Monday, October 28, 2013

Remember the time we almost got struck by lighting?

I prefer my coffee black, an unfiltered cigarette, a revolver, a shot of whiskey, a motorcycle, chewing tobacco and I'll wash it down with a steak and a side of shut up.  My Liberties over security and further more my freedom over idealism.  Two elk skulls sit outside our cabin..

We were at the mouth of the forest.  The service road that we had hiked went on but the forest came to an abrupt halt at the edge of a large reservoir.  Rain fell in white sheets obscuring our vision tracing a path in our wake as we sped across the open expanse.  The sky was ashen brown; lightning illuminated the darkness and a cacophony of discordant thunder rung in our ears.  Visibility was going from poor to naught quickly.  “We are completely exposed out here,” I said panting.  The only thing that stood between us and the car was a half mile jaunt across the top of a dam and a cascading deluge of water that covered our descent down the other side.  No trees, no buildings, no shelter, the car was tantamount to being in another state.   Lightning flashed again, closer.  Along with it came a crippling explosion of thunder.  It was a ground strike to our right. The hair on my arm rose and fell with the undulating charge filling the air; a thought manifested itself and a growing concern that we might be felled by lighting.  I broke out in a sprint. Another lightning strike, I could feel its discharge as it arced into the ground.  My eyes struggled to regain focus; I had lost contrast from over exposure to the searing white light; it seemed to be permanent.   My pace quickened and my mouth filled with the familiar taste of copper as my lungs struggled to maintain pace with the blood forcing its way outwards and the cool air forcing its way in.  I was not going to slow down.  Like the rain, I intensified my pursuit to the car.  My stride widened, I rounded the bottom of the hill forcing myself to take large gasps of air.  The silver car sat amongst the darkening evergreens and barely stood out in the dimming evening light obscured by the storm.  It was only a hundred yards ahead.  The headlights flashed, the car unlocked. I swung the passenger door open as the sky flashed and my surroundings were again thrown in stark relief.

That was day three of a four-day trip to the Quehanna wild area in NW PA, the area known as Elk.  The trip started off quite differently.  A balmy 75 degrees and sun greeted us as we pulled off the road and into the parking area for the cabin we would be residing at for the trip.  “It is perfect” we all exclaimed.  “Who would have guessed prior to this trip that we would go from struggling to find camping in this area to having a cabin to stay at within 5 minutes of climbing?” the rhetorical question came from Travis first.  It is amazing how things change in the matter of a few months.  We unpacked and made our way out to a climbing area to enjoy the last bit of daylight.  Unseasonable temperatures don’t lend themselves to great climbing conditions.  This is especially true when you are talking about heat and humidity on gritstone.  Grit can be very technical and require perfect conditions in order to hold “non holds” on predominantly gently overhanging, vertical and slabby terrain.  Conditions aside, we did have fun and we put up a new problem the first day.  Psyche was high.  The psyche got even higher when a friend of ours hiked up later that day, just before dark to meet us at the top of the mountain we were climbing and asked “Did y’all see that giant boulder in the gulley over there?”. Trevor pointed to his right to an area that we had never hiked up.  “No” we all said.  “Well, I figure it’s a pretty good looking boulder, maybe we should hike down over there on our way out?”  We all nodded in agreement feeling the energy of a new discovery come over us.  On our hike out at the end of the night, we made our way to the area that Trevor had pointed to and sure as shit he was spot on, a giant boulder sat amongst trees in a valley we had never explored.  Trevor’s genius idea to walk up the “less steep” section of the daunting hill we had been climbing led to one of the most enchanting, amazing looking boulders I had ever seen.  It’s absolutely breath taking.  Roughly 25ft at its apex it hosts a number of hard boulder problems on pristine rock.  The main attraction being a line up the belly of an overhanging double arĂȘte feature.  Pictures do not do it justice this boulder is king.  It was dark when we reached the car.  Day one felt great and according to the forecast prior to our arrival the rest of the trip was going to go one of two ways either perfect or rainy..  We had no cellphone reception or Internet access in the wilderness so it was impossible to see which way the weather was trending but we headed home with our hopes high banking on a rain free trip.

J and Gault looking happy despite the rain
The next morning we woke with the all too familiar sound of rain plinking off the tin roof.  We decided early that it would not stop us from at least exploring.  The rest of the day was spent hiking around looking for new boulders, only to return to the cabin later that evening soaked, head to toe.  It was a rewarding day.  We found a few new boulders and we were able to spend most of the day in the woods which is where I feel most at home.

The next day was much of the same, rain.  Mist floated down gently coating any surface exposed.  The morning progressed and the cool mist began to dissipate leaving behind a damp feeling but at last we would be able to enjoy a precipitation free trip into the woods.  We made a decision to head back to the Blush boulder and spend time cleaning and scrubbing obvious lines.  I spent roughly an hour working on a line that will trend up a blunt overhanging double arĂȘte feature right about the same time I finished cleaning we were stymied by a gentle rain that began to fall.   The rain began to fall faster and we made the obvious decision to head back to the car.  On our short walk back we discussed using the rest of our day to investigate some boulders that sat on top of a hill not far north from where we were.  It seemed like it would be the best use of our time seeing as by this time the rain had fully saturated the earth all hopes for climbing would have to wait until the next day.  This diversion into the unknown lasted the rest of the day and included a nearly class 5 ascent of a steep muddy slope.  Brian and I pushed forward as the path we hiked in on became a small strip of unclaimed earth barely bigger than a hair and almost invisible from our vantage on the hillside.  We found a few things but the hike wasn’t sure to bring us back anytime soon.  Our hike out on this uncharted terrain was just as challenging and the rain continued to fall.  This is where my story picked up, when we reached the opening of the forest.

Brian about to get FA of "Red Riding Hood"
Finally the last day we were greeted by sunshine in the morning.  The plan was to make the 3.5 mile hike to the upper golden sector of the golden boulders.  The walk is easy you follow a gold blazed trail to a beautiful stream, go across a wooden bridge then head upstream.  This area reminds me more of southern sandstone than any of the gritstone areas.  Typically grit is plagued with the common problem of being too clean with no holds.  This area is a contrast in the sense that you can find steep over hanging boulders that have amazing pinches, pockets, slopers and crimps.  They all exist at upper golden!  It was a great day of developing.  We all scrubbed boulders we were psyched on and managed to add a few new things to the field.  The last time I was at the golden boulders I put up a line called pressure drop that goes up a nearly vertical/ slightly slabby face that turned out to be pretty hard.  Not sure exactly on the grade but felt tough..  I did a similar problem on a slab this trip.  The problem looked so easy and straightforward but managed to thwart an ascent until I committed roughly 45min and a bit of skin.  It’s a few big moves on bad holds with no feet.  I called it martial law. felt hard to me.

Overhaning pinch problem at Upper Golden.
Although the trip was soggy and I managed to bitch up Travis’s car getting hit by a deer…  I had a great time.  Looking forward to my return and better conditions.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rocktoberfest Wrap Up

8 am ..  #planB #1/36th irish
Have you ever traveled to Slade Kentucky?  An endless expanse of corroding steel pipes and smoke stacks protrude from the hillside as we crossed the bridge joining Kentucky to West Virginia.  Cool air washed over my face as the window droned and came to a close.   4 hours separate the town of Fayetteville WV and Slade KY, I closed my eyes and rubbed my face.  The mounting fatigue from our early departure was beginning to catch up with me.  The Cumberland region of the United States is steeped in history and is now the sarcophagus of a once thriving export driven economy.  At one point the area that stretches from KY up to WV and parts of PA contained the world’s largest coal and natural gas operations.   Remnants of this life still lie decaying along roads and in towns across the Mid-Atlantic.  It’s easy to forget where we came from with luxuries like smartphones and iPads, this thought occurred to me as I aimlessly browsed the interwebs on my iPhone.   We made a left at the next exit and sunlight bounced off the review mirror, temporarily blinding me.  I could tell from our previous vantage that our destination was not much farther.
Our first stop of many on the trip was Miguel’s, the always-active pizza and gear shop positioned not far from the interstate in the Red River Gorge.  Our stay was brief and we made our rounds introducing ourselves, shaking hands with new and old friends.  The aroma of fresh cooking filled the air, the indistinguishable smells of fresh vegetables, bread and pizza hung on every breath.  Cooking is the universal language of hospitality…  It’s easy to feel at home here.  As enticing as it was to post up and forget about the day, drifting into stories of adventure, our stay at Miguel’s needed to be brief. We had work to do.  After a run down on new 5.10 products for 2014 we packed up, only to return 4 days later for the RRG Rocktoberfest.

5.10 Demo, Urban Krag. Dayton OH
In the 4 days that followed we managed a tremendous amount of Demoing, Clinic-ing, talking, eating and driving.  The weather was warm as we made our way from Slade to Lexington and north to Cincinnati/Dayton OH where we Demoed shoes at Urban Krag and Quest climbing gyms among others.  A shout out to Kris and Annalissa, you guys are awesome!  They cooked us an amazing meal and put us up while we worked in the area.  Thursday evening rolled around and we headed south to Louisville and then back to Slade for the Rocktoberfest.

The Red is one of many spots in the region with amazing sandstone bluffs and caves intertwined with memories of industry.  It has a quiet beauty.  When you stand under a swooping overhang that’s 110 feet tall, it’s easy to see why the Red is one of the premiere climbing destinations in the country.

B. Dorough showing off...  new 2014 product

The RRGCC’s annual Rocktoberfest is geared at raising funds for climbing access and preservation in the gorge.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, as this was my first Rocktoberfest.  From the minute we set up shop on Friday Five Ten’s booth was rolling.  It was great to see all of the people show up for such a cool event that supports a great cause.  7am came early Saturday morning.  Demos kicked off on the bright and the day proved to be warm but great for climbing.  I was under a common misconception prior to Saturday, that you wouldn’t have much opportunity to climb with so many people at the event; I thought the cliff might be “crap” show.  I was wrong.  The Red is so vast that you can easily escape any crowd, no matter how large it is or if you are looking for a scene you could find that easily too.  We managed to get a little climbing in over the weekend and I was blown away by the generosity and hospitality of our hosts the RRGCC.   Thank you guys for putting on such an awesome event and doing what it takes to preserve climbing for future generations.

If you are unfamiliar with the RRGCC or the Rocktoberfest, I encourage you to check out their website.

We value rock climbing as a form of recreation that is good for both individuals and local communities. We also value the world class rock climbing opportunities found in and around Red River Gorge, Kentucky as a national treasure that are deserving of our best efforts to preserve for all Americans and for all climbers to enjoy, experience, and appreciate.

Our vision is to build an organization that provides the public service of securing and preserving the highest quality climbing opportunities and inspires climbers to become “Citizen Trustees of Climbing”—empowering ourselves through “ownership” (taking responsibility) and direct participation.

Our mission is to ensure open, public access to ample, quality outdoor rock climbing opportunities to meet the needs of current and future climbers and to encourage the conservation of the natural environment, on publicly managed and privately owned land by protecting, promoting, and ensuring responsible climbing.

Our strategy is to first responsibly secure the opportunity to climb, whether on public or private land, and then make climbing sustainable for climbers and the environment, and finally to make all climbing exemplary.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Back in the Hood

"If its worth doing, its worth doing right." - any mom that has ever given advise.

 Perfect conditions prefaced my rainy arrival in the New River Gorge.  Plink...  Plink.....  Plink... rain danced down the tin roof and onto an empty porch that otherwise would have been occupied by the fold that had taken refuge inside.  Many a day has been spent watching the weather slowly melt down the slopes of the gorge and saturate every exposed surface.  "Yup" I yawned and stretched.  "No hurry to get out today", steam fogged my glasses as I took another sip of coffee.  And thats about how it went  for the first 3 days I was in WV.  Luckily for me I had company and we managed to kill time with stories of adventure, food and catching up on lost time.  After day two of said rain, I could feel my sanity slowly regressing into the tell tale and familiar signs of cabin fever..  What would I do if I was trapped in a tent for weeks in the alpine??  As I think about that now, typing this post I am a little disconcerted.  I have never thought of that mental challenge before...  Anyway, I couldn't take it anymore so Nick and I snuck out to climb on a roof that stayed somewhat dry in the dreary fog that drifted in with the rain.  I managed a relatively quick ascent of Fayetteville's Finest a crimpy v10 out a nearly horizontal roof.  This holiday from the walls of the house was short lived but kept my brain occupied and satisfied the addiction for at least the rest of the rainy spell..

The purpose for said trip was to participate in the American Alpine Club's second annual Craggin' Classic at the New River Gorge to be held September 20th - 22nd.  The event kicked off Friday evening with a pig roast and an amazing slide show.  By this time I was ready to climb again, my mind wandered to the next day as I sat in front of amazing imagery captured in the mountains of Patagonia.  The presenters voice slowly drifted to a subtle hum in the background of the growing questions that had taken hold of my thoughts.  I have A.D.D.  I said to myself.  What if it rained?  Where would we go climbing? What about the clinic? questions, questions, questions..  I formulated a plan just as the events of the evening came to a close.  Sure as the sun will shine Saturday the rain did fall..  and I mean fall.  I am talking a real frog strangler.  We got so much rain between 10 and 3pm I thought I started to see animals gathering in pairs.  As quickly as the rain came it seemed like it let up and by evening we were all stoked for Freddie Wilkinson's slide show. The imagery in his slide show was profound, it was one of the ill'est things I have seen in a long time.

The Tooth Traverse from renan ozturk on Vimeo.

The evening ended with the traditional dance party and I fell asleep at the crack of 3am.

The rubber is so sticky we drove across that crick 
To polish off an already amazing trip I stayed a few extra days with the intentions of climbing as many classic 4 star routes in the gorge and surrounding areas.   I have spent many many years climbing at the NRG, Meadow River and the Lake but with so much rock climbed and unclimbed I have barely seen anything.  So  I managed to do somewhere around 20 - 25 new (to me) routes between 12.b and 13.c..  Pretty psyched..  Here are some notable climbs that stood out to me either aesthetically or had some amazing movement...  Welcome to Conditioning, Just Send It, Depth Charge, Skinny Legs, Fall Line, Pud's Pretty Dress, B52, Strike a Scowl, Gift of Grace, My Stinking Brain, Ride the Lightning..  and the list goes on and on and on.  I was really lucky to have great conditions following the Classic and lucky to have awesome friends that were either psyched to get out and climb or psyched to give me a ride on these rigs.  Looking forward to my next trip.

Peek Event

Mid-Atlantic friends, If you are free tomorrow evening October 2nd 2013 come join us at the AAC Peek event.