Oh, man. It’s been a little while, huh?
Before you get upset, I have a good reason.
It’s been really nice out. Like, REALLY nice. This has been one of the best seasons ever for me in terms of my climbing (I sent a couple of projects I never dreamt of being able to get off the ground) as well as my photography.
It sure seems like everyone is getting stronger all the time. It’s great to watch so many people break through plateaus and push themselves to try harder and harder things. Not only because that’s inspiring, but also because it makes for good pictures.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up. Let’s start where I left off: in October.
I mentioned in my last post that Abby wrecked her ankle. Turns out she not only rolled it, but tore some ligaments and possibly fractured bones. Gnarly, right? Ususally, this kind of injury takes many many months to heal to the point where a normal person can walk. But, Abby is not a normal person. Abby is unstoppable.
A month after her injury she was back at it. Fearing the end of the Leavenworth season, we scrambled to get out as soon as Abby could weight her foot without too much pain and a weather window opened. At it turned out, the window was on Thursday
Our fears about the weather, however, were unfounded. In a surprise turn of events it cleared up everywhere. We ended up going 2 days later and I even went to Squamish the next weekend. It was 32 and cloudy, but dry. Well, it snowed a little, but not enough to make the rock wet. I know that sounds miserable for normal people. But I’m not normal either. That’s perfect weather for me. It was the best weekend of climbing I’ve ever had.
I don’t know if you’ve been reading my blaggerblags long enough to notice: every Turkey Day Abby, Teal, Josh and I go climbing in the desert. This year we went all out and made it a 10 day adventure in Bishop, CA and also Moe’s Valley, UT.
Last time I was in Bishop was 6 years ago. Abby and I were both sick and climbed maybe v3. If you’ve never been, Bishop is not a great place to come if you’re not a strong climber. The boulders are tall, the holds are small and hurtful on the skin.
But. If you can get past the skin pain and look around, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of the most popular destinations. It is spectacular. I know that the boulders got there through glacial flow, but it looks surreal. The boulders are - well, here. Just look
I mean, that’s not all of Bishop. There’s also the Tablelands down in the valley, but those are not nearly as spectacular. I don’t love that landscape, but I DO like a this one photo I got of Josh our last day there.
I meantioned we also went to Moe’s for a few days. I didn’t get a ton of photos there as I shot just about everything there last year, but i did get one final shot of Abby on her nemesis Israil. It is done. Despite feeling wrecked from Bishop, Abby was able to take it down. Twice. In a row. Once for the initial send and once for the video.
Wellp. That’s about all I got. Other stuff happened in the fall, but these are the highlights. A whirlwind tour of fall bouldering. But I gotta run now. There’s a weather clearing.
Let me tell you a story. It’s a story of joy and loss. A story as old as time, some say.
From the dawn of civilization, when the first boulder was sent, to present day, this story repeats itself, like a washing machine with a broken - you know what, that’s not a great metaphor. I could probably have - Okay. I got off track here. What was I - ?
In the magical kingdom of Squamish there lies a boulder, green with moss and white with chalk, known as the Golden Bowl. Legend has it: she who can conquer it shall receive everlasting joy. Or, at least, a solid five to ten minutes. Which really sounds entirely reasonable.
In the year of our lord two thousand - I would bore you with details, but bouldering makes for a bad story, so I’ll get to the point: Abby sent it. Abby sent all the boulders: Golden Bowl, Golden Boy, Japanse Cowboy. Just everything. Total rampage. What joy there was!
But - uh - I also mentioned loss. Sadly, Abby’s loss. During a morning session at the Seattle Bouldering Project, she pitched off the top of a climb and injured her leg. Like, pretty bad. She can weight it, but that’s about it. We suspect there’s a fracture involved on top of the sprain.
We were supposed to head back to Squampton this weekend, but obviously that was not an option. Instead I decided to see if I could take my selfie game to a new level. Where else to push the limits of ‘the 21st century self portrait’ other than mossy Index highballs?
Sure it’s a little self indulgent, but I think they turned out okay. But if that left a bad taste in your mouth, here’s a picture of some blurry moss to clear you palette.
I know I promised a story and then derailed it because I got bored of it before I got into it, but it’s really better that way.
You are welcome.
Smoke. Smoke as far as the eye can see. Thick and homogeneous, never ending. We swam through it blindly, following the faint outline of the road ahead. Seattle to Idaho, through Montana and on to Wyoming.
This is how we began our trip to Ten Sleep: 16 hours of driving almost completely blind, through the aftermath of an environmental disaster to one of the most surreal and desolate places I have ever been. It’s hard to describe the landscape of Northern WY; it’s a sparse mix of 2 antithetical landscapes. Mostly it’s desert. Dead and dry. Soil that looks to have not seen rain in years.
There’s no trees or bushes. Miles of rolling hills, yellow, black, and purple – layered like toxic cake – punctuated by oil rigs. Structures as surreal and alien as the landscape itself. Some dormant, some slowly churning away, pumping, alone, seemingly abandoned by man and having taken on a life of their own.
But suddenly: an oasis. The ground, cut in half by streams opens up, and you drive into a canyon. Lush with vegetation, green and inviting, cool under the canopies. As if unaware of the harsh lifeless ground that lies above, just over the hills behind you.
But that’s not why we drove here. It’s not the streams for which we drove 970 miles through burning mountain passes. No. It’s the canyon. The towers of Céüse-esque limestone that rise high above the valley floor. This is why we came here.
These magnificent walls are the reason climbers from all over the country flock here. And we were no exception. We came, we saw, we climbed.
And so it was. For a week we lived in the shadow of the canyon. Leisurely mornings waiting out the heat gave way to long afternoons of crawling up and down the steep pocketed faces of Ten Sleep limestone. Life was simple and life was good.
So long, Wyoming
I’m just kidding about the title; it’s all about Squamish. Both, in the sense that this blog is about it, but also in the sense that it’s all about Squamish. Because Squamish is amazing. I don’t know i’ve said it enough times. Seriously. It is magic.
Okay. That one wasn’t Squamish. I found this photo by accident, realized that I quite liked it, but never posted for some reason.
And now - you guessed it - Squamish!
After a long and terrible winter, British Columbian climbing is upon us. And that is excellent. It brings all the people joy. For me, it’s not just about the climbing - and the climbing is world class - it’s the whole package: the walls towering above you, the forest, the town, the sound, everything. I cannot think of a more beautiful place.
But enough with the accolades; you came here to see climbing photos. And climbing photos you shall receive!
Climbing is a weird sport, if you’ve never been. Especially bouldering. Every once in a while Abby and I will have the conversation about ‘what are we even doing right now?’ Why do we climb this 15 foot tall boulder the hardest way possible, only to walk off the top?
I don’t know that there’s a good answer. But I do know that we’re getting better at it. Abby’s been rampaging and taking down old projects left and right. When we went out last (but i didn’t post because I am lazy), she finally took down her long standing project, Space Monkey (pictured above) and this past week has been dominating. I’ll come back to this.
I switched jobs recently. That’s not important. What is important is that they gave me the week of the 4th of July off. It’s pretty great, not gona lie. And of course Abby and I did, what you think we would do: we went bouldering for the week. In, yes, Squamish.
Everyone else went to Squamish too, though. So it’s not like we were special. I mean, we are, but not because - whatever. Don’t interrupt me. Where was I going - oh. Yes. What I meant was that we got to climb with lots of good people.
We met up with our friend Morgan who hasn’t spent much time in Squamish and we wandered around the woods ticking off classics that he’s never tried before. It’s cool to come back to climbs I’ve done long ago and have take for granted since, to see someone get excited about them, and work through all the intricacies of the granite features. I miss that feeling.
It’s interesting: watching Morgan have a fresh perspective on Easy Chair reminded me that I wanted to reshoot a photograph I made years ago. When Abby first did Easy Chair, I took a photo that I loved. In fact, it’s where I started to experiment with lighting bouldering. But Abby hated it. We had more than one argument about it, in fact. I thought it would be an interesting exercise for both of us to come back to that same boulder and apply what we have learned in the last two years: Abby climbing and me shooting.
I don’t know that it’s necessarily better, but it’s different. I don’t know; I like it. I think the new one is good. I don’t want to argue about the original. This’ll do.
Anyway. This went off the rails a little. What was I talking about? Oh right. So we were there for a week. I don’t know about you, but I can’t boulder every day for a week. Not at any level of intensity worth mentioning, at any rate. Squamish’s byline, or whatever, is ‘Outdoor Capitol of Canada’, and it’s no joke. We really were there to climb, but on a ‘rest day’ Abby dragged me out to do a hike in the mountains. It was lovely. Truly beautiful place.
It’s interesting how in a place seemingly so wild on a Wednesday shows the impact of human activity on the weekends. Aside from the trail being immaculately groomed, the animals were completely unafraid of humans.
I think that doing week long trips is the correct way to climb. Like, a week as the minimum. More is always welcome. There’s just a pace to it that’s more natural and relaxed. You’re not rushing from boulder to boulder to get all the things you wanted to do in before your 8 hour window closes. You can breathe and come back to find new sequences for a couple days in a row with zero rush. That’s how you send. That’s how Abby took down her most recent two projects: The Tugger and Crystal Method.
Wellp. That’s all i got. Thanks for bearing with me. Hopefully you are now more convinced than ever that Squamish is the ultimate dopness and you enjoyed the photos. If not, then not, I suppose.
Til next time.
Oh glorious day! It’s been six whole years since the Seattle Bouldering Project opened and I joined as a member. Well – not to brag or anything, but – I actually joined before they opened, because that’s how committed i am to bouldering. But that’s neither here nor there. This isn’t about me. For once.
This is about SBP and all the people who make this gym possible, keep it running, and pay for it to stay open.
These are their photos:
Wellp, that’s about it. That was fun. I hope they let me shoot more of these events!
If you see yourself in one of these photos and want me to send you a higher rez image(or take it down), please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Wellp. It’s finally here. The season has come. The time of Leavenworth is upon us. And it is about damn time, too. Oh my god, is it about time.
We’ve finally started getting out on a regular basis. The weather is still a little flaky and the warmth is quickly approaching, but for now the conditions are good, the morale is high and we are out there every weekend, climbing. And that’s what matters.
It’s interesting to see just how much we’ve all progressed over the long winter. Since none of us have touched Leavenworth rock since November, it’s been hard to tell whether the training is paying off or not. Sure, I went to Chattanooga and climbed pretty strong, but I also have no reference. Did i get stronger? Did I try all the soft lines? Who knows!
But, no. I don’t think i did try all the soft lines. And I wasn’t the only one to see the gains from all the training we’ve been doing. I was able to send my long standing project, Millennium Traverse, Abby sent Sobriosity, Josh is looking really strong on his v13 project, and Teal sent her second v10 and is taking down 9s left and right.
So, i guess, the silver lining to this nightmare of a winter – now that it’s over and I can look back at it with some perspective – is that in our efforts to stay sane by training a ton, we all got stronger.
So yay. I guess.
Winters are hard for me. The dreary lifeless grey goop that is the Seattle winter sky is oppressive and unrelenting. If we go to the desert enough, I can stay sane, but this winter has been especially long and exceptionally dark. Sometimes as an outlet I paint. I used to grab reference photos from the internet, but I just do self-portraits now. It’s easier that way. I don’t know if i’ll paint this one, but I have the reference if I decide to.
Yeah. Anyway. Sorry about that. I had the photo and i thought it was cool. Whatever. OK. So. It’s spring now. Yay! Spring means one thing: Bouldering outside in the sun.
We met up with Teal in the morning and rolled to Leavenworth. I took it easy because I climbed a little the night before, but Abby was feeling strong. She worked through all the moves on Hueco Crimper in 15 minutes and started trying it from the start. On one go, she cruised through all the hard moves, got to the topout and then her foot blew off! Tragedy! Wellp. I guess that’s that for the day. Progress though. Let’s go watch Josh and Teal work Slingblade Low. Ok. One more try.
Just like that, it went.
I started a photo club chat room at work and a surprisingly large number of people joined it. We talk mostly about camera gear and f/stops and all that silly nonsense, but someone suggested photo “assignments”. The first one was long exposure. I don’t do a ton of it, because it’s annoying to lug around a tripod, but I’m usually pleased with the results, so I was pretty excited to have an excuse to shoot some.
I figured since we were by the river on the Hueco Boulder, I make use of the river and make a composite (idea stolen from Aaron Matheson). Despite being tired from doing a week long Bishop adventure, Teal was kind enough to try Joe’s Crimper for the photo. I kinda like how it turned out
Oh. One last thing: if you have a C-stand and a light on it with an umbrella and it’s windy, be sure to put weight on all the legs. My Indra 500 took a tumble and luckily was okay. The battery has something loose in it though. Oh well. Live and learn.
This winter wasn’t a good one for the PNW. The early rains that started in early October obliterated the entirety of the fall season and it’s still raining. There’s hope and dry days are starting to shine through, but there’s a while til the season really starts.
Last time we talked, I told you about Gold Bar – Jeez. It’s been a little while, huh? It may take a minute to recap all the photo things that have happened since then. OK. So, since January Gold Bar-th it snowed in Seattle (which is insane); Abby, Teal, Josh and I went to Squamish; I did a solo trip to Chattanooga to escape the rains; and Abby and I did a day trip to Leavenworth.
Alright. Let’s talk about Squamish. Squamish is a magical place, but it’s also a rainforest. Rainforests tend to be very wet. The seasons are notoriously short and you have to take any opportunity you can to get out there. In February a surprise weather window opened up. Over a weekend too - a rare occasion in February even on a dry year. Abby, Teal, Josh and I got our stuff together as quickly as we could and rolled out. Both Abby and I found a fun new climbs we’re excited about and I got a couple of okay pictures despite forgetting to charge my monolight battery. I don’t love these photos, but they’re not bad for just a speedlight. This’ll teach me to charge my stupid studio light battery.
Early March Abby and Teal went to Bishop to the Flash Foxy Women’s Festival thing. Feeling abandoned and alone, I wasn’t excited to sit at home and twiddle my thumbs. Instead I got Mike in gear to come meet me in Chattanooga for a long weekend bouldering adventure. I’ve seen many photos of Stone Fort and Rocktown bouldering, but never been. The rock looks amazing. It’s something I’ve been meaning to check out for some time, but it’s never been a priority. Now that I have been there, though, I have to go back.
Unfortunately Mike got crazy sick the week before and ended up not being able to come, so I rolled solo for most of the trip. I say ‘most’ because it wasn’t all headphone o’clock. It just so happened that Aaron was also in the area, visiting from Seattle. I got to have a little bit of friend time after all.
Aaron flew into Atlanta with his wife to visit friends and took the opportunity to palm some sandstone while there. We met up in Rocktown with his freind Warren. I didn’t do much climbing that day because I got pretty wrecked on my first day, hiking around Stone Fort climbing all the classics. I took it really easy and focused on taking photos.
Despite my fatigue I did actually end up climbing a couple things that day. I did this thing called Blue, that I would honestly not recommend to anyone, but I also got on what is probably one of the best climbs I’ve ever touched: the terribly named Golden Shower. I ended up running, like, 5 laps on that thing because the motion is just so SO good. I would go back to Rocktown just for that climb. I mean, just look at it:
Aaron and Warren both have little kids, so this was their little vacation to get outside and they really went to town on stuff. It was really inspiring watching Aaron burl down on the blank slopers of Golden Harvest and making solid progress after not having climbed for months.
Funny story, though: Aaron was rocking this bright green jacket that I hated because I thought really clashed with the color of the rock. I ended up changing the hue of it to the blueish aquamarine you see here in every photo I kept of him. But – shhh – don’t tell him.
By the end of the day, Warren wanted to try this classic line called Tunnel Vision,. We went over there and Aaron tried a couple things too, but ran out of energy pretty quickly and switched into full-on photo mode. We went full paparrazzi on Warren; poor guy. Which was fine, until he got to the crux, which is a massive swing and we were decidedly not spotting him. Had he let go at the apex of the swing, he would have flown way out past the pads. But he did not let go. Which is fortunate because that would have made my awesome photo of him mid swing less funny.
I never did get any photos of Stone Fort, since there was no one for me to photograph. But that’s okay: I am coming back. I am coming back with friends, all my camera stuff, and an extended tick list.
Coming back from the dry warn South East to the cold rainy garbage that has been Seattle weather for the last several weeks has not been great. We train to pass the time between checking the weather forecasts, look at old photos, and look forward to the sun burning off all the milky goop that has been covering the mountains.
There’s windows here and there. I see them on line. People who live in Leavenworth will post videos and photos. It’s usually on a Wednesday. Last week it wasn’t, though. Last week it was on a Saturday. What!? Imagine our joy and surprise.
There’s still snow on the ground, the approaches are wet, as well as much of the actual rock, but there’s patches of dry. You just have to look for them. Very, very carefully.
So, that’s it. That has been the update. I hope you enjoyed it. I also hope there’ll be more for me to post in the near future. With the weather clearing up and stuff. Anyway.
Til next time.
The winter is hard for me. It’s gloomy, the days are short and rainy. For whatever reason this winter - anyway. Whatever. This isn’t my diary and you’re not my therapist.
The weather cleared up and I got to roll up to Gold Bar with some friends of mine. Here’s some photos.
Weellp, this year has come to a close. 2016 hasn’t been a great year for the world at large, but it hasn’t been to terrible for me. I climb harder than i ever have and I would like to think i progressed as a photographer. Unlike bouldering there’s obviously no grades for photography, but I like my photos better now than i did a year ago. I think others like them better too.
Or maybe I just got more full of myself. That’s always possible. Anyway. As the year wraps, up so does the climbing season. Which is sad, but that also means it’s training season. Usually that means misery and dangling off of small holds for as long as you can. But this year is different. This year our local gym built a Moonboard, as did Teal and Josh. I won’t go into all the reasons why I love the Moonboard here, but it’s pretty awesome for training, fun to climb on and, in the case of Teal and Josh’s wall, it is beautiful. No. Seriously. Look!
When I say the climbing season is wrapping up, though, I don’t mean it’s over. It’s close to over, but not yet. There’s days. You have to look for them and dash out at the first sign that it may be dry for a few hours, but they’re there. Lurking in the darkness and the rain. Is that too much? A little too dramatic? Whatever. Anyway. I convinced Dirk to get out one day to take some photos. I think they’re pretty dramatic.
But, also, like, there’s a reason I was talking about climbing. I weaseled my way into bringing a pad with me to try a climb i’ve been looking at for a little while, Chutzpah. If you didn’t think that was selfish enough, I even dragged out my lighting gear to get some self portraits on it.
Well, kinda self portraits. I setup the camera and the lights, but Dirk pressed the trigger. So it’s a team effort really. I think. I don’t actually know who gets the credit for these.
Anyway. I don’t know if we’ll get out again for a little bit, but I am looking forward to all the things: short local trips, extended stays in the desert, and Moonboarding at Teal and Josh’s house. The psych is high for 2017. Let’s do this!