Desert Solitaire

I am currently back in Denver following a whirlwind of too much driving and too much wind (and just the perfect amount of whirl).

Without much to write or ruminate on, here are some pictures and videos from the last couple of weeks of my life.

The famous Bastille in Eldorado Canyon

As one can tell, approaches here in Colorado are monstrous.

Apart from applying for jobs, I found myself thoroughly distracted today when Kelly Cordes at the American Alpine Journal released this month's Alpine Briefs which is a fun and entertaining digest of news release that they have begun creating. I found it to be snugly, comfortable, and similar to these Lowe- alpine briefs, if somewhat less itchy. It was altogether preferable to the third type of alpine briefs which Kelly had tried to flash me while stemming out the crux of our route in Eldorado Canyon the week before.

The dispatch from the AAJ also featured a couple of cool videos produced by friends and acquaintences, including Nico Favresse, Sean Villanueva, and Mason Earle highlighting the Patagonian winds and their musical inclinations. Those guys bring their instruments with them all over the world and up big-walls, and they were happy to indulge us while I taught them the art of baking Empanadas.

I also noticed a pretty picture of Cedar Wright 'bouldering' or soloing a 5.11c sport climb near El Chalten, which was posted on his trip blog.

It's really impressive to watch someone climb tha well. In February I posted a couple photos of my friend falling on this route, and he routinely gets 5.12 climbs onsight. It took me several tries to redpoint the route, and it had my friend Paul resorting to full-on aid shenanigans to make it to the top.

My last couple weeks of climbing have been in Red Rock (where I taught at the Red Rock Rendezvous for two days with Outdoor Research) and a couple days of climbing in Indian Creek on the way back.

The first day I went climbing with Christian Folk from OR.

Here are Casey and Justin from Trango getting the royal treatment on Prince of Darkness.

And Christian and I, messing around on the Black Velvet wall.

Following the event, I climbed 5 days in Red Rock with some of the folks from the American Alpine Institute, including my friend Alasdair Turner, with whom I did Levitation 29 and Cloud Tower.

Myself and Alasdair on Levitation:

The results of new shoes! Lunch time atop the Eagle Wall.

To round out our day, we thoroughly enjoyed the Edward Abbey-esque canyon on the walk down.

We climbed cloud tower as 2 groups of 2, which was a lot of fun and meant neither team had to bring an extra rope for the descent. Alasdair and myself were accompanied by Viren Perumal and Aiden Loher, also American Alpine Institute guides.

Aiden on Pitch1

Cloud Tower pitch 3 - This route is amazing

Here's Alasdair working the crux on pitch 4

The final pitch

No pictures from Indian Creek (who wants to see splitters and sunsets time after time?) but my friend from Seattle is flying down this week, so unless weather improves soon, we might be off to the desert once more...


Desert -> Denver

I am in Denver, where I will be for a while until heading to FABULOUS LAS VEGAS for the Red Rocks Rendezvous. I would be excited to post some pics and story about how the Rendezvous is going to go, but I don't think I can. After all, what happens in Vegas...

Anyhow, we drove through Indian Creek, the Castle Valley, and the Fisher towers, getting in some good climbing on the way.

Here's our friend Viren (AAI guy and Bellinghamer) leading Crack Attack at Indian Creek.

Allison taking advantage of the TR

Here is Allison appropriately dressed for the route 'Think Pink'

It was Allison's first time in Indian Creek, and neither of us could get over how quiet it was!

I took an introspective moment to decipher some ancient pictographs... I think I have them figured out.

We ended up in the Castle Valley hoping to climb Fine Jade, and although it had snowed a little the night before, the sun was coming out in force!

But as we reached the base of the climb a huge black cloud swept across the valley, and soon it was a full-on snow storm with thunder and lightning as well. We headed for a cave around to the left of the first pitch.

What a great climb!

After an hour of shivering we headed back down to the car. And although the sun emerged later in the day, the route would have been wet and cold.

We headed to the Fisher Towers, walked around the crazy formations, and listened to the rockfall as the soaked sandstone began to dry out...


El Mocho

With about 48 hours left in Patagonia, and a very sore knee, I was resigned to spending my last days in town before hopping on the bus to the airport. However, an 18-20 hour window of stable weather appeared on the forecast, scheduled to hit the area the day before my plane ride. I didn't want to pass up my last chance.

I hooked up with Jon Gleason from Yosemite (originally a native of North-Central Washington) and we headed into the Torre Valley to try and climb El Mocho, a flat-topped satellite peak to Cerro Torre.

The plan was to hike in on the afternoon and evening on Wednesday, in order to climb and hike out Thursday. The base camp on the glacier below El Mocho is called Nipo Nino, and getting there requires about 15 miles of travel over various terrain from the town.

The glacier has changed significantly in the last year, and we spent a lot of time trying to avoid all the streams and ice canyons that crossed our path.

Here are some friends negotiating the Tyrolean traverse (heading back toward town). On the day before, one of these guys had base-jumped off El Mocho for a production of 'Sender Films' and the two guys who descended El Mocho the normal way got stuck in an storm, got 2 ropes stuck on the rappels, and didn't make it back to the base until 2AM!

After leaving Chalten at 4:30pm we made it to the camp just as darkness fell. I was happy to have left my bivy bag and sleeping pad at home, because i found a cache of foam pads under a rock, and comandeered an old Argentine waterproof mail sack to use as an extra layer. There were a few other parties in camp, including the Belgian/American climbing team and musical trio that I had befriended in town. They would climb a different route on El Mocho on Thursday.

We woke up to clear weather on Thursday and after a delicious breakfast of Gu and powerbars, soon found ourselves at the baseof the peak. The route went great, with pitch after pitch of beautifully clean granite. The total length was aroun 500 meters, with most pitches 5.10, and a 5.11 crux. There was a pendulum move rated A2, but it was definitely more like A0.

Jon tops out on the crux pitch

The weather was amazing, but we could see moisture accumulating and noticed some high clouds blowing in as we finished the last few pitches. Here is a low-quality video taken high on the climb.

Here are Nico, Sean, and Mason across the way on a second El Mocho route. We had a blast hooting and hollering to these guys all day.

The summit of El Mocho is a big snowy slope, and Cerro Torre rises up another 700m or so from the far side. As I had to be back in town in 12 hours from the summit, we quickly began the descent.

We soon made it down the route, and bootiedtwo stuck ropes from the party the day before. As we pulled our last rope the wind began in earnest, and after 15 minutes more we were getting blown around and soaked from waterfall spray, rain, and the sudden gales.

The hike out must have been in world-record time, as the wind assisted out skittering back along 5 miles of ice and I ran to keep up with Jon. We arrived utterly soaked and exhausted in Chalten just in time for late-night dinner and a short nap before my ride to the airport!