A Functioning Cog

I was planning to wax poetic about the long journey to become a forecaster for the CAIC. I felt inspired after listening to Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes on my way home from a fieldwork mission to Aspen last month. The lyrics really struck me, although it’s a month later now and I am still trying to organize my thoughts on how incredibly unlikely the events were that got me here. So instead of blathering and deleting and blathering again I thought I would simply share some pictures from work this season. Maybe the words will come together this summer when the flood of danger ratings, snow totals and avalanches drain from my brain.

AIARE Level 1 in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hallett Peak as a backdrop! Front Range Zone

AIARE Level 1 in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hallett Peak as a backdrop! Front Range Zone

The wind was howling on the way home. Solution? Hope on the frozen lake and sail back to the car. Front Range

The wind was howling on the way home. Solution? Hop on the frozen lake and sail back to the car. Front Range Zone

Loveland Pass . Vail & Summit County Zone

Loveland Pass. Vail & Summit County Zone

CON: Waking up at 2:30 a.m. to forecast. PRO: sunsets everyday at lunch.

CON: Waking up at 2:30 a.m. to forecast. PRO: Sunrises everyday at lunch.

Josh Hirshberg, San Juan forecaster giving a seasonal snowpack review talk to our AIARE Level 3 course.

Josh Hirshberg, San Juan forecaster giving a seasonal snowpack review talk to our AIARE Level 3 course.

CAIC Silverton.

CAIC Silverton.

Swamp Angel study plot. North San Juan Zone

Swamp Angel study plot. North San Juan Zone

Chris Landry, Director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies giving us a tour of Swamp Angel.

Chris Landry, Director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies giving us a tour of Swamp Angel.

Coolest trash can ever.

Coolest trash can ever.

Can't wait to come back here are and hang in the rooftop beer garden!

Can’t wait to come back here and hang in the rooftop beer garden!

Killin it in Silverton. Sunshine for miles.

Killin it in Silverton. Sunshine for miles.

Ouray Colorado. Super cool little spot.

Ouray Colorado. Super cool little spot.

Time to crank out statewide weather… after more coffee.

Time to crank out statewide weather… after more coffee.

View of the Flatirons from the Boulder office.

View of the Flatirons from the Boulder office.

Saw this guy chill in on the side of the road on the way down from Rocky Mountain National Park. Front Range Zone

Saw this guy chillin on the side of the road on the way down from Rocky Mountain National Park. Front Range Zone

Blase burning it at both ends. The life of an avalanche forecaster.

Blase burning it at both ends. The life of an avalanche forecaster.

Community avalanche talk in Carbondale, CO.

Community avalanche talk in Carbondale, CO.

This is actually a fading Powerpoint slide of a snow pit as seen by LIDAR, way cool.

This is actually a fading Powerpoint slide of a snow pit as seen by LIDAR, way cool.

Take a bro to work day.

Take a bro to work day.

Finding missing socks in your lunch. Yep.

Finding missing socks in your lunch. Yep.

Had to blast into town when out camping to help with the forecast. Good thing this diner had bottomless coffee.

Had to blast into town when out camping to help with the forecast. Good thing this diner had bottomless coffee.

Summit of Mt Emmons. Gunnison Zone

Summit of Mt Emmons. Gunnison Zone

This place was pretty killer. Crested Butte, CO.

This place was pretty killer. Crested Butte, CO.

Backcountry cabin.. On the wish list.

Backcountry cabin.. On the wish list.

Zach putting out the forecast for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center in this super cool historic jail.

Zach putting out the forecast for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center in this super cool historic jail.

Cubicle

Cubicle

Weather jokes.

Weather jokes.

Greg and Blase heading in toward the Twin Chutes in Castle Creek.

Greg and Blase heading toward the Twin Chutes in Castle Creek. Aspen Zone

Some beautiful striated cavity hoar near a downed tree at the base of the snowpack.

Some beautiful striated cavity hoar near a downed tree at the base of the snowpack. Aspen Zone

Our snow pit between Twin Chutes. Layers were drawn in for emphasis. Here it was storm snow above the upper line and facets and depth hoar below.

Our snow pit between Twin Chutes. Layers were drawn in for emphasis. Here it was storm snow above the upper line and facets and depth hoar below. Aspen Zone

Lira.

Lira.

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see

The cool town of Marble, CO with Raspberry Ridge as a backdrop.

The cool town of Marble, CO with Raspberry Ridge as a backdrop.

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Yeah.. Avalanche paths slice through this road for most of the trip to the mine. Aspen Zone

It was snowing hard for most of the day. It snowed 7 inches in 5 hours.

Blase pushing forward as Todd and I hung back in a safe zone near the ridge.

Blase pushing forward as Todd and I hung back in a safe zone near the ridge.

Bottomless powder. It snowed almost 4 feet here in 6 days. The deepest turns of my life. Upper Crystal River Valley.

Bottomless powder. It snowed almost 4 feet here in 6 days. The deepest turns of my life. Upper Crystal River Valley.

Todd lovin' every minute.

Todd lovin’ every minute.

I tried to get a good pow shot of Todd, but he never seemed to surface.

I tried to get a good pow shot of Todd, but he never seemed to surface.

BLOWER

BLOWER

Unreal POW. Yum.

Unreal POW. Yum.

Fresh Loose Wet avalanches on the snowmachine ride back to the car. Gunnison Zone

Fresh Loose Wet avalanches on the snowmachine ride back to the car. Gunnison Zone

Schuylkill Mountain. Gunnison Zone

Schuylkill Mountain. Gunnison Zone

Ben summiting Cascade Peak near Crested Butte. Gunnison Zone

Ben summiting Cascade Peak near Crested Butte. Gunnison Zone

Roller balls. Or in this case cinnamon buns! A layer of dust fell on the snow surface and subsequently was buried by new snow. The sun softened the surface snow until it released and rolled up into this delicious pile of dust rolls.

Roller balls. Or in this case cinnamon buns! A layer of dust fell on the snow surface and subsequently was buried by new snow. The sun softened the surface snow until it released and rolled up into this delicious pile of dust rolls.

Slab avalanche pocket off the ridge between Mt Owen and Ruby. Gunnison Zone

Slab avalanche pocket off the ridge between Mt Owen and Ruby. Gunnison Zone

140408_RedLady_01

The hills have eyes.

Sometimes you get to go cat skiing. Gunnison Zone

Sometimes you get to go cat skiing. Gunnison Zone

Irwin Cat Ski Cabin.. Probably the nicest backcountry cabin you will ever see. Gunnison Zone

Irwin Cat Ski Cabin.. Probably the nicest backcountry cabin you will ever see. Gunnison Zone

Jerrod skiing a cool line in Current Creek Basin. Front Range Zone

Jerrod skiing a cool line in Current Creek Basin. Front Range Zone

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Downhill split skiing. Don’t hate, this shit is hard!

So the San Juan Mountains are the real deal for sure. North San Juan Zone

So the San Juan Mountains are the real deal for sure. North San Juan Zone

Ben teaching our AIARE Level 3 with Silverton Resort in the background. North San Juan Zone

Ben teaching our AIARE Level 3 with Silverton Resort in the background. North San Juan Zone

Silverton, CO - AIARE Level 3 studying going on. We were the downstairs crew (the best crew). A big part of what makes this job so great are the people involved in the industry.

Silverton, CO – AIARE Level 3 studying going on. We were the downstairs crew (the best crew). A big part of what makes this job so great are the people involved in the industry.

Red Mountain Pass - North San Juan Zone

Red Mountain Pass – North San Juan Zone

Isn't vapor depositional growth of ice crystals rad!?

Isn’t vapor depositional growth of ice crystals rad!?

Spencer enjoying some workday exercise. Berthoud Pass - Front Range

Spencer enjoying some workday exercise. Berthoud Pass – Front Range

And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

Street Life: Back to the Bus

I sat cross-legged in the back of the bus this morning and Robyn was already gone to work. My breath formed thick clouds and the air was clammy and damp. The world outside was muffled by 6 inches of fresh snow which fell last night. Robyn and I have been urban camping in the bus for a few days now, moving from lot to lot and running trips to the storage unit trying to get things organized. We will be living in the bus for at least a few weeks. In a weird twist of strangeness we were told in a plain letter from our landlord that once our initial 3 month short term lease was up we needed to be out – no explanation included. To make things weirder, our landlords daughter was our roommate, and slunk around the place in silence for the remainder of the month.

Despite the upheaval adding another layer of craziness to our lives here in Golden, we were given the chance to move into our own place – small or not! And here we are, in the bus again. It’s amazing how streamlined your life becomes once you open that sliding door. Two cupboards, two seats, one bed, one cooler.

When you get kicked to the streets it's nice to know this guy will always provide a soft catch.

When you get kicked to the streets it’s nice to know this guy will always provide a soft catch.

As I woke this morning I listened to cars and snowplows roll by as our coleman hissed, fogging the windows. I made instant oats and french pressed coffee before sloshing across the street to Lyons Park to brush my teeth. Just a few days ago we checked out a small one bedroom place about a block from our last. The property manager is super nice, the price is right and the view of Lookout Mountain from the living room and bedroom windows is great. We hope to sign a lease soon, and should be moving in by the end of the month. It’s only been 3 months since we moved here but it feels more like a year has passed. As leaves bud from trees along the park I am reminded of our move from Alaska. Rolling into Revelstoke B.C. we saw flowers and smelled dirt for the first time in 8 months. Life was slow and easy then. Setting up the tent along a river and gathering wood for a fire took most of the afternoon. After the whirlwind move to Fort Collins and then to Golden and now to the bus, I am looking forward to long afternoons and evenings by a fire and the slow-paced lazy days of summer.

Random Shots: Thanksgiving, Hailey, Oregon

We have been catching up on photos lately and found some good ones to share.  A few from Hailey, some from turkey day and a couple from a trip to Oregon. Thinking spring around here! No word on where we are going to be living by this weekend, but we can always crash in the bus. Jerrod is in town so we did the standard Golden brewery tour last night which was SUPER fun. It’s nice to have a great friend visit. We plan to do some ski touring tomorrow and Wednesday. Enjoy the photos!

Addi, Jazzy and Zaxson at Thanksgiving.

Addi, Jazzy and Zaxson at Thanksgiving.

Newest edition to the family. Zaxson at his first Thanksgiving!

Newest edition to the family. Zaxson at his first Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving dinner at the Pauls'.

Thanksgiving dinner at the Pauls’.

A record setting taster line up at Barley Browns.

A record setting taster line up at Barley Browns.

In the new tasting room at Barley Brown's. Baker City, OR.

In the new tasting room at Barley Brown’s. Baker City, OR.

Robyn has a great eye for the simple beauty in things. This was last fall in Hood River, OR.

Robyn has a great eye for the simple beauty in things. This was last fall in Hood River, OR.

Squirrel chillin in a tree in Hood River, OR

Squirrel chillin in a tree in Hood River, OR

One of Robyn's many amazing summer dishes.

One of Robyn’s many amazing summer dishes.

Our entries in the brewing competition in Boise. No awards for "Hellfer Stout" but we did get above average reviews. Can't wait to get our own place again with space for brewing!

Our entries in the brewing competition in Boise. No awards for “Hellfer Stout” but we did get above average reviews. Can’t wait to get our own place again with space for brewing!

Shelf Road: The Long Way There

With a few days off to go explore back in February Robyn, Will and I made it down to Shelf Road for the first time. Shelf is a canyon lined with dolomite boasting over 2,000 routes and growing. Robyn has been eager to get down to this place since we got here so it was certainly exciting to get out of our bubble in Golden for a bit and go explore.

If you travel the regular way to Shelf it’s a straight forward two-and-a-half hour drive down Interstate 25 and around the bend to Canon City and back up into the hills north of town. Unfortunately for us, Google Maps was content sending us to the north end of Shelf Road only to find out that it is impassible in snowy months and sketchy at the very least in summer months. Instead we were now thoroughly in the middle of nowhere and directed to go down “Phantom Canyon” to get back to the south end of Shelf.

Casinos in the historic downtown of Cripple Creek, CO

Casinos in the historic downtown of Cripple Creek, CO

We just happened to be cruising through Cripple Creek during one of their ice festivals. This kid was having a blast on this cool piece of ice art.

We just happened to be cruising through Cripple Creek during one of their ice festivals. This kid was having a blast on this cool piece of ice art.

Downtown Cripple Creek, CO.

Downtown Cripple Creek, CO.

A stop at some family history. This plaque commemorates some of my ancestors who were early settlers here in the mining days.

A stop at some family history. This plaque commemorates some of my ancestors who were early settlers here in the mining days.

Our new car (another new thing!) Mr. Buck Williams named after the power forward for the Portland Trailblazers in the 1990's. Here he is on his inagural camping trip. He handled the curves of Phantom Canyon very well.

Our new car (another new thing!) Mr. Buck Williams named after the power forward for the Portland Trailblazers in the 1990′s. Here he is on his inaugural camping trip. He handled the curves of Phantom Canyon very well.

Phantom Canyon, although only 30 miles long took more than 2 hours to drive through… One of the windiest little dirt roads I have ever been on, it followed an old railroad grade twisting and turning its way down a 5,000 ft vertical decent. Fortunately for us however this was also one of the prettiest drives we have done in a long time.

Robyn on Primal Scream (5.9+)

Robyn on Primal Scream (5.9+)

Buck Williams at camp.

Buck Williams at camp.

The hike into Shelf Road, CO.

The hike into Shelf Road, CO.

Will emerging from the overhang on Wadsworth Boulevard (5.10a/b), our first climb of the morning at Cactus Cliff.

Will emerging from the overhang on Wadsworth Boulevard (5.10a/b), our first climb of the morning at Cactus Cliff.

Wadsworth Boulevard (5.10a/b).

Wadsworth Boulevard (5.10a/b).

Essentially Shelf is a great crag. We bumped into the guidebook author Bob D’Antonio and a really cool guy named Nate that lives up near Breckenridge. They were busy chatting about new lines and by the end of the weekend had established at least two new routes. We ended up camping and hanging with them that evening and had a great campfire. A highlight was Will’s campfire trick he learned from an Australian. I won’t spoil it because it’s worth experiencing first hand.. After his visit, Will was off to Indian Creek (his winter home) for the time being. He also let us know he landed a sweet gig with the Taos Hot Shots. Super excited for him. It was so great to get out and explore some of our new backyard here in Colorado. Robyn and I really do feel most at home in the canyons and beneath the crags of the countryside. We are hoping to get back to Shelf here again soon, but the end of the season is closing in and the crags closer to home are warming up.

Robyn on one of her favorite climbs of the trip. Third Stage (5.10b) a sportily bolted and technical route.

Robyn on one of her favorite climbs of the trip. Third Stage (5.10b) a sportily bolted and technical route.

Robyn on Third Stage (5.10b)

Robyn on Third Stage (5.10b)

Robyn on Third Stage (5.10b)

Robyn on Third Stage (5.10b)

Finally a hold to hang on, Robyn on Third Stage (5.10b).

Finally a hold to hang on, Robyn on Third Stage (5.10b).

Pokey and dry. Cool landscape.

Pokey and dry. Cool landscape.

My favorite route of the trip, Funkdamental (5.11a/b). This gem starts on crazy perfect jugs, gains the arete with perfect position and exposure and continues past some long moves to the chains. The perfect temps and golden light helped too.

My favorite route of the trip, Funkdamental (5.11a/b). This gem starts on crazy perfect jugs, gains the arete with perfect position and exposure and continues past some long moves to the chains. The perfect temps and golden light helped too.

Campfires = the best thing ever.

Campfires = the best thing ever.

Looking back toward camp on the rim of the canyon.

Looking back toward camp on the rim of the canyon.

Our next big adventure will be figuring out where we are going to sleep at night.. That’s another long story but essentially we will be in the bus for a while until we can find a nice place here in town with a more reliable landlord/lease agreement. For the time being you can catch us at our new (again) mailing address: PO BOX 426 Golden, CO 80402!

More to come.. Someday..

As you might guess by our lack of posts things have been a bit crazy here in Colorado. I knew I had a cool shot of Robyn at Shelf Road from back in February though, and thought I would take a couple moments to slap one up. More to come!

Robyn flashing Third Stage (5.10c) at Shelf Road, Colorado.

Robyn flashing Third Stage (5.10c) at Shelf Road, Colorado.

A Quick Update

It’s been way too long since we’ve updated this here blog. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure, work, interviews and training. We’ve barely had time to sleep. I thought things would start to settle down a bit by the beginning of February; we’d develop a cozy routine and all of the tiny parts would come together nicely. We’ve now entered March and I am still wondering where January went. We certainly have lots to share and to catch-up on; however, those bits in-between our last post and now will have to wait.

For an unbelievably quick update, here are a few photos of us exploring and tasting Colorado.

fuel.

new dish = yummy.

sunny and warm. already blooming and it's only March.

sunny and warm. already blooming and it’s only March.

I found the perfect banana bread recipe. it has become a staple baked good as of late.

I found the perfect banana bread recipe. it has become a staple baked good as of late.

ladies of the hen house. just a few minute walk from our house.

ladies of the hen house. just a few minute walk from our place.

light reading and beverage.

light reading and tasty beverage.

nightly stroll around town.

nightly stroll around town.

E hard at work for CAIC.

E hard at work for CAIC.

need to stay fueled with a heart breakfast.

need to stay fueled with a hearty breakfast.

MK came to visit. Blazer victory!

MK came to visit. Blazer victory!

best game ever. pigs.

best game ever. pigs.

beer sampler at wynkoop. one of our favorite Colorado breweries so far.

beer sampler at wynkoop. one of our favorite Colorado breweries so far.

recharging with coffee. pit stop at a shop in Nederland, CO.

recharging with coffee. pit stop at a shop in Nederland, CO.

Thanks for visiting. More to come soon [hopefully].

El Potrero Chico: Semana Dos

Week two of our El Potrero Chico trip! Cora was a spark plug and arrived shortly after Christmas. She got on some amazing routes and coaxed (forced) us into our freezing cold pool by encouraging us to toss Tecate’s in there.. Week two was punctuated by rain.. lots of it. At first it was an annoyance, but looking back it got us into town more, and really added a bunch more learning experiences and cool stories. Cool stories like hitchhiking to town in the back of a small pick-up with 12 (I believe) other climbers hanging on for dear life.. Or hitting up the Friday market to gawk and explore. Or walking into a cool hole-in-the-wall tamale restaurant and stuffing our faces with steaming hot tamales.

Aside from the setbacks, we also had the best climbing days of the trip. When the weather started to clear after 3 days of rain Andy, Steve and I completed a major milestone in our climbing careers by sending Time Wave Zero (5.12a, 23 pitches). We were the only people on the route, and battled adverse conditions and dark rappels, but were rewarded with one of the most memorable sunsets (and climbs) of our lives.

On our last climbing day Robyn, Andy and I set off on Yankee Clipper (5.12a, 15 pitches) and summited via two of the most incredible pitches I have ever climbed. This may have been the single best stretch of climbing on the whole trip, and an amazing way to cap our journey. Without further ado, I will turn it over to pictures and spastic day notes, typed on the iPad during our trip.

La Posada is the climbers campground down the road from Potrero. There is a communal kitchen, restaurant, pool and showers. Pretty awesome place. This was taken on Christmas Day, enjoying a rest day and some beers as we met new friends.

La Posada is the climbers campground down the road from Potrero. There is a communal kitchen, restaurant, pool and showers. Pretty awesome place. This was taken on Christmas Day, enjoying a rest day and some beers as we met new friends.

Carta Blanca's on a rest day at La Posada.

Carta Blanca’s on a rest day at La Posada.

Chippah! Steve was immediately smitten. Good dog.

Chippah! Steve was immediately smitten. Good dog.

Day 6: Merry Christmas! Slept great last night. A shower (cold as hell) last night and the discovery that we have a heater in our room and the long process of assembling the necessities of a comfy bed all added to a great night sleep.

We woke this morning to a light drizzle. Down to the campground after breakfast, we sent a few quick emails and met some Danish climbers. Back to the castle we collected a pile of wood from the adjacent arroyo to cook a wood fire BBQ dinner on. Last night Steve, Andy and I vowed to give Time Wave Zero a go. TWZ is a 2,300′ climb up El Torro and clocks in at 5.12a. This is one of the tallest sport routes in the world.

After La Posada, we scavenged firewood from the arroyo across the street, breaking it up into pieces to feed the flames of our wood fired BBQ.

After La Posada, we scavenged firewood from the arroyo across the street, breaking it up into pieces to feed the flames of our wood fired BBQ.

Andy is so stoked he can barely believe it. What a great meal!

Andy is so stoked he can barely believe it. What a great meal!

Meat and chewy corn. Christmas dinner over a wood fired BBQ in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Meat and chewy corn. Christmas dinner over a wood fired BBQ in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Since today was a rest day we decided to head up to the base to make sure we knew the way there. Tomorrow we will leave at about 4:30 a.m. to climb the first few pitches in the dark (including an 11b). Once it’s light we plan to string together two 5-pitch blocks of trimulclimbing to save time. Of course that all depends on whether the rain that’s falling gives us a window to climb in..

As for now we are stoking the fire and getting ready to cook steaks on our awesome wood fire grill that sits in the open air attached to the living room. Andy just threw on some sweet potatoes and the iPad is kicking out Sinatra Christmas. Not bad.

Time Wave Zero (5.12a, 23 pitches) ascends to the summit of the left summit (7 pitches) and then tackles the massive headwall to the tippy top of the formation.

Time Wave Zero (5.12a, 23 pitches) ascends to the summit on the left (7 pitches) and then tackles the massive headwall to the tippy top of the formation.

Day 7: Rain today. TWZ will have to wait. The mist is hanging from the cliffs like a scarf. The sky is grey and still. We briefly entertained a day at the crag but quickly determined that it was just simply too wet. Instead we walked into town to El Búho, a local coffee shop run by climbers. This place had some serious character. Paintings, drawings and several other depictions of owls coated the walls. My favorite was a mural of an owl riding a T-Rex. The baristas were two younger girls from North Carolina and Virginia that had come down to work and had only been there for 3 weeks.

Andy met some cool folks outside and was quickly recruited into an impromptu jam session involving beat boxing, a guitar and singing. The rest of us enjoyed a warm cup of coffee and a bit of surfing the net.

the local coffee shop. In here you will find an eclectic mix of climbers from all over the world. The baristas from the east coast and moved there to live and work at the shop during the season.

the local coffee shop. In here you will find an eclectic mix of climbers from all over the world. The baristas from the east coast moved there to live and work at the shop during the season.

We spent a few rainy days here playing scrabble, checking Blazer scores and socializing. Andy even found him self in an impromptu beatbox jam session with some local Mexican guitar players.

We spent a few rainy days here playing scrabble, checking Blazer scores and socializing. Andy even found him self in an impromptu beatbox jam session with some local Mexican guitar players.

Stray dogs were everywhere. This guy and a few others enjoyed the concrete jungle of a long overlooked skatepark.

Stray dogs were everywhere. This guy and a few others enjoyed the concrete jungle of a long overlooked skatepark.

The Cemex Plant in the center of Hidalgo.

The Cemex Plant in the center of Hidalgo.

After coffee we struck out to explore the city. Rough around the edges, but full of friendly people, Hidalgo has certainly seen its heyday come and go. Built around a cement plant, the global recession and subsequent selling of the plant to big business has dried up the local economy. Today most residents commute to Monterrey for work.

We ventured down to the town plaza, withdrew some cash and ate lunch at Hidalgo Tamales. The five of us stuffed our faces with fresh, hot tamales for a total of $10 USD, although I accidentally tried to pay them $100…

Tonight is shaping up to be pretty mellow, although we bought some different looking beer that tastes exactly the same as all the others we have had. A highlight is that the label has a lady with a unibrow on it and while walking home a police car rolled by and we smiled, waved and swigged our beers as they passed. They rolled down their window, slowed and returned our smiles as they went on their way.

Hoping for a weather window tomorrow but if nothing else, the next day seems like it should clear again for the remainder of the trip.

Pretty. But when it looks like this it usually means a rest day.

Pretty. But when it looks like this it usually means a rest day.

Day 8: falling behind. Seems like the days are starting to run together. Third day in a row that we have woke up and looked outside to determine whether or not we were going to climb TWZ or not. Strike three. Today is the Friday market in Hidalgo so we decided to cruise back to town to scope that out. There is just about everything at these markets. Two narrow streets bordering the cemetery are slammed with people and tarps covering tables of various trinkets, watches, produce, porn, shoes, kitchenware – you name it. On one street people line up for a block to get to the food tent. Delicious looking rolls of dough were being smashed, twisted and cooked.

The Thursday Market, where you can get all things from light bulbs to porn. Some of the trees along this street have had so many lines tied off to them over the last hundred years that they have grown in this strange hourglass shape.

The Friday Market, where you can get all things from light bulbs to porn. Some of the trees along this street have had so many lines tied off to them over the last hundred years that they have grown in this strange hourglass shape.

Just hanging out.

Just hanging out.

Week two of our trip was punctuated with more forced rest days than anticipated. At the time it was a bit of an annoyance, but in hindsight we experienced way more of the culture there than we would have otherwise. Here, locals at the Thursday Market boil pig parts in a vat of oil.

Week two of our trip was punctuated with more forced rest days than anticipated. At the time it was a bit of an annoyance, but in hindsight we experienced way more of the culture there than we would have otherwise. Here, locals at the Thursday Market boil pig parts in a vat of oil.

When I say pig parts I mean all kinds of weird chunks.  Smelled good, but I abstained.

When I say pig parts I mean all kinds of weird chunks. Smelled good, but I abstained.

Fresh handmade churros. Sooooooo good.

Fresh handmade churros. Sooooooo good.

Cora arrives! A seasoned world traveler, Cora was the least dazed looking of all of us when she arrived. Flights all seemed to go well and as soon as she got here we rolled down to get dinner at La Posada. This is an interesting place. It reminds me of Miguel’s (Red River Gorge) in a way. No matter where you are in the world there is this comfortable familiarity that develops around a community of climbers.

Day 9: Time Wave Zero. After looking all over the web for a weather forecast I could agree with we decided to go for it. As long as it wasn’t actively raining, Andy, Steve and I were going to give Time Wave Zero a shot tomorrow. Let alone the fact that this was the longest route any of us had attempted (23 pitches and ~2,300′) and that there was a 5.12a waiting at pitch 21, we were also planning to climb it as a group of three which would afford us very little downtime and required a few advanced techniques as we climbed.

4:00 a.m. -raining. Shit. The route would be wet. But the weather seems to be lifting a bit.

6:00 a.m. We are up and nervously eating bowls of oatmeal and swigging coffee in the dark. Illuminated by the red lamps on our headlights we sat quietly. Cora was asleep on the floor in the living room.

Early morning wake-up call. With 3 days of rain and a foggy wake-up forecast we were (not surprisingly) the only people headstrong (foolish?) enough to try to climb one of the world's longest sport climbs.

Early morning wake-up call. With 3 days of rain and a foggy wake-up forecast we were (not surprisingly) the only people headstrong (foolish?) enough to try to climb one of the world’s longest sport climbs.

Sweat. The relative humidity was 100% and at times we couldn’t see the massive wall directly to our right despite being able to throw a rock to it. Hiking through the mist we passed the spires and climbed to the surf bowl where the first pitch sat, mostly damp, but downright dripping wet in places. Steve took the lead and strung up the runout 5.7 and we were on our way. One of the greatest unknowns awaited us at the second pitch. A 5.11b crests a pocketed headwall adjacent to the surf bowl and a glistening water streak covered the last 4 bolts, crux and anchors.. As the wall steepened, the climb drew me to the water streak. The holds were soaked, and some had pools of greasy mud. The crux. Pulling up to a hand match on a wet rail, a long lock-off guards a sinker 3 finger pocket. With three days of rain, no sign of chalk and little traffic I was relieved to latch into this hold before crossing through and clipping the chains.

Andy led the next pitch, a wet 5.9, and from there we trimulclimbed the next four to the top of pitch seven. Here there is a 3rd class section that leads to the main headwall. The next 12 pitches were a blur of linked pitches and another section of trimulclimbing a block of five. This trick was really the secret of our fast 3 person ascent. Thrown in for spice were a couple of 10+ pitches with exposed and runout moves. All the while, the soup we had been climbing in had started to thin, and occasionally we were offered expansive views of the surrounding mountains. Near pitch 15 the clouds turned a brilliant white, and the sun popped through. The light was angelic as we climbed in a bright white bubble up beautiful featured stone.

I think this was at the top of the second pitch. Climbing in the fog and over wet cruxes. Stoked it wasn't raining. No idea what we were in store for. Awesome adventure.

I think this was at the top of the second pitch. Climbing in the fog and over wet cruxes. Stoked it wasn’t raining. No idea what we were in store for. Awesome adventure. Photo: Steve Dodd

Top of pitch 7. A little 3rd class scramble to the base of the HUUUUGGEE headwall. Feelin' alive.

Top of pitch 7. A little 3rd class scramble to the base of the HUUUUGGEE headwall. Feelin’ alive. Photo: Steve Dodd

I think we slept through the first 7 pitches. I love this photo. We were excited, SUPER excited, but also a bit hesitant. This climb was at least twice as long as anything we had been on before.

I think we slept through the first 7 pitches. I love this photo. We were excited, SUPER excited, but also a bit hesitant. This climb was at least twice as long as most anything we had been on before.

Andy leading on Time Wave Zero (5.12a, 23 pitches). Photo: Steve Dodd

Andy leading on Time Wave Zero (5.12a, 23 pitches). Photo: Steve Dodd

After the two hard 5.10 pitches we took a lunch break at the base of the 5.12a pitch. Steve braved the first attempt, found some beta and hung the draws. 5.12 is a lot harder when you have already bagged 20 pitches on the day. I went next, and got the flash. Andy followed, and we were on our way to a free ascent of one of the longest multi-pitch routes in the world.

Breaking through the mist at pitch 15 or so.

Breaking through the mist at pitch 15 or so. Photo: Steve Dodd

Flashing the upper section of the crux pitch of Time Wave Zero (5.12a). 5.12 is way harder after 21 pitches..

Flashing the upper section of the crux pitch of Time Wave Zero (5.12a). 5.12 is way harder after 20 pitches.. Photo: Steve Dodd

What a feeling! cresting the last technical pitch to the summit ridge. Now just some 5.6 and fixed lines to the summit of the longest climb of our lives! Photo: Steve Dodd

What a feeling! cresting the last technical pitch to the summit ridge. Now just some 5.6 and fixed lines to the summit of the longest climb of our lives! Photo: Steve Dodd

Rapping in the dark. "ON WAPPEL!" Andy's fatigue induced speech impediment was about the funniest flippin' thing I had ever heard. Here we are at about pitch 9. Mad props to Steve for heading down to fix all the rappels.. 23 to be exact..

Rapping in the dark. “ON WAPPEL!” Andy’s fatigue induced speech impediment was about the funniest flippin’ thing I had ever heard. Here we are at about pitch 9. Mad props to Steve for heading down to fix all the rappels.. 23 to be exact..

Day 10: Single pitchin’. The weather today was absolutely perfect. Cool and crisp in the morning, dry rock. Light breeze and plenty of sun. We spent the day single pitching at the Central Scrutinizer crag which is right off the road. Sunday’s are a big family party day in Mexico, and everyone was out in full force.

As Robyn entered the crux of her flash on Gringo Disco (5.11b), a carload of soccer players rolled up in a minivan bumping Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, followed by Elvis and then the Mexican top 40. Some locals seem to love to bump their stereos through the canyon, hang and socialize in stark contrast with others on horseback. Got some cool photos of Cora today. Also scared some nearby climbers with Steve’s “Best belayer of the year award” in which he had a margarita in hand, a harness too small and said things like “here’s a fun fact, I’ve never used a cinch before..”

Robyn and Cora stoked to see the sun again. No rush to get out, the crag is 5 min away.

Robyn and Cora stoked to see the sun again. No rush to get out, the crag is 5 min away.

Cora on Upside-down Cracker (5.8+)

Cora on Upside-down Cracker (5.8+)

Cora getting wild on a perfect pitch of bullet limestone. It's awesome climbing past funny pokey plants and cactus.

Cora getting wild on a perfect pitch of bullet limestone. It’s awesome climbing past funny pokey plants and cactus.

Cora had some awesome conversations with other climbers about how she had just started climbing the year before. "And you are flying to Potrero to climb?!" "Yup!" Go big or go home.

Cora had some conversations with other climbers on the plane about how she had just started climbing the year before. “And you are flying to Potrero to climb?!” “Yup!” Go big or go home.

Day 11: RRRRAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIN. harder than ever today. Walked to town, and the coffee shop was closed. Hit up the market to restock on supplies before heading home. We had a good group chill-and-read-with-coffee session back at home before hilarity ensued. In order to guarantee that we get in the pool at some point on this trip we tossed four 22 oz Dos Equis in as we walked by… A few beers later and it was swim time.

The rest of the night consisted of general hilarity around games of pool and getting high scores on an iPad game. Rain again in the forecast for tomorrow..

Time to retrieve the Tecate's in the bottom of the pool. I'd be damned if we didn't use this pool on our trip despite the fact that it was way to cold!

Time to retrieve the Tecate’s in the bottom of the pool. I’d be damned if we didn’t use this pool on our trip despite the fact that it was way too cold! MAKE HIGH SCOWAH

Geronimo!

Geronimo!

Time for chicken!

Time for chicken!

This was taken during an entertaining narration of the Last Supper courtesy of Robyn, Andy and Tecate.

This was taken during an entertaining narration of the Last Supper courtesy of Robyn, Andy and Tecate.

haha

haha

Keeps ya regular for those early morning starts.

Keeps ya regular for those early morning starts.

Andy lived off tuna.

Andy lived off tuna.

Soft & Sweety

Soft & Sweety

Shortly before Andy broke the crock pot..

Shortly before Andy broke the crock pot..

You know those foreigners that show up and take pictures of EVERYTHING and you think to yourself, "What the hell are they taking pictures of?" Yeah that was me.

You know those foreigners that show up and take pictures of EVERYTHING and you think to yourself, “What the hell are they taking pictures of?” Yeah that was me.

Day 12: More rain today but it’s New Year’s Eve! What a stark contrast from last year’s Las Vegas Strip experience. This year we had a holiday feast at La Posada. It was incredibly delicious! The night was already a success.

New Year's Eve dinner at La Posada.

New Year’s Eve dinner at La Posada.

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New Years party #1, Cora breaking it down with some locals.

New Years party #1, Cora breaking it down with some locals.

This was by FAR the best meal we had on our entire trip. Delicious!

This was by FAR the best meal we had on our entire trip. Delicious!

The DELUXE buffet line. Todos por favor.

The DELUXE buffet line. Todos por favor.

Steve and Lauren.

Steve and Lauren.

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Ringing in the New Year.

Ringing in the New Year.

Across the street, two parties were going on. One was a raffle to help support the local animal shelter potreropups.org and the other was the local gear/margarita guy who set up his trailer and a bonfire in the adjacent lot. Edguardo sold gear and margaritas from a trailer he towed to the base of the crag each day. He also blares techno through some huge speakers. When the clock struck midnight people ran and jumped the fire, we took random fog shots and danced our way home to the castle.

New Years party #2 was a bonfire outside Edguardo's gear/margarita trailer. We ran out behind the trailer to take a 2014 shot. Holding perfectly still in the dark for the long exposure we were hidden in the night when an unknowing partier tossed a firework over my head for this cool shot.

New Years party #2 was a bonfire outside Edguardo’s gear/margarita trailer. We ran out behind the trailer to take a 2014 shot. Holding perfectly still in the dark for the long exposure we were hidden in the night when an unknowing partier tossed a firework over my head for this cool shot.

Rockstar status in front of our casita. haha

Rockstar status in front of our casita. haha

swerving home in the mist.

swerving home in the mist.

2014!!!

2014!!!

Possibly my favorite shot of the trip. Reflection of Edguardo's trailer, techno bumping, disco lights, and the alley that we took the 2014 shot (upper left).

Possibly my favorite shot of the trip. Reflection of Edguardo’s trailer, techno bumping, disco lights, and the alley that we took the 2014 shot (upper left).

Andy and Cora ordering some margs.

Andy and Cora ordering some margs.

Day 13: Spires. Slow start today since we didn’t get to sleep till 1 am. The rock is slowly drying and we decided to check out some lines on the south side of the spires. Cora got on Sunnyside Up (5.9) one of her favorites of the whole trip, as well as Easy Over (5.10d) marking the hardest route she had ever tried. Easy Over was a great route. Long and varied up the southeast face of the Grand spire. Next we climbed Young Crankenstein (5.11d) and Aspire (5.12a). Aspire was a real standout of the trip. At 165ft, it was a monster pitch that led from the ground to the very summit of the Grand Spire in one long push. It’s hard to get a better position, and what a finish. The crux involved some thin clips and a Techy crimp sequence at mid height.

We actually did do some climbing in week two. After a few days off, Cora was stoked to get on this route Sunnyside Up (5.9), Cora's favorite of the trip?

We actually did do some climbing in week two. After a few days off, Cora was stoked to get on this route Sunnyside Up (5.9), Cora’s favorite of the trip?

Robyn and Cora after another stellar day of climbing.

Robyn and Cora after another stellar day of climbing.

Cora climbing above the old pool facility in Potrero.

Cora climbing above the old pool facility in Potrero.

Looking to the summit of Time Wave Zero. Our climb ascended the opposite side of the formation, but this gives you an idea of the scale.

Looking to the summit of Time Wave Zero. Our climb ascended the opposite side of the formation, but this gives you an idea of the scale.

Day 14: Yankee clipper. Hard to say enough about this route. Yankee clipper (5.12a) is a 15 pitch work of art, climbing a proud sweeping line to the summit of Garza Peak (sp?). Andy, Robyn and I were up and at the base before first light but still managed to be slightly behind the first group. The first three pitches were still really wet, which made our trimulclimbing a bit of a spicy adventure, but once past those pitches we enjoyed some of the best pitches of the trip. Extremely featured limestone jugs for hundreds of feet.

Robyn on the wildly exposed 15th pitch of Yankee Clipper (5.12a).

Robyn on the wildly exposed 15th pitch of Yankee Clipper (5.12a). Photo: Andy Traylor

We strung the last 5.10 and 5.12 pitches into one mega-pitch. Possibly one of the best links I have ever climbed. The 5.12 pitch leads to a perfect pinnacle summit.

We strung the last 5.10 and 5.12 pitches into one mega-pitch. Possibly one of the best links I have ever climbed. The 5.12 pitch leads to a perfect pinnacle summit. Photo: Andy Traylor

On top! Yankee Clipper (5.12a)

On top! Yankee Clipper (5.12a)

What a way to finish the trip.

What a way to finish the trip.

Rolling through Hidalgo.

Rolling through Hidalgo.

We had pizza here on one of our rest days. The people were SUPER nice. The appetizer was a bowl of hot peppers. Using spanish to order a pizza with cheese on one half was fun too.

We had pizza here on one of our rest days. The people were SUPER nice. The appetizer was a bowl of hot peppers. Using spanish to order a pizza with cheese on one half was fun too.

The western summit of El Potrero Chico.

The western summit of El Potrero Chico.

Parting shot. Coffee on the roof before flying back to the states. Thanks so much to everyone for making this dream a reality.

Parting shot. Coffee on the roof before flying back to the states. Thanks so much to everyone for making this dream a reality.

Comfort Zones.

I find inspiration in tackling those out-of-my-comfort zone experiences. I haven’t always been good at doing so, but I try anyway and find it extremely invigorating to work hard at something, like a climbing project, and notice a bit of progress with each attempt. To make headway as a climber, I rely heavily on these experiences. Along with the grueling training and an endless amount of sit-ups, I crave a routine filled with sweat, turgid arms and shredded tips. 

Beautiful Upper Headwall. Amazing routes, 5 min from camp.

Beautiful Upper Headwall. Amazing routes, 5 min from camp.

Robyn working an 11c at the Gallery.

Working an 11c at the Gallery.

As Ethan mentioned in the last post, we, among other friends, plan to follow a modified workout regimen outlined by Neil Gresham, author of the Building A Better Climber Series. We’ve set realistic goals and plan to adhere to workouts and meal plans that will help us achieve those goals.

The lower roof crux of Soloflex 5.12c in The Alcove.

The lower roof crux of Soloflex 5.12c in The Alcove.

:: Hearty and zesty! This beauty is full of goodies. Stir-fryed veggies and white rice!

yum. healthy and zesty!

In sharing this with each of you, it also holds us accountable. We all have friends, by the simple virtue of their enthusiasm and psych for climbing make us better climbers. Sharing our climbing goals and training logs with other climbers is a way for us to connect over our excitement and the challenges we encounter along the way. In doing so, it too, encourages us to step out of our comfort zones, train longer and send harder – always, with great friends there to root us on. 

climbing at Ten Sleep with great friends.

climbing at Ten Sleep with great friends.

Team clips on the summit halfway through a looooong 18 hour day!

Team clips on the summit halfway through a looooong 18 hour day!

There’s no denying it. I love the technical rock faces with the tiny ‘bullshit’ holds. On these routes, my focus is fierce and my confidence is at its peak. Going for an onsight attempt at or above my redpoint limit is not unusual with this style of climbing. I am a sucker for it. That said, I am often terrified of the bulgy, even slightly overhanging roof routes and long cruxes, and would much prefer to top-rope these lines than give in to a good lead burn. I know this is a weakness of mine and to strengthen it, I need to approach these routes differently, focusing more of my efforts on them than the familiar, go-to crimp climb. I hope to do so by incorporating more of these routes and climbing styles in my training plan (both outside and in the gym).

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love-hate relationship. tubin’ in Idaho.

I, like Ethan, believe that a big part of climbing is setting goals and rising to meet them. Clipping the chains at the top of a climb feels incredible, almost euphoric. It is the culmination of all that hard work and training, paying off. As a climber, it is a feeling of satisfaction and it fuels me to attempt routes that seem too daunting or difficult..
here we go!

here we go!

..and embracing them – the terrifying and the uncomfortable.

New year, new state, new crags, new goals.

Last year marked my highest achieving year as a climber (by far). I pushed myself physically, stuck with a several month long conditioning routine, and ultimately achieved the goals I strived for. But as I start to think ahead to the upcoming climbing season, changes in approach and a slight rearranging of priorities are certainly in order.

There are a couple of no brainer goals this season. I want to climb Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and I also want to climb Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hallett Peak was named after my great, great, uncle W. L. Hallett (I believe it’s William). William was an early settler and mountaineer, and when the Appalachian Mountain Club came to town to do first ascents, they called on William to guide them. The club documented their climb in Mountaineering in Colorado: The Peaks about Estes Park (1889) and named both the peak and a nearby snowfield after him. The goals for Hallett Peak are to first hike the backside with my folks, and then climb the technical face with Robyn.

Devil's Tower…. How could you NOT want to climb that? photo: Mountain Project

Devil’s Tower…. How could you NOT want to climb that? photo: Mountain Project

 

Hallett Peak. Named after a relative (great, great uncle?) of mine.

Hallett Peak. Named after a relative (great, great uncle?) of mine. Photo: Mountain Project

 

W.L. Hallett with his gun and a fresh kill. Estes Park circa 1889.

W.L. Hallett with his gun and a fresh kill. Estes Park circa 1889.

Using climbing as a vessel to travel has also cropped up as a cool way to share fun activities, and explore new places and cultures.  Our latest trip to Mexico left us immediately brainstorming another Spanish speaking country to explore and climb (Costa Rica?).

Robyn enjoying her birthday in style by sending the longest route of her life. 1,100 ft of pure fun.

Robyn enjoying her birthday in style by sending Space Boyz (5.10d). 1,100 ft of pure fun. El Potrero Chico.

As we settle into Golden, we immediately jumped on the opportunity to become members at one of the nation’s premier indoor climbing gyms. The odd part however, is that the weather has been so damn mild, it seems kinda silly to be climbing indoors. Our previous pattern for climbing has usually included at least a month or two of temperatures that simply didn’t allow much climbing in the winter. This far south however, and in the rain shadow of the Rockies, climbing year round is no sweat.

So what to do? I guess that comes down to what our goals for the season are, and how to best approach them. When I think back on my best days climbing, they are all outside, in beautiful places, and I am usually feeling strong. Last season, this happened quite a bit in the early spring and summer. I trained hard. Starting in February I followed the Building a Better Climber routine (given the facilities I had) and stuck with it for 33 weeks. I logged workouts, pitches climbed, notable sends etc. with my peak sends coming at weeks 19-25.

Starting into the lower boulder crux of Bushido (5.13b). Crimp like hell on a small polished crimp and uncork to a right hand mono before a nice pocket to clip from.

Starting into the lower boulder crux of Bushido (5.13b). Crimp like hell on a small polished crimp and uncork to a right hand mono before a nice pocket to clip from. The Fins, Idaho.

By week 30, summer had ended, fall was upon us and we were shifting back to warmer weather crags. Trouble getting rides, conflicting schedules and trips revolving around things other than hard sport climbing filled most weeks. I continued to climb at a higher level than last year, but also felt a distinct decline in power and endurance as the summer wore on, and I think I know why. Early season I trained A LOT to prepare for the year. As spring came I focused on mileage, and eventually strength. Before I knew it I was climbing harder than ever and was encouraged to push my grade. What comes with hard sends however is a marked decrease in volume. As I projected my routes, I noticed I would often only climb a handful of routes on any given weekend. Two warm-ups, burn on the project, 40 min rest, burn on the project, 40 min rest, last burn. The next day would be the same. While I was climbing hard routes, I wasn’t climbing hard. The whole experience was much more mental, and as I dealt with this aspect of the projects, my peak strength windows were closing. What I really needed to do was take a break. Get some miles in, train a bit more, and hit the project again in a few weeks. The issue with this technique however was that in Hailey we had limited time at most of our crags (except Dierkes). Summer crags have a short climbing window at high elevation, and when it passes, you have a long 6 month wait ahead of you.

Panorama of the Boulder Mountains.

Winter in Idaho is ski season.

So what!? What does it all mean for this season?! I guess what I would like to strive for is a season full of exploration, and a season where I recognize (or anticipate) performance plateaus and put the work in to bust through them. In Idaho I had a sense of scarcity. We wrote in all the climbable weekends on the calendar MONTHS ahead of time. “Okay we have Dierkes for a few more weeks, then we can start to test out The Fins. If it’s too cold we bail for Dierkes.. Okay. Then we are off to Oregon, and then we are at The Perch and then off to Maine for a family reunion.. Dang. That’s like 4 weekends gone at The Fins..”

 

One of my favorite pictures and views. Pops and I enjoying the 2,000 ft vertical relieve around Sawtooth Lake.

One of my favorite pictures and views. Pops and I enjoying the 2,000 ft vertical relieve around Sawtooth Lake. One of the perks of NOT climbing hard sport all weekend.

I think the story here in Golden could be much different. There are several summer crags, a wide variety of bouldering and alpine objectives, and the only limited resource may be the winter season. With so many places to go and explore, I don’t think it will be near as hard to duck into the gym for a month mid-summer. Or switch to bouldering for a month to increase power.

So goals for the year? Assuming training doesn’t get too grueling, and that I keep my sacrifice versus reward balance in check, I am gunning for a 5.14a this season. What I hope to avoid is any slump that comes with long term projecting at my limit. So if this starts to set in, I will switch it up, boulder or train for a while and then if the motivation is there, get back at the project.

120415 Ben Climb

Ben is far from letting me live this day down. We skied in. Dug a snow shelf at the second bolt and led in our snow pants. All while cornices were breaking at the top of the cliff all around us.. Yeah. You get desperate.

As much as I want to say that the reason I climb is for this totally spiritual and loving connection with the outdoors, there is more to it than that. The reason you climb waterfall-covered choss in Valdez, or freeze your ass off in the shade of a 15 F January morning at Dierkes isn’t due to your love for the outdoors. A big part of climbing for me is rising to a challenge. Setting goals. Strategizing. It keeps me healthy, and keeps me motivated. And as we all know, there is hardly a better feeling in the world than clipping the chains at the top of a climb, lowering past the crux and thinking, “Really? Did that just happen?”

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El Potrero Chico: Semana Uno

This is a bit of a different style of post than what we’ve done in the past. With so many cool things going on, and so much to tell, I figured keeping a bit of a daily log would be the best way to capture all the happenings. I have a less than great memory, and I knew more stuff would make it into the final draft this way, plus it would save a bit of work once we got back home. So here it is. Sometimes short, sometimes under the influence, and mostly unedited. There are a gazillion images from the trip, so we are breaking it into two posts, one leading up to Christmas, and the other from Christmas to the end.

It’s hard to say what this trip really meant to Robyn and I in the long run. In fact, it’s still hard to comprehend. We were uncomfortable. We made mistakes (big ones) in our Spanish. We felt stupid and empowered all at the same time. We traveled to an amazing country. We saw things we have only imagined and we climbed higher, and higher and HIGHER than we ever have before. We strengthened old friendships and made new ones. It’s trips like this that really stand out as highlights in our lives together. We enjoyed every bit of it!

Day 1: Snow in Salt Lake. 6 inches overnight and cars spinning out all over the interstate. Ben drops us at the airport and 12 hours later I am at a booth using broken Spanish to explain that the we don’t actually know the location of the house we are headed to. They weren’t having that. It was about this time that I remembered that I left our camera on the plane. Too late..

After almost losing my camera (left it on the plane) we hopped into an old red Chevy Suburban with "Magic Ed", our shuttle driver and manager of the casita we were renting. It was a 45 min drive to Hidalgo from Monterrey.

After almost losing our camera (left it on the plane) we hopped into an old red Chevy Suburban with “Magic Ed”, our shuttle driver and manager of the casita we were renting. It was a 45 min drive to Hidalgo from Monterrey.

We met Ed at the airport. He loaded us into his ’94 Chevy Suburban and we were soon on a one lane road speeding out of Monterrey, Mexico, a city of six million people. No passing signs and the 50 km/hr speed limit signs whipped by us in a blur as we passed stacks of semis at 100km/hr.

Standing in the local grocery store of Hidalgo, I knew the packages in front of me were food but had no flipping clue what it all meant. Grabbing randomly, we ended up with an entertaining assortment of colors and packaging; bags of unmarked peanuts, beans and peppers, chorizo, eggs and bread.

During our brief driving tour of Hidalgo we passed the town square while a Christmas celebration was going on. Santa was there on a trailer towed by a small pickup. He spoke quickly in spanish to the crowd through a bullhorn before erupting in a "HO-HO-HO"! Our first stop was the grocery store. I am fairly certain this was the most out of place I have felt in my entire life.

During our brief driving tour of Hidalgo we passed the town square while a Christmas celebration was going on. Santa was there on a trailer towed by a small pickup. He spoke quickly in spanish to the crowd through a bullhorn before erupting in a “HO-HO-HO”! Our first stop was the grocery store. I am fairly certain this was the most out of place I have felt in my entire life.

Loaded with groceries, it was time to drive to the casita.

Loaded with groceries, it was time to drive to the casita.

More broken Spanish, pointing, “No, we want the whole case of Tecate.” Como se dice “castle” en Español? Somehow “casita” doesn’t do this place justice. The grounds cover an acre. Manicured with pools, porches, balconies and wood fire grills overlooking El Potrero Chico, our climbing destination for the trip. We met Jorge, the caretaker, a giant locust looking bug we named Ted and a 3 by 4 foot Marie Osmond portrait in the hallway. Tomorrow we climb.

Made it.. Phew. The house was HUGE, we were totally overwhelmed. Thank god for a beer (even Tecate) after a long day of travel. (Robyn, Steve, Andy, Lauren)

Made it.. Phew. The house was HUGE, we were totally overwhelmed. Thank god for a beer (even Tecate) after a long day of travel. (Robyn, Steve, Andy, Lauren)

Dinner and Carta Blanca under our outdoor patio. We must have consumed 45 avocados in these two weeks.

Dinner and Carta Blanca under our outdoor patio. We must have consumed 45 avocados in these two weeks.

His name is Ted.

His name is Ted.

Day 2: Lazy morning and the cliffs finally come into view. WOW. Coffee and cereal for breakfast. Realized on this morning I had purchased heavy whipping cream instead of creamer – a little goes a long way.

Started the day at The Wave, a little blip of a wall at the base of the main eastern buttress. Despite its small stature, the routes maxed out our 70m ropes. As the sun approached we moved to the Virgin Cañon. It’s 75 F in the shade, but feels surprisingly dry. We enjoyed the best routes of the day to a serenade of gun shots and blaring music, as the locals moved in and the sun faded away.

Woke up to this… Yeah. That'll do.

Woke up to this… Yeah. That’ll do.

Funky green oranges growing in the yard.

Funky green oranges growing in the yard.

A nice 3 min walk from our front door. Potrero Chico was developed in the 70's much like a state park. After some hard economic times it has fallen into disrepair but is still a popular place for locals and climbers alike.

A nice 3 min walk from our front door. Potrero Chico was developed in the 70′s much like a state park. After some hard economic times it has fallen into disrepair but is still a popular place for locals and climbers alike.

This road runs between the two major formations of El Potrero Chico. You can literally belay from the road in some cases. On the right is a swimming facility with about 500 cement BBQ's.

This road runs between the two major formations of El Potrero Chico. You can literally belay from the road in some cases. On the right is a swimming facility with about 500 cement BBQ’s.

View of the eastern summit from the swimming facility. To give some scale, the route Super Nova (5.11a) runs up the prominent grey streak. It's 8 pitches and over 800 ft.

View of the eastern summit from the swimming facility. To give some scale, the route Super Nova (5.11a) runs up the prominent grey streak. It’s 8 pitches and over 800 ft.

Dinner at La Posada tonight, the climbers campground. Robyn and I ordered “la especial” as we sipped a Carta Blanca. Of our two choices of cervesa we prefer Carta Blanca over Tecate, and it’s only mildly influenced by the fact that they are served in forties.

Lauren made friends with a ferrel cat and fed him chicken from our plates. Back at the Marie Osmond Memorial Casita we planned our first multi pitch for tomorrow. Andy, Robyn and I will head up the 700 ft seven pitch (5.10c) Satori on El Torro. Met my first cockroach tonight. He was hanging in a drawer with my shirts. No sign of Ted.

Nice approach. This trail leads to the shrine as well as several classic routes.

Nice approach. This trail leads to the shrine as well as several classic routes.

What a great route. Steve on Mugre Mugre (5.10d - R).

What a great route. Steve on Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R).

Despite the fact that this hold (and route) really is this awesome, I had to encourage Steve not to smile so much. Mugre Mugre (5.10d - R)

Despite the fact that this hold (and route) really is this awesome, I had to encourage Steve not to smile so much. Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R)

Mugre Mugre (5.10d - R)

Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R)

Steve working up the amazing Mugre Mugre (5.10d - R).

Steve working up the amazing Mugre Mugre (5.10d – R).

The crags on the left (east) side of the road. They always caught some impressive evening light.

The crags on the left (east) side of the road. They always caught some impressive evening light.

A cool shrine in the Virgin Canyon.

A cool shrine in the Virgin Cañon.

Part of the shrine in the Virgin Canyon.

Part of the shrine in the Virgin Cañon.

Day 3: multi-magic. Today Andy, Robyn and I cruised up Satori (7 pitches up to 10c). The approach is quite literally across from the troll door entrance to our castle. Up the hill and 45 min later, we were sweating in the jungle at the base of this amazing wall. Robyn took the lead on the first pitch and cruised up a beautiful grey face filled with classic side pulls, pockets and cactus. Two pitches led to the base of a 5 pitch pillar of 5.10 on an exposed finger leading to the summit. Roosters, pigs, insane firetruck sirens and random vaquero serenaded us from below.

Poke, poke, poke.

Poke, poke, poke.

Robyn at the top of pitch 5, high up on Satori.

Robyn at the top of pitch 5, high up on Satori.

Andy following pitch 4 or so on Satori.

Andy following pitch 4 or so on Satori.

Getting off the ledge at pitches 3 and 4. Great climbing!

Getting off the ledge at pitches 3 and 4. Great climbing!

A little softness in the land of the pokey.

A little softness in the land of the pokey.

The Summit register. Signed our names, took some snapshots and a swig of tequila from an unmarked jar and began the rappels. Back by 3pm and it was Tecate’s and tortas on the roof followed by another night back at la Posada for dinner. Not a bad routine. I like this multi-pitch stuff. Thinking we may climb the spires tomorrow. We heard there is a tyrolean between the summits a few hundred feet off the deck.

Seconding the crux pitch of Satori. Great movement on awesome holds. A highly recommended route for sure.

Seconding the crux pitch of Satori. Great movement on awesome holds. A highly recommended route for sure.

The view from the top of Satori. The town of Hidalgo stretches out below and our badass castle is in the center and bottom of the frame (look for the blue pool and red roof).

The view from the top of Satori. The town of Hidalgo stretches out below and our badass castle is in the center and bottom of the frame (look for the blue pool and red roof).

Andy at the summit of Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches). What a great route and a perfect warm-up for what was to come. This route also marked the longest Robyn and I had done to date!

Andy at the summit of Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches). What a great route and a perfect warm-up for what was to come. This route also marked the longest route Robyn and I had done to date!

We found a little surprise in the summit register at the top of Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches).

We found a little surprise in the summit register at the top of Satori (5.10c, 7 pitches).

Taking the plunge.

Taking the plunge.

It was actually much better than my face suggests… I am just a sissy.

It was actually much better than my face suggests… I am just a sissy.

Day 4: inSpiring Views. Today was all about The Spires. These pillars of rock stand 200′ above the slopes below and offer incredible 360 degree views of the El Potrero Chico massif and the surrounding mountains. Steve and Lauren headed up the south side of the east pillar. While Robyn, Andy and I headed up the north side of the west pillar. After one pitch both climbs move past a saddle that separates the two summits. The second pitches of both climbs were incredibly exposed and exciting. Steven and Lauren’s climb moved past an intimidating bulge and runout bolts. Our summit, moved past a beautiful slab and airy arête.

Steve brings Lauren up in their best rendition of a Patagonia ad.

Steve brings Lauren up in their best rendition of a Patagonia ad.

Steve and Lauren work their way up the Grande Spire. Stunning backdrop. An amazing looking route!

Steve and Lauren work their way up the Grande Spire. Stunning backdrop. An amazing looking route!

Ethan on the summit pitch of the Chico Spire. A technical 5.10+ with mega cool exposure.

Ethan on the summit pitch of the Chico Spire. A technical 5.10+ with mega cool exposure.

Robyn on Aguja Celo Rey (5.10+, 2 pitches)

Robyn on Aguja Celo Rey (5.10+, 2 pitches)

Aguja Celo Rey (5.10+). The exposure on this pitch was absolutely awesome!

Aguja Celo Rey (5.10+). The exposure on this pitch was absolutely awesome!

Hanging out on the summit of the Chico Spire (5.10+) as Steve brings Lauren up to the summit of the Grande Spire.

Hanging out on the summit of the Chico Spire (5.10+) as Steve brings Lauren up to the summit of the Grande Spire.

Andy working his way up the last pitch to the summit of the Chico Spire. Yeah, radical.

Andy working his way up the last pitch to the summit of the Chico Spire. Yeah, radical.

Steve enjoying some perfect Mexican limestone on a sunny day in El Potrero.

Steve enjoying some perfect Mexican limestone on a sunny day in El Potrero.

So good!

After seeing a picture of a tyrolean in one of the guides it was a given that we had to experience it for ourselves. After climbing the eastern spire, Steve fixed a line and trailed it up the west spire. We tightened it with a 3-to-1 and let Andy be the guinea pig. Crossing the tyrolean was certainly a highlight of the trip so far. Clipping into the line and swinging into space, legs dangling 200 feet off the ground was both dizzying and exhilarating. Not to mention that it made an amazing place to hang for some pictures.

"No YOU go first. HA!"

“No YOU go first. HA!”

1--2--3--Here we go!

1–2–3–Here we go!

Andy headed back the other way. Such a fun day playing with physics.

Andy headed back the other way. Such a fun day playing with physics.

Another day in Mexico. Andy's guide skills came in handy as we set up this awesome tyrolean.

Another day in Mexico. Andy’s guide skills came in handy as we set up this awesome tyrolean.

Steve smiles to much.

Steve smiles to much.

Robyn dangling in space as she crosses the tyrolean from the West Spire to the Grande Spire.

Robyn dangling in space as she crosses the tyrolean from the West Spire to the Grande Spire.

Back to the castle for a bit and we were off to town to stock up on groceries for our Christmas feast. This grocery store visit was much more relaxed. We asked for help, we ordered meat from the butcher we and picked up several other necessities that we had overlooked during our excited daze of the first trip.

A deluxe meal prepared by all. Fresh guacamole, local tortillas, beans, cheese, grilled meats and several brews later.. Now it’s time to rest; a 1,000′ climb awaits when the alarm sounds.

The grounds of our new home had some really nice flowers including this rose bush.

The grounds of our new home had some really nice flowers including this rose bush.

Our Mexican palace. Living the highlife.

Our Mexican palace. Living the highlife.

Rooftop beers after a great day climbing. Yes please!

Rooftop beers after a great day climbing. Yes please! The summit of our objective for the following day (Space Boyz) is the 1,000 ft spire in the center of the frame.

Poop? or Chorizo? You decide.

Poop? or Chorizo? You decide.

It's amazing how every sign you see and every food jar you buy are suddenly way cooler when they are in another language and in a foreign country.

It’s amazing how every sign you see and every food jar you buy are suddenly way cooler when they are in another language and in a foreign country.

How many kinds of hot sauce are at your grocery store?

How many kinds of hot sauce are at your grocery store?

The local grocery store. For the most part we got more and more comfortable in this place as the week went on. Slowing down, using our spanish to order meats, and asking locals if the peppers were hot or not.

The local grocery store. For the most part we got more and more comfortable in this place as the week went on. Slowing down, using our spanish to order meats, and asking locals if the peppers were hot or not.

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!!

This was one of the first "Mini Supers" near our house. We stopped in here on a few occasions and picked up an assortment of lagers that tasted the same with slightly different packaging.

This was one of the first “Mini Supers” near our house. We stopped in here on a few occasions and picked up an assortment of lagers that tasted the same with slightly different packaging.

There is a cement plant in the center of town. The local architecture is heavily influenced. Cement block walls are the norm.

There is a cement plant in the center of town. The local architecture is heavily influenced. Cement block walls are the norm.

Day 5: atop the summit of our longest climb ever, Robyn, Andy and I cracked a Tecate to celebrate Robyn’s 29th birthday. We trimulclimbed the first 400′ of the climb before a mix of single and double linked pitches led us to the summit. Aside from some afternoon winds, the weather was perfect and views sublime. This 11 pitch route was our longest to date but that will likely change over the next few days. Down by 3 pm and we were back on the roof eating local tortilla chips and salsa looking up at our high point.

Robyn cruising to the top of pitch 5 or so on the super classic Space Boyz (5.10d, 11 pitches). Checkout the result of rockfall on the pavilion roofs below.. Yikes!

Robyn cruising to the top of pitch 5 or so on the super classic Space Boyz (5.10d, 11 pitches). Checkout the result of rockfall on the pavilion roofs below.. Yikes!

Robyn taking off on the sharp end of a 5.10 pitch of Space Boyz.

Robyn taking off on the sharp end of a 5.10 pitch of Space Boyz.

Andy seconding the money pitch. This 5.10d crossed two changing corners dihedrals before this polished headwall with great exposure.

Andy seconding the money pitch. This 5.10d crossed two changing corners dihedrals before a spotless headwall with great exposure.

Wide shot nearing the top of Space Boyz (5.10d). Such a great route!

Wide shot nearing the top of Space Boyz (5.10d). Such a great route!

Robyn enjoying her birthday in style by sending the longest route of her life. 1,100 ft of pure fun.

Robyn enjoying her birthday in style by sending the longest route of her life. 1,100 ft of pure fun.

Birthday beer at the summit of Space Boyz. I thought of it.. but Andy followed through and stashed a Tecate in our pack for the summit!

Birthday beer at the summit of Space Boyz. I thought of it.. but Andy delivered and stashed a Tecate in our pack for the summit!

Birthday beer at the summit of Space Boyz. I thought of it.. but Andy followed through and stashed a Tecate in our pack for the summit!

Birthday beer at the summit of Space Boyz. I thought of it.. but Andy followed through and stashed a Tecate in our pack for the summit!

Enjoying what would be the last of our sunshine for a while.. Steve in the living room of our palace.

Enjoying what would be the last of our sunshine for a while.. Steve in the living room of our palace.

The view from the top of Space Boyz looking East. Not a bad place to hang for a bit!

The view from the top of Space Boyz looking East. Not a bad place to hang for a bit!

Steve and Lauren returned successful from a multi of their own and we all enjoyed some chicken tacos and storytelling before a great night of sleep.