Perfect Pitch

The coach of my crew team in high school had a big impact on my life as an athlete and as a person. Whenever I can't summon up the motivation for an alpine start or trip to the gym, I remember Bill and become re-inspired. One of his (numerous) wise sayings, is that "The perfect stroke has never been taken." In a 2-kilometer race, we'd take over 200 strokes, so knowing that each one of these could be improved was something that stuck in the mind of an impressionable 16-year-old.

And I think the principal applies to much of our lives. Has the 'Perfect Pitch' ever been climbed?

Dave Evans on the first (and likely one of the few) ascents of the Breathing Stone - Western Spaces Wall

I'm off this evening for an 11-day trip to Red Rock National Conservation Area. On the "to-do" list is a freeclimb of the well-known Rainbow Wall, and an additional dozen routes that we're hoping most climbers haven't done, or haven't even heard of.

The Breathing Stone, Line of Addiction, Enterprise, and Ancient Futures... these are just a few of the long, difficult(for me), and potentially excellent routes that lie hidden on the park's lesser-visited walls. But with a long list of climbs, mostly following a 1-3hr approaches, this will be a good test of my fitness and ability to climb hard day-after-day. With the RPs, offset nuts, screamers, and lots of extra tat packed away, I'm ready to have an adventure! And to have the energy and psyche to punch it through that runout on day 9 and pitch 100, I just need to work on climbing some perfect pitches. Starting tomorrow...


Mountain Climbing

I was recently asked by someone I'd just met "What kind of climbing do you like to do?"

I didn't have a very good answer. Or rather, I didn't have a very good way of saying my answer. I responded that I mostly enjoyed "mountain climbing" and left it at that, probably a pretty vague and unsatisfactory answer to what seemed a straightforward question. But I came across a quote from John Muir today that would have been a more apt description of why I most enjoy heading for an adventure in the alpine.

Thousands of nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home, that wilderness is a necessity, and that wilderness parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.

Of course, if I'd answered with all of that, I'd really have gotten an odd look.

Sunset bivy from the highest point in the North Cascades National Park, after 2 days of mountain climbing with my friend Sol Wertkin. We were "living the dream" before the 20-something mile return to the road the next day.


Neat Old Junk

Climbing a route, any route, allows the modern-day alpinist to compare his or her ascent to the prior ascents of a given peak. And for a history nerd such as myself, it's compelling to think about the same climb being done with the different technologies and techniques of past years or past generations.

Through an inability to stay on route, and the intentional desire to wander off the beaten path, I've come across an interesting array of climbing relics. Some of these I picked up in the North Cascades (old pitons in the Gunsight Range, probably from Fred Beckey's 1940 or 1967 trip) and others from Patagonia, New Zealand, or the desert Southwest.

Here are a few of the random little trinkets I've held on to:

Carabiner with no strength rating, UIAA certification, or any of that modern mumbo-jumbo. This was probably the precursor to the European brand Simond.

"Claudius Simond Chamonix"

Pitons from one of three trips to the Gunsight Range in the North Cascades. Dan Hilden and I thought our packs were heavy when we had to contend with hundreds of blown-down fir trees on the trail portion of the approach. I can't imagine doing the same trip with canvas rucksacks full of iron pitons.

Fred's AAJ entry from this second expedition to the range is so good, I have to include part of it here:

Four of us lost almost a day in just getting across the south fork of Agnes Creek, finally climbing a slippery log in a thundering canyon with the aid of about six
pitons. We then set up a tyrolean traverse from trees at a different location
for hauling packs and for the return trip out. In between these
exasperating episodes I was chased by a black bear. TO make matters
even more hectic,...

A Chouinard Hex. Moss has grown over the knot, but the part of the cord that was not exposed to sun still seems pretty strong. This came from an ascent of "The Passenger" last summer, on South Early Winter Spire.

Original flat-sided Chouinard #4 "Stopper"

And the most recent addition, a #6 "Titon" which was something invented by Kris Walker and Bill Forest. Perhaps the little tree with a "W" stands for "Forrest/Walker"? This was found on the route Jupiter II in Red Rock, along with a straight-sided stopper, stamped with the initials VB (likely for prolific Red Rock climber Paul VanBetten).

This Titon says PH on it, but I've got no clue who that is. I'm glad we're not all pounding our initials into our gear these days...