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.

Food, lately.

I strive to be a minimalist in every area except the kitchen. I find cooking and baking therapeutic. I love grocery shopping and sampling new foods (except for the dairy products that make my tummy hurt), and I have a slight obsession with cool kitchen gadgets and gizmos – yet somehow we’ve managed to keep our kitchen simple – without too many trinkets and funny-shaped appliances.

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some of our favorite staple ingredients.

On the meal front lately, I’ve attempted to make notes of our non-recipe favorites while continuing to explore other meal options without bending on our food budget. One meal that makes the list: a tasty breakfast mix of muesli, raisins, nuts, and almond milk. This meal was a pleasant surprise and makes oatmeal seem plain. Mix ingredients together and simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes – add a banana or brown sugar afterward and boom – instant satisfaction (sorry, no photo to add).

I also experimented with a nut loaf recipe and like the breakfast dish, it too, turned out delicious. A mixture of lentils, onions, celery, cheese, almonds and egg made for a hearty dinner at the Davis household.

nut loaf amid green salad.

Do you have any favorite meals as of late? Or new recipes you’d like to share?

Settling In

Now that it is the middle of January, we’ve finally been able to adjust to our new schedules a bit more, build a routine around E’s obscure work hours, and begin to enjoy Golden; our new town. Recently, we’ve been tackling some major projects (i.e., we bought a new car, we’re still crafting a post from our trip to Mexico, I’ve been job hunting-aggressively, and we’ve been bouldering [a lot] at our mega-mega climbing gym: Earth Treks).

fresh coffee and snow this morning. yum.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to help take-on our big to-do’s without entering or learning a new job. Currently, my work schedule offers a lot of flexibility and working from home has been terrific. I can have several cups of coffee, read too many books and articles on food and new recipes, chat with friends, surf the internet, go for a run and still get all of my work done. It’s been awesome. I am going to miss this working from home thing, especially when working is no longer from the comfort of my cozy kitchen chair and favorite coffee mug.

Overall, I’d say, things are shaping up nicely. Next big ticket items on the to-do list: land a sweet job, explore the area with new and old friends, and enjoy the pow and rock in Colorado!

A New Year

I am not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, at least not the get-down-on-yourself variety that suggest there are numerous issues that need fixing. For me, a new year calls for positivity, adventure and experimenting with new things. Instead of merely talking about exploring the area, sampling new recipes, spices and foods, enrolling in another Spanish class, or getting involved more with our local community, I plan to follow through. Colorado is a large state with neat places to see and people to greet. I have a good feeling about this mountainous state and the adventures that await.

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here we go!

So, 2014, here’s to you – breaking out of routines, trying new things and pushing past comfort zones.

Our New Home in Golden

We’ve arrived! And man does it feel good… Before we get any further we have to thank Paula and Jeff for putting us up in Fort Collins while we scrambled around the greater Front Range area looking for places to live. They were INCREDIBLY accommodating and just plain fun to hang out with too!

After leaving Hailey just over a week ago we are all settled into our new home here in Golden, CO. Our new home address is:

1140 9th St Unit B
Golden CO, 80401

Of course winter arrives the DAY we decided to start packing the cars!

Of course winter arrives the DAY we decided to start packing the cars!

Echo Canyon was beautiful with a dusting of new snow! Made for crazy driving, as my windshield wipers were epically slow and lacked wiper fluid.. but we made it.

Echo Canyon was beautiful with a dusting of new snow! Made for crazy driving, as my windshield wipers were epically slow and lacked wiper fluid.. but we made it.

Downtown. Loaded with cool shops including a cool mountaineering and gear shop!

Downtown. Loaded with cool shops including a mountaineering and gear shop!

Robyn and I went for a walk this morning and found this nice coffee shop overlooking main street and the surrounding mesas.

Robyn and I went for a walk this morning and found this nice coffee shop overlooking main street and the surrounding mesas.

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The newest brewery to open in Golden.

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Yup. The Atomic Burger has a Front Range Cousin. Send treats!

Excited to go chat with these guys about my family history of mountaineering in the area.

Excited to go chat with these guys about my family history of mountaineering in the area.

Golden City Brewing Company. Headed back to check this place out tonight!

Golden City Brewing Company. Headed back to check this place out tonight!

When this brewery opened they joked about being the second largest brewery in town (to Coors). Now there are 3 other micros to choose from.

When this brewery opened they joked about being the second largest brewery in town (to Coors). Now there are 3 other micros to choose from.

Still not exactly sure what the laws are here. But people walk around smoking bowls like cigarettes.

Still not exactly sure what the laws are here, but people walk around smoking bowls like cigarettes.

Front of our new place! Nice little sunny yard and a fire pit. The whole thing was a barn on a historic estate back in the day. As a house now it offers a slender layout with high ceilings.

Front of our new place! Nice little sunny yard and a fire pit. The whole thing was a barn on a historic estate back in the day. As a house now it offers a slender layout with high ceilings.

The kitchen as seen from the living room. The stairs lead up to the bedrooms, bathroom and a small laundry room.

The kitchen as seen from the living room. The stairs lead up to the bedrooms, bathroom and a small laundry room.

Robyn and Trixie owning IKEA. New queen mattress, frame and area rug.

Robyn and Trixie owning IKEA. New queen mattress, frame and area rug.

Assembly. Aside from shattering some things… I think I did an alright job, hasn't collapsed yet!

Assembly. Aside from shattering some things… I think I did an alright job, hasn’t collapsed yet!

Although we have -15 F, crazy winds and a random window collapse to deal with our plants made it to Colorado in relatively good health. Lucky for them there is a nice big sunny window for them to rest under in our new room.

Although we had temps at -15 F, crazy winds and a random window collapse to deal with our plants made it to Colorado in relatively good health. Lucky for them there is a nice big sunny window to rest under in our new room.

The first of what will become a pile of CO climbing guides. Shelf Road is 2 hours south and offers great winter climbing. Looks fun!

The first of what will become a pile of CO climbing guides. Shelf Road is 2 hours south and offers great winter climbing. Looks fun!

Our room. All moved in!

Our room. All moved in!

The closest of the four micros. The Mountain Toad is only 2 blocks (past the murals) to our house. Seems to be packed every night and they offer some great beers. IPA's were nice a bit piney and resiny as they warmed.

The closest of the four micros. The Mountain Toad is only 2 blocks (past the murals) to our house. Seems to be packed every night and they offer some great beers. IPA’s were nice, a bit piney and resiny as they warmed.

Looking at a map it’s fairly easy to see why Golden felt so much more like home than Boulder or any of the other surrounding towns initially did. Golden is nestled into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and insulated from the greater Denver area by large mesas. Unbelievably, you can be in Denver in just 20 minutes and even ride the light rail into town (Blazers play here in Feb!). Walking around town in Golden though, you would never know how close Denver was.

After some hectic days of unpacking, moving, cleaning and organizing we are finally settled. Our pharmacies are switched, mail forwarded, climbing gym memberships secured and local microbreweries (4 of them!) located. No time to get too cozy though… We leave for SLC and then Mexico in just two days!

On Our Way

Well it was 30F everyday only a week ago. That is long gone, the highs are 10F and the lows are -10F. Not the ideal time to move when the heater in your 1978 VW Bus is not functioning.. An approaching storm tonight should make things interesting, but we are ready to roll. In Rupert tonight, visiting family and thawing our feet by the fire. Tomorrow we hope to get as far as Rawlins, WY and possibly Laramie, WY. Sunday night we are going to pop in and stay with our buddy Sam in Fort Collins. After that, it’s full on house hunting mode!

One of our favorite people ever. Sam spent a winter living as an intern with me at the Valdez Avalanche Center. He now lives in Fort Collins, CO.

One of our favorite people ever. Sam spent a winter working as an intern with me at the Valdez Avalanche Center. He now lives in Fort Collins, CO.

How stoked are we to be bordering Kansas. The answer is super stoked! Welcome to the heartland.

How stoked are we to be bordering Kansas. The answer is super stoked! Welcome to the heartland.

I was pretty stoked on our creative plant shelf.

I was pretty proud of our creative plant shelf.

Parting shot. It was a great year in Idaho. On to the next adventure.

 

Project Dierkes

Shoshone Falls in the winter. When climbing at The Prow, you are towering above the falls and the reservoir below.

Shoshone Falls in the winter. When climbing at The Prow, you are towering above the falls and the reservoir below.

Pat in the crux of Sanitary Landfill (5.10b) at The Alcove.

Pat in the crux of Sanitary Landfill (5.10b) at The Alcove.

It’s kinda like Project American Fork… but not as cool. After an intro into the Dierkes climbing scene last fall, I wanted to set a goal to challenge myself at our winter crag and decided to try to climb every route in the Alcove from Warm n’ Fuzzy (5.10b) on the left to Shotgun Wedding (5.10c) at the far right, a total of 33 routes many of which check in at solid 5.12. We soon realized that we would need to go to other sectors as well, usually to warm-up, before heading to The Alcove for the afternoon. Not one to like to do the same climb over and over while other new lines await exploring we started hopping around from crag to crag, sampling the various sectors. Before too long we had climbed quite a few, and began to enjoy checking into the hidden and harder-to-get-to crags.

Jeremy making short work of Overtime (5.11c/d) at The North Shore. This one is height dependent for sure. If you are under 5'9'' it's likely more in the 5.12 range.

Jeremy making short work of Overtime (5.11c/d) at The North Shore. This one is height dependent for sure. If you are under 5’9” it’s likely more in the 5.12 range.

As the thaw began last spring we found ourselves again headed to Dierkes for the weekends. Anxious to get back into shape after a cold January and early February we spent several days getting mileage in. We climbed anything and everything: short, tall, mixed, sport, trad, slab and choss. As the routes went down we hatched a new plan. Why stop at the Alcove? A new goal was born to climb every route. Dierkes has (from my rough count) 119 routes spread across 11 sectors. Add in the ~200 boulder problems and there are over 300 fun climbs here; short and tall, V0 to V-Hard.

120203 dried up

Robyn tied in for some pitches at the Hidden Crag.

Robyn tied in for some pitches at the Hidden Crag.

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

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

The season at Dierkes this year was a bit sporadic for us, and we never quite got there as many times as we wanted to. Nonetheless we still managed to tick several more routes before a hamstring injury and a move to Colorado for the winter cut us short. All said we climbed 114 of the 119 routes in the last year. Not bad! The only routes that remain are three moderate gear lines at the Tall Wall, a bouldery 5.13a called Circus Trick at the North Shore and a 5.12c I have yet to try called Evil D in the Alcove. As for bouldering, we haven’t kept track quite as closely, but there are certainly some harder problems to turn our attention to once the roped climbs dry up. With Robyn’s family in Rupert, it’s only a matter of time until we return to get our chance to close out the crag.

Dierkes, although most well known for the Alcove, actually has several sectors with a nice variety of angles and rock. The routes at The Prow are blocky, long and adventurous. The Alcove is thuggy and featured on steep three-dimensional rock. The Skunk Crag has some amazing hueco features while the Hidden Cliff has possibly the best quality rock.  Here are some highlights from the year:

Biggest Challenge: Soloflex (5.12c), The Alcove. Soloflex presented quite a challenge last fall and I barely squeaked it out before a cold snap. With an overhang crux down low and then a powerful sequence involving an undercling and desperate ring lock up high, this route, of all the routes at Dierkes took me the most work. Oh, and don’t fall after pulling the crux, that would be absolutely terrifying.

Most Bolts: 51 (5.10b), The Prow. A great route, but borrow your friends draws.  And his friends draws..

Scariest: Orangutan (5.10a, Gear), The North Shore. This is likely because I am a sissy when it comes to gear lines, but you only get a behind-the-head and blind placed small cam before pulling a slippery crux only 10 feet off the deck. And then there is no anchor.. Soooo yeah.

Dirtiest: Where God Changed His Oil (5.11b), The Alcove. Here are the notes from my guidebook on that day. “F*#&ing crazy. Dirt and choss.”

Most Potential: Thighmaster (5.11d), The Alcove. Although this route is still super dirty, there are some awesome moves and cool pockets. Just prepare to be really pumped since all the holds you grab are covered in sand.

Classics at the Grade: Bonnie Bionic (5.13a), Pink Slip (5.12c), Ziplock (5.11b), Hexology (5.10a Gear), Dude (5.9), Over the Falls #1 (5.8).

Poopiest: Bonnie Bionic (5.13a), The Alcove. You crawl into what could only have be the nest of a pterodactyl. I never want to meet the bird that created that pile. Fun route though..

Under-rated: Gorilla Man (5.11d), Tall Cliffs. This climb is awesome!! I had hardly ever heard of people climbing at the Tall Cliffs at all, so it was a huge surprise that Gorilla Man would be as excellent as it is. Super sequential slapping up a huge protruding noodle. Great challenge.

Ben clipping it up on the beautiful Air-ete (5.10a) at the North Shore.

Ben clipping it up on the beautiful Air-ete (5.10a) at the North Shore.

Getting pumped on Black Thing (5.11c) at The Alcove.

Getting pumped on Black Thing (5.11c) at The Alcove.

A few of the classic 5.10's at the Hidden Crag.

A few of the classic 5.10’s at the Hidden Crag.

Check out this cool video our friend Ian put together from a couple climbs we did this last weekend!

Dierkes Lake Mission from Ian Cavanaugh on Vimeo.

Dierkes Lake will always hold a special spot in our climbing history. After being diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes two years ago, it was a month later at Dierkes during a Christmas visit to Rupert that I first had enough strength to touch rock again. Dierkes was the crag that I climbed my first 5.13, and the crag that Robyn took home 1st at the Clean and Crank! While Dierkes isn’t known as the prettiest crag, we were always surprised by it’s subtle beauty. If you haven’t seen the sun go down from the Tall Cliffs, do yourself a favor and get out there. In the end we didn’t quite get to all the routes, but I sure am glad we have an excuse to return.

Life Plan Version 4.3.7 Engage!

Sometimes real life has more twists and turns than seems logical or even possible at all. So when I received a call Friday morning from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) offering me a full time avalanche forecasting job based from their Boulder, Colorado office the first word out my mouth was “What?!..” followed by a stunned silence as I contemplated whether I was hallucinating or not.

The Flatirons.

The Flatirons.

“We don’t even need a beer to decide this one do we!?” Robyn asked as I told her the news. We sat on either end of the phone unbelievably excited letting out the occasional maniacal laugh. A week ago we made the decision to move to Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Avalanche Center (CBAC) offered me a part time position as a forecaster and I was already in talks with other local businesses as we tried to piece together how we could make it work financially.

Downtown Boulder, CO

Downtown Boulder, CO

“Well you’re going to take it aren’t you?!” Simon exclaimed as I told him the big news. He laughed out loud when I told him, well aware of the crazy hiring season I had already endured. Of course I was going to take it. We would be crazy not to! I have long looked up to the professionalism of the CAIC and while we were excited to give Crested Butte a go, the full time forecasting experience, opportunities for Robyn and oh yeah.. the world class climbing, were just a bit too much of a pull.

Pearl Street - Downtown Boulder, CO

Pearl Street – Downtown Boulder, CO

As we drove another load of household items to Rupert, I got a phone call from Blase, who relocated to Carbondale to work as a forecaster for the CAIC this season. “WHAT! I was reading an email from Ethan (Greene) about hiring a new forecaster in the Boulder Office, saw your name and couldn’t even finish! That’s so awesome!!” Blase is a good friend and neighbor from just a couple houses down in Hailey, and now we will be forecasting together this winter! Bonus!

More of downtown

More of downtown

And so it’s a done deal, Robyn and I are moving to Boulder! Life plan version 4.3.7 engage!

 

I hope they have this stuff in Colorado

When we have a big decision to make, we always consult the bastard. A pitcher of this guy helped us move to Valdez. The bastard has spoken.

When we have a big decision to make, we always consult the bastard. A pitcher of this guy helped us move to Valdez. The bastard has spoken!

It’s been an amazing year here in Hailey, Idaho highlighted by several trips to reconnect with family and friends. We climbed, hiked and camped. We brewed, learned and explored. We found an awesome house, and met amazing people. In a way it was no surprise really. Idaho attracts and retains great people. It’s with mixed emotions that we set out on a new adventure, but we have never looked back on one of these moments with regret. After spending the last 5 years focused on avalanche forecasting I have finally been given an opportunity to make my passion a paid profession. In a complex web of events, I recently accepted a job as an Avalanche Forecaster at the Crested Butte Avalanche Center in Crested Butte, Colorado! To round out the work for the season, I will also be spot guiding and teaching for Crested Butte Mountain Guides.

We have never been to Crested Butte, but by all accounts it appears we will be living in a postcard. The place looks beautiful, and perched at 8,800 ft in the center of the Rockies, it offers four distinct seasons and plenty of new places to explore.

A view of town.

A view of town.

Powder day. Looks like I will be picking up a bit of guiding work with the Crested Butte Mountain Guides this winter.

Historic downtown. Originally a coal mining community.

2000_876_CB_skierpowder_1400x876

Going to be doing this a LOT more this winter.

Here is a cool video from a local film crew out testing their new camera. They simply drove around the area for the day and captured some amazing scenes in and around Crested Butte.

One Day in Crested Butte | MSP Cinetruck from MSP Films on Vimeo.

The transition to Crested Butte will happen in a flash. The general hiring for forecasters this year was greatly slowed by the government shutdown and the ripple effect through the community has been that of a stutter-start. So in an accelerated fashion I was offered the position last Thursday, and in just two weeks I will be living in the bus and attending training sessions and fundraisers for my new positions in Crested Butte! If you are anywhere between here, Salt Lake City and Crested Butte and want to catch me, I will be moving through shortly after Thanksgiving. My mom and Robyn will follow the same route in mid December, and by the time they get there I will have hopefully nailed down a place for us to stay the winter.

The prospect of working in the mountains again is seriously energizing and I can’t wait to dig in. After teaching an avalanche awareness class with Blase and JP last winter I knew I couldn’t ignore it. The satisfaction, passion and pride I felt as an instructor was worth more than the modest pay at the end of the day. Worth even more than that were the smiles and handshakes of people, thankful for a great class even months after it had ended. While leaving Idaho won’t be easy, it will always be home. And as for now, opportunity is knocking and adventure calls, and we’re listening.

Castle Rocks, Idaho.

After work every Thursday, we fall in to a methodical routine of sorting, organizing and packing weekend gear into our trusty rig, Trixie. We’re committed to weekend getaways and are so familiar with the process, it’s become habitual. Ideally, we’d pack up Vincent and take him on these fine weekend adventures, but the old guy has been experiencing some minor hiccups – just to be safe, we opt for lower clearance and tent camping.
Castle Rock - Idaho

Castle Rock – Idaho

A recent visit from Art, the eccentric mechanic out of Hailey, inspired us to get Vincent back out on the road, for a longer trip than his usual-around-the-town stroll. Art’s confidence persuaded us that Vincent could make the three-hour haul to one of Idaho’s beautiful State Parks: Castle Rocks. Instead of loading Trixie to the gills, we wiped the dust out and neatly packed our old pal for his first outing since our week-long trip to St. George last March.
We stopped in Rupert for the night to visit my family. Chicken fajitas and craft brews satiated our growling bellies. No Blazer game to hoop and holler at; however, watching BSU lose to BYU was a great treat, too.
The weather, although a bit windy early on Sunday was absolutely perfect.

The weather, although a bit windy early on Sunday was absolutely perfect.

Coffee in hand, we moseyed south to meet up with our good friends, JP and Michele, and their new addition, Galena-pup. These two are fiery-outdoorsy-folk. Their passion for recreational activities is contagious.
Michele and Robyn sharing a cozy belay ledge.

Michele and Robyn sharing a cozy belay ledge.

The warm sunshine and perfect temperatures kept us cozy all weekend. We scrambled up some amazing rock features on perfect granite. Not having spent much time at Castle, we were pleasantly surprised by the involved multi-pitch lines and long single-pitch routes. A notable favorite and not-to-be-missed if you are visiting the area: Shock and Awe, a candidate for the best 5.10 sport line I have ever climbed. This route started off with big, hueco-like features followed by a 20-foot section of crimps and balance moves, ending on perfect jugs to the anchors. I can see now how it got it’s name..

JP and Michele headed up the west side of Castle Rock on a perfect fall afternoon.

JP and Michele headed up the west side of Castle Rock on a perfect fall afternoon.

HS D2 R3 on the west side of Castle.

HS D2 R3 on the west side of Castle.

Michele, near the top of the south side of Castle Rock just as the sun was setting.

Michele, near the top of the south side of Castle Rock just as the sun was setting.

JP heading up a classic 5.7 multi-pitch to start the day on Sunday.

JP heading up a classic 5.7 multi-pitch to start the day on Sunday.

Ethan getting ready to head for the summit and back before nightfall on Castle Rock.

Ethan getting ready to head for the summit and back before nightfall on Castle Rock.

The landscape is encapsulating, too. Juniper, sage, cacti, delicate wildflowers and large-wrinkly-granite domes overstimulate the senses. What else can I say about the weekend, except that it was beyond. Campfire stories, thousands of stars and a chilly night’s sleep only made it sweeter.