Tired Soles

I can locate the holes in my shoes by the presence of desert-red dust stains on my formerly-white socks. Slipping them off for my umpteenth time, I wonder how many more days I can coax from them. The structure is more Seam Grip than original rubber, and the foam along my heels has long since worn to nothing or been warped by the heat of too-close campfires. They’re starting to fit just perfectly.

It’s funny how we develop these emotional attachments to inanimate objects. One friend refuses to rock climb without his particular Orange Alien cam, a specimen so worn down and fallen-on, that it fits spaces too small for its original dimensions. So is it the cam he likes, or the memory of hundreds of past adventures? And am I reluctant to trash my foul-smelling shoes because I really want to wrangle one more alpine trip out them? Or am I just afraid to divorce myself from all that they’ve carried me through?

I bought the shoes from La Sportiva’s clearance rack, 20 months ago when I lived in Bellingham, worked for McNett, and still thought those people with blogs were nothing but hopeless narcissists. (Hey, some things don’t change). I’ve paid about $1.20 per month-of-use. And they haven’t exactly been sitting in my closet. The cost per pitch would likely be measured in fractions of pennies. I’m not sure if they were marketed as Running shoes, Hiking shoes, Approach Shoes, or just the good old around-town variety that everyone keeps handy. They’ve served these purposes and more.

They’ve waded Zion streams with Kurt, and tackled Rocky Mountain linkups with Kelly, they’ve tramped up to Cerro Torre with Jon, and pounded the streets of Alaska with Jason. And their soggy and icy forms held my numb toes during an unforgettable night with Sol and Jens.

But they’ve also been there to play volleyball at one wedding (my own) and to run 15 miles into Stehekin for the wedding of my friends Chelsea and JB. They remind me of how much change I’ve witnessed since their purchase, both in my life, and in the lives of those close to me. And the thought of getting rid of them makes me miss the times before these changes.

So I’ll dig the tube of Seam Grip out of or freezer and go to work, hoping to keep the shoes alive for just a little bit longer. I’m just not sure exactly what it is I’m preserving…


Red Rock Renaissance

Las Vegas sucks...

Take all the worst stereotypes of modern America, the homogenous suburbia, waste of non-existent resources, and glorification of consumption, and you paint an accurate picture of the city's foundation. Luckily for the climbers and adventurers out there, 20 minutes from the strip you can trade in poker chips and neon lights for varnished sandstone and deep canyon sunsets.

I spent the last week in Red Rock National Conservation area, including getting to climb for a day and a half in between teaching classes and doing some photography rigging. It was my third trip to Red Rock, and I was more inspired than ever to head up some of the seldom-trod climbs on hidden walls. Both personal days featured perfect rock, and good friends (Kurt and Alasdair, AAI guides from Washington state). And during Red Rock's peak season, the height of Spring Break and the Red Rock Rendezvous, we didn't encounter a single other climber. I don't mean on our routes either. I mean not a single other climber at the entire walls on which we climbed.

Bellingham-ster Garrett Grove and I are returning to Red Rock in late April to climb, photograph, and research some of the area's best obscure routes. Look for an eventual article in Rock & Ice.


A Week's Worth of Work

Learning to climb in Stehekin and Bellingham, I never had a "local" crag. And I still don't have a local crag, now I have hundreds! Last week was a climbing smorgasbord, with 6-consecutive days out, doing everything from bouldering to ice climbing, and long trad pitches mixed with short sport routes.

Here are a few shots from Le Void in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Every time I climb there, I appreciate the place more and more. Not for the high-quality stone or striking lines (gotta go elsewhere for these) but instead because the walls are so enjoyably climbable! Small seams, flakes, knobs, and edges cover all the walls, creating far more (excellent) routes than immediately meet the eye. Le Void follows a long corner crack as the moves turn from 5.9 to 5.10 to 5.11-. After a rest stance, one launches up an overhung flake, arms spanning to both sides, until you've got to commit to a few tenuous 5.11+ moves up over the flake and to another stance. From here, the rock changes from perfect to downright Cascades-esque, and Josh removed a "fixed" piton by hand while AOing through the 5.12 roof to finish off the 160' pitch. I followed and still couldn't figure out the roof sequence, but nervousness about using 1/2 of the available holds may have played a part.

To reach Le Void, we'd done Guenese through the lower roof. Here's my friend Scott hiding his eyes in shame after pulling the roof.

And more of Josh leading Le Void...

The beautiful colors of the lichen really shine in the evening light. However, evening's the time I'm cutting lemons and slicing focaccia bread at my restaurant job these days, so some early-afternoon washed-out shots will have to do.

Another day was spent ice climbing at Hidden Falls, which is just inside Rocky Mountain National Park, and reached by hiking* for a couple miles from a trailhead between Lyons, and Estes Park.

The waterfall gets climbed so much, that one doesn't even need to swing ice tool, but just place them into the many holes that other climbers have already created. It felt like climbing 5.7 rock with giant holds. But I can't really complain about too many climbers, since I was one! I was with a friend named Camilo Lopez who does expedition-style climbs around the world. This movie was created by Camilo's friend Luke, who had his first day of ice climbing at Hidden Falls that day. I think Camilo intends to use the clip for his guiding business.

At 1:53 you can see my patent-pending gear modification, in the form of a pastel-pink chunk of microfiber towel, Seam-Gripped onto my glove. My nose always runs in the cold and now I've got the fix. The trick is finding a spot that wont get torn off when you've got to bust out the gloved hand jam or other snowy grovelling.

The dry El Nino winter has been good for climbers, and bad for glaciers. It's kept approaches fairly manageable and skies fairly blue in the northwest. Local alpine heroes Wayne Wallace and Tom Sjolseth have both had really successful winter seasons in the notoriously difficult Cascades. For some beautiful photos and inspiring climbing, check out Tom's pictures from Chair Peak or his First Ascent of Assassin Spire, and Wayne's new routes on Pyramid Peak & Mt. Hood.

And my fellow Western Washington University Alumni Nate Farr has had a pretty good winter season as well, including a recent probable new route on Illumination Rock. Even better, Nathan and I were just awarded the American Alpine Club McNeill-Nott grant, for a trip this summer.

*according to Demetri Martin, hiking is just walking where it's ok to pee. I like this definition.