Posts Tagged ‘sport climbing’

Three days on, one day off. Climbing this much might be a little excessive, judging by the fact that the temperature has never peaked below 94 degrees once this entire week. I’m normally opposed to climbing shirtless (mostly because I have nothing to show off), but it’s a necessity out here. If I didn’t climb with my shirt off, I’d be doing laundry every waking moment that I wasn’t on the rock.

Too hot to climb, but still psyched to try

Given the heat and humidity, it’s been difficult to try and push any sort of limits. I finally feel some of my strength coming back, but it’s still hard to hold onto limestone slopers when sweat is dripping off your fingers. I hang up my chalk bag by the air-vent in my room every night, to make sure it dries off for the next day. Fortunately, I’ve finally been able to pull of some sends, including a pair of .11a onsights and a second-go send of Chuck if ya want to (5.11d). All three lines were at 鸡蛋山 (The Egg), which is full of fun and thought-provoking lines.

Yesterday, we headed back to 白山 (White Mountain) for my third consecutive day on, and I jumped at the chance to climb Yangshuo Hotel (5.12b) for a redpoint attempt. It probably wasn’t my best idea, given the heat and my exhaustion from the previous two days, and it actually turned out to an embarrassing climb. I took at every one of seventeen bolts, too tired to link the 34 meters together. On the plus side, I was able to do every move first go, and am fairly confident I could send if we head out there in the early morning or wait until the sun dips below the horizon.

It doesn't look like it, but the wall is actualyl about 10-15 degrees overhung

Perfect limestone climbing

So today, I rest. Sitting in front of a fan, I browse climbing websites, update my blog, and go through the hundreds of photos that I’ve been taking out here. The 岩邦之家 (Rock Abond Inn) is set up quite nicely, for 118 RMB a night (18 USD) I get my own room with air conditioning, a TV, and the softest bed I’ve slept on since arriving in China. Travelers tip: if your butt is getting soft, bring your own toilet paper: the Chinese options are nowhere near as plush as the Cottonelle that my rear end has become accustomed to. The lobby is set up comfortably too, with couches, Internet access, a TV, and a small cafe. Abond and his crew (including his girlfriend, brother and sister, and three other employees) hang out here most days when not climbing, keeping up to date on their favorite Chinese dramas. For dinner, they have an in-house cook who prepares meals; if you buy groceries and share them, you’re more than welcome to sit down for dinner here as well.

If you're in Yangshuo to climb, and you're not staying here, you're doing something wrong

Of course, there are plenty of other options for food out here. I’ve found that generally, the food isn’t quite as good as what I ate in 西安, and is also more expensive, but is still quite acceptable for a tourist town. Of course, that’s because I’m a cheap bastard who tries to eat like the locals, rather than going to the myriad of more expensive and/or Western options that are available. After paying less than 10 RMB (1.70 USD) a meal for the last month, it’s hard to spend double or even triple that amount. However, if you’re really craving that American meal, many places will sell you steaks, burgers, and milkshakes.

The ultimate shame, even McDonalds has made it out here

I’m not a drinker by any means, but if you were so inclined, the nightlife in 阳朔 is something to be spoken of. When the sun goes down, the main drag lights up, and hundreds of locals and vacationing foreigners pour into the streets. Karaoke pours out half of the doors, while the yells from competitive beer-pong and billiards players come out from the other half.

Last night, after much cajoling and arm-twisting, my Chinese friend 莘哥 dragged me into the street to participate in the local tradition of 泡妞, also known as birdwatching, and/or chasing girls. 35 years old with the soul of a 18 year old, 莘哥 explained to me the power of his come-hither look, while Abond explained that his come-hither only works when his wallet is also in his hand. All in jest, of course. “We’ll just have fun”, 莘哥 promised me, and I reluctantly followed.

West Street during the day

In the end, 泡妞 was a bust. After twenty minutes of watching Chinese men with shifty eyes cast looks towards pretty girls while ribbing each other about who would have the guts to go buy her a drink first, I was still no closer to having a girlfriend than I was before I left for China. Until 莘哥 shows me that he can deliver on his promises, I won’t be going out to 泡妞 with him again.

At least he’s a good belayer.


I found a gym.

火石攀岩 - Firestone Rock Climbing Gym

The only gym in the city of Xi’an, in fact. In a city of 8 million people, there is exactly one climbing gym: 火石攀岩体育馆, the Firestone Rock Climbing Gym. Located on the 6th floor of a shopping mall, this 25 foot wall is where the dedicated climbing crew of Xi’an trains daily. And by “crew”, I mean less than 20 people.

More overhanging than the Warehouse?

The gym is run by the man in the picture below, 杨东 (Yang Dong), referred to by his customers as 杨老师 (Teacher Yang). Spending 5 years in Japan, 杨东 started rock climbing by a chance meeting with Yuji Hirayama’s (Japanese rock climbing superstar) former coach, and continued training under him for his entire stay. Having traveled Asia to climb quite a bit, he regales me with stories of Japan, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, beach sport-climbing in Thailand, and the local crags out here in inland China. In an effort to use the empty space on their 6th floor, the shopping mall sought him out to open a climbing gym, in order to attract more customers. Still a relatively new sport to this area, the gym has seen moderate success, and I can only hope that it sees more.

杨东 - The Man in the Xi'an climbing scene

A consistent mid 5.13 climber, 杨东 is also an accomplished comp climber, having taken 3rd place in bouldering at the Chinese National Championships a few years ago. Now, he spends most of his days running his gym, and training the next generation of youth in the sport. Some of the kids that come to work out are ridiculous; an 11 year old girl, having only climbed for 1 year, is already pushing into the mid 5.11’s, and took 2nd place at the national championships this past year. I met another 11 year old boy, also climbing for a year, who was pulling down on V3-V4 problems with ease. Competitions are run a little differently here in China, registration for them is free. However, they’re all completely spread out, and often require a 10 hour train ride and overnight accommodations to participate in. 杨东 travels with all his kids to these events, speaking to the dedication that they all have for this sport.

饺子 - Dumpling

In addition to 杨东, there are a few other employees at the gym that I’ve met. 饺子 (Dumpling) has been climbing for just under a year and a half, but is excited enough to work here full time. 蚂蚁 (Ant) has been in the sport for almost 3 years, and spends most of his days helping to train the youth team. The purple-shirted dreadlocked guy doesn’t speak much, I call him the doleful one. And yes, those are all nicknames, I don’t actually know any of their real names.

Closing Shop

The wall is built from fiberglass and resin, and the holds are all old-fashioned resin-poured as well. I asked 杨东 where they purchased their materials from, and he responded evenly “we make them”. He then reached behind the desk and pulled out a pair of climbing shoes, and said “we make these, too”. Apparently the solution to not having things available for purchase is to simply make them themselves. Ropes, carabiners, and harnesses are still imported via Beijing, but he says it’s simply easier for them to manufacture holds and shoes themselves. It’s actually become a key part of their business, to sell walls to schools and parks in the area.

Routes are set differently at this gym, too. Instead of resetting the wall every few weeks, and mixing the holds about, the current set stays on the wall for about a year. Instead, they take photos of the wall, and draw out different boulder problems and routes on paper, all of which get filed in a large binder for customers to peruse through. “This saves on tape maintenance”, I’m told. It’s not a bad idea for such a small gym, though many of the holds feel pretty greasy as a result. A 10-pass punch-card was 150 RMB (23 USD), so I’m not about to complain.

杨东 has promised me that he’ll take me out to the local granite crag before I leave, to say I’m excited is an understatement. It’s still young, but the climbing scene here is burgeoning rapidly. Through his broken English and my poor Chinese, 杨东 tells me about the 5.14 project he’s working on, and the new mid .12’s that he’s bolted that I should try. They’re every bit as psyched as anyone I’ve met in the USA.

More pictures to come.

Smith Rocks State Park is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing, astounding, awe-inspiring, brilliant, excellent, enjoyable, incredible, outstanding, stupendous, tremendous place to climb rocks. Having been restricted to indoor climbing for the past 6 months, it was prime time to get outside and cut my teeth on the mudpile-that-is-somehow-climbable that exists in the dearth of landscape that is central Oregon. Thanks to final exams finishing for me on Monday morning, my double-length spring break became a week-long trip to Terrebonne with quite a few adventures.

Smith Rocks in the Snow

I believe that the field of meteorology was created for the sole purpose of ruining any prospective climbing plans. 60% chance of rain/snow was scheduled for the day AFTER I was planning to finish my trip, but the predicted precipitation steadily creeped closer and closer. When I left Olympia on Tuesday morning, it was pouring down rain but my psych was still high. Pulling into the park around 11am, it was cold and chilly with a hint of snow in the air. The campsite was relatively empty, these central Oregonians are too spoiled with their consistently nice weather. In western Washington, we climb until thunder and lightning hits; there was nothing that could keep me from getting on the rock.

Nick and I haven’t climbed together for almost two years now, he was back in the Pacific Northwest for his spring break. We started out the day by heading into Cocaine Gully, where I had my ego handed to me in a paper bag, being spit off Vomit Launch – 5.11b with pumped forearms. I forgot how difficult rock climbing is. I didn’t send anything hard, the day was more exploratory in nature for me. Nick gave good burns on Churning in the Wake – 5.13a while I took a look at Heinous Cling – 5.12a and Cool Ranch Flavor Finish – 5.12a, not getting on either.

Single pitch sport is super fun, but definitely isn’t all that Smith has to offer. Zebra to Zion – 5.10a, 4 pitches follows an amazing and exposed dihedral up from Morning Glory Wall, with splitter cracks and well-protected flakes all the way. I like to pretend I can plug gear, so cruising up the second .10a pitch definitely inflated my ego a bit after the exercise in humility that was the day before.

Zebra to Zion
Nick and I, top of pitch 2

Having made plans to rappel off the route after reaching the summit, we were a bit surprised to find two bolts with no rap-rings at the top. Oh well, I thought, we’ll just rap through the hangers instead, something that is frowned upon but isn’t life-endangering by any means. Reaching the lower anchors (top of pitch 3), I was struck with a moment of panic when we tried to pull the rope. It wouldn’t budge. Not even a single centimeter. Fourth class choss greeted us around the corner as an alternative path back up to the summit, but I was wary to tackle the free-solo over the exposed gully with crumbling holds. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and forayed into the mix of mud and boulders. Reaching the summit for the second time, I clipped in a leaver-biner to the anchor, and rapped back down to meet Nick again at the lower anchors. Trying to pull the rope for the second time, it was STILL STUCK. This time, both of us scrambled up the choss together, and prepared for the long hike down Misery Ridge. Having planned to rappel, I had no hiking shoes and did not want to ruin my 5.10 Anasazis. If anyone saw a tired looking climber walking barefoot down Misery Ridge, that was me.

Still trying to pretend to be a trad climber, I spent the next morning on Wartley’s Revenge – 5.11a, a splitter crack renowned as once being “Smith’s most sought after test piece”. Pumped silly and scared out the bum-bum, I took my first medium-large leader fall on gear, which thankfully held. Black Diamond, your C4 cams now hold a special place in my heart.

Wartley’s Revenge – 5.11a

Later in the day, I made a second-go send of Middle Aged Vandals – 5.11c; I was happy to finally find some success with my first “hard” climb of the trip. It really should have been a flash, I called for a take just before pulling to the finish jug. Typical Andrew wuss-out attempt, those who belay in the future have permission to make me take the leader fall.

Dom was the first person to take me out on a real climbing trip, it’s been great to seem him get continued success. With a quick burn just to suss-out the beta, he pulled through for a second-go send of The Quickening – 5.12c, his strongest send at Smith to date. I was afraid I had short roped him on the belay, only to learn that his screaming had been because he was so pumped he couldn’t even hold on to jugs. When I first started climbing, I remember very distinctly Dom telling me that he enjoys routes more than I do, because he doesn’t get pumped. Let it be known that I untied his knot for him.

The Quickening – 5.12c

Dom pulling into the first crux

I was psyched to find some success myself this trip, pulling together a send of Cool Ranch Flavor Finish – 5.12a the day before I left. This was only the second .12a I have sent, it was really gratifying to know that I was able to maintain my fitness over a dearth of outdoor climbing during the winter. Giving it 3 days of effort, I sent on the 3rd go of the day (7th total), barely expecting to pull through the crimpy crux at the top. Apologies to whoever’s blood I may have curdled with my screams when falling off on earlier attempts.

Smith has a lot of really strong people, 5.14 climbers seem to be around every corner. Being a relatively new climber, I still get pretty star-struck when around those who pull two to three grades higher than I do. The cool thing about the locals here is that they’re all really down to earth, and treated me as a friend rather than as a gumby. Ryan Palo, the strong-boy who sent To Bolt or Not To Be – 5.14a just the month before, gave me beta on Cool Ranch Flavor, just as psyched for me to send as himself. Paige Claassen also came into town, although I didn’t build up the courage to ask for a picture, it was inspiring to watch her climb. I hope both of them send their respective projects soon.

To Bolt or Not To Be – 5.14a

I wish I didn’t have to leave Smith so soon. This little slice of heaven is my favorite climbing destination in the world, and I can’t wait to make it back. For now, I’ll be hitting the gym, pretending to get strong enough to cut my teeth on all the projects I left behind.

Bivouac Area


Posted: March 4, 2011 in Life
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I started this year with many expectations. I expected the upcoming climbing season to be a lot of fun, I expected to stay strong, I expected to graduate, and I expected to have a plan for the coming Fall. Expectations can be exciting, but they’re also very scary. What if I injured myself? Would that ruin my entire summer? What if I failed out of school? What if I couldn’t get into graduate school? Life is challenging because we don’t know how anything is actually going to turn out.

The first part of the year has been a resounding success. Climbing has been fun. Even though I’ve only been able to climb less than once a week due to school, I still feel strong. The Northwest Collegiate Climbing Comp series has been going on in full force, and I’ve gone to the comps at both Western Washington University and here at the UW. Didn’t place in either of them, but they were both exciting experiences, especially when I rooted for my friends in finals.


WWU Comp 2011

In two weeks I’m going back to God’s little rock playground, Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. I’m feeling strong as ever, and can’t wait to have a good time. Arguably the best part of the trip will be the chance to see old friends, Nick is coming back in town. Nick took me on my first “real” (meaning more than 5.5) multipitch trad climb, and I’m super excited to climb with him again.

School on the other hand, has been proving to be quite a challenge for me. After a not-so-good application to graduate school, I was worried about my prospects of getting in. At the same time, it was getting more and more difficult to stay motivated in my coursework, as I was starting to get disillusioned with academia and my ability to stay in it for another 2 years. However, my plans changed.

College is a place for education, and it’s important that students come in with a sense of direction. Rather than just taking only general education classes for four years, students have to declare a field of interest, and study hard to get a degree in that field. However, college is also a place for soul-searching. The best laid plans coming into school might change, as four years of university education often change a person. I was initially extremely resistant to this change, and wanted to follow the written-in-stone plan of going to graduate school, acquiring a Masters or a PhD, and going on to be a research scientist, doctor, whatever. But things in my life seemed to point me away from it, and I finally allowed God to point me in the direction that he wanted me to go.

I’m looking for work right now. Applying for jobs, doing interviews, the whole deal. And this Fall, it’s beginning to look like I might be moving away from beloved Washington. Climbing, school, jobs, I’m finally starting to grow up.

I certainly didn’t expect that.


Posted: September 11, 2010 in Climbing
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What grade do I climb at now? 5.12a went down after 5 tries over three days, for a total of about 6 falls. Does this mean I should start trying harder and harder things? I greatly credit my friends for picking new projects for me, pushing me to ignore my limits, and making me constantly try to improve my climbing. It’s taken a whole season, but I’m finally starting to realize that I’m not a low 10 climber anymore. I can try harder things.

Thursday went (almost) just the way I had hoped it would. Jessica, Micah, and I made the hike up to World Wall 1 in the light mist, hoping and praying that the wall would be dry. And everything was, excluding some climbs to the far left. Micah quickly put up the draws on Aborigine, and I came on behind for a warm up. Forgetting the beta halfway up the climb, I traversed left when I should have climbed up and right, causing me to lose precious energy and gas-out and fall at the final clip. I had fallen, was flash pumped, and worried out of my mind that Rainy Day Women would become a red-point epic, that I would come so close to finishing so many times but never be able to actually do it. As these negative thoughts creeped into my head, I quickly shoved them aside and tried to think of anything but my project at all. I thought about the weather, my lunch, traffic up towards North Bend, anything that would prevent me from thinking negative thoughts about my attempt to come.

After belaying Micah on a quick adventure with a spider (I’ll let him tell the story), I was tying in and chalking up, ready to get on my project. The draws weren’t up on the climb yet, so I was carrying a full rack of 14 quickdraws. To continue keeping my mind off the climb, we kept a light conversation going all the way through the first and second crux, up to the big jugs below the final bulge. I shook out for probably a good five minutes, recovering probably about 80% before the final push.

And then the talking stopped. With perfectly rehearsed beta, I crimped my way through to the crux clip, hit the slopey gaston with my left, and made the big cross-through to hit the victory jug with just the tip of my fingers. AND IT STUCK. I was thrilled, but took another minute or two just to gather my mind together to make sure I didn’t blow it on the final moves to the chains. As I finally clipped those fixed draws, I let out a whoop and yelled with excitement. Man, I love climbing.

In the end, the project went down. What more can I say?


Posted: September 7, 2010 in Climbing
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How many times can I get on a project before I call it good? How many times can I fall before I finally give up? How much effort will I put into a climb to make progression?

This summer, I set a goal to climb .12a, 7a+, E5, VIII+, V4 highball, whatever you want to call it. I believe that the lofty grade of .12 is a breakthrough grade for any self-respecting rock climber, a point at which they can finally call themselves a real participant of the sport. But until recently, I have been intimidated to even attempt anything that hard, for fear of being shut down and making no progress.

The local climbing crew from Olympia has been nothing short of inspiring and motivating, and last Thursday Jimmy and Micah pushed me to give a try on Rainy Day Women, the .12a testpiece at Little Si. It’s a climb that’s kind of a coming of age for the crag, a gateway that opens up all the harder projects on the wall. Last Thursday, without ever giving it a top rope burn, I hopped on to lead the climb, falling low then working out the beta bolt to bolt. I was inspired, and psyched out of my mind. Suddenly, the .12a monster didn’t seem so great, and didn’t seem so difficult to achieve.

Monday rolled around. We hiked back up to the wall. Dom put up the draws for me. After a quick warm-up on Aborigine, I got on the project. I climbed through the lower bulge, took a big rest, chugged up towards the second rest at the good jugs, thrusted upwards, and pumped out just below the last crux! I took the hang, and finished it up in good style for the elusive one-fall. I was psyched out of my mind, having been able to one-fall my project after just one burn.

Half an hour later, I got back on. Made it through the crux, got to the next clip. Then blew it because the carabiner was facing the wrong direction, and fell off trying to clip. One-falled it again.

Third burn of the day. Made the clip. Hit the good sidepull. Gaston, cross for the jug, and MY HAND SLIPPED. I let out a yell that I’m sure people heard in the parking lot below. Dejected and disappointed, I pulled through for my third one-fall of the day.

I should be happy. I made progression on each attempt, and really cannot possibly be closer to achieving my goal. But I am with a heavy heart, for the feeling of failure cast a dark cloud over me on the entire hike down. I hate leaving business unfinished. But at the same time, having a project to return to has left me inspired. How can I not be inspired with so many people climbing so hard around me? Dom warmed up on my project, a stout climb that requires some guts to get on so early in the day. Jimmy got a fourth repeat of Chronic (.13b), arguably the most well known climb on the wall. Micah had a phenomenal day, linking up Technorigine (.12c), Psychosomatic (.12d), and Californicator (.12d) all in one day, coming painfully close to sending Californication (.13a). This is what it’s all about – trying hard and coming back.

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday. This project’s going DOWN.

Way back in February, I was more than stoked to head out to Little Si and hit the ropes. It was a bright, sunny day, with temperatures well into the mid 60’s. I on-sighted Violent Phlegms (5.11b), and was sure that this was an exciting beginning to a very long summer climbing season.

And then, Washington decided that it was instead a nice time for winter to catch up.

The following months just saw weekend after weekend of rain and poor weather. In between February and mid-June, I was able to get outside a total of two more times. Adding to the chronic pain was the constant build-up of school and research, including the preparation of a poster for a national conference in Anaheim, California. With all the needs and responsibilities of the world surrounding me, even my climbing gym sessions totaled less than ten times. However, all of this was rectified as of last week by this:

Smith Rock State Park

Jessica, Kevin, and I trucked the five hours down to Terrebonne, Oregon last Monday, staying until Friday afternoon. A fourth was to join us on Tuesday afternoon, but unfortunately was unable to make it. Regardless, we had a great time. After some mild adventure on the way down (including McDonald’s breakfast and falling asleep at the wheel) we pulled into the parking lot of Smith Rock State Park right around noon. The camping facilities there are amazing compared to most camping/climbing locations. Running water, hot showers, and clean bathrooms were all readily available within 100 yards of the tent sites. Town was a mere 3 miles from camp, so a grocery store and restaurants were also minutes away. With the responsibilities of the world behind me, I was more than ready to kick back and enjoy five solid days of beautiful climbing.

After some quick sandwiches, we headed down into the gorge to see how much skin we could lose on the first day. Armed with the 1992 first edition of the Smith Rock guidebook and asking lots of directions (shhh…insider beta: GET THE NEW EDITION), we found ourselves at the base of the most popular route in Smith: Five Gallon Buckets (5.8). Surprisingly, only one other party occupied the popular Morning Glory Wall with us, and we were able to hop right onto the route. Thanks to our mid-week climbing trip, we actually didn’t have to wait for any routes at all for the entire week. After getting over the hollow rock (it’s solid, I swear) and figuring out the technical high-step nature of the volcanic tuff, I found myself warmed up and ready to try harder things.

Jessica at the top of Five Gallon Buckets (5.8)

Some fun, intermediate .10’s later, I found myself at the base of Zebra Direct, a super classic 5.11a right up the middle of Morning Glory Wall. Appearing to be more featured than the rest of the face, I was quickly surprised and pumped at the super delicate crimps and side-pulls required to ascend the route. A lower crux with the first bolt at about 15 feet up was not very helpful either. After pitching just above the second bolt, I made it up to the chains with the beta figured out, ready to give it another go. Kevin, the local wunderkind that’s been seriously climbing for less than 9 months, gave it his all and came out with a cool flash of .11a on his first day sport climbing outside ever. Awesome, yet disgusting at the same time. His send got the train started, and I hopped on right behind for the second-go. A beautiful line, that everyone should definitely try.

Zebra Direct (5.11a)

The top half of the route exits through some fun, easy bucket climbing. On the last bolt just before the anchors, I was reminded why even on such high trafficked rock, you must always be prepared for the possibility of disaster. With just a light tap of the foot, I shifted and dislodged a block of stone that easily weighed 10 pounds. Fortunately, it stayed put and didn’t fall. Quickly warning everyone to back far away from the wall, I finished the route (not about to give up my red-point) and set up my rappel. Fearing that someone would attempt to pull on the block, I brought it down with me back to the ground, looking as if I was bringing the Ten Commandments down from the mountainside.

The next few days continued similarly, with many beautiful 5.10’s, a few easy but super fun trad lines, and some more difficult 5.11’s. Smith is surprisingly skin-friendly, with the soft rock allowing hours and hours of climbing every day without turning the fingertips raw. I managed a tricky on-sight of More Sandy Than Kevin (5.11a), which got me super excited. Kevin came super close to flashing as well, sticking the crux moves before pumping out at the very end. Regardless, super fun climbing and great company was plentiful. It was also great to gain perspective on climbing ability at the same time. While I was on Nine Gallon Buckets (5.10c to the third anchors), Matt Spohn of Mad Rock Climbing was just 100 feet to the right of me, running laps on Churning in the Wake (5.13a). Yet we were all just having a great time, pushing personal boundaries rather than chasing numbers. That little number is a fun way to quantify my improvement while climbing, yet as long as I’m having a great time, I’d rather climb 5.8’s and .9’s all day outside than to be stuck inside a cubicle.

Kevin pulling hard on a near flash of More Sandy Than Kevin (5.11a)

Blue Light Special (5.11b), the one that got away

In an effort to get stronger, Kevin and I spent some time throwing ourselves on Latin Lover (5.12a), and getting spat off super hard in return. Great movement was consistent throughout the route, but the small crimps, side-pulls, and pebble-pinches continued to get smaller and smaller until I felt as if I was pulling on the edge of an envelope. Even though we both eventually made it to the chains, we agreed that Smith is a very difficult place to push grades, and that Latin Lover would have to wait for another day when our skin was fresh and our fingers were strong.

Latin Lover (5.12a) not lovin’ back

Wednesday met us with some light but consistent rain throughout the day, so we headed into town to find some entertainment. A climbing store, two grocery stores, a post office, a hardware shop, a hair salon, and a quilting supply shop later, we found ourselves having happy hour food at the Terrebonne Depot. Between the hours of 3-6 pm, all climbers in the area should definitely make the the Depot a regular destination. Since we’re known as phenomenally cheap people, a $5 pizza satiates both the stomach and the wallet. And it was just the right amount of energy to get us back on the wall in the evening as the skies finally opened up.

On Friday, I hooked up with a friend Matt whom I had met in the campsite to head up the ol’ Pioneer Route (5.7 A1) of Monkey Face. A 350 foot spire of rock with a simian appearance on the peak, Monkey Face is a classic multi-pitch not to be missed. I led my first bolt ladder that day, while also seconding on probably the most mind blowing traverse I have ever done, a 5.9 thin and hairy move out and towards the summit, with nothing but air underneath you. A short but sweet climb, we finished the 3 pitches in around an hour and forty minutes of climbing. The local dirt-bag who lives in the campsite just recently set the free-solo speed record of the Pioneer Route, finishing the same climb we did in a mere 7 minutes and 43 seconds. Graciously, he left the fixed rope he used to get down for others to rappel off the top, allowing us to do a 300 foot free hanging rappel all the way to the base of the Monkey.

The top of the first pitch

Leading the A1 bolt ladder

Matt following into the mouth of the Monkey

Rappelling off the summit

Five days later, and I found myself back in Olympia, more psyched than ever. Smith is a little slice of heaven nestled away right in our corner of the country, and I hope to find myself there again and again. More pleasant company couldn’t have been had, and such good climbing is found in places few and far in between.

Notice that I am in a surprising amount of photos that I have posted, a rarity for climbers who normally end up photographing others. For this, I cannot thank Jessica enough, who spent the majority of the trip taking over a thousand photographs of me, Kevin, other climbers, rocks, lizards, and llamas.