Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fine Jade

About a month ago Matt and I  drove out to the desert for the day to climb 'Fine Jade' on 'The Rectory' in Castle Valley.  Good day climbing with a great buddy!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Weaver's Needle

I'd been wanting to check out the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix since Amanda started school in the area last June.  It was obviously way too warm for the first few months she was there but the temps in mid January were perfect!  I left the car at 9:30am passing a constant stream of elderly hiking groups.  Without fail every group I would pass, the person in the back would yell, "Youngster coming through!" to the rest of the group.  Funny, and yet pretty effective for clearing the trail!
Weaver's Needle
I took the wrong trail hiking up to Weaver's Needle and ended up to the south of it.  Then I got cut off from the base of the route by a cliff that ran out from the base of the needle.  So I started climbing up thinking I would traverse into the route higher up.  Well the cliff just got bigger and I ended up on top of the very loose south summit.  I tried to get over to the north summit at the notch but my way was blocked.  After looking and looking I down climbed back to the base and walked down and around the original cliff that had thrown me off.
Crazy cool rock feature thing.
Now on the standard route things went more smoothly.  It took only 12 minutes to solo from the base of the route to the top of the pinnacle, and 14 to down climb the route.  I found the trail on the way down which fortunately lacked the thorn bushes and loose rock I had encountered on my off trail approach.  I was back at the car at 2:45pm thankful to have not hauled a bunch of climbing gear all that way.  I can't wait to check out more of the Superstitions!
On top!

San Juan Ice Link Up

For a few years Matt and I had been talking about doing a link up of Bridalveil Falls, Bird Brain Boulavard, and Ames Ice Hose.  This winter during the Ouray Ice Festival we decided we were going to make it happen.  We were talking to the late great Mark Miller about it and he said, "Well you might as well add in The Talisman.  Adam George and Bryan Gilmore did those 4 in just under 24 hours a few years ago."  So that was the plan.  Until we were driving up to Ouray anyways.
Hiking up to The Talisman.
I got off work at 7am in Farmington, NM and drove up to Durango to meet Matt.  I jumped in his vehicle and we took off around 8:30am.  Way too late to start the day we had planned, but we had head lamps and were stoked.  We swung our first tool on Whorehouse Hoses.  Somewhere between Durango and Silverton we had decided that we needed to add Whorehouse Hoses to the link up.  We simul-climbed the whole route, finishing on the steeper right option which Matt had never been up.  Years ago, Matt was climbing the right side of the last pitch and the route fell down.  Matt and his partner were lucky to survive and considering the potential, came away relatively unscathed.
Ben on the first pitch of The Talisman.
Next up was Bird Brain Boulevard.  I hadn't climbed it in a decade and Matt had never climbed it so we thought it would be good to do it in the light.  He started off leading and stopped on top of the 5th pitch because there were people above.  We pitched out the last two pitches then passed the party before they got on the rappels.
Matt following pitch one of The Talisman.
Matt and I had just climbed The Talisman for his first time a few weeks before, so it was fresh in our minds.  I took pitch one and he linked pitches two and three.  We rappelled and got back to the car as the shadows lengthened into night.
Luckily Bill was done with guiding for the day and was home so we were able to stop by his place and refill our water bottles, sharpen our tools, and make some tea.  Thanks Bill!
Bridalveil's parking lot.
Same as Bird Brain I hadn't climbed Bridalveil in around a decade.  Out of all the routes, I was the most nervous about Bridalveil.  When I had climbed it years before the ice was super hard.  I only had two screws that were sharp enough for the hard ice.  I would place the sharp screw half way in then remove it and put a dull screw in the starter hole.  It was exhausting.  On top of that, I could only get my tools into the ice about a centimeter which was enough to get me up but surely made me over grip my tools with fear.  This time Bridalveil was much more tame and went smoothly.
On top of Bridalveil Falls.
Last but not least was Ames Ice Hose.  Both of us had climbed the route a few times before so we weren't too worried about it.  We left the road on a trail which ended up splitting multiple times.  We would go one way then turn around and try the another.  In the dark we had no idea where we were going.  Finally we just took the trail that went the steepest uphill and we got back in familiar terrain and found the route.  I linked the first two pitches.  When Matt got up to me and let his arms down he got one of the worst cases of the 'screaming barfies" he'd ever had.  As always on Ames, the last pitch seemed to go on forever.  Just as I started worrying about having enough screws I rolled over the top.  All in all it was a great day out, climbing with great company!

Rock and Ice Article

Whorehouse Hoses
Depart Car              9:45
Starting                  10
Top                        10:45
Car                        11:05
Bottom to top        45 mins
Car to car              1 hr 20 mins

Bird Brain Boulevard 
Depart Car             12:00
Starting                  12:30
Top                         14:25
Car                         15:08
Bottom to top        1 hr 55 mins
Car to car              3 hrs 8 mins

The Talisman 
Depart Car            15:27
Starting                 16:00
Top                       17:20
Car                       17:50
Bottom to top      1 hr 20 mins
Car to car            2 hrs 23 mins 

Bridalveil Falls
Depart Car           19:48
Starting                20:45
Top                       22:22
Car                       23:15
Bottom to top      1 hr 37 mins 
Car to car             3 hrs 27 mins

Ames Ice Hose 
Depart Car           23:50
Starting                12:55
Top                       3:05
Car                       4:10
Bottom to top      2 hrs 10 mins 
Car to car            4 hrs 20 mins 

3,170' of ice climbing
18 hrs 25 mins car to car
17 hrs 5 minutes bottom of Whorehouse to top of Ames.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Costa Rica

I finally put together a short video from the footage that Amanda took while in Costa Rica last year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mt. Wilson

On August 30th I woke at 3am in the back of my car.  I was parked at the Kilpacker trail head near Telluride, CO.  One of the bonuses of sleeping in your clothes is the ease of getting up in the morning.  All you need to do is throw on your shoes and coat.  A quick snack and I was on the trail around 3:20, hiking fast to stay warm.  I love hiking through the woods by myself in the dark of night.  There is nothing outside of the glow of your singular headlamp, none of the chirping birds that normally fill a daytime hike.  Just silence and darkness.
I met up with Ken at his tent near the bottom of Kilpacker Basin.  He had a cold night and was about to build a fire when I walked up.  Ken and I had climbed Wilson Peak the year before and this year he had his eyes on Mt. Wilson.  We started hiking up the dark basin instead of starting a fire.  With the large ridge to our east, we would be nearly on top before we were in the sunlight.
As we walked up the trail Ken and I chatted about news from the last year.  He caught me up on his family and work and I did the same.  As we went higher we started to notice pieces of neon green duct tape stuck to the occasional rock along the trail.  The higher we went the more there were.  What a genius way to mark the trail! Leave trash along it!  All total we removed 74 pieces of duct tape, and surely missed a few.

Some of our haul.
 Ken hiked fast.  We were on top early and enjoyed the crisp, quiet summit to ourselves.  On the way down we talked about mountains that Ken wanted to climb in the future, and came up with a game plan and time line to climb them.  Hiking down through the scree and talus that makes up Kilpacker Basin always seems to take longer than hiking up.  The loose rock seems to go on forever.  Soon enough though, we were back at Ken's tent packing it up.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I drove to The Grand Canyon to meet up with Geoff in November.  It had been a while since we'd seen each other. Funny how we climbed more together when I was in Durango and he was in Northern Michigan than we do living 6 hrs apart. We climbed Zoroaster Temple which required 32 miles of hiking and 20,000' of elevation change.  As always the canyon is beautiful, ruthless and rewarding.  

"If the desert made a sound, it would be a snarl." -Geoff Stroud-Settles

Great climbing with you Geoff!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Robitussin Tower

It had been 6 months since I'd been to the desert.  Starting a new job, Amanda starting school in Phoenix and working a local sport project took my attention away from desert time.  And to be honest I need a break to recharge the desert stoke occasionally.  Bill, Matt and I have been eyeing Sam's route 'Ivory Tower' since he was putting it up a few years ago.  Unfortunately we were never able to get out there while he was working on it.  We decide it was time to give it a go.  And while we were up there we might as well get on 'Excommunication' as well. And we might as well camp up there so we didn't have to hike up and down the talus cone twice.  I got off of work in the early morning and drove to Moab to meet Bill and Matt who had already food shopped and were waiting for me.  We carpooled out to Castle Valley and started up.  It was after noon before we started up 'Ivory Tower'.  The climbing is amazing! really fun movement in an incredible setting.  We sat a fair bit, but everyone did all the moves and we got to the top.

Watching the sunset from the ridge is always a treat.
The next morning with sore fingers and stiff bodies we worked our way over to the Priest to another amazing line. 'Excommunication'.  The crux felt a little harder that 'Ivory Tower' but maybe it was just day two.  Really fun arete climbing and some hard calcite climbing gets you through the hard bits.  
Summit register on the Priest

With the whole afternoon left open we decided to head down and check out another "Sam" creation, 'The Scar'.  For how easily accessed, and high quality 'The Scar' is, it's surprising we hadn't climbed there before.  But I guess we usually have our sights set on more phallic features in the area. Bill and Matt headed home and I headed to the mexican restaurant for some fajitas and margaritas.  

Jeff was to join me the next evening so I was solo the whole next day.  I started out climbing 'The Pillbox'.  At 3 pitches of easy free climbing into easy aid, plus straight forward rappels I was looking for my next objective by noon.  Sitting in my car eating chips and salsa I spotted two more towers that Sam put up, 'The Academy' and 'Seminary'.  Some quick research online revealed reasonable grades, so I was off.
On 'Seminary' thinking soloing wet, mossy rock maybe was a bad idea.

Summit of 'The Academy'
I got back to town just in time to grab some equipment that Jeff and I were going to need for the next day.

Jeff arrived and we headed back to the mexican restaurant for more fajitas, margaritas and laughs.  After dinner we drove out to Spring Canyon to camp near our morning objective.  We took half dozen wrong turns and were about to give up when we suddenly were dropping into the canyon on the right road.  After parking and throwing our sleeping bags and pads on the ground, Jeff proceeded to brush his teeth with anti-fungal cream.  Not surprisingly this sent him in to a spitting frenzy which lasted multiple minutes.  When I awoke in the morning literally the first thing I saw as I opened my eyes was a flat tire on Jeff's truck.
Not the best morning wake up.
Handy man Jeff!

Breakfast of champions!
The tower we had our eyes on was something we hoped had never been done.  It's pretty obvious and had been eyed by quite a few climbers but somehow missed out on an ascent.  The first pitch went all free with some fun climbing and the second pitch started out free but eventually required a fair number of bolts to get to the summit.  We sat on top of the knife-edge summit trying to come up with a name for the tower.  Eventually we decided on 'Robitussin Tower' since Jeff had been chugging the stuff the whole day.  

One long rappel and we were on the ground and head home and back to work. As always its hard not to have fun in the desert when you're screwing around with good buddies!