I’ve not written in a month. My interest in keeping this journal goes in cycles. I guess the main reason is that I enjoy reading older entries. So much of life races by and gets forgotten. Only the big events stick in memory. Having this journal is a way to check in 10 years later and have something concrete to read. I read these old entries and say, oh yeah, I remember that. Otherwise they’d be lost forever.
Starting with the most recent things:
Sue and I camped at Vantage in our new rig and hooked up with Fletch, Lisa G. and Vitaly. I jumped on Steel Grill since it was the only thing open in my price range. The place was packed, biggest crowds I’ve ever seen. It was a Saturday, and the only dry crag in the state, still, those crowds were not sustainable.
I did OK on the lower section of Steel Grill. It’s just reachy crack climbing. But the crux stopped me cold for at least 20 minutes. I finally was able to jam in a good #1 red above me. It requires a lot of up and down to get comfortable in a spot where you can place the high red. After that I had to hang, and slowly put a layback together with Fletch giving me tension. I totally cheated…but at least I got past the crux.
I need to trust that layback early. It’s only two steps with a great edge to pull on and then you rocker in on your feet and Bob’s your uncle. I would benefit from three number fours, 4 #2’s and 3 blues. The five would be heavy but useful on the move above the crux out of the last pod.
After our day of climbing we had a jam session around our propane firepit. Must have been 15 people from the gym. It was so nice to just hangout normally like the old pre-covid days. We all felt safe around the fire because the wind was blowing hard and not much chance of disease in the air. About half the people there were nurses or doctors. It’s crazy how this sport attracts medical people. I had to drive home in the dark afterward in the new rig, so I abstained from imbibing. Sue said Fletch and I performed our campfire songs better than usual…perhaps being totally sober was the reason.
In other news, Chad talked me into a Track saw. Much more convenient than a table saw. I love the way it’s just like cutting matts for framing paintings. We also just today bought a Mr. Buddy propane heater to keep the canopy warm while winter camping. Craig and Ken D. both have one in their rigs. The canopy is water tight, even at highway speeds. I think we made a good decision. And at only 100 pounds while being high enough for us both to walk around in, plus Toyota reliability…gotta love it.
I painted at Paradise a couple weeks ago. It’s unfinished, I’ll post pictures later. I also bought some German cobbler glue. I used it to fix a de-laminating problem on my new custom rock shoes. I sanded and scraped off (razor blade) the old glue with lacquer thinner and lighter fluid. I brushed on a single coat, let it dry 30 minutes then heated it up for a minute with a hair dryer. This activates the glue…making it sticky again. I put the shoe on , then stepped into a block of that kayak brace foam until the glue cooled down…about 5 minutes. I took the shoe off and used finger pressure to smoosh it down even more. This guy explains it well:
Sue and I had planned to leave for Lovers Leap on the 18th after getting our new canopy installed. We were going to hook up with Chad who would have just finished up a week at Yosemite with Annie, Brian and Liz. However, Chad was on his way down two weeks ago and couldn’t get past Centralia due to bad smoke from the Eugene Oregon fires.
He stopped by our house to drop off a coat of mine. I was sewing my new leather hat and we discussed options. I mentioned that the City looked relatively smoke free…and we could possibly bring our plans back to life by going there. I had plans to climb with Kena on Sunday but was free after that.
So off we went Sunday night, crashing at midnight up a dirt road on Swauk pass, then getting to the City Monday at 6pm. Highlights of the City were my cruise up Private Idaho, and a couple 9 and 10b slab leads at Lost World. Sun and smoke were a problem, but it was still awesome as always.
We climbed hard until we woke up Wednesday, 9 days later and realized we needed a rest day, plus that BLM road was getting irritating in my two wheel truck. The ruts are a full two feet deep. But rather than a rest day, we decided to spend it driving closer to home. We drove to Smith, arriving at 10pm to a half empty Grasslands. I led Outsider and second pitch of Pack Animal while Chad led two 11’s at Morning Glory: Zebra seam and Lion’s Chair. Not sure of those names…
He also led Pack Animal Direct, which I fell off of at the top. It was totally covered in Guano. The Covid shutdown has brought back the nesting birds. I had to rest following him up Karate before the traverse. I blame that on the lack of gym power. Can’t be that I’m getting older.
I got home Friday. Today I sewed a beaded hat band for my new leather hat, which survived the two week road trip in perfect shape. I chose to use a pattern size of Medium, since I was in the low side of that hat size at: 22.6 inches. Turns out, that made a hat too small. But my experience with leather phone cases told me that leather can always stretch…though shrinking is less likely. Almost twice a day I had to sponge water on the hat opening and wear it too tight. Finally, it is starting to remember my big head.
Just in case though, I ordered a hat stretcher from Amazon. It was really awesome seeing Sue today. We are both very independent people…but absence does make the heart grow fonder. I wish dad was alive to see my hat and hear all the family news. He would be proud. Pictures to follow later .
I’ve been having some challenges finding partners who have more one or two days available. But bless the stars above, out of the blue I heard from James. We’ve been on many the long trip over the 14 years since we took that first Jtree trip with Austin and Brett.
We left on Sunday around 10 and arrived at 1pm the next day. We stopped to sleep near Shasta Lake in a city park outside of Redding. It was sketchy, but at least there were no signs forbidding camping. I might of slept a couple hours….kept worrying about getting busted.
We did some exploratory hiking the next day. I’ve been there 3 times but could barely remember anything other than Bears Reach, Corrugation and Haystack Crack.
We ended up climbing all of those plus East Crack, which is a much safer start to Bears Reach. We discovered a ton of stuff over on the Hogsback. Ham and Eggs was a standout with 4 pitches at 5.6.
I backed off Corrugation Corner 40 years ago but got it clean this trip. It’s a 5.7 that feels like 10B due to exposure and runnouts. 50 year old bent pitons are considered ‘good protection’. The trad ethic is in full swing down there. They don’t even allow bolted anchors or rap stations.
I’ve had a few nibbles on my blue car. We parked it in front of the house with a for sale sign. Someone test drove it today and seemed to like it.
Pam and I just got back from 2 days at Darrington. Forecast was for 95 but we thought it would be cooler, it wasn’t. We got three pitches up Till Broad Daylight before rapping off in the extreme heat and bailing for home. The climbing was lovely, I sailed up a runout 5.9. I almost felt like I had my mojo back…until the sun hit me. There is zero shade at D-town. It felt like standing too close to a roaring palette fire at Jtree. Unbearable heat. Did I mention it was warm?
We ordered a canopy from a local company out in Parkland. It won’t be ready until October. It’s crazy how back-ordered all the canopy companies are. Some of the popup builders have one year wait lists. At least we will have it for the winter months. We are looking forward to having more room in the bigger canopy. I will have room for climbing, painting and a sleeping platform. For decades we had to haul heavy loads to the front seats and roof rack so we could sleep in the back. Now we should have room without a lot of heavy lifting.
I painted Comet Falls at Rainier the day after climbing Rattletail with Christine. It’s a palette knife painting and might be good. Three people asked me where my gallery was. Then the very next day I carried my heavy rock pack with two ropes up to three o’clock rock. That was 4 days of heavily loaded hiking in a row…in the heat. My shoulders hurt from the art pack backpack straps. That is my first hand sewn back pack, and the straps weren’t thick enough for 40 to 50 pound loads. Just tonight I sewed new 3 inch thick padded shoulder straps. They feel awesome, can’t wait to take them on another painting expedition.
Now that we are both getting SS checks I have less pressure to sell my paintings. Now, I paint because it’s fun, not because I need to sell them to make money. It’s kind of freeing knowing that I don’t have to sell my paintings anymore. I mean sure, it’s validating to have them sell, but knowing the good ones can stay with me is cool.
Vitaliy dropped by today with his wife and kid and new baby. So great to see him! He hasn’t climbed outside in a year. He is such a great climbing partner.
I have a bunch of new songs this summer: Difference between Whiskey and You, Cat’s in the Cradle, When you say Nothing at All, Shallow (Lady Gaga). I swore for decades that i could never memorize a song. Fletch persuaded me that I could, so I did. I’ve got Whiskey dialed.
As we get closer to retirement we’ve been planning how that’s going to look. I clearly remember standing in dad’s sunny laundry room when he was about my age now. He was excited about the plans he’d made concerning his extra health insurance plan. He predicted (correctly as it turned out) that he’d end up in a nursing home, so he bought a special policy that would cover the cost.
Sue and I, on the other hand, have been looking closely at our stable of vehicles: a 2010 V6 RAV4, a 2004 two wheel drive Tacoma, and a 1991 Corolla. When we load them up with climbing, camping and painting gear there is no room to sleep inside. Our Corolla wagon is even worse. It’s a 370,000 mile beater for around town that’s drive-able but missing fourth gear.
Many folks in the climbing community are investing in vans that cost up to $200,000. Some news stories speculate that young people are priced out of the housing market and choose to make car payments instead. We’ve seen charming young climbing couples who have fixed up Ford and Chevy vans from last century. We saw dozens of them in our last climbing trip to Idaho. There were also a slew of climbers in vans and trucks with pop up campers on the back. There were even a couple sprinters with popup tops added. Do they really need that much space and luxury?
We camped up in BLM land in the RAV4. We had our little 20 year old 4 season Bibler backpacking tent. It leaks badly, so I staked out a tarp on top of it. It looked like a legit homeless encampment up there. During two nights of our stay our neighbors in the next campspot drank until 2. There was a drunken woman who had a very annoying laugh. She brayed, kind of like a drunk donkey with a toothache, and it went on and on. There is no campground host to call up there, and no such thing as a quiet hour.
Boondock camping has been compared to the wild west. Truth be told, it’s been me and my climbing buddies talking and playing music late into the night on past trips. So this was a bit of karmic payback.
On the second night, Sue slept in the RAV4 (better sound proofing) while I braved it out in the tent, wearing ear plugs and numbing my brain with whiskey. While climbing in the city, we kept seeing all the van life people driving by in their gas hogs. There were literally trains of them going up and down the rough dirt roads.
My 2004 Tacoma runs like a top, but with 270,000 miles it’s a bit gutless going over the passes with a full load. And it’s far too small to sleep in without a lot of extra luggage shuffling to the front seats every morning and evening. Both cars run fine, but neither serves our needs well.
We are getting older and feel like we’ve earned some luxury in our retirement. We spent a few days looking at new trucks and settled on a very rare model of the Tundra. They are extremely hard to find. Our dealer actually gave up on finding one, but I kept looking and eventually discovered a way to make autotrader.com filter by: new, Tundra, within 50 miles, low to high pricing. Hours and hours of searching eventually revealed the truck we wanted at a heavy discount.
I used the vin number to find the same truck at a much higher price on the dealers website. I called them and told them about the low price on autotrader.com. She confirmed the details but said it wasn’t yet available…that it was on a train and expected to be on her lot between the 12th and the 20th. Long story short we placed a deposit on the truck. Once we get the truck in hand we can look into canopies.
I have thought about building my own canopy from fiberglass or poor mans fiberglass (PMF). I just finished a test box to learn the process. I made the food storage box out of 1/8″ plywood…maybe closer to 4mm. PMF is not nearly as rigid as true fiberglass, but it was a good learning experience.
My son and his wife came over last week with some good news, but it’s not my story to tell.
Christine and I climbed at the gym with masks on yesterday. First time since Covid shut everything down. Tod and his family were there running the place. He seemed very happy to see a couple of us old timers in there doing our thing. They have a new juggy ten minus in the lead cave for all us rusty has beens to practice on. There is a whole community of climbers in this town who really miss our favorite local hangout.
I was on a bicycle ride over to Gig Harbor when I got a text from an unknown number.
Hey Buddy, if you haven’t heard;
Marty died yesterday while running.
Word is a heart attack.
He wanted me to help him on a basic climb of yellow jacket. But covid got in the way (cancelled the trip).
Who is this…Marty’s gone?
Old Friend from 1976:
Old friends die. I guess I have to get used to it. Not saying I like it. But life goes on. Just got back from City of Rocks with Sue. My best climb was My Private Idaho rated 5.9. It was either too hot or too wet to climb much else. The trad climbs there don’t have anchors directly on top. They are usually 50 feet off to the side. You need to be able to bring your partner up and walk over to the anchor.
We stayed with Jim for 3 nights, then BLM for 3 nights and Pam for one night. Weather was thunderstorms for three days straight. We barely dodged getting caught in a thunderstorm on Wheat Thin. It had just rained and was drying out. I led up, feeling rusty but ok. As Pam was following a huge black cloud was rushing in behind me. We rapped off in light rain, but as soon as we pulled the rope it began to pour. We rushed over to the dry cave as thunder crashed immediately above us.
In the morning Sue and Connie wanted to bail so we drove home in 11 hours. It was an ok 9 day climbing trip. Not great, but fun to get away. Today I have jet lag, though we did go test drive a Tundra. Covid has made the the 8 foot beds in short supply.
My mind clicked awake at 2AM last night. I thought I might be able to get back to sleep by creating a calming scenario…like sheep jumping over a fence. Who’s in charge here anyway? I went into the menu and chose: file > new. The sleepy part of my mind thought I could create a dream with me successfully singing my latest project: “Love Yourself”, by Justin Beiber and Ed Sheeran.
But I got stuck on the file > new menu. What resolution should the file be? Should it be 1080p? Maybe 4K? So many questions…
We’ve been doing some really complicated projects in class recently. Our project this quarter is to build a portfolio website. It needs to be so good that it can help my students get a job. But the process is sooo complicated that I wrote a book about it, you can buy it on Amazon.
But back to my dream. I worked on the song after class today…for hours. I must have been driving Sue crazy…obsessively finger picking the chords. Eventually I gave up when Lisa asked us if we wanted to run the stairs at our local stadium. Sue surprised me by challenging me to run them with her. She normally walks up. But there she went, running up, and I followed. We both reached the top…still alive. I couldn’t believe how strong my 66 year old wife is. I struggled to keep up with her…and the stairs seemed endless.
There were a dozen people in their teens and twenties running the stairs. Those kids are like electric motors. Definitely wired for 220 Volts on a 20 Amp circuit. They don’t even know the meaning of load.
Annnnd I’m back to the dream.
I discovered this song a couple weeks ago. I think it’s the hardest song I’ve ever learned. I’ve figured out how to play the lead part in the key of C, without a kapo. I still can’t sing and play lead at the same time, but I’ve got the chords and words down.
Here is the tutorial I’m following on how to finger pick the main verses:
I spent many hours studying the song before coming up with these chords. I love the way the words rush along, out of time to the music. It’s the kind of song that gets into your head. I don’t even like the words, they are a bit juvenile. But the melody and rhythm is very compelling, it just works.
F. and I climbed one day over Memorial day weekend. I was so rusty I had to cheat on South Face of Jello. My lack of gym power is making a difference. I got up Midway direct, but barely. I was terrified on the Midway step across move. I’ve had that wired for 30 years.
In other news, I was standing at the sink today and noticed that the soap dispenser bottle was looking particularly fetching. It’s your standard yellow liquid soap for washing dishes…but my artists eye saw it as a painting. I imagined mixing the colors with my palette knife and laying them down thick and juicy on the canvas, gradually building up the shape in thick layers of colored mayonnaise like oil paint.
I didn’t actually paint…but the fact that I thought…even hungered for painting, is in itself promising. I’ve been blocked since November. Doesn’t help that all the parks are closed…though that doesn’t stop my friends who are real working artists. Summer is coming in a month.
I wrote this post a couple weeks ago but have delayed posting it. Since then I’ve been climbing with F. three weekends in a row. Last weekend (yesterday) we went to Private Idaho at Index. I led Senior Citizens and Wild Turkey. He led Battered Sandwich and Istanbul. I might have been able to lead them, but was glad he stepped up to the plate. Battered would have freaked me out at the upper slab. I would have had to hang. I almost fell out on follow. It’s partly my new shoes. I don’t trust them yet. They are very aggressive and seem to have a stiffer than normal insole. I love them for crack…but don’t trust them yet on friction.
SpaceX just put two astronauts in orbit. Those guys are so brave! First US built astronaut launch in 9 years. The technology is much improved over the old space shuttle. I still remember where I was when the first one blew up. I was at JL Darling, working day shift in the bindery where they had a radio reporting on the tragedy.
At the end of the day of climbing Chris and I were hiking over the mesa towards the car.
“So, on Saturday and Sunday I was climbing rather weakly with Vitaly. I only did eight and nines, wasn’t inspired at all.
I took two rest days, had salmon for dinner last night, got up at the crack of dawn, drove through 4 hours of traffic and led a couple of tens, including George and Martha, which is a real ten.
What is the magic sauce?”
Chris piped up from 20 feet behind me on the trail:
“Me, I’m the magic sauce. You always climb better with me.”
I was thinking she’d say it was the salmon, or the two rest days. But on reflection, she is at least partly right. We’ve been climbing together 13 years. Other than family, Fletch is the only person I’ve climbed with longer…and only by a couple years. We all met within about a year.
There is a bond, or comfort level that comes with a long time climbing partner. You know you can trust them absolutely. But, I trust Vitaly completely too, he is very safe. We’ve been on some long trips.
It’s probably a mix of everything. The salmon (wild caught Alaska Coho) was the perfect ingredient for stoking up on protein and carbs. The two rest days helped loads. Plus there were those two days of cruising with Vitaly on stuff like Pony Keg, Vantage Point, Whip Saw, Throbbing Gristle and Crossing the Threshold.
Chris and I started on Air Guitar. It’s really just got one move at the bottom. The rest is a standard mix of normal crack and face climbing. Gets big at the top but it’s very safe and climbable.
She led Bob’s Your Uncle with one fall. I think she’ll get it clean this season…didn’t struggle at all until the last 15 feet. She asked if I wanted to clean/top rope it, but I declined. My shoulder has been acting up, and with only one day, I didn’t want to get pumped following something out of my price range. I’m a long way from being able to lead it, and I had bigger fish to fry.
On to George and Martha. She is right, I do climb better when she belays me. She is so confident in my ability. I could see it in her eyes. She had zero doubt I would fail, and said so. Vitaly does the same thing…but maybe I believe her more? I don’t know.
I was pulling up rope to clip my second piece and let out a howl when my bad shoulder tweaked. Close to the ground, clipping the second piece is very dangerous. You pull up so much slack that your belayer can’t keep you off the deck in a fall. She heard me howl and thought I was coming off. I was fine…my shoulder just doesn’t like lifting things.
G & M looks so steep and hard, but really there are a series of bomber jugs and side pulls most of the way up. When there isn’t one of those, there are some rattly jams that are good enough to place gear from. Plus a series of very nice hand jams to rest on. I used her Luco tape and it was great, not too slick at all. In a few spots, you have to use a red hand jam, but only briefly, and the feet are good there. You move off the red jam to either a huge jug or great yellow jam…so it’s all very doable. Not to mention the stems off right. Basically if you can stay calm you can ace the first 35 feet and then it’s just like any vantage hand crack.
The #5 at the top isn’t really needed, but it’s very reassuring to have a clear top rope. That last move is a layback off two fist jams. Toe jam below the bulge, pulling on the fists, then step or knee jam above the bulge and reach into the back for the hidden edge on the left. Do sort of a jump step up and stand. Chains are in sight. Love seeing George and Martha! Great people those two.
I drove down to Jtree December 14 arriving in 30 hours to camp in BLM land the next 3 nights. Jim’s friend Mark the SAR ranger saw me walking around solo and brought me a partner named…Cole? We had a great two days of climbing before I ran into John G who had a parking spot in 30. That is the 3rd time John has hooked me up.
I did the dawn patrol the next morning and lucked out with a couple boulderers who were leaving site 15. After that Chad showed up and we were golden. Dennis showed up and immediately hooked up with Angeli, another solo climber. The three of us climbed together for a couple days while Chad got over a cold. After that we played mix and match as more people showed up including Anni, Liz, Ken & Christine and Cam & Carmen.
Weather stayed very nice until Xmas day when I picked up Sue and Lisa at the airport. It snowed 14″ the next day then stayed cold for 4 days. We took one or two days off at the hot springs, and spent another day at Indian Cove where it was warm. On the third day after the snow we were able to climb Hands Off and Toe Jam but it was frigid! My 5.9 skills were more like 5.6 with frozen fingers under windy overcast skies.
Our ten year old REI winter tent leaked an inch of water in the bottom. We had to buy a tarp to line the floor to keep our down bags out of the lake/river. There are no flat sandy stake-able tent platforms down there. They are either lake beds or rivers, choose one. Both of our tents were literally in rivers of water melting off the nearby formations. When new that tent had a bathtub floor that worked. Now it’s in the dumpster and we are day dreaming about a Four Wheel pop up camper on a Tundra…though that will have to wait until our ship comes in. The people sleeping-cooking in vans and pickup campers looked perfectly comfortable.
Tents normally work great if they are new on a good campspot in light rain. We’ve never needed anything more. But this extreme weather has changed the game. I was very glad I’d driven down with my studs in the RAV4. We saw numerous people get stuck on the compact snow and ice simply driving around the campground. Two funny guys were driving around the snowed in roads of the campground in a jeep towing a kayak. He was balancing with his paddle on the careening kayak as the whole campground cheered. I’d look up from cooking my eggs and there he’d go around again.
Extraordinary cover band
If you’ve not heard these people, set aside a couple hours, you’re in for a treat:
George and Martha is a 10a route at Vantage with which I have a love hate relationship. The bottom 40 feet is full throated 10a climbing and if you are rusty it’s going to be very much in your face. Craig belayed me on it this weekend and I surprised myself.
The bottom 20 feet is a series of fairly small ladder steps that protect easily. Then there is a very welcome double hand jam with good feet.
From there you are looking up at unfriendly red and green hand jams for another 20 feet. There are a couple good small ledges on the left, and some of the rattly green jams can be grabbed on the top of their blocks for better grip. It’s just solid enough to place gear and keep moving. It helps to have your hands as skinny as possible (use tape) so you can get deeper into the bad jams.
Some of the moves are very barn door-ish. You must lean left or right to be able to move up and maintain the hold. As with most tens, you have to embrace the fall. By that I mean you have to place plenty of good gear and trust it’s ability to catch a fall as you move up through insecure territory.
The jams get better and better the higher you go and at about 40 feet there are awesome yellow hand jams. The top crux takes just one #4 and #5 with a yellow beyond. It’s a matter of doing a layback off a double fist jam while walking the feet up the crack high enough to get a knee or hip above the bulge. Then you can grab a ledge up to the right of the offwidth section and the climbing gets easier.
I did it well, and I was climbing with my bad homemade Frankenstein shoes. I definitely let out a whoop at the top. After we finished we watched John Plotz do a very clean lead of Red M&M’s. I’ve never seen that led cleanly before.