It’s time to get on the road for a road trip this winter. Where do we go, who brings what, and how do we make it happen. Driving the truck seemed like the most logical way to see the country on our journey out East. Our goal is to get to climb as many areas around Chattanooga, TN as we could in the few weeks we have. I’ve heard it’s amazing and had to see it for myself.
The guide season for my business Windgate Adventures in Moab came to a close for the season just after Thanksgiving. The winter was about to hit the desert and end the climbing season. We loaded all of our gear into the truck… pads, climbing shoes, packs (I’m a huge fan of the Deuter Guide 35 for trips like this) and everything else we had in the mix.
I met up just after Thanksgiving with two friends in Southern California. One buddy is a peddy cab driver in San Francisco, and the other works on Yosemite search and rescue. I was and have been so psyched, we are all psyched to climb this entire year and have been training for the sloping holds of the SE by climbing the crimps at our local crags.
Out first stop was at an area in central Alabama called, Horse Pens 40. The new guidebook showed up a few days before we took off. Hearing of this place for so many years from friends, saying it is some of the best in the country had my ears ringing.
After our 30+ hours of driving, with stops to climb in Little Rock, Arkansas and somewhere in Texas, we made it to the Appalachian forest, to the home of the HP40. We ran out of the car like it was our first climbing trip. We grabbed our gear and made our way to the classic Millipede boulder. Bumboy was the first thing we jumped on and it spit us multiple times. It was going to take some time and skin to get used to this place. That night after a few hours of climbing our fingertips were a little raw, but we couldn’t wait for the sun to make it’s way around again.
The lines were proud, burly and rounded, and there were many of them. The most classic problem that we did was the arête called, Mortal Combat. Now I like highball boulder problems, but when there a massive pit below that you could fall into, it adds a little bit of a thrill.
We padded the landing and started working the problem. I popped off on my first go, not really trusting the foot to go to the top. After getting psyched I finally committed to the top out, and somehow made it. So psyched! What a rush!
So many other problems were climbed and tried before we headed North after 3 days. The skin on my hands was raw, but the rain was coming in, and you know how that goes… a rest day would have to wait. Our first day in Chattanooga we headed to this area called Little Rock City near Soddy Daisy, TN. I’d heard mixed reviews of this place, but couldn’t believe how insanely stacked this place was. Endless mega problems on all boulders, on some of the best rock I have ever touched. We got after it, mostly falling on the final moves of the classic slab problem called Space. This problem is 20 feet, with no holds… you climb a blunt arête, squeezing your way up and finally slapping to the top. Unreal!
Today it’s raining as I’m watching boats on the Tennessee river flow by… waiting for the skin to heal and for the rock to dry. This coffee isn’t helping. HA!
To read more about Nick Duttle and his sending rampage across the country this spring, click on this link to read a write up by Alison Osius – Rock and Ice News about Nick Duttle.
I met Nick years ago at trade shows in the Salt Lake area and a few years back at a farm in Moab. I rode over to see some friends and saw that Nick was living in Moab… crushing every route at Mill Creek and truly loving the place, the environment and the desert. When he came out to send The Bleeding 5.14b up at Mill Creek he gave me a ring to meet up. On that day, I rigged the rope and headed over the cliff to see that he was already down there. He told me that their car wouldn’t start, so they push started it to get to the crag. That’s a warm up.
The history I’ve been told about The Bleeding, one of the hardest if not the hardest established route in the area is that it was originally bolted by a legendary rock climber named Tom Gilge. The first ascent was by one of the most talented desert rock climbers, Noah Bigwood ( I believe calling it .13d ). This steep line heads up an incredible overhanging prow of dakota sandstone, with just enough to link it up… if you’re really strong! Nick had been working the route for a bit, and this day was the day he could tick it off. The guy is so fluid, solid and never looks weak, not even through the crux. Move by move, locking off, dead pointing through the crux and clipping the anchor. This is the year he turned 30 and the year of linking it all up. Awesome Nick! Keep sending.
Katie Brown is one of the most well known female rock climbers or all time. She’s been on the rocks most of her life and has traveled to many exotic places, the ones we all dream of. When Katie was living in Moab a few years back, I had the chance to shoot some photos with her, while just as winter was fading. In her recent blog post on the Prana website she used a photo from one of those cold winter days.
Liv Sansoz… when I picture her, I think of images by Jim Thornburg of her climbing at Mt. Charleston on some super gnarly pocketed 5.14. Liv happens to be an incredibly talented french rock climber who has been on top of the game for many years. This past March I was hired as the event photographer for the Mountain Gear, Red Rock Rendezvous. This event has been a part of my spring for 8 years now, one of the best event going.
While I was running around, trying to see and meet everyone, I had the chance to officially meet Liv at a crag she was guiding on. We chatted for a while, met her guests, who were having the best time… learning how to climb and rappel.
Take a look at Liv’s blog… see some of my photos from the Mountain Gear Red Rock Rendezvous with Liv, and check out more of her posts.
I have been published on the cover of Gripped Magazine, Feb 2011 . Take a look. PSYCHED! Jean-Pierre Ouellet on Conception 5.13+, Moab, UT. Conception, first climbed by Dean Potter and worked by many of the desert legends is a striking line on a slightly overhanging Navajo sandstone wall. Many people have tried this line and have taking huge whippers due to the sandy nature of the rock. When I watched Peewee on this route, he was as solid as could be… no problem, probably because he was wearing the 5.10 super mocc and he’s one of the most talented rock climbers, especially on the worst sized cracks like this line. While he was climbing he noticed that there were two sections he could rest after the meat of the crux… one was a leg rest… he would stick his foot straight in, up to his knee as seen on the cover and get some recovery. Who would have thought of that… I don’t think big feet would fit. Great send Peewee!
I’ve never heard of anyone climbing a route on this… the route we were looking at was named the LONGBOW CHIMNEY 5.8 A1. Most people see the approach and decide there are better things to do with their day. I see this thing as to obvious not to climb. Then you get there and see the talus field approach.
There are a few ways to get to the base. The “safe way” and the “thank god I made it to the base way.” We chose the later of course. Russ drove his new old rig down Ida Gulch to what I thought was the parking (1/2 mile at least shy of the true parking). We rigged out gear and charged up the slope directly toward the Spire.
yeah… we were not even close.
The approach was wild… we hiked directly up steep loose gravel to the base. There would be no slips on this, or you would be take the fast way down. It was all about the momentum of running, digging your feet in and hoping to grab the next band before gravity started pulling at your feet. Most times you would be just about ready to puke when you got to the next band of rock. As I grabbed each chunk of rock I would hope it wouldn’t rip off in my hand and send me flying. Higher up at one band we pulled out the tag line to haul the packs up and over, which was still sketchy. I was looking foward to an epic time, but this was starting it a little to early. About half way up we were found some shade, making the steep talus more bearable to endure. Corncobs (from the ancients?) were laying around the base of the wall.
Russ on the first pitch.
Russ racked up for the first pitch… we had a 57 meter rope and stretched it all the way to the notch between the spire and wall. I got to the notch, exchanged some pieces from the anchor and headed up the next pitch.
The topo said there were around 30 or so bolts on the ladder leading up. We brought about that many quick draws, but still had to back clean a few. From the first piece to the last, just about every bolt was a star drive. Star drives must have been the bolt of choice in the early 70’s. A few pieces cam placements and a dubious stopper got me to the upper section of the bolt ladder. It had been some time since I’d aid climbed, so after working out the kinks, I was still gripped. There were bolts that I was sure wouldn’t hold 10 pounds, but they worked. I stepped up in the etriers slowly, then reaching to the next spinning homemade hanger, clip it and keep moving. There were new bolts spaced on the route to stop you incase you zippered a few bolts on a fall. We were in the shade, had a great view of Castleton tower to the South and air all around. The summit was good size. I fixed the rope so Russ who was bored out of his mind from watching me eek my way up the wall could Jumar. He was on the summit pretty quick. Crooked Arrow Spire, ticked! We rapped to the notch, then to the packs and made it to the road at dark. Good day to be out in the desert!
Some of the old bolts, looking down from the summit and the view.
Russ jugged the fixed line, psyched!
Some of the relics you see on rappel.
The summer of 2004 brought me to many places, one of them being Tuolumne Meadows. I think Tuolumne is the most beautiful part of Yosemite, that I have seen so far. The vast High Sierra landscape sits around 10,000′ in a lush forest littered with granite domes. During this trip I was going to climb a few routes with my friends, Kevin and John. Our first plan was to climb what we heard was a classic route on Lamb Dome called On the Lamb. The route began half way up Lamb Dome with many different approach pitches. Our plan was to start on the North side and climb the three horizontal traversing pitches South. Some how we got lost, bypassed the start and ended up on the summit. On the descent we ended up at the start of the route on the South side. Climbers had show up on both sides and were now climbing toward each other. I should have stayed to see how they were going to pass each other.
We headed to Tenaya Lake and began thinking of other classic route that were not loaded with people. I looked across the lake and saw this amazing 1500′ low angle ridge rising to the summit of Tenaya Peak (10280 ft). The ridge was the North West Buttress 5.5.
John had gone off to solo some routes, so Kevin and I decided to head up the NW Buttress of Tenaya Peak. He had not soloed anything of this scale before. I told him it was fun climbing (and was hoping he wouldn’t sketch out). Being away from crowds, views that go on forever, and pure movement was what this climb was about, it’s what the Sierra’s are about. I traded the flip flops for my 5.10 Guide Tennies, packed up some water and we were on our way. It was fun to flow over the granite, meandering from crack to crack once we bush whacked our way to the base. Tenaya Lake began to get smaller and a view of The Valley came into view. We c0uld see Half Dome and Clouds rest to the South and ten feet to our left was classic exposure.
The route involved it all… smears, edging some splitter cracks. My Guide Tennies were solid the entire way, even on the approach and descent. We stayed up on the summit for a while, enjoying the 360 degree amazing view.
Kevin had a blast making his way up the route and enjoying the incredible view from the summit. The view is difficult to put into words. You’ll have to head up and check it out.