Friday, July 29, 2011

Topatopa Recon, 07/27/2011

Okay, kids... all the griping I do about not having enough time to do the trails, peaks, and climbing, yeah. It's one of them summers. You may recall (though I hope don't care) that a couple months ago I was a busy boy...hammers, saws and other implements of destruction directed at my laundry room. That project is done, but it only got me a third of the way to the finish line. For the past month I've been tearing out my kitchen, floor to ceiling. New everything. Now we're down to about three weeks until installation of many thousands of dollars worth of new stuff. Very exciting, disruptive, expensive. I need this to end so I can get back to doing what I love.
Bear with me, I'll be dialing up the mountain stuff as we get into September. For now, I'm stealing away when I can. Today it was up the Suffer Machine (Topa Topa) for a brief recon.

I made it to the summit of Topa in my customary 3:15hrs. After a nice break up top I started ambling around the top of the bluffs. I was looking for an easy-ish route down the bluffs from the top. My purposes for doing this may develop into a substantial blog entry of it's own so I won't spill all the beans yet. I'll put it this way, I have a good reason for plotting and planning a trip to the base of the bluffs. It doesn't look like getting there will be all that difficult.

Interestingly, the front side of the bluffs is riddled with deer trails. In fact, it was a good day for wildlife. I saw 3 deer, 2 hawks, a fox , and many other smaller critters. I did not, however, see anyone else for the entire day.

Deer trails abound on the face of the Topa Topa Bluffs.
Hines Peak from the Topa Ridge

Below: Looking down a large gap in the Bluffs.

Further proof, if needed, that any time you might think you are on a road untravelled, you will encounter a beer can with a bullet hole in it.

Above: The Bluffs. I got plans.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pine Mountain 07/16/2011

Back to P.M. for some more grit. I went up there by myself and wound up spending the day with an old acquaintance, the man behind the development of Pine Mountain as a boulderers' retreat, Juan Carlo. JC is a wild man, a dynamo, hyper-thyroid. And he still has incredible hand strength. Juan Carlo has always been a boulderer at heart, and about 17 or so years ago he and a small cadre started cleaning and climbing PM. I had a loose association with JC, Tony, and a few of the PM boys way back in the day. Worked with Darren Ogden for a number of years. As I've gravitated back to rock climbing I've enjoyed running into a number of the "old guys", men I've climbed with, had fun with, guys that all share a mutual respect.
JC and I played around at the pic-nic area for several hours. I enjoyed catching up with him, and though I no longer envy his ridiculous strength, I did enjoy watching him slide up something that I have to huff, puff, and grovel to get through.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pine Mountain, 07/09/2011

Saturday morning I shot up to Pine Mountain to do "a little" bouldering with Davi Rivas and his 11 year old son, Carlo. Man, it was just a great day from the start. We fooled around for the next 7 hours on a bunch of V-easy stuff (V0's,V1's, & V2's). I love bouldering. . I love being cordless, putting the moves together, that unnerving tingle when you know you're high off the deck. A day full of bouldering is all the fun I need.
Pine Mountain is home to about the only notable bouldering in Ventura County, but what's there is good, clean fun. Some problems are easy, but tall. Some are short but hard. It's a good mix with a little something for most folks.
I find myself, when talking about climbing, wishing I was younger. As in: uninjured. Unfortunately, I have to climb within certain restrictions that accommodate my extensive list of chronic injuries. The real problem is that if I pull down too hard or crank wrong with my right arm, I could wind up blowing what remains of right my biceps tendon. This is a bummer, but I'm learning to just enjoy a day on the rock for what it is. My days of hard climbing seem to be behind me. I've known that fact for years, but between the injuries and my other interests I'm learning that anything in life that affects me starts with my perception, and since I got really hurt over a decade ago I've slowly rediscovered the joy of moving on rock, regardless of how easy or hard it is. Nowadays I can usually look at a climb or boulder problem and decide to climb it or blow it off, makes no difference to me. I'm there to have fun. No need to prove myself if it means that I'll end up in an OR with some dead person's tendon in my arm. Because that just doesn't sound like as much fun as walking a little further to climb something easier
A special "Thanks" to Carlo for hanging out with the cameras all day. He took the first photo on this entry.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Out of the shoebox: Hueco Tanks, TX (before all the stupid rules)

A half hour east of El Paso exists a pile of brown rocks called Hueco Tanks. For years Hueco was a destination spot for the world's best boulderers. The attraction, because let's face it, nobody vacations in El Paso, was the quality and volume of over-hung, gymnastic climbing. A perfect illustration of this type of climbing is Starpower (above), a 35 foot jungle gym during which the climber isn't ever more than 6 feet off the ground.

I spent the spring of '97 and '98 living out of the parking lot at Pete's, a dirt lot just down the road from Hueco with a quonset hut run by an old vet and his wife. Pete's wife would open the kitchen in the evening and crank out tamales and gorditas. They stocked beer, namely Australia's national sedative, Sheaf Stout. It was a fun place to hang out, play scrabble, meet new folks. I, and a crowd of others were cheering when Tara Lipinsky won gold in figure skating at the Nagano Olympics.

As with most climbing meccas, Hueco began to experience access problems as more and more climbers arrived on the scene. The little state park was being over-run with boulderers by 1996, and by 1998, real restrictions to access were in the works. I feel fortunate to have climbed Hueco for the two largely unregulated seasons I did. The problem was exacerbated by the widespread development of the bouldering "crash pad". Pretty soon, everybody had one, and the destruction to the undergrowth near the prime boulders was obvious. Another issue also came to the fore when a local tribe claimed that the degradation of Hueco Tanks' 5,000 year old pictographs was due to the climbing population, and they had an argument. In 1998 it was estimated that over 80% of all visitors to the park were there to climb. In '98 I attended a county council meeting in downtown El Paso over the access issue. The tribe argued their position effectively and the state slapped major restrictions on climber access to Hueco Tanks. I was very disappointed in the contingent from the Access Fund. They explained all the details of what the climbers brought, in locally spent dollars. They argued that the state park rules were being manipulated to support the local tribe at the expense of recreational interests. What they did not once put into words was one the thing that I believe could have made a difference in the minds of the council. I wish they had explained what attracted people from all over the world to this little pimple on the ass of America. What was so special about Hueco Tanks to the climbing community. The Access Fund, in a word, failed to accomplish a damn thing for it's constituency.

During those 2 seasons I was able to climb/figure out many of the classic V5's and several V6's and V7's. In 1998 I participated in the annual Hueco Tanks Rock Rodeo, the local's end of season climbing competition. I competed for points in the "intermediate" group, against who knows how many other climbers. At the end of the day I had tied with another guy for second place. The tie breaking "hang-off" (a one armed dead hang until one or the other of us fell off). My arms were shot after the whole day of hard bouldering, and as the hang dragged through it's 5th minute I came off the bar, about 1 nanosecond before the other guy did. I could scarcely shake the guy's hand.The after-party was great, but a bit subdued due to the uncertain future for bouldering at Hueco.
Pete's, and Rob Hamilton's RV, the "Limping Trout", 1997
Some wall on the Spur
Below, my Rock Rodeo trophy
Beer, Pizza, and a..., V6, took me a couple days of hard work to figure out this beautiful torture-fest.
Gums, very likely the scariest V2 in America. Falling is not an option. It's very high-ball, and as for the landing, tales of head injuries related to this climb abound.
The Dragon's Lair super-classic, Hobbit in a Blender V5
I walked right up to Moonshine Roof and walked off the top. Fun.
Rest-day recreation
Foolin' on the Norwegian Wall
'97 and '98 were pretty shitty years for me, a period that I reflect on now and then. I've come to the conclusion that good friendship and hucking myself at Hueco problems were about the best thing I can recall from those 2 years. I'm glad I had my time at Hueco.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Out of the shoebox: Joshua Tree National Park (liked it better when it was a Monument).

Until the mid-nineties, when Joshua Tree was known as "The Monument", a clever person could basically live up there year-round. I know I have spent well over 365 nights of my life in JT. In fact, when I bought my first home, it was in JT. I lived 5 minutes from Park Rd. and 40 minutes to "Gunsmoke". I have checked off over 500 different routes in my copy of Vogel's JT bible. I climbed many of those routes repeatedly. I used to climb Papa Woolsey (5.10b slab) by moonlight. I was a member of a richly vulgar climbing sect best described as "Dirt-Bag". I spent my early twenties up in the Monument, did chemistry homework on thursday nights under the light of the Coleman.
I have no way to convey to you the number of crazy, hilarious, insane, bizzare tales I could share from the seasons and years I spent living up there on beer and tortillas. Mucho insanity. My mom wouldn't want to hear most of it. And much of it could be construed as self-incriminating, in the pharmacopial sense. Perhaps I'll share something rich.
Anyway, it's too hot to hike, so I dug up these old pics, scanned and cleaned them up, and chose to share them with you all. I may do some other things like this in the future, if it suits you.

Top Picture:
After mangling my hands in JT cracks for several days, I lacerated my hand with a pair of scissors while cutting days old climbing tape from my hands.
Cave Man Boulder
Grit Roof
One of 2 Canadians I had some really good times with, Damien, severely hung over.
The bottom of "The Flake". I was 19.
The Life Is Good Camp, 1994
Clockwise from left: PBR for breakfast, me, Don, Chris, Andy, Chris, Mark. These guys would come over for a lazy morning fairly frequently.
The Life is Good Camp core. Furniture courtesy of yours truly, and Urs the Swede(which is a pretty funny story). We co-existed as a unit, sharing meals and tent space, gear and clothes, and climbed a bunch of stuff for about 5 weeks together. Good Times!
Left to Right: Urs (from Switzerland), "Newport" Mike (a very talented home-brewing lawyer), the Canadians Gentle (real name) and Damien (Damien was a real good climber and fun to hang with, Gentle lost 4 friends in snow-mobiling avalanches during the Christmas week and I helped him get completely wasted at the Joshua Tree Saloon on Christmas Eve. I took the picture.
Me, Dirt-Bag in full. Probably the 18th day since my last shower.
Figures on a Landscape, the JT classic.
"The Decrepitent", The original shelter was so abused and degraded that the only way to make it livable was to modify it. Rob Hamilton and I thought the blue would go nice with the backdrop. This "structure" hosted several days of infamy including "Coma Day" and the "Liver Trauma Jungle Juice" party.
Coarse & Buggy, 5.11b
Bouldering at sunset in the Hall of Horrors.
If things stay this hot I won't be doing too much in the local hills, so I'll endevour to continue posting new stuff.