Brief Maple Update

We’re in Salt Lake City, escaping a cold front passing through Maple (no, we[1] didn’t bring enough warm clothing), so here’s a brief update. Jen and I have both hit our stride on the cobbles. I cleaned up some unfinished lines on the Minimum Wall (Space Lord (5.12c), and Functional Idiot (5.12b)), and onsighted Sweet Peas (5.12a/b) and Afterglow (5.12a). Jen sent 49 (5.12a) and onsighted When Cobbles Fly (5.12a) today, in a fine effort. We have a few more days before we begin the long drive home, so hopefully there will be more good sends to report.

Briefly, Space Lord was great climb requiring a serious effort to complete (aside: despite attempts at laziness, I did redpoint the route hanging the ‘draws). There is a long (20-30 feet) crux section, with little chance for recovery. I struggled mightily, fighting off my lack-of-real-fitness pump, but managed to snatch the send from the jaws of defeat.

We have two or three more days of climbing in the canyon, so expect at least one more update before we arrive in Pittsburgh. Photos may be forthcoming, too.

[1] Where we == me.

Maple (Canyon)

We are out west again, this time in Maple Canyon, Utah, rock climbing for two weeks. We’re doing routes this year, at the behest of our friends in Arizona, who couldn’t swing a trip to Hueco Tanks earlier in the spring. For those that don’t know, Maple has a rather unique geology–massive, arching walls of sandstone cobbles held together with a cement of sediment. It’s a wonder that the routes stay together at all, or that the bolts hold more than body weight. The routes do mostly stay together (newer routes tend to have loose cobbles, and even established lines can shed pebbles sometimes), and a bolt hasn’t failed yet.

The climbing, too, is unique–likely as close to gym climbing as I’ve ever experienced. In four days of climbing, there has been exactly one move on one route that lacked large footholds. The cobbles themselves ranges from small crimpers to massive basketball slopers, with lots of good handholds in between. So what makes it challenging? The steepness and the length. We’ve spent all of our time at the Left Fork, where the routes are generally at least 80 feet high, and almost always overhang. I’ve yet to do anything “hard,” failing at the top of several 5.12 onsight attempts. Fitness is king here, and I am lacking (it seems I need roughly ten more feet of fitness–with that, I may have a reasonable tick list already).

Even will all the failures, the climbing is still loads of fun. The movement is interesting, and rarely scary (though I will admit to some nerves at the top of a 35 meter 5.8, silently praying one of the cobbles wouldn’t escape the matrix whilst I stood on it), meaning it is easy to push yourself, and enjoy yourself, even if you are falling your way up the route.

Internet connectivity has been rather limited, so we’ll hopefully have photos available when we return to PGH.

Climbing Motivation

Yes, it’s been awhile….

Impressive stuff. While there haven’t been a ton of new, cutting edge grit routes opened in the last year or so, plenty of strong folks (men and women) have been going at the classics from the ground up. Impressive stuff.

Life’s Little Lessons

Seb's rocket

See that terrible cellphone photo up there? That’s Seb’s rocket. The Viking. We made it together. It was fun. It looked pretty decent, even though I painted it. We should have launched it (and Oren’s new rocket) yesterday, but baseball practice at our launch site stymied those plans. I had mostly written off launching today, due to stiff breezes, but the clouds parted late this afternoon, so we went for it. I took a long look at the flags above the field, noted the wind direction, and set up the launch site appropriately. We wait for a break in the wind.



Rocket goes very, very high. (And this was an A-level engine, too.)

Wind picks up. Rocket begins to drift very, very far. Over the fence of the field, but not quite over the trees on the hillside dropping down the zoo. It comes to rest high up in a tree.

I scurry over the fence and down the hill. Seb tells me I should climb up the tree (which is pretty much dead), and if I don’t want to do that, I should run home and get our axe and chop it down. I try chucking a few baseballs (the hillside is littered with them), but the rocket is tangled in a mess of branches (my poor aim is likely also a contributing factor in the failure). None of the branches on the hillside are quite long enough to reach, so we resign ourselves to leaving it there, hoping the wind might take it down. Tomorrow, I may try to connect a few paint poles together and try another recovery, assuming it doesn’t rain overnight.

Today’s lesson: launching rockets with 15-20 MPH winds is generally a bad idea.

Ebbs and Flows

We have apparently skipped right over the whole “spring” thing and moved directly into summer. It’s been in the 70s for the past week or so (at least), and the unseasonable weather looks to continue in the next week. Of course, it rains on the weekends (at least a bit), so we’ve yet to climb at the New River Gorge this year (remember, though, it’s not even April), though we did sneak out to Snake Hill outside of Morgantown. Even better, two weeks ago, we traveled to Virginia to help our friends set routes at their new climbing gym. That place was absolutely nuts, and it was incredible to be able to set on mostly blank stretches of wall. My only regret is that I didn’t get to really put much effort into my creations, but several 10+ hour days of route setting will do that to you.

Of course, an ill effect of that particular trip is that returning to the Pittsburgh gym is a bit of slap in the motivational face. Certainly, our local gym is pretty good, but, at the moment, they are remodeling a few of the walls, and those sections are closed off (and those happen to be my favorite sections). So the wind has left my sails. It’s not that I don’t want to climb (nay, I had a grand time climbing the routes at Snake Hill last weekend, even if they weren’t particularly hard), but I’m having trouble mustering the motivation to really train. It’s easy to be disappointed about this, but then I remember that I can’t live in a constant state of peak fitness, and that this little denouement is probably better in the long run for our trip to Maple. If I can manage to peel myself off the couch in the next week or so, I’ll still have roughly eight weeks build up my power and do a cycle of endurance training, which should be plenty. I may even arrive there at peak fitness, something I’ve missed the last two trips to Hueco Tanks.


So I finally joined the 21st century and purchased a smartphone. Of course, it’s a Palm Pixi, and the first thing I did was turn off data transmission, but it’s a start, right?

One selling point for the phone (aside from the low, low price tag) was that I could write apps using plain old JavaScript and HTML, via the WebOS Mojo/Enyo framework. Whilst in Florida (photos are coming soon, really), I scratched an itch and build a round timer application for working out on the hangboard. Since I was already jumping on the smartphone bandwagon, I thought I’d also jump on the GitHub bandwagon, too, so you can view the source here. If you happen to own a Palm WebOS phone, you actually find the packaged app there, too. The UI needs a bit of polish, and it’s probably riddled with bugs, but It Works For Me(tm).

Old Age, Interrupted

As I was riding home through Oakland today, the grumpy old man part of my brain said “by golly, would ya believe what kids are wearing these days?”

As I finished this thought, the part of my brain that still feels 18 reminded me I was wearing one of these, and had one pants leg rolled up to the knee.

Weekly Climbing Motivation

Life On Hold – Trailer 2 from Outcrop Films on Vimeo.

The New Year

This place has fallen into a state of disrepair. Last post? November. And just a video, at that. 2011 was not a good year for my writing. I didn’t do much at all. I’ve been focused on journaling more (this isn’t a resolution since I started before the new year), with the hope that something in the pages of my little black book would see the light of day (or, at least the light of this site).

In other news, we’ve settled on our destination for the year’s long road trip–Maple Canyon in Utah. Yes, that means sport climbing. Which means prior to going, I need to develop some form of route fitness. Training for bouldering is much more simple–climb hard stuff in the gym, hang from a block of wood in my basement, then climb for the cycle at Hueco Tanks. Simple. Route climbing requires endurance (as well as power), and I find it terribly difficult to train for that in the gym. My hope is that we’ll get enough trips to the New, plus perhaps a week at the Red, before we leave, and that will provide the volume of climbing I’ll need.

One benefit of going to Maple (and sport climbing, rather than bouldering) is that I will ratchet back my expectations. When we travel, I prefer to climb things quickly, rather than finding a super project to spend countless days on. I’d be fairly happy climbing stacks of hard 5.12s, with an easy 5.13 thrown in for good measure, rather than getting caught up in sending something “hard.” Of course, if something more difficult catches my eye, then all bets all off.

Weekly Climbing Motivation

Tomorrow I Will Be Gone from Outcrop Films on Vimeo.

That’s a full length film. Excellent stuff. I look forward to their next film:

Life On Hold Trailer 1 from Outcrop Films on Vimeo.