22 March 2008

Red noses, cut fingers

It was cold Saturday afternoon, much colder than the 41 degrees flashed on the bank clock in the historic downtown Evergreen. Yet there I was driving to meet three other guys for a tour of 3 Sisters/Alderfer Park.

I was a little apprehensive. I love this place and was eager to share my knowledge with some friends. I was concerned they wouldn't have as good of a time. Maybe the secret project wall I luckily stumbled upon wasn't quite as magical as I remember it being. We would find out soon enough.

We started at the Big Boulder for a warm-up, though I believe on a day like this, that would be a misnomer. After a couple of problems, I dug into my pack and tore open the chemical hand warmers to stuff into my pockets. They became a big hit as we tossed them around to each other to dispense with the numbness that crept in after pretty much each problem.

Ian sends an easier traverse/gaston

I kept it nice and easy, trying to conserve my energy and the skin on my tips. I've spent enough time at this rock that I should be paying rent. For the rest of the crew this was their first time here, so it was a brand new playground.

Rak getting shutdown after making the send earlier.

Ian, proving he has no fear of heights, going highball for the second of three times.

Actually I don't think I would call it a highball, a free solo is more apt. I felt rather helpless moving the crashpad and spotting him as he got over 20 feet. "Well, I can at least try to catch his head if he falls."

Another Ian butt shot

We packed up and headed up and off-trail to the project wall. Rak's dog, Zack, seemed to be recovering from the chunk of stick he had swallowed and was good to go - though his flatulence was deadly and quite honestly, impressive.

My favorite model of the day, Ian again, trying Fingercutter.

I worked a different, more gentle problem while I let Rak and Ian try the hard stuff. After a while I joined in trying to link up Fingercutter.

Rak losing more skin from his fingers. Sorry about the sideways video.

Ian causes some bodily harm

Rak cut and bloodied three fingers trying the problem, quickly depleting my supply of band-aids in my first-aid kit. Ian somehow mashed his hand and whacked his knee pretty good. I was lucky. I sent the problem. I saw where I needed to shift my body weight and get my feet before matching hands on a really shitty sloping shelf. Instead of trying to keep my feet on the wall, I just yarded up on my left hand and threw to the hold.

The key is grunting and swearing - I let loose and let my Chicago Italian heritage shine forth - while getting through the crux. Another F bomb as I grabbed a small crimp with the left hand and paygold with the final move for the right hand.

I was at the top but I didn't top off. Rak later asked me why I didn't. Instead of going into how it was a long walk around and there was a lot of snow up top, I just told him I didn't know why. I was just happy to send the problem.

I asked what he thought it went at. He replied V4. Now I figure if it's hard and I can do it, it's V2. If it's really hard but eventually I can do it, it's V3. It has been several years since I did a V4, so hell, I'll take the feather in my cap. Maybe I'm not as bad of a climber as I view myself to be.

Afterwards we hit the Morrison Inn to thaw our bodies - the bank clock stated 34 on the return journey through Evergreen - with margaritas and burritos.

- Depeche Mode. I heard a few weeks ago that this song would now be considered Classics, meaning old-foogie music. Screw them, I caught myself singing Personal Jesus as it played on my iPod.

21 March 2008

When will we learn

Jason and I went up Thursday to Loveland for a half-day of skiing. It hadn't snowed in a while so the snow conditions were "challenging". Sometimes it was bulletproof, sometimes ice, and on the south-facing aspects we discovered sastrugi that was just softened enough to catch and edge and difficult to turn in (I discovered first-hand a couple of times by turning with too much momentum, followed by a face plant and a burrowed ski).

I thought that Northern Chutes would be nice and softened with a few hours of sun. Boy was I wrong. The moguls were hard as rocks and it was tough to keep an edge while turning, as Jason demonstrates:

I didn't do much better, I was just the one with the camera so my ignominy wasn't captured.

Skiing sure felt like thousands of miles away from my trip, because it was. Here's a denizen I encountered on my last full day in Costa Rica:

16 March 2008

Luvin low gravity

Last year, Three Sisters / Alderfer Park just outside of Evergreen became my home away from home. In fact, if the draconian managers of JeffCo's Open Space Parks allowed overnighting, I probably would have slept on my crashpad a few nights just to get some early morning bouldering in that was right at my feet.

About the middle of last summer, I thought it was climbed out. I then stumbled upon some locals who were warming up on the Big Boulder. They introduced me to some new problems - all of which a spotter and crashpad, or two, are needed.

The lesson learned was I needed to start looking off of the trails. That led to several more trips rambling cross the park, some exciting slabby solos and a hidden project wall. I hadn't returned since late last year and was curious. More wanting to get some miles and elevation under me, I grabbed my climbing shoes as an afterthought, and I'm glad I did.

My goal was to explore neighboring Elephant Butte, a big mound with some interesting, rope-stretching slabs on it. I had once been on a trail in the western part of the park that led to a saddle, which would then lead to some reconnoitering. Well I got to the saddle but I never got to the western neighbor; there was plenty of granite goodness to be found.

The first problem was by happenstance. I thought about crossing over and heading straight up the butte at a point and stumbled across this, Naranja Obscura:

Some decent holds lead to a thin 1/2-fingertip flake that you hope won't bust. A delicate left-hand lieback to a gaston leads to a nice blob for your right. I'll be conservative and give it a V2. It is a highball that required a backwards au chevel to get off to downclimb terrain. Also if that flake blows, you're looking at either an ankle-breaker or a spine-snapper - depending on how committed you are in the move. Not having the crashpad actually made me more focused, so take it how you like.

Behind this first rock the slope drops off steeply to a creek. There was either too much or not enough snow - depending on how you want to look at it - to get across. There wasn't enough white stuff to bridge the creek without taking a dip and it was impossible to leap across with my legs postholed past my knees. Come spring it will not be an issue. And beyond that stream is the motherlode!

Or you could just keep going down the trail and not having to worry about getting wet. Doh!

Further up the trail near the saddle, I scrambled up a slab that was very reminiscent of Flatiron slabmongery. Above this stood a V3 12-footer, Powerpole Rock.

Nearby I took a break after some more slabbing.


At the saddle I cut cross country again and came to Frailability:

I'll go another V2 though it might be tougher now. The name reflects the character of the rock. I had two consecutive footholds blow while I was in "it'll hurt to fall" territory.

A problem doesn't need to be tall to stymie me. Positive Illusion was one of those rocks you could easily pass by. But this bloody sharp and biting munchkin took me the most attempts to get up. Not much positive, not much feet and what was good was facing the wrong direction.

Neighboring slabs which will be fun friction testpieces once the seepage stops:

Near the log cabin, I just about passed by this tower before being beaconed. I don't know why it enticed me, maybe it was the first profile it showed resembled a tower; it could have been the texture of the work erosion committed pleased me, or it just could have been that it was tall. As I got closer, of course it grew. I steadied my breathing, felt the irrational fears dissolve and my focus sharpen.

Sorry Ma, I had to probably was no more than mid-fifth class, but it was also over 30 feet of soloing on some of the chossiest rock I've been on this side of Frisco Peak in the Cascades.

There were a couple of moments the mantra, "Please don't break" was repeated. It could probably done easier than the way I went (a right exit just past the flagpole pine lowers the grade significantly) but I honestly wouldn't trust the rock and going left felt more airy.

Sorry Ma, I had to

ARTIST OF POST - Chris Thomas King. Making sure the blues don't die out with this next generation blues guitarist.

11 March 2008

Busy, busy, busy

While my sockeye salmon cooks in the oven, thought I'd quickly post a video; I really don't have much time yet this week for a comprehensive write-up, and I think it might be better to cover the trip in small snippets such as this.

Here's a video of the volcano Arenal. Interestingly enough, the lava switches which side of the mountain it flows down every four years or so. It has been cascading down this side for around eight months. A few nights before this video was taken, I drove with a couple to a viewpoint at a river at night and we were treated with the orange spectacle of the lava explosions breaking the inky blackness of the night.

09 March 2008

Costa Rica Olympians

After nearly a week into my stay in Costa Rica, I asked the owner of Casa Tranquilo Hostel, David, why weren't there any more Costa Rican Olympians. The constant up-and-down topography of the country and with elevation from sea level to 12,000 feet in less than 100 miles in width, the country would seem to be a fertile training ground.

His response with a smile was the only Olympics Costa Ricans could win would be drinking. As a recovering druggie - nearly four years clean to his credit - maybe David would know.

I, however, came back in much better physical shape than what I possessed when I arrived. It's safe to say I have gotten my cardiovascular system back to speed and my legs are - OK, I rarely toot my own horn - but they are like steel cables. Thing is I might have lost weight possibly, and I wouldn't consider that to be a bad thing.

And feeling the way I feel now, I don't want to lose - at all. After the long travel days on Friday and Saturday, my body pretty much crashed, going unconscious for 10 hours. It shouldn't be unexpected as I was probably getting 5-6 hours a night for 9 days. Hey, when it hits 6 am down there, the birds go crazy - AND THERE'S LOTS OF THEM!

So instead of the backcountry skiing I envisioned, I told my body "Screw you" in return for my lazy wake-up time. It was power hiking time up at White Ranch Open Space Park, located north of Golden. It was rather muddy in sections and, as expected, the north-facing aspecs still held snow.

Still had a great time, hiking about 10 miles with over 2,000 feet elevation gain in about 2 1/2 hours. It took a while to get going again after taking too long of a lunch break, but I was mesmerized by 7 paragliders and 1 , well, I don't know what he was riding but it looked pretty cool. Heck, there guys were able to climb back higher into the sky, masterfully playing the currents off of the foothills.

OK, onto the porn. I was messing with settings with the camera, trying to become all artistic and all.

I was amazed how far these guys were able to travel. They seemed to be thumbing their nose up at gravity most of the time with their aerial display.

08 March 2008

Estoy consado

Got back from Costa Rica around noontime today. It was eight great days and lead to some reawakening for me in some aspects. Nothing too introspective and really didn't get down to thinking that way until Friday with an hour to go before my bus ride from Santa Elena to Alajuela.

Here's some eye-candy until I get over the jet-lag and after I get some backcountry skiing in tomorrow:

La catarata de La Fortuna on the approach

El Sendero sur up Cerro Chato

Lago Arenal

What happens when an possum and a lemur have a love affair? Coati!

Santa Elena