Monday, March 30, 2009


We had a snow day on Friday so we had plenty of time, but we also had plenty of snow. We decided not to go climbing in it. The only new climbing related thing I did this weekend, was surf some internet climbing sites. Here's what I found.

The new NC3 website is up, and it includes Ben and Cameron's Poudre Guidebook! An important meeting concerning Rotary issues will be held at the Mountain Shop, Ft. Collins at 6:30 this Thursday April 2nd. Ricky's Blog has more info. If you care about Rotary Bouldering and live in the area, please attend.

The Rocky Mountain Highball Website got updated quite a few days ago now, and news has spread quickly. The trailer is now on my Ipod Nano, and I'm looking forward to the show on April 27th. The movie has interviews with all the climbers I'm most interested in, and it's bouldering here in Colorado. If I could wish for a bouldering video to be made, it would be just like this one. Ashley is already looking forward to a possible sequel Rocky Mountain Traverse!
If it ever gets made, it should definitely include the traverses below.

I can hear the quotes now. "It's always less scary when you're not climbing up. Ten feet off the ground you start to think about consequences. Ten inches off the ground, that's where you really go for it."

The possibility is still over a year away, but we're thinking about a trip to Rocklands, South Africa. A Rocklands Bouldering Website answered most of the questions we have.
That's all the news this week. Hopefully the weather will work out this weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Photos of Ashley by Daniel Brayack

Daniel is a professional climbing photographer, and he shot photos of Ashley working "Better Eat Your Wheaties" on our last day at Hueco. Here are my favorites.

You can see more of Daniel's excellent photography at his website Some of the best climbing shots are on his Portfolio (Flash) page.
Thanks Daniel!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Missing Hueco Already.

We had a spectacular final day of climbing at Hueco. We got back out with the tour group we climbed with on the first day, but instead of going back to Ultramega we toured the East Spur. We stopped on the edge of East mountain on the way, and warmed up to try "Sex After Death." The problem looked good, and I didn't warm up for long before starting to work out the moves. Mike had excellent beta on the problem. Jeremiah watched for a little bit, and then flashed the problem.

Watching someone climb something seems to help me a lot. I topped out the problem, and then Ashley really got committed to doing it too, but she insisted on climbing it static so it took her a few tries. Right after Ashley sent it, Mike jumped back on and did the line.
Mike climbing "Sex After Death."

The sending could have ended there, and I would have been satisfied with the day. But it didn't.

From there we went to the East Spur Maze. A maze of boulders covered with boulder problems. A low ball finger tip crack in a dihedral roof called "This is Your Brain on Drugs" screamed Ashley's name, and we couldn't pass it by. Much like a backwards version of Vedauwoo's "The Tempest" but without a sloper topout, Ashley climbed it pretty quickly. I realized I didn't have the power to do it, and moved on to "Jigsaw Puzzle" which was just around the corner. It climbs a section of very unique rock, is a bit pumpy, and has a slightly awkward ending above a bad landing. I backed off it once, practiced the end, and then did the line. Ashley did the exact same three steps.

I worked on "The Egg" but it felt very conditions dependent. Ashley worked on "Better Eat Your Wheaties," but didn't have the skin or power left to finish it. From there we went to "New Religion." I felt worked, but I was so psyched by the line that I jumped right on. Mike helped by giving me some beta. I gave the line everything I had left, and it worked. I topped it out feeling overjoyed with the day. Ashley took photos, and the one below captures the great energy of the group we were with. They helped us both try harder, and climb better.

With an hour left before the park closed, I repeated "Walrus In Blender" and then was so worked that I couldn't complete the moderate "Layback and Like It" traverse. Then it was time to say goodbye to Hueco.

Now we're back. Our daughters are safe and happy, my Mom and sisters had a good time watching them. Everything is as it was when we left, but it seems that even a natural high leaves a bit of a hangover. The week was so good, that both Ashley and I are a little down that it's done. We'll get back someday.

In other news, Front Range Bouldering posted an interview with me. Check it out while it's still up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wonderful Hueco and the "House of Dreams"

David and I are having a truly relaxing vacation at Casa de Suenos (“House of Dreams”) bed and breakfast in Santa Teresa, NM, just outside of El Paso, TX.

As most of you know, we have been to the El Paso many, many times over the last 12 years to go bouldering at North America’s premier bouldering area, Hueco Tanks State Historical Park. This amazing area continues to astound us with its desert beauty and magical feel of nature and history combined.

During our early trips to Hueco we camped in various locations around the park, including the infamous Pete’s, which was just a patch of bare desert near Pete’s Quonset hut where he let climbers camp, build bonfires, play music (including an Austrian trombone, accordian, and guitar band and an Englishman who sang drunkenly outside our tent all night one year), hang out in the hut, get a little food, use the overflowing porta-potties, and meet friendly climbers from all around the world. After that lovely experience, I decided that I wanted our next trip after Pete’s to be upgraded a little, so we camped in the state park itself, which had nice sites with hookups, water and hot showers. After many attempts at a hot shower in the women’s bathroom, I heard from the underground that the men’s showers were much superior, so I ventured into that scary territory while David stood guard outside the door, and lo and behold, they did have better showers! Who the heck planned that? Most of the guys who climb at Hueco never even bother to use the shower, so what’s the point of giving them a nice one? Must be some secret plan by the park service to limit the ladies' use of the limited water down here!

We then upgraded from a tent to the Eurovan, which no matter where we parked, we were happy, so we alternately parked at Pete’s and the Rock Ranch for that trip. We did like hanging out in the “shed” at the ranch and met some cool people there, but the overall atmosphere of dirtiness and unfriendly staff in the Ranch house deterred us from wanting to stay there again, not to mention the “flush it down only if it’s brown” rule, and the limited shower use policy.

Longing for a bit of comfort on our Hueco trips, I decided we should try the comforts of El Paso (is that an oxymoron?) for our future excursions. This led to a number of trips (3-4 I think, it’s hard to remember the details after one turns 30!) where we stayed in various hotels, La Quinta, Comfort Inn, Extended Stay America, etc., but I was never satisfied with these locations either. What I really wanted was to stay right near Hueco, as I really liked being surrounded by the desert and all its creatures, not the city life of El Paso, which for the most part has a grimy and poor feel, and definitely some different social attitudes them mine and Dave’s, evidenced by all the trash that people just dump in the desert and the stray and dead dogs that one will see on any given trip. So for this trip, I decided to do a little internet research and find a nice bed and breakfast, figuring there has to be at least a few in a city the size of El Paso.

Well I was wrong – there are no B and B’s in El Paso, but I did find one, Casa de Suenos, in NM. I decided to call the owners and I spoke with one of them, Marlene, on the phone. She was amazingly helpful and friendly, and explained that their B and B, while in NM, was actually only an hour way from Hueco, as you can bypass El Paso (yeah!) and take the 375 loop around El Paso and hook up with Montana and then into Hueco. As we were driving about 40 minutes anyway, with a stay in El Paso, why not give this B and B a try? David was skeptical at first, but I was convincing (or he was tired of my whining about El Paso?), and here we are, at the wonderful Casa de Suenos! The B and B is actually located on the west side of the Franklin Mountains,

which El Paso wraps around on the south end of the mountains (does this city ever stop?), and it is a bit up on the mesa, so we have wonderful views of the NM desert, the Franklin and Organ Mountains, and we can see all the way into Mexico and Texas.

This area is rural and agricultural, with lots of horse ranches and pecan farms and wineries. The B and B has a beautiful courtyard

with a fountain and seating areas, as well as a large back patio with areas to eat and grade papers (in our case), or just hang out and watch the desert life.
Our room, the Kiva, is very comfortable with a queen sized bed, couch, private patio with a fountain (this I have really enjoyed) and is tastefully decorated in the southwest style, as is the rest of the inn. This morning we had one of the resident road runners see his reflection in the window of the dining room and decide to defend his territory against… himself!

He proceeded to attack his reflection in the window, but luckily he realized his mistake fairly quickly and was nice enough to pose for a couple of photos.

The birdlife is very abundant. We have seen a type of cardinal, and the doves and quail are numerous. David and I have been really enjoying the amazing breakfasts provided by Marlene, and I have had vegetable omelets with green chilies, asparagus, red peppers, and cheese with sides of bacon and toast three days in a row!

I think it might be time for me to try the pancakes tomorrow! The owners, George and Marlene, are very friendly and they make your stay feel like a home away from home.

We really lucked out with this find and I think that after 12+ years of searching, we have found our place to stay while enjoying the bouldering in Hueco.

Ashley’s Side of the Hueco Mountains

Now that we’ve got the relaxing and resting part of the trip taken care of, it’s time to focus on what we really came for – the bouldering! While David did a nice job highlighting our first day here on Sunday, I thought I’d add my two cents and a few more pictures as well. One can never get enough of this place, can they?

We were really lucky to get on a tour with some awesome people on our first day here. Our last tour had been in the winter of 2001 and we were not impressed. The guide was really strict (i.e."Can I leave your sight for a moment to relieve myself please?") and the other members of the tour were not real into the “group consensus” of where we should go. Hence we were not all that bummed about having to spend our last several trips on North Mountain because we’ve had the kids in tow. As they are not with us this trip, we decided to give a tour another shot. We hooked up with a large group of climbers from the southeast, mainly a group of friends from the Red River Gorge climbing community. The guides, Mike and Stephanie, have been at Hueco for the past 6 months and their friends were psyched to be climbing together again for their spring break trips. Everyone was really friendly, and we enjoyed climbing with Mike, Stephanie, Jeremy, Emily, Jeremiah, and Julia. They definitely have us convinced that we need to get to the southeast to check out the Gorge and also Horsepens, Little Rock City, etc. Ahhh, so many places, so little time (and money!). Like David mentioned, we began at the warm-up roof area, where Julia took an early morning swing off the V5 on the left side of the wall and gave herself a good, deep flapper. She managed to climb hard the rest of the day anyway! David and I could have spent all day at that boulder alone, as the roof problems are a bit harder for the vertically challenged and I was left with the Executioner as a project, while David managed to send it just before we left.
"The Executioner"

The group then agreed to move on to the Central Dragon’s Den, with much talk about Hobbit in a Blender. HOBBIT in a BLENDER!! Come on!! I was not psyched but hoped that there would be other things for me, the afore mentioned hobbit, to climb on. Luckily, I was able to figure out how the hobbit sends (or avoids?) the blender! With some high feet for the first move, and lots of encouragement and pads from our group for the techy, sketchy top-out, I was able to defy the myth that a hobbit cannot climb this problem. Awesome! Some others in the group were working some crimpy problems to the right of Hobbit and I started to salivate. With some good spotting and beta, I was able to flash Ides of March and I am so psyched about returning to this spot for further crimping sessions!
Jeremy climbing "The Ides of March"

Once again, David and I could have stayed here all day, but we were good little hobbits and moved on with the group to the south Dragon’s Den area where we were instantly mesmerized by Dragonfly. After watching others do the flowy smooth moves, David jumped on but got a little too pumped at the end to send the flash, but he sent it a couple of tries later. I then hopped on and had a blast on the nice smooth holds, and the campusing and heel-hooking movements (am I in heaven?) and managed to flash it. Such an incredible problem. Mike then recommended I try "Kim With a Bathtub in her Head," and I decided to give it a go despite the very, sharp, rock. This problem is definitely made for shorties, as the opening moves are really scrunchy with small moves to really sharp, small holds…I liked it instantly! The last move is pretty long so I fell on that, not getting the flash, but after working out that move I managed to send a few tries later. Definitely a fun problem if it fits you right, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most because of the... really, sharp, holds.

We then moved on to Ultramega, one of the coolest problems I’ve ever seen (but aren’t they all? Yes!) This problem was super cool, and if I would’ve had a little bit of skin and power left, it definitely would’ve gone, It had one reachy crux move in the middle, but other than that the holds are really good and not too far apart. And it’s a roof/traverse combo-yeah! Can’t wait to get back to that one.

After thoroughly destroying ourselves on Sunday, I knew that things might be a little different on Tuesday. We decided to stay on North Mountain, and although we had planned on getting an early start, Marlene’s suggestion of omelets and bacon caused us to be a little late starting, especially for such a hot day. By the time we got to the first area, the Bloody Flapper Traverse, my project from last winter, it was too hot to even think about getting on it. So we hiked over to Choir Boys Light, David’s proj from 2 years ago. He had been really close to getting this problem, especially with Tony's (short guy,from Boulder) beta. Unfortunately, without Tony there, David could not remember how he avoided the dab at the end of this problem. I was able to figure out how not to dab by pulling first my left foot high, then getting a right heel hook, but Dave was a little to scrunched up and big for my beta (take that tall man!).

After getting smacked around by that problem, we decided stay in the shade and get on Stegosaur, which we had seen last winter but it was too cold to try. With Misha’s beta, we knew that we had to start with our feet facing out of the cave and we managed to put together most of the moves fairly quickly. There was one move though, where you are on the sharp crimp with your right hand, and you have to move your right heel way down the ledge, that proved to be very difficult. None of us (we were climbing with two nice guys from Houston, Mike and Scott) could quite master the move. Maybe next time on a little cooler of a day.

Wilting from the heat, we thought the Gymnasium area sounded nice and cool. Two years earlier I had worked on the Burn Baby Burn traverse

and thought it seemed doable, although I was a little confused on the ending, as there was no chalk where the guide said the problem ended, and no visible holds either. It seems that some beanpole with a huge ape index figured it out recently though, as there is a bit of chalk on little areas of roughness of rock between what I thought was the end and what the guide describes as the real end. Tall
b&%$#@!*! Despite this, I tried to give it a go but the heat had completely melted my skin and I was done for the day. Not David. He was determined to get a new problem, and he found Gag Reflex, which pretty much did make me gag with its dyno move at the top.

David got really close to latching the hueco at the top, and will most likely link it next time.

We are hoping to get on another tour with the SE group for our last day, Thursday, hopefully getting back to Ultramega, some new problems, and old ones that we haven’t climbed in years. It's tough, but I'd better get back to my lounge chair and rest up for tomorrow - Ashley

Monday, March 16, 2009

There's No Place Like Hueco

Ashley and I are spending Spring Break at Hueco. Everytime I visit I feel surprised at just how good the place is. Even the native Americans were psyched about it.

We were too busy chasing stars to get many photos. Ashley and I each had a 17 star day on the first day the trip. Ashley flashed "The Ides of March" and "Dragonfly" and made quick ascents of the sharp and difficult "Kim with a Bathtub in Her Head" and the difficult for short people "Hobbit in a Blender." The last time I climbed on East Mountain was eleven years ago. Every problem I tried and failed on back then, I was able to do in a day, and things like "The Guillotine" that used to be too scary to try, didn't feel bad at all. What a difference a decade of practice makes.
Warming up on "The Guillotine."

"Dragonfly" definitely deserves all 4 of it's stars.

We had a fun tour group, and met a lot of climbers from the southeast. The week's off to a great start.
See you again soon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monsters Always Scream

A great album by Armchair Martian, and a good title.

Monsters haunt dreams, tear flesh, and are frightening, mysterious adversaries. So it is with the Monster Boulder at Carter Lake. We spent Sunday battling with this beast.

My project was "Born Slippy" a traverse of the west face from arete to arete, left to right. It has a couple slippery holds, and four stout moves in a row. I figured out every move, but it will take at least one more trip to link them together.

The crux stab to a poor hold.

Ashley's focus was on the "Traverse du Jour" a long right to left traverse of the entire north face, seen in the photo above. It was time to get serious

about stretching.

She moved fast, so I only got this photo before I needed to move the pad and spot at the crux.

Ashley almost sent the line many times. Exhausted and bleeding, we had to retreat. But our power will return, our resolve will grow stronger. We've learned the Monster's secrets, and one day it will be the Monster who falls.

In real news this week: It looks like the trailer for "Rocky Mountain Highball" will be playing at the "Pure" showing this Thursday. Look at the post below for more info. There is also a good chance that the NCCC guide to Poudre Canyon will be unveiled. An online guide to all the major areas in Poudre Canyon, information on the 420's will be available to everyone, and the guides to other areas will be available to NCCC members. Become a member, get a t-shirt, and see the films. It's going to be a good time, and I hope to see you there.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

NCCC presents Pure

Come on out, and bring all of your friends. Not only will you see an incredible bouldering film, you will be helping the Northern Colorado Climbers Coalition protect local climbing areas. Turn out will determine what future climbing events the NCCC can bring to Ft. Collins. Promote climbing culture in Northern Colorado. Be there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our Weekend and the "Pure" bouldering flick.

Sorry about the late post this week. Ashley has a full time job now, and it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. We got out to Carter last Sunday, and enjoyed the perfect weather. I got the "Sergeant Woody" traverse, and it felt more physically difficult than "Dough Boy." Since we were there, Ashley sent it backwards. The "Short Bus" boulder made us feel like we belonged on one, and we ended the day by repeating "Skunk Rub" traverse. The last few moves on "Skunk Rub" are a lot of fun.
"Skunk Rub"

Yesterday my DVD copy of "Pure," the new bouldering flick by Chuck Fryberger, arrived in the mail. I stayed up late watching it, and I was very impressed with the film. I don't have time for a full review, but the problems, music, and level of bouldering displayed are all spectacular. The climbers are charismatic, the scenery is beautiful, the film is fast paced and it emphasizes the international culture of the sport. It left me inspired to travel more and to keep climbing harder. I really can't say enough good things about it. Good work Chuck!

If you'd like to be inspired, or get someone else psyched about bouldering, you should check it out. The NCCC is sponsoring a showing here in Ft. Collins. It's playing at 6:30 on Thursday, March 12th at the Lory Student Center. Admission is ten dollars.