan out. At the least, a few video projects from commercial video production 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. Marketing and promotion is no longer just for WebCitz ! 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‚Äôt get me wrong, some of this stuff is actually amazing. Just not all of it.) 2. It‚Äôs All About Appearance Speedo was there. This was the Winter show. Their…

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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 ‚Äď nay, years ‚Äď proved to us that shit happens, and if you can weather a shitstorm, there‚Äôs sunshine and lollipops on the horizon. Indeed, and by way of foreshadowing, we hadn‚Äôt 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‚Ķboulders, that is. They‚Äôre 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! ūüėČ 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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