Monday, October 4, 2010

Beware the Brit

This entry should basically be a warning: beware of old-school Brit trad climbers.

I have been trying to "get on the hill" with Squamish hardman Kevin McLane for years. His son, former hair model and now rock-climbing guide, Tony, and I have had a few days, but I've always wanted to see what McLane pére was all about.

While I like making assumptions and generalisations, I LOVE stereotypes, so I went right ahead and assumed that McLane Sr. would be a bad-assed and fearless gear-minimalist with more black humour than shiny new cams. And, after years of are ya free Sunday?s, we finally met up in Squamish at Napoleon's Favorite, where we began the day as all good climbers do, by getting stupidly overcaffeinated while the once-dry pavement outside became slowly darker with invisible mist, and people of every sporting persuasion dropped by to avoid the...mist? rain? cool?

McLane and I spent three hours avoiding the rain, then finally said "well fuck it!" and headed toward the Squaw, or whatever it is now Natively Correct to call it/her. Loaded with a ridiculously small rack, a few bieners and 5 slings, plus a Barley topo that looked like black spaghetti drooled by a retarded abstract artist onto a crag picture taken by a blind photographer, we ambled up.

At the base of The Sleeping Native Woman, we found a plethora of black bolts heading up into some oddly-bleached-looking fine cracks. We were in the general area of Straight Outta Squampton, White Feather etc, but since Barley's topo looked like a schizophrenic's Cubist rendition of the Squ-- oops, I mean, the Nobly Reclining Native Goddess-- we hopped on the easiest-looking thing there.

A mere five minutes after roping up with McLane Sr., who has nailed the Grand, done early FAs in Yosemite, climbed grit when there were only pins, hammers and balls for gear, and most recently celebrated his 60th birthday by doing both the Grand Wall and the Test of Metal in one day, sucky me was whining like a puppy as I crammed a left leg into a 5" offwidth and pawed with my right at rain-greased granite.

McLane Sr.'s largest cam, one of those Wild Cunt blue things, rattled around inside the off-wdith flake. The cam was like monogamy for a Mormon sex addict (and they are legion...Utah has the highest rate of porn downloads per capita in the U.S.): it impressed Mom wen you told her about it, but it wasn't nearly enough once you got into action. I whimpered and grunted and then mantled to something safer.

McLane Sr., it turned out, was doing a Buddhist thing and reducing his gear-stash. No draws, long slings, or chalk...oddly like back in 1970, when his roadie self discovered the joys of fear, pain and near-death and abandoned the world of Spandex, speed and speed. His climbing partner-- with whom young McLane was to do some hairy shit in the Alps and the Valley, back when hemp ropes, Whillans harnesses, glass wine-jugs and headbands were de rigeur-- had one rule about gear: one brought six pins, six slings and twelve bieners on a route. Period.

Kevin did the 6th ascent of the Becky Chouinard in 1971 or so. This being early in the game, beta came from Fred Beckey, who they found in a bar in Jasper, waiting out the rains and seducing the waitresses, one per night. Beckey's beta-- written on a napkin-- included three sentences. One each on how to get to the Bugaboos, how to find the Howsers, and what the route looked like. It took them 1.5 days and they had 6 pins, 6 slings and 12 bieners. 30 years later to the week, McLane repeated the route with Mark Piche, who at the time of the FA had been a swimmer in Papa Piche's nut-sack, in 9 hours...but with a rack that weighed three times as much.

(The most remarkable part of this story is not the climbing, which was balls-out for its time, nor the micro-rack, nor the fact that Fred had by this time slept with half of the waitresses in Jasper, but rather that all the waitresses were still keen on serving him beer, much of it free, and none appeared to be fighting about their conquest.)

Hardman set off up our second pitch and styled the wet slab, and then the no-gear wide crack, with only the occasional huff and puff. When I followed I noticed an enormous gap between his second piece and his third-- like 10 meters-- and again shuddered. We rapped off this pitch and into the neighbouring route, and I led a fine 10- pitch, and then, darkness approaching, we rapped.

OK the man is a full-on hardman...but the ultimate evidence for this had come to me some years ago, when young Tony told me that his Dad and Mom, even after a divorce, got along splendidly.

"That's cool," I said, happy to hear that young McLane wasn't in the midst of custody battles or arguments over finances.

"Yeah," said Tony, "they get along great! Actually my Mom is getting re-married and my Dad is going to the wedding. Err, no, wait, he's not. He WAS going to go, but he got invited to go to the Bugs." You can take the man away from climbing...

So! McLane Sr is a bad-assed and largely fearless gear minimalist. Be careful if you get the invite to climb with Kevin...he'll want half the gear and twice the runout you age 62.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ed Spatt 1963-2010

Ed Spatt died in August, of lung cancer. That a guy who'd spent his whole life in the mountains, and probably smoked less than ten cigarettes in his lifetime, should die of lung cancer, is one of those fucked-up things that nobody can really explain.

I climbed once with Ed, a slab route on the Apron. I don't remember the route, but I do remember that it was incredibly hard (but Ed, who'd said "I'm in pretty lousy shape, onsighted the 11+ pitches), and that Ed's enormous climbing shoes stunk like sun-warmed dumpster when he peeled them off on Broadway. He was my physio. I last saw him in February, in the gym, revving up to train after finishing radiation therapy.

So I drove yesterday in the rain to Squamish for the celebration of Ed's life and I'll pass on a few of the stories that brothers, parents and friends passed on.

Ed was born in Bolivia. Red-haired and gangly, he wold respond to locals' stares by saying "Soy boliviano, pues!" and smiling. On arriving in Canada at age two, he quickly figured out that when he couldn't get what he wanted (usually more food), he could say "you're discriminating against me because I'm Bolivian!"

Ed grew up with two brothers and, well before he was old enough, he was doing adult stuff. One day a horrid stench came from his closet. On investigation, it turned out that young Ed was brewing beer in secret, having asked his mother, who'd said "absolutely not!" He was in the mountains early, hiking and skiing with family and climbing Slesse by age 16. Ed's teen climbing adventures also included beer-fuelled night-time ascents of the Lion's Gate Bridge towers and various UBC buildings.

Friends and family remembered Ed as somebody with a serious cholcolate habit, an infinite appetite for both food and the outdoors, and as somebody who, no matter how bad things got-- and they get pretty bad in the alpine sometimes-- never complained.

One day in the late 1970s after a first ascent in Squamish, Ed and the two first ascentionists were sitting around the top of the cliff. They were thining what the route should be called. A Beatles tune? A Carlos Castaneda character? Ed, staring across the channel at the fast food on the 99, said "man, all I can think about is burgers and fries!"

Greg Foweraker told about Ed's appetite. At a popular local place in the late 1970s, it was all you could eat for $5. Ed would eat a head of lettuce the night before to try to expand his stomach, and often managed to get down four or five platefuls. Years later, when Peter Croft (another guy with a legendary appetite) returned to give a slide show, Ed put his hand up and asked Croft "Hey, is it really true that you only ever got two plates of food at the all you can eat place?"

Ed qualified as a teacher, and, after teaching physics and math for five years, quit, because he was bored, and became a physio. He often wondered why people retired at the end of their lives, since that was when you'd be old and worn out, and unable to do fun stuff like ice-climbing and bike-racing. Ed wore red pants and red jackets. Ed needed food and would go hypoglycemic. More than one climber said it was dangerous to climb with a sans-breakfast Ed.

Rachel Stenberg told about kayaking with Ed and a group of people in the Charlottes years ago. One of them was into the Zen of rudderless kayaking, and when one day injuries prompted kayak-shuffling, superfit and superconfident Ed ended up in the rudderless kayak. And, on the trip's calmest day, in the middle of the sunny ocean, with nary a wave in sight, Ed managed to dump the kayak! After a letter-perfect ocean rescue, Ed was reinstalled in the rudderless, and instead of cussing the kayak, told the rescuers that he was happy -- after years in boats-- to have been shown how to pull off rescues properly.

One partner told of Ed's first attempt at Penny Lane. Ed whipped, ripped a piece, and stopped, a few feet above the ground, hanging upside-down, an ear-to-ear grin splitting his face. "Pretty intense, huh?" he said, and got back on the horse. Lots of people, including Ed's girlfriend Nica, told about how, last summer before his death, even when he could no longer walk or talk, Ed's enormous smile brightened his hospital room.

Food, food, food, beer, wine, food, mountains, food, biking, oceans, his friends, food, math, his brothers, food, his parents and relatives: Ed loved 'em all and made all of us smile. We'll miss you, tall man.

May there be a fucking MASSIVE chocolate buffet wherever you now are.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Into the Great Wide Open...

I knew exactly what was coming up, and I was stoked. Tomorrow, Oz and Hobbit Book: perfect Tuolomne granite, six pitches, a super mix of bolts and bomber gear climbing. The day after, we would climb the Harding Route on Mt Conness: ten pitches of 5.9 in a spectaclar position, ending at 13,000 feet. The good Peter Croft gives both the maximum number of stars.

We pulled otu of town, loaded with food, booze and gas, and would our way up to the Sawmill Campground, where we hauled our tents to the site and swatted bugs. My partner, The Captain, was however oddly quiet. As we finished set-up, I asked him what was up, and he said that his Mom had gone to hospital with some as-of-yet undiagnosed ailment. He was worried.

The next day The Captain led us through the first two pitches of Oz, and I launched into the coolest-looking crack I'd ever seen, outside of the Split Pillar: 40 meters of overhanging dihedral, perfetc hands, and feet to take the edge off. And as I placed my third cam, it hit me.

Suddenly, I couldn't move. My right arm, jammed into the smooth clean crack, stiffened. My legs felt frozen, and yet my feet stuttered and skated on the knobby stance. My left palm dripped with sweat.

"What's up?" yelled the Captain.

"I, uhh--" came out before I realised, I had no idea. I had bomber gear, loads of it. I had no chance of hitting anything like the deck, a cam at eye-level, loads more gear, a bomber stance, and seven years experience climbing exactly this sort of route, mostly at harder grades. I was fed, rested, fit and psyched. And I was totally fucked.

Long story short, I downclimbed and down-aided back to the Captain, and could not explain what had happened. I was paralysed, scared shitless, and what was worse was, there was no reason for this.

We bailed. At the ungodly hour of 10 AM, we arrived back in the campground, and I sunk into my chair, dazed, a sick hollowed-out emptiness inside me, and yet I was oddly glad that here I sat, on a perfect climbing day.

The Captain went to town to use the phone, and I self-examined. It bugged me. WHAT was going on? I had FREESOLOED the grade I'd bailed off, for Christ's sake! Don't get me wrong-- I am as chickenshit as the next guy. I have bailed off alpine routes, ski tours, boulder problems and all kinds of climbs because I was worred about either objective hazard or my own skill. I am no stranger to wussiness! But this one...this one didn't provide me with an answer. WHY?

The Captain returned and said "bad news."

His Mom in Vancouver had been diagnosed with cancer. He might have to bail from our Sierras trip and go home. I told him I'd drive him wherever he needed to geta bus or a plane. He said "let's see how I feel in the morning, but I gotta warn ya, I might not be into this."

At 4 AM, the Captain said, "might as well" as I shook his tent, and later we trudged through mint-scented pine forest and crunched up onto a snowfield, and won the ridge crest as the sun dawned, pale and clear, into an icy still blue sky. We made our way down to the start of the Harding route. The Captain geared up and led. After placing two nuts, he stopped, hung, and said "I can't do it," before backing off.

Now if you are going to bail, the base of Conness is a great place to do it. Below us stretched a talus field, trees, and Tuolmne, and way out West in the haze was what might have been The Valley. The Captain sat, totally still, eyes closed, sweating. I drank in the still and the quiet, and my mind returned to yesterday. Still no answer.

It being obvious that we were not gonna get up the Harding Route, I wondered about the West Ridge. Croft gives it four stars and says that, outside of the first ascent of an 8,000 foot 5.11 route he did, in one day, with Conrad Anker in Pakistan, it is his favorite route. The Captain and I loaded the gear into the packs, and ambled off to the west. I wanted to see the ridge.

And beautiful it was...a low-angle start, then a cleaner and cleaner, and steeper and steeper line, on beautiful golden granite.

We sat on a lovely clean boulder and munched lunch. And suddenly the Captain stood up.

"Fuck THIS," he said.


"Let's climb this."

"Are you--"


I didn't ask any questions. We put on rock shoes and chalk bags, and started soloing on perfect cracks, with endless incuts everywhere. After the arch-bridge-- the part where Croft writes how he tried to make himself feel light-- we figured we'd done about a third of the route, and roped up. I handed the Captain my Tiblocs, and when he'd installed the first started climbing. Cussing not having brought the gri-gri, I decided, what the hell, u8ntied from the rope, and attached myself to the rope using only a prussik.

Here's a pic I scavenged online...what the route felt like.

With 20 meters of rope trailing below me, I followed the Captain as the rope snaked up into the sky. We did the last two-thirds of the route in three long simul-pitches. The rock flowed, the air was warm, the entire Sierra spread out below us, and at times I waved my right arm over hundreds of meters of still air off the side of the ridge. On top, I found myself high-fiving the Captain with a shit-eating grin on both our faces. The whole route must have taken an hour.

Wordlessly, we picked our way down the descent, glimpses of El Capitan and Half Done away, way DOWN, in the hazy distance.

Back at camp, we sat amongst the mosquito wail in the sun, and again the Captain said "fuck it."


"I'm not going home. You know, my Mom has cancer...but they can't do anything till tests are done. I could go home and worry, and do nothing, or I can climb."

Two days later, I began shitting myself on Sun Ribbon Arete when the only gear in the crux was a blue Alien (which is nobody's friend). And then I realised, again-- I was so worried about falling (onto an Alien, and then three bomber nuts, in utter safety), worried about things not going as planned, that I wasn't paying attention to what was right in front of me.

And then I understood. I had known what I was going to do, four days ago. The Captain had known that his Mom wouldn't get cancer, and then he'd KNOWN he'd have to leave his trip to see her. We were both wrong.

This was the real gift, it turned out: the totally unexpected happened. Failing is a part of climbing...and so is failing when the possibility seems remote. Emotional pain is part of life...and so is looking it in the eye, feeling it, and dealing with it. We got handed what we didn't expect, our plans changed, and what did we get? I stopped worrying about the "causes" of my silent, day-ending freakout. The Captain stopped pointlessly worrying about Mom. And the Universe threw in an awesome route-- the West Ridge-- we hadn't planned on.

I swung my right leg out, toed the nubbin, reeled in the sidepull, sunk my hands into a nice deep crack, and smiled.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Butch Makes Lemonade (2)

So there I was after my second day of climbing, wandering around the campground, looking for partners. My very limited set of options-- 5.8-- was used up. I now needed to step up, or rope up, and since I am WAY too much of a wuss to step up and solo some 5.9, I went a-partner hunting.

Now you gotta love Applebee Campground. You thought that the hottest people in the world were in porn films, or perhaps on America's Next Top Model, or maybe in Napoleon's new SUV, or perhaps lounging about the Gossip Girl set? NOOO! The hottest people in the world are at Applebee Campground, and when the daytime highs are 25 Celsius (that's "freakin' hawt" for you Yankees) what you get is people stripping down to the essentials: clothes that reveal bellies and forearms, and a chance to rock the coolest possible headwear. Ladies and gents alike stood around, sat around, even strummed around-- one guy and his girlfriend, who were not climbers, had hauled in a guitar, some comfy chairs and a mean stock of vodka, and sat while their buddies climbed, wailing away, even pulling some major rock-star moves one evening when dry lightning and Twi-hard clouds brooded.

There were so many sexy people around that Butch, your humble narrator, couldn't keep it in his pants. Especially when his spraying Coloradan-- Sprayradan-- neighbours were joined by more Coloradan buddies, this newest batch of whom upped the spray ante by spraying about not mere All-Along-The-Watchtower-esque 5.12-, but 5.13b! ooooh! They turned the spray into a downpour when one of them told me that "yeah, it was a couple of Germans who did it, so it might be easier than 5.13b." Pretty good, but not anywhere near as good as


(posted on the V.O.C. bulletin board after a certain climber, well known to the now-14 followers of this blog, returned from their first trip to the Valley)


After my chat with the Sprayradans, I ambled down to the Smoking Spaniards. En route, I passed the miniature tent which contained the California Girl and her husky boyfriend. I had been dutifully eavesdropping outside their tent every night, waiting, penis in hand (the Sprayradan truck in the Porcupine Lot had had a massive one drawn on it), for their sex sounds, which turn me on ever so much, but none were forthcoming. (I later found out that this was because I had forgotten to remove my earplugs before creeping around camp, which also accounted for the odd breathing sound i constantly heard the next two days of climbing, and how my partner-to-be would resort to sign language and thrown rocks to get me to haul the rope up.) The husky Yankee lay about, reading George Orwell. I said to him "weapons of mass destruction" and he said "yup" and I left it at that. The girl was nowhere in sight.

The Spaniards were gone, off to do the Becky-Chouinard, having left behind only the older guy's sick girlfriend, who complained about la grippe and her dolor de cabeza, and in true Spanish style threw cigarettes and whiskey at the virus. The Koreans were eyei9ng their new route-- now four pitches long-- with an array of binoculars, while one of them fried Spam. I then finally hit the jackpot-- I met one Nelson from Nelson, BC, and we had soon hatched plans for doing the Super Direct on Snowpatch.

OK now Butch will S.T.F.U. for a bit and show you some pictures.

This is Nelson leading P2 (5.10c?) of Super Direct. It was somewhat (I) cleaned it. I spent about two hours seconding this pitch, and when I was done, an enormous shit-stain of moss, dirt and rocks spewed onto the glacier below the route, much like my computer screen drips with my saliva when I spray about my routes.

This is the route base when we finished. MMM...but seriously, now the AWESOME P2 is clean

Here Nelson follows P5. Awesome position and very easy chimney/stembox climbing.

This is Nelson ont he scary (but cool) P6, which has a hair-raising traverse, amazing position, clean know, all of the good stuff you expect of the Bugaboos (except there was no beer stashed on top).

Here, Hardman Nelson follows me on the final pitch, an epic of weird moves, traverses and end-of-route surprises.

Well anyway, we had a super day up there on Super direct-- if you are in the Bugs, and there aren't enough smoking Spaniards or Sprayoradans in camp to entertain you, and you don't want to do Sunshine Cracks AGAIN, do this route. If only because Peter Croft (and me) have climbed it, so you can be like him (and me).

Back at camp, the young lady Spaniard continued to cough and smoke away. The Koreans were now 6 pitches off the deck, tink tink tink, and as I lay me down to wait for my espresso pot, I closed my eyes for a nap, and the Yankee Girl in the mini tent ambled over and said "I hear you're massively badass, plus I was checking out your rack earlier and you're totally hot, so would you like to hook up tonight-- I'll do anything you like [at which pooint I imagined having her go to the food locker and dig my sugar out of my dry bag]-- and go climbing with me tomorrow?" I then woke from my afternoon nap, but did in fact find the Yankke Girl there. She launched into a tirade about her lazy-assed partner, asked me if I had plans, and I told her sorry, since I was, like Elizabeth Bennet would have said, "firmly engaged," at which point her face fell.

The Sprayoradans returned from their day-- "just some twelve-minus, we were tired"-- and then began spraying about tomorrow's big day, where they were sure to onsight the 13- (err, they mean, 12+) and show the Germans what was up with grades.

The Ground Crew guitar player had created a song. We sat about and chatted awhile, and discussed music. I, being the old fart in the group, said that I was amazed at how much good music was out there, and what a huge variety there was, and how many artists were selling themselves via the Internet. The guitar player, Dustin, said, "yeah, and a lot of them are really creative!"

"Like who?"

"Nickleback. Pushing the aesthetic limits."

"Yeah. First, the singer was blond, with wavy hair. Second album, even blonder!"


"Third album...even blonder, a-a-and he STRAIGHTENED it!"

"Yeah man. THAT is innovation."

On my final day, Nelson and I went to do West Side Story, which was pretty cool...except opposite us, on PAddle Spray Direct, were yet MORE Sprayoradans, who went on and on about what a bummer it was that they were climbing only Paddle Spray, and not The Power of Lard (5.14R, WI7+, M13, A5+, V13, VI). We enjoyed our day, and watched the leading Sprayoradan grunt nd heave through the crux of Paddle Spray. "That," said Nelson, "should have looked easier" and we both laughed. The hardest thing of course was the rappels: since McCrowd Arete shares raps with WSS and Paddle Spray, it was a veritable international village of rap techniques and knots and waits.

Back at camp, I soaked up the view, brewed more coffee, fantasised about the Becky, said goodbye to the Yankee Girl, the SPaniard Girl, the Sprayoradans, and went to bed, hoping that Lisbeth Salander would finally corral the bad guys.

And now it is time to head BACK to the Bugs...I am hoping that over the next four days I will at least get to check out some more international accents and cooking styles.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Butch Makes Lemonade (1)

The voicemail took three rambling, drawling minutes to say "A boulder crashed onto my hand and I can't go to the Bugs." Loreen, after a heli-rescue off Serratus, was out, at which point I started getting superstitious. Last year's partner-to-be, the good Mr Holgate, injured an ankle. Wanna get fucked up? Make climbing plans with Butch. Well, that's what Napoleon would-- and did-- say, after spraying about how he had done an aid climbing course with not just any old person, but with NameDrop, in this case Matt Maddaloni.

So I ended up in Golden, shopping like a Korean girl enjoying her last day ever on Robson Street. I bought Landjaeger sausages (the alpinist's power-bar), and of course granola bars (the suburban man's alpinist food). I bought a Stieg Larsson novel about the political failure of Swedish socialism, err I mean, about a bunch of pimps and perverts and murderers, and I bought a guide's tarp. This last I got mainly because I was too lazy to haul a tent all the thousand meters up to Applebee, and cos it made me feel, if I have this, I will consider trying All Along The Watchtower, which is 12-, 34 pitches, and majorly bad-ass.

As I arrived, muffler intact, at the porcupine lot, I had an Indian Creek flashback, set off by the assembled hordes of Colorado SUVs, one of which had an enormous grinning penis etched into its muddy back window. The symbolic import of this penis escaped me. I humped my to-me epic pack up to Applebee, and promptly turned into a climbing mendicant. I wandered the campground like the ghost of a long-dead soul, begging for a climbing partner.

This was a convenient way to scope out the whole campground close-up...and what a mix of people there were! First up were the Koreans, who were working some massive aid line, siege-style, beside the Beckey-Mather route on the east side of Snowpatch. You could tell the Koreans were in fact Korean, and not (God forbid) Japanese or some other inscrutable ethnicity, from the massive stacks of Spam tins, their shiny new haul-bags and other gear, their radio station, and the occasional blast of kim-chi that spread like a stealthy mixture of ninja and giardia fart through the campground.

Beside them were a cluster of long-haired smokers who were obviously Spanish. French smoke too but they go for shorter hair and they don't do the alpine, being pussies and all. Oh wait, that was the Iraq war. Oops, sorry to all the hot French women I have seen over the years, puffing on a cigarette, and saying "I weel climb zees roooote, I sink iss fife zirteen, fife fourteen, somesimg like zat, of course I don't know" then actually sending it.

The Colorado flashbacks came thick and fast. I found a spot to throw down my tarp and my Stieg Larsson novel (both about the same size) and heard a donkey-like braying.

"Yeah, uh--huhh, we decided that we wouldn't get on the Watchtower, there were some clouds in the morning" sprayed one. Now if you are going to announce how bad-assed you are (Watchtower) you generally don't want to appear frightened by a few hours' worth of cumulonimbal tomfoolery, which is standard fare in the Bugs. The three sprayers stood around like a bad imitation of John Long, Jim Bridwell and Billy Westbay after firing the Nose in a day in 1973 (now THAT is majorly bad-assed...imagine how many cigarettes Bridwell must have needed to keep his shit together on that one, and what a logistical nightmare it would have been to haul all them smokes, and keep The Bird adequately stoked at all moments).

Then there were a pair of Russians, da priviert, and a Yankee couple who shared what appeared to be a one-man cycling tent. Oooh-la-la, they are either in total lust, or seriously retarded, how the f&^+$$? could two people sleep in something that looked like a bivvy sack with an aluminum hard-on? There were four medical professionals from Chicago, who (loudly...what IS it with Americans in climbing campgrounds?) discussed I.N.T. insertkions, standards of care, and how the thing they were eating looked something that had recently come out of one of their patients' anuses.

Anyway I ran into five groups of three, all of whom said "naw we're OK, we don't need a fourth" which drove me nuts...why would you want to climb in three? Ridiculously slow, etc. I decided it must have been one of three things that was preventing me from finding a partner: I had not shaved for three days, or cut my hair for two months, so I looked like a red-neck version of John Lennon; I had not adequately sprayed to Coloradan standards how bad-assed I was (or wanted to be); or I was not a nubile 24-year-old girl.

So I went to bed and a moon of Falstavian immensity bellied up to the horizon and encouraged me to have irrational dreams of foolith things, like freesoloing. As the moon etched the Spires against the pale white night sky I fell asleep, and was at three A.M. awakened by hordes of climbers hissing with stoves and clattering with crampons, getting the good old alpine start.

When I awoke the campground was deserted except for a lone yogini and a Korean reading. I drank as much coffee as I could, and when I could no longer sit still, I said "fuck it" to myself, stuffed a pair of rock shoes and my 60om half rope into my pack, and headed for the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire.

i got to the base of the route in about an hour, stuffed my big boots into my pack, and put on the rock shoes. It was noon and above me was a party who were bailing.

"We're too slow," said one, "we started at 3:30 but we should have got up at midnight."

I launched into this route with barely any thought. On the first pitch, I did a slightly awkward reach-around to sink a stonker fingerjam, and then had to do one dicey move off a slightly loose flake before the bomber locks returned. On the third pitch, a rising dyke traverse that crossed the ridgecrest, I locked off with my left fingers, hiked my left foot, and swept my right across what felt like ten feet into a stem, and then, air brushing my ankles, I pulled myself across. I passed five parties on the route. At the summit, a bit of ridge-fuckery led to four or five rappels, and then the scariest part of the route: downwalking the Kain route past party after party of rock-knockers.

I got back to camp at three, made coffee, lit a smoke, and soaked up what I'd just done. My first-ever multi-pitch freesolo. Another of the fifty classics. I wish i could say that I got into some kind of Honnoldian or Croftian zone where everything just flowed, but it wasn't like that. My feet hurt. I had to piss. I wanted a smoke. I got thirsty. I got hot. Above all, I was incredibly breathing hard and had to make myself slow down and take some mental pictures of where I was.

That evening KI cooked up some KD, read some more Stieg, and then did the beggar circuit again. Again, I had no luck. People asked me what I'd done, and I told them "I climbed the N.E. Ridge" and when they asked with whom, I had to say "alone," at which point people either said "that's fucking crazy" or "wow," neither of which reaction was getting me closer to a climbing partner.

The next day I awoke, drank coffee with the Russians until again I couldn't stop myself from vibrating, and finally said "fuck it" and headed off to do Snowpatch. This one is different from the N.E. Ridge in that the crux is the last 3 pitches. I got lost on p4 or so, and found myself doing what felt like 10- stemming about 100m up a beautiful dihedral, pawing at grass in the crack, having forgotten to exit the dihedral to logical ledges. At the Wiessner overhang-- a 15 meter 5.6 hand traverse-- water poured into the horizontal handcrack, but the jams were so good that the fear didn't hit me. Above, I minced my way up slabs and cracks past the massive snowpatch, rested at the Inverted Pear, and then launched into the cruxes.

After about 20m of traversing, I did a 10m 5.7 corner-- perfect hands-- and then a 5.7 undercling, at which point, for the first time, I really noticed how much my ass was hanging out, over the snowpatch and then, a thousand meters down, the talus. Next up was the hand traverse, and finally the dreaded off-width with 5.8 climbing after it. The off-width had huge jugs in it, the 5.8 was bomber crimps and feet, and my only mistake was, at the top of the 5.8, I launched left along the handtraverse. I found myself in a blank, overhanging corner and had to reverse about 10m to the right, after which it was 20m to the summit.

As I sat on my second peak, it was the old cliche that hit me. The thing in climbing you worry about is the next move. You do not worry about falling, being tired, how long the route is, yadda yadda. Sure, you need to think about these things when you plan the day, and you better check your route, weather, etc, when you need to. But really, if you focus on one move at a time, things take care of themselves. Freesoloing clears the brain, much as meditation does, by forcing you to focus on the now. While your tiny, 16 bit-per-second conscious mind is heel-hooking or manteling, it is letting your subconscious do its own thing, and so all of those background things you can't really control, but that bug you, either get forgotten, or re-framed.

I rapped Krauss-McCarthy and was back in camp at four, buzzed out of my mind. It is no wonder that alpine climbing, and freesoloing, get used as metaphors for spiritual enlightenment. As you climb, you see more and more, and when you top out, your sense of "I am awesome!"-ness is tempered with the reality that you are only a tiny part done with the mountains. Bust out the cliches: it's a process, not a goal. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My ass is too sweaty.

Most of all, the thing I liked about soloing was, sleep in, sit around, drink coffee, carry almost no weight, and back in camp with enough time to enjoy the sun and yet more coffee.

And then it hit me: I had just done both of the routes that I could reasonably free-solo, so I had better get off my ass and find a partner\. Round three. More later, including a few pictures.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Alphabet Soup

Climbers, like cats, are a territorial bunch. Woe unto them that piss on our territory, unless of course our territory is the Split Pillar on a hot Saturday in mid-August, at which point the Left Side becomes not just the Right Side's evil kid brother but also the route's outhouse.

Climbers are also a notoriously finicky bunch. Did it go free? How much aid was used? Did you French-free, fully free, aid, what? Is chalk aid? Yadda yadda. Now, these definitions are pretty clear, after fifty-plus years of campfire debates and Arcing Plot fistfights. There is another set of terms whose meaning also tends to be clear, and today I want to explore the meanings of the terms FA, FCA, FFA and FCFA.

After climbing, for the first time, our route from bottom to top in one go (the 5.11b A0 version), the Driller and I decided to publish the topo. We need feedback, it's dry right now, and hot (good weather for our route), the route needs traffic cos it's new, etc. Well after posting the topo, a bit of a shit-storm started. There was some dispute over the meaning of FA, FCA, FCFA, etc, and how these letters, strung by climbers after their names the way British astronomers hang FRC, D.Ph etc after theirs, should apply to various members of the team who put up La Gota Fria.

Well, as we well know, "FA" stands for nothing other than "first ass". This means, the first guy (or girl) to get their ass up a route. Or a pitch. The first time you go up a pitch, if nobody has done it (birds excluded) you get say "yea, I am the First Ass on that." Long-time hardmen (and women) get to say "I've had a lot of First Asses." It's kind of like a pedophile (or zoophile) having at the anus of a young boy or girl or Labrador Retriever (or sheep, if s/he is Scottish or from New Zealand)...ooooohh....mmmmmm...first ass....

Now, the next term of contention is "FCA," which as we well know stands for "First Complete Ass." Now this is a term used when you have a route that includes more than one pitch. So, you could have the First Ass on one (or more) pitches of a multi-pitch route, but when the route as a whole gets climbed in one go, from bottom to top, the person doing that qualifies as First Complete Ass.

"FCA" also stands for "First Colorado Ass," which refers to Indian Creek. You are camped at the Bridger Jacks, enjoying an evening of whiskey, bluegrass and pedophile jokes, when you hear the high-pitched whining sound of non-work-trucks in the distance. Then they come-- the Colorado Asses, loosed from their tedious nine-to-fives, and out to slay some 10- handcracks in gangs of seven-- and the first SUV to pull into the Jacks is the First Colorado Ass.

The, third but not forgotten, is FFA. This stands for First Full Ass. This refers to when a pitch (or problem) is first climbed in one go, no falls, without using gear to support the climber's bodyweight.

The last term of contention is "FCFA." This one, obviously, means "First Complete Full Ass." Now, this refers to the hard-person who first climbs a route, bottom to top, with no aid. You don't just want to be the First Ass, or the First Complete want to be the First Complete Full Ass.

Just to be clear on this, I busted out Kevin Mclane's trusty "The Climbers' Guide to Squamish" to see how this worked. I asked the good Mr McLane how his book, which keeps track of who climbed what, and when, and how, and how hard, and how much whiskey they needed afterward, uses these various acronyms.

In his book, no acronym = FA = First Ass = the first guys/girls to go up a route, by whatever means, including helicopter, climbing gear and magic spells, though to be fair mostly climbing gear. Some routes-- let's take Freeway as an example-- are just loads of alphabet soup. The FA is Tom Gibson and Rob Rohn's, who used "some aid" to get their First Ass. Then, there are a buttload of individual pitches, variations, etc. Then we have this: and FFA (first full ass) of P1-6 by Mssrs. Hart, Atkinson, Eltis and Jones, all of whom had been involved in cleaning and projecting individual pitches. Finally, there is the FCFA-- First Complete Full Ass-- by Atkinson and Hart, where these two gentlemen hauled both their asses completely. and without aid, fully up the route.

So as we can see, you can be part of the FA of individual pitches, but not of the FCFA. You could be part of the FA of the whole thing, but not the FFA, or the FCFA.
As I contemplated this alphabet soup, I wondered how it applied to our route. And as nearly as I can tell, the First Ass of various pitches of route go 60% or so to Napoleon and others, and 40% to Driller and I and others. The First Complete Ass goes the the Driller and I, July 11, 2010. But the biggest prize of all-- the First Complete Full Ass-- is waiting to be claimed by Napoleon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The work that remains...

What is left to be done with our route? Aside from Napoleon trying to free P5 and P7, here is a list of maintenance-type stuff

a) move anchor at top of v-slot to ledge.

b) do a minor scrub on P15 (undercling).

c) same for P13 and P12-- they need minor moss removal. However as it is, they are perfectly climbable, and no gear or hand will be pawing through munge.

d) Possibly clean first few meters of P2.

e) Move fixed line from top part of P16

f) Finish Upper Powaqatsi-- p17 and 18 of our route go, but we could easily add a few bolts and clean up the line (and belay).

g) Look at variations-- P11 and P16 have some interesting possibilities. Napoleon thinks that it would be possible to bypass P7,8,9 and 10 on climber's right...we'll see if he can link the features.

So far a couple of parties have had late starts on the route and bailed off P3 or P4. They confirm the grades and say the climbing is good, with one guy raving about how cool the P3 fingercrack is. There is still a bit of munge on P1 and 2, but nothing that will cause any gear or movement problems. So here's hoping that (a) Napoleon manages to send W.L.Y.W. and (b) more parties get on the route!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

minor updates

So yesterday I went on a solo mission, and jugged the first 11 pitches, on Napoleon's epic (and I mean EPIC) fixed line. I drilled a variation (which will remain secret for now), removed the white fixed line from p11 and p10.

I added one bolt to P10 (the "munge traverse"). There is a cam placement near the bolt, but when I whacked it with the crowbar, i got that hollow whoomping sound that makes me head for the shitter. So now that 5.5 pitch is no hassle at all. This pitch is kinda dirty, but I left it. It is 5.5, all the trees etc have been chopped, no hassle route-finding, etc. We have this pitch, and the traverse that starts 2 pitches higher, which are "natural" so to speak, and we left these more or less as-is. assured, if you climb the route, all of the technical stuff is clean. You will not be placing cams in muck.

I moved Napoleon's epic fixed line away from the start of P3 with one discreet bolt. Once his fixed lines come down, nobody will ever see that bolt again. So if you are up there climbing the route, you will see the fixed lines, but you will not actually be near them (except on the p7 bolt-ladder).

On P11, I cleaned up one edge of the wide-crack section and cleaned out a few placements opposite the wide crack (some wide stemming is possible for the tall and the flexible among us). Now, about the wide-crack section:

After the first ascent, Driller and I debated adding another bolt to this pitch. As it is, I used 1x #2, 3, 4, and 5 Camalot in that corner, in that order, before I got to the bolts I had drilled. We had installed two bolts, because, if we hadn't, you would have needed 2x #5 Camalot and at least 1x #6 Camalot to safely climb it, making for an epic rack. I am satisfied with our decision, in much the same way that Perry Beckham was satisfied with having put bolts on Perry's Lieback on the Grand Wall: if he hadn't, you would have needed to haul 5 #6s up there, which would have been not only a pain in the ass for hardmen, but a buzz-killer for everybody else. Now, the hard-assed tradmasters might complain-- "hey, they don't do that in the Valley"-- but those people can go to the Valley, and climb the off-width pitch on Freerider (5.11d) at 40m with two cams.

As it stands now, you put in a bomber #4, then, six feet higher, a bomber #5 (which you can easily move up as you go) for ten feet, and then you clip the first bolt. After we climbed the pitch, we debated the grade. Compare those 15 feet to Split Beaver (5.10b) in the Bluffs. This is wider, but MUCH lower-angled than the Beaver. Plus, you are gunning for a bolt, and the thing can be liebacked, and you can get a stem rest off the crack to the right. Plus the crux is shorter than the Beaver. So we think 10bish is the grade, and it doesn't need any more bolts.

On the ground, I cleaned up the arete that is to the immediate right of the v-groove. I added one bolt to this and knocked off some loose rocks. If the V-groove (a tricky, cool start) is ever wet, you can scramble up the arete (at 5.7), clip a bolt, go 10 feet higher, and step across onto the route and good gear placements.

Finally I hauled out most of the garbage, and the 100m of old static line that Ben Roy donated to us. It felt oddly anticlimactic, working on the route after having done the first ascent with the Driller.

I am now hoping folks climb it! As of today there is a week of dry weather, the route is shaded so it's great hot-day excursion, even the "wet like your wife" pitch is dry...go do it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

one-page topo for your climbing convenience

So Jeremy Frimer, aka the Squampton Janitor, is back from Peru. Having spent a month dong alpine routes, he is now something like a Tyrannosaurus Rx, with massive legs, and tiny arms. This also means that he is perfectly suited to making a nice topo of the thanks Jeremy!

You can print this out and take it with you-- it should fit onto one computer-printer page. FCA Dylan Connelly & Chris Stolz July 11, 2010. FA many individual pitches: Mike Blicker, Dylan Connelly, Chris Stolz, Ian Bennett (P1). FCFA (whole thing at 12+(?))...maybe Mike Blicker, Aug 2010...

Pics from the send day

OK...if my computer skills are functional, I should be able to put these into order. get ready to enjoy a LOT of pictures of The Driller. Sorry, ladies, he is not single.

Here is the Driller on P1. A this point, you can go straight up, into an 11b lieback (first freed by Ian Bennet, onsight), or you step slightly left and do the 10d bolts + gear undercling. You can also see the v-groove that starts the route. If it is wet, simply scramble up the arete that makes up the v-groove's right side. V-groove was cleaned by Tony McLane.

Here, Driller has just finished the fingery 11b crux. This pitch has a 5.8 move to start past a fixed nut. After that, you have about 10m of 11b (bomber gear) which could be EASILY French-freed-- two fingery moves, then a solid handjam or lock.

After the P5 dihedral bolt ladder, here is Driller setting out across the Green Line Ledge-- at 5.6 or so, easy and has wild exposure. he will then go up the bolt ladder that bypasses the 5.12+ "Wet Like Your Wife" pitch.

This is the Driller pulling the crux mantle on P8. This pitch features swinging from trees, wild and airy balancing between a rock-rib and a hanging flake, and an exposed mantel-- very cool!

Here is me atop P8, with the Badge in the background.

At one point, before the slabby traverse, asked the Driller for a purple Camalot, and he offered me some choices...

Here, in the gathering gloom, Driller finishes P15 (5.8). It was a pleasant surprise: this pitch is only 5.8, and has superb exposure. It's also given us new ideas about other finishes in the enormous v-slot...

And finally this is us at the top. We topped out at 10 PM exactly, so 17 pitches took 12 hours exactly. Now...readers...go climb it, and send us some pictures!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The send!

Two years.
65 man-days
3 pairs of pruning shears.
1 new rope.
10 fixed lines of varying lengths
1 almost-broken shin
Several hundred cups of coffee
Three near-death experiences
80 bolts
7 chopped bolts

None of this was in my mind as The Driller and I, at the crack of ten, left our little car on the Mamquam, giggled as we shoved headlamps into pockets, and ducked into the forest. Ahead of us lay more like a set of hypotheses to be tested: pitch X was 5.10a, confirm or deny; there were too many bolts on Pitch Y, confirm or deny.

It was a sweltering day, and, well let's not screw around-- blow-by-blows are bring, so here's the highlights. The route goes at 11b A0. You could reduce the grade further by French-freeing the first 15m of P3. We FINALLY sent P3. P8-- the "death block" pitch-- is 11a and may want another bolt. At one point as I was madly grasping at no-falling straws, Driller yelled "LEFT SIDE!" and I realised he was telling me where my chalk bag had rotated to. Now THAT is attentive belaying.

P11 went with one #5 Camalot, but may want another bolt. P14 has one hard 11a move (aidable) and may want another bolt. Driller began madly pawing the rest of my precious water as the cedars turned warmish yellow and the skies deepened in colour. The first ascent's great surprise was that P15-- the undercling-- is not only one of the nicest pitches (great position, hanging right over the entire route) but alos the easiest, at 5.8! The final V-slot pitch-- 55 meters-- took everything I had. Dehydrated, exhausted and deeply concerned that we wouldn't make Starbucks' closing time, I injdulged myself with a whole lot of stemming trickery and self-pitying grunts and made it up the awesome 10c pitch.

We topped out at 10pm exactly. 16 pitches, one 60-meter 5th-class scramble in the dark, and one utterly quiet Second Summit, wind whistling and stars mixed with glowing clouds, and the first ascent of La Gota Fria was complete.

I am still too fried to say anything much...except, thanks to the Driller, Napoleon, Mom, Larisa and Jen, and of course...GO CLIMB OUR ROUTE!

La Gota Fría 18p 5.11b A0 (5.12d)

La Gota Fría
18p 5.11b A0 (5.12+)
Deputy Wall, Squamish, BC
FCA Dylan Connelly & Chris Stolz July 11, 2010; other pitches FA individually by Ian Bennett, Mike Blicker, Dylan Connelly, Chris Stolz

This long, mostly free route is characterised by excellent protection, good positions, a wide variety of good climbing and a superb finish. All pitches except #13 have bolted belays. The route is dry May-Sept. P3 and 5 can be easily French freed; P7 has a bolt-ladder bypass.

Thanks to Ian Bennet, Jeremy Frimer, Myles Holt, Kevin McLane, Tony McLane, Paul Cordy, Sebastian Mejia, Kasper Podgorski, Rob Owens, Ben Roy, Scott Semple, and our girlfriends Larisa O. and Jenn N.

THE SOUNDTRACK: Carlos Vives sings Emiliano Zuleta's "La Gota Fría"

GEAR: double Camalots from .3 to #3, 1x #4 and #5 1 Blue Aliens and/or TCU, nuts, long slings.

APPROACH: take the Sheriff's Badge trail. About 30 meters before the Philistine groove area, turn right (cairn and piece of shoelace hanging from tree branch). Head up a faint trail to a slab, go to climber's left up and around the slab, and head past bits of fixed ropes to a short, clean obvious v-groove beside which hangs a blue rope.

P1: 35m 5.11b or 5.10d Climb the obvious v-groove. Then, either

a) lieback the crack (11b) to the tree, another bolt, and the belay
b) go left, past 3 bolts (10d) to the tree, another bolt, and the belay
If P1's V-groove is wet, scramble up the short arete on its right side and step over (5.7)

P2: 5.9 40m Go up two meters to a ledge, right to a tree tree stump, and straight up into a flake-crack. Pass a tree, step right onto a ledge. Traverse right past bolts.

P3: 30m 5.11b Up the superb fingers-to-hands crack. Easily French-freed.

P4: 30m 5.10c Straight up the hand-and-fist crack to a ledge.

P5: 20m 5.9 A0 or 5.12c/d Straight up the perfect dihedral past bolts to a two-bolt belay. Very easily aided.

P6: 25m 5.4 Traverse the ledge right to a two-bolt belay.

P7: 25m 5.12+ Up and left into burly underclinging and jamming with sketchy feet on good gear to a bolted stance by an old fragment of tree. Airy, wild, sustained and superb. often wet.

P7 BYPASS: 45m A0 From the station atop P5, traverse along the Green Line Ledge and climb the bolt ladder that starts about 2/3 of the way across, straight up to the belay atop P7. Bring a #2 or #3 camalot for last move.

P8: 20m 5.11a Use bolts and trees to get to the base of an inverted V-slot, with a hanging flake in it. Then, either

a) do some crazed-ape moves involving funky stemming, put gear atop the flake then wildly mantle over the lip, to two bolts and left to the belay
b) do some exposed moves up and left, then pass finger and hand jams

P9: 25m 5.10a From an airy stance, up the nice corner.

P10 20m 5.5 Crap pitch: traverse right past a few bolts ans some trees and bushes then up to a belay at the base of a nice corner.

P11 25m 5.10b Climb the fine widening corner past 2 bolts to a ledge.

P12 5.10b 30m Cross to the right side of the ledge, then go up the left side of chimneyish blocks to a bolt. Go straight up past more bolts and gear, exit right, to a ledge.

P13 35m 5.10b Straight up to under the roof, then make a slabby traverse (one reachy move) left past bolts and a final short crack to a tree belay.

Traverse left through the forested ledge about 30m.

P14 25m 5.11a Climb a blocky right-trending feature to a crack in a shallow left-facing corner, then pass 4 bolts.

P15 25m 5.8 Climb up the left side of the huge yellow flake, then undercling left underneath the enormous roof through an awesome position to the bottom of the gigantic V-slot.

P16 45m 5.10c/d Climb up the right side of the massive V-slot through the steepening crack to a ledge, then up left through a couple of thin crack moves past one bolt to belay off a tree. A superb pitch in an awesome position in a cool feature.

P17 30m 5.8 From the top of the V-slot, make your way about 10m to climber's right to a 2-bolt belay. About 3m right of this, start up a very easy left-leaning crack. At the first tree, step up and right onto the slab and go up and slightly right. There is one .4 camalot placement, and just past a tiny overlap there is 1 bolt. Past this move up and right to a dirty crack, and belay off a lone tree on the left.

P18 30m 5.8 Make your way up any # of treed cracks or the slabby face to a two-bolt belay

Alternative end: from the bolted belay at the bottom of P17, follow the wooded crack up in a long leftward arc (58m) to the top-- a couple of 5.6 moves.

RETREAT: The route can be easily rappeled with one 60m rope from the top of P12. From the top of P8, rap straight down to the Green Line Ledge, then down and left to the top of P4. From the top of P2, rap 30m to a station, then 25m to the ground.

COMBINE PITCHES: Green Line Ledge and bolt ladder easily combine (40m)
P9 & 10 would be about 50 m, very easy; use long slings for rope drag at station atop P9

WHAT REMAINS...Connelly & Stolz freed "Fría Lite." "Fría Heavy" will involve freeing the P5 dihedral and the P7 "Wet Like Your Wife" overhanng.

THE ROUTE NAME: "La Gota Fría" is a song by Colombian vallenato master Emiliano Zuleta, and was famously covered by Carlos Vives. La gota fría literally means "a cold drop." Metaphorically, it means (a) a sudden and unexpected flood or (b) a cold drop of sweat (as in fear). The song, sung from Zuleta's point of view, describes the Colombian version of a rapper's feud: Zuleta and Lorenzo Morales, two famous accordeonistas, have been trash-talking each other, and the song details a musical battle, with the final line-- cuando me oyó tocar, le cayó la gota fría meaning roughly "and when he heard me play [the accordion], he felt cold drops of sweat." You can listen to Carlos Vives' version here The song is, as they say, based on a true story: Zuleta did have a musical feud with Morales, and did beat him at the yearly vallenato festival in Valledupar. Afterwards, Morales and Zuleta became fast friends and musical collaborators...

ASCENT CREDITS for individual pitches.
Most were done at various times with different groups of people.

First Continuous Free Ascent (5.11b A0 version) Dylan Connelly and Chris Stolz, July 11, 2010

P1 Myles Holt (aid), FA 5.11b version Ian Bennet, Oct 12 2009 (onsight!) FA 10d version Chris Stolz, June 2010
P2 Chris Stolz and Kasper Podgorski (aid), FFA Chris Stolz, Mike Blicker 4 Oct 2009
P3 Chris Stolz, Mike Blicker (aid), FFA Mike Blicker July 2010
P4 Chris Stolz, Mike Blicker (aid); FFA Chris Stolz, Mike Blicker 4 Oct 2009
P5 Dylan Connelly, Chris Stolz (aid)
P6 Chris Stolz, Dylan Connelly
P7 Dylan Connelly, Chris Stolz (aid)
P8 Chris Stolz, Dylan Connelly (aid), FFA Mike Blicker July 2010
P9 Dylan Connelly, Chris Stolz (aid), FFA Mike Blicker July 2010
P10 Mike Blicker
P11 Chris Stolz, Dylan Connelly
P12 Mike Blicker July 2010
P13 Chris Stolz, Dylan Connelly July 11, 2010
P14 Mike Blicker, July 2010
P15 Chris Stolz, Dylan Connelly, Mike Blicker July 2010
P16 Mike Blicker, July 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chainsaw Love

The send approaches...a feeling somewhere between circling the date of having a wisdom tooth pulled, and that near-certain feeling you get halfway through the dinner you have made that is going to seduce the object of your affection. The Driller is madly studying for the next part of his Cunthoo-- err, I mean, accounting exams, and I am done work, and so free, for awhile, at least until the RCMP gets the warrant from the judge.

As you certainly know, Jeremy Frimer, aside from being a bad-assed Peruvian alpinist, PhD candidate (he is doing his dissertation on the psychology of using climbing as procrastination) and adopter of neurotic, anti-social cats, is a route cleaner. After dealing with the Mosquito area, putting up Optimus Prime (very cool) and cleaning up the Wire Tap area, Frimer turned his attention away from his charming (and majorly bad-- err, I mean, trad- assed) wife, cats, dissertation and photography habit, and cleaned up Milk Run, adding a few pitches. The thing at 10d now goes to the rim of Tantalus Wall and as Borat would say is liek my sister, easy to get onto, and very nice, and give great pleasure.

So I met up with my friend Lorreen. Now Lorreen is one of those awesome younger climber girls, in this case 15 years my junior (which makes her ten), who is super-organised and always on time. But not on Friday. I had spent the evening playing bluegrass on Psyche ledge with a bunch of Americans, including a double-bassist, a fiddler, and a singer-guitarist. The hoedown ended at midnight because the band was preparing for a Grand Wall ascent on their final day in BC, and so I drove out to the bivvy boulder, unrolled my bearskin rug, busted out the K-Y and the 12", and prepared myself for the evening. The night passed blissfully.

The next day I luxuriated in the sun at the coffeeshop and Lorreen let me know that she would unfortunately be late. When she showed up she was grinning ear to ear. That could only mean one thing, know what it means when a woman shows up in the morning with that special smile on her face.

Yes sirree, chainsaws. Lorreen had just driven out from Abbotsford, where her current lust interest has been working on chainsaws. And them chainsaws gotta be tested before them fallers get 'em my young climbing partner spent our racking session gushing about 375s, oiling up and choke adjustments. Lorreen likes this guy, cos, well...bad narrator fast-flashback...she'd gone to Smith with another younger female climber, and reported that the sport-climber boys, on seeing these two nubile young ladies climbing together, would immediately find excuses for removing shirts.

"So were you psyched about that?" I asked Lorreen.

"Fuck NO! I need a man, not a bolt-clipper."

Not only does this apply to climbing-- where obviously we trad climbers outrank you sporting types, at least in this young lady's eyes-- but more so in real life, where a guy who can fix stuff outranks an iDork, a hipster or a yuppie cunt. Anyway, Lorreen had met Chainsaw Man at a logging camp, on his remarking that her power-spraying of the underside of her engine was un-femininely meticulous, and their romance bloomed around oil changes, cylinder adjustments and of course chainsaws. She was psyched that he could fix things, he let her go climbing, and most of all that, when he DID fix things, she was allowed to watch and ask questions.

By the time this was all revealed, we stood at the base of Milk Road and I had that wisdom-tooth pulling cum shot-of-heroin feeling as I stared up at this mass of awesomeness.

OK, climbing stories are boring, so we climbed it, I hung on the long 5.10d pitch, we had to pull on bolts since the first crux was totally wet and I was blown away by the amount of work that went into this (26 days for Frimer!) and by the final "5.10c" pitch (could have been 5.11c as far as I was concerned...but the onsight always feels harder). The thing that REALLY got us, though...was the chainsawing! Frimer has done some serious work on that route ands that includes chopping down some big trees. For which he initially caught shit from a few blowhards, but's not like the Chief is lacking in vegetation...i mean if it were 100 years ago, fair enough. But there were ramps, chimneys and cracks all made climbable by the Husqua-Varna's tough teethy love, and so we were both warm and fuzzy toward chainsaws when we arrived on top.

Afterward I ran into Napoleon in the Starbucks, and he told me all the Valley gossip. After sending Steph Davis, bailing off the Nose due to a snowstorm, dodging tools for six weeks (take THAT, Tony McLane!) and allegedly watching The Filth get in a fight, he found a girlfriend, got a job (in Montreal), bought an SUV (I actualy saw's big and grey and will make a great road-tripping vehicle, at least until that 60 hour-a-week corporate job kicks in) and was doign what we all do best...sitting in Starbucks and talking shit about climbing.

Anyway, we go for the send next Sunday July 11. Until then, the Driller is in accounting recovery at Lake Tahoe, where he will spend some time with The Filth, I am going to Washington Pass with Lorreen, and the Rain Gods will hold off for seven days. Right? Right?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The World's Worst Climbing Partner (2)

"Bones," I said as I heaved my weak ass onto the top of the Buttress crux pitch, grateful for the top-rope "there's this guy I climbed with last year who's totally trash-talking you. His name is--"


"Wha? You KNOW this guy?"

"Oh yeah..."

Bones was out from Canmore for work, and we'd squeezed in a precious day between work and rains. I clipped in, sat down, rolled a smoke and asked Bones to explain.

The winter before, Bones-- marginally employed, and on a mixed sending spree of epic duration-- had been living in the Canmore clubhouse of the Alpine Club. In exchange for ten hours a week of scrubbing shitters and shoveling snow, he got a cot and a squat. The Clubhouse was something of a ritual stop for ice and mixed climbers showing up in town. You went there, cooked, and posted a partner-wanted note.



Bones was busy, but passed the email on to a friend. Phone calls ensued and Bones' friend-- let's call him The Psyche-- agreed to meet at the Fireside at 6 AM for brekkie, to be followed by a day of ice-climbing.

The Psyche was there at 6. Two hours and seventy-nine cups of coffee later, no, so The Psyche went home to vibrate uncontrolably in the comfort of his own house, at which point the phone rang. It was, who said "Dude! I'm at the breakfast place! I'm psyched! Let's go!"

Against his better judgment, The Psyche drove back to the greasy spoon to find a shaven-headed, muscular-looking type, Les, who-- after no excuse for lateness was forthcoming-- convinced The Psyche that a three-hours-late start would be no impediment to what was sure to be a lightning-quick ascent of Professor's (WI4).

Our heroes found themselves at the base of Professor's at about 10:30 AM. Now, Professor's is, if I recall correctly from my own ascent with Bones and The Anus, is about 250 meters, so that's about five longish pitches, separated by short snow slopes.

Well, in scene eerily reminiscent of my own adventure with Les on Vector, Les got twenty-five feet up, put in his third screw, and hung, panting. The Psyche gently urged him on, and, an hour later, Les had aided his way to the top of the first WI3 pitch. The Psyche convinced Les to let him lead the rest of the route, but Les stepped in at the final crux pitch-- WI4+ some years-- and launched into it as that lovely alpenglow, ideally enjoyed from the warmth of a chalet with a beer in one hand and a brunette in one's lap, crept across the mountains and The Psyche shivered into his jacket.

Les installed all ten screws within the first twnety meters, climbed up onto a shelf, shook out, and took stock. He had no more gear, twenty meters to go, and the only option for getting out and handing off the sharp end was to downclimb and then lower off his top screw. Les then did the only thing he could think of-- he completely lost his shit. He stood, heels shaking, tools sunk to the shaft, screaming bloody fucking murder, while The Psyche racked his brain for a way to get a weak, freaked-out, in-over-head nutjob who clearly needed another hit of crack (the drug, not the rock feature) to downclimb 5 meters of 4+ before 3 AM in the now fully enveloping gloom.

In the end, somehow, faced with spending a night on his front-points, losing his hands and getting hypothermia, Les managed the brief downclimb, and The Psyche fired up under headlamp power to retrieve his gear. Our heroes returned to Canmore exactly thirteen hours after leaving. With two hours of approach and walk-out time, they averaged two hours and twelve minutes per fifty meter pitch.

The Psyche got a few more calls from Les, and, when the phone calls petered out, his friends started getting them. Les somehow didn't find a whole lot of partners that winter.

"So," I asked Bones, "is he still in Canmore?"

"Doubt it," he said, taking a drag on my smoke. In mid-March, a sign appeared on the Canmore Clubhouse bulletin board.


The World's Worst Climbing Partner (1)

Since our route is closed until July 11, while we dutifully throw ourselves at rigorous ARC sessions in the gym to try to get strong enough to climb the thing (yesI am aware of the irony, thank you very much), I will (try to) entertain the readers with this true story.

Back in the day, when 5.9 was hard and skipping work was easy, I was between regular partners, and was blind-dating a variety of types off the M.E.C. board. I'd had, for example, a climb with Old Slow Joe, who really should have been sitting on a porch in Tenessee, with a jug and a banjo, rather than climbing. I'd been out with The Lawyer, but he was too busy making assloads of money to make it regularly, plus he couldn't crack-climb much, since it trashed his hands, which made his Indian clients suspicious (I shit you not, best pussy-out excuse I've yet heard). I'd been out with a really, really dumb girl. Now, I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer by any means, but this girl made me look like a MENSA member, and when I realsed that I would have to check every knot, cam placement etc that she had, and ever would make, that one ended. I emailed aother guy one Monday afternoon-- So one day I got a call from a guy we'll call Les, who was telemark29 himself.

After some palaver, it seemed like Sunday would be a good time, so I proposed to meet at 9 at the coffeeshop. But Les had to go to church, so 11 sharp it was.

On arriving, I found a shaven-headed, muscular man, with one of those goatees that hip white guys used to have in the '90s and are now found on middle-aged men with pot-bellies, and waring a Cletic-looking crucifix, encamped beside a rusting dirtbag van crammed with ski and climbing gear. And the guy was HARDCORE in more than looks: he led 5.11. which to me was something only Gods, Sponsored Climbers and Climbing Guides did, and he'd been living in his van all winter, working in Whistler, cooking, and touring as much as he could. His van was full of generally old and filthy junk, neatly organised, with an oddly beautifully new set of touring and downhill skis and boots. I offered to grab him a coffee and he refused-- religious reasons. I had clearly hit paydirt: a ripped, clean-living, God-fearing climbing machine.

We headed up to Vector (5.9) and Les loaded up with our rack. I had five cams and a few nuts. Les had a collection that had clearly been entirely pried and yanked out of leaver palcements: a shiny new #2 Camalot hung beside something that had probably been hand-machined by Ray Jardine himself in the back of his van, which was beside a hex apparently slung with a friendship bracelet made of Nepalese hemp, and quickdraws with what felt like steel bieners.

Les got about ten feet into Vector, installed every piece of gear, hung, and began to curse. "This God-damed cock-sucking, mother-fucking, ass-licking piece of mother-fucking faggot-assed fucking gayness is mother-fucking gay-assed fucking shit!" he screamed, pounding the rock, his heels just over my head. After many more hyphentated curses, he lowered off and handed me the RPs to finish the 40 meter off-width pitch.

I passed his anchor, removed all the large stuff, and headed up. I did some weird moves in the unusually wide crack, went over the bulge, found a bolt, threw in a cam, hauled up and put Les on. I wouldn't know for a few years that I had just climbed what I would learn was an "off-width," and that there were in fact cams bigger than 3". Way down below, Les huffed and chuffed, and then I heard a "FUCKING TA-AA-AKE!" The rope went tight.

And stayed tight. After twenty minutes I yelled to see if he was OK. "FUCKING YEAH I'M COMING" came the reply. Fifteen minutes after that, rope still tight, Les appeared at the bulge...jugging. He'd rigged a pair of prusskis and had jugged the low-angle 5.9 pitch. His hands and ankles bled. He was white, and shaking. We clearly should have retreated, but you can't do that off one bolt with a 50 meter rope, so I launched up.

Instead of heading up and left, through the bushes, I went right, and found myself freaking out on what I would later learn was a 10b or 10c flake and crack. I made it...and Les repeated his previous performance, prussiks a-go!

Back in the parking lot, I decided enough, not gonna see this guy again. Aside from the obvious bullshit factor, there was something oddly unbalanced, plus of course the weirdness of a religious guy cussing like a sailor.

Next weekend, on Friday night, at 9 PM, The Lawyer bailed on me, placating a sniffling me with promises of endless patient belays and beers on a perfectly sunny future day yet to be named. Fuck. Argh. Kill. I was still in the full-on addiction phase and had trouble understanding what people who didn't climb actualy did with spare time.

Then Les called. Beginners can't be choosers, so we agreed to go to Cal Cheak.

On arriving at Peanut's Playground, Les handed me his five random cams. I put them on the ground beside my gear as I was packing.

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" screamed Les. "DON'T PUT MY FUCKING CAMS ON THE GROUND! I JUST OILED THEM!" I picked them up, and haded them to the suddenly hyperventilating Les, and wondered how long the day was going to be. Les put the cams into a small grey stuff sack beside his pack.

On the walk in, Les asked me about my climbing background. I told him I'd spent a winter climbing ice around Canmore, and he asked me if I knew Bones. Yes, I told him, Bones was basically my intro to ice climbing and was a longtime friend.

"That guy," said Les, "is a cock-sucking, poser asshole."

"Do tell," I said, wondering if there were two Bones in Canmore, and whether Les had taken his happy pills that week, or if perhaps Les and I lived in alternate Universes.

Les said mixed climbing grades were bullshit, mixed climbing was bullshit, Jews controlled the world, Canmore climbers were assholes, ice grades were generally bullshit, magazines about climbing were generally bullshit, photographs of climbing were bullshit, 9/11 was an inside job, only God could save us, Canmore sport-climbing grades were inflated, and Bones' and my mutual friend The Albino was not only gay, but mentally challenged, a poser, a jerk, a weak climber...the cedars en route to Peanut's make a beautiful short forest trek. Eventually his voice stopped.

"Have you told Bones and The Albino any of this?"


We started with some 5.8s which Les hung from and I went up to rescue his draws. Same thing happened on 5.9 and 5.10a. Les eventually made it up a 10c, whining like a teenager who's just found out he's failed Grade Eleven English and now has to spend six weeks of precious summer sitting in a classroom.

We walked out and on reaching my car les asked me for his cams. I told him I had given them back to him before we'd started


Les had that oddly white face and shook as he threw the floor mats out of my trunk and passenger compartment. "FUCK! THAT'S $300 WORTH OF GEAR!" he howled, and ran back up to the crag. Yelling filtered down through the trees as I debated leaving him there. He had obviously left the cams in the sack on the ground, and some unscrupulous other climbers had taken his mix'n'match rack.

As I turned onto the 99 and headed toward Squamish, Les asked me if I had household insurance. "No, why?"

"Cos you can say, you got robbed, and give me the insurance money."

Have I mentioned he was wearing a crucifix? Anyway, I said no, and found myself explaining the terms "fraud" and "raised rates."

"FUCK!" said Les, banging the dash, "let's go to the cops and tell them your car got broken into!"

I then explained "fraud" again and told Les that, frankly, I thought he was a bit of a jerk, and I really didn't want to climb with hm again.

We pulled into the parking lot of the coffeeshop and Les got out. His pack lay in the backseat and he grabbed a small stuffsack and headed off to the bathroom. He was gone for twenty minutes. I wanted to throw his pack out and bust out of there.

Les returned form the washroom, clutching his tiny stuff sack, grinning ear to ear. His colour had returned. No more shaking. Hs eyes were wide, empty pools. He must have taken some kind of epic crap in there. "Are you SURE you don't want to run this through your insurance company?" he asked. I said no, gave him his pack, and started the engine. In seconds, I thought, I would never have to see ever again.

"Dude," he said, "I'm free tomorrow. Let's meet at nine. No, wait, later. I have church."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

La Gota, freer

The first ascent of La Gota Fria (18 pitches, 5.11b A0 (5.12c) was exactly as we had both imagined. We blasted up the fucker, managing to redpoint both crux pitches, and we fired it in about seven hours. On top, our girlfriends showed up unexpectedly, carrying cold beers and vials of Ibuprofen. The sun hung low in the sky, the breeze was warm, we got a good beer buzz, the ladies carried the gear down...

And then I woke up from my dream.

Actually...we drove through rain to Squamish. We were forced to pull a Napoleon, or a me, and hang out at the coffee shop for an hour and a half while the wind caressed our route like our hands caressed our private parts as we sat staring at our to-be-epic upcoming send, both wind and hands warming things. We managed to pose and spray with some skill in the coffee shop, where we ran into Anders Ourom. Now it was a kind of funny historical accident. Anders is restoring Slab Alley (now 50 years old) while we are trying to put up a new route. You got both ends of Squamish: ancient 5.8, and new-school 5.12+ (the only qualifier here beng that Hamish Mutch could actually climb his route, while Driller and I basically clean and thrash on ours).

We also found some Americans to spray to, and then sprayed the barrista, who-- as if my rippling muscles, awesomely colour-co-ordinated outfit and chiseled visage, along with The Driller's accounting profession weren't enough-- pretty much wet her panties when we announced that we were new routing. That precipitated another woman-mob, from which we barely escaped via the back door...oh wait, sorry, I was back in dream mode there.

Anyway, I promise not to shit-talk any more. The helicopter flew us up to the base of our route, where our gear had been laid out for us and Bhung, our Nepali porter, was brewing tea. OK OK I'll shut up soon.

Driller wanted to free P1 and couldn'tcos the crux was wet. The first 15 feet-- a funky V-slot-- was also wet, but the Driller clambered up the arete to the right of it, at 5.7, and stepped across, so we now have an alternative wet-day start. P1 is 5.10d and easily aided (bolts and #3 Camalot) if the crux is wet.

P2 we decided is 5.9 due to the nice face holds.

P3 AGAIN kicked my ass. Not training is really not paying off.

P4 is 5.10c. Bomber gear, good rests.

P5 is the hardest thing I have ever tried. Massively sequential, miniscule holds, the kind of thing where if you take a hand or foot off to clip, you fall. The top 1/2 of this thing will be 11a or b, the bottom will be 12c or d. Most sane people will pull on bolts for the first bit then free the rest.

We rapped and set a new date: July 11. Till then, we both train like mo-fos-- a bit of endurance is all it will take. "All" and "bit" are like "if"....awfully big small words...stay tuned, folks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

Well sometimes a weekend warrior gets to join the full-timers, so on Tuesday Ginger Slack and I went and had a go at the first four pitches of La Gota Fria, which is what our route (should we ever be men, err, I mean, courageous-- enough to actually climb the entire thing) is called.

Now Ginger Slack is a guy who knows what extreme sports are REALLY all about: meeting women and working as little as possible. When not modeling neural artchitecture, or discussing now neural networks' signal-to-noise ratios correlate with adaptivity to new challenges, you can find him with his slackline, which is basically a kind of fishing net for a certain kind of girl. For this, he is sponsored! Nice work, young man. Anyway, between his horrendously busy schedule of slacklining, sex and neural modeling (oh and selling clothes at M.E.C.), Slack sometimes climbs. So on Tuesday we huffed and puffed our way through the humidity to the base of the route.

I freed P1 which Slack thinks is 5.10d (it has one short bolted crux). I was psyched to free the pitch, and then I realised that Driller and I had fucked the bolts up AGAIN, being gumbies and all. The first is too high, the second too far right. There is a good reason why purists drill on lead...anyway, the thing is doable, but not ideal. Driller would later say "we are using oil to clean up water" which makes about as much sense as BP trying to stop an oil-well explosion with some nice mud, but was actually accurate.

Slack led P2 which is IMHO 5.9 but he says 10a...but then I have them mad face-hold-detection skillz. P3 was another story. I managed to fall off on lead, then on the yo-yo, and then again a whopping two feet higher than my first two tries. This thing is 5.11B for sure. Basically, it is two hard awkward fingery move, then either a solid rest, or a bomber handjam. It is like the Squamish Buttress crux pitch-- very easy to aid.

Slack led P4 which he thinks is 5.10b, then we rapped.

The good news is that while P1 and 2 need some cleaning, the route dries more quickly than we thought for a north-facing route. After one day of no rain, with +15 temps, it is climbable with the odd wet spot. If it has 2 dry days and is +10 (e.g. April, late Sept) it will go. Wind helps hugely. The nice thing is, since the route starts off Caramba Terrace, it escapes the summer humidity trap that affects the valley-floor-starts of routes, and it gets wind.

Anyway, I know this post is really boring. But...stay tuned. We are going for the FA of La Gota Fria (Lite) on Sunday, and we will have pictures and a good story for all ten of you. That's a 25% increase over two weeks ago...and all I had to do to get new followers was, try to kill Perry Beckham and Jia Condon, and then get trash-talked on the comments part of this blog. Maybe I should try to kill Peter Croft or Steph Davis (after Napoleon finishes with her, of course) that way I could up the readership to, say, 15 and Google would come running with offers of not just $$ but also hordes of nude willing women (invisible to Driller and my girlfriends), plus free Timmy Ho coffee forever, man oh man, I can see it now...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Comment moderation changed; rockfall issues

Hi readers-- we love ocmments, but since we are starting to get the odd nasty one, we would ask you to please become a member of the blog if you want to leave comments. I will publish all comments (unelss they are defamantory) but i need to know who is writing. Becoming a member should take less than one minute.

Thanks to people who are reading and commenting-- your feedback is appreciated, even when you are critical.

Regarding rockfall comments made by Perry Beckham on (thanks to Mr Beckham for his comments):

-- we have worked on the route for 28 days now and have seen people on the trail once. Last Spring we had to chop our way to the base, there were so many bushes etc. We had no idea or physical sign that others were using the trail.

-- After hearing via another pair of route developers (to our left) and via John Howe that rockfall was hitting the trail, we started posting both physical signs and online warnings on cleaning days.

-- We are done (for now, we think; hopefully forever) the cleaning phase. However, one member of the party has a 200m fixed line stashed on our route, and plans to scrub some variations once we climb the thing. He will let the community know what his plans are.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Freeing La Gota

As the soon-to-be-renamed Driller and I drove through the mist to Squamish on Sunday, we dismissed a barrage of weather reports that called for rain, mist, clouds and other staples of the Squamish climbing diet. "Fuck THAT," we said, echoing The Filth, who refers to anything other than a shower with his charming brilliant beautiful wife as "piss."

We squelched our way up to the base of The Proj and discussed the merits of bringing a rack and rock shoes. I thought we would finish re-bolting the dihedral, fix the Green Line traverse bolts, climb the bolt ladder, and chop the trees on P8. Then-- since that would only take three hours-- we could free a few more pitches.

We jugged to the base of the dihedral and the Driller set off, trying to see how French-freeable it was. It turned out that, well, "not so much" was the answer. At the mid-pitch flake, which you protect with a nut, the Driller yelled down "hey do we have any hooks?" and of course I said "Do I look liek an aid climber?" But not to worry: Driller got out his nut tool. Then, with the same kind of care that gay men use when selecting the morning's moisturising cream, or that I use when picking my excuse for not leading whatever pitch is in front of me, the Driller set up a bathook move off his nut tool and made the mantle onto the flake. The Driller was actually more like the Thriller with his awesome ball-out McGyverish aid moves.

The rest of the dihedral went fine, and we decided to chop one bolt, and move it a foot lower, and we would liek to remind you, dear readers (all 8 of you) that when YOU get on this pitch, bring a medium nut or two, or a .4 Camalot, if you want to French-free it.

I then had the privilege of trying to traverse the Green Line Ledge, aka The Electric Pepper Grinder pitch. Now Paul Cordy had been on our route a couple of months earlier, and had commented that our bolting was, well, not perfect. As I clambered past my second bolt and clipped the third, I realised what he was talking about. Looking back, this is what I saw:

This is the kind of drilling that happens when you have nothing too hook off, and when your toes are jammed into two feet of munge, and behind you is a 300 m fall to the deck, and you are pushng UP with your other arm to hold yourself on, whileyour drilling arm holds what feels like a bucking, rabid and steroidal ferret, out of sight and over your head.

Now here is a close-up of a Bad, Bad Bolt!

We chopped this one and re-did it. This is what a GOOD bolt looks like, for all those of you who have never clipped one.

The bolt itself should be sunk as far as you can get it. Basically the issue with these bolts was, they were not pounded in far enough, so I loosened the nuts and pounded them in more, and now they are bomber. The key to drilling (other than picking a proper spot, and having a good bit) is to make the hole super-deep, so that if you must chop, you just pound the end into the rock and epoxy the opening.

The bolt ladder saw its first "ascent" today and it works perfectly. I had been a bit apprehensive after climbing the Grand Wall, whose bolt ladder seemed sparser. Ours, is much longer, has bolts closer together, but is easier to get up. You can make "fake aiders" by clipping both a long and a short sling into one biener. The "Wet Like Your Wife" pitch was, well, wet. We added a bolt to the p7 belay, hung the saw, and rapped.

Down with the crowbars, the fixed ropes, the bolt-chopper, the hacksaw, the monster rack, the aiders...there is little work to be done and now it is time to try to climb the thing with hands and feet instead of aiders and jugs. We lefta pink ribbon on the project, and removed a couple of stations, to indicate that the poroject is not yet open. Here is us with the stuff we carried off the route:

On the way back, we pondered the Universe's manifold mysteries, like why our girlfriends want so much sex, and what exactly happened to The Filth and The Yankee in The Valley (apparently they hired a guide, who took them up a route called "Shirking Fear") that caused The Yankee to lose 25 pounds and The Filth to get a sprained ankle and three sprained ribs. No, no, I must confess, that last sentence was half shit-talk: they did in fact get up Lurking Fear under their own power-- awesome job, boys. Other mysteries included, where was Napoleon, who seems to have lost all interest in our route, and how bad-assed waas Driller-- aka Thriller.

Well it turns out there are three, count 'em, three kinds of accountants: chartered accountants, certified managerial accountants, certified financial accountants, and certified business accoutants. The Driller will soon be a C.A., which is the bad-assedest of all three kinds of accountant. How bad-assed, you ask is that? Well he will be able to not only climb the outside of any building, using only nut-tools and slings for pro, he will then be able to climb the inside, and audit you so hard it will feel like a rectal examaination by a drunken Filth. THAT, clearly, is why our girlfriends want so much sex from us.

Oh, wait-- what about me? I'm not an accoutnant. Hmm, another mystery. Well perhaps next weekend, when we start freeing La Gota, answers will come. Stay tuned...