Open SCS Nationals kicked off the comp season as April held 3 more significant competitions in Arizona. The Queen Creek Boulder Comp 2014, the first comp to be held at Oak Flat since the demise of the infamous Phoenix Bouldering Contest in 2004, occurred the next weekend. I was present not as a competitor, but as a reporter and photographer- I was to write a story on the competition for one of my journalism classes at the University of Arizona. The QCBC was a huge success, drawing more than 80 competitors and laying the groundwork for future iterations of the competition. I spent the day taking photos and interviewing people, bummed that I couldn’t compete myself!
After the competition I was able to sneak away for a short while with my highliner friends Charlie Lotzar and Jared Marvel to walk the classic Bamba and the Beast (85’L 60’H) that they had rigged earlier in the day. I returned to the Oak Flat Campground to watch the awards and interview a few others after a couple of walks and meeting Jared’s brother Jordan and his girlfriend Kendra Hughes. After the official conclusion of the event, I hung out around the bonfire with some of my best friends from the Phoenix climbing community, including Jack Lester, Jay Bone, Lucas Anaya and many, many others. I also got pulled over for having a tail light out on my way back to Tucson, adding another interesting twist to the day.
The next weekend was the famed Thrash & Dangle Fest at the Phoenix Rock Gym. I’ve always loved T&D and had been stoked for weeks, only to get sick days before and have to miss it. As I started feeling better in the week after, I got a crew together (Charlie Lotzar, Dana Moses and David Adams) and got up on the mountain to establish Mount Lemmon’s newest highline, Lunar Impact (80’L 45’H). I found and scouted the line myself and it felt amazing to get the first walk! The line is on Windy Ridge at a climbing area called The Stones just off of the road. It’s also quite a serious line, with a fall in more than a third of the line an almost certain collision with a nearby rock wall. Line catches are mandatory in this section. Charlie got the second across to round out the day!
The final weekend in April was the date of the second annual Beta Boulder Blast in Flagstaff at Beta Bouldering Gym. I was still recovering from being sick, but I managed to make the trek to northern Arizona (or GNAR as the locals say!). After braving the blizzard conditions in the last 20 miles of driving, I met up with one of my best friends, James Xu, who had transferred to NAU that semester. We ate breakfast at the all-you-can-eat dining hall, I got a tour of the campus, and then we headed to the comp. I didn’t feel great and ran out of energy about halfway through the comp after climbing much worse than I wanted to be. Desperate, I took Jay Bone’s advice and slammed a Red Bull, switched from my Sharks to my M5’s for a very specific heel hook and much to my surprise fired the second and third hardest problems! It wasn’t enough to put me into finals (the top 3 all completed the hardest 5) but it allowed me to get even more done. When the qualifying round was over I got food with James and his friend Holly and afterward we returned to Beta. Finals were super exciting- everyone tried extremely hard, the crowd was fired up and the MCing was great!
A couple of hours later, with the life of the obligatory afterparty fading, James and I returned to his dorm, grabbed some stuff and headed to the parking lot for the brand-new REI Flagstaff. The grand opening was that weekend and the first hundred in line in the morning got free water bottles and gift cards (and I didn’t want to get a parking ticket in the NAU lot) so we set up camp at the front of the store with only one group ahead of us. We woke up the next morning and hung out for a while, but eventually got bored and left before the store opened to go climb at the Pit and rig the Goblin Cleaver highline! It was too windy to rig, but we did get in a few climbs before I headed back to Tucson. On my way home, I got a text that Alex Kirkpatrick had sent his multi-season project, the FA of Suzanne Somers: A Love Story 5.14b at the Dry, and we met up that night for a celebratory dinner.
Soon afterward, I had to buckle down for finals, but to blow off some steam after studying for days Soren and I took my friend Morgan Berryman-Maciel on one of our super classy overnight Finger Rock trips. It went super smoothly and we took multiple hours off of our previous time! This was Soren and I’s third time topping out on the Finger, every one of them in the dark, and it seems we are really improving our fitness over time. The hike doesn’t seem as brutal as it once did, but the summit is as amazing as always.
With finals over and no failed classes, I hit the road with Alex Kirkpatrick, Soren Tucker and James Xu on a trip to the Enchanted Tower near Datil, NM. After a long and somewhat harrowing drive (we saw ~30 deer and almost hit 4 of them in the last 80 miles of highway), we rolled in and set up camp well after dark. We cooked dinner and then chilled around the campfire for a bit, then went to bed. Soren, sleeping in James’ hammock after forgetting his sleeping bag/pad/etc, quickly got too cold and spent the night sitting around the fire. At one point, he dozed off and unconsciously put his foot in the fire, burning a hole in the bottom of his shoe!
The next morning, Soren and I were the first two ready to go, so while James and Alex were still getting ready we warmed up and headed over to the Frog Prince Wall. I took some time struggling and remembering beta from many years before on White Queen 5.13b and Soren came painfully close to onsighting Frog Prince 5.12a. I tied back in and sent White Queen and we headed over to the Tower itself to meet up with James and Alex. I flashed Rumplestiltskin 5.12a shortly after James’ heartbreaking punt from the runout easy section just before the chains when he missed a hold and Alex onsighted Jabberwocky 5.12b, while Soren tried Humpty Dumpty 12a nearby. As the sun came around, we moved to the other side of the Tower. Alex and Zoltan each tried Goliath, the iconic 5.13a climbing straight up the overhanging prow of the Tower, while Soren and James returned to the Frog Prince wall. I onsighted Shipwrecked 5.12c and got ready to give one last catch to Alex on Goliath before the sun went down. It was not to be, however- near the top of the route Alex blew out his hamstring while heel hooking. It was bad enough that Katchka, who was 30 feet below him on an adjacent route, heard the pops and Zoltan had to carry him over his shoulder down the trail.
The next day, (obviously) only James, Soren and I climbed in our party, with Alex K watching from camp/his car. We warmed up at the Pogue’s Cave area and headed to the Tower, where Soren and James came close to flashing Technowitch 5.12a and I onsighted Straight On Til Morning 5.12c. We walked over to the Frog Prince Wall and I fired Red Queen 5.13b first go, which adds a harder start to the more direct White Queen line and was the original route on the wall. Back at the Tower, James sent Technowitch and I onsighted Tinkerbell’s Nightmare 5.12b. James dogged through Jabberwocky and we were ready to call it a trip. We packed up and headed back to Tucson, psyched from the fun atmosphere, good company and sends but bummed about Alex’s injury.
After a rest day, it was back to business- training for my project I’d been working at the Beaver for the last few weeks…