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…
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.
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.
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?
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…
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.)
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.”
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.
When people come to Squamish for summer bouldering (and many, many people do), they often get bouted by climbs that, numerically speaking, are well within their abilities. I experienced it, and I think most people have the same feeling to some extent or another. People blame poor feet, cryptic granite, painful crystals, and humid conditions, but the real story here is that the climbing in Squamish is Yosemite-style technical, and quite varied; it requires a break-in period of several sessions.
We’ve been talking about getting a new header for the website for months. The conversation has gone something like this: Spenser, “you know, we don’t have that big trailer anymore…kinda weird to still have it in the header on the blog.” Me, “yea, we should do something about that…” Since our last post was as graphic as we’re ever going to get, this short conversation was followed by: [Silence] A few weeks ago, there was a new development.
Last night, as Spenser was walking back from the toilet to our trailer, a pair of inconspicuous slugs caught his eye. As we sat mesmerized, we were not prepared for the other-wordly experience we were in for… This further confirms our supposition that Squamish is undoubtedly a magical forest. Enjoy the weirdness of nature- you just can’t make this sh*t up! 🙂
[vimeo w=700 h=394] On July 15, I turned 29. I normally do a Birthday Challenge on these occasions, of varying levels of involvement (click to read about years 24 and 26). This year I wasn’t sure what Squamish would be like, and I procrastinated mightily in the planning. But after a few days enjoying the boulders in the magical forest, it seemed that nothing could be better than trying to do 29 of the “Top 100” boulder problems the guidebook has to offer.
I’m in the Chief Stawamus Municipal Campground in Squamish, British Columbia, sitting underneath a large redwood, the thick branches obscuring most of the sky directly above. Thanks to their cover, I’m able to type this blog post outside during a rain shower, while boulderers stream back to the campground for shelter. In front of me is a beautiful mural painted on the side of the trailer, an inquisitive elephant gazing out through a drippy, bright, scribbled jungle of color. Just beyond our trailer I can see the end of Lord Howe Sound, where kiteboarders are zipping about and leaving fleeting white trails of wake. The waters, multicolored from two rivers meeting the ocean, are contained by forested slopes with granite outcrops that peak at thousands of feet, a vaguely fjord-ish juxtaposition that reminds us of the glacial past.
Damn, it feels good to be back. On the road, that is. I haven’t written in a while, mostly because I’ve been doing my best to keep busy since we arrived back to the Bay Area. If I am doing other stuff, I don’t think about climbing. If I don’t think about climbing, I don’t get sad. Good plan. Right? Meh, it was an okay plan, but it’s the best one I could think of under a looming depression. Well, that sounded depressing. Let’s go with hovering depression. More hovering than looming. Anyway… I show no perceptible signs of injury (albeit a slightly swollen left middle finger). I am also not hindered or unable to do anything else except for climb. The single thing I’ve obsessed over and devoted the majority of my time to this past year. I guess I should mention that I also can’t give people the middle finger with my left hand, but that bothers me slightly less. 😉 Not climbing naturally creates an emptiness that I’ve been desperately trying to fill.
We love going to popular climbing destinations, but we also love to explore new areas. That’s why I was really psyched to return to the Bay Area and hear about a new crag called Dogpatch. I’ve already checked out most of the climbing that the Bay has to offer, so getting an opportunity to take a look at a new area was too sweet to pass up. We got some directions from our friend and local climber Lauryn Claassen and headed over to San Francisco. Our other good friend Jeremy Ho, who also makes frequent RV Project appearances, was there to meet us.
Firstly, sorry for the dearth of climbing updates. We’ve been in the Bay Area now for two weeks, and haven’t touched rock in that time. I’ve been focused on the newest video project, which will hopefully be completed in the next two weeks (I say that, but when has an estimate like that ever been accurate??). I’m also trying my hardest to get strong in the gym. Vikki is still nursing her poor finger, which as of now is still swollen. She hasn’t begun climbing again yet, but will be hopefully working her way back into it before the end of the month. Briefly, I’d like to wrap up Santa Barbara, and mention that anyone in California looking for a climbing weekend could do a lot worse than heading to this sandstone paradise. When we were college students (I graduated in 2007), it was our beloved chosspile, and places like Bishop were meccas. Now, I see Santa Barbara as my climbing “home,” where I first experienced “pump” and “flappers” and broken holds. I climbed my first V1-8 there. The place has changed, though, and I might argue for the better. The first and foremost change is the introduction of a real climbing gym, the Santa Barbara Rock Gym. It’s in the heart of SB, right on State Street, and it finally provides a community space for climbers. Before, we had some poor excuses for climbing walls: The UCSB rec center, Goleta Valley Athletic Club’s outdoor wall, and a smattering of…
A couple of weeks ago I did the impossible. I sat down at the bottom of the Trojan Arete, pulled on, got to the top, and walked off the back. You may not have heard of this climb. It’s a V8 (or 5.13b, according to Ocean’s 11, the best bouldering guidebook ever written). It’s at the Painted Cave area in Santa Barbara, which consists of two boulders straddling a windy road. The problem in question was created in part by demolition equipment widening the road so that trucks could pass. The landing is AKA a road, and the pads must be moved when a car drives through. All this is to say that the climb is not 5 stars. It doesn’t suck, that’s for sure. But it’s not High Plains Drifter, Easy in an Easy Chair, See Spot Run, Speed of Life, or another boulder problem good enough that you’d heard of it before you visited. It is, however, one of the harder and prouder problems in Santa Barbara, and therefore it was on my bucket list. I began my climbing life in Santa Barbara, and Painted Cave is an obvious bouldering spot because of its accessibility. The Trojan Arete was one of those climbs that we looked at and figured we might one day be qualified to try. Still, that day seemed forever away. We worked Heavy Traffic (V3) instead. One day, a few years ago, Daniel Kovner and I were there while our local legend Bernd Zeugswetter calmly ran a lap on the climb. I think…
We are back in Santa Barbara (actually, we’re back in Berkeley now, but I began this post in sunny Santa Barbara). We woke up early enough to catch sunrise in Zion National Park before charging through Arizona and Nevada. California, especially Santa Barbara, was a sight for sore eyes. The cool breeze tinged with sea salt wafted through our rolled down windows. We were definitely ready to be back, which is always refreshing on a road trip. Often you leave a place before you feel ready and that’s always a bit unsettling. It felt really good and really right to be back. After 1 year, 2 months, and 17 days, our road trip had come full circle- our first stop when hitting the road last year was Santa Barbara. I was incredibly happy that Spenser agreed to go back to Arches and Canyonlands. It was definitely a bit out of our way from Joe’s Valley to Santa Barbara, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! I can assume that I will be by these places again later in life, but what if I’m not. Better to not assume, I think. 🙂 Over a year ago when we started this road trip, we had different goals. I think a year ago, we would have argued to pass up these sights just to get to the next climbing destination. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when our road trip mentality changed, but it was likely when both Spenser and I began to ride…