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Old friends

Saw Ted today. We met in the 6th grade and have stayed friends ever since. Not counting my cousins, he is my oldest friend. He brought his daughter and we had a classic adventure getting lost at Point Defiance. We walked down to Owens Beach, then West along the water until we ran out of time. We saw a trail heading up the steep bank and started up. The trail petered out and we were lost. Not really lost…though that depends on how you define it. But it got interesting as we picked our way though the forest until a road showed up.

We are going to get together in a couple weeks to jam. We started playing together in high school when 4 of us started a garage band. I was the harp player and Ted played base. We had a rhythm, lead guitarist and a drummer. The drummer had a real job so he was in charge of renting the rehearsal garage. I remember pedaling my bicycle to band practice. We only played a few gigs, but it was lots of fun playing and practicing.

Later Ted and Bob formed a much better band that won a competition in Seattle.  They toured Eastern Europe on a fully funded one month concert tour. We all thought they were on their way to something big…but I think they broke up not long after that. We continued jamming for a decade after high school, but then drifted apart as old friends do. There were a few meetings over the decades that followed but they got farther and farther apart.  Anyway it was awesome to see my old buddy again and I hope we play some live music soon.

I stumbled across a Tedx talk online about a guy who says social media is bad for your career. This runs counter to current thinking, but his speech was so compelling I decided to take a break from Facebook and Instagram for a while. It’s only been two days but I like it already.

His main point was that social media is distracting and keeps you from doing what he calls: “Deep Work”. That is defined as long periods, like 4 or more hours where you are completely focused on one task. For a programmer it might be writing complex code. For a writer it would mean writing non-stop for hours with no distraction. For me as an artist, it means painting steadily for hours without any distraction…at all.

He also argues that a commonly held social media theory is a myth. The theory is that being on social media widens your networking audience and makes you more employable. He feels that getting off social media will make us much more marketable because we will be able to do deep work. And that deep work is so rare that it will overcome our lack of social media presence and bring employers. It makes sense. Multi tasking is a dog that won’t hunt. Deep work is something I’ve always loved. Running a printing press was all about deep work. We’d commonly work 12 hours or longer. Climbing is all about deep work and total focus. I never take my cell phone climbing, and I am happier for it.

Speaking of climbing, V. and I spent 3 days at Squish and discovered a new crag called the Papoose. I’d been there with Bud Miller decades ago but never went back after a runnout scare, until last weekend. There are two lovely 5.9 splitters at the base that we both on-sighted. They were both exceptional climbs and I’m so glad we decided to go exploring on a new crag.

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Indian Creek 2018

We left Friday at 5PM. Arrived Saturday at Sand Creek Campground in Moab at 4PM. Easily got a site in the huge campground for $15 a night. Bought 3 nights planning on a Tuesday AM departure.

Hiked in light snow at Arches Sunday. Monday I painted Delicate Arch twice, morning and afternoon light. We’d planned on hiking the first half of the trip, then climbing the last few days. But the weather looked to be turning bad Thursday Friday. I was worried that if we hiked until Tuesday, we might only get one day of climbing on Wednesday, then the rain would come in. I texted Chad that he might want to come down a day early. Monday evening Chad showed up and we drove down to Indian Creek Tuesday morning where we did Generic Crack, Binou’s Crack and Chocolate Corner before camping at Super Bowl.

Wednesday we hiked up to Supercrack buttress, which is the same parking lot as Donnelly and did Twin Cracks 5.8+, Incredible Hand Crack 5.10 (12 yellows, 2 reds and a blue) and No Name (left of Twin Cracks) 5.10. Chad did a heck of a job getting half way up No Name before running out of steam. He has smaller hands, so it was miles of steeple jams, which, as he said: “Two moves takes everything I have.”

I was fresh from belaying, so I took over the lead and hung dog my way to the anchors. We used to call that yo yoing back in the day. It took 11 blues, 3 reds and maybe 8 yellows? Everything we did needs just one 60 to get off, as the anchors seem to be bolted right at 30 meters. I suspect the routes went in before 70’s became popular.Generic may be the exception at a little longer…but I’m not sure.

I think one would need at least 2 weeks down there to build up the muscle power to climb those cleanly. Or maybe it is something I need to do before going down. The guys I saw who were sending those hand cracks cleanly all had arms twice as thick as mine. At the very least I need to hit the pull ups hard, and make a couple trips up to Vertical World and run laps on the hand crack. Hand power is ultra critical down there.

Thursday we needed a rest day so we climbed the easier South Six Shooter. The approach was thought provokingly dangerous, and I backed off the 5.6 mantel move. I had a ton of rope drag, the wind was howling, and it didn’t feel like a rest day move. Plus the if you blew the mantel move you would very likely break something as  the gear was below your feet, and there were ledges to hit. Getting injured on top of  a mountain with a one hour approach is just plain stupid.

Chad owed me a finish from No Name, so he stepped up to the plate and sent the mantle nicely. Because it was a rest day, I also had trouble with a rounded 5.7 crack lower down on the second pitch. I hung 3 times. I think I was just tired. The creek is burly.

The summit views were lovely…climbing mountains is satisfying. We did the rap in two raps with our 60. One short one down to the chains 50 feet below the summit, and another 30 meter rap to the ground, passing the ugly slung block station.

Alex ran up while we were climbing but got there too late to join us, so he walked Sue down to the car. She was getting cold waiting. When we got down to the car I was ready to get serious about my rest day. But Alex was there…and I didn’t want to say no. When he offered to carry the pig up to the crag I caved and abandoned any thoughts of a rest day.  We hiked up and Alex led Supercrack. It took all 11 blues, plus 6 yellows. I would have brought a 5 for the last move to the chains, had I led it. It was Alex’s first creek lead, so he hung a lot but got up.

I hung twice on follow. The jams were great hands for my huge mitts. Plus I was wearing Ocuns over tape to be fatter. I’m not sure I will ever lead it though because the 10C start crack is super awkward. It starts good, then flares to a rounded #5 with a block in the way. You might be able to get a half inch cam in the block. Other than that I’m sure I could hang dog my way up the main crack. It’s a spectacular crack. Love to get some photos from either the anchors or the tower off right. It did have anchors for safely taking pictures of your leader.

Thursday night it poured, which matched the forecast from Monday. We drove up to Moab where I painted Double Arch while Sue did another Arches hike to Landscape Arch and beyond. And then the epic drive home. Left at 6PM, got home at 2PM Saturday.

Newspaper Rock
Newspaper Rock

 

North Six Shooter
North Six Shooter

 

South Six Shooter, Chad about to take over the lead at the mantle.
South Six Shooter, Chad about to take over the lead at the mantle.

 

 

North Six Shooter, from summit of South Six Shooter.
North Six Shooter, from summit of South Six Shooter.

 

Summit of South Six Shooter.
Summit of South Six Shooter.

 

Summit of South Six Shooter.
Summit of South Six Shooter

 

Petroglyph on first pitch of South Six Shooter.
Petroglyph on first pitch of South Six Shooter.

 

Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows
Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows

 

Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows. I found a rest!
Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows. I found a rest!

 

Chad on No Name crack
Chad on No Name crack

 

Generic Crack
Generic Crack

 

Binou's crack, got it clean this year
Binou’s crack, got it clean this year

 

Painting Delicate Arch, building on a blue monotone base
Painting Delicate Arch, building on a blue monotone base

 

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Christmas at Joshua Tree 2017

I can’t spare the time to write the story of my trip this year. But it was awesome, perhaps the best jtree trip in 9 years. Good climbing trips are all about finding a good partner.

Clouds high above Vitaliy on Sexy Grandma
Clouds high above Vitaliy on Sexy Grandma

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Vitaliy
Vitaliy on Papa Woolsey

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me on bambi and godzilla
me on bambi and godzilla

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Me leading Fisticuffs, 10b
Me leading Fisticuffs, 10b

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Vitaliy following Fisticuffs
Vitaliy following Fisticuffs

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Night photography

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Micah following The Watershute 10B

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Vitaliy on Orphan

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Craig following The Watershute

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Me leading The Watershute. First bolt is 20 feet up. It’s a scary lead but the stemming feels secure to get there.

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Vitaliy following my hangdog lead of Heart of Darkness, 5.11

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Rapping off Strawberry Jam outhouse rock

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Me and some awesome friends

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New Years eve

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New Years eve

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Vantage and an image gallery

I studied Sunday so I could play hooky with Christine on Monday at Vantage. Chris was super strong and led Sinsemilla 10c and George and Martha cleanly.  I was very rusty after 6 weeks of not climbing. I can’t afford the climbing gym so my arms have become weak. As I said after lowering down from hanging on Pony Keg: “That was not the climber who came back from Joshua Tree on January 2!”

Chris: “I know, I wanted to meet that guy.”

Me: “He is gone, and I wonder if he ever really existed. Perhaps that was just a fairytale from some bizarre alternate universe.”

Such is my life as a 64 year old rock climber. It’s a sport for young people. Trying to do it at my advanced age of decrepitude requires a lot more work than it does for young people. I do the work, and happily, but it requires climbing every weekend, or 5 days straight, whichever comes first.

So now I’m back to my JavaScript studies at this super cool free website:

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/JavaScript/Building_blocks/Image_gallery

I’ve been using Evernote to take notes of the stuff I’m learning. But Evernote doesn’t have syntax highlighting. It’s going to clog up this blog with a bunch of code…but I suspect this blog never gets read by anyone but me anyway. Probably I screwed up the search engine functionality or something. Not that I care enough to sort it out. I have bigger priorities, like learning high end JavaScript.

So here is my latest “homework”. I built a barebones image gallery switcher. It’s too boring to show the working example in an iframe. But this is the code that makes it work, which is the fun part for me. On my main website, I use a awesome image gallery function called Photoswipe. You can see it here.

Whoever built that had the job that I want.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, this is the code for the one I built in my lesson. They gave me the images, html and JavaScript. But they only gave me clues as to how to write the script. I’m fairly happy I figured it all out. Baby steps…

Here is the html:

And here is the script that I wrote:

 

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PETZL Sirocco broken buckle fix

I’ve had a PETZL Sirocco helmet for a year and I like it a lot. But my buckle just broke during my yearly Christmas trip to Joshua Tree. Before the Sirocco I had been wearing a 1993 Joe Brown helmet. It blew a rivet, so this Sirocco looked very attractive. It’s super light, and as long as I stuff something inside it (to protect it from crushing), I can pack my pack normally and it survived until last week. The buckle Petzl uses is very fragile. The plastic snap tabs are ultra small. There is a magnet inside the buckle that helps pull it closed. Unfortunately, the magnet also attracts iron ore, of which there is a lot in Jtree. I was constantly having to scrape and blow out the sand stuck to the magnet before it would snap.

Finally, up on the “Heart of Darkness” route, one side of the buckle broke completely. I had to borrow a helmet that day. When I got back to camp I replaced the buckle with one I bought at the jtree climbing store. To get the old buckles off, I shaved down the plastic with a razor knife until I could slide the nylon out of the old buckles. Then I prusiked on the new buckle, extended the strap with some tubular nylon using a water knot and had a helmet again. The repair job is stronger than the original. Here are the photos:

PETZL Sirocco broken buckle fix
PETZL Sirocco broken buckle fix

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PETZL Sirocco broken buckle
PETZL Sirocco broken buckle
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Sold a house, bought a house

After 34 years we decided to sell the old family home. We were tired of the drive and wanted to be closer to our jobs, and the kids. Houses are more expensive in Tacoma, but dad left us some money, and we were able to take what we got for our house, plus some of dad’s money and get a new place. I only looked for one day, and it was the seventh house we looked at.

I’ve never spent this much money on anything and was  way out of my comfort zone. I probably never would have moved but one of my climbing friends became a realtor 6 months ago. She told me at guitarbcue in June, and I thought: why not? Her husband is also a climbing friend, and I have great respect for his time driving a boomer. Those brave people keep our country safe. She did a great job for a new realtor. I figured she would, as she is, like me, an artist, a musician, and a climber, plus a working mom with two young kids. You can’t do all that stuff well without being very smart.

So now I’m spending the first night in our new house. We decided to tear out the rugs because there is beautiful  original wood flooring under the living room rug. I have to rent a sander to polish the floor, then stain it. Then we hope to move in, officially, this weekend.

I climbed at Index Sunday but I was not feeling bold. I think the stress of moving has worn me down. My shoulders feel terrible. I can climb fine, but simple things like lifting my hand to the top of the steering wheel can cause really bad pain. I’m hoping it will go away.

I did a great painting of the Sandman tugboat in Olympia a couple weeks ago, I will post pictures later.

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Squamish Chief in a day

We climbed the Squamish Chief in a day last Friday. Two weeks prior I was at Index with Christine and we met a friendly couple at Private Idaho. Torry said he had some time off. As we were leaving, I gave him my card and said that I was hoping for a long weekend at Squamish.

He texted me last weekend and said he was heading up with three friends and did I want to be the fourth? I said yes and we left Tacoma at 9AM. We climbed Star Chek Thursday afternoon, then got a dawn start on the Chief Friday morning. We started up Diedre at 7:30AM, topping out on the top of Squamish Buttress  after 11 pitches at 9:30PM. I also led S&M Delight cleanly, and cruised up Skywalker again, but the highlight of the trip was our journey up the Chief.

I’ve been seriously trying to get up that thing ever since I first saw it in 1979. I have no idea why I finally got up it. I do have a lot of knowledge of the lower approaches now, plus we had a strong and confident team. There was a moment at the top of Boomstick where we gathered together and considered whether we should go up or retreat. Committing to the summit meant we might have to bivy on the cliff in our shirts. We didn’t even have matches…though with the fire ban that was a non-starter. But we all looked at each other and said: “Let’s do this thing!”

The trail was easy enough to find…you simply scramble up from the top of Boomstick along the cliff edge until the trail heads left, joining up with the trail from Memorial Crack. A 20 minute hike through forest leads to the base of Squamish Buttress and a slab with one bolt. It’s rated 5.8, but feels like a 10A. Though that might have just been my heavy full frame DSLR, and the full rack of offwidth gear I carried up it. I was so scared I hung two fours, two threes and the five on the bolt to shed some weight. I felt sorry for Jaclyn, but there was no way I could make it up that loaded down. She was game though, and followed it carrying our water, shoes and all that gear.

She swung through and led the next two seven-ish pitches. I arrived at the start of the Butt Light pitches, which are both 5.9. I was so tired I had to rest on both bolts. I need to remember to eat steak and potatoes the night before, along with a big breakfast. The chimney move on pitch two of Butt Light was easy. I had a #5 and it fit perfect, but there was some decent finger sized cams as well, along with a green camalot slightly higher. I had my left shoulder in and walked my feet up the outside arete edge of the chimney until I could reach the jug with my left hand. It felt delicate and barely possible…but worked great.

After that pitch it was two easy pitches to the walk off. We were all super stoked. For me it was a 40 year goal, but for Torrey and Jaclyn it was their first time on the Chief, and they got to the top.

Jaclyn and Chad on Diedre
Jaclyn and Chad on Diedre

 

Jaclyn pitch 6. Pitch 1 of Squamish Buttress
Jaclyn pitch 6. Pitch 1 of Squamish Buttress

 

Jaclyn pitch 9, Butt Light ledges
Jaclyn pitch 9, Butt Light ledges, horrific exposure here

 

Jaclyn and Chad pitch 9, Butt Light ledges

 

Jaclyn on top of the Chief at sunset
Jaclyn on top of the Chief at sunset, we were pretty happy

 

Torrey on top of the Chief. His first try, and he makes it to the top!
Torrey on top of the Chief. His first try, and he makes it to the top!

 

me, Chadd, Torrey and Jaclyn on the summit at 9:30PM, 11 pitches
me, Chad, Torrey and Jaclyn on the summit at 9:30PM, 11 pitches

And then we had to hike down the tourist trail for an hour, in the dark, with all that gear. There was definitely some drinking when we got back to the tents. Man, were were so happy to have that in the bag. The next day we slept in and sat around in the sun until noon before heading to the Smoke Bluffs for some cragging. This was one of my all time best climbing trips ever. It’s funny how you can start a trip with total strangers, but after an epic adventure like this we were a band of brothers (and one sister).

 

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Silent Running at Darrington

silent running darrington
silent running darrington

I’ve been hearing about a famous route at Darrington for decades. It is called Silent Running and it’s rated 5.9. I’ve avoided it up until now because I heard it was runnout. After leading the two crux pitches, and following 3 of the others, I have a much better understanding of it. Yes, after one of the nicely bolted 5.9 cruxes, it does have a 40 foot runnout. But if you go left instead of following the seam there are a decent number of normal holds. And if you led the 9 section you won’t fall on the runnout 5.7. And that is the only dangerous section.

silent running darrington
silent running darrington

The true cruxes are beautifully bolted with nice new shiny 3/8″ inch stainless steel. The bolting was done by our new friend David, and his friend Matt. David followed me and Aaron up the climb, and even led a few of the pitches. We were moving fast with simul belaying. We were in high spirits.

The climbing was as good as it gets. The moves seemed impossibly hard. There were times when I didn’t have a plan at all. I simply placed my feet on imaginary holds and kept moving up.

My fingers were pretty much useless. There was nothing to grab at all.  You could step high, you could step low, you could move right or left, none of it mattered. The only plan was to keep moving up.

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A new leader

L. decided to start leading this last Memorial day weekend. Her first lead was up above Penny Lane where she led  a short 5.8 crack left of the long 5.8, to the right of Split B. Next she led a 5.6 down to the right of Neat and Cool.

Next morning she led Laughing Crack. It is a long and lovely 5.7 finger crack on a leaning over slab.

Twenty feet up she realized she wasn’t in the mood and started complaining about how her gear was bad. I had been teaching her what a good cam looked like for the last couple days. We had been placing and replacing cams on the ground while I explained the correct lobe angles.

So there she was, 20 feet up up the cliff. It was difficult to climb back down. She was like the proverbial cat stuck in the tree. It’s easy to climb up, not so easy to come down. She had pretty much mastered cleaning anchors…I’d taught her that 6 times over the previous two days. Her thinking was that she could simply keep going up to the good steel anchor bolts and lower off.

Instead of coming down, which would have been relatively safe, she placed more gear, swore it sucked and climbed higher. At about 60 feet up she was still cursing her gear but by that point her hands were sweating in the 84 degree heat. She was frazzled, out of power, and in panic mode. Sue and I were sweating bullets and thinking worst case scenarios.

The rock always wins when you head up a cliff under prepared. She peeled off and took a  whipper. As she fell, I had enough time to think that this might be the last time I ever saw her in one piece. My wife started crying. However, I’ve caught a lot of falls over the decades and simply locked off my GriGri + belay device, waiting for a piece to stop her. A Metolius yellow 4 cam TCU caught her fall.

She had slid down on her hip, which wouldn’t have been bad. But because she was wearing running shorts she got an ugly road rash. We call that kind of fall a “cheese grater”. More cursing ensued, but she eventually calmed down. After realizing she was perfectly safe, and the gear was good, she got back on the lead and finished out the route. She threaded the anchor and lowered down.

When I cleaned the route, I was surprised to see that 90 percent of her cams were perfectly placed. She had mastered the art of cam placements in the nick of time. I think her trash talk about their quality was simply her tendency toward perfectionism…which she got from me.

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Indian Creek climbing and painting

Indian Creek, Moab

Daphney on Scarface
Daphney on Scarface

I’ve been back from climbing at Indian Creek for 10 days. Daphney and I had a great time.  We spent the first day with

cave route
cave route

Craig, who was on his way home from working in San Diego. That first day we climbed at the Donnelly crag. I tried to lead a 120 foot route called “Generic Crack”. The rack is one red, 9 yellows, two blues and a 4. I was fresh off a 24 hour drive on two hours of sleep…I bailed early. Craig and Daphney both led it clean. We also did the Cave route…or rather, they led it, while I took pictures. It was all reds, which is my worst size. My hands don’t fit in red cracks.  I found out later that, for guys with big hands, learning to master reds is the hardest thing to learn at the creek.

That was Saturday. Sunday we went back to Donnelly and climbed a few things we hadn’t got to the day before. She was super tired from on sighting 5.11’s the day before with Craig. We decided to take a rest afternoon. I offered to teach her how to oil paint.

crag near donnelly canyon
crag near donnelly canyon

We each did a nice painting of this rode side buttress in the afternoon light. It was her first oil painting ever and she did a fabulous job! We both started with  monochrome wash using Raw Umber. It’s a lot like using pencil, except it’s oil paint. You simply have to do a value study. I got bored with mine and broke out the color to make what you see here. The light was flat…no cast shadows, so the painting turned out almost abstract. Normally I hate painting in flat light, but something about this little painting works.

That night…might have been Sunday or Monday, it poured. We woke up to soaked sandstone and decided it was a good day to drive to town for some shopping and showers. We stopped by to see a hay bale house she had helped to build a couple years ago. It was a standard Ranch style house, one story, but the interior was all done by hand using hay and mixes of special mud.  The floor was not concrete, it was mud mixed with hay. You aren’t supposed to ever mop it. The owner can’t hang pictures on the walls with nails because the walls are hay bales covered with 2 inches of adobe plaster. I heard that this style of home construction can outlast standard buildings.

north fork mill creek canyon waterfall
north fork mill creek canyon waterfall
My painting, north fork mill creek canyon waterfall
My painting, north fork mill creek canyon waterfall

We still had time to kill before some of her other friends got off work so we hiked up to the North Fork of Mill Creek where there is a cool waterfall. There were some folks with a couple slack lines, but we ignored them as we set up our easels to paint. I decided to do this one with palette knife.  It was once again flat light, even raining a little bit but we found an overhang under which to paint. I was fully expecting this one to bomb. I still don’t know what to think of it, but it feels very fresh and lively. I use instagram to reach out to other like minded artists. When I posted this little waterfall, I was shocked to see it rack up more “likes” than any other painting I’ve ever posted.

 

We hung out with Ranger  M and his girlfriend J when we were in town on a rain day. My favorite route was “where’s carruthers”. It’s a 10+ left of Scarface that I led clean after following on top rope. As Daphney said, “Learning to accept top ropes when they are offered is part of how you become a creek climber”.

I did 4 paintings down there, all in a three day period where the rains came in at night. We drove to town, and I painted a waterfall up a canyon outside of Moab. When we woke up, I was ready to climb, but she said the rock needed another day. When I found out Delicate Arch was half an hour away, she went hiking and I went painting. I did two paintings that day.

delicate arch painting
delicate arch painting
soulfire 5.11
soulfire 5.11

I’ve had  the first one on my easel for the last few days. I’m trying to bring it to life. A lot of people liked it, perhaps more than any other painting I’ve done plein air. But I didn’t like it. I felt it was weak in many places. I’ve been slowly building in beauty, but it’s such a delicate process. The light is extremely tricky. It’s all reflected reds and tans. I’m trying to work from the photos I took as I did the plein air work…but I really miss the real light. Cameras don’t capture what I need, so my colors end up being guesses. Still, I was guessing on location, and it’s good practice to work in the studio.

Daphney gave me some great advice for the creek that applies to painting as well. “Forget about all your preconceived notions of how to define sucess. Do the best you can, and if it can’t be perfect, it’s fine to fail. You learn stuff either way, and it’s all fun. We are out here in this beautiful place, living the life we dreamed of. Who cares if the route was climbed perfectly, or if the painting is magnificent. Life is about learning and growing.”

Another cool route was mudslide 10+ over at Optimat0r wall. I followed D up Soulfire 5.11+: 130 feet of reds, capped by 3 greens near the anchor. I did quite well, only hung 3 times. I can’t wait to go back. It is the best crack climbing area I’ve ever seen.