7.22.2016

Next Step Climbing Clinics in WA

If you are stuck on a plateau in your climbing, want to get faster and lighter on multipitch climbs, hone your crack technique, or prep for some larger alpine goals, I'm offering a series off 100% personalized instructional clinics in September - and I would be able to meet up with you at various climbing areas around Washington for a day or two of specific instruction in whatever area you want to improve!


  • Any days September 2nd - 12th
  • Index, WA Pass, Leavenworth, or any PNW route you want!
  • Run via Mountain Madness guide service




7.01.2016

Liberty Crack - First/Third Free Ascent 1,200' 5.13b


Donni Reddington - http://www.donnireddington.com/

Liberty Crack, on the East Face of Liberty Bell, is one of the most famous routes in the pacific northwest. It's an obvious natural line up a proud feature. While researching the history of the route for a guidebook ( Cascades Rock ) I learned that the route had never seen a true free redpoint ascent, but had been climbed *free* two times in two different ways. My interest was piqued and I set out to try and make a free ascent of the wall. I installed a new belay bolt high on the stance above the Lithuanian Lip, below where the bolt ladder begins. This bolt supplements an older "mammut" bolt, and a blue alien can be placed here as well. This comprises a free climbing belay.

The following slab pitch is in the .12b/c range, and has 4 protection bolts. It forms an arcing backward "C" shape to reach the belay on Liberty Crack. It would be possible to clip the first 3 of these bolts and then climb straight up to the anchors atop P3 of Freedom or Death. There was already one single bolt on this pitch (maybe an abandoned attempt?), but it was actually in an amazingly useless spot. It was removed from the pitch. This pitch features some amazing subtle patina crimps and a crucial thumb-press divot that looks like a jam cookie embedded into the wall.



After equipping the pitch for freeclimbing, I returned to Liberty Crack with my friend Nathan Hadley to attempt a free ascent. Despite being new to the area and multipitch routes, Nathan is an impressive granite climber who has already flashed .12a at Index and recently joined me for day in Leavenworth, warming up by onsighting Rainshadow (5.12), the hardest pitch at Castle Rock. He works at the Seattle Bouldering Project and can pull much harder moves than I can. Being fairly new to trad and crack climbing, he would routinely stop mid pitch to ask me which cams were bigger or smaller than other cams, then proceed to fire in the wrong size and send anyway. He proved to be a great partner.

Nathan and I needed to let the wall go into the shade, and we had ended up climbing the wall on a very warm day. After an 11AM start, we began climbing around noon, and were soon trying the Lithuanian Lip and tips crack (P2). My first couple attempts were pathetic. Unlike Nathan, I was reluctant to whip onto the upside-down piton at the lip of the roof, and I was having a hard time switching gears from delicate stemming to full-on power mode out the roof. We traded lead attempts, and my on 3rd go I pulled the roof and barely missed sticking the first good finger lock out on the face. With a blood-curdling scream and a little profanity, I flew through the air and was soon lowered to the belay, again trading rope ends with Nathan. Nathan tried again, but was again unable to complete the pitch. I think that this particular crux sequence is harder for lanky/taller folks. I racked up for my 4th go of the day (now probably about 3:30PM) with our small selection of gear (along with the 3 pins and a bolt, we were using one green alien in the roof, then one red c3, one green c3, and one small stopper). This time I was really really angry. I hadn't come this close on a pitch and then fallen off in a long time. My patience was worn thin and I was ready to be done. I managed to stick the kneebar and pull out and over the roof on try #4. With Nathan screaming me on, I linked a couple sections of .12- tips crack up to the belay.


I hauled our gear and belayed Nathan, who was still just shy of making these moves free. I know he'll be able to get them after some skin recovery and another couple days on the pitch. He gamely said he wanted to continue up the wall swapping leads as we'd planned, and off he went on the slab.
Nathan Hadley photo


He had a couple slips on the 5.12 slab, which were likely due to simple fatigue, heat, or wanting to move very fast on my account. I came pinging off the wall after the jam-cookie thumpress, but ticked a few more small holds, lowered down, and managed to send the pitch on the 2nd go. Now just the long 5.11c/d pitch remained, but it was around 5pm and some sprinkles of rain began.
Nathan Hadley photo


I hadn't taken off my shoes before I was racked up to lead. Just above the first fixed copperhead, I could feel myself sweating off the quartz edges and unable to clip a bolt while freeing. I aided up to hang a draw on the pitch's lone bolt, and lowered back down. Now armed with a little more courage but still sweating buckets and fairly exhausted, I started up the pitch. Despite some nervousness I managed to get past the 2 fixed heads and fire in a textbook #3 camalot. Thinking the pitch was over, I relaxed for a few bodylengths until things steepened again, and I found myself with a very real possibility of a big whipper onto a questionable brass wire, arms failing and sweat pouring into my eyes. I tried to get my breathing under control, placed a stopper (of course filling the best lock), and actually downclimbed and upclimbed about 4 times to try and get a decent shakeout. I could not get ANY power back and was feeling properly worried about blowing the whole ascent. In desperation I removed the stopper I'd been trusting for pro, which allowed me better purchase into the crack, and deadpointed with everything I could muster, barely sticking a finger lock near a half-driven angle piton. I again came within a hair of whipping off the pitch near the end, stabbing my cramping arms toward a finger lock while sketched out above a purple C3. The mix of too many layers of clothing, too tight of shoes for too long, and some late day adrenaline surges, had all turned this pitch into one of the hardest fought battles I'd done in a while.

 I belayed up Nathan while I caught my breath. It was almost 6pm and we'd have about 7 pitches and many rappels to manage with 3.5 hours of daylight and one headlamp.





Luckily, the route massively kicks back after this point, and despite some rain drops here and there, we topped out at dusk and managed the dark descent ok. Drinking chocolate milk and sharing some Ramen back at the car around midnight, the moon illuminated the east face of Liberty Bell and I never thought that 25 cent noodles had tasted so good.

Andy Porter Image

A little history:

Brooke Sandahl had sent the route with pre-placed protection on the crux crack pitch, and then freeclimbed where the bolt ladder ascends, backing up the original bolt hangers with a short bit of fixed line. Mikey Schaefer had sent the roof/crack pitch with protection in place, and then followed/TRed the erstwhile protectionless slab to the right of the bolt ladder. (this topo is wrong) Both then went on the complete the next long 5.11c/d pitch and the entirety of the route. My only minor improvement in style was to place the protection on the crux pitch. Though with such a short pitch and some pins and a bolt, there isn't much protection needed.




  • 25 years ago, famous Oregon/California climber Brooke Sandahl and a couple friends set out to free the route. They used portaledges 150' up and spent a few days working the route. Brooke was generous enough to provide some photos and an account of their time on the route. 

  •  
Brooke: Yes, sent the roof with the gear left in place!  I graded it 5.13a - and I tend to grade things for someone with no knowledge of the route (ie trying it onsight) who would go up there and figure out the sequences and place the gear on lead. I think if that was done - then 13a is fairly close!  Generally I could care less about grades/numbers, I use them only to give people a general indication of around what difficulty they may find.  I had done a number of 13a's onsight at that point...but wasn't even close to doing the roof (even) in a day, (took me three days of cleaning, placing the gear, rehearsing and then sending) - regardless its a really cool sequence of moves!

Bolt Ladder:  I followed the old devil horns (1/4" bolts), very closely & just under them on the original aid ladder.  They were in very poor shape, some more than halfway pulled out & seriously bent over...so I didn't want to fall on them and pull them all the way out or slam in a bunch of new ones.  To me, part of the allure of an alpine route is using the things you find along the way.  Those original bolts had a lot of history and character...and they were part of that route, if one pulled while you were climbing...then you'd have to improvise ( way before cheater sticks were common place) to get past it to the next bolt or not.  Didn't feel like it was my call to alter this for others. 

I also didn't think people would be lining up anytime soon too free the route either and my assumption was correct...as I think Mikey is the only one to even get tr linkage.  The bolt ladder section is pretty freakin' hard...but totally my kind of climbing, bouldery, on really small crimps..and I did it my first try with the rope on (after totally dialing it the day before).  Again, since I went through it first go I felt it to be around 12c.  But, its pretty low percentage, easy climbing to fall off of & condition dependent...so may in fact be harder than the roof section itself??  To me personally the roof section felt a bit harder!  Again, need more people doing it to really reach a concensus!  I was really stoked to get through it first try...as I could see flailing on that thing pretty easily!  

Mikey: I quickly free climbed up to the lip and promptly pulled on a few pieces up and over the lip again. I continued on to the bolt by the little stance and had Kate lower me from there. I made sure all of the gear was where I wanted as I went by. A pinkpoint attempt would have to do right now.Back at the lower belay I pulled the rope, gave myself a little inward motivational talk, laced my shoes a little tighter and started upwards. For some reason I had the heebee jeebess inside me, which is something I usually only get when I’ve been trying really hard to redpoint a pitch. At this point my attachment to sending this pitch wasn’t that high so I was surprised to feel this way.As I reached the base of the roof a strong breeze kicked up cooling the stale morning heat. I stuck the entry sequence better than I had previously and was quickly and blindly pinky locking over the roof. A few primal screams, a heal hook and deadpoint to the good lock brought me over the roof. I shook out from the good lock in a state of amazement wondering how the hell I just pulled that off. Kate says I have a knack for pulling shit out of my ass, this may have been one of those times. I finished up the next short tricky sections with less thrutching than expected.

I chilled out on the stance for a bit trying to decide what to do. I ended up yarding past the original bolts to get to the anchor on top of pitch 2. Kate quickly followed with some good french free technique.I had to figure out what to do about the steep slab section below. There was no way I was going to lead that thing and I really doubted that Brooke Sandahl (who did the FFA) had lead that pitch with the single bolt. [He had not] He must of done some sort of monkey trick to protect it. I had heard stories of him fixing a line from some anchor and using that for pro but I had always figured that was for the section past the Lithuanian Lip. I have no idea what he did but I don’t know of many people that would lead that pitch in it’s current state. If it were me doing the FFA I would of had a total of 4 bolts protecting the slab. I need to email Brooke and find out more details.I decided I would have to settle for the toprope for the time being if I could even pull that off. After an hour or so of toiling on the pitch yesterday I still had a couple moves I couldn’t do and a move I only pulled off once. As I lowered down with my nose 6 inches away from the rock inspecting every fleck, chip or bump for potential I realized this was going to be really hard. I worked the upper moves on the pitch for almost an hour before I could figure out the 10 foot traverse back to the anchor. This was the move I couldn’t do yesterday so I figured I had it in the bag after lapping the move 3 times in a row. After a short rest I lowered down to give the whole pitch a burn. To my dismay I fell off the lower portion of the slab over and over and over again. I had done this part somewhat casually yesterday but that was in the shade. It was now approaching noon and with high’s in the 80’s things weren’t feeling very sticky. I can’t even count how many times it took me to figure out the moves on the lower bit. Again after 3 straight laps I figured I had it wired. Up at the belay I rested for awhile pondering my chances of sending. I wouldn’t of put 5 bucks on the table saying I’d send next go. But luckily i beat my own odds on my next attempt. It had all the makings of good redpoint (though i was only on TR) , blown sequences, deadpoints to crappy holds, fighting back the urge of the Elvis leg and just barely sketching it out to the belay. I was glad to have that one over. Even though it wasn’t in the best style I’ll take it for what its worth given the lack of info and time I could put into it. The pitch could really use some more bolts if anyone besides the likes of Tommy or Honold are going to go up there and truly redpoint it.

6.16.2016

10 Non-Essentials

I recently spoke at the Boeing Alpine Club in Seattle, which is a really supportive and enthusiastic group of climbers with a wide range of abilities and experience levels. It was fun to chat with the group, and one of the topics I was thinking about is the variety of items that I don't typically use or carry, but which many people bring along.


  • Camelback systems - These are heavy, cumbersome, hard to fill (relative to a bottle), hard to pack in/out of a full bag, horrible in the cold where they freeze up, bad amid bushwhacking, and make it hard to know how much of the liquid you've got left or have consumed. I'd only bring one if there's simply a long casual summertime hike into a basecamp area, from which I'd be doing short climbs. (Wind Rivers, Pasayten...)
  • Quick Links - These get rusted shut and are hard to remove from the bolt that one uses them to bail from. Just bail from a wiregate with a sticky gate. It's far easier and doesn't require you carrying around a special "just in case" gizmo for months or years beforehand.
  • Rap Rings - See above. When rapping from new cord or webbing, you don't need to leave any metal at all.
  • 1" Webbing - Use ~5mm cord
  • Nut Tool - For long routes or difficulty backcountry rock climbs at or near my limit, I often wont bring a nut tool. I don't place or fall onto too many small wires amid this kind of climbing, and don't mind having to leave the random piece behind if needed.
  • Maps - Don't bring a paper map, download a super cheap phone map APP like "Topo Maps" - It lets you download all the maps for the area where you'll be, then you can put your phone in airplane mode, and the internal GPS will show you just where you are on the map.
  • Water Pumping Gizmos - Drink from small feeder streams or tributary sources that are running from snow patches or terrain not crossed by popular trails. You'll be fine.
  • Dishes (on serious multiday climbs) - Just eat a freeze dried meal from a durable pouch on day1, and then use the bottom half of that bag/pouch for future meals.
  • Knife - It's easy to cut webbing or cord with an ice axe, lighter, cam lobe, or small rock. Just hold the piece taut and hack away.
  • Pack Frame - Use your foam or inflatable pad and fold it into the frame sleeze.
  • Hexes, Medium-Large Tricams, Cordelletes, Padded gear slings, Large Lockers, Snowshoes, Gaiters - Nerd Alert!

4.20.2016

Cascades Film

Over the past 2 months I've done about 12 slideshow events around the PNW related to the release of my new guidebook to the multipitch and alpine climbing in the Cascades. It has been great to see friends and meet new climbers everywhere from Bellingham to Beaverton and Spokane to Vancouver, BC. If you're interested in buying this book, you can get it here. At these events I've given a slideshow and then shown a film about climbing in the Stuart Range.






The subject of the film was a 24 hour alpine rock climbing marathon conceived by myself and Jens Holsten several years ago, when we realized that our 3 favorite area routes were all amazing new freeclimbs, all with roughly the same grade, and all on different mountains near our home. It would become our motivator to try and complete ascents of each of these peaks and routes in a single day from the car. The 20 miles of hiking and the necessary transitions and rappels meant that we'd have to do each route in under 4 hours. This wasn't something we were very confident in being able to do. A couple days before we set out to try it, we sat down for a beer at the brewery with local ski/bike/paddle photo and video guru Shane Wilder. Shane was moderately interested in the idea of a climbing film, but knew we'd need a lot of help. And as much as Jens and I though it would be rad to make a video, we weren't going shift the focus away from our climbing challenge by taking time or added weight required to film and pose down on our attempt, or go back and re-create stuff later. Fortunately, good friends Max Hasson and Shaun Johnson agreed to go film. Those guys did all the technical shots, achieved by climbing easier routes up the first and third mountains and fixing ropes from the summits toward where Jens and I climbed. The footage of the middle peak (Dragontail) came from distant shots that Shane managed from the trail, and our small point-and-shoot. (Dragons of Eden has spacious belay ledges). Without Shaun, Max, and Shane, this movie wouldn't have happened. It's the only film I know of that shows climbing in the Cascades. As these areas grow in popularity, let's all strive to keep them as clean and pristine as ever.

1.27.2016

Back to Chulilla, Spain



'Chorreras' zone, with 'Masters' zone behind.


I went to Spain for some amazing sport climbing over the holidays, and climbed the entire time (maybe 18 climbing days?) at the gorges around the small town of Chulilla, roughly 40 minutes inland (west) from Valencia on Spain's Mediterranean coast. 

Single-pitch climbing doesn't get much more fun, and Chulilla has a great lineup of classics. Most of the really world-class climbing is in the 7c-8b range (Basically mid 5.12 to hard 5.13). If you can climb .12- you'll have a good time, but there's not a lot of great (or uncrowded) climbing easier than that. I spent most of my time trying to onsight or flash routes. Mostly I failed at that, but did manage to do quite a few routes 2nd or 3rd go! Highlights were onsighting a 40+ meter 8a (even hanging the draws like a true tourist), and sending an 8a+ on my second day/3rd go.

Scopin' Lines
Here are a list of 5-star classics that I'd suggest for anyone visiting the area. Each of these pitches is truly fantastic.

Front Side (AKA Pared Enfrente wall, AKA the wall that faces the town) - We could see this wall form our balcony.
Allison and I. We need a selfie stick.

Conflicto Territorial - 7a+/.12a  Excellent technical stemming and pockets in a long warmup with a high crux.

Los Franceses - 7b+/.12   A double or triple-roofed corner with some crack climbing, leading up to 10-15m of overhanging tufa pinches and pockets.

Ramallar - 7c/.12+  A 40+ meter marathon! Amazing technical overhanging face climbing for 20m to a kneebar tufa, then 20m of tufas and pockets out a final bulge. A contrived direct finish variation is a bit harder. Skip the first few draws to make belaying easier.

Remanso de Las Mulas - 7c+/.13a   Thin face climbing and commiting crimps lead into sustained tufa pinching and a hero finish.

Las Clochas de Targa - 8a+/5.13   Pumpy and sequential climbing for 25m (with a few rests) leads to an OK shakeout before suddenly confronting a relative slab crux, where barely-overhaning stone is dotted with too many tiny, upside-down holds. This is one is all about keeping it together as you probably wont be clipping the final bolt if you send via some tenuous trickery.

Entre Dos Caminos - 8a/5.13-  Stellar twin tufa climbing to a rest, to soe technical and blind cruxy climbing 10-20m up. The final half of this route is immaculate and just hard enough to keep your attention, as folks were blowing the redpoint on the final few moves.
My friend Moritz and I went "Dawn Walling" -
(rope trickery and bandalooping to reach the belay ledge)



Back Side (AKA the mile-long shady wall that holds every "sector" from Pared Blanca to Masters)
There are about 100 amazing routes in the image. Note ropes hanging 50'+ out from wall.

Plan Z - 7a/.11+  Excellent barely-overhanging technical face climbing.

Danos Colaterales  - 7b+/.12  This one is 25' of thin, granite-ish techery, then an amazing long stretch of overhanging pockets and pinches, with a final crux gunning for the jug under the anchors as the holds get worse and worse.

Barrieros - 7c/.12+   The top route at the newly-developed Masters zone, on the far right (west) end of the gorge. This climb is world class, ascending dripping tufa flows past numerous roof and bulge features.

Super Cantina Marina - 8a/.13-   An unforgettable marathon (43m?) combining technical tufa stemming, voodoo crimping, and steep flakes.

Nibelungalos - 7c/.12   Gently overhanging 30m of dripping pinches, pockets, small flakes, and some major committing movies with the chance for enormous airtime. Hardest moves are low down, but everyone was falling up high.

 El Diablo Viste de Prana  - 7c+/.13-  Several cruxes include numerous places where you've got to fight or fly. There are some small/sharp pockets and a bit of real crimping on this one.

Planeta Namek  - 8a/.13a  This one is somewhat unusual for Chulilla in that it's got a definite stand-out crux down low (V5?). A couple of the higher moves were reminiscent of granite no-hands standups.

Steepness is evident. Climber on Tequila.
Tequila Sunrise  - 7c+/.13a   This is the easiest line (but an amazing one) on the overhanging Balconcito Wall. Crux climbing is down low, and learning the left-knee kneebar is crucial. Really fun single steep tufa to begin. Tie knots in the ends (or have the belayer tie in) even with an 80m.You've got to have a second rope handy to throw out to the lowering-off climber so you can reel them back in to the belay ledge.

El Bufa  - 8a/.13b   A powerful boulder problem off the get-go leads to a nice tufa-chair rest. The upper 35m is a marathon of minor cruxes, culminating in a committing boulder problem above the last bolt. Tie knots in the ends (or have the belayer tie in) even with an 80m.You've got to have a second rope handy to throw out to the lowering-off climber so you can reel them back in to the belay ledge.

Montana Magica  - 8b/.13+   Basically a parallel and harder version of El Bufa, with sustained long reaches on crimpy .12/12+ headwall climbing up high. Tie knots in the ends (or have the belayer tie in) even with an 80m.You've got to have a second rope handy to throw out to the lowering-off climber so you can reel them back in to the belay ledge.

Los Veteranos - 8a/.13b    This is a steep route by Chulilla standards, tackling a series of powerful roofs and bulges. Really gymnastic and powerful climbing! If using the tree just before the anchor isn't allowed, I guess I'm a Washington climber and couldn't help myself.
Myself exploding a foothold off Veteranos
Agente Naranja - 8a/.13b   One of the proudest and most varied lines in Chulilla. 40m of everything, including a steep boulder start, techy face moves, stemming, and a wild arete up high. The final bolt is REALLY hard to clip without a long draw.

Super Zeb - 7c/.11+   This route is an excellent stemming and face climbing pitch right above the trail. And although it's 40m and never truly easy, I think it demonstrates the differences in style/familiarity for different climbers. It's a stemming feature and I swear it'd be .11+ at Index or Trout Creek (it gets .12+ in local grades). There aren't always handholds.

Altos, Guapos, y Fuertes - 8a/.13-   This thing is powerful and bouldery down low, but doesn't much relent. You'll have to fight for any rests and keep it together on all 40m. One of the best in Chulilla.

Siempre Se Puede Hacer Menos - 8a/.13-   I only climbed to anchor #1, there is an anchor #2 and a anchor #3. The whole thing is 64m and 5.14c. I was worked after managing the numerous cruxes and style switches on the 40m first pitch. Excellent, varnished stone and cartoonish tufa daggers.

High up on the Balcon sector, east end of the far gorge. Camera is tilted to make it appear slabby.

12.01.2015

Cascades Rock : A New Guidebook



I wrote a book! It's been about 3 years in the making and is the product of thousands of hours of writing, editing, design work, and begging friends and climbers partners for beta-revision and to use their photos. I hesitate to use the term "select guide" because my goal was to include EVERY worthwhile alpine and alpine-ish (Snow Creek Wall, Darrington, etc) multipitch climb. I wanted all good routes of

All Grades
All Ages
Known Classics
New Obscurities
Across WA and southern BC

The finished product is 272 full color pages, 160 routes, dozens of topos that exist nowhere else, and interviews or contributions from well-known climbers and photographers.
Bad news: The books arrive for distribution in late January.

Good News:  Everyone who orders before Christmas will receive a confirmation with the cover image, and an additional 4 pages of expanded descriptions, photos, and exclusive detailed topos for two routes that do not have illustrated topos in the book itself. (Serpentine Crack on Liberty Bell, and Davis-Holland to Lovin' Arms on Index's Upper Town Wall). This bonus is a way to thank anyone for pre-ordering the book, and will ensure that if you're buying Cascades Rock as a holiday gift, you'll have something tangible to put under the tree or in a stocking to keep climbers psyched until the new year!

Check out the website



11.18.2015

The Best Small Cams


I don't write much about gear. Overall there is a huge amount of good or great outdoor gear for whatever you want to do, be it fly fishing or ice climbing or rock cragging. Even the low-end stuff of today is probably better than the high-end stuff from 15 years ago. But one type of gear that DEFINITELY makes a difference is cams.

About 80% of climbers (and about 100% of climbers whose opinions should be trusted) prefer BD Camalots for cams thin-hand size and up. (#.75-#4) But in the smaller sizes, where placements get trickery, more finnicky, harder to inspect, easier to blow, and generally weaker, there isn't very much consensus. I learned to climb on a mix of cams, and still prefer a mix, but my favorite model is the Totem Basic Cam.

The Totem Basic is essentially a CCH Alien without all those pesky flaws (made in a garage by drunk Wyoming rednecks, tendency to explode under bodyweight...). The Spanish gurus at Totem took everything good about the Alien design (flexible, durable, works on 2-lobes for bodyweight, somehow alway seems bomber) and made them better by swapping in:



  1. An actual UIAA/CE certified manufacturing process where they don't forget to weld or braze the pieces together, and there is testing.
  2. The trigger wires are different and better than the old CCH version
  3. The Trigger is shaped and colored to match the cam, as are the lobes
  4. And the new BLUE ALIEN (AKA Blue Basic Cam) is much narrower than the old CCH, which was actually wider (even though it only worked in thinner cracks) than the old next size up, the green.
    Old CCH alien (right) was really wide, yet only fit into thin cracks. That was fixed with putting spring inside the lobes, and making the end-caps slimmer.
Another Spanish company, FIXE, also is making similar models. They actually bought the rights to legally call their cams Aliens. But despite making good bolts and hardware, their FIXE Aliens are atrocious, with lots of pretty obvious problems.
This (FIXE model)is NOT the alien you're looking for...



I've bought a full set of the Totem Basics online from Rock&Snow, a shop in New York which shipped free across the USA and charged no sales tax. They often have 20% off sales. Backcountry.com stocks totem basics and has these sales often as well.

Totem Basic and BD C3. BD is narrower, Totem is more flexible. They contrast nicely.


I think the perfect small-cam rack is a set of BD C3 cams from purple to Yellow (they are stiff, really narrow, and a good contrast to the Totems), a set of Totem Basics from Blue to Red, a a couple of the offset Totem Basics (blue/green, green/yellow).

Totem Basics (green is shown) are slightly narrower, and more flexible/durable than the BD X4 cams.


This (Fixe model) is NOT the Alien you're looking for. These breakage happened one day1 with mine and many others.




     

    9.28.2015

    Supercave Wall Free Route

    Over the course of 3 days this summer, my friend Max Tepfer and I freed the original 1969 route on the Supercave Wall near Washington Pass, just east of Liberty Bell. I had previously sent what would become P4 of this route at ~.12b, and thought it would all be easy below that. However, at a leftward traverse which had been done at A4 via upward-driven knifeblade pitons, we were stymied and unable to send. With cooler temps and some clouds in the sky, we freed this section at 5.12- and it involves a horizontal slab dyno to a fishbowl hueco. Not your normal granite slabbery.

    This route was put up by some true PNW hardmen who climbed it with about 1.5 billion pitons (some of which we removed) and 1 bolt. We added 3 protection bolts (these sections had been done at A3 or A4 on pitons) with the permission of Jim Langdon of the FA.

    The route is definitely a modern classic and features flawless stone and some amazing pitches. Here are a few photos and a topo:













    5.13.2015

    Rock & Ice Classics

    In the past few months I've gotten out and climbed on a few trips to classic areas that were new to me: Yosemite and the Canadian Rockies.


    Chris Tirrell working the line
    Before those trips I managed the FA of a really fun thin face/bouldering pitch at Trout Creek on the day thatthe wall closed for the seasonal eagle nest intermission. I love crosswords, and crossword-puzzle-builders love the word "Aerie" - which is an eagle nest. The route was named "aerie interlude" in deference to my crossword obsession and the much more famous "Airy Interlude" in the Needles of California. It goes at .12d or so (V5 to a V6/V7) and protects with very thin but bomber cams and wires. Again, no bolts have been used or needed on any route at Trout Creek. Trout opens back up for climbing in a few days (May 15) and I definitely suggest this climb, even just as a great end of the day TR after climbing Gateway or one of the 5.10 routes over to the left.

    Jens Holsten and I took a trip to the Canadian Rockies to climb some long classic waterfall ice routes, and we were graciously hosted by our friend Steven Swenson who fit us into his schedule of guests and itinerant dirtbags who overwhelm his condo in Canmore Alberta.
    Jens gets us going on Carlsberg Column near Field, BC

    We were both amazed by the scale, beauty, and access of the peaks in the Rockies. The ice was fat and blue. Screws actually would hold a fall. This was not Washington slush ice. The first day in the area Jens and I climbed Carlsberg Column in the Field, B.C. area, and then we stopped by Lake Louise and strolled past the amazingly ornate lodge, walked past kids skating and playing hockey, and found ourselves under Lake Louise Falls, which we climbed as well.
    The view from one end of Lake Louise
    The other end of Lake Louise
    The second day we drove up to the Icefields Parkway and began to climb the Weeping Wall, but realized that there was a reason we had the place to ourselves - the ice was turning white and getting sun baked. After reserving a spot at the Rampart Creek Hostel, we backtracked to the trailhead for Murchison Falls, and climbed a route just left of Murchison, a stunning and scenic WI5 called "My Daddy's a Psycho". By "we climbed" I really mean "Jens climbed" -- I basically lead the easier (WI3 and WI4) pitches, while Jens took the WI5 pitches.

    Jens on a WI5 pitch of a Murchison Falls variation
    Murchison falls is 1-2 miles above the road in a beautiful setting
    After a sleepless night in the noisy and sauna-like atmosphere of the hostel bunk room, we got up early and climbed the amazing Polar Circus route, a long and ever-steepening series of frozen waterfalls that is among the most famous ice climbs in the world. After driving back to Canmore and resting for a day, Jens and I were joined by Ian Yurdin of Bend, and our guide/rally car driver Steve Swenson for a trip into the fabled Ghost Valley on the eastern front range in Alberta. Steve's Subaru Outback made it pretty far, despite falling snow, large drifts, semi-frozen river crossings, and 3 terrified passengers. I realized that I had forgotten my crampons, but Steve realized that he had climbed our intended route 3 times already this year, and was happy to let Ian join Jens and I on the climb. We completed a very cold and snowy ascent of The Sorcerer, complete with frozen eyelashes and eyelids on the final steep headwall pitch.









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    I heard they designed that rock based on the North Face logo...
    Later this spring, I final made a trip to Yosemite where I had the amazing opportunity to climb the Zodiac Wall on El Capitan with Dan Nordstrom who owns Outdoor Research, and with Maria Hines, who owns 3 of the premiere restaurants in Seattle, not to mention being a champion of the Iron Chef TV show. I was mostly along for the ride as a dabbler in all types of climbing, but I learned a lot about hauling, portaledge camping, dawn-walling, harness-sleeping, and aid sketchery. The most memorable event was catching Dan's near-factor-2 fall midway up the route, as his GriGri and 1 jumar were knocked off his harness and free-fell over 1,000' to the deck. The Zodiac Wall is steep, and water falling off the final pitch lands dozens of feet out from the base of El Cap on its steep right side. After a couple days of resting/cragging/bouldering I teamed up with new friend Ricardo Varga, a Mexican sport climber from Portrero Chico, who was just learning to trad climb. We rallied up the classic Astroman, despite getting jammed up behind (5!) teams on a wednesday, including a Euro party engaging in classic Euro shenanigans such as laybacking all the cracks, yarding up a haul bag, and falling out of the Harding Slot and spending hours dangling in space under the gaping maw. I got to lead the whole route apart from an approach pitch, and felt good about on-sighting the famous climb and my first real Yosemite experience. 5.9 is physical, hard, and calorie-intensive in Yosemite!

    Ricardo follows the Enduro Corner on Astroman
    Ricardo on the Changing Corners pitch
    Slotting myself into the belly of the beast, and executing the 180-degree turn. Index flares have taught me well!
    Laybacking under the Harding Slot

    2.16.2015

    Southern Spain - Jaen & Cordoba

    James Lucas photo - last climb of the trip

    Typical Spain: olive orchards, goats, multiple 5.14 climbers, and some americans
    trying not to flail too hard.

    It's a small climbing world. Last spring I was top-roping in Leavenworth with Fred Beckey, when I noticed a very strong climber circuiting nearby boulders. We began chatting, and through his thick Spanish accent, it became apparent that he was an accomplished Spanish alpinist who also had no problem onsighting V8 boulder problems. His name was Pedro Diaz, and he ended up staying in Leavenworth with me, and climbing for a couple days with my wife and I before heading back home. Pedro had just gotten back from the Revelation mountains in Alaska, and had many many trips to the USA to climb. We decided to meet up and climb again. Last we didn't cross paths, but this winter when I decided to go to Spain, I was immediately invited by Pedro to check out his home area of Cordoba and Jaen. This area (south-central Spain) has some amazing huge caves, a rural feel, relaxed cities, low costs, and friendly climbers. After being in Chulilla, I took the $50 AVE high-speed train from Valencia to Cordoba, and Pedro met me at the station, with American James Lucas, and Brit Hazel Findlay. The 4 of us were off to one of Pedro's favorite walls.

    We climbed for a few days on massively overhanging limestone walls, working routes despite very cold weather. We had a small fire at the crag a couple of days, and experienced several snow squalls, but stayed dry. The final day, we arrived to find meter-long icicles hanging from many of the tufas. I asked Pedro what the Spanish word for icicle was, and he claimed that there wasn't one (at least in common usage in Andalusia) - it was basically something that never happened around there.

    Looks steep up there, better use the
    kneebar sleeve. 
    It was great having Pedro show us his favorite lines, and it was fun to watch the rapid and dynamic climbing style of the local crushers. James, Hazel, and I threw ourselves at various projects and onsight attempts, with my personal highlight being my first flash of a 8a route / .13b route, called Conde Dracula. Dracula takes the full span of a huge cave, overhanging at least 40' in the first section. It's easy to belay and see the climber by simply turning around and staring out from the start of the climb. Since it's so steep, you can easily watch someone leading by looking backward from the base. It features 10 or 12 bolts worth of climbing out the first tier of the roof, then a rest between tufas, and an overhanging headwall of another 6-8 bolts of 5.12 climbing with a bit of chimney/tufa action at the top. Most climbers probably don't do the chimney technique, but I had to get a bit of Index/granite style body smushing in somewhere! I sent the climb despite fully frozen hands, and sat through the full pain cycle of screaming barfies in the tufa rest, watching snow fall across the valley. Thanks James for the long and boring belay! A few climbs to the left of Conde Dracula is an open project ("Somos Chromosomos") that's been attempted by Adam Ondra, and may end up being the world's hardest route if it ever gets sent. The other climbing highlight was a .13c/d masterpiece called "Lagunas Mentales" which I many-hanged my way up on the first day, and last day there. It's 35m of tufa pinching and pocket grabbing, using technical sequences up a steep plaque of striped rock - definitely one of the pitches I'll never forget.

    Hazel on Lagunas Mentales
    On a rest day, James and I got lost and went on a self-guided tour of Jaen. The highlight being when James (who barely spoke any Spanish) went into a tiny fabric store, pulled up his shirt, and pulled down the fly on his trousers to expose a missing button on the pants to the occupants of the tiny shop. No words had been exchanged at that point, and the only other people in the tiny store were some silver haired Spanish women to whom James was (almost) exposing himself. They eventually figured out that he needed to buy a button to replace the missing one, but in the interim, they asked us if were baffled that somehow being smelly, unshaven, ostentatiously dressed, then pulling down your pants as a means of greeting a grandmother is something that made them think "aha! missionaries!" The trip ended with Pedro dropping me off at the AVE/Renfe (high-speed rail) station in Cordoba, and I caught the morning train to Madrid, and the cross-town metro to the airport. I highly suggest using the fast trains in Spain, the prices are great ($50-$70 to go across the country) and things are way faster and easier than flying. American Airlines and their partner airlines fly round-trip to many Spanish destinations for 40,000 miles - AKA 1 credit card signup bonus.


    James lowers off Conde Dracula

    Very little of the climbing is bouldery, but Pedro stuck the dyno this thing this (V10? / 5.hard)

    James on the tufa rest

    Pedro's amazing house in downtown Cordoba, next to ancient castles, mosques, and bridges.

    Plant grape vine in gutter. Wait 3 generations. Harvest grapes and wine from the roof.

    I am very gluten tolerant.