#268 Send 5.13

Climbing a 5.13 is something on my bucket list that I truly never thought I would ever accomplish. And even three days later, it still doesn’t feel real.

I’ve been here in Geyikbayiri, Turkey for nearly 2 months now working and climbing with five friends from Colorado. So far, the trip has been incredible, not only for seeing a new part of the world, but also for projecting harder climbs. After sampling a small fraction of the incredible climbing at different sectors, I wanted to find a climb that was hard for me, and that I would really need to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of to send.

One of my favorite crags here in Geyikbayiri is Trebenna. It is in the shade all day and consists of a long wall formed by huge limestone columns that are loaded with pockets and tufas. Trebenna is the perfect spot for a project because it stays dry in the rain and is in the shade all day. A few weeks ago I watched Ben climb “Leon” (5.13a), and it looked incredible. It is thin, technical, and the moves are insanely fun.

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The start of the crux (Photo Max Owens)

My first day on the climb was pretty much what I expected. I whipped at nearly every bolt, and I could just barely do all the moves, but the climbing was fun I didn’t have any problem trying the moves over and over again. I also know that climbs start to feel easier once you are more familiar with the moves. The route breaks down into three sections. The first part of the climb is easy tufa climbing to a no-hands knee bar, it is a nice warm up for the rest of the climb. The second part of the climb is the crux. It starts right after the rest by launching into difficult climbing with big moves on increasingly smaller pockets to the technical crux consisting of moving up on tiny crimps on really bad feet. Finally the third and final section is steeper yet juggy climbing with small feet. It’s not has hard, but I still had to work it to make sure I wouldn’t fall if I climbed through the crux. Even though it was really hard, I knew I could do it, even if it took me the rest of the trip.

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Taking the whip from the crux. I probably took that fall over 15 times. (Photo by Max Owens)

The projecting process went really well. I learned a little something new each burn, and never got frustrated with myself. And eventually after three days of hard work things came together. I sent “Leon” (5.13a) on my 10th try spread out over 3 days, with 5 of the attempts on the day I sent. I still have no idea how I sent it even though I was so tired. I was incredibly thrilled that my training paid off, but most of all I am proud of myself for doing something that I thought was impossible. Sending Leon was an enormous boost to my self confidence. Now more than ever I know not quit when something feels impossible, and that I am capable of climbing 5.13. Something I only thought possible in my wildest dreams.

Looking back on it now, I have to ask myself if it was actually worth it. All the money I spent on gym memberships, all the time “wasted” because I was training indoors and not climbing outside. Hell, I even missed my first snowboard season in 10 years.

And now that is over, it is safe to say I would do it again in a heartbeat. Nothing else in my life could compare to the tremendous joy and excitement I felt after clipping the chains. To work so hard for something and have it pay off was truly the best feeling I have ever experienced in my entire life.

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cheesin’ after the send (Photo by Max Owens)

Even though climbing a 5.13 was a numbered goal, climbing for me has never been just about the grade. It’s all the time spent with your friends exploring amazing places. It’s listening to Wu Tang while tying in, and trying to push your physical and mental limits. But most of all, I climb because it makes me happy.

Up next on the bucketlist.. 5.14?

#210 Climb in Joshua Tree

If Joshua Tree is your favorite climbing area I would suggest reading something else.

When I first thought about where to go on my trip, I planned to spend a month in Joshua Tree. Clearly I didn’t do enough research. I’m not trying to talk shit on J Tree as it is a truly amazing place that offers a TON of climbing and adventure.

After a month in Yosemite, I was ready for some peace and quiet in the desert. I came into the park late at night under a starry sky to meet up with a climbing partner for the week. Luke was an awesome dude, and most importantly he was stoked to climb. Over the next week we ran around the desert and climbed some of the classic splitters, scary face climbs, and friction slabs.

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Awesome campsite in Hidden Valley

The main problem I have with Joshua Tree is that it’s hard to get a lot of good climbing in each day. It would be really easy to solo a bunch of easy stuff, but I wanted to try harder climbs. Another thing is that you end up spending a bunch of time walking off the top of the rocks to the base of each climb, and that got old really fast.

TLDR: Joshua tree is a great climbing area, but it’s not world class like Yosemite or Indian Creek.

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Joshua Trees for as far as the eye can see

I think I put Joshua Tree on the bucketlist because it is such a historical area, and there is such a huge volume of climbing in the park. I had a blast the week I was there, but I don’t think I will make plans to go back.

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The setting sun over the Joshua Trees is pretty spectacular

#228 Climb in Yosemite, #233 Spend the Night on a Bigwall

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The Big Stone

Yosemite National Park is without a doubt the most iconic climbing area in the world, and is a place that everyone should see at least once. I had been dying to get there ever since I started climbing, and this fall I was finally able to make it happen. I built a small frame in the back of my car, packed my haulbag, said goodbye to Boulder, and set off the Valley to try and climb as much as possible.

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The cleanest chunk of granite I have ever seen

When I first rolled into Yosemite I was intimidated by the huge walls, I didn’t know anyone, and was seriously wondering if I made a good decision coming on my own. Well after a few days in Camp 4 I knew coming to the Valley was the right choice .

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Fritz styling an English Muffin in Camp 4

Despite my initial fear, it was super easy to find climbing partners and I had someone to climb with pretty much every day. It was also nice to be able to take rest days and ensure I didn’t re-injure my finger, and had time to explore the Valley.

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Michael on the free variation to Voices of the Drown (Mama)

After a month in Yosemite I had ticked off a ton of the classics. I would have to say my favorite climbs were Mr. Natural, Serenity and Sons, The Moratorium, and the Alien Finish to the Rostrum. Hell, even Nutcracker was really good. (Stevie if you ever read this you’re welcome for dragging you up that).

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Trevor on the last $$$ pitch of Sons of Anarchy

It was especially awesome to meet up with some friends from Boulder along the way. It definitely made me realize that climbing is twice as fun when you are climbing with your best friends. So thanks to Cat, Keenan, Fritz, Adam, Aki, Scott, and Brad for climbing with me in one of the sickest places in the world.

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Hanging out with Cat, Keenan, and Brad El Portal

One of the highlights of the trip was doing a multi-day climb of Washington Column via “Skull Queen”. It was an absolute blast because I got to climb it with my friend Scott, who I had last seen in Panama over 3 years ago.

All in all it went really smoothly. The first day we climbed and hauled 3 pitches to dinner ledge, and then fixed our ropes up the next two pitches. The next morning we blasted off jugging our lines and climbing the rest of the route swapping leads until sunset. We rappelled back to the ledge and spent an awesome night under the stars. Skull Queen was a perfect first wall, and I was able to become more efficient and I know I can do something bigger/harder.

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Saturday night the ledge was packed with 11 people!

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Scott jugging the 9th pitch

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Friggin Stoked at the end of the day

After a month in Yosemite, I think it’s safe to say I got almost the full experience. I climbed a ton of classics, sunk my hands into the deep granite cracks, climbed a big wall, volunteered at the Facelift, slept in Camp 4, snagged free showers at Curry, busser raced, met a ton of new friends, and drank a few Cobras along the way.

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Cat and Keenan stuck in traffic on the Rostrum

While Yosemite is a truly amazing place, I found that after a month I was definitely ready to leave. All of the tourists, lines for classic climbs, tiny black flies, driving the loop stuck in traffic, dealing with food storage, and the expensive food/gas prices are all inevitable but got old after a while.

I’m super lucky that I was able to spend so much time there and get in so much good climbing. There are still a ton of things I didn’t end up doing (El Cap and Half Dome), but I need to make it to Zion before I return to the Valley.

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Until next time Yosemite.

#214 Graduate From College

Pretty psyched to have just graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology! I am super grateful that I had the opportunity to go to college, and these past 4 years have been an absolutely life changing experience. I met some amazing people and had a ton of fun adventures along the way.

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No plans for the summer, but in the fall its off to Yosemite for #228!

#236 Watch the Denver Broncos win the Superbowl.

After watching the Broncos get their ass kicked in Superbowl 48, I put this one on the list because it looked like they wouldn’t win one in a million years. But somehow 2 years later we (the broncos, I am not on the team) beat the Panthers to win Superbowl 50! I ended up listening to the game instead because I was driving back from an ice climbing trip, but it was still super exciting. It was nice to see PFM go out with a win, and to silence all the critics who were talking a lot of trash. Go broncos, Yehaww!

#141 El Potrero Chico

I’m not quite sure what it was that got me psyched to plan a trip to El Potrero Chico… Was it the jagged limestone peaks of the Sierra Madres? Was it because Alex Honnold had been there? Or was it the rumor of a small white chihuahua named Scooby.

It was Scooby.

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This is Scooby

Ben, Zach, and I threw our bags into the back of my mom’s Prius and sped off to Mexico. We were all skipping the holidays with our families for a three week climbing trip in another country. (Sorry family). Google maps predicted the drive to be nineteen hours. Oh, if only. I would love to say that our boarder crossing into Mexico was easy and relaxing, but quite frankly, it did tremendous psychological damage to all of us, and even with years of therapy and rehabilitation, we will never be able to truly recover. It was a true test of character and really made us question our life choices. The six lane highway at Laredo bridge was completely packed with cars that stretched for miles. It took us a grueling and painful 9 hours just to cross the boarder and get our travel visas. It is really funny how I thought that nothing could be worse than the DMV, but the Mexican boarder office takes the cake. And what horrible place would be complete without a screaming child? And this wasn’t just any screaming child, this child was… The worst child on the planet. This punk-ass toddler was running around, crying hysterically, screaming at the top of her lungs, stomping her feet, and clapping while her parents did nothing. I don’t want to talk about this any more. On to the climbing.

After 31 unfortunate hours, we made it to El Potrero Chico.

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The front side

Our friend Mike had found us a place to stay in the middle of town right across from the climber hangout/coffee shop, The Buho. It was a small apartment that even had a bathroom and electricity, and enough space for our whole crew of 6. The main campsite in Potrero was super full, and it was so nice to have a place to stay that was away from the crowds of other climbers. And it was only $13 a person for the month!

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Zach picking fresh oranges off our roof

On our second day, after being somewhat recovered from our traumatic boarder crossing, we tried Time Wave Zero 23 pitches (5.12a). 90% of the climbing is super easy, and Zach and I were able to simul-climb the first 8 pitches until we got rained out. We didn’t end up trying it again because the climbing wasn’t all that great, and there were so many people going to climb that route. Due to the huge influx of gumbies on the multipitches, we focused on harder single pitch climbing for the duration of the trip.

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Zach helping me get facebook likes

The trip was a welcome change from our usual short weekend trips. We had more time to rest, explore the town, try some of the local restaurants, and practice our spanish at the local Tuesday markets. One of our favorite restaurants was “Faceburger”, which literally the kitchen of some families house. The burgers were as big as your face, and came with baskets of fresh fries. While it definitely was not the most authentic Mexican food, it was pretty damn good after a day of climbing. And I will admit that it was insane to watch Ben eat the whole thing… And then hustle back to our bathroom at a swift pace.

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Ben onsighting  his project

After a week climbing in Potrero, we decided to head up to El Salto for some cooler temps. We heard that the climbing was amazing, and decided to spend a few days in the mountains during Christmas. We left early in the morning to avoid rush hour, which thankfully made the drive only slightly terrifying. After miles of steep winding roads, and definitely not bottoming out on any speed bumps, we rolled in to Cienega De Gonzales. We set up camp in the yard of a lady named Dona Kika, which was a great chance to meet local climbers from Mexico City and Guadalajara.

The climbing in El Salto is world class. The Las Animas wall is the main crag with over 60 routes. Las Animas wall is huge wall of beautifully streaked, and incredibly featured limestone. It was all of our first experiences climbing on tufas before and it did not dissapoint. Although it was a new style to get used to, it was a blast getting pumped out of my mind and taking some big clean falls. The climbing in El Salto is so 3-Dimensional, it mades each route one-of-a-kind.

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Zach climbing through a sea of tufas on Las Animas wall

The next day we hiked a little farther down the creek bed to check out the Tecalote cave. It’s super steep, loaded with stalactites, and has some really hard climbs. The routes were out of this world and just plain fun to climb.

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Zach “using his head” to find a no-hands rest

On the right side of the cave, Ben and I climbed what was quite possibly the sickest 5.10 ever. It was called “Culo De Merin”, or “Merlin’s Asshole (a lovely name) and it climbed through a horizontal tunnel, and up into a cave. It felt like caving. We rappelled out of the cave with huge grins.

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Ben nearing the end of the climb, high into the cave

Later that night (Christmas Eve), Dona Kika invited all the climbers to her families party. She had made hundreds of tamales, (which were by far the best tamales any of us had ever had), shared beers and maybe a little to much tequila. I would say it was a great night if some of the locals didn’t build a huge fire and BLAST music at our tents all night long until the sun came up; and the tequila didn’t help.

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The El Salto Gang, Santa, and two random children

We headed back to Potrero to meet up with the rest of our Boulder crew of Max, Shannon, and Ben, who thankfully had an easier boarder crossing than we did. We climbed the next few days and got to spend New Years at the big climber party in one of the local campgrounds. it was really cool to see how many psyched climbers from all around the world come out to Potrero. There was even a DJ and even a mechanical bull. It was pretty fun, but we didn’t feel like staying up later than midnight.

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Max about to get bucked off head first

We did end up hitting a bit of rainy weather on our trip, but we were still able to find places to climb. We got to get off the beaten path to check out some of the more obscure areas which provided us with some spiney jungle adventure. We checked out several of the overhanging walls at Potrero, and even an underground bouldering cave where your headlamp was the only source of light. It was really rad!

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Up in the clouds in the Fitness Cave

El Potrero Chico is massive, and in our time there we were only barely able to scratch the surface of all the climbing. The rock is all limestone, but is featured with all kinds of different holds which makes for really interesting climbing. There is also SO much potential for new routes, so if you want to nab some FA’s, go to Potrero!

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A view of El Toro from Upper Sense of Religion

After nearly 3 weeks of climbing, barbacoa tacos, and margaritas, we decided to end our trip with 2 more days climbing in El Salto. I definitely felt stronger since the first time we went, and was able to put down a route that had given me a lot of trouble. And Ben sent his first 13b! it was even during the hottest part of the day, unreal! It was a great way to end the trip with all six of us, and it was awesome to say bye to Zach and Shannon before they started their huge road trip.

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Ben stemming between two gigantic tufas

 

I think I can speak for our Boulder Crew that the trip to Potrero has been hands down the best climbing trip we have ever been on. We got introduced to a new style of limestone, we all made a ton of friends from over the world, nobody got hurt, and nobody even got sick. I’m sure I will be back one day, but I also heard that Chonta Cave in Mexico City is even sicker.

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The whole crew after our last day climbing in El Salto

Am I really going to conclude with a picture of a sunset? That is so chiche.

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Sorry

 

#240 Attend A TED Talk

Earlier this semester I got a chance to see a TED Talk that was on campus. TED Talks are just about the best things you can find on the internet. There are thousands of filmed talks that are all different, with a unique story or lesson to learn. There were 13 speakers including musicians and a dance group. It was pretty rad to go to see the talks in person, hopefully i’ll make it to another one some day! IMG_1623.JPG