Sunday, June 20, 2010

Smith Rocks 2010

It’s been about three years since I’ve been to Smith Rocks. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is. Located in central Oregon, it takes a fair amount of driving from any direction to get there. We drove in from Portland after divisionals, meaning we drove past Mount Hood, the largest mountain in Oregon. It just got better from there.
I decided to go back to Smith with my friend Charlie Andrews so we could climb together and hang out for our first week of no-school summer. Pretty awesome. After driving for about three hours, we arrived at Smith to meet up with team Rocksport from Reno and we all went out for dinner in town after setting up tent.
After dinner, we decided to make a spur of the moment run back into the park to grab some huckleberry ice cream from the small family-owned climbing shop just outside the campground. Just saying right now… best. ice cream. EVER. If I was going to quit climbing right now, I would still make it all the way back out there just for that ice cream. It’s that good. Anyways… I had a double.
The next morning, we headed out a little later than we were hoping, mostly due to the fact Charlie and I had watched Superbad in my tent the night before with Lucas Larson, one of our friends from Reno. We lathered on the sunscreen, took off our shirts, and hiked down into the Smith Rocks River gorge.
Charlie and I decided to warm up on Heresy (11c). This four-bolt mini route is on the far right side of the Christian Brothers Wall, and it’s probably one of the shortest fun routes I’ve done. I did this climb when I was 11, and until then, it was by far my hardest send at Smith. Charlie hopped on it first, onsighting it and putting up the draws for me. I sent it first go as well, but it was still a little harder than I remember.
Charlie looking up climbs in the guide

Our next challenge turned out to be the most classic climb at Smith that you can get, Chain Reaction (12c). According to many different [questionable] sources, this is the most photographed climb in America. Apparently, it also made the cover of Newsweek in the mid 90’s. I’ll have to look into that.
I started working it first, making the sketch first clip at about 20 feet with a great deal of nerves almost getting the best of me. The crux for me was at the 3rd clip, where you have to make a couple moves up the arĂȘte while keeping your balance on really bad left crimp. I was able to get up it first try, but it took me 3 more goes to actually send it, not including one where I pulled on only to have my foot pop off and almost deck. Charlie sent the route on his second go, then did it again for the cameras. Proud, dude!
Charlie sending twice
finally sticking the crux moves

(all photos: Eric Wang)
After our double send of the route, we decided to go work Churning in the Wake (13a), recommended by Alex Fritz, who sent it on his last trip here. It’s a seven-bolt crimp route starting off with some powerful monos with the crux at the very last move, coming off of bad holds to a dyno to the finish. I got to the last bolt on my first try, but I think I might need to work it a bit more to figure out all the beta. Charlie had a one-hang on his second go, so I think he can do it pretty soon. We headed out after that, promising to ourselves we’d come back the next day.
hard day's work.

The next morning we woke up to… rain. Lots of it. This meant no climbing, and a very wet and muddy packing out of the whole park. As we left the park, I managed to catch one last glimpse back at Smith, taking in all of its natural beauty. I want to come back to this place, I thought to myself. I’m pretty sure I will.
bouldering at Lava Beds National Monument, CA
on the long drive home

Divisionals 2010

This last weekend I competed at the youth divisional championships at Clubsport in Tigard Oregon. The comp was the 4th major competition I’ve been to at this gym, including two other divisionals and a nationals in 2006. Throughout all these competitions, I had never won difficulty or been old enough to lead at all, so the comp was an entirely new start for me.

One of the things I like most about divisionals is the fact that I get to see my friends from Washington and Oregon, like Alex Fritz, Sam Wolff, and Zan Bode. These guys have been climbing for a long time and we always have a great time and push each other to try to climb harder before we get to nationals.

This year, we drove up to Oregon, which took about 10+ hours so that we could drive down to Smith Rocks and go climbing there after the comp. The night before qualifiers, I went out to Olive Garden with Alex and Zan and then went back to the hotel and somehow ended up with a luggage rack wedged in between our two beds. Probably as a result of playing Jungle Speed in my room with Alex, Zan, Sam, Charlie Andrews, and Eric Sanchez.

Note: If you don’t know, Jungle Speed is the best card game ever invented. If you haven’t heard of it, imagine matching card games combined with spoons and full-body wrestling. It’s intense.

Qualifiers were flash format, which meant all climbers could watch anyone else in their category climb before they went. I went right after Alex, but I preferred not to watch him climb, letting me focus on my own climbing without comparing ourselves. I sent the first climb fairly easily, but fell a couple holds short of the finish on the second climb. This was still enough to put me in first. In speed, I didn’t go quite as fast as I probably could’ve, and ended up in 2nd place to Alex by 0.1 seconds (I got 10’s on both walls). Charlie and Sam were both right behind us in speed and difficulty, and we all knew it was going to come down to finals.

The next day, I woke up for finals all ready to go. I was going last in my category because I had placed first the day before so I had some time in iso to warm up and get ready. The final route went up the main lead wall on the right (which we had been expecting) and was mostly jugs till it turned the headwall and started a slabby crux on big green huecos. I had no idea what I was doing until I actually climbed. I ended up making it past the jugs and all the huecos to the very last crux on two sharp crimps. Highpoint for both the male A and Junior categories, I was pretty happy about my results.

(all photos: Eric Wang)

By the time it was time for speed climbing, I was getting pretty psyched to climb, especially since I was sitting in 2nd place behind Alex. I knew I could be faster, but at the same time, I knew he was going to bring it too. The first lap before we switched I hit 7.8 seconds on, which was 3 seconds faster than the day before! Alex was only a little behind, so it all came down to the last lap. He got 9 seconds on it, but I missed the top box, disqualifying me. Dammit. Oh well. Alex deserved the win today. He’s gotten FAST.

Overall, I was pretty psyched on the first win at Clubsport in difficulty, but I also need to work on speed if I want to do well at nationals. It was a great weekend hanging out with everyone and playing Jungle Speed. Time to get training for nationals.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Teva Mountain Games-Vail World Cup

Vail Colorado is the perfect backdrop for the Teva Mountain Games, held every June for athletes all over the world. The games celebrate the outdoor nature of sports such as mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, running, and of course, climbing. Last weekend I attended the event for the first time as I competed in the Bouldering World Cup, held during the Games for the 3rd time.
I arrived in Colorado after taking an afternoon flight out and got to the town of Vail at around 11pm. The entire place seemed like out of a dream, as the buildings loomed out of the darkness and covered the mountains surrounding with an eerie shadow. The place seemed ready to explode with the building energy. The next morning, I awoke to the sound of the Vail River running outside our hotel and the announcer already exciting the crowd of people watching a whitewater kayaking competition going on in the river below. I tried to get out of bed as fast as I could to see as much as I could before I had to be in isolation at 12:30. I walked over to the climbing area and was able to watch the women’s qualifier session with my friends before the men’s session started, then headed into iso with my friend Alex Johnson.
the crew: (left to right)
me, Alex, Tris, Zan, Tayler, Eric, and Julian

Audrey Gawrych | Chauncenia Cox

Isolation for the World Cup was different than other isolations that I have been in. Instead of the usual group of kids on different teams, there was a very serious group of 50 guys from 20 different countries, speaking different languages and warming up by doing one-arm pullups and v11 add on games. Talk about psyching out the competition… I was able to warm up fairly well with Alex and Ian Dory (another strong kid out of Colorado) and walked out to the wall.
As soon as I turned around to face Problem 1, I knew I was in for a hell of a challenge. The climb started on two sloping holds that you had to mantle to, then dyno out right to a pinch on the arĂȘte and finish out some harder moves. It took me almost the entire 5 minutes to stick the dyno and bonus hold a couple moves later. The other problems were even harder, and I progressed less and less far on each one. Hugely demoralizing. ughhhh. The video below shows my best attempt at problem 1. Thanks for the encouragement, mom.

I ended up taking 48
th place, which wasn’t bad, considering I was the youngest male competitor there by far. The next day, I hung out with Alex and Taylor Clarkin from Arizona, and we walked around the entire town checking out the various sponsor booths and events. We saw the semi-finals of the World Cup in the morning and took off from there. Probably the sickest things we saw were the dog jump contest (the dog is jumping to grab a rubber toy) and the BMX freestyle competition. Both were pretty eye-opening.
The finals for the World Cup were that afternoon, and more than 5,000 people turned up to watch the event. Local Daniel Woods was the favorite for the men, followed closely by Jernej Kruder from Slovenia (yes, he does have a Teva hand shaved into his head). The women’s event was a much closer field, but Alex Johnson and Alex Puccio were the favorites from winning the last two years respectively. In the end, Chloe Grafteux won for the women, beating out the Alex’s and Austrian Anna Stohr. Daniel crushed the men’s competition and took home the first World Cup bouldering win for the US ever. REPRESENT.
Paul Robinson | Jernej Kruder

Sierra Blair-Coyle in the semifinals

Akiyo Noguchi

Daniel Woods

The next day I competed in the citizen’s comp, which was had some really cool problems set by the world cup crew. I ended up tying for first place overall by sending a crazy problem going all the way up the 25’ wall with a dyno to a huge bulge, then a hard lockoff move to slopers to a dyno to the finish. Really sick problems overall though. I flew home that afternoon after a long drive back to Denver and lots of studying for finals. eew. Summer is almost here…

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pinnacles 5/31/10

Memorial day is a great day to go climbing. There's no school, relatively good temps usually, and no time constraints. Last memorial day, I went climbing at the Pinnacles with my friend Chris Bellizzi, who put up quite a few routes there in the 80's and 90's.

When we got there, it was pretty crowded with lots of hikers trying to enjoy the 3-day weekend. Our first stop was by the Monolith, where a lot of the good classics are located.

The rock at the Pinnacles is a conglomerate based rock with a lot of little pieces of smooth rock scattered throughout. This gives the climbs a gym like feel where you’re grabbing sometimes golfball-sized holds, sometimes watermelon-sized. The climbs at the monolith climb more or less like that.

My Lizard Friend

I started out the day on a classic of the area, Cantaloupe Death (10b). The last time I climbed this route was when I was 10 years old, and it requires you to lean across a gap to reach the starting holds. I have always been too short to make the span, requiring me to jump all the way across the span. Today, I did the direct start to the route, eliminating the jump and making the route 5.12a.

Cantaloupe Death Direct 12a

photo: Chris Bellizzi

After Chris got on it to warm up, I got on Hot Lava Lucy (12c) after looking it over and pre-equipping the first 2 draws, I went for the onsight. I got all the way past the crux and up to the third bolt, and was about to clip it, when I realized that I left all remaining quickdraws on the ground. DUHH. Oh well. After two more goes I was able to fire it off and continue the day.

First two bolts on Hot Lava Lucy

The rest of the day, we tried the super long Ranger Bolts (13a), which is an 80’ climb on the back of the Monolith. After quite a few attempts to get to the top, I saved it for another try and we hiked back over to the Discovery Wall area to finish off the day. After climbing Cosmos and Chris’s route Verdict, we called it a day and headed back to the car. Good times.

photo: Chris Bellizzi