Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rocklands, South Africa July 22nd - 26th

Friday July 22nd, 2011

            I found my project for the trip! We headed up to the Dihedral Boulders, and while there isn’t a lot of climbing up there, it is very impressive. Each boulder that contains hard climbing would be considered by most to be world class. Before we could climb anything we had to run around a little bit and gawk at problems like; El Corazon (V13 – 8B), Gliding Through Waves Like Dolphins (V11 – 8A), and Ray of Light (V13 – 8B).  Once we were settled in we hopped on Gliding Through Waves Like Dolphins. When you first feel the holds of this climb it just feels utterly impossible. Sloppy nothing holds up a blunt arĂȘte/bulge, with small crimps for the top out. After a few tries messing with a kneebar that makes the climb climbable (even though it was originally done without it), Brian and myself were able to make quick work of the problem. This is a must due or at least try problem for everyone.

            It was now time to try the problem that I was most intrigued by headed into this trip, Ray of Light. It follows about a 35-degree wall with sloppy thin cracks that you have to wedge you fingers into with huge moves separating them.  The hardest moves of the boulder involve the thin cracks, but the redpoint crux is at the end were you have to do a lot of moves on sloppers after hard climbing. I was able to do the hard moves down low, except the hardest move, which I came very close to sticking. I am trying to let my body and fingers heal before going back to this one, but it quickly moved to the top of my list of problems to do here.

Monday July 25th, 2011

            Today was a long day… It started out with a 6:00a.m. wake-up call for the entire house and we were all out the door by 6:45a.m. First we headed to Black Shadow (V12 – 8A+) so Dave Wetmore and myself could finish some unfinished business. After an awful warm-up on Black Shadow itself we had only about an hour before the sun was completely on the boulder. Dave was consistently falling on the last move before making the painful decision to end his session and wait for another day. As for myself, I had a little bit of trouble. Warming up for me has always been a tough task and a hard warm-up didn’t help. I made some reverse progress on a boulder that should have only taken me one day. I was falling at the top of the boulder problem and having to deal with the frustrations over and over again. After some good efforts the sun forced us off the boulder and we had to move on.

            From Black Shadow we headed to the Bonus Boulders to try and catch the incredible sloppy problem Witness the Sickness (V11 – 8A) before it got into the sun. We made it to the boulder with time to spare and all of us were incredibly impressed by the beauty of the boulder. Brian was able to destroy the boulder and do it only in a few tries. Rob D’Anastasio, Dave and myself all put the moves together very quickly until I took a weird fall and smacked my big toe straight into the ground casing my toe tip to bruise and the skin to separate from my toenail. Once the blood was cleaned up a little bit I taped it up and resumed climbing. Towards the end of our session the sun was creeping more and more onto the already hard to hold sloppers. Rob was able to put the pieces together and send the boulder. With Dave and myself psyched from Rob’s send, we gave ourselves just enough rest and then jumped on. Dave had the painful experience of falling on the last move a few times in a row before ending his session. As for myself, I was finally able to have a full single day session on something, and send it in the same day! This was positive for me because so many times this trip I have come incredibly close on something in one day, but still had to walk away empty handed, but not this time.

            Well, already by this time in the day we had all climbed a lot! But here’s the thing, by the end of our Witness the Sickness session it was only about noon! We drove back to our house for a few hours or rest before heading out for an evening session. With our bodies feeling reenergized we left for Riverside to try Mooiste Meisie (V13 – 8B). Brian had tried this a few days before and he was able to do all of the moves, but he was having a little bit of trouble putting them together. After running through the moves each a few times, he was able to send the climb on only his third try of the day from the start! Rob hadn’t been on this problem yet, however, after about an hour of work he had all of the moves down and ready for his return. I was able to briefly try the climb before having to call it a day due to my fragile skin. I am very intrigued to get back and try this problem fresh and see what I can do.

Tuesday July 26th, 2011

            My fingers, my fingers, my fingers…! Almost all bouldering trips consist of waking up in the morning and having a hard time unzipping your sleeping bag because your fingertips are battered and bruised, but this experience is something else. During the last two nights I have been woken up by shooting pains in my fingers and fingertips. I think that a lot of this is due to the fact that I didn’t climb for three weeks and for the past three weeks I have been climbing outside about five days a week, but either way the pain is pretty intense. After I woke up in the morning I was very skeptical that I would be able to climb because of the pain in my fingers. We took a nice and slow morning taking a while to get everything packed up and ready to go, once ready we headed to 8 Day Rain for the first time in almost three weeks. The weather has finally cooled down a bit and the winds have picked back up, making it possible to climb at the climbing areas that are more in the valley. Because of the pain in my fingers I taped four out of my eight fingers for my warm up, which seemed to ease the pain quite a bit. Climbing with tape on your fingers makes everything a bit more difficult, however, it’s still possible and it gives your fingers a little bit of a break when you are working climbs. At the end of our warm up we headed to an amazing boulder problem called Vanity (V7 – 7A+). I recommend that everybody try this climb! Once the warm up was complete we walked over to Golden Virginia (V11 – 8A). I had tried this climb about three weeks ago when Brian did it and I was able to come very close, but not quite send. After falling on the crux move a lot of times, Dave and myself were able to finally figure out the move and send the climb. Rob came very close and will for sure send it the next time that he is on it.

            From Golden Virginia we made what is not a very far walk to Vlad the Impaler (V9 – 7C), but very tiring and frustrating. You have to walk in fairly deep sand that you slide around in a lot, then hike/climb up a short cliff ban through overgrown bushes and trees. Before arriving at this wall I was very interested in trying two climbs, Vlad the Impaler and The Big Short (V11 – 8A), but upon arrive I quickly became disinterested in The Big Short and it was just Vlad. Brian was able to flash this one move lock-off climb with relative ease; Rob and myself both were able to send in a few goes. The climb is very intriguing for the fact that all of the hard climbing is down low, revolving around two hard right hand lock-offs, once you have done those moves, the climbing is relatively easy, but you have to traverse on pretty solid rock over a vanishing landing, that might not be for the faint of heart (Dave Wetmore J).

            After Vlad the Impaler it was time for me to call it a day. From 4:00p.m. on I was just the cheerleader. Brian wanted to try the incredibly sharp boulder Quintessential (V13 – 8B). Each of the three handholds on this climb are more like sharp daggers that just eat away at your skin, with nothing footholds to help alleviate the pressure on your fingertips. Brian was able to come close on the last move, but deemed the first move (the crux) impossible for him and we moved on. Now that the sun was finally setting and valley was consumed by shade, Derailed (V12/14 – 8A+/8B+) was finally climbable. After Daniel Woods did this climb in 2008 and rated it V14 (8B+), kneebar beta was found making the crux a lot easier. The grade has been disputed for some time now and Ethan Pringle was able to extend the kneebar beta even further by doing one more move on it, deciding that the climb is probably V12 (8A+) now. At this point in the day Brian and Dave were the only ones left climbing. They were able to figure out the top sequence, which is supposed to be the crux now, but they were having trouble with the kneebar moves. With night coming quick and the braai (South African barbeque) waiting for us, it was time to wrap up the day.

            Today, Wednesday is a rest day that could quite possible turn into two days because it might rain on Thursday, which in the long run might not be the worst thing, except for the fact that I am running out of time (two weeks left) and I WANT TO CLIMB!

            Also, Ethan Pringle was able to make a very impressive accent of Sky (V14 – 8B+) on one of his last days of climbing, adding to a very successful trip.
            Pictures to be posted soon...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rocklands, South Africa

The summer has been an exceptional one; three weeks in Italy with my girlfriend, and five weeks in South Africa bouldering with some of my favorite climbing partners. It is nice being able to go on vacations sometimes that don’t revolve around climbing, so my time in Italy was very cherished. My girlfriend and I arrived in Venice on June 14th and from there made our way around the country with stops in Rome, Naples, Capri, Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Genova and Verona. We were able to do all of the tourist stuff and really get a feel for the country. After my time was up in Italy it was time to head to South Africa for my longest bouldering trip of my career in Rocklands.

            I had a bit of fear and hesitation leaving Italy and heading for South Africa because I had taken three full weeks off of climbing and I was constantly filing my fingers to due away with the pealing skin. So after three weeks of this my skin was very fragile. Once my full day trip from Italy to Qatar to Cape Town was complete I meet up with my good friend Brian Antheunisse and we started the three-hour drive to Rocklands.

            The drive was a very interesting one from the start. Most rental cars outside of the U.S. are manuals, and neither one of us really knew how to drive a manual. I had driven one a few times and thought that might be sufficient. Turns out it was JUST enough! After about 15 failed attempts to get the car moving forward, Brian realized that I was trying to start the car in third gear. After a quick shift to first we were off and running. Not only was I already a little but flustered from trying to learn how to drive a manual and pay attention to the foreign roads, I also had to remember to stay on the left side of the road which was a new encounter for me. But once I was reminded a few times to stay left by my co-pilot we were good to go. The rest of the drive went rather smoothly and we made it to Rocklands without any other problems. 

            If you ever watch climbing movies and wonder if these places are really real, and if these areas really look like this, well much to our shocking surprise, this place is real! It really is everything you’d imagine it to be; beautiful, perfect climbing, and an impressive international climbing scene. It is very unreal to think that every boulder you get on in an area could be better than the next, but that is exactly what you get here. Just about every time you pull off the ground you better prepare yourself to be amazed. Once the climbing started my fears about my fingers were quickly brought to the table. The first day of climbing went much better than I expected it to go. We took it nice and slow climbing in the Roadcrew area ticking off easier classics throughout the day.  Towards the end of the day we decided to try a bit harder and we got on Royksopp (V11-8A). I was a little bit hesitant to get on this climb because of the small two finger pockets it contained, but after a few feeble attempts I was able to figure out the beta and fall off of the last move a few times before calling it a day.  Brian had a bit of trouble sticking what was a big jump and swing for him, but after trying the move a hand full of times (and never sticking it but coming very close) he was able to send the whole problem.

            Since there are some many areas here we decided that we can’t go to any area twice until we have seen most of them. For the second day we headed to an area called 8 Day Rain. Thus far this is probably my favorite climbing area, but due to the heat that has been coming through it has been too warm to climb there. I am very intrigued by a number of climbs at this area including; Derailed {V12-8A+ (with the kneebar!)} Golden Virginia (V11-8A), and The Big Short (V11-8A).

            With my fingers bruised and bloody it was time for a rest day. We headed into “town,” which doesn’t consist of a whole lot, but it supplies you with the basics. Once the excursion to town was complete we headed to a few different climbing areas to check out some of the problems that we wanted to do, as well as get a feel for the areas. 

            Since my first rest day it has been more of the same for me; getting extremely close on boulder problems, but not quite sending them. My fingers have been a bit of an issue on this trip so for, but the initial cuts are almost healed. I am starting to feel stronger and stronger and almost back to my normal climbing ability. While my trip has included many heartaches so far by falling painfully close on quite a few boulders, I have been able to complete a few including; Pendragon (V11-8A), Solar Power (V11-8A), a flash of Black Mango Chutney (V10-7C+) and Macho King (V10-7C+), Paula Abdul (V10-7C+), Ron Ron et Caramel (V10-7C+), and a few other flashes in the (V8-7B/+ to V9-7C) range.

Hopefully within the next few weeks I will be able to get back to some unfinished business, such as; Black Shadow (V12-8A+), Shosholoza (V12-8A+), Oral Office (V12-8A+), Golden Virginia (V11-8A), Royksopp (V11-8A), Nutsa (V11-8A), and many others that I look forward to getting on.

During the last week in a half I have also be able to witness so hard sending by fellow room-mates Ethan Pringle, who sent The Power of One (V13-8B), and will hopefully send Sky (V14-8B+). Mike Feinberg was able to put down Mooiste Meisie (V13-8B). Brian is having the bouldering trip of his life, and in nine climbing days he has managed to do 20 climbs V10-7C+ and harder!

            The first week and a half of my trip has been absolutely amazing. Even though I would like to be climbing a little bit better, I can feel it coming on and I think that I will be there quickly. I have countless unfinished projects so far that I look forward to going back and completing, and numerous projects that I can wait to go and try. With just less than a month of climbing, IT IS TIME TO GET TO WORK!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

End of the Season! Bishop 04/29/11-05/01/11

With the weather beginning to heat up, the Bishop season looked like it was all but over. I was out there  about two weeks ago and the snakes were out, the weather was hot, and it only looked like it was going to get hotter. With the school semester finally coming to an end, I was getting anxious to try and get outside one more time before the 100 degree East San Francisco Bay days started. Browsing the web I happened to check the weather for Bishop, and it almost seemed too good to be true. Over the weekend it was supposed to be in the low 60's and 70's, with strong winds! I instantly jumped on it and called my friend Wes Miraglio and we planned the trip and headed out.

Friday morning began with what is becoming to feel like a religious drive will all intentions on climbing that evening after the six and a half hour haul. Once we arrived in Bishop the weather was just as beautiful as the weather man predicted and the climbing looked great. FINALLY feeling back in shape I couldn't wait to try the Buttermilker Sit (V13) again to see how I could do. At the end of last season I was able to send the stand (V12) and put together the sit in two parts, so getting on it this season was a little bit of a show of strength for me to see where I was at. Sure enough after about 30 minutes of relearning the moves, I was able to do the climb in two parts again. Then I had the tough decision: spend the whole weekend on the climb in the hopes of doing it, or try and send the climbs that I had been close on this season. After the physical abuse that the Buttermilker hands out, on your fingers and your whole body, I decided that I should try and put to rest some unfinished climbs, and wait until next season to finish the Buttermilker.

After my attempts on the Buttermilker, Wes wanted to go over to the Grandma Peabody and try Center Direct (V10), and after a few tries he was falling just short of sticking the one hard move on the climb. He wagered his options and went with the idea to save his energy for Saturday's full day, and his hopeful accent of Acid Wash (V10). After giving some moral support and the sun finally dipping behind Mt. Tom, it was time to go and try project number one; The Sharma Traverse (V11). This has always been a goal of mine since one of my first trips to Bishop. However, it has continuously broken making the holds and the sequence ever changing. The climb follows a steep low traversing arete, with very large moves to an incredible difficult and physical top-out. After a quick warmup I fell off of the top-out twice, and after a short rest, I was able to finally send the boulder problem. Once my 7:30p.m. accent was complete it was time to call it a day.

The Sharma Traverse V11.

Saturday morning started out just as any climber could hope; not hot by any means but yet not cold either, and just a slight breeze to ensure that your hands and body would stay nice and cool. We headed up to the Happies so Wes could finish up Acid Wash (V10). He ran through all of the moves a few times, just to make sure he was warmed up enough and that there were no surprises, and after a few attempts on the first move, he sent. As soon as Wes got back down to the ground we packed up and headed out.

Next stop Bardini Boulders and A Maze of Death! I had VERY high hopes going into this climb as I had been on it just a few weekends before and I was able to do all of the moves. Well, things don't always go as planned. My finger tips were still a little bit raw from the trip just a week before to Bishop and the small crimps were to much for me this time. We then went to one of the most amazing looking and climbing boulders in Bishop,  Zen Flute (V10) in Dale's Camp. Zen Flute climbs a ever so slightly overhanging face on small holds with a massive all points off dyno at the end. I must have climbed up to that last move 20 or 25 times just to repeatedly fall off the dyno. After mindlessly staring at the wall looking for any new beta that might help me out, I finally saw a new sequence that might help me unlock this amazing problem. Sure enough it did! With a massive leap through the air I was able to stick the jug right handed swing around and back into the wall, then with a little yell out of fear, excitement, and satisfaction I topped-out. Its been a while time since I have truly been excited to send V10, but this one was different. With how amazing the boulder is, the amount of attempts it took me, and the shear excitement of the climb I absolutely felt the sense of accomplishment that makes climbing so great!

Sunday, final day in Bishop for the season! Everyone knows that climbing in Bishop three days in a row is like torture for your fingers. So, with projects out of the question, we decided it was a good idea to go and check out a new area, the Druid Stones. After our 45 minute hike from the parking lot over one false hill top and another, I came to the conclusion that Wills Young put in the guide book that it was 20-45 minutes just to get people interested, because it took 20 minutes at a good pace to get down! Anyways, Wills is a great guy with an excellent guide book that lead us to a stunning area. While the hike is more than most boulderers are willing to do, the climbing is without a doubt some of the best in Bishop. I had always heard good things about a climb called Denton's Remorse (V10) and couldn't wait to check it out. The climb starts extremely low with two very uncomfortable undercling moves to a supposed V7 stand that proved to be quite difficult. After a little bit of work, I finally figured out the beta and was able to execute and send yet another amazing climb on this trip.

Tips shredded, bodies sore, psych way up in the air, it was time to call it a day and head home. One of the greatest things about Bishop is the amount of hard problems that are there. It seems to be never ending, and I will, without a doubt countdown the days until next season!

As for what's next for me: South Africa! I have finally bought my ticket and it is now official! I arrive in Cape Town in the beginning of July after three weeks in Italy and then I will be there until the second week of August. This is going to be my longest bouldering trip that I have ever taken and I am really looking forward to seeing just how far I can push myself.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend Trip to Bishop 4/08/11-04/10/11

This past weekend I went on a short trip to Bishop with my girlfriend Emily and Gregor Peirce. As we left the Bay Area Friday morning we had high hopes for a good weekend of sending. My fingers are finally feeling healthy again and I have been able to start back into my training.

After our seven hour drive, with most of it being through a snow storm we arrive in Bishop to witness about seven more hours of snow that lasted well into the night. With our hopes hanging in the wind that the weather would be good in the morning we called it a night to prepare for what hopefully would be a good day.

Saturday morning started off with perfect conditions and no effects from the previous nights snow. We headed straight to the Happies so I could try and put down a long standing project, Bubba Lobotomy (V12). I started trying this climb when I was in the middle of dealing with my finger injuries earlier this season, and right away I was falling off the last move. I was instantly psyched and pleasantly surprised with how I was climbing and I thought for sure that I could do it that day. Well it didn't go quite as planned. The climb is a 12 move traverse that climbs through many two finger pockets that destroy your fingers, all capped off with a huge heartbreaking move and a double clutch to catch the finish holds. Being a route climber my whole life I thought that there was no way that I would fall off of the finishing move more than maybe one or two times, since I am so used to having to try really hard while pumped, but man was I surprised. All in all I ended up taking about 20 falls from the last move, and one time with both of the finish holds in my hands!

Anyway, with all things considered, the final move had definitely gotten inside my head. After a good warm up we headed up to the climb. I rehearsed the finish move one time, and then I was quickly able to dispatch the climb on my first try!

(Bubba Lobotomy V12)
(Very poor quality, for better quality go to

After the send we left the Happies and headed up to the Bardini boulders to try and see if we could have a rare post winter attempt on A Maze of Death. Surprisingly enough almost all of the snow had melted on the hike up and it was no problem getting there. When we reached the boulder we found Dan Beall removing toilet paper from the holds as he was attempting to dry them. After a somewhat successful effort Dan decided that he would just try to skip the wet holds, and in doing that, he came up with the most absurd beta that looked physically impossible. After a few heartbreaking attempts falling on the last move he had to call it a day.

Gregor and I also found success on the boulder problem. While neither one of us sent, we were both able to make somewhat quick work on all of the moves, before having to stop because of our bleeding fingers. We both left the boulder with a very high psych, lots of confidence and a digging desire to return and finish it off. 

Saturday night consisted of the usual; try and find something to kill time so that the morning comes and you can climb again. So this time we decided to go bowling with our friend Wes Miraglio, and keep in mind, none of us bowl with any regularity. We bowled two games and Gregor quickly jumped out to a huge lead in both games, only to have me chase him down in the later frames! :-) 

Sunday rolled around and with our tips already shredded, we made the best of it. Gregor was finally able to unlock the secret beta on the Sharma Traverse (V11) and was kind enough to share it with me. With the afternoon sun creeping over the boulder ever so quickly we had to end our attempts on it as the sloppers were getting harder and harder to hold. 

We left Bishop feeling successful and eager to get back. On our way back home we stopped in South Lake Tahoe for some pizza. Right as we sat down to eat, a little boy came running by our table, gave a little bit of a stutter step, stopped, turned to his parents and said, "I farted," and kept on running out the door.  

(HighGear SolarPod charging my phone back at 
the camp site)