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.
I drew this a few weeks ago. I’ll let the work speak for itself. It’s 9 x 12 ink on paper. These climbing images are almost a month old. It’s Lisa and Pam following Plum pudding at the mid wall at Index.
Fletch and I drove to Vantage Wednesday night and stayed through Saturday morning. I had just been there on Tuesday with Christine and Emily where I led Steel Grill cleanly and followed Bob’s Your Uncle, with one fall.
Fletch and I climbed Pony Keg, Air Guitar, George & Martha, Seven Virgins and Ride Em’ Cowboy. It got so hot we almost fell asleep resting in the chimney after the Virgins route. I walked out into the broiling sun to switch out my climbing shoes for boots but quickly retreated back to the cool shade of the chimney where Fletch and his dog Winston were zoning off.
I brought my second 40 oz water bottle back to the shade. As I took a sip of the almost empty bottle Fletch asked if he could have some, that he was out of water. He’d brought one quart for both him and the dog.
“Dude, I depend on you to be organized and have extra water!” I joked. Later we hiked out dry through the sage scented air, enjoying the endless views of the mesas and cliffs surrounding Vantage. The weekenders had begun to show up, it being Friday night and our neighbor was running her minivan to power an electric pump for her 10 inch queen sized air mattress.
She had 3 kids who were climbing at the Feathers with her brother, plus a little girl who was still wearing her homemade swami harness made from 1 inch tubular. The full size standing room tent and air mattress made it clear she wasn’t a regular climber. We don’t bother with all those luxuries. Still it’s always great to see people enjoying the outdoors though the droning of the air mattress pump was annoying.
We were surprised to see her suddenly in our campsite holding out two cold beers.
“Hey guys, sorry about my dog and the dumb air pump. Here’s a couple beers for your trouble.”
“Oh, jeez, you didn’t have to do that, but thanks a lot, we forgot to bring beer, this will help a lot!” we said.
She was super friendly and a very fit young mom. She hung out with us for a while, talking climbing and where we were all from.
“Don’t worry too much about the noise,” I said, pointing at our two guitars, “We’ll be making some noise of our own after dinner. But don’t worry, we won’t play late.”
“Oh, no worries, we’re not going to bed early, we’ve got teenagers.”
Fletch and I had forgot to pack a can opener so I had to jab my can of beans with a bendy knife and saw it open. By the time I’d done that to my tuna and black beans I was so hungry I decided to eat them cold. As Fletch said “Why heat them up? They don’t taste any better and it’s more dishes to wash.”
As we sat there in the fading light, eating dinner out of our cans I got out a small brick of greasy sun warmed goat cheese. Every couple bites of tuna and beans I took a bite off the cheese. Fletch noticed my eating process and commented that we were really living the dirt bag life. We didn’t have camp chairs, just sitting on boulders strewn around the fire pit.
Fletch the (fire whisperer) soon had a nice fire crackling and we broke out our guitars. We started with a couple songs on which I could add harmonica: “To make you feel my love” (Adele & Dylan) and “Sweet Carolina” (Ryan Adams).
As we finished Carolina, we heard applause and saw 5 of our neighbors lined up nearby, watching us play and soaking in the vivid red sunset over the distant hills above the Columbia River. We’ve worked hard over the last 12 years refining and polishing our sound. We’re far from great musicians, but for a couple of old climbers we have a decent sound.
The brother walked over with his teenage son: “That was awesome guys, I love that song! We really hit the jackpot with this camp spot. Spectacular sunset and live music!”
We thanked him and continued through our usual routine, playing all our favorites as the evening light faded into darkness lit only by our little fire and headlamps. Fletch had seen Elton John at the Tacoma Dome two nights before so of course we played Your Song & Goodbye Norma Jean. We knocked off when the whiskey ran out around 8. I’d only brought a little hip flask…just enough to warm the belly.
We talked quietly for a while after that, discussing all the usual topics climbers yarn about: the meaning of life, hard climbing moves, future trips, etc. Soon the stars were out in all their glory, lighting the way for a half moon.
I crawled into my old Bibler mountaineering tent feeling thankful for good friends and amazing hobbies. At 65, I know I can’t keep climbing forever. There is an end game coming where my body will start objecting to pulling hard on 5.10 crack climbs. It seems to take a little longer each year to warm up.
I’ve spent 5 days drawing cows with pen and ink. I’ll post them later. It’s more fun to show my drawings in person. When my friends see them online first, their reactions are muted on seeing them live. They’ll say: “Oh, yeah, I saw that online, very nice.”
I love that expression of wonder in peoples faces when they see my artwork for the first time live and in person…especially the good stuff. I’ll never sell a cow drawing, but the experience of watching it come to life under my hands is worth all the trouble. There are moments with a great drawing or painting where I can step outside myself and simply stare in wonder. This latest pen drawing might be my best work yet.
Hooked up with my old friend James for a great trip to Darrington. We left Wednesday at 2 and returned Saturday at 6pm. We did three new routes:
Urban Bypass 10b, 4 pitches on Green Giant Buttress, 3 hour approach up a vine maple avalanche slope, no trail for most of it, then 4 pitches of slab, 50 foot runnouts on the easy stuff.
Shake Rattle and Roll on 3 o’clock Rock, 4 or 5 pitches of super fun and casual 5.8 mostly bolts (rack of singles up to blue). Runout up to 20 feet.
Till Daylight, a lovely 5.8 expedition starting right of the big arch, then veering left above it. All shiny new bolts, singles up to yellow, doubles on purple, amazing chicken head climbing for days. A couple 20 foot runs, but I never slipped. Calmness and/or careful calculation is a virtue.
I made this video on my iPhone XS using the google photos app. It allows you to choose which photos and edit how much of the 3 seconds of video in each live photo will be used in the final edit.
Here are some of the original high res photos. Google Photos is good and convenient, but I’ve found a better, quicker way to get photos off my iPhone. I’m using the PNY duo link. No waiting for google photos to upload to the cloud. Transfer original photos from phone to flash drive, then from flash to laptop. I have to convert them from *.HEIC to jpg before uploading them to WordPress.
Thursday Chris and I climbed all 7 pitches of Silent Running at Darrington. We left Tacoma at 6:30, hiked up the one hour approach and got on the rock around 11. She led pitch 1 and I finally mastered the runnout moves on pitch 2. The mid section has some blank, runnout 5.8 friction. It’s about 20 or 30 feet and I’ve backed off it before. This time I climbed the flake section on the right to a high black alien. Traversing from there felt 5.10 so I down climbed until I could step left onto the runnout section, more in line with the last bolts. From there I saw a pattern of very slight black friction dykes. With the top rope to the alien, it was easy to stay calm as I motored up to the next protection. I was glad she reminded me that if it feels like 5.10, it probably is, meaning I was off route.
She swung through onto the crux 5.9+ third pitch and did fine. About 80 feet up I heard her comment: “Uh oh, the bolts are getting close, it must be getting hard again!”
Pitches 4 and 5 were either easy and fun, or relatively well bolted. Following was harder than leading because we were dragging the 9.8 rap line. We should have put it in a back pack, with a pint of water. Chris could have used a long sleeve shirt. It goes into shade at 3: hence the name, 3 o’clock rock.
I sailed up pitch 6, slowing down at the usual places and Chris swung thru to pitch 7, leading it with one tiny slip, which I didn’t even feel. My feet were killing me following pitch 7, though I did it cleanly, no slips in 7 pitches, which amazed me. The rap down was long and tiring. We started out sharp, but by the 4th rap neither of us could remember which rope to pull. I’d get to the anchor where I needed to thread and holler up at Chris: “Which rope are we pulling, red or blue?” She was there, and could tell me for sure…since I’d forgotten. It was a long, but very fun day with one of my favorite climbing partners. Good, reliable and skilled climbing partners are hard to find. Mike is a lucky man.
I drove home, then met Fletch at his house at 7:30 AM to drive to Careno. I led two pitches on his 5.9 parkway route, then he worked on his new route, which may get named: “Mad dogs and Englishmen”. Saturday I led South Face of Jello, Short and Sassy and Angel. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed Angel clean, but it’s always interesting.
Fletch and I jammed two nights in a row. Ken and his wife, plus two random English dudes joined us the second night. It was fun having a crowd for our out of tune music. Sunday I got pitch 3 of Bale Kramer clean. Key seems to be committing to the under cling with the right hand, plus bracing toes in the crack off the the right. Once you do that you can reach out and sink the excellent hand jam.
Then it’s a series of jams up to the thin fingers section where a black alien goes in. Then you pull on the manky hand jam to reach past up to the first sinker finger lock. Sink in a purple and motor up to the hand jam, which takes a great red. There are tiny left foot crimpers and smears which helps keep the weight off the hands.
I got my passport out of the safe the day before going to Canada. It was expired, by 5 days. A google search revealed several people who had blithely gone thru the border and back with only a friendly warning.
My experience was that no one even mentioned it. I’m guessing that it must be because 10 years is a long, long time. Who keeps a calendar that long? Google calendar hasn’t even existed that long.
My first day I met B and P at Neat and Cool. I followed that little finger crack on the trail in hiking boots. The next day we went to Octopus and I led all my standards cleanly, easily, including the nine on the right. Tuesday we went to Penny Lane which P led.
It was an impressive lead because they’ve not been climbing much due to B’s shoulder surgery. She led that pretty much off the couch, on sight. We met Albert there and he followed us the rest of the day over to Quarry Man which we both led. I sailed up Quarry, must be warmed up from The City and Middle East Wall at Vantage. I also led Ronin’s Corner and the 10c Frog route, with one fall. B and I jammed until 10pm that night, earning a honk from a car.
Next day they left but Albert and I spent a morning at the bluffs. I led Flying Circus and S&M’s Delight very cleanly. I actually ran out both of them at the crux, instead of a sew up job. Albert is only doing 4 routes a day, so at 2 I lost my partner. I posted notes on Mountain Project and FB but got no response.
I hung out for a while watching the kite boarders…I really want to try that sport! Sue was texting me and saying I should come home, and I eventually decided she would be more fun than begging for partners.
Because you can’t take food thr0ugh the border, I dumped $40 worth of food (eggs, brocolli, blue berries, cauliflower, dressing) in the garbage can at Murrin Park. I figured I was already in for a grilling because of my expired passport, no sense making them madder.
30 minutes down the road Cole called me and said he also needed a partner and could climb for several days. I turned around and we did first two pitches of the Smoke Bluff connection, sleeping below Rock On.
In the morning Cole and I climbed Calculus thru Karen’s Math. I’ve never done Karen’s that cleanly, every move felt solid…only a little unnerving at times, but quite safe, with good rests. I drove back to Rec Center, but it being Friday night it was jam packed. Drove up to Cheakamus and it was over flowing too because of a Netflix movie being filmed. I parked in the “Crew Parking” area, side of the road, right next to the security car and slept peacefully. In the morning he was too tired to climb. These young guys have no stamina. I can climb 15 days in a row, dawn to dusk, and have many times.
Anyway, there went another partner. I dumped another $40 worth of food at Murrin and this time no one called as I drove home to Sue. Her dad’s service was today. The Army played taps and gave Sue’s mom a flag. They were married 78 years. Barb, Tom, Debbie, Aaron, Jason and family, Clint, Sue and Jamie were there. And Claire in the casket of course. He was a very good man.
I remember 19 years ago when I was getting dizzy spells. I called Sue for a ride home, I couldn’t drive. She was home with the kids, who were too little to leave at 11pm on a school night. Claire and Barb came into Tacoma and drove my car and me home. They were so kind….really lovely people. Getting old just sucks, but it’s part of life. You get the young fun stuff, and then you get the old sucky stuff, then it’s someone else’s turn.
Do it yourself DIY passport photos
I’ve been learning a lot about Passport photography. I’m going to film a tutorial. Bottom line is, take a tiff to Walgreens. They are much higher quality than Target. In the tutorial I’ll spell out how to start a new 300 dpi 4 x 6″ document in Photoshop. Set units to inches, and crop the images to exactly 2″ inside the 4 x 6. Whatever you do, don’t take a pdf to FedEx. They gave me halftone dots! Not acceptable.
The background behind the head has to be pure white, so plan to do some selecting work if your background shows. Better yet, borrow a green screen and use that with “select color range > color adjustment layer > hue/sat > desaturate > lightness to white. I won’t know for a month if this worked…government is slow.
Got it back in 6 days!!! Here is how the photo looked on passport:
Alex, Kristi, Chris J. and Pam all spent some time at the City of Rocks with me over the last two weeks. I got there early and sketched for a couple days.
I did three pen sketches and two oils. We did a lot of the usual stuff on Elephant rock and the Breadloaves. My four days with Pam were the best as we are both hard core climbers, dawn to dusk.
Alex did do a hard lead on Crack of Doom 11c. I couldn’t get past the boulder move. I also got up Mystery Bolter with one hang. That thing is so intimidating. Those run outs are terrifying, yet the climbing is fine and quite sticky. You just have to stick to the main line, even left a little, as you pass the second to last bolt. Past the last bolt it’s dead easy right up to the anchor. We were surprised to find we could rap off with a 60 meter.
My hardest lead was Aspen Leaf 10a at the upper west breadloaves. I hung all over it, blew all the delicate stem moves. What’s weird is I think I led it clean with Julia ten years ago. Because of my constantly changing partners I never got on some of the harder trad lines like bloody fingers and private idaho. Still, two weeks of climbing in the city may have given me a good start on the rest of the summer at index.
“So Chris, you need to be ready, I’m probably going to clip the last bolt, climb up to the top and jump off.”
“Give me a lot of slack, like, have the rope practically laying on the deck. I don’t want it tight because I might whip into the wall.”
I carefully tied my knot with a very long tail so I could do a clean, half a grapevine back up knot. Before I pulled the figure eight tight, I clipped a round bodied metolius locker into the bottom loops of the knot. This makes a locked up knot easier to untie.
Bobbi saw me do it and gave me an evil grin: “I know what that means”.
Chris said: “I’m not really a huge fan of these intentional falls, seems like it’s needlessly stressing the system”.
“Bobbi can belay me, if you don’t wanna’ do it” I said.
“No, no, I’m fine”
“Ok, just be ready, and keep a lot of slack in the rope”.
“Ok, so if at any time you say you want to take or rest on the rope, I’ll just let you fall”
“Yup, that’s only fair” I said.
I climbed smoothly up through the dozen clips to the top of the wall, being extra careful to clip each bolt cleanly from secure stances. I watched each biner clip closed almost in slow motion, my focus absolute. I knew that I could not make a mistake. Every move was calculated and accurate.
As I clipped the last draw I still had some power in reserve on the steeply overhanging white 5.10. I climbed up to the top of the wall where the lowering clips were and simply grabbed on. I looked down at Chris, who I could clearly see was exactly where he should be, in brake position, with a long loop of slack.
I looked down at my tie in knot, with it’s backup knot to make sure everything was fine, and then let go. I quickly accelerated to a speed that felt far too fast, falling freely through the air at least 20 feet. I had very little panic, secure in the knowledge that the system was secure. As the rope caught me 30 feet off the ground, most of the people who were standing around on the floor jerked their heads up, sensing and hearing the noise of the draws banging on the wall as the rope came tight, and the body falling from high above.
Chris lowered me down carefully, to the watching climbers, who slowly turned away now that the show was over.
“I never would have guessed you had that streak of wildness,” he said.
“Yeah, somewhere inside me I’ve got a little craziness going on. But those whippers are really fun!” I said.
Bobbi: “I think it makes you a better climber, you know you’re safe so you can relax.”