Saturday, April 17, 2010

Career Ender

March 7, 2010: Justin Jaeger on Career Ender in The Amphitheater, Flagstaff Mountain. Although Mongolian Cosmonaut, Overhanging Hand Traverse, Gill Direct and Sandpaper Ledge get all the attention and traffic on the front side of the Amphitheater, there is another nice problem that gets almost no traffic. JJ made the topout more complicated than necessary on this moist morning, but who am I to tell him? The name for this one scares most folks away, but the real nightmare in this area is Jonathan Thesenga's problem Deathfuck 5000 that starts and climbs straight up a few feet to the left.

Friday, March 26, 2010

pleasant surprise

March 17, 2010: Daniel Woods almost resurrecting what remains of Skip Guerin's Direct Just Right. Formerly V9 and thought to have been repeated by only Ben Moon before breaking, the sit-start to Holloway's classic Just Right has eluded the grasp of some big guns since the mid 1990's when a couple of flakes/edges above the sloper rail broke. A lot of sequences have been tried since then, but Daniel has cracked the code ... doing all the moves and doing the problem in two pieces. All that is left is linking it. As for how hard this newer version of Direct Just Right will be, let's just say I noted that he could not do THE MOVE on command in isolation last week and when probed, Daniel commented it's got to be the hardest problem on Flagstaff Mountain. Since he's done Trice V12 and Epochalypse V13, that gives you an idea what we're talking about. Fresh off recent sends of Hueco Tanks' Terremer V15 and Desperanza V15 (FA) and Boulder Canyon's The Game V16 (FA), DW may be the strongest climber on the planet right now, so one inevitably has to wonder where this one will end up in the grand scheme of things. Daniel is moving into a place in Boulder this week, so Flagstaff Mountain will be ultra-convenient for him. Keep your eyes open on Flag, history may be happening ...

Sunday, March 21, 2010


January 26, 2010: Ken "Old Man" Gibson on Skunk Rub Traverse, Carter Lake, CO. If you know me, you know that I generally dislike traverses, with lip traverses receiving a special level of disdain. Maybe it was my year away from climbing that has softened my stance on this issue, but I've decided to be open to climbing traverses again - if nothing else - for the fitness benefits. Carter Lake is not known for it's traverses, but the Skunk Rub Traverse along with Sgt. Woody's Traverse and Traverse do Jour are nice ones.

Also, I'm back in CO. I just couldn't stay away for long. It was a long year on the East Coast, with too much working and too little climbing. I'm trying to rectify that, but being in the worst shape of my life is a long process to come back from. Slowly, but surely.

Friday, October 30, 2009


September 25, 2009: Kevin Cropp on nice and tall warmup on the Black Slab Boulder at Rumbling Bald. Kevin was scheduled to have his osteoarthritic elbow cleaned out yesterday in an almost unbelievable surgery called the Outerbridge-Kashiwagi Procedure (OK-Procedure) where they open your arm up from your tricep to your forearm and clean the whole freakin' thing up (glass, bone spurs, etc.). Unfortunately, as the docs attempted to gave him his nerve block, they also punctured his lung upon which he developed a pneumothorax and his condition spiraled. His lung collapsed a second time 2 days later. Heal up strong my man and goodluck with the surgery next time!

In other - and better - news, I'm returning to Colorado soon!

Monday, June 08, 2009

More bad news from China

It's been ruminated over a million times ... climbing is both meaningless, yet so fulfilling. It is a hobby, a pasttime, a pursuit, a lifestyle. Your best friends are climbers, your vacations are planned around or involving climbing, treks to visit friends and family are coordinated with quick visits to out-of-the-way crags, we try to live close to good climbing, etc. Somehow, Wade Johnson's parents understood this and found the words to express it. Behold:

As parents, we are devastated by the loss of our son Wade. Our grief is profound as the reality of his loss sweeps over us. Yet he was a boundless joy for us as his parents. We are comforted by the fact that Wade lived and died doing the things that he loved. It has been transformative to experience the out pouring of support and love from literally all corners of the world. Every request for assistance from friends, colleagues, business associates, and government officials from both the U.S. and Chinese was granted. We are amazed by the number of people Wade touched in his too short life. But the reciprocal is true – many wonderful people touched and formed him into the summit-seeker that he was. Key among those who shaped Wade was his older sister, Kara, who influenced him in countless ways to become the well rounded man he was. Wade’s life may have been short, but it was a life that was lived to the fullest. It was filled with fun, adventure, excitement and love. Some say that the loss of a child is the worst thing that can happen to parents. But Wade’s death was not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing would have been if he died because of anger or hurt. He died as all should live – with joy, purpose and meaning. Our hearts go out to the friends and families of Micah Dash and Jonny Copp. We want to specially thank Senator Amy Klobuchar and her staff, Terry Carlson, Robb Shurr and the wonderful people at Sender Films. As Wade’s parents, we were already prepared to pass Wade on to the people who were to be foremost in his future, his best friend Greg Larsen and his soul-mate and true love, Erin Addison. Their loss is the greatest.For the media in general: As a family, we would prefer not to meet with or be interviewed by reporters at this time. We are sure that you can understand that this is an unusually challenging time for us given the complicated nature of the circumstances surrounding Wade’s death.

—Bruce and Susan Johnson

Thursday, December 04, 2008

CO dreamin' ...

My last FA in the Mount Evans Wilderness Area for awhile.
September 6, 2008: Me on the FA of Bridge Builders, Mount Evans Wilderness Area. After rebuilding the bridge crossing to Area A in August, situner, SNeel, TJ, Cam, the Old Man and myself dragged ass up to Area C. This fun, tension-rich and moderate arete is located about 100 feet from The Headache. Fun for warming up, warming down or clearing your foggy oxygen-deprived head. Lots of rain my first two months in DC has put the kabosh on most of my climbing forays. I'll try again this weekend. Of course, it looks like I could be back in CO in a couple years, so enough with the drama queen weather-related bitchin'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hound Ears excursion

So I made an effort to go climbing a couple weeks back. My good friend Kevin rented his wife's family's cabin for a 3-day weekend and we chilled out BIG TIME. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy most of the weekend, so my climbing time was limited. We watched movies, made great dinners, had some drinks, hung out in Boone and walked his cool Chesapeake Retriever a lot around Hound Ears. We drove around between Banner Elk, Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandmother and Grandfather Mountain, trying to get my bearings. Getting used to the disorienting nature of windy roads in the smaller mountains of the East again won't be easy.
I did get to finally climb on Sunday although it was a whopping 27 degrees when I got out of the car at the Hound Ears garden dedicated just after the Triple Crown Event held there a few weeks back. I'm not sure how many resident/property owners in Hounds Ears will ever know about the climbing community's contribution, but there is a engraved tombstone-looking plaque commemorating the event. I managed to do 4 moderate problems on one block before the bone-chilling humid coldness got the best of me.
If you haven't been there, the rock at Hound Ears looks like eastern granite, but it's really quartzite. Think Skyland with a bit of Ibex/Black Hills quality friction, and you've got it. The bouldering area is a small tightly-knit boulderfield at the top of the Hound Ears enclave. Most of the landings are decent. There is a selection of short, medium and highball problems. One resource I saw says there are 200 problems, but on first glance that appears to be overstating it. From what I saw, something closer to 100 decent lines and variations appears like a reasonable assessment. I look to forward to getting back soon to sample more of the goods.
Unfortunately, I took no pictures all weekend. The rain, the cold, the 6 hour drives to & fro, blah blah blah ...

Monday, November 03, 2008

the next President of the USA

It is time for REAL change. It is time for every American to have REAL access to health care. It is time for the securities, financial, insurance, mortgage and investment banking industries to be subject to REAL regulations again. It is time for American corporations to be encouraged to keep REAL jobs for American workers in America. It is time for capital gains to be taxed again. They are REAL income you know? A small shift in our progressive tax policy is not socialism, communism or anything else the GOP would have you believe. It is time for energy companies to further develop and invest in clean fuel technologies as well as wind, solar and nuclear power. It is time for this war in Iraq that costs $3 billion per week to end. We've spent more than a trillion dollars in Iraq. That is more than enough. It way past time that we turned our attention to hunting down OBL and his lieutenants. It is time for the division between races in this country to heal once and for all. It is time for change in Washington and in the United States of America.
This is going to be a landslide. WOOT WOOT!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Farewell Colorado ...

I leave today for a fresh start in Virginia. Thanks for all the memories! To all my friends and family, thanks for your support, love and friendship. It's been a wonderful time in my life. One I will always treasure. This isn't goodbye though, I'll be just down the road checking some East Coast boulders out ... w3rd.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nine years later

Thanksgiving Day 1999 ... That's when I arrived in Colorado. Fresh out of law school, I had always wanted to give it a go and try to make Colorado my permanent home. Let's back up though:
My entire life has been one giant relocation project. Growing up in a military family and continuing this same nomadic lifestyle, I have lived all over the country, spending time in Arkansas, California (2X), Colorado (3X), Michigan, North Carolina (2X), Ohio and Texas. In 12 days, I will need to add Virginia to the above list, as I will be leaving Colorado for a dream job, one I started thinking about in 1996 as I was finishing up graduate school in Cleveland, applying to law schools and continued to think about and plan for while in law school. The new gig is one that I half-heartedly applied for numerous times over the years since 1998. I say half-heartedly, because - for a devoted climber - living in metropolitan D.C. is far from ideal.
How do I know this? Well, although I've never lived there, for eight years I was a climber in the Eastern time zone. First, between 1989-92, a fledgling chuffer spent 3 years driving from the sandhills of North Carolina to The New River Gorge for climbing adventures. Over the next 5 years in graduate school in Cleveland, I probably spent close to 140 weekends at "The New" making the 5 1/2 hour pilgrimage as often as I possibly could. I never got all that good at sport climbing, as I suffered and still suffer from a lack of slow-twitch muscle fibers that provide the endurance you need to send the long routes at The New. Nevertheless, the friends I climbed with and the adventures we had at The New remain some of the most memorable of my life.
In 1997, I departed Cleveland, intentionally breaking the rear-view mirror off of my truck on the way out of town in a stupid but symbolic gesture about my disatisfaction with relationships gone awry and the positively-shitty 5-day a week grey skies that messed with my psyche. San Diego promptly cooperated with 170 consecutive rain-free days upon my arrival, which is soooooo important when you're too busy to take full advantage of it - ha! I began my love affair with bouldering in California, although I certainly spent more time sport climbing and doing long trad routes, so I never really emerged from gumby status.
Two years later, as I was about to graduate, my options were essentially unlimited. I had no wife, no girlfriend, a nice resume but no job, the product of a military family who could relocate anywhere, make friends, make climbing friends and enjoy life. I had no constraints. Crash!!! It was at this time that two of the best people that ever graced me with their friendship were in a horrific accident heading back to North Carolina from The New. In short, their Ford Explorer hydroplaned, cartwheeled across the interstate and came to rest upside down. They were OK at this point, but they were sitting in the middle of oncoming traffic and promptly hit by a lady going 70 in a 55 MPH zone being chased by her boyfriend. Jay Binder, M.D.'s last words on this Earth were something to the effect of "it's going to be OK Kevin." Kevin Cropp, the intended recipient of those words, spent close to a year recovering from the physical effects of this devastating accident. Twenty-six broken bones, 3 fused vertebrae, too many surgeries to count later, he did recover and climb again ... often doing long approaches in cowboy boots or heavy leather mountaineering boots to the dismay of everyone present.
Those who know me understand what I did next and why. Shortly thereafter, I graduated and promptly moved to Colorado. I wanted to be close to the mountains and the rocks I like to climb. I wanted the weather to be cooperative most of the time. I wanted to work-to-live, not live-to-work. I wanted climbing/hiking/biking to be a part of my daily life, not an escape reserved for weekends at the end of long drives and return trips that nobody enjoys. Colorado has provided that, although less so over the last couple years as the viability of my insurance company went south with the real estate market and I had to work 2 or 3 jobs just to pay the bills. Before that however, I had plenty of time to become an avid and devoted boulderer. Now, I pretty much only pull out a rope and harness when it's time to clean and rehearse a tall boulder problem. In Colorado, I also found a woman that adores me through thick and thin and I have forged dozens of lasting friendships with like-minded folks.
Accepting this new job will be one of the most bittersweet experience in my life. This job has everything you want in a quality-of-life work environment, allowing me to fully use my scientific background, legal education and challenge myself. Time off, decent pay, federal pension, federal benefits, flex schedules, telecommuting, opportunities to advance, financial incentives for quality work and extra work, etc., etc., etc. The list literally goes on and on. That said, I will always think of Colorado as home. I hate sayings, but they say "home is where the heart is." I must have left mine here during one of about a dozen ski vacations my family took here when I was a kid. Without saying anything about the climbing, it was here that I was introduced to the music of John Denver in 1974. In 1976 and 1978, I saw the legendary Olympic Silver Medalist Billy Kid a couple times while skiing down Heavenly Days (at Steamboat), one of the most magical moderate runs in America. Colorado is where I've been awestruck by sunsets on the Western Slope and the Front Range, enjoyed some of the best single-track riding in America (Roaring Fork Valley) and learned to appreciate an occasional quiet walk with my wife (of course with the binoculars and bird identification book handy). It's where I began climbing in 1989 and learned to appreciate the subtle satisfaction and challenges that moving over stone provides. It's where my mind was opened at a Ziggy Marley/Neville Brothers concert at Red Rocks in 1989 and more recently, rewired, leaving the conservative beliefs and opinions of my parents behind. Go Barack!
So after 9 years, I'm relocating to Northern Virginia, a stones throw from the metrorail into D.C. It's gonna be more diverse. It's going to be crowded. There will be nothing even close to Red Rocks Amphitheater for a Widespread show. There won't be any decent rock within 2 hours. I will have to climb in a gym to stay fit. Parking anything anywhere will suck the big one. I will daydream about quick jaunts up to Flag and the Flatirons. I will long for big days at Evans. I will miss the quality of the stone and the independence of the lines in the Poudre, Eldo and Redcliff. But most of all I will miss my friends and our ability to get out and enjoy each other, if only for a few hours or days a year. Although I've always been blessed with great friends regardless where I've lived, my connection with many of you here on the Front Range of Colorado will be a lasting one that I carry with me. I look forward to hooking up with many of you fools soon, whether it's here or back East on some of the less-prestigious but awesome sandstone.
My wife will be here in Colorado for at least 7 more months, so I plan on spending a lot of that time traveling East Coast weekend-warrior style to bouldering destinations in VA, PA, NC, TN, WV and NY ... getting my bearings and soaking up as much beta as I can absorb. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to show you guys the goods at some of the following locales ... Cooper's, Haycock, Rumbling Bald, 221, Asheboro, Grandmother, Lilly, Gunks, etc.
Thanks for your friendships. You know who you are. Your energy, motivation and psyche has helped me weather some tough times over the past couple years. Hope to see you all soon.
Until then, see you on the intardweb.