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2014/2015 Hueco Season Recap

Going into this Hueco season, I had no idea what to expect from myself. I had spent the summer climbing mostly long, endurance-based sport climbs, leaving me with very low expectations in terms of bouldering. However, I must have gained a bit of power along with long-route fitness and managed to completely blow any expectations I might have had out of the water.

By my count, I managed to spend 9 weekends in Hueco between late October and mid-March- more than ever. It was, by far, the most productive season I’ve ever had, and one of great personal growth. Before my first trip, I had climbed three V10 and harder problems in Hueco; by the end of my last trip, I had increased that to 13 total double-digit Hueco boulders, and greatly solidified my ability to climb them in a session or two. At the 22nd Hueco Rock Rodeo, I had my best finish to date – second in Advanced – and won the dyno comp for a second time!

I also made major progress on a few climbs that I have tried a bit in years prior, but never really got close on, culminating in a spectacular failure to send Full Monty that included swinging off of the finish jug four times, twice while swinging back in after holding the swing out (punt!). I also managed to stick the big move on Crown of Aragorn in isolation, and then was able to pull on from that position and send Better Eat Your Wheaties. In all, I’m incredibly happy with my progression from the year, even though I was ultimately unable to finish a few projects. Sometimes, when you dream big, you fail big- an inescapable fact of life. I can only be thankful for being injury free and having the opportunity to spend so much time in my favorite place despite an incredibly busy schedule outside of climbing.

Major thanks to Mad Rock Climbing, who helped pay for my last two trips while desperately trying to finish off Full Monty! The RedLines are among the best shoes I’ve ever worn and were instrumental this season, and the Shark 2.0 is clutch when it comes to foot trickery, like the tough heel-toe cam on Barefoot on Sacred Ground. I’d also like to give a shoutout to Stone Crush Gear for providing a great kneepad that was crucial to sending Le Chninkel. I had the pleasure of working with Andy Wickstrom and many other incredibly talented photographers, including Michael Lim, Gustavo Moser, Jay Bone, and Jake Croft- huge thanks for the beautiful images you guys produced.

Last, but certainly not least, I have to mention all of my truly fantastic friends who have made this a memorable season- both new and old, I can’t thank you all enough for the support, fun, memories, and comradery! You’re all wonderful people who have so much to offer the world, and I can’t wait to run into you all again in the future. Until next time!

Memorable sends:
Barefoot on Sacred Ground V12
Le Chninkel V11
Liane V11
Here Comes the Flop V11 (2nd go/first try from the start)
El Techo de los Tres B’s V11
Power of Silence V10
Natural Disaster V10
Full Service V10
Crimping Christ on the Cross V10
Wonder Dyno V10
The Egg V9
Shroom V9 (flash)
Problematics V9 (flash)
Sex After Death V8
Sledgehammer V8
Something Different V8
Crash Test Dummy Left V7
Uncut Yogi Low V7
Dry Dock V7
Honeycomb Hideout V5
To Die For V5 R
William’s Lectric Shave V4
Oubliette V4 R
The 90’s Are Now V3 X FA
The Maiden V0 R

And a selection of photos in rough chronological order(all uncredited images © Alex McIntyre):

Jason Davis checking out the upper moves of what would become The 90's Are Now V3 X.
Jason Davis checking out the upper moves of what would become The 90’s Are Now V3 X.
Sending Crimping Christ on the Cross (V10). Photo © Gustavo Moser 2014
Sending Crimping Christ on the Cross (V10). Photo © Gustavo Moser 2014
Sending El Techo de los Tres B's (V11). Photo © Emiliano Jordan 2014.
Sending El Techo de los Tres B’s (V11). Photo © Emiliano Jordan 2014.
Waking up after sleeping at the gate to walk onto North Mountain. Photo © David Adams 2014.
Waking up after sleeping at the gate to walk onto North Mountain. Photo © David Adams 2014.
Sending Full Service (V10). Photo © Jason Carlson 2014
Sending Full Service (V10). Photo © Jason Carlson 2014
Sunrise on the Rock Ranch at the 22nd Hueco Rock Rodeo.
Sunrise on the Rock Ranch at the 22nd Hueco Rock Rodeo.
Sticking the dyno redpoint crux on Natural Disasters V10 in the Rock Rodeo. Photo © Jake Croft 2015.
Sticking the dyno redpoint crux on Natural Disasters V10 in the Rock Rodeo. Photo © Jake Croft 2015.
Sticking the final dyno for the win at the Rock Rodeo dyno comp. Photo © Michael Lim (http://www.mlimphoto.com , @murkytimes on Instagram)
Sticking the final dyno for the win at the Rock Rodeo dyno comp. Photo © Michael Lim (http://www.mlimphoto.com , @murkytimes on Instagram)
Screaming and vibrating while sending Liane (V11). Photo © Jay Bone 2015
Screaming and vibrating while sending Liane (V11). Photo © Jay Bone 2015
West Mountain under the stars while camping at the gate.
West Mountain under the stars while camping at the gate.
The bat facts crew rolling onto North Mountain on an early morning mission for Jake to send Pumped Full of Semen (V9).
The bat facts crew rolling onto North Mountain on an early morning mission for Jake to send Pumped Full of Semen (V9).
Working Crown of Aragorn (V13). Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015
Working Crown of Aragorn (V13). Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015
Atmospheric skies over Hueco Tanks.
Atmospheric skies over Hueco Tanks.
Sending Lip Service and redeeming myself for the ugliest topout Full Service has ever seen. Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015
Sending Lip Service and redeeming myself for the ugliest topout Full Service has ever seen. Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015
Sending Lip Service. Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015.
Sending Lip Service. Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015.
Sending Le Chninkel (V11). Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015.
Sending Le Chninkel (V11). Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015.
Working hard, but not sending, on Sunshine (V11). Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015
Working hard, but not sending, on Sunshine (V11). Photo © Andy Wickstrom 2015
Until next time...
Until next time…

Midsummer Reflections, Part 3 – Chains in the Grove

In April a few people from Tempe (including Pat Maclane, Alex Stiger and Halley Tollner) started coming down to climb at the Beaver Wall after seeing much of the hype from the previous seasons. I met up with them as I don’t get to see them often and got back on some lines I had already done. Nearly re-sending Rage to Live 5.13a/b and Hebe 5.14a on my first goes with little to no warmup started to bring back the possibility of a project I’ve had in the back of my mind for quite some time- sending all the sport routes on the Beaver Wall. I started working on what is currently THE line on the Beaver- Alex Kirkpatrick’s Chains in the Grove 5.14a. This route starts on Trapezoid 5.13b, climbs through both cruxes and then moves a few feet right to link into the hardest moves of Hebe. A linkup, yes, but a very mega linkup of two of the mountain’s proudest and best lines.

Into the 5.11 hero climbing at the top of Rage to Live 5.13a/b. Photo by Chris Novellino.
Into the 5.11 hero climbing at the top of Rage to Live 5.13a/b. Photo by Chris Novellino.

From the start, I knew Chains was going to be a battle. Though I had already done both lines, the full rig was a different beast. Hebe’s start was somewhere around 12d or 13a to the glued flake rest before the very long crux sequence (where one links in from Trapezoid) and is fairly easy to dial in and make extremely efficient. Trapezoid was different- not only was there somewhere around 15 or 20 more feet of climbing, but the dual cruxes demand far more power than the bottom of Hebe. Moves I fell on maybe once in the process of sending Hebe suddenly became major obstacles. This awareness, however, kept me fairly sane during the time spent building up the route-specific endurance required to send, despite some very frustrating punts (including one from the move after Hebe’s infamous deadpoint crux at the very end of the route).

It would be some time before I sent, but the day it finally went down was one of the best days of my life. James was back from Flag, and in the morning we headed up with a few friends to rig the Old Man Gap highline for old time’s sake. With clear skies, we drove to Windy Point (with my friends Nadine and Morgan and I rapping along to the dope verses of the Flatbush Zombies), where a singular small cloud sat over the area. It began sprinkling as we organized gear in the parking lot, and as we rigged the line the rain and wind grew until we were getting pounded by hail and snow in a bizarre twist of weather for late May in Tucson. We left the line half-rigged to hide in a small hole in the rock, where we stayed until the precipitation stopped an hour later (and joined by Thomas Barcom). We finished rigging under somehow-sunny-again skies and, constantly joined by more and more friends, had the most fun I’ve ever had during a highline session. At some point or another during the day, we had everyone from an extremely experienced highliner from Phoenix (Jared Marvel) walk the line, to Tyler Meester’s first successful highline mount and partial walk, to several total newbies scooting out to experience the exposure while sitting and hanging from the line (even prolific Tucson first ascentionist Eric Rhicard, who was climbing nearby, gave it a go!)

A couple hours after the Beaver Wall went into the shade, I packed up my climbing gear and headed over with some of my oldest and closest friends- Sean Campbell and Sammi Visbal- and much newer ones including Abby Volkmann, Tyler Meester and Hannah Lily Hall leaving a few to continue raging the line. In one of my best days of climbing ever, I laid the rope out, tied in, pulled on my trusty Mad Rock M5’s and fired it first go of the day. Tyler got some spectacular photos and I returned to the rest of the crew at the OMG after hanging out with Sean and Sammi a bit longer. I was floating on a cloud, and though the day did have to come to an end, I took another walk on the line to celebrate before we derigged.  Huge thanks to Mad Rock- the M5’s killed it on yet another Tucson granite testpiece- and to Stone Crush Gear, whose pants provide unrestricted motion and great abrasion protection perfect for both slacklining and sending.

Into the crux of Hebe. Photo by Tyler Meester Photography.
Into the crux of Hebe. Photo by Tyler Meester Photography.
Sticking the infamous deadpoint crux at the top on the way to sending Chains in the Grove 5.14a. Photo by Tyler Meester Photography.
Sticking the infamous deadpoint crux at the top on the way to sending Chains in the Grove 5.14a. Photo by Tyler Meester Photography.
Finally at peace after sending Chains in the Grove. Photo by Tyler Meester Photography.
Finally at peace after sending Chains in the Grove. Photo by Tyler Meester Photography.

 

Midsummer Reflections, Part Two

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!

Sean Spring fishes for a foothold on the Atlantis II area problem DD Variation at the QCBC 2014.
Sean Spring fishes for a foothold on the Atlantis II area problem DD Variation at the QCBC 2014.

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!

Finishing up the first across of Lunar Impact.
Finishing up the first across of Lunar Impact. Photo by Dana Moses.

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!

On one of the orange (hardest) problems.  Photo by Jay Bone.
On one of the orange (hardest) problems. Photo by Jay Bone.

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.

Living conditions in Flagstaff after the Beta Boulder Blast. It was a little hard falling asleep with that light aimed right at my eyes...
Living conditions in Flagstaff after the Beta Boulder Blast. It was a little hard falling asleep with that light aimed right at my eyes…

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.

Summit of Finger Rock selfie, with Tucson city lights in the background.
Summit of Finger Rock selfie, with Tucson city lights in the background.

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!

Saturday morning at the Enchanted Tower, lounging in the morning before two awesome days of climbing.
Saturday morning at the Enchanted Tower, lounging in the morning before two awesome days of climbing.

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…

After finals and a sweet trip to the Enchanted Tower, back to training! Putting in a few miles at the top of Mount Lemmon on the Meadow and Mt. Lemmon trails and sucking some thin air.
After finals and a sweet trip to the Enchanted Tower, back to training! Putting in a few miles at the top of Mount Lemmon on the Meadow and Mt. Lemmon trails and sucking some thin air.

Dead By 30

At the beginning of the fall season here in Tucson, I found myself in a new predicament: I didn’t have any real desire to climb. I struggled with this for a while, but after talking it over with a few close friends who I know have gone through the same experience, I accepted it as just a natural cycle. I started a slackline club at the University of Arizona with my good friend James Xu and started slacking almost every day. I learned a bunch of tricks and made a lot of new friends (the club, which started with 4 members, now has 116).

As mid-October rolled around, I felt the climbing stoke start to return. A couple weeks later, I took a spur-of the-moment trip to Hueco and managed to send Free Willy V10 at the end of the second day, much to my own surprise. Confident I was feeling in shape and ready to go, I returned to Tucson and started looking around for projects. At first I had my sights on The Morgue, Mount Lemmon’s second 5.14- and unrepeated since the first ascent by my original mentor Eric Scully when he was in high school. Though it fit my style (short and bouldery), it also got afternoon sun. My class schedule prevented me from getting out in the mornings during the week and its sloper-dependent crux made it an unlikely prospect in the late-afternoon sun.

I switched my focus to the Beaver Wall, which, in addition to its afternoon shade, is also frequently visited during the week and on the weekends, making partner acquisition much easier. However, during fall 2012 and spring 2013, I had sent all but one of the sport routes 5.13 and up on the wall, and the only remaining route was a different start to a line I had already done. I returned, re-climbed some of my old projects and sent Poplar Mechanics 5.12+, funnily enough my first Beaver Wall 5.12. That same day, my friend Liam Oden finished up the classic Rage to Live 5.13a/b. With both of us in search of something new, some route had to pop up.

The potential of a new line to the right of Last Supper, a trad 5.11 (the first established in Arizona) on the Beaver was not a new thought. Eric Rhicard, prominent Tucson first-ascensionist and guidebook author, had put in a directional bolt up high and worked out some of the moves on toprope in the 1990’s. According to Rhicard, he had trouble sticking a particular long move to a poor hold high on the route and as such abandoned the project. The initial allure of the line was the existence of a potential 6 foot jug-to-jug dyno right off of the ground, and with this in mind Liam Oden and Alex Kirkpatrick rappelled over it, found holds the whole way and installed 4 more bolts. After a couple sessions, they came to the realization it might be significantly harder than originally thought. I accompanied them on a night session to the project and, after a burn, I felt as though I might be able to do it.

The next session yielded some great progress and, with the help of some amazing new beta found by Liam, I managed to do all of the moves on the route. The first section, site of the proposed dyno, instead held an insecure sequence with massive static lock-offs to marginal crimps checking in around V6. The dyno, of course, was very possible, but would likely leave one too power drained for the real crux up high. Long, easy moves on jugs led through the ripples to the base of the upper headwall. From this last rest, you clip bolt 3 above your head and launch into the crux sequence. This extremely bouldery section is somewhere around V9, starting with an enormous lockoff to a divoted slomper from a viciously thin crimp. You then stand up into a half-pad sidepull/undercling, reach to an extremely poor sloping edge with a crucial thumbcatch and move your feet up to some footholds that are quite bad. From this somewhat awkward position, you must generate enough to stick a 3-points-off drive-by/ cross-dyno to a full-pad sloping edge. With the hardest moves behind you, a strange move to a blocky sidepull jug enables one to clip bolt 4 and enter the non-trivial slab leading to bolt 5 and the topout.

The catch is, however, that the fall after the dyno has potential to be quite bad. The route is pretty short at ~40 feet, with the crux move around the 32 foot mark. You clip bolt 4 with your feet several feet above bolt 3, making necessary a very tight belay to avoid hitting the ground. The wall is vertical, making such a long, hard fall a very risky one for your ankles. Any fall after the drive-by maneuvering into the clipping stance (or worse, a blown clip) could leave you 5 feet off the deck with shattered ankles or, with a less-than-perfect belay, on the ground.

I headed out with my friend Soren on Black Friday to spend the day on Lemmon. We kicked around all day, visiting places like Overlooked Pinnacle, the iconic Goosehead and the Rose Canyon entrance boulders. Around 1:30pm, we headed to the Beaver Wall. We managed to get there half an hour or so before the project went into the shade. After killing some time, I put in a couple burns and so did Liam (who was up there already with his friend Peter Piek). With daylight fading, I tied in for one final attempt, pulled on my M5’s, and fist-bumped the plastic Jesus figurine provided by Soren (the route had been christened the Offensive Jesus project). I pulled through the bottom quickly and rested well below the difficulties. I started into the crux and, much to my shock, stuck the dyno. Redlining, I quickly made the weird move to the blocky sidepull and, readjusting using a nearby crimp, clipped the bolt. I took a few breaths to calm down, started into the slab section, and soon found myself standing triumphantly on a juggy ledge 10 feet above the last bolt on the slab. With a stoked yell, I untied, dropped my rope though the draws and topped out in front of awed tourists there to witness the incredible Arizona sunset. I traversed right off of the slab along 4th class terrain and met the approach trail, where I returned to the base of the wall and the congratulations of my friends.

Exhausted, we packed up and hiked out with the sun setting behind us. I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunset in my life, still keyed-up and experiencing the world in a sort of hyper-reality after redlining and succeeding deep in the no-fall zone. I named the route Dead By 30, a reference to the possibility of decking from 30 feet and to a morbid prediction made by James that him, Soren and I would be dead by age 30. The grade gave me some pause, but after some input from the others that had been on the route I settled on 5.13d. It’s certainly the most physical of the harder Beaver Wall routes, though it does lack much pump factor. I’m excited to hear what others think about it and, more importantly, see some strong climbers having fun and trying hard on it. Unlike some hard routes in Tucson like Alex Kirkpatrick’s magnificent Doubt 5.14a, this route exemplifies the Mount Lemmon style, which is cool in my humble opinion. Much thanks to Mad Rock Climbing- the M5’s performed fantastically on the microedge feet and kept me safe and secure. Overall, I’m amazingly psyched about Dead By 30, which is without a doubt one of the most physically and mentally challenging FA’s of my life so far.  The route can be found on MountainProject here.

The lights of Tucson illuminate an approaching storm during a night session at the Beaver Wall.
The lights of Tucson illuminate an approaching storm during a night session at the Beaver Wall.