Friday, January 30, 2009

Jesus Watch Oh Nine

Over the past business week many people in the heartland region of the midwest were led to believe Jesus would be returning soon, very soon, infact this week of all weeks. I was one of these individuals. As it turns out all the hullabaloo ( was the once-a-decade-ice-storm. Mostly tree damage and some 1.5 million homes and businesses without power. All this killed the climbinng and training that was supposed to happen, but it made for some fun and interesting nights with the few friends in Fayetteville that were lucky enough not to lose power. Days and nights were spent drinking the hours away. More than a few magazines were read and a few books "looked at" in an attempt to ward off alcohol induced retardation since school was cancelled for the week. Amazing! Too bad I'm not in school this semester. If you could imagine the winter wonderland scenes that you can buy during the holiday season for the home, then you would have imagined Fayetteville correctly over the last week. Beautiful in a haunting black and white and unapologetic way.

So now we wait for ice to melt and rocks to dry. In the mean time I've been thinking what I'm going to do with my life after this trip. Who knows, ugh. Possibly the answer is in a long visit up the west coast to Squamish in early spring.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Guidebook Update

Since the freezing weather has not permitted climbing over the past few days, I decided to turn my efforts elsewhere. Because of all the sending as of late, I realized that the Area 74 guidebook could use an update. The guide was originally written by Scott Fitzgerald about 4 years ago and since then over a dozen new problems have been established ranging from v7-v11. While the original guidebook doesn't have all the correct names, the current names are the ones the general public knows, thus no names were changed, only additions made. Even though it is a small area, it has a pretty good range and depth of problems and it's proximity to Fayetteville make it a worth while destination. So, check it out sometime if you find yourself with an afternoon to burn in the area...

The Ranch

You can't climb everyday nor should you. Turns out Jeremy is learning this one the hard way. Yesterday we visited Horseshoe Canyon Ranch( Sorry the website is run by punters. Anyway, the high for the day was 30 and felt about 10 degrees colder. Windy, high humidity, and no sun means it takes you an hour to warm-up, if you can even call your current state after that period of time as "warm." Be that as it may we tried to climb stuff. He had a streak to maintain of 7 days of climbing in which he had climbed at least a v11, and I, on the other hand, was trying to send anything. We decided on the divide and conquer method, but unfortunately Jeremy was unable to get warmed up again once he made the 20 minute hike across the canyon. That coupled with the fact that he was trying to make the second ascent of Dave Graham's power testpiece, Loved by Few Hated by Many v13, didn't bode well. He rant into two hours later without a pad and confessed the ending of the streak. Just two days before he and I had visited DeSoto. As usual, he wreck shop and I tried to keep up. I sent nothing for the day, while he crushed the second ascent of Zach Leavitt's Midnight Frightening v11. He the proceeded to establish two of his own in Project Pat v9 and Upward Warrior v8, both of which were sick climbs.
JTW blowing minds and demoralizing others on Midnight Frightening v11

Upward Warrior v8 starts in a standing position with sidepulls bear-hugging the arete. It gains the sloper at 10' and tops out slightly left.

While Jeremy was gone, I proceeded to do the likely second ascent of an old Blake Strickland problem in the north Idahos called Isolation v8. Although it is an eliminate, it climbs some amazing sandstone slopers, so I was pleased to finally do it. Next I met up with the only other people at the Ranch that day who also happened to be friends. I had the chance to witness what is very likely the first native female Arkansan send a v7 in Razor's Edge. Morgan Gattis has been holding her own with the boys for years, and she definitely seeing dividends these days. Hopefully her climbing will continue to flourish. Across from Razor's Edge is another Blake Strickland problem know as Dark Elf v10. This was one of the original four v10s at the Ranch before outside developers came. Unfortunately, I was told by Blake that the problem never saw a second ascent as it broke shortly after his first ascent and is probably unrepeatable in its current state. After 30 minutes on Sunday, I had worked out all the moves except for one, which still illudes me. In this time Morgan sent her project and Jeremy reappeared, so I decided to call it quits on that rig until a warmer day.

Last stop for the day was yet another Strickland problem. Come O Long v8, was established a little over a year ago in the south Idahos directly behind Even Dirtier. It is an excellent short face climb with a slightly hazardous fall potential. Blake chose to top it out by traversing left and coming back right; however, I thought the correct line should be straight up. I nearly flashed the problem, but neglected to fully consider the topout. Short work yielded my second Strickland problem of the day and another possible second ascent. I was happy to have done this one, especially since I believe a sit start will be possible on this one. By that time it was so cold one could barely stay warm even while climbing in a down jacket, so we called it quits. All in all it was a good day. A lot of climbing by myself and "alone time", but that's what this roadtrip was predicated on anyway.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Second Ascent? Naw...First Ascent!

Today Jeremy and I went to Area 74 so he could continue to wreck shop in Arkansas. He did four problems in several hours and the easiest was his first FA at the location. After warming up we went across the street to the North face of the Ripple Effect boulder. I had brushed two sloper problems here on several different occasions over the past year. Although these problems are a mere eight feet tall, they are still great little problems on high quality sandstone. Unfortunately, it's facing North, so there's always moss and lichen growing and the stone is on the soft end which makes it sandy when it's not brushed often. After thirty minutes of serious brushing and rechalking, Jeremy finally managed to send the left problem and called it Messy Bear (v8). The problem begins on a sloper and is a one move wonder to a right hand pinch. I followed suit several minutes later, and was pleased as I have always wanted to climb this short face since brushing it.

Next it was back across the street to Shapeshifter Direct. I had established this direct start in the fall of '07 to the existing Shapeshifter, which is a traverse, and had suggested the grade of v10. While the traverse is a good problem in its own right, I felt the direct version to be the true line and the first of many difficult roof problems to come from 74. A descent flash attempt yielded another successful climb in a few more trys for Mr. JTW.

Two down, two to go. Next was the Battle of the Bulge project. When Scott Fitzgerald published the guidebook to Area 74 through, he believed this climb to be the most difficult, suggesting a possible grade of v12 even though no one had climbed it. The problem is an instant classic if you're able to pull off the ground, and it is some of the friendliest sandstone in the Ozarks. The bottom half is slightly overhung and trends right to left up a steep flake. This section is probably v1 to an undercling. From here the problem get progressively more technical and difficult including drop knees, flags, a half inch deep mono, a grossly thin sloping crimp, and a stab for the finish. I honestly doubt anyone repeats this line for a very long time, as it will take someone with some special and finely honed fortes and some serious determination. Jeremy decided to name it Double Live Gonzo (v11). Well done sir!

While Double Live Gonzo was the crowning moment, it would not be JTW's last tune of the day. In twilight we walked to the Eastern most end of 74 in hopes that Jeremy had one last climb in him. A month and a half ago I had opened the former Bad Girls project in the corridor, calling it The House of Magic (v10). With another second ascent looming, I gave the play-by-play in hopes that it would get flashed. A good effort was had, but no such luck. Not a mintue before complete darkness, Jeremy sent it next go. We gathered our belongings and lumbered to the car, excited about all that was accomplished but equally exhausted.

Tomorrow we are travelling to a nearby magical wonderland known as the Kingdom of Caring. We have both climbed several days in a row, but there is a streak to be kept alive and domination will most likely ensue.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Second Ascents

Two nights ago several friends were talking about climbing. One asked another if he had put up anything recently. The unspecific nature of the question was a bit confusing to the person it was posed. Was it about opening new boulders, claiming first ascents, or simply climbing rocks? The answer: no, just second ascents.
As of late, Jeremy Tyler Walton has been on a second ascent spree. Now, that's not the most difficult thing to maintain in Arkansas since first ascents are going up everywhere and few people do a good job of sharing information about a new climb. Nonetheless, the guy has been "turning beef to patties" to quote Lil' Wayne. Last Monday, he added another tick to his second ascent list with his quick send of Ryan Sewell's Broken Earth (v11/12) at Fontaine Red. Later I received the full list of his second ascents, some of which only two people have done. Neat.

Dragon Slayer (v12), Little Rock City, FA: Tony Lamiche
Reflections (v10), Little Rock City, FA: Matt Bosley
Shadow Jumper (v11/12), Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, FA: Jason Kehl
Release the Squirrels (v12), Split Rocks, FA: Dave Graham
Western Gold (v11), Laurel Snow, FA: Jimmy Webb
Broken Earth (v11/12), Fonatine Red, FA: Ryan Sewell
God Given (v10), Horsepens 40, FA: Josh Reyes
Her Majesty (v10), Fontaine Red, FA: Scott Fitzgerald
Crimpit's Tea Room (v10), Goat Farm, FA: Blake Strickland
Dirt Merchant Direct (v10), Springdale, Fa: yours truly

Ryan Sewell's Broken Earth climbs what Ryan claims are "some of the smallest crimps he can hold." Agreed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Split Rocks

Yesterday, Jason, Pierre, Jeremy, and I decided to go climbing. Unfortunately, once we arrived at the destination, Pierre and Jason chose not to climb; however, they still honked their literal and proverbial horns. The first stop was at Area 74 where Jeremy and I both had a little work to do. Jeremy began his rampage by warming up on and completing The Oracle (v11). The first ascent likely came this time last year by Blake Strickland. I believe it was originally called Twilight, but not much was ever said about the climb. A few months later, Ryan Sewell had been visiting the Ozarks for a while and climbed what he believed to be an undone project in The Oracle. Words and pictures were spread, and with three repeats occurring in the past month and a half the problem will most likely keep the later name. I managed this problem about a month ago and would reccomend giving it a try.
The Oracle
Next, Jeremy and I moved over to the project roof at 74. While the rock can be friable under this roof, it has the capability to produce some long and powerful roof climbs to highball finishes in the high double-digit range. In two or three goes Jeremy found himself at the top of From Darkness Comes Light (v10). Two summers ago I opened up the stand (Eternal Twilight v7) to this porblem with the intention of working my way deeper into the roof. As time passed and school began in the fall, I was unable to complete the sit start. The first ascent was claimed to be either Scott Fitzgerald or Eric Gifford sometime that winter, but I don't know the dates. Maybe a year later, Joe Meiners visited from Dallas and believed he had a first ascent on the problem and called it Arachnaphobia. If you haven't noticed already this is a trend in Arkansas. Someone does an amazing climb, doesn't publicize it, and climbing in Arkansas continue as if nothing ever happened. It's fine not to inform the public about what is being climbed, but it makes for an unorganized and unprogressive climbing community.

From Darkness Comes Light climbs out the roof ten feet left of the crack in the face.

The last stop of the day was Split Rocks. This is perhaps one of the most wonderful places in all of Arkansas. To date, there are two established boulder problems, about half a dozen project boulder problems, one bolted project sport climb, and a project trad line. With such few lines and few people knowing its location, Split Rocks remains in obscurity, which is probably for the best. Since I am unaware of the current state of access for this land, I would suggest not visiting unless you can do whatever it is that you desire to do in a few hours. I digress. Anyway, Dave Graham put up a highball pocketed testpiece in February of '08 known as Release the Squirrels, which premiered in the movie Dosage 5. It climbs a 40' face of impeccable white standstone. After 30 minutes of work, Jeremy had made it through the low crux and was in the middle of the 30' slab topout. Needless to say, he was a happy camper once he was finally on top.

Jeremy sticking the first pocket on Release the Squirrels (v12).

Jeremy battling the redpoint crux of Release the Squirrels.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finding Forever?

To die by freezing must be one of the worst possible ways of surrendering one's life. Yesterday was one of the most inhospitable days that I can remember in my six winters in Fayetteville, AR. So ofcourse Jeremy and I decided to go exploring at Lincoln Lake. The temperature stayed in the teens the whole day and felt below zero with the wind and humidity. After three hours of hiking, the cold managed to freeze my beard and the mustache Jeremy so badly wants to grow.
The objective of the day was not this but to visit a potentially special south face of a boulder deep in the woods. For the record, Lincoln is the epitome of Arkansas sandstone in areas where rock quality is poor. The stone here is grossly over featured and yields very few desirable climbing faces. However, that blessed miniscule percentage is spectacular. Rewind nearly a year ago; both my brother, Jason, and I are healing from finger injuries. Four months of nothing had me chomping at the bit to climb something. This lead me to Lincoln in search of hard climbing of any style. I had visited in December shortly after school ended and wanted more. Climbing in Arkansas produces an effect that makes an explorer believe that just around the corner will hold the "next big thing." Couple this insatiable hunger to explore with a maddening desire to climb and you will never want to go on a hike with me again. That late winter day brought me to the "black face" after four miles of bushwacking. Words like "amazing, unbelievable, hard, and double-digit" keep liberating themselves from my mouth since that day, and yesterday's visit reconfirmed these words. I don't know how friable the rock is, but hopefully this 16' face will hold itself together long enough for someone to get up it.

The black face on the Green Monster boulder

A favorite tree of mine on the way to the black face.

Side note: Jeremy and I saw two bald eagles.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Climbing Porn"

From more than a few set of lips I have heard the term "climbing porn" in reference to "all things good" in relation to climbing media. Put simply, if you are passionate about something, then you probably know how to satisfy a craving for that passion. Here is some climbing porn from the last month of climbing in the Southeast and Midwest.

Two things about this one. First, there was legendary celebrity turnout one cold day at Little Rock City; it was also one of the coldest days in recent memory. The list included Tyler and Jeff Landman, Jason Kehl, Abbey Smith, James Litz, and Dave Chancellor to name a few. Quite the possey, unfortunately there were few climbers of regular strength to witness the domination that day. Secondly, this picture is an example of how to warm up on really cold days if you get tired of jumping jacks or hiking. Climbing upside down is incredibly taxing, but a wonderfully fun challenge if you can manage to forget about trying to climb difficult climbs by standard opinion.

Tyler Landman's Typhoon at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Sadly an elimanate, but a spectacular climb. It saw the second, third, and fourth ascents from Jon Glassberg, Nate Draughn, and Jeremy Tyler Walton respectively.
Jason Powell obliterating the LRC boulders with only one collar bone.

Nate Draughn warming up like a real man in Fred's Cave, which is apparently at Horseshoe Canyon these days.

Jon G again on James Litz's Suck Creek testpiece: The Bosnian. This one is almost impossible unless you get the feet proper.

JTW on Reflections at LRC. Let it be known that he claims he will be able to do this v10 off the couch when he is 70. Maybe it will count as one of your ten problems for that leg of the Triple Crown in 2057.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Diving in head-first, the last month and a half has been crazy. Four holidays came and went, if others count my birthday as that but it's another day of the week even to me. I went from Memphis to Chattanooga to Lexington to Memphis to Chattanooga to Memphis to Fayetteville and hopefully I stay put for long enough not to live out of the trunk of my Camry. I've run into old friends and explored with new ones. By the way, making new friends equals la buona vita. So it's Fayetteville for a while and it comes with old baggage, "if you will," most of which one doesn't mind carrying. Reminiscing is certainly a past time of mine, so the college alma mater should do well.

The sole purpose of coming to Arkansas is to climb rocks. Others might argue for attending college or visiting a national river, but it's really rock climbing. A four, sometimes, gentlemanly squad has made the trip. Two will leave for school in several days and the other is putting his hopes and dreams over the next several months into securing his legendary status as a rock/gym climber in the state, as well as possibly the first Wal-mart door greeter under the age of 60 with a three digit IQ. Over the last two days these three have done some serious rock climbing in record fashion; hopefully there is much more to come before the school boys leave. The next post will be photos of said recent and complete domination. (Side note: it takes a committed individual to begin a road trip with less than a Franklin in the pocket, i know several with such levels of commitment.) As for me, I'm considering quitting rock climbing and taking up golf professionally. Others have paved this way and I believe it will be more lucrative than selling shoes or chasing rocks around the world.

Currently, it is crisp and sunny in Fayetteville. It is a Thursday afternoon and a rest day which means one thing, we're preparing mentally and physically to drink drinks and holler holler holler tonight at Grubs. Should be interesting since one of us isn't old enough to do the former and half of us are broke, eliminating all plans for the night.