Friday, December 30, 2011

8 Blue Nyla

Photo: Michelle Eckert (Bitches get stitches v9)

Photo: Pat Goodman (Slab Project)
On December 17th we traveled from CO to WV to escape snow and climb on some New River sandstone.  We only had 4 short days to spend with friends before returning to MD and PA for the Holidays.  Our first day was BRISK with highs in the 30's.  The rock felt like velcro and as we hiked through the expanse of rock excitement set in.  Boulders everywhere you looked, anything you wanted to climb from v0-project, 10ft to 50ft tall.  Nic had a project that he was very close on so that is where we headed first.  The project went up a proud sandstone face across rounded jugs and crimps with a crux move 15ft off the deck. The crux is a precise move to an incut crimp over a small bulge in the face so seeing what you were going for was almost impossible.  The project went down with some work and clocks in at v9.  We then made our way up towards the cliff line to try another project.  The second line that we got on was an arete on the main cliff line trail and is about 30ft tall.  It has a crux dyno to a a perfect mail slot jug and has a proud finish up a face with an exposed slab move towards the top of the boulder.  We got a full day of climbing in on our first day and it felt good to be with friends.  I was battling a sickness across the country and after our first day in the cold I quickly went down hill so the next few days were spent recuperating.  We managed one more day of climbing before we had to leave but rain set in and we had to cut the trip a day short.  The allure of great rock and open projects is calling me back to the New.  Its only a matter of time before I go back.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wild West

Baseline Rd, Boulder CO
I landed in Denver yesterday..  It feels great to be back in Colorado.   I can see myself spending more time here.  Each town on the front range has something different to offer and I have great friends across the state and in Wyoming that I am hoping to spend time with before we leave.  I have one week in Colorado and then we are making a road trip east.  Our plan is to stop in So Ill, possible stop in Chatty, Asheville and the NRG before coming home for the holidays.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hunting Season

just another gritstone beauty
December has been mild for much of Pennsylvania.  Its not often we have days that get into the 60's this late into the season.  To be honest I cannot remember a time until now that I have been able to make a journey north west to Elk this late in the year without encountering 6 or more inches of snow.  Typically any amount of snow means that the roads around Elk are impassible due to the steep terrain causing most of the roads to receive little or no sunshine.  The roads remain closed until spring when the temperatures get warm enough to melt the thick ice that develops over the winter.
photo: Mike Stewart (amazing arete)
I got a call from Brian on Friday afternoon about making a trip to Elk to get one last session in before winter set in.  Our plan would be to meet Saturday morning and head north to Snow Shoe where we would rendezvous with Trevor.  We didn't have a specific area in mind when we set off, each area had projects and classics to climb but seeing new rock would be nice so we got directions to an area that Mike Stewart and a crew of guys found a few years ago that looked intriguing in photos.   Neither Brian, Trevor or I had been to the area known as Q3.1 but we had a picture to go off of (photo to the right..  Climber: Ryan Shipp, Photo: Mike Stewart) and some solid directions so we journeyed into the unknown.  We managed to find the parking and the access trail with no problem.  From there it was a 20min hike to the boulders.  20min came and went and still no signs of rock...  The trail was flat but challenging due to all the rocks that were covered by damp leaves and moss.  We kept hiking, we were already committed at this point and turning around wasn't an option.  We were gonna find some rock.  We started to have doubts when we approached the 1hr marker and still didn't see any signs of the boulders in the pictures.  At this point in the journey we are so far in that we were going to find something to climb or we would have a great day of hiking through the woods during deer season.  It was decided that we would continue for another 15min or so and if we didn't find anything we would circle back and try again.  No more than 5 min later I heard Brian yell from up ahead, he found it!  Sure enough the trail took us straight to the boulder just like the directions said.  It only took about 45min longer than we expected, it was worth it.  The area was amazing.  There wasn't a significant amount of rock but the stuff that was there was good and the setting is beautiful.  We explored the area, warmed up and got to work scrubbing and climbing lines. 
I did an overhanging problem that is completely unlike anything I had seen before.  Its a tooth looking boulder that is steep and angled out of the ground at 45 degrees or so.  I am not sure if it had been done before but either way it was really fun.  You start on a good side pull and the arete, do some challenging moves under the boulder to gain the lip to an easy mantle.  It was surprising how much more difficult it was than expected.  That seems to be a theme for gritstone.
Daylight was starting to come to an end so we headed up the hill to try the arete in the photo above.  The line was a little green so we went to work cleaning the holds and picking out beta.  It was much more thoughtful than most aretes I had climbed before.  It had a complete lack of holds at the crux and was quite a reach to anything usable.  I was able to come up with solid beta that got me through the crux but no sends that day.  I didnt have enough time to put it all together before dark set in.  We knew that it would be a good hour to get out of the woods and neither of us had brought a head lamp so we packed up and hiked out to moon light.  Thankfully the moon was very bright and we cast shadows on the trail as we walked.  It was satisfying getting to see new rock and know that there is still so much room for development at Elk.
Sunday we woke early.  We got directions to another area known as Q3.  Mike and some other guys found this area nearly a decade ago but none of our crew had ever been.  Bowers and Sam met us for breakfast, there is nothing like a greasy spoon diner breakfast to get you ready for a long day in the cold.  The directions Stewart gave us were straight forward and we made it to the trail head without a problem  From there the hike is roughly a mile and some change on flat terrain and is marked well near the boulders.  We managed the hike in about 25-30 min.  Q3 is another beautiful area that is settled in a valley equipped with water falls, ferns and house size boulders..  pretty much magical...  The weather was a little warmer but still crisp and when we finally made it to the boulders we were warmed up from the hike and ready to climb.  I would say Q3 has a lot to offer but only has a handful of boulders.  We scrubbed and climbed some new lines and repeated a pocket problem that Joel T had done back in 2003.  One of the boulders that we climbed on consisted of water runnels that formed underclings all over the wall.  The boulder had some height to it too so the underclings near the top made for an exciting exit with a proper mantel at the top.. or you can grab a savior root at the top and thank Jesus for not letting you fall 25 feet to the ground. 
Joel T's pocket problem
Some of the formations of the boulders at Q3 are incredible.  They remind me of something you would see at Font or a southern area but the rock is still pa gritstone.  You have large wave shapped boulders to smaller boulders that are perfect geometric shapes.  The same curse applies to Q3 as with other areas at Elk, the quality of the rock can be so good that no weaknesses appear in the rock.  For instance, on any given trip you to any given area you will see handfuls of house size boulders with huge gorgeous walls but no holds.  Often times you find yourself having to adopt a new style of climbing for each area that combines feature climbing, extremely technical and burly moves.  
 Sunday went by fast and it was nice to see new rock in an area that I have been climbing at for years.  Exploring for rocks and new problems is still my passion.  Thank you Mike and everyone else who have put in some seriously hard work finding and developing these areas.  The Pennsylvania climbing scene is lucky to have developers like you guys!  I am still wondering how you all are able to find some of the areas that you do.  
Brian on the undercling boulder


Thursday, December 1, 2011


I've been on a roll out here on the east coast.  I am pretty sure I could write a lifetime movie or a hit country single documenting the crazy BS that I have gotten into over the past 2months.  To preface, I have gone through a few car repairs, a new car, being stuck in Clarksburg WV for 4days, getting involved with the Russian mob, end of times rain, poor climbing conditions, the demise of my new car, not to mention a life changing decision to continue my education and return to school for my graduate degree.
Everything started on my first trip to the NRG.  Nearly half way into the trip my battery light went on to which Kyle replied from the passenger seat with "yep...., that's your alternator".  The good news was that we could keep driving in the hopes that we would make it to the nearest town which was probably 45min away, the bad news was that we were 45min away and in the middle of back woods west virginyeee.  About 16miles from Morgantown my VW decided to crap out.  Every garage we talked to said "we dont work on those fancy foreign cars" or gave us a turnaround time of 2days and about $800.  Nothing was gonna keep us from our destiny so we decided to call around and see if we could do the repair ourselves.  My good friend Amanda (known as Amber Dean in those parts) was kind enough to pick our sad arses up and give us a ride into town where we bought a new battery, alternator and all the tools we would need to repair the car ourselves.  We proceeded to install said products into my vehicle while along side the road.  Kyles prowess under the hood of a car was impressive and thank God Trevor was along for the ride, his superhuman crimp strength saved the day getting the alternator wheel off the old alternator and onto installing it on the new alternator.  From start to finish the repair took an hour.  Finally we were on our way.  Upon arriving at the NRG I split two tips in 45min and Trevor managed to sustain a pretty serious muscle injury while warming up.  We finished out the weekend in style with our friends and managed some sends and a few FA's.  Just when we thought the trip was over and we were at the tail end of the journey my car decided that being fixed was no longer an option and the timing belt broke on my car about 100 yards from our destination and .5miles from the VW dealership.  $1800 and all my climbing equipment being stolen while it was being repaired at the VW dealership later I got my car back.
Everything was smooth for the next two weeks and my life continued as I looked for work and waited for my next climbing adventure back to the NRG for Thanksgiving.  Bri came to town as planned and we packed up and made the trip from PA to WV only for my my bastard car to yet again leave us hanging.  This time was different, the transmission was shot and I wasnt getting it fixed.  Off to the junkyard with my car and we pitched up in Morgantown with my good friends Mike and Jackie to find a new car.  Mother nature was kind enough to smite any possible drought or risk of forest fire by dumping thousands of gallons of rain on Morgantown at precisely the same time so Bri and I both felt safe wearing extremely flammable clothing near hot surfaces and flushing after #1 and #2.  This is also the time we ran into the Russian mob.... Who would have guessed WV?  They tried to sell us what I am sure was a get away vehicle, murder or crack car but we decided to pass.  There is an old saying about doing business or buying a car from someone out of the back seat of another car.  Now, when we are standing around the fire I can say "Remember the time we ran into the Russian mob in West Virginia and Bri almost stabbed a guy in the neck with a bic pen"?
 I did find a car eventually and thanks to all my friends, Bri, Bri's family and Barry(our car salesman) we managed to find a great car at a great price.  My new whip was unfortunately the last in affected in the string bad luck as it had a faulty water pump fan and needed repaired as soon as I got it home....  Sheesh...  God has smiled upon me however; my car is fixed, climbing continues, I don't have any physical ailments or diseases(that i know of), my harvest will be bountiful in the spring and I will be traveling back to Boulder for a short stay before the holidays.  While I am in Boulder I plan on seeing some friends in FoCo, Estes and Wyoming, climb some new rigs all before I make a road trip back to MD with Bri.
Our current plan is to stop in SoIll climb for a day or two then continue south and east to Chatty.  After Chatty, we are headed north to MD for the holidays.